31 January 2015

Full House: Catching On, Decisions

By: Jon Katz
Full House: Catching On

Full House: Catching On

The Winter Festival at Hubbard Hall is catching on, the plays are selling out there, drawing a full house even in chilling winter weather. The crowds – pulled by strong word-of-mouth for all of the plays and productions, are changing the dynamic of my play, they are laughing harder at the humor, feeling the sorrow and challenge more deeply. The actors are figuring out their characters and getting more confident and sure. Exciting.

I've made a big decision for me, I'm going to finish the play. Now, it is all set in a cow barn, I'm going to add scenes from a farm kitchen, from a Farm Prayer Group, and from the house of the farmer's son and grandson. This will flesh out the play, give it more depth and range. David is encouraging me to work on it and finish it, I don't need much encouragement, it is  work of love for me.

I have been writing about displaced people my whole life as a writer, starting with my first novel "Sign Off," my first book. I am loving the work of all the actors, especially Christine Decker who plays a strong and powerful female character in her role as the farmer's wife. She will not let him sink. Lots of writing opportunities, my head is spinning as I think of the possibilities here, the opportunity to build on what I have written.

Creativity for me is about change, I am sometimes successful with change, sometimes night, but it is the essence of creativity to me. Stasis is a death of the creative spirit, I have to stay focused and determined and open to change. This is something Maria and I share deeply, I draw from it continuously, as, I think, does she.

Posted in General

“Talk-Back”: Life Of A Playwright – “Last Days Of Maple View Farm”

By: Jon Katz
Talk Back

Talk Back: Photo by Maria Wulf

I attended the third staged reading of "Last Days Of Maple View Farm" at Hubbard Hall this afternoon – going again tonight and then for the last show, tomorrow at 2 p.m., pre-Super Bowl and next winter storm. After each performance, Hubbard Hall Executive Director David Snider (second from left) calls the playwright and some of the actors up on stage to take questions from the audience.

The other people on stage wrote and performed Act One of "Wayward Ho,!" a timely and hip musical, we all took questions together, the two works are a good pairing, I think we have not seen the last of one another.  It has been a tiring week, my flu and bronchial aftermath have steadily improved and except for some lingering viral bronchitis, I am feeling strong and healthy.

It has been an exhilarating week for me, I loved the way the play is coming together, David has encouraged me to finish it and offer it for production at Hubbard Hall or elsewhere. This is a play about the death of a dairy farm, and it is a community filled with dairy farms, many struggling, so the play hits especially close to home here. It's theme of how human beings come to terms with being discarded people – a common experience in the American workforce – is hitting home I believe.

Each performance is different, each crowd it different, the play is an organic and evolving thing. I definitely have gotten the playwright bug. I appreciate the wonderful things people are saying to me about it. Still, lots of work to do if it is to be completed and flushed out.

Posted in General

Friendship: The Gulleys

By: Jon Katz
The Gulleys

The Gulleys

There were all kinds of good friends i was very happy to see during the first two performances of my friends. The Gulleys were special. Carol and Ed Gulley run the Bejosh Farm in White Creek, N.Y., I met Carol in my cardiac rehab class, we became good friends. We had Christmas dinner at their farm (on New Year's) and they are a cherished part of our lives.

Carol and I text each other all day like teenagers, she is a sweet and good person, Ed is a fierce individualist, a hard working dairy farmer, loving father and husband and gifted folk artist. I was moved when Ed told me "you nailed it," after he saw the play. Can't get a better compliment than that. We are bringing pizza over to Bejosh for dinner next week. These two work so hard, getting up in the dark, going to sleep int he dark.

The Gulleys are coming to see the play again on Sunday afternoon, they are bringing some of their family with them, I am honored by that. If you look over Carol's shoulder, you'll also see Tyler Lindenholl's head, Tyler is our farm manager pretty much, he started helping out after my surgery and we can't really imagine life without him. He came with his brother Matthew and father Justin. It was a gift to see them there.

Three more staged readings of "Last Day Of Maple View Farm,"  2 p.m. and 8 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday. I am thankful for Carol, she was the first reader on my play and helped me with farm terms and technology. She is a sweet and generous soul.

Posted in General

A Picture I Never Thought I’d Take

By: Jon Katz
The Picture I Never Thought I'd Take

The Picture I Never Thought I'd Take

There are some photos I never thought I would ever take, and this is one of them.  For most of my time with her, Frieda was a hunter and a cat chaser, even killer. Whenever she could, she would hunt the cats, she nearly killed Mother, our other barn cat and chased Minnie up a pole a dozen times.

Frieda lived in the Adirondacks for years, and even whens he was with us, she hunted rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, moles, skunks – and killed many of them. Minnie has decided to be friends with her, and Flo took one look at her and swatted her in the nose. Since then, they have been circling one another, Frieda has avoided the cats, they often avoid her.

And Minnie and Flo are both barn cats, hardy, resilient, wary. Even six months ago, I would have bet this would never happen.

This morning – it is frigid here – we came into the living room and saw the three of them all huddled up together. In my years with Frieda, I have never imagined her lying down on a dog bed with a cat. A photo I never thought I would ever take, but was happy to be able to.

Posted in General
30 January 2015

The Look In Red’s Eyes

By: Jon Katz
The Look In Red's Eyes

The Look In Red's Eyes

The temperature dropped to well below zero this afternoon, Red took up his position across from the Pole Barn, keeping the sheep in place. Someone on Facebook said that Red looked cold, but that, of course, is a projection. Red does not notice the cold or the heat, he will sit outside forever if not commanded to do otherwise. He gives the sheep his best eye and holds them in place as the snow piles up on his head and the wind shrikes.

Red loves every second that he is working, it is the point of his life.

Posted in General