The Other Two Men: Credits & Acknowledgements

At the end of the workshop reading and Q&A  of my play last November, Alex Pease spoke to me about getting the script ready for production.   One of the first things he said was:  “Theater is collaborative.”

 

To honor that truth, let me say that I owe every success of the first production of my science fiction play “The Other Two Men” (review) to the professional acumen and hard work of many, many partners, advisers, and benefactors —

 

Lisa Shapter wishes to thank Christopher T. Garry and Back Denim Lit, the first venue to take a risk on these characters.  She also wishes to thank everyone who came out to see the reading or the production of a new work of science fiction as experimental live theater.  She also extends her profound gratitude to every actor who auditioned for an unknown role in a new play set in the far future.  She also thanks James Patrick Kelly for his generosity of soul and his commitment to science fiction in New England; Alex Pease (and Outcast Productions) for his guidance and encouragement, Tomer Oz (and Oz Productions) for his kindness and dedication; playwright David Mauriello for his solicitude and wise advice; Tomer Oz for his audio narration and concept art and Kaitlyn Huwe for poster art; Jasmin Hunter (and Jasmin Hunter Photography) for publicity photos; Joi Smith (Back Alley Productions) for publicity; Sam Smith, Alex Pease, Bretton Reis (lighting design), Mike Kimball (sound design), and Tomer Oz for giving their all on lighting and sound; Barbara Newton for holding the whole place together; and the Generic Theatre and the Players’ Ring for taking a risk on this (and other) new work in the Reading Series and Late Night Series.  She also wishes to thank the Generic Theatre‘s Susan Turner and Collin Snider.  She particularly wishes to thank the play’s two leads Bailey Weakley and Emery Lawrence, whose gifts and skills kept turning up things about these characters and their relationship that (the author was certain) only appeared in as-yet unpublished short stories.  (These talents are all the more evident when they are working with material by experienced script writers.)  It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with all of you.

 

Oz Productions wishes to thank PPMTV for their rehearsal space, Lisa, Emery, Bailey, Sam, Alex, Brett, Mike, Tin, Jaz, Todd, Joi, Peter, Barb and everybody else at The Players’ Ring, Generic Theater and everybody who was part of the reading, everybody who auditioned, and anybody else who was involved in making this production what it is today!  Also, thanks to you, the audience for coming to see the show!

 

The Players’ Ring wishes to thank all of its members (become one today!), volunteers, and LCHIP donors!  It also wishes to thank its 24th season sponsors:  the Atlantic Grill, Allegra Marketing, the EDGE, Heinemann Publishing,  and the Sound.  It also wishes to thank its generous supporters at Pickwick Mercantile, Garrison Players, Federal Savings Bank, Geno’s Chowder and Sandwich Shop, Ambrosia Gardens Florist, Piscataqua Savings Bank, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, Ceres St. Bakery, The Salt Cellar, Generic Theater’s production of Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora and Delia Ephron, Cavarretta Gardens, The Seacoast Repertory Theater (The Rep), the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources for its grant via its Conservation License Plate Grant Program (the ones with the moose!), Hazel Boutique, the Library Restaurant, Kennedy Gallery and Framing, Old Ferry Landing Restaurant, Discover Portsmouth, Tugboat Alley, Puttin’ in the Glitz, Great Bay Spa & Sauna, Portsmouth Book & Bar, Louis Clarizio DDS PA, Esta Resale Clothing, Sanders Fish Market, The Press Room, New Hampshire Professional Theater Association, Music on Wheels & DJ Mile Pomp, and The District Restaurant, and the Portsmouth Gas Light Restaurant.

 

Support the arts by supporting these local businesses!   Lisa Shapter also wishes to acknowledge the following friends of the arts:

 

210 Hair Salon, B.G.’s Boathouse, Bubby’s Deli, the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, Philbrick’s Fresh Market, Fresh Press Juice, Warner’s Hallmark Store on Market Square, Hannaford’s Supermarket, the Ice House Restaurant, Jardiniere Flowers, the ever-helpful Information Kiosk in Market Square, Justin’s Seafood Hut (Hebert Brothers), Kittery Trading Post, the Life is Good Clothing Store on Market Square, Lexie’s Joint Burgers, Dr. Mark Moses, Pink Bamboo Hotpot Cafe Restaurant, Portsmouth Public Library, River Run Bookstore (they carry my work), Robert’s Maine Grill Restaurant, Seaport Fish, Sheafe Street Books, Spectrum by Design Hair Salon, Water Street Bookstore (they carry my work).

 

Credits:

Theater Programs and Posters:  Southport Printing Company

Ms. Shapter’s Florist:  Jardiniere Flowers

Ms. Shapter’s Makeup Provided by CHANEL

Makeup Artist:  Camille at CHANEL (Macy’s) (Ask for her at the CHANEL counter!)

Ms. Shapter’s Hair by 210 Hair Salon

Hair Stylist:  Melissa at 210 (Ask for her!)

 

 

 

 

Stirring sci-fi at The Ring (Review of “The Other Two Men” in the The Sound)

Stirring sci-fi at The Ring

Jul 21, 2016

Emery Lawrence (left) and Bailey Weakley star in
Emery Lawrence (left) and Bailey Weakley star in “The Other Two Men.” photo by Jasmin Hunter

“The Other Two Men” is thought-provoking theater

Modern society’s interpretation of history is never certain. Despite our best attempts to learn from the past, our current resources limit us from experiencing the proper lesson. We try anyway, for as the old saying goes, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A new play on stage at The Players’ Ring in Portsmouth is spinning that popular belief into a reverse concept: If we were to repeat the past, would we learn from it?

In “The Other Two Men,” presented by Oz Productions, this question is explored through the interactions between Saskatoon II (Emery Lawrence) and Nebraska II (Bailey Weakley), clones of two of the four long-dead founding fathers of a future society built upon a colonized Milky Way galaxy. Saskatoon and Nebraska are under observation by their creators, who hope to discover historical intricacies by replicating the lives of the original two founders through their clones. But the controlled nature of their existence causes the clones to question and debate the ethics and value of such an endeavor.

Written by Lisa Shapter and directed by Tomer Oz, the two-man show is great entertainment for fans of the sci-fi genre, particularly those seeking a production with non-traditional plotlines. “The Other Two Men” is attractively unorthodox, a good choice for anyone looking for a different kind of theater experience.

The scenery and detail of the set is refreshingly sparse, allowing the audience to devote all of its attention to the two actors onstage. The spotlight remains on Lawrence and Weakley, who cope with the pressure through a dedicated maintenance of character. Their dialogue is steady and their facial expressions reflect the strong emotions their characters are feeling. The two stars develop and maintain a clear chemistry.

photo by Jasmin Hunter

Despite the compatibility of the actors, Nebraska and Saskatoon have conflicting reactions to their circumstances. While Nebraska continually expresses worry and doubt about their situation, Saskatoon is more resigned to his fate and optimistic about the outcome of the experiment. Although this dynamic creates an interesting tension between the two, Saskatoon gets somewhat short-changed as a character, lacking Nebraska’s depth and vulnerability. This results in a slight imbalance in the plot.

The lighting for the production is well done, but some of the sound effects are vague, particularly the source and meaning of the sounds the characters hear in their heads. Furthermore, the narration that accompanies different scenes is often difficult to understand and too brief for the audience to adequately consider.

But the artfulness of the writer and director, the performance of the actors, and the skill of the crew are all on full display in this production. The cast and crew’s ingenuity has created a compelling and thought-provoking show out of scant resources.

Audiences will not easily brush off the effects of “The Other Two Men” once they leave the theater — they will be made to think, and they will be made to feel.

“The Other Two Men” is onstage at The Players’ Ring in Portsmouth through July 24. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12, available here.

Link: http://soundnh.com/stirring-sci-fi-at-the-ring/

“The Other Two Men”: The Actors (Part II)

Casting my science fiction play The Other Two Men (review) was difficult.  A lot is at stake:  while we’ve joked about landing spaceships on stages, smoke machines, and robots for comic relief this play is science fiction with no special effects — just these two characters and their unique problem about history, predetermination (genetic, sociological, and psychological), and choices.  Tomer Oz  (Oz Productions) and I knew that the casting could make or sink the play before the first table read.  We had two auditions and callbacks and were at a bit of a loss with so many talented and experienced actors to choose from.
We both kept notes and checked in with each other – but I could not feel any winnowing happening as we went through a long day of callbacks.  During a late break near the end of the day we turned to each other and said, “I really like Bailey for Nebraska II.”  This was not a decision:  Tomer was casting a two-hander, a very small ensemble cast – one promising actor on his own is not ‘an ensemble’.   My director shook his head.  “Who I cast for one part will depend on who I cast for the other part.”  He remarked.
During rehearsals I’ve been trying to put my finger on what caught my interest in Bailey Weakley’s audition and callback:  it’s continued to be there.  I think it’s actually two things:  he’s able to portray a complexity or gravity that reads older than his actual age (a particularly important trait for this part, given the revelation at the end of the play) and he’s good at putting across several things at once.  The part of Nebraska II in The Other Two Men is thankless – the character is a walking box of defense mechanisms who hides behind his masculinity and his military profession.  I spent quite a while worrying that any actor in his 20’s might hold onto those aspects a little too tightly …. and the part does not give many chances to see the character without those masks.
Bailey portrays Nebraska II as someone who has needed to build a protective shell and he gives the character more depth than he has on the page.  This perceptive choice makes the role into an intelligent man who is always thinking – and feeling at least three things at once, including the reasons why he isn’t just saying what’s on his mind.  It is still a role that could push away an audience’s sympathies (as well as the other character, Saskatoon II’s (Emery Lawrence)) but Bailey gives the part a touching sweetness that makes you want both characters to find their way through the play’s strange dilemma.
Looking at Bailey’s professional experience I can see where this comes from:  he’s been acting for 15 years.  His last role at the Players’ Ring (in Memento Maury) called for him to stand on stage – wearing a full mask – while projecting an ominous numenosity.  Not easy, and not easy to keep that moment from becoming silly or absurdist, but it lifted the play (along with outstanding monologues by James Ouellette and Shaughnessey H. Gower) into the realm of chill-inducing metaphor.  Bailey’s training and experience comes from work at New Hampshire Theatre Project.  Notable roles include:  Valentine (Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona), Mortimer Brewster (Arsenic and Old Lace) and Berenger (Rhinoceros).

 

Bailey was also the assistant stage manager for Memento Mary.  A Portsmouth local, he is an artist of broad and genuine talent:  he is also musician and an expressionist painter.  He will soon be releasing an album with his band, Marvel Prone — and see one small part of his extraordinary talent in “The Other Two Men” (review) —

 

Oz Productions is proud to present:

The Other Two Men:  A New Science Fiction Play by Lisa Shapter
with Emery Lawrence and Bailey Weakley
at The Players’ Ring Late Night Series
July 15-24, 2016
10 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
9 p.m. Sundays

Tickets at:
http://playersring.org/box-office/
or call: (603) 436-8123

  • Lisa Shapter

Feminism (Or “Where Are The Women in My Fiction?”)

I write fiction that is a metaphor for things that are difficult to say in plain, non-fiction prose. I write feminist science fiction set in a single-sexed military that has colonized the Milky Way galaxy. I’m doing the old and revered fictional trope of taking a minority’s experience (women’s) and giving them to members of a majority (men) – to take away that ‘I can’t entirely identify with someone who’s Other’ that sometimes happens in readers’ subconsciouses. I hope this may make my perceptions of women’s experiences clearer to readers who might not pick up the straight-up version of the same thing (an all-female science fiction story – a genre I don’t always finish, myself: ask me someday for my review of Herland or Door into Ocean.)

As a result, readers sometimes ask me why the otherwise tolerant and egalitarian society in my military science fiction has banned women from serving in space. The in-world reason is not complex or nuanced: it is the irrational reaction to the tragic loss of an all-female transport ship a generation before due to an unexplained hull rupture. I’ve sometimes responded to sudden misfortunes by getting upset about smaller, more controllable things: what if an entire planet (and the policies of its representative government) did the same thing on a larger scale?
The male narrators within my military SF stories are very aware that their home planet’s decision is irrational and hypocritical: but they will lose their careers if they advocate for a political point of view while in uniform. (Read my story “Life on Earth” in Expanded Horizons (Jan. 2015) for an example of this.) They are very aware that the human body, with very minor individual variation, can survive only a narrow range of pressures and temperatures – they endured every survivable extreme during basic training (beside women, I might add, who still serve a limited military role within the solar system). Nearly every one of them wants the ban on women to end: they frequently encounter life and death challenges where the training, intelligence, knowledge, strength and problem-solving of women could have made a vital difference, and they say so (if only within their own thoughts while telling the story). These are also stories about how even an unwanted, artificial segregation from part of humanity changes their culture and thinking, as little as they wish either to be changed.

I also write fiction where the pieces of the puzzle are scattered across several stories. A generation later, my narrators do not remember exactly why a transport ship was entirely crewed by pregnant soldiers. In the novels and short stories from the same time there is the mundane explanation that these are the wives of men and women with field assignments on their way to join their spouses at their colonial posts. The maximum galactic travel time is six months, the first three month is the most fragile trimester in a pregnancy: better to serve it on earth (or in a transport ship with a full neonatal hospital). Their later children will be born onworld in clinics with limited medical staff, but their oldest child will have the best start. The truth is, the frontier is an immensely dangerous place to have children – and the transport ship is an attempt to ensure at least some reproductive success.

The exact cause of the all-female transport’s loss is never found: despite investigation, it remains and enigma and a source of conspiracy theories … and homeworld responds by banning women from serving in space. It makes no sense: there’s no ‘why’ but the over-compensation of the human brain in trying to find patterns and avoid danger. A generation later a lot of the details have been forgotten; my narrators have to live with the ban (and almost none of them support it).

At the end of this network of interrelated stories written across the history of this single-sexed military there is a novel: a novel about how and why the ban on women’s service in space is reversed.

I do not share my narrator’s views. I am not writing these stories to advocate for the characters’ individual politics. (I don’t like political advocacy novels from any part of the political spectrum.) I’m asking wider questions about what it means to be human, what the consequences are of asking only part of humanity to be more involved in childbearing (if technology might permit neither or both men and women to have children – by artificial wombs or artificially created full hermaphroditism), and what it means when humanity does not fully use all of the strengths and skills of its whole population (caused by sociological or historical accidents, not a deliberate decision that some portion of the population is not worthy of full consideration.)

So: the men in my stories stand in the place of women. (You can even try it with the non-military SF novella A Day in Deep Freeze.) Read them in that light and see if it makes them less cryptic.

-Lisa Shapter

Reading My Stories in Order (Not That It’s Necessary)

My new short story “Nightskyman Hope” (prequel to 2015’s “Life on Earth” and Things We Are Not‘s “The World in his Throat”) is out in Expanded Horizons. Since it is part of a linked set of stories, some fans have been asking me where to catch up on the other stories.

Here is a list of the stories in internal chronological order, with links:

1) This is Not a Love Story  in Black Denim Lit (October 2015)

2) “Nightskyman Hope” in Expanded Horizons (January 2016)

3) “The World in His Throat” in Things We Are Not: An M-Brane SF Magazine Queer Science Fiction Anthology (2009)

4) “Inducement” in Black Denim Lit (forthcoming 2016)

5) “Searching” in Black Denim Lit (December 2014)

6) “Life on Earth” in Expanded Horizons (January 2015)

7) “No Woman, No Plaything” in Kaleidotrope (October 2012)

8) “Planet 38” in Four Star Stories (Summer 2013)

9) “Planet 50” in Black Denim Lit (September 2015)

10) “The Other Two Men” (Performance dates TBA Summer 2016, see: http://playersring.org/box-office/)
And an unrelated alternate history novella set in New England about the unintended side effects of a WWII-era drug developed to create affinity between an interrogator and interrogatee:
A Day in Deep Freeze Aqueduct Press (Conversation Pieces series)  (April 2015)

-Lisa Shapter