Thursday, October 24, 2013

Burning up onstage at the Golden West Saloon

The Golden West Saloon in downtown Albuquerque allegedly burned from spontaneous combustion. Some time before the fire, I did weekly workshops where amateur actors performed our scripts. Did the quality of my scripts or of the actors reading them contribute to the combustion? I'll take the fifth.

Why the Golden West? The owner, Kathy Zimmer, was a pillar of the Albuquerque music community. She organized the group and moderated it as much as a group of amateur writers and actors could be controlled. To her the written word was art. The spoken word was performance art. Why not have it at on stage at a saloon where a punk band had played the night before?

I had recently returned from film school at AFI and was looking to see my works performed. If I couldn't have them on the silver screen, I just wanted to hear my written words spoken aloud by someone, anyone.
When I heard about the group at the Golden West, I might as well be a 49er looking west for gold. (You can make a joke about the 49ers looking for a better offensive line, but I digress).

There was a good group of folks who passed through. A famed local columnist, had an amazing speaking voice. One soft spoken man wrote these absurdist scripts with New Mexico flare that could be "Waiting for Godot" at Garduno's.

I would like to say that my years of film school made my own scripts better. Some worked. Some didn't. We tried a version of my novel, Volcano Verdict as a staged read, and that was a disaster. However, a silly script about a film festival where the critic hadn't seen any of the films all the way through was a hit.
I found that old script. It was funnier onstage than it is in my trunk.

A final member of our group was a middle aged intellectual with long hair who acted as a the critic. He ways wore a Batman belt-buckle. "Batman" treated my scripts as if they had been written by the Joker.

We would put a bunch of chairs on the stage and divvy up the parts. Sometimes the writing was so good, it felt like we were witches who had conjured up the characters in the middle of our circle. Other times, we fell flat.

The group was breaking up even before the fire took down the Golden West. I don't know if anyone went onto stardom. We all became better writers and actors.

We lost a lot when the Golden West burned down. Part of my soul burned with it.

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