Tuesday, November 25, 2014

News, Nothing Profound

Bit the bullet and put up a new website:  tommytrull.weebly.com. I know, boring name, but it's functional.

Almost six months into living here in Charlotte, and things are trucking along nicely. Just finished directing a production of Yasmina Reza's play ART for Three Bone Theatre here in Charlotte, and had a blast doing so. Worked with the excellent actors Joe Rux, Kristian Wedolowski, and Glenn Griffin. Excellent review of the show here, if you'll allow me to brag. (Why else would I have a blog?)

Two long writing projects in the works: a screenplay called THE BOOK OF RIGHT AND LEFT, and a stage play called ROGUE BURGUNDY CRUSH. Feeling very good about both of them, but (like with all of writing), you just never know. Experimenting with writing the screenplay out of order, and that's been ... I don't know, I'll have to tell you what I think when I finish with it. This one has been the most heavily outlined, and the process that I've used for writing it has been significantly different from past projects. I don't know if it's something I would do for a stage play, but then again there's something about a stage play that has to feel like a consistent breath, or at least a consistent event.

Off to bed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Idylls of the Thing

All right, so we’re roughly a month into living in Charlotte.  How do I like it so far?  I’m within walking distance of my sister (although, it’s hot and the air conditioning in the car is kind of awesome), and not too far from my mother, which will be great if I ever skin my knee.

And I just might, because this neighborhood, I have discovered, is great for skateboarding.  So that’s been going on.

Look: I miss my Greensboro friends desperately, and I miss the old haunts.  And I have discovered that when a Charlottean hears that I am from Greensboro, the response is usually, “Oh yeah, Greensboro – I know where that is.”  And I instantly get defensive, like my girl has been cold-dissed.  (“Greensboro’s one of the 100 biggest cities in the country, you dick.  It’s not exactly Mayberry.”)  But …

Charlotte stays open past ten.  I don’t know why Greensboro’s restaurants are so keen to shut down at ten.  Sure, you can get bar food later, but bar food is not really food.  (I will coin the term "crispy brown edibilia" to describe bar food.)  As night owls, we had only Cooper’s Ale House to serve full menu late into the evening.  Here in Charlotte, everything seems to be open late, and for that I am thankful.

Moreover, this neighborhood is wonderful.  The second day we were here, before daughter Skye got down here, I walked around and saw there were kids playing kickball in the park.  Not some weird modern version of kickball where some naked tattooed teens ironically kick a digital ball and then stab the loser (although that sounds rad), but real honest-to-god kickball.

And that’s the thing: everything in Charlotte so far has paradoxically been … bucolic, maybe?  Idyllic, perhaps?  This summer I’m waiting tables at a restaurant that is literally across the street from my house.  I get up at a normal hour and write.  And write.  It’s been bliss.

Those of you who know me know that I almost never go a day without writing.  But whether it’s the change in scenery, the change in schedule, or what – the writing has been going so incredibly well.  Since May 1st:

A full-length play called THE SKINNER MULE
A full-length screenplay called INTO THE FOREST OF GHOSTS
A short play called THE AMERICAN DREAM
Development on a new musical that I’m writing with my collaborator Chris Tilley.
Development on a graphic novel idea.
And I am right now 80+ pages into a full-length screenplay called THE OX.

It has been so liberating.  I’m not bragging – I’m just relieved.  Because before that, I worked on basically one story for an entire year.  Constantly noodling and fidgeting, never making anything better.  (The good news: in March and April this year, I finally hit a breakthrough with that script and finished it.)

There’s a convenience store around the corner where a nice woman with no teeth always tries to upsell me a “Co-cola.”  There’s a comic book shop on the corner where I found out that Dark Horse Comics has resurrected one of my favorite titles, CREEPY.  I’ve started drawing again, and rediscovering music (Mac Demarco, in particular.) 

Now if I can just keep from getting hit by a bus while crossing Providence, I think things might just work out nicely.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


In four days, my wife and I will begin our move to Charlotte.  I moved to Greensboro from the little town of Bethlehem Gastonia over two decades ago, initially to go to school, and fell in love with it.  Many of the most important friendships and relationships of my life were made right here, and I am sad to leave.  I can’t bring myself to list the people I will miss the most, for fear of leaving anyone out.  But here are a few intangibles that I will miss terribly:

The Greensboro Playwrights Forum.  A great ragtag group of playwrights, actors, and directors, and (in my humble opinion) Greensboro’s best resource for aspiring writers.  I don’t know any other institution in this area that provides so many opportunities for playwrights to have their work read, workshopped, and produced.  Greensboro, you are very lucky to have this.  Take advantage of it.

The Bog Garden/Centennial Gardens.  One of my favorite places to walk, and I am a man who loves his walks.  Centennial Gardens is great during the spring and summer: beautiful, floral, manicured, and Apollonian.  The Bog Gardens are the hellish underworld – heavily wooded and streamed, dark, mysterious, and Dionysian.  A great place to get lost.

The Natural Science Center.  C’mon, man … here there be tigers.  The male’s face is the size of an 18-wheeler’s tires.  I go every six months and make an entire day of it – usually with my kid. 

Restaurants.  I eat out a lot.  Like … a lot.  Thankfully I have kept my youthful metabolism – otherwise I would be the size of Violet Beauregarde.  There are so many I love, and some are gone now, but I will miss them nonetheless …
·         Mark’s on Dolley Madison.  Get the duck, if it’s on the menu.  I know it’s maybe a little more than you were hoping to pay.  Just get it.
·         Café Europa.  There is no need to go anywhere else to get mussels.  The one with chorizo is the best, although I like the Normandy in the winter.  And the hangar steak?  Good God.  Also, for brunch – Crabs on English.  Yum.
·         Reel Seafood Grille (fka Bert’s Seafood Grille.)  Mustard Coated Catfish.  Possibly my favorite dish in Greensboro.  Also, this is where you want to go for oysters. 
·         Gia.  Tapas restaurant with an Italian menu.  Never had anything here that wasn’t superb.  Flash-fried artichokes, limoncello cake, curry cauliflower … mm.
·         Café D’arte.  Got engaged here.  Now it’s gone.  They hung my wedding ring from a sugary trellis above a delicious cake.
·         Bistro Sofia.  Also gone.  Greensboro is hard on French cuisine for some reason.
·         McCoul’s Public House.  Met my wife at this Irish pub.  On Mardi Gras. Because that’s where you go for Mardi Gras, right?  An Irish pub?  Anyway – the meat boxtie is my favorite dish here.  Sometimes the Old Glory burger is great, and sometimes less so, but when it’s good, it’s the best.  Also, they will give you cookies and milk for dessert.
·         Cooper’s Ale House.  The only place to go in Greensboro when it’s after 10.  Maybe one day we’ll have more places to go at a humane hour, but you can eat very well at Cooper’s at 1:30 a.m.    
·         Lucky 32.  Worked here twice – once in the kitchen, and once as a server.  I don’t think they still have it, but their Deep Grit appetizer was fantastic, in all its artery-clogging goodness. 
·         Printworks Bistro.  At the base of the green Proximity Hotel.  No one does Brussels sprouts quite like them.  Or quinoa.  And they have a lovely patio where I swear to you I once saw an ROUS.
·         Chef Samir’s.  New Egyptian restaurant, and I would eat here every day if I could.  Standouts: the liver appetizer (shut up and eat it, it’s good for you) and the lamb shanks.
·         Elizabeth’s Pizza.  Sigh.  I might miss you most of all, scarecrow.  This is the one over in Quaker Village, within walking distance to my house.  They know how to do pizza.  And they have different kinds of whole wheat pasta. 
·         And of course, Southern Roots in nearby Jamestown.  I took a job here a few years ago as a summer thing, since I don’t teach in the summers, and I never left until it was time to move.  Too many awesome dishes to mention here (okay, I’ll mention the seafood risotto), but I will mention the dessert that I will miss the most: no, it’s not the bread pudding.  It’s the Five-Flavor Pound Cake.

And I guess finally …

My Neighborhood(s).  For the last ten years, I’ve lived in a nice neighborhood near Guilford College that is just like the neighborhood I grew up in.  (Forest Brook, meet Woodbrook.)  Lots of trees and hills, a creek across the street, a duck pond at the opposite end of the neighborhood, and a bunch of Canada geese who, like Robert Lowell’s mother skunk, will not scare.  And speaking of Lowell, Randall Jarrell is buried in the cemetery that is right beside my house.  Before here, I lived on the other side of the town: on Cedar, and then on just about every street in the now-hipster Glenwood neighborhood.  I once lived in a very nice couple’s attic, and there was a giant hole in the wall.  Like, a hole about four feet wide that made the outside world very visible.  That was a very cold winter.

There are many other things I’ll miss as well.  I have walked from one side of Greensboro to the other who knows how many times.  Consequently, I can crack open a Volkswagen with my thigh muscles.  I was a kid when I moved here, and now I have one.  I had never been anywhere when I moved here, and now I have crossed the country and hung out in Europe as well, always to come back to Greensboro.  My sister Kristen once said: “It’s Greensboro.  Tommy’ll never leave.”

I suppose there’s more to write, but I have to go pack.

Friday, March 28, 2014


The submission deadline for the 2014 STAGE FRIGHT: AN EVENING OF SHORT HORROR PLAYS will be June 1, 2014.  Submission guidelines will be a little different this year:

1.     All scripts must be 7-14 pages in format.  Shorter and longer plays won’t be accepted.  Not sure how to format a script?  Here: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/stageus.pdf
2.     There will be six openings this year.  If you want to improve your chances, don’t send a comedy, zombie, or a ghost script – mostly because that’s the bulk of what we get.
3.     Not sure if your script qualifies as horror?  Make sure your script focuses on the grotesque, and that the primary purpose of the script is to scare or startle.  A controversial or even Gothic topic alone does not a horror script make.
4.     Submissions are to be blind submissions.  Please send a copy of your play with a title page and NO AUTHOR INFORMATION in PDF format.  In the body of your email, include your name, the name of your play, your email, and your telephone number.  Email all submissions to newplayblues@gmail.com.
5.     Only members of the Greensboro Playwrights Forum are eligible to submit.  Not a member?  It’s easy to join: http://www.greensboro-nc.gov/index.aspx?page=1468

We are very much looking forward to this year’s submissions.  Notification will be June 15, 2014. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why The Long Face?

I’ve been working on the same story for nearly a year now.  This is exceedingly out of character for me.  I’ve always prided myself on being a prolific writer, giving my plays and screenplays “two drafts and a polish,” a tidbit I have been clinging to ever since I read it in Stephen King’s nonfiction book On Writing.  And yet with this story, I have written it in screenplay form three times, got nearly 80,000 words into the story in novel form, and then reverted to screenplay form for a fourth “page one” rewrite.  And why?  At first glance, the piece seems little more than a genre piece.  And it isn’t that I don’t have other ideas that I’m excited about – quite the contrary, I have several potential projects that I could be working on.  What is it about this piece that keeps me still working on it?

This has been a notable year for me, for personal reasons.  I turned 40 in October 2013, which is the age my father Tom was when he died of cancer.  I have flirted with many of the same self-destructive habits that he had my whole life.  I held them as a badge of honor in my teens and 20s, and in my 30s juggled back and forth between viewing them either as an inevitability or as a problem to be attended to “tomorrow.”  But this year, if for reasons none other than numerological, I have felt compelled to address them.  At the moment, my health is good, as is my family life, as is my career.  I wish to keep them this way.

There is nothing in the piece that I am working on that directly mirrors the issues I deal with in my personal life.  “Andy,” the character I have been writing all year, has little in common circumstantially with me.  So why is it that I am still so glued to his story?  The glib answer would be: “I guess I’ll have to find out.”  But I am not feeling particularly glib.  I feel the real answer is that I am finally capable of giving something else the attention it deserves, not the attention I am willing to part with.  This may be an easy lesson for some people to learn – maybe they never even had to learn it – but for me it has taken a while.  And I am grateful for that lesson.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How To Write A Play

HOW TO WRITE A PLAY, by Tommy Trull

The following method has been meticulously researched, both through rigorous self-observation and numerous observations of other playwrights, both professional and amateur.  It is guaranteed to work, provided one follows each one of these steps.

1.      Open Microsoft Word.
2.      Find Microsoft Word not conducive to your process.
3.      Close Microsoft Word.
4.      Spend money on the newest version of Movie Magic Screenwriter or Final Draft.
5.      Discover that you cannot afford MMS or FD, so explore Celtx for a while before going back to Microsoft Word and promise yourself to take care of the formatting later.
6.      Open Microsoft Word.
7.      Select “Times New Roman,” and type your title at the top of the page.
8.      Realize that the title doesn’t “pop,” so change the font to “Courier New.”
9.      Change back to “Times New Roman.”
10.  Type “Cast of Characters” at the top of the page, and underline it.
11.  Chew on your left thumb until you develop a large, moon-esque callous just above the knuckle.
12.  Open up Google and type “awesome symbolic character names” in the search box.
13.  Check Facebook.
14.  Check your email.
15.  Absently play with your thumb callous.
16.  Notice that you have been playing with your thumb callous, and search the house for a nail file.
17.  Take a shower.
18.  Come back to the computer feeling mostly refreshed, and decide that a pot of coffee is what you need most.
19.  Email your favorite local actor/actress and tell them you’re thinking about them for a new play and are they free?
20.  Check Facebook.
21.  Change your gchat status to “Writing” or (even riskier) “Revising.”
22.  Absently play with your thumb callous.
23.  Remember that you had originally meant to find the nail file, and resume your search.
24.  Find the nail file, remember to floss, and return to the computer.
25.  File your thumb callous down while staring at the white page.
26.  Decide names can come later, and type “Father Figure, 50s” under “Cast of Characters.”
27.  Change the font to “Courier New.”
28.  Tweet the sentence “Writing can be a bitch, but I can’t not do it.”
29.  Take a cell phone picture of your title and cast of characters on your laptop, and upload the picture to Facebook with the comment “The journey begins …”
30.  Change the title’s font to “Broadway,” make it bold and 24 point, and then retake your picture to replace the one you have already deleted from Facebook.
31.  Check your email.  If your favorite actor/actress has responded with the question, “What’s it about,” delete the email.
32.  Check Facebook frequently for heartwarming responses to your picture and corresponding “journey.”
33.  Write a play.
34.  Remember to take care of the formatting.
35.  Change the font to “Times New Roman.”
36.  Set the script on fire.

37.  Repeat.