I Sent My Grandma Into The Past – Inspiration

Auditions are officially one week away for the Southern Hills Community Theater production of “I Sent My Grandma Into The Past (And Other Chronological Conundrums)” or, put simply, “I Sent Grandma” or “ISG,” as I’ll refer to it in the future. Although that wasn’t the first title it went by anyway, (that was “The Grandmother Paradox”) but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After premieres and performances, I (like millions of writers before me) have inevitably been asked (either immediately after the show or at a gas station somewhere a few days later) how I come up with the ideas for the shows, or how I write them. I’m not not sure of any more blunt way to put it other than to just say that I make it up. Literally. That’s how simple it is.

Well, it really isn’t. You do have to understand a lot of things going on under the hood – narrative structure, character, and in the case of theater, the technical elements of what’s possible on a stage in real time and staying within a budget – but essentially it’s highly organized making stuff up. But anyone can learn these things.

Dialogue is tangible. You can listen to the people around you, or watch videos of people talking and pick up on nuances – cadences, vocabulary, and so on and just imitate that in your writing. Story beats are tangible. Similarly, you can watch other movies and plays and eventually pick up common structures… it’s just like learning about choruses and verses in songs.

Inspiration, on the other hand, is intangible, and I don’t really think it can be learned in the same way. I think it can be learned but I don’t think there’s a set way of learning it. That’s something I have more trouble explaining.

Where do you get your ideas?

Sometimes, like with Never Been to Graceland, I go “this is going to be a story about a fan who goes in search of a lost Elvis recording because that would be cool if that happened to me.” Not to downplay whatever narrative merits it actually has, but that’s the truth of what that story is at its core.

It’s partially based on ideas or people or things that are real – an Elvis fan, lost recordings being found – and partially fiction, and then sort of meshed together.

So, one week out from auditions, where did the idea for “ISG” come from?

Well, leaving out the obvious influences as far as structure and handling the logic of time travel, (*cough* Backtothefuture *cough*) I honestly don’t have a more clear answer.

When Betsy and I were talking about the shows for 2017, I mentioned I had a couple ideas. One was an adaptation of The Big Play, a short that we never completed, and the other I just mentioned as “a couple” because I wanted the flexibility of coming up with something else. I actually had no idea until probably a few hours after I sent the email. Faced with committing to “a couple ideas,” I just made one up. I wrote a draft outline, took it to the board, read them both synopses (synopsises? Synopsii?) that I had written, and they picked this one. So I rolled with it.

How’d I come up with that synopsis in the first place?

Heck if I know. Some things are certainly pulled from life. The main character in “ISG” is inspired by my four year old niece Zoey and my observations of her very literal “character” development as an actual person. But beyond that… you got me. The show’s titular Grandma is only barely influenced by my real grandma and, frankly, probably not by anyone I actually know, either.

I was telling Deana last night, I couldn’t even possibly speak about the show in terms of “executing a vision” because it wasn’t like there was ever really a “vision” so to speak, just an idea I thought would be cute, funny and maybe have a little heart. That’s not to say the story isn’t personal or doesn’t reflect me or my values… it absolutely does, in every much the same way as my previous efforts.

And the script is, I think, funny, cute, and touching. But more than that, it’s proof to myself that I don’t have to stop writing when I’m run out of “real” things to write about.

What I think I’m getting at is that as someone who spent 2006-2016 chasing old narrative threads, it’s both strange and invigorating to be writing something pretty much completely from scratch.

I hope everyone likes it.

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Fourth Rough Cut of Never Been to Graceland is Complete!

After a late-night editing session, we are one step closer to being finished with the film! We are about one last edit away from a picture lock and we are sitting down this weekend to begin work on the sound mix and music! We cannot wait to share this film with you and August cannot come soon enough! Until then, please enjoy another preview clip, this time featuring David Scott and Harland Allen as Bryan and Larry!

“I Sent My Grandma Into The Past!” Auditions February 13, 2016

grandma-auditions

Rehearsals will be Monday, Tuesday & Thursday evenings until performance week. Week of performance: Monday through closing performance. Additional rehearsals may be scheduled if needed.

Cast: 

With the “time travel” involved, there is a  “present time” & “past time” cast

PRESENT

Zoey – our heroine, a bit of a troublemaker – age 15-25, female
Grandma Margaret (is also Aunt Ima) – Zoey’s Grandma – age 60-80, female
Betsy (Elder) – Margaret’s friend – age 60-80, female
Spencer – Zoey’s Friend – age 15-25, male
Timothy E. Traveller – Kitchen Timer Salesman – male, age flex
PAST
Mags – the younger Margaret, also a bit of a troublemaker – age 15-25, female.
Betsy (Younger) – Mags’ best friend – age 15-25, female
Raymond – Mags’ father – age 40-60, male
Delilah – Mags’ mother – age 40-60, female
Billy – Mags’ little brother – age 7-12, male
Aunt Ima (is also Grandma Margaret) – age 60-80, female
What to expect at auditions:

We’ll have you fill out an information form and sign releases. Headshots are not required. If needed, we will take your photo. (If you are under 18, your parent/guardian will need to sign the forms for you as well.)

The director will ask you to read a portion of the script and may have you do some basic acting exercises.

A Note About Costumes:
This is a contemporary show and actors are expected to provide their own costumes following the suggestions of the director.

Crew/Front of House:

If you are interested in helping with other stage-crafts such as scenery, props, costumes, makeup, sound, lighting, directing or are more interested in serving as House manager, Box Office staff, Usher, Advertising or in other areas for this or future productions, please let Southern Hills Community Theater know. No experience? No worries! Our goal is to help folks learn about the theatrical arts as well.

For these and any other inquiries, please contact shct@gwtc.net or leave a messsage at 605-745-6159 for details and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

10 Photos That Define the Fight to Save the Hot Springs VA

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It truly started on December 12, 2011. I was living in Rapid City at the time and was not present at the first town hall, but I immediately felt like it was my duty to do something. I started a Facebook page, then called “Save Hot Springs” and started sharing it with people. When I moved back to Hot Springs the following month, I joined the public relations subcommittee of the Save the VA group and began documenting everything I could in photo and video. The Page began “Save the VA” and I quickly went to work uploading news, videos and important documents both there and on the Save the VA website.

I have been lucky to be privvy to moments quieter than these pictured here. Standing with Bob Nelson, Pat Russell, Don Ackerman, Amanda Campbell and Rich Gross the night before they left for DC. Sitting in meetings, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) documenting discussions and plans and backup plans. But whether it’s those pensive moments or big ones with thunderous applause, like Amanda calling for Steve DiStasio’s resignation at the 2014 Field Hearing, it always feels like I’m living in a moment in history, even if only for Hot Springs. I hope my work will be useful to future generations of Hot Springs-ians in understanding what happened during these past five years and in the near future.

Today, November 30, 2016, just two weeks under five years from that first town hall, another town hall will be held, this time with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. Look at these photos, which show where we were then and later today, where we are now. Some of you today might realize there are only 9 photos here. Tonight, I will add one more representing the Town Hall with Secretary McDonald.

The Hot Springs VA is still here. We made them come to us. Today is a victory no matter what the outcome. Today is Hot Springs history.

It’s not about the town. It’s about the veterans.

-Justin Gausman
November 30, 2016

 

Photos by Justin Gausman, William Ing and US Senate.