The Brown Dog (formerly known as The Puppy) defies her owners’ attempts to stop her smelling up the furniture.

As the posts around here have gotten less frequent and more intermittent, the writing process proper has certainly ramped up. It’s partly the impending end-of-year and its attendant deadlines (we’re in the third quarter of 2018 already, omfg) and partly because I have projects where I’m not the main (and sometimes sole) driver.

Oh how I wish I could brag and boast but I’m a superstitious type. Suffice it to say that things are a bit busy and that I have not totally forsaken you.

I suppose this is just confirmation that posts here will continue to be infrequent and occasional. But I am thinking of you.

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KINGSWOOD: postponed

The Writer with the family stationwagon, Wainuiomata, 1982. (Photo courtesy Marie Mamea-Crawford.)

I’m of two minds when it comes to this blog and publicity. Is this a good-news-only blog where I celebrate the joy and wonders of writing and production? Or is this a all’s-fair-in-love-and-war blog where, in addition to the celebrating, etc, above, I also lay out the failures and disappointments?

Precedent suggests the latter.

Whilst doing publicity for the Still Life With Chickens machine, I mentioned looking forward to the premiere of Kingswood this September at BATS Theatre in Wellington. It’s been in progress for two years, it had built up some momentum in the last couple of months, and my fellow creative principals and I were at various levels of quiet excitement (hey, we’re all Kiwi males so high-testosterone-I’M-PUMPED-type excitement was never going to happen).

Having put it out there on the æther, we’ve just had to cancel that premiere season.

Life happens. Life goes on. And there will always be other productions.

(The pedants among you are wondering why this post is titled ‘postponed’ but the post itself has the word ‘cancelled’. 1. I didn’t officially announce the season on the blog in the first place so, in the bigger scheme of D F Mamea things, as a project, its premiere is merely delayed. 2. This is my blog, so there.)

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Home Alone

Wellington by night.

I suppose it’s an annual pilgrimage: as Matariki descends upon this lush nation, I take myself to my hometoon of Wellington for a bit of colour and culture. The Lovely Wife didn’t accompany me this year as our schedules didn’t work out (and we’d been down this way only a few weeks earlier).

This time around I:

  • saw Kia Mau Festival highlights Taki Rua’s He Kura e Huna Ana and the premiere season of Deer Woman;
  • attended a Playwrights Hui where I —
    • had the pleasure of meeting Tara Beagan (Canada), Jorjia Gillis (Australia), Lily Shearer (Australia), Mitch Tawhi Thomas (Wellington), and Jason Te Mete (Auckland);
    • and caught up with Ali Foa’i, Mīria George, Natano Keni, Hone Kouka, Jamie McCaskill, and Ilbijerri’s Rachel Maza;
  • and, outside Kia Mau events, met with various Wellington residents about one thing or another.

Unlike last year there was no dining at the usual, nor a Mamea family catch-up, but it was a productive trip, and my hometown is always always fun to visit.

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FLASHBACK: Roughing It

From November 2007 (lightly edited):

Let’s say I have to write a scene with corporate suits speaking corporate-speak. I want it to be fluid – a language that’s appropriate to the characters but still accessible to the audience. Minutes and minutes of talking heads yakking at each other – but interesting. Touchstones are Oliver Stone‘s JFK, the ‘law’ halves of Law & Order episodes, and any episode in Aaron Sorkin‘s West Wing.

My first instinct is to just write the scene and get it over with. This can be difficult if I’ve little or no idea how suits talk to each other. In the past it’s become a war of attrition: the objective of narrative-propelling talking heads can be forgotten in a distressing and dispiriting fug of expository dialogue, with an end-result of dropping the scene completely, followed by a period of self-loathsome whimpering in The Lovely Wife‘s compassionate and patient arms.

I know what I want. I can almost taste the scene. The problem is writing what I want even though I have no idea what happens.

The solution is awfully simple: take tiny steps. Write what I know. Then write it again. Repeat until well done.

I’ve noticed a pattern to how some of these scenes take shape. Below are the stages of development that a scene can undergo:
–  the nugget,
–  the description,
–  as good a start as any, and
–  a work draft.

The nugget


TWO SUITS cook up a plan.

The description


BOUFFANT and COIFFURE walk and talk about BALDY’s imminent death.

As good a start as any


JAMESON RODERICK and TREVOR ALMOND prowl the open-plan offices and corridors.


[PLACE HOLDER: confident growls of world domination]


[PLACE-HOLDER: squeaky noises of dissension]


[PLACE HOLDER: growly grunts of alpha-maleness]

A work draft


RODERICK JAMESON and TREVOR ALMOND walk and talk as paralegals, interns and secretaries work into the night.


Did -. Did you –

His more athletic companion glares at him as a BEAVER-LIKE INTERN cuts in:


Sorry to interrupt, Mr Jameson, but Sir Templar asked me to give you this.

Roderick relieves him of an UNMARKED ENVELOPE and the intern disappears.


(off envelope)

Is -. Is that –

Roderick steers his cream-doughnut-loving toady towards –


– where Almond slips out of his grip and takes a trembling breath:


I -, I’ve changed my mind.

They stare at each other for a long beat. Almond, of course, looks away first.


It’s too late.

(off Almond)

It is done.

OUT ON Almond: there’s no turning back now.

As you can see, each draft gains more depth and colour and tone – I’m building on what’s gone before and with each iteration I’m that much closer to what I want. What I wanted in the first place and what I end up writing may be two very different things but that’s for another post. What matters is that I’ve now got something to really work with.

Another seventy-or-so more scenes to go.

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STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: Auckland run final days

Even though I’ve more pressing matters, I’ve been unable to stop refreshing the ticketing page for Still Life With Chickens:

Tickets as at 21 March 2018.

Between testing Fortress Mamea’s acoustics with maniacal laughs, the almost daily reports had this wee nugget:

Performance report detail — click on image for full report.

‘Nugget’! Oh, this is so much fun.

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Image courtesy Auckland Theatre Company.

The lead up to the opening has been more public than I expected. The write-ups and mentions continued in the Herald, the Listener (hardcopy only), and Tagata Pasifika have been nice to read and watch.

On opening night I was accompanied by  The Lovely WifeThe Girl and The Boy, and I was very, very happy to have my family with me. The opening night audience liked the show — that’s always grafifying. The early reviews in BroadwayWorld and Concrete Playground are positive.

For some reason this doesn’t feel real. Maybe it’ll hit me at some point — soon, hopefully, maybe — that I’ve achieved something tangible, something to be inordinately proud of. Instead I’ve been looking over my shoulder, waiting to be awoken from some impossibly good dream.

I’m biased so I shan’t exhort you to see the show.  But I will point you in the direction of the Facebook page and Twitter feed so you can decide for yourself.

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The play opens this Thursday. I don’t know where the time has fled. Meantime:

I’m in Wellington for the Arts Market (and some theatre, yuss) so this week’ll fly.

(Please forgive the avian puns. I hope you understand.)

In the meantime, please can someone suggest why this pic —

Clint, a feisty Barnevelder/Orpington cross.

— keeps making me flash on this:

Batman (1989). Image copyright Warner Brothers.

Your answers and suggestions welcome in the comments.

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STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: rehearsal reports

Rehearsals are continuing apace in Auckland while life goes on in Northland. An unexpected perk on this production is the rehearsal reports I’m sent at the end of each work day: a one-pager of what happened, what’s needed, and any observations.

Yesterday’s report got me cackling and yahoo-ing in the Fortress Mamea environs:

Rehearsal report detail — click on image to see full report.

And it made me flash on this:


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