science fiction and comedy make successful mix for young playwrighthistory

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October 24, 2004

By Pamela Zoslov
Assistant Editor


When he isn't dreaming up ideas for a new play or working out video game strategies, Kirk Logan Israel, 15, is "fooling around with his tuba." Israel, whose play, "Kinda Feeble Fables" was a winner in this year's Dobama Theatre, plays tuba in bands at Euclid High and in the Salvation Army Band.
"It's basically a comedy -- no message, no symbolism."

That's how Kirk Logan Israel, 15, described his play, "Kinda Feeble Fables," a winner in the 11th annual Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival at Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights.

"It tries to find humor in three cave explorers who are lost in a 'Dungeons & Dragons'-type adventure and meet a series of monsters."

Although the play has no heavy message, he quipped, it has three morals -- "Never give a map to a guy who is likely to sell it for magic beans, always go to the bathroom before a long journey, and watch out for monsters armed with photon-slingers."

THE CLEVER YOUNG dramatist, who will be a sophomore at Euclid High School this fall, had the privilege of seeing "Fables" performed by a cast of professional actors during the festival, June 7-9.

The play has a narrator who wryly comments on the action, and characters named Marcus, Valkyrie, Bruno, Union Monster, and, funniest of all, Wimpy Monster.

"Fables," one of 20 plays chosen from 593 entries, is Israel's second play to win in the festival. Last year, Dobama produced his first effort, "Star Pox."

"It was about two guys who used a spaceship and don't know how to fly, and they meet three ghosts.

"After I won last year I thought would be neat to enter again," he said.

Israel, who gets his story ideas late at night while drifting off to sleep, admires science-fiction humor writers like Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

BEFORE MOVING to Euclid last year with is parents -- his father died recently -- Israel got his start in playwriting when his English teacher at Monticello Junior High in Cleveland Heights required the class to enter a a school playwriting competition.

Israel wrote "Star Pox," which was performed at the school and later entered in the Dobama contest.

Seeing his works performed on stage, he said, is "great, an amazing feeling. Sometimes you get down on yourself, if the audience doesn't get the jokes."

Despite his literary ability, his favorite subject in school is not English, but biology -- "although I think dissecting frogs is the grossest thing in the world. I like math - ... I'm terrible with grammar."

Israel revealed a fondness for video games, especially Nintendo's "Blaster Master." He also is a talented musician, playing tuba in school bands and in the Salvation Army band. His mother, Betty Israel, is a Salvation Army officer.

HIS MOTHER is understandably proud of Kirk's achievement. "I credit the teachers at Monticello," she said, "And in Glens Falls (N.Y.), his sixth-grade teacher had them make a story book.

"We're readers. and there's always been theater in the family."

Betty speculated that her son's writing talent grew out of a need to create his own reality as her Salvation Army duties took the family from city to city.

"He has to create his world wherever he goes -- to fall back on himself. By the time he was 4, he was in his fifth city," she said.

"He was born in Philadelphia, and we lived in New York, the Virgin Islands and Cleveland Heights. I'm hoping we'll stay here until he finishes school."

Kirk already has some ideas for his next play.

"It's called 'Normality's Revenge,'" he said. "I haven't quite decided what it's about, but I have an idea for it. It opens in a darkened theater, and suddenly a guy jumps out and starts lying on the floor. It turns out he's the narrator."

Asked about his penchant for using narrators in his plays, Israel laughed, "I'm too lazy to tell the audience what's going on."

As for his future plans he said he's undecided, "I'm pretty much keeping it open. I want something that allows me to be creative and a little unusual."

"I like my life different from everyone else. I just don't like to try to fit in. I like to be different and off the wall."

--A few notes: I'm not sure what local paper this appeared in. It's interesting in that I have no memory of biology being my favorite class, I'm not sure if that's true or not. And also, English did start to win out during high school, largely thanks to my Junior year teacher Judith McLaughlin, with whom I'm still in touch. (And if I wasn't thinking about grammar, I wouldn't have taken such care with that last sentence.) My mom's quote "there's always been theater in the family" kind of sounds like a euphemism for "my son is gay", though she's mostly talking about her own experience doing community theater, and "He has to create his world wherever he goes" makes me sound a bit like a psycho in the making. And "fooling around with his tuba"? Ah well. Hometown journalism at its finest!

I never did write "Normality's Revenge".


Quote and Bad News of the Moment
"I'll tell you, before we get out of Iraq, it's going to make Viet Nam look like a good idea. [...] I can't think of a single case where a popular local guerrilla movement failed to defeat a conventional foreign occupying force. From the American Revolution through Viet Nam, the guerrillas always win. Usually, it takes them a long time and they suffer most of the casualties, but they win."
--Anonymous CEO of one of our "corporate security" firms in Iraq, from via John Perry Barlow's blog. I grabbed the article a few days ago, but was reminded of it when I saw a CNN piece: Bodies of 49 Iraqi soldiers found. Combining that with reports about how international reporters are housebound in the green zone...the bad guys are running that country. The bad guys are running that country. Hell, sometimes I think we're making the USSR in Afghanistan look like champions...and they had us giving the guerillas stinger missiles. This rule of thumb about guerillas explains why Osama thinks he's such hot stuff...when it comes to this kind of struggle, he's right. The USA might not be a "paper tiger" military wise, but we are not going to achieve anything like our stated goals in Iraq, save for getting rid of Saddam.

Anyone disagree? LAN3, do you have a different interpretation?