- Associated Press - Saturday, August 29, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - In what some might argue is a familiar bit of marital non-communication, Sam L. Landman began a huge project earlier this year — a project his wife, Becky Welander, learned about only after a friend saw it mentioned on social media.

“I knew he was kind of feeling like he wanted to do something different and, one day, I got a text from a good friend of ours, the person who introduced us, and she said, ‘What’s going on with Sam? What’s this big, mysterious project he’s working on? Are you guys moving back to Alabama?’” recalls Welander, a law librarian who lives with actor/writer Landman in St. Paul’s Highland Park and who is not moving to Landman’s native state of Alabama.

Landman’s big venture is the One-Act-a-Week project, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Each Monday this year, the playwright has posted a new one-act play at oneactaweek.tumblr.com, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1NPVueE ) reported.

The project grew out of a confluence of things: First, Landman was winding down a Tumblr at which he posted a regret-of-the-day (says Landman, “I’d maybe regret that I had an Alan Parsons Project song in my head all day or that they were trying to reboot ‘Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.’ Mostly geeky stuff.”). Second, he wasn’t writing the kinds of projects he wished he was writing. Third, he had a shelf full of notebooks in which he’d been jotting ideas for years.

The notebooks, in particular, exerted a powerful pull on Landman, who recently appeared in “The Matchmaker” at Park Square Theatre and “Boeing Boeing” for Torch Theater.

His play “Pretty Girls Make Graves” was produced by Loudmouth Collective earlier this month at the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

“I would look at (the ideas in the notebooks) and think, ‘What would happen if I finish them?’ Because, if I die, my wife is throwing those in the trash,” says Landman, adding that notebooks, along with a novel he’s been working on for four years, began to represent unfulfilled potential. “I used to be that person (who doesn’t finish things). I don’t want to be that person.”

So, to work. The plays have included “Queasy Yakuza,” a profane comedy inspired by Otter’s Saloon in Minneapolis; an ongoing superhero epic called “Army of Evil”; an experimental piece called “Artists Only”; a play inspired by not getting a part that is called “Keep Telling Yourself It’s Only a Play”; and “Roman Showers,” which boldly goes where Shakespeare never dared: cannibal ventriloquism.

“I’m writing stuff I never would have written before. I’m writing stuff that is different from just a couple of guys, sitting around, talking,” says Landman, who often works characters or situations from one play into another play, creating a connected universe not unlike the ones in Quentin Tarantino’s films or J.D. Salinger’s books. “I want to not write the same one-act every week. For instance, I have always leaned on ‘funny,’ but I’m not feeling pressure to be funny, or to sound like myself, necessarily. I’m not Aaron Sorkin. I can’t get away with that.”


Part of the fun of Landman’s Tumblr is that it’s not just the scripts. In fact, there’s so much other stuff that you could enjoy the Tumblr without reading the plays. Before each entry, the 40ish Landman writes about his inspirations — listening to Led Zeppelin records in his car, stumbling upon an evocative hallway, rehearsing for a play, singing karaoke — and he illustrates each play with a scrolling “mood board” of childhood memories, photographs, sketches and other images.

“This is, first and foremost, just to get 52 plays out of my system that are between 15 and 30 pages. But let’s say my goal is to have people produce these on stage. So I want to find out, ‘How does this all look on stage?’ I want to be thinking about all of that,” Landman says.

There are no specific plans to produce any of the One-Act-a-Week plays but Landman says he has heard from theater groups that would like to do readings of a couple. And he would be open to suggestions to expand them into full plays or movies.

Currently, though, the goal is just to keep posting one every Monday. When Landman began the project, he had “a few plays in the hopper” and he still tinkers with a couple he rough-drafted earlier this year but didn’t post. Otherwise, he says he’s fueled by the “desperation” that comes from writing week to week for the self-imposed Monday deadline.

His paying gig has helped him get better at that. Being a copy editor who juggles many projects (he works at the Linnihan Foy ad agency in Minneapolis) has sharpened Landman’s ability to meet deadlines.

But, according to Welander, none of this helps when it comes to getting the lawn mowed.

“He never gets his chores done, but that’s always an issue around here, regardless of what else he’s doing,” says Welander, who has her own passion project — she sews clothing — to keep her busy when Landman is writing. Plus, she goes to bed earlier than her husband, leaving him to hammer away at his laptop while “Law and Order” marathons play in the background.

Now that he has completed week 34, Landman finds he’s getting more and more confident as he goes. But he also has to start thinking about what happens when he gets to the end of the year.

“It scares me, that 52nd week, when I’m done,” Landman says. “Do I keep going? Do I pull back to once a month? What?”

Only he knows the answer to that question, of course. But there is a novel in his desk drawer that isn’t finishing itself …


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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