I’ve read most creative artists find their thematic focus as teenagers, often as early as 13 or 14, then spend the rest of their creative lives exploring different permutations of that. It’s probably true of me. I grew up in a foreign place, among the small minority of Americans around the Pacific islands of Micronesia. My everyday life was suffused with cultural discovery.
Now as a mid-career playwright, director, and producer, my work has indeed focused on the interaction of cultures, explicitly or symbolically, fueled by research and perhaps the subconscious instincts of my particular youth. I have written for and helped lead companies committed to African American (such as Human I Theatre and San Diego Black Ensemble), Latino (including Teatro Máscara Mágica), and Asian and Pacific Islander (Pacific Asian Actors’ Ensemble and Asian Story Theater) folktale and performing art traditions. Other projects seem less obviously connected. But the story of American artists blacklisted in the 1950’s, no less than the Mexican Revolution, is a story of class-culture conflict. Even my musical about the “French” artist Paul Gauguin is the story of how he came to synthesize the cultural dynamics of his time in Peru, the Caribbean, and Brittany, long before his more familiar time in, yes, the Pacific Islands. There is unlimited dramatic potential in exploring and ultimately understanding new and different cultures. In a world where violent culture clash is so common, with distances shrinking and internet exposure exploding, there is no more important issue I know to address.
(author of Book and Lyrics unless noted; NOT in chronological order)
THE PITCH, lead writer of new comedy based on Hollywood experiences of iconic Mexican comedian Paul Rodriguez, also a writing contributor. Presented at Lyceum Theatre in San Diego by Teatro Máscara Mágica (TMM). Subsequently produced by TMM at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.
PRICK: THE MUSICAL PAUL GAUGUIN presented at the Maritime Museum of San Diego in conjunction with an exhibit of Gauguin’s carvings, ceramics, and sketches, and at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in conjunction with their “Goganismo!” art exhibition. World music score includes original compositions by Opetaia Foai (Disney’s MOANA), Quino McWhinney (frontman for reggae band Big Mountain), Andean band Tinku, others. Subsequent presentation sponsored by Chula Vista Arts Commission.
YELLOW HELL OF VINCENT VAN GOGH featured at San Diego International Fringe Festival, music by Stu Shames and produced by Great White Bear Productions. Featuring a black jazz keyboardist as Van Gogh and hard rock guitarist as Gauguin, show earned the most noise complaints and highest attendance at its venue.
THE WEAVERS SONG wrote script for docu-musical chronicling the rise, fall, and rebirth of 1950’s musical supergroup The Weavers. In consultation with original Weaver Fred Hellerman and the group’s legendary manager Harold Leventhal, musical used 40 period songs to recount the politics that led to the Weavers’ origin, enormous success (“Goodnight Irene” for example), and blacklisting for suspected Communist sympathies. Tour sponsored by San Diego County Community Enhancement funding. Under revision at the time of Leventhal’s death in 2005, adapted as the basis for RED, WHITE & BLACKLISTED: THE POSTHUMOROUS MEMOIRS OF LEE HAYS, also authored by Brisby, produced by Great White Bear in 2014.
Contributing author (and Director) for four collaboratively-authored theater productions:
WHAT ARE YOU? about mixed-race and multi-ethnic individuals in America today, with contributions from artist Kip Fulbeck (hapa.me), Canadian filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, comedian Trevor Noah, and others. Presented in San Diego with support of the Horton Plaza Theatres Foundation.
HALO-HALO: Mixed Together Stories from San Diego’s Filipino American Community, co-sponsored by Honorary Consul of the Philippines with funding from Cal-Humanities.
STORIES OF THE SUN CAFE, based on interviews and real histories of San Diego’s early Japanese and Chinese communities, centered around this still-standing community landmark. Co-presented with the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego and the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum.
ASIAN AMERICAS co-produced by Asian Story Theater and the Asian American Repertory Theatre with a grant from the California Arts Council.
GOLD, FRANKINCENSE & MYRRH adapted the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Tres Reyes into a family-friendly holiday musical presented in Old Town San Diego by Casa de Reyes and the San Diego County Community Enhancement fund. Music based on traditional old Latin and Spanish carols, adapted by Brisby.
Q, an original play by Brisby with music by Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney, based on traditional and modern legends of the many-powered Aztec god Quetzcoatl. Written for high school performers, show features future conquistadors and Aztec royalty in a slapstick showdown on the day before conquest, a heartbreaking separation at the US-Mexican border today, and a musical set in the climate-changed future, where a water-smuggling circus roams the new dustbowl of California.
CELEBRATIONS: AN AFRICAN ODYSSEY is a perennial holiday show on the east coast. A cathartic fable of horror and joy, set around Christmas in the American plantation south. (Co-author of music)
A FEW HOURS IN HELL is a catchy musical for adults and atheists. George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Hell is full of musical amateurs.” These amateurs are eager to get out, and Master of Ceremonies Jack Gorgeous offers them one chance to sing for their afterlife. Produced multiple times in San Diego and Philadelphia. (Co-author of book)
and composer of this mashup of Goethe and Marlowe, the seminal fable of making
a deal with the devil. Produced by
Masque at San Diego’s Second Avenue Theater.
Young Audiences (selected)
EDUCATIONAL TOUR #11 for Old Globe Theatre. Adapted Shakespeare to scenes and songs for new production that toured southwestern region (California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada). Flagship tour as the Old Globe became San Diego’s first all-professional theatre company.
MONKEY KING, FA MU LAN and additional scripts based on traditional Asian and Pacific Islander stories. More than 20 scripts produced by Asian Story Theater in San Diego, working with multiple composers and community partners. Company additionally toured productions to San Francisco (Palace of Fine Arts) and Los Angeles (Wadsworth).
CAT TOUR collaborations of the San Diego Chinese Center (C), Asian Story Theater (A), and Teatro Máscara Mágica (T). Small touring casts included Asian, African American, and Native or Latin American stories. Touring throughout San Diego County with primary support of United Way of San Diego.
NATIONAL THEATRE FOR CHILDREN updated adaptations of classical children’s theater (BABES IN TOYLAND, WIZARD OF OZ) for month-long tours of America’s midwestern and west-coast states.
SHAVE ICE sitcom pilot, adapted from concept behind an earlier script Brisby wrote for Asian Story Theater. Hawaii-set comedy of homeless refugees relying on their differences and each other to become a defacto family. Development ongoing by Great White Bear.
ALL-ACCESS KARAOKE for local CW television produced by the AIM Agency. As the only staff writer, responsible for original segments (Elevator-oke, Scary-oke for Halloween, etc.) in this short-lived reality show, as well as bumpers, promos, and live event narration.
Television scripts: BOSTON LEGAL spec episode (multiple awards, though alas not from the show); three episodes for KINDERHELL a netcomedy years ahead of its time and now mercifully vanished from the internet; contributor to SAN DIEGO AT LARGE a local talk-variety show on San Diego’s CBS affiliate.
University of California at San Diego (UCSD): wrote for, performed, or produced projects by these professors: Floyd Gaffney, Eric Christmas, Jorge Huerta, Alan Schneider
University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA): training in writing for episodic TV, creating a television pilot, and unit production management.
Whitman College, Walla Walla Washington: BA in English & Music