Blossom on the Run - a Han dynasty adventure (vol. 1)
by Michael Nylan & Robert J. Litz
ISBN-13: 978-1603770927 LCCN: 2015917732
298 pages - US$13.99
Robert Joseph Litz (1950-2012,) a playwright whose work focused on social and political themes. He gained acclaim in 1983 for his play, Great Divide, which was subsequently produced off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1984. Bob Litz wrote seventeen produced plays for Off-, Off-off Broadway, the regional theatres, and for the Elephant Theatre Company where he was Playwright in Residence beginning in 2005. His plays include Mobile Hymn (Dramalogue Award, Best Play) and Cycles (Best of 2012 Hollywood Fringe Festival). He wrote several television shows including the A&E Biographies “George Washington,” “Benjamin Franklin,” “Andrew Jackson” and Emmy-nominated “John Travolta.” He wrote the original screenplay for Twister, House of Cards, Medium Straight and Rappin’. He won the 2012 Burger Prize for writing on the theatre. He was a member of the Actors Studio (Playwrights/ Directors Unit), the WGAW, and LA Stage Alliance.
Foreword, by Michael Nylan
I have always loved children's stories, perhaps because so many feature orphans, by turns fearless and fearful, forging a wary path through a hostile environment (and I was an orphan), perhaps because all children's stories hold out the promise that, in the end, justice will be done and the world set aright. Shortly after arriving in Berkeley in 2001, Oxford University Press invited me to write a textbook for middle-school students describing early China as counterpart for Greece and Rome in antiquity. I jumped at the chance, until the Press forwarded the Texas School Board's list of assertions and themes to incorporate in my writing; it represented every stereotype that I had hoped to undermine. I balked; the press balked, with the end result that my curiosity only grew: what, after all, could an average American school child learn about China from textbooks and picture books? Several trips to local public libraries soon taught me that nearly all the books employed the convention of time travel, to circumvent the messy business of handling changes over time. Hegel was right, apparently: China had no history, in the sense that nothing of sociopolitical or cultural significance had changed from Yao to Mao, and while China had had technical "inventions," it lacked science altogether. Or so the stories claimed.
I decided to write a children's book of my own, aimed at eleven year-old girls. I knew when to set the book, as my research focuses on Han-era China (the last two centuries BC and the first two centuries AD). I already knew some of the characters who could people my book: Dowager Empress Deng and Ban Zhao, two immensely learned women at court, and Wang Chong, an eccentric know-it-all living far to the south. I even had the rudiments for a good plot, for one famous early Han official had been spared execution, thanks to the eloquence of his young daughter. And while I couldn't write dialogue, I also had the superb playwright Robert Litz for my best friend. We had a ball writing the first draft for Blossom on the Run —so much so that halfway through we decided to change gears and opt for a trilogy, merely to prolong the fun.
Bob was due to drive up to Berkeley on Oct. 10, four years ago, so that we could sit at my big dining room table and map out the early dialogue and plot points for volume 2. He never arrived. The coroner could find no cause for death. Bob had simply stopped sometime during the night, after a cast party celebrating the LA Critics' Award for "Cycles," his latest play. And so, for the moment, this first volume testifies to Bob's abilities as a writer and my passion for Chinese history. May it inspire others to read Bob's plays (many available from Samuel French or Amazon) or to delve deeper into Chinese history. Then will justice be done and the world set aright.