Friday, December 7, 2007

Washington Post Survey Tells Me I am an Edwards Supporter! Huh, not what I thought.

The Washington Post has a blind candidate survey up where you take a 25 question quiz, picking the candidate response to policy questions that you most agree with, and they tell you at the end which candidate you supported the most.

I was stunned to find that out of a possible 100 points, I got 31 points for John Edwards, 27 points for Bill Richardson (who I didn't really even remember was running), 19 points for Obama, 13 points for Clinton, and 12 points for Dodd.

Now, on many of the issues, the responses were all the same and you had to select based on wording. So, it may just really be that I have a deep affinitiy for John Edwards' speechwriter or something. But it is a fascinating quiz. I may take it again, there is an option where you can take it with the candidate names showing I think, and see where I disagree with everyone. Also be interesting to take the Republican quiz.

Thanks to my friend Alison Y for emailing this to me.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Eric Eberwein in Scene4.com this month

Go read my friend Eric Eberwein's play "My Perfect Face" at www.scene4.com this month! Eric rocks.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fanfic Plays Inspired by Boing Boing Post

Boing Boing has a recent post up about Southwest Air's profile of some internet Fanfic writings.

I definitely want to employ my extensive internet sleuthing skills to find the "novel-length story that brought characters and plots from Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series to the setting of Harry Potter." That sounds like genius!!

And in the spirit of cool fanfic melds, I have decided to share the plots of the top ten fanfic plays I want to write before I die.
10. The cast of 21 Jump Street is stranded in the Land of the Lost world, where the LOTL kids (Will and Holly) have massive drug problems. Kirk and Spock from Star Trek (engaged in a torrid homosexual affair) beam down and they all try desperately to get the kids off neolithic heroin. The Peter DeLuise character (Penhall) gets eaten by the T-Rex.

9. Alice's diner meets the plots of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Sime/Gen sci fi/fantasy novels. The diner survives a nuclear holocaust and then Mel and Flo sprout tentacles from their forearms and chase Vera and Alice around the diner, desperate for their "Gen Juice."

8. Epic trilogy using the ensemble from the sitcom "Amen," where they are all cult members instead of decent church-goers. And someone is carrying an alien parasite that they must find and destroy before it devours them all.

7. Complete re-do of the Bionic Woman, set in 14th century Europe, where the Bionic Woman is a golem animated by an alchemist and hunting and killing crusaders.

6. The 7nth Heaven family re-envisioned as the Lost in Space Family. With Hannibal Lecter as the Dr. Zachary Smith stowaway character and the ship is run by Hal from 2001. Boy, are they in trouble, now.

5. The casts of Battlestar Gallactica (old and new series) find the Deep Space Nine Station, Miles
Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s
on-going opera novels is on the station searching for his clone twin, through a time warp thingie all the Star Wars characters show up from all movies, the line marriage members from Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress show up and bring Spock into their marriage, Darth Vader attacks the station, C3Po and R2D2 arrive and build Robby the Robot as a droid sex toy, and then Ming the Merciless arrives-defeats Darth Vader-and turns the station into a casino. Part of a science fiction trilogy with the previous play. All to be performed by two actors who play every role.

4. Complete rip-off of the world created in Esther Friesner’s Psalms of Herod combined with the cast and environs of the TV series Happy Days. The Fonz kills Mr. Cunningham to take over his marriage to Mrs. Cunningham and winnows out (kills) Ritchie, Ralph and the other guy. Also
brings Joanie and Leather Tuscadero into his alpha marriage. Mork from Mork and Mindy shows up and morphs into one of the aliens from Alien. Ends in a big bloodbath as these things generally do. Third play in the sci fi fanfic trilogy.

3. The Eight is Enough cast as a persecuted Mormon family around 1870 when the Morel Act is passed in Congress in an attempt to abolish polygamy. The Big Love cast shows up in a covered wagon and the girls from the EiE family are gradually seduced into becoming Big Love wives. We see excerpts from the writings of the youngest EiE son, who is dramatizing stories from Orson
Scott Card’s The Folk of the Fringe collection
. We discover a long, lost EiE sibling who has been locked in a closet his whole life. This one will be a musical for criminally insane children.

2. The Falcon Crest Channing/Gioberti and the Dynasty Carrington families are engaged in a bloody feud for control of the Channing/Gioberti vineyards. Murder rape, infanticide--
these people will stop at nothing in their mad quest for wine monopoly! The women in the cast will all be wearing dresses designed by members of the audience, who compete in Project Runway-style audience-participation segments to design and build formal evening gowns with thrift store clothes and bedazzlers.

1. Willy Wonka is running the cathouse from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Only the whorehouse is in Narnia. Customers who find a golden ticket in their prostitute get to journey through a magic wardrobe and end up building a free love commune in Walnut Grove next to the Laura Ingall’s family from Little House on the Prairie. This a sex education play meant to tour
elementary schools.
Okay, now you entertain me with fanfic plays you will write. That is what the comments field is for. Go on.

Flux Theatre Ensemble's 2008 Season!

Guess who has a trilogy of plays premiering in New York next Fall? Read on to find out.

Flux Theatre Ensemble is pleased to announce our 2008 season! We begin in the spring with Shakespeare's classic comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, followed in the summer by August Schulenburg's haunting tragedy, Other Bodies, and finish in the fall with Johnna Adams' divinely wild Angel Eaters trilogy.

Why these plays? Because they all wrestle in their own unique way with the mystery of how life transforms the body.Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is rightfully considered one of his most warm and humorous plays, but it is also a subtly troubling exploration of the instability of our bodies. The characters find their hearts and bodies transformed against their will, and though in the end Jack will have Jill, no one walks away from this bottomless dream unchanged.

The warm-hearted vision of Midsummer becomes a fever dream in August Schulenburg's Other Bodies. The playwright of last year's FringeNYC Village Voice Audience Favorite, Riding the Bull, returns with the story of Terry, a notorious player whose pursuit of a mysterious woman leads to obsession and violence. What begins as a seductive battle of the sexes deepens into a haunting
parable of the way our bodies betray us.

While Midsummer blurs the line between man and animal, and Other Bodies charts the distance between woman and man, Johnna Adams' Angel Eaters expands into more celestial transformations. Flux will develop this trilogy as it follows a family cursed through generations with the gift of raising the dead. The borders of Heaven and Hell are transgressed as demons masquerade as angels, angels pursue their own uncertain agendas, and even the sweetest mortals grow horns.

Join us in 2008 as Flux journeys through these deeply human and uniquely theatrical plays of transformation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

That Cockfighters Trilogy Report and a Rattlers Reading

Sorry I have been out of touch! It was the holiday monster that swallowed me whole. My parents came to visit for Thanksgiving, so I have been busy getting ready and then hosting them the last couple of weeks. Sanity has resumed.

I left off promising to write about the reading of my three plays Cockfighters, Tumblewings, and Godsbreath in Los Angeles on Nov 11th. Here goes:

It went extremely well. The readings were held at the old Evidence Room main performance space-- in the new Bootleg Theare. We read straight through all three plays with breaks for snacks and lunch.

Cockfighters featured stand out performances from: Paul Dillon, the original Killer Joe in Tracy Letts' Killer Joe (DWIGHT); amazing local regional actor Hugo Armstrong (CD); playwright Ann Noble, who acts as well as she writes, (TAMMY); and Westley Thornton one of my favorite and most missed LA actors (perfectly cast as CLARENCE). Hugo was my marathon actor, appearing in all three of the plays (CD, BUCK/JACOB, CD)-- he was an amazing Buck in Tumblewings! Jessica Hanna was brilliant as his wife and sparring partner RANETTA, and I was delighted to see Mike Genovese reprsie the beautiful work he did in a reading last year as COY. Godsbreath had a troubled second act, I discovered (that is where I will be focusing the rewrites) but Paul Dillon's astonishing work as HEP kept the play afloat even over troubled waters. And it was great to see Corryn Cummings reprise the role of LOGAN, which read in a Moving Arts reading earlier this year.

Rewrites will focus on Tumblewings (tweaks) and Godsbreath (overhaul of ACT II). Cockfighters held up pretty well. Still don't feel like I have nailed CLARENCE's monologue to SHIRL's body-- so I may do some tweaking there.

Big thanks to the producers, Jessica Hanna, Mike Dunn, Darin Anthony, and Danny F. It was a big undertaking and offered nice munchies and lunch for people. The day didn't really feel long until we hit Godsbreath's second act. That is much better than I expected! Will keep you posted as the work progresses on this one. The ball is in my court to get rewrites done.

Then, since seeing three of my plays read in a week is clearly not enough for me, I got to see Flux Theatre in New York do a table readng of my new play Rattlers on Sunday Nov 18th. The ensemble members took turns reading the roles and we all had a great time. I don't think anyone had read the script in advance (maybe Gus had) so it was great to see what everyone thought about how the story unfolded. There are clearly some tweaks to be made, but I think overall the script is pretty solid.

That is probably more than you are interested in knowing about how things went, so I will stop there. I got to see Chuck Mee's Queens Boulevard while my parents were in town and will try to blog about that soon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't Drop Your Work Laptop

Don't drop your work laptop on the hardwood floor in your bedroom like I did on Saturday night.

The IT guy at work said it will take them 2 weeks or so to "figure out who will pay" to retrieve my hard drive data off the now very broken computer.

And no one will touch it or attempt to work on the computer until they receive confirmation of which department will pay. Until then they just hold the broken machine hostage in their storage cabinet. Like extortionists.

I asked if we could just agree that the department I work for would pay, and they said it is not that simple. Oh. Okay.

I am limping along on a loaner computer. Also, they told me that since the laptop is leased, I can't expect a new one. They will find out who will pay for repairs after they find out who will pay for data retrieval and then return the mended, busted-up laptop to me in the distant future. Probably with duct tape over the busted place, I guess.

Oh, the unhappiness.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

12th Night of the Living Dead and 'Nami in Los Angeles

I caught the Impetuous Theater's 12th Night of the Living Dead on Friday. I am not sure I have ever seen a more delightful show. The concept of taking Shakespeare's 12th Night and adapting it to zombie fare is flat-out brilliant. The premise is that Sebastian and Viola's ship sinks because it is hit by a green, shiny, radioactive meteorite that turns all onboard into the undead.

So, Viola washes up on the beach already a zombie and the plot proceeds from there. Lindsey Wolf manages to almost steal the show doing nothing but zombie moans in all her Viola scenes. I thought Benjamin Ellis Fine's Sir Andrew Aguecheek was particularly demented and delightful, as well. Not to take anything away from any of the cast members in this, who are all wonderously entertaining. There is not a rotten zombie in the bunch.

Brian MacInnis Smallwood's adaptation deserves to be produced in mutliple cities, countries, and continents, and can't be praised highly enough. It is astonishing how well the original Shakespeare plays lends itself to a zomibe transformation. It is especially entertaining if you know the play backwards and forwards to see how Smallwood shapes it around the new premise.

And John Hurley's direction could not be improved upon. Highlights include: Lindsey Wolf and Erin Jerozal (as Maria), snacking happily on Timothy J. Cox's bowels (as the disemboweled Sir Toby Belch) while Benjamin Ellis Fine works up the courage to challenge Viola to a duel, Viola biting Shashanah Newman's (Olivia's) finger off instead of taking the ring, and the eerie delight of seeing the sister Olivia is mourning (Reyna de Courcy) crawl from her grave and chase her sister around town.

I wish it were extending so I could see it again!

Then on Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles to see the Bootleg Theater reading of my trilogy of plays (Cockfighters, Tumblewings, Godsbreath) held on Sunday. I had enough time when I got in on Saturday to go see Range View Productions version of Chad Beckim's 'Nami. I liked this script a lot and the performances by Aissatou Diallo as Keesha and Hector Hank as Roachie were particularly strong. The story is very haunting and frightening. It is a show where you know tragedy is looming, but I was surprised at the resolution. It was great to see a sharp, young New York writer produced on such a beautiful set at the Hayworth in Los Angeles.

Will give the trilogy reading at Bootleg its own blog entry. Am not sure I will get to it this afternoon, though, and I am out of town tomorrow and Thursday for work, so you may have to be patient. You can read my friend The Misanthrope's take on the Cockfighters reading on the trilogy day on his Toner Mishap blog here. In short, it went extremely well and I am so glad I went and got to see everyone!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Szymkowicz/Szymkowicz, Schulenburg and Stephanie Walker Plays

Decided to go ahead and kill some time before I head downtown to see 12th Night of the Living Dead by blogging all the readings I caught this week.

In addition to 12th Night tonight, I am planning on going from LAX to the Hayworth Theater in Los Angeles for Chad Beckim's 'Nami tomorrow night. So I will have those to write about in addition to my trilogy reading next week. That is too much to reasonably write about. Especially since next week involves a possible Hank III concert, if I have the energy, and a trip to Boston for work, followed by Tracy Letts' August: Osage County on Saturday the 17th. This is no time to fall behind in my obsessive chronicling of my theater outings.

On Monday, November 5th I got to see two of Adam Szymkowicz's plays read in two different locations. First, I saw Herbie: Poet of the Wild West read as part of the on-going New York Library of the Performing Arts' A Rose by Any Other Name: Adaptations of Shakespeare series. My friend Kay is a librarian and had attended the dance piece based on Romeo & Juliet in this festival and saw Adam's name on the up-coming events list and alerted me to the reading. So, I met her at the NY Performing Arts Library next to the Lincoln Center (boy, the construction they have going on there is annoying!). Playwright Mark Schultz (whose play Deathbed should be opening in January and will doubtless be a must see) was there and I chatted to him before the play started about what we are both up to writing-wise and how crappy those Left Behind books are from a theological and doctrinal perspective (yeah, I don't know how we got off on that, except we were talking about Bridget Carpenter's The Faculty Room that I saw at Wooly Mammoth where Mark was just produced and that has the rapture in it) Mark apparently called into a talk show once and argued with one of the writers of the Left Behind books about how crap and illegit the whole premise was which I find deeply impressive.

Herbie: The Poet of the Wild West was a delightful riff off Hamlet. With Siamese twins standing in for Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, a performing bear, a disgruntled lesbian cowgirl, copious shoot 'em up quick draw killings, a desperately ugly saloon girl, and a deliciously whiny poet gunslinger hero. I thought the script was very funny and engaging. The audience was kind of a dull collection of souls, all thinking about the work they'd just left and were going back to on Tuesday. I didn't think much of the audience. I didn't stay for the talkback, but Adam said they were extremely quiet afterward, too. Sigh. The idea of having Herbie/Hamet be a poet, was especially inspired, I thought. Then he could wander around the desert reciting his poetry to himself in place of soliloquies. Inspired. The cast was divine. I have (true to form) misplaced the program and so can only say: Amelia/Bear Handler actress, you are a gfit from the gods and a comic genius. Ugly Betty actress, I am in awe. I bought that you were ugly and I laughed at the fact that you were ugly and I am sort of disappointed that you are not in fact ugly, because you convinced me you would be so charming as a horrifically ugly person. I don't know how you did it.

Then I skipped out of that reading and headed over to the first Flux Theatre Ensemble bar reading series at Jimmys 40. This was packed to the gills and I had to stand at the back of the room and watch the last two thirds of Gus Schulenburg's play Angel Juice. This is an adorable supernatural comedy. I caught enough to see knock performances from Candice Holdorf and Marnie Schulenburg. The bar series is going to be an ongoing series featuring the best of the Flux Sunday writers' meeting performance in a public format. Adam's Open Minds had a reading after Gus' play. I loved Open Minds, which is a fantastic political thriller/comedy. Also great performances from the Flux Ensemble.

Interestingly, as Adam has mentioned on his blog, both Herbie and Open Minds featured a leading character named Herbie and some similar lines from controling mothers. I love it when writers repeat images like that in their work. I think there is a great tradition in the visual arts (think Monet's haystacks) of an artist using recurrent images in his/her work (Cahlo's self portrait), but it isn't something that is done in quite the same way by playwrights. But in subtle ways, it is done-- thematically, with lines, with sets, with design features, etc. Matt Freeman talked some about this in a self-mocking way in his pretentious theater show when he interviewed himself about his own writing and recurrent auto-biographical themes. While these elements are analyzed in very successful playwright's work (Parks' recurring Abe Lincoln impersonators), no one ever pays any attention when beginning or mid-career playwrights start to work with recurring images. And that is when the phenomenon is at its most interesting because it is just happening.

Then on Tuesday night, I took in Oberon Theatre Ensemble's reading of my friend LA playwright Stephanie Walker's Something of Great Importance. That went over very well and featured some adorable performers. Stephanie seemed pleased and it was great to see a play I'd seen in my writers' group meetings in LA on stage in NY.

Off to see the Shakespeare zombies now. Will report back on how the trilogy reading goes next week.

Sneak Peak Rattlers

I am flying off to LA tomorrow to see my trilogy reading on Sunday, and I thought I would leave you with a teaser from Rattlers. A monologue and some stage directions toward the end of scene 3. I will blog some recent NY readings I've been to and more than you want to know about my trilogy reading next week!


MATTIE
I was on a bus to Natchitoches one time. . . . Would have
been before you was even born. It was before my girls was
born. . . . And there was a group of slow children on the
bus. They was traveling with a Sunday School teacher, I
think. Or, maybe they was moving these slow children from a
group home into some church home. Some institution. I don’t
remember. . . . But there was this one little girl with these
white, yellow pigtails. Just the brightest little smile you
ever saw. You could tell by her face that she was slow. She
had that look. . . . And she had a book with pictures of
angels in it. And she kept wanting to show me her book. And
she was calling all those angels by the names of birds. “See
pigeon?” She’d say to me and then point to a picture of the
Archangel Michael. Gabriel with his horn was a blue jay. The
whole heavenly host arrayed in the clouds welcoming Jesus’
ascension to heaven was sparrows and hawks, she said. I must
have looked through that book with her a hundred times on
that trip to Natchitoches. “See the pigeon?” “See the
eagles?” You could see how proud she was of herself. How
proud she was of knowing names. I got to Natchitoches to my
aunt’s house. And my aunt was a big Church of Christ woman
and she told me I should have corrected that little slow
girl. I shouldn’t have let her get off that bus not knowing
the right names of the Lord’s angels. I shouldn’t have let
her believe that they was nothing but birds. But, I couldn’t
have done that. Not to that little girl. She loved them
angels better for being birds. I hope nobody ever told her. .
. . There’s something fragile like that inside us. Everybody.

SHANE kisses her.

MATTIE grabs him roughly by the
shoulders and pulls him to the ground.
She takes control of the kiss and rips
his shirt open, scattering buttons on
the asphalt.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Columbia Journalism Review Quotes My Blog

A reporter for the Columbia Journalism Review quoted my blog about the steam pipe explosion that happened near my office in July. I had no idea and just found out by self-obsessive googling.

Apparently to serious journalists, I am a.k.a BlindSquirrel. Keep that on your list of my known aliases, okay? In case I try to use it for criminal activity or become a superhero. I may also answer to "Citizen Journalist" another cool title the article bestows on me and my fellow crisis bloggers.

My quote:
Others captured the event in words. Johnna Adams, a.k.a. “BlindSquirrel,” described the initial confusion on the ground: “The streets were packed with people and no one knew what had happened. I heard that a building had come down and that an electrical turbine had exploded—but nobody knew anything. I walked passed one delivery truck that was blaring its radio for everyone to hear, all I was able to hear as I walked passed was ‘people are running from the building.’ Which was not encouraging.”


Baby Rattlers on the Loose!

As of around 11pm last night, I am the proud parent of a lean, mean 93-page rattlesnake play called, RATTLERS.

The play is a muder mystery with supernatural elements, continuing the multi-generational saga begun in my play ANGEL EATERS, and concerning a family cursed with the power to eat the goodness off a dead body and unnaturally reanimate the corpse.

Osley, our second generation angel eater, is kidnapped by a rattlesnake wrangler in rural Okalhoma named Snake. Snake's girlfriend Ernelle wants Osley to resurrect her recently murdered sister Kate. Kate and Ernelle's mother Mattie is seeking a brutal revenge for the crime, while Kate's husband Everett encounters a distraught and secretive undertaker in the funeral parlor parking lot, Ted. A dark tale of murder and retribution where it isn't easy to tell who is a rattler and who is prey.

This is a thematically similar play to my play Cockfighters, for those of you who liked that one.

This is the second play of my Angel Eaters Trilogy. In December, I will have exciting news about how East Coasters can see the entire trilogy next year.

As always, I am delighted to have you read and comment if anyone is interested in seeing the script.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Invitations to my Cockfighters Trilogy in Los Angeles


Hello Los Angeles / Orange County Friends!

I am coming back to town for one weekend only! For a special appearance at a reading of my Cockfighters Trilogy (name may change) on SUNDAY NOVEMBER 11. We will be reading my plays COCKFIGHTERS, TUMBLEWINGS, and GODSBREATH all on the same day!

I will fly in Saturday and fly out Monday, so the best opportunity to see me and catch up is to come to the reading and/or dinner afterward with the producers and cast.

How do you come to the reading? Well, that is the tricky part. It is an invitation-only affair. The producers want it to be mainly a small-ish event with invited designers and potential collaborators. However, all of my friends, luckily, are amply qualified to be dramaturgical assistants to the playwright. Right? Is there anyone out there who wants to come and thinks they won't have an opinion about the plays? I didn't think so. Presto, you are my special dramaturgical assistance unit (SDAU).

The time commitment is roughly 10:30 am to 7pm, with breaks of about an hour between the shows. You do not have to come to all three shows.

So, EMAIL ME or send me a myspace message if you want to come to the reading and you will get an email invitation from the producers next week.

If you just want to stop by and visit with me at the dinner after the show, let me know and I will send out the restaurant and time (it will be in LA, probably around Hollywood) next week.

Hope to see some of you soon!
The production photo above is Loring Rose and Brad Whitfield in the STAGEStheatre produciton of "Regrets" one of the one act plays Cockfighters is based on. The whole trilogy started with that play, which was an Orange County Playwrights' Alliance themed one act on the theme of 'revenge.'

Beckim's THE MAIN(E) PLAY Reading and Another Cousin's Married Now

Took in Chad Beckim's reading at Partial Comfort Production's Welcome Mat series of his new work, THE MAIN(E) PLAY, on Monday. Over at Theatre Row.

One of the LIGHTS RISE ON GRACE actors was in the reading, Alexander Alioto. He did another outstanding job here. His co-stars from the Fringe Fest production were in the audience watching him. That was cool. I loved LIGHTS RISE ON GRACE and it was like getting to sneak looks at famous people everytime I looked over to watch the actors watching the reading.

The play is a delightful, comic character study about a family in Maine over a tumultous Thanksgiving weekend. I enjoyed it, particularly, the character of Roy as played by the outstanding David Wilson Barnes. His scenes with Alexander Alioto were the heart of the play for me and quite gripping. Looking forward to seeing what happens next with the script.

**********************************************

Also went to Dallas last weekend for my cousin's wedding. It was surprisingly painless for a family wedding. I applaud myself for the brilliant decision to get a hotel room of my own and not try to share with any members of my family. That makes things so much less painful.

I bought my outfit in Astoria, about an hour before I left for the airport. The nice Greek Orthodox ladies working at the closest store to my house with evening dresses sold me a rather sparkly gold number with sequins around the low-for-me bodice. It was also, helpfully, a size or so too small. I felt like a Vienna sausage rolled in a bag of glitter. And I am not sure the Presbyterian, Dallas, TX, church knew quite what to make of my Greek Orthodox-inspired getup. It was very fancy. No one else was wearing that dress. Ah, the joys of the last minute shopper! I forgot my camera. If someone emails me photos I will post.

My Dad surprised me by having a fabulous time. It was a wedding for a cousin on my biological mother's side (my mom died when I was 8) and Dad was a little surprised to be invited, with my stepmom. He hadn't seen anyone there in 25 years or so, and the last time was at funerals and hospital scenes he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. But, he started bubble-blowing wars at the reception table, tormented one of my cousins about some episode involving a CB radio and a highway patrol man that my cousin clearly wanted forgot, giggled and gossiped with one of my uncles, teased everyone mercilessly, made everyone laugh. Dad has a life-of-the-party sense of humor and energy that is sort of unpredictable. I forget sometimes what a joy he can be to be around. And everyone loved my stepmom. That was nice. It was short. Not much else you can ask for in a family wedding.

Monday, October 29, 2007

1001 Reasons to See 1001

Okay, I am not really going to type 1001 reasons to go see Jason Grote's 1001 from Page 73 Productions. That would hurt my fingers. So I will give you a top five list:

5. Costumes, costumes, costumes. How did they know how much I want to be a harem girl and like daydreaming about how I would dress if I were one? Lush, gorgeous and neato-snazzy threads on all the pretty actors.

4. The script is even better than the five page exercise Jason wrote in the Mac Wellman workshop I took with him where he adapted a Circuit City flyer to the stage. And that exercise had big screen TV's screaming obscenities at one another, so you can see how tough that is to beat! Seriously, I loved the way the script evolved in completely unexpected directions and opened effortlessly into deeper and deeper storylines-- there is something so natural and organic about it. It will stay with you a long time. You can't figure it all out sitting there, you have to work some of it out in your head on the walk home- and that is a marvelous achievement.

3. The floaty blue parachute.

2. The perception shift that happens about halfway through when you think you finally know what the hell is going on. Then all the other little perception shifts when you decide you were right, you weren't right, right again, well, maybe it's more like this and then 'ah ha!, I get it!' That's good writing.

1. Decapitations, amputations, royal proclamations, incestuous relations, nuclear annililations, geni-in-lamp infestations, sultanic sexual satiations, Jorge Luis Borges dissertations, the plight of Arab nations, and Jewish-Palestinian reconciliations generate elations, intellectual masturbations, and audience excitations!

So go see it. You can get ticket info here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What you missed at the New York Theater Review fundraiser!

Caught the New York Theater Review Fundraiser last night, held at P.S.122. It was spectacular fun.

The New York Theater Review is published by one-time orange County journalist Brook Stowe. They have published buddy playwrights Gus Schulenburg and Adam Szymkowicz work and luminaries like Sheila Callaghan, Quiara Alegria Hudes, and Anne Washburn, et al. I recommend the publication highly. I actually have several copies because I bought two and then keep winning copies in raffles everytime I go to a NYTR event. Last night was no exception. I have a new copy autographed by Adam Szymkowicz, Brook Stowe, and Anne Washburn that I have promised to Eric Eberwein as a belated birthday gift.

The fundraiser was jam-packed with exciting entertainment. My favorites included the astonishingly gifted and exciting soundscape artist Reggie Watts. He is going to be doing a performance at this year's Under the Radar festival at The Public this winter called Disinformation and I am so there. I could listen to him for hours. He does a sort of free-flow storytelling, beat-boxing, fluid sound motion improvizations using electronic looping technologies and microphones. I hate performance art and this had me spellbound.

Also loved the performance by The Rising Fallen, a group of "punk-tinged neo-post-indie-sludge-sladge musical" genius-people. This is a theater troupe that pretends to be an astonishingly weird band and delivers monologues and kicking bizarre music as part of a faux concert. Reminded me heavily of the confounding Skinny Puppy concert a friend dragged me too circa 1990 in Austin, only funnier and less obviously manufactured. They had the brilliant idea to purposefully burn multiple slices of toast in a toaster propped up center stage to create a low-rent smoke machine. That is an idea that stays with you. Especially when, as Brook commented to me at the end of the evening, the entire audience is sure to go home smelling strongly of burnt toast. I am still not sure I have gotten the smell out of my jacket. And I like that.

There were also six short plays commissioned on the idea "what was Suzan-Lori Parks doing and thinking on days 0 and days 366 of the 365 Days/365 Plays project?" These were adorable and presented by exciting up and coming theater troops: Direct Arts, Blue Box Productions, The New York Neo-Futurists, Flux Theatre, The Shalimar, and Hoi Polloi. All or most of the companies are producing some of the 365 Days/365 Plays Project productions and were excited to do their own original take-offs. Most successful for me included Flux's awesome three-part God trinity (Cotton Wright, Tiffany Clementi, and Marnie Schulenburg) in The Alpha and the Suzan. They sang all their lines in knock-out three-part harmony (music by Isaiah Tannenbaum, I believe, and lyrics August Schulenburg). Lovely voices and pretty choreography from director Heidi Handlesman. Hoi Polloi's The Sound of Whales - A Songed Response to Suzan-Lori Parks" by Alec Duffy was also hysterically funny. They get the award for best costume design as well for their wacky rain/beach attire. And The New York Neo-Futurists really blew me away with Some Days, Days in May, Are Slightly Better Than Others (Day 182.5). This play was a delightful crazy safari ride of going-nowhere dialogue and stultifying stage stunts that somehow left me desperate for more. It was written by Rob Neill and featured Eevin Hartsough who played Shirl in my 2003(?) production of Cockfighters at Oberon Theater Ensemble. it was cool getting to catch up with her after the show.

Also, I accosted blogger Matt Freeman in the lobby and forced him and Adam Szymkowicz to pal around with me. Matt had the bad taste to be wearing the same plaid shirt as another fundraiser attendee and was mortified (fashion plate that he is) to be thought of as unoriginal. But he was gracious about it, explaining that it was really his girlfriend's fault for her uninspired shopping. I probably shouldn't talk smack about him since I told him my real age (ancient) and he is the sort to use ammunition like that, but he makes such a convenient target. ;-)

Planning to go see Jason Grote's 1001, Kristen Palmer's Departures, drag my unwilling ass to yet another cousin's goddamned wedding, and see Oberon Theater Ensemble's reading of my friend, LA-playwright Stephanie Walker's play in the next few weeks.

Also have exciting news about ways that people on both the East and West Coast can see a trilogy of full length plays by Johnna Adams in the near future. More info when I have been released from certain vows of silence.

Iphigenia 2.0 and Guitar Master Les Paul



Quick notes on my two most interesting outings in the city last week. I took in Charles Mee's Iphigenia 2.0 at the Signature Theatre Friday before last and I saw 92-year old jazz guitarist Les Paul's ongoing Monday night show at the Iridium last Monday.

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Iphigenia 2.0 rocked my whole world. I was feeling pretty provincial and sad being the only person I know who did not like The Misanthrope at NYTW (bleeeeechhh! yeeeeek!). In fact, there was a little elderly woman at The Misanthrope who got up from her seat in the middle of a middle row in the theater and walked out huffily in the middle of the show-- and that woman has been my secret hero for the last few weeks. My role model and the person whose balls I most covet. I was so miserable. And I wondered if I had just spent too long in Orange County sucking at the SCR playwriting development breast and having my appreciation for avant-garde NY downtown theater eroded.

Then, Charles Mee made me feel good about myself again! He took the Iphigenia story (one of my favorite Greek tragedy sagas since I did a high school monologue from Agamemnon long ago) and tranformed it into a hugely relevant contemporary political drama/farce in which a president (a lot like Bush) is ordered by his troops and general to sacrifice his daughter (a lot like the blond Bush twin) to prove that he is willing himself to endure the sacrifice he is asking of his nation. His wife, Clytemnestra (nothing like Laura Bush-- way cooler as played by the astounding and gorgeously vicious Kate Mulgrew who I love almost as much as the woman who walked out at NYTW!) protests and vows vengeance. The produciton was lavish, full of music and dance, timely and timeless at the same time, spectacularly choreographed and brilliantly acted. I wish I had gone earlier in the run so that I could see it several times.

The text of the play is posted online by Charles Mee here. Agamemnon's opening monologue is worth a few reads, even if you don't have time/inclination to read the rest of the play. I subscribed to the rest of the Charles Mee series at the Signature and will be seeing his next play, Queens Boulevard in November.

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My friend Jordan, who is a travel writer for the AAA website, came into town last weekend and got us free press tickets to 92-year-old jazz guitar great Les Paul's ongoing show at the Iridium last Monday night (that is Les' pciture above, taken by Jordan). Normally it is a $45 ticket and a $15 drink/food minimum. We only had to pay for food. Here is the Iridium's calendar in case you want to go check it out.

I am the least musical person on the planet and I loved every second of this concert. Jordan had to explain to me several times who Les Paul is-- in case you don't know, he is the inventor of the electric guitar (although, I think the Leo Fender estate disputes that? One of my Fullerton buds should know). He also colloborated with just about everyone in the music business in the 40s and 50s.

The format of the show mimics an old-style musical variety show. Les has arthritis in his left hand, but still manages to pick out a fair riff with just two fingers. But he can't play all night, so he brings lots of guests on stage to come up and play with him. There was a great tap dancer, even better harmonica guy, some guitarists, and Richie Sambora (from Bon Jovi) who was just in the audience (he showed up shirtless underneath a black suit jacket, so one supposes he had some expectation of getting up and playing a song or two, despite some rather hammish demurring when he was first called on stage).

Les told great stories about Bing Crosby inviting him to record with him 'just after the war' and was really sharp. Made a lot of witty jokes that I liked. Every time a new musician joined him on stage he would put the fellow through a mild hazing period before letting him play: To the harmonica playing guy: "How are the subways treating you?" Apparently it is a deathly insult between muscians to be considered a subway performer. To the guitar player who arranged a microphone in front of his acoustic guitar "Oh, that's clever. That's a clever idea. That's why I invented the electric guitar, actually." To his attractive female bass player "You make me feel like a condemned building with a new flagpole."

Highly recommend this show. He is going strong for 92, but who knows how much longer Mondays will be this cool at the Iridium? He signs autographs afterward and chats briefly with the audience. Go to the 10pm show because he plays longer than at the 8pm. It would be a great gift outing for a beloved music buff, too.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Join me tonight at the NYTR fundraiser!

I am going to head over to this fundraiser after work. It is going to be so, super fun. Why don't you meet me there?

From Brook Stowe:

Performance Space 122
Upstairs Stage (the larger one, not the one around the corner)
150 First Ave. at 9th St.
Manhattan
8-11pm
$25 door/$20 advance.

Advance sales are available thru the Fractured Atlas donation link on the NYTR home page -- www.nytr.org. Just print out whatever Fractured Atlas sends you as a donation acknowledgment and you're in. The donation process will also put you on a list we'll have if you donate up to about noon tomorrow, Monday. But our crack admissions crew will be accepting anything from Fractured Atlas that has your name, our name and $20 (or more) on it.

This is without question the most reasonably-priced fundraiser probably recent NYC memory if not EVER.

Look at what the admission price will get you:

Performances by:
Banana, Bag & Bodice's musical alter-egos, The Rising Fallen
The Amazing one-man musical-comedy performance unit that is Reggie Watts
Singer-songwriter Beth Collins

And that's just part of the entertainment. There will also be 6 brand spankin' new Tiny Plays created especially for the event by downtown theater groups:
Direct Arts
Bluebox Productions
The New York Neo-Futurists
Flux Theatre
The Shalimar
Hoi Polloi

AND more auction and raffle items than I can list here and expect you to keep reading, but suffice to say there is some really good stuff going on the block, including a deluxe ticket package of Fall theater events from the likes of:
Classic Stage
The Flea
The NY Neo-Futurists
Performance Space 122
The Public
2nd Stage

PLUS appearances by playwrights Adam Szymkowicz, Anne Washburn, Tommy Smith & Alec Duffy and Seattle's own Marya Sea Kaminski .

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Haircut Photos





Hair today, gone tomorrow. Got a haircut in my Aunt Bonnie's salon in Maine on Saturday. That is not Aunt Bonnie doing the cut, but her friend Marie from Florida. Aunt Bonnie insisted Marie was the better stylist and made her do it. Apparently Marie cuts her granddaughters' hair and was considered to be the 'hipper' stylist as far as Aunt Bonnie was concerned. Marie has 8 great-grandchildren, btw. I find that very impressive. I thought she did a great job. I love the new 'do. I feel much lighter. And short hair is just as easy as everyone has always said it is.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Save the Environment One Blog at a Time

Modern Fabulosity informs me that today all bloggers are supposed to devote a post to saving the environment.

I will perform my civic responsibility by directing you to a post on making recycled paper at home that I found on a stranger's blog:

http://consumption-rebellion.blogspot.com/2007/03/homemade-paper.html

May actually try this. It looks like fun.

Spent the weekend in Maine, visiting my aunt Bonnie. A friend of hers visiting from Florida gave me a haircut. I will post before and after pictures in the next couple of days. It is the first time I have had short hair since grade school. I like it. Also will post notes on some theater outings. Got my very first invitation to see a show free and write about it on my blog. That is cool. I feel very official now.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Catch Up Blog Post on What I am Doing Lately

I have seen quite a few shows/readings lately and a movie. Thought I would try to do a brief paragraph on a variety of topics and call it a blog post.

Saw New York Theatre Workshop's production of The Misanthrope on Friday. Hated it. They called me yesterday trying to sell me a subscription based on "we are so glad you came to see The Misanthrope, and did you know that Mikhail Baryshnikov is starring in our next production of Samuel Beckett short plays, some of which have no dialogue?" I told the customer service rep that if I ever re-write Dante's Inferno, watching Mikhail Baryshnikov mime Beckett and sitting through The Misanthrope again will be two of the lower levels in my own personal hell. Okay, I didn't really. I thought of that line after I already hung up with the poor telemarketer. I just told him the Naomi Wallace play they have planned for later this season sounds good and to call me back when that is playing. I am a weenie and only clever on my blog. Not in person.

Playwright Chris Saunders and I went to the MCC reception for the new playwrights they are inducting into their development program on Sunday. Adam Szmykowicz, Ashlin Halfnight, Anton Dudley, Dan LeFranc, and Kathryn Walat are the inductees. They made them wear strange robes, stand inside a pentagram, and summon demons during the induction ceremony. Okay, not really. But, I'm going to do that when I start a playwriting development program. We watched ten minute plays and excerpts from their work and then there was free booze. Chris and I both realy liked Adam's play Snow and I adored the Anton Dudley ten minute play about the two Scottish boys. The actors were phenoms. Chris and I talked to Mark Schultz at the reception and I am planning on going to the next MCC playlab event, which will be a reading of Mark's new play.

****POSSIBLE SPOILERS****Saw the new Jose Rivera-penned movie Trade last night at the Angelika Film Center. This is a play about a young Mexican man who is trying to free his 13-year-old sister from a sex slave ring in a cross-country chase. I thought it was great-- but with a few minor quibbles. Mostly, the slave ring was being run by a bunch of idiots! I am just a sales manager with no personal experience in the global sex slavery trade-- but I walked out of that film convinced that I could run a better sex slave ring in my spare time than these bozos. For instance, I would know better than to ask the enforced sex slaves to give me their passports IN PUBLIC, IN THE AIRPORT. Where you might arouse suspicions. That can wait until we get them back to the evil lair, or at least into the car! And if I find that I need to give one of my underaged sex slaves a good beating-- I would know not to do this AT A PUBLIC REST STOP STANDING IN FRONT OF A LARGE CLIFF! No, no, no all of the Johnna Adams' Sex Slave Production Company slave beatings will happen in the goddamned van or somewhere else where we are not at risk of losing a high-quality sex slave to suicide and where we don't have to chase her to administer the beating. Incomprehensible to me that people could run a business this way. I think you were supposed to come out of the film with your heart breaking for the poor sexually abused children, but I have a highly developed sense of frustration with corporate inefficiencies that I had a hard time setting aside. Performances are really good. And when I wasn't frowning and wishing I could do some consulting work on improving enterprise risk performance for the slavers' ring, I found the story very engaging.

Working on some play pages to take to the Flux Sunday writers meeting that starts up again on Sunday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group Gets Over 650 Applications!

The literary staff at the Public Theater sent out an email revising their schedule for interviewing candidates and determining the composition of the Emerging Writers Group today because they got OVER 650 APPLICANTS.

That is more than twice what New Dramatists got last year (306). Wow. And, I believe that their publicity was strictly web/blog based. Not sure about that though. I guess their standards are a little lighter than New Dramatists (they only require you send one full length play, not two). But, I was still stunned to read that number!

The revised timeline for selections:

Finalist Interviews: Mid-December, 2007
Notification: Week of December 17, 2007
Program Start Date: Week of January 15, 2008
Program End Date: Week of December 15, 2008

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Memed yet again, this time by Adam

Memed again. Adam Szymkowicz is making me. From a meme written by Marisa http://chainsawcalligraphy.blogspot.com/
List 5 things that certain people (who are not deserving of being your friend anyway) may consider you to be "totally lame," but you are, despite the possible stigma, totally proud of. Own it. Tag 5 others:
1. Prince’s UNDER THE CHERRY MOON was my favorite movie in middle school. I had whole scenes memorized and was very good at reproducing Kristen Scott Thomas’ British dialect. I wrote a 45 page screenplay for 7th grade English that was thematically quite similar called UNDER THE CLOUDS (winning a class award for Best Screenplay from the other 20 honors English class attendees, ahem). When Becky Johnston, the writer, later was nominated for an Oscar for PRINCE OF TIDES I felt completely vindicated.

2. I watched every episode of CBS’ Big Brother this season. Catching ones I missed on the Internet, religiously. I also read blog recaps of episodes on Modern Fabulousity three times a week.

3. I read all 25 books in John Norman’s Gor series in middle school.

4. Took first place at the Texas State High School Latin Convention (circa 1990) on a test on Roman History, shocking myself and my Latin teacher deeply. I acted really casual about it when I was picking up the medallion. Also unexpectedly took regional first place in a poetry interpretation contest reading “The Pied Piper of Hamlin.” Still shaking my head over that one.

5. Was in a production of a musical called MONSTERS when I was 17 or so (with the now defunct TEXAS REAL CHILDREN’S THEATER), for which Willie Nelson wrote a song called “We’re All a Blur Under the Fur.” Lyrics the ensemble sang:
We’re all a blur under the fur
People dogs and monsters, too
Far as I can tell
Underneath our shell
There’s no difference between me and you!
Not a big hit for Willie afterward. He never came and saw the show (which explains why I was never discovered and taken off to Nashville to be a big county star—that and the fact that I can’t really sing.)

I have to meme other people now. I’ll pick different peeps from last time: Eric Eberwein, Kyle, Patrick Gabridge, Erika Tai, Jami McCoy.

August Schulenburg's Other Bodies at KNF In the Rough

Went to the Katherine and Friends (KNF) Theatre in the Rough workshop of August Schulenburg's OTHER BODIES on Monday night. Gus runs Flux Theatre -- the group I went on retreat with a few weeks back.

Wow! I really think it was mis-named as a workshop. The acting performances from Christina Shipp and Gus were phenomenal! The passion and commitment pouring off of them was astonishing. Christina skillfully navigated a performance that encompassed about 4000 different characters (and inanimate objects like alarm clocks) with a faculty that was deeply impressive. Add to that the fact that we were told there were radical changes to the second act between the two performances the play had. You would not have known it. The acting was flawless, off book, rehearsed to perfection, and it looked like they'd been running it for months.

There are some extrordinary pockets of language and the whole scope of the play is intriguing and challenging. It is essentially a play about transformation-- and the tone, structure, and rules of watching the play transform in surprising ways as the action unfolds. So, I really dug the way the content and form were both working together. The play teaches you how to watch it in an evolving way-- and the experience changes, and deepens as the night progresses.

From the talkback, is sounds like there are some more changes ahead for the script, but what's there now suggests that a glorious future is on the horizon. I don't want to quote lines from a script in development-- but there were several in this that struck home and acted on my consciousness like a force of nature. Moments where I would hear a line and say "Oh! I didn't know the universe worked that way, but this is obviously truth." And a monologue in the second act that I thought was flat out genius. Looking forward to seeing it evolve!

Gus, Adam Szymkowicz, and I are also discussing writing on Adam's blog in the comments to a recent post if you are interested.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Halloween Pigs



My boss had a party on Sunday to show off her potbelly pigs in their halloween costumes. Zack is the big one (6 years old) and Hillary is the little one (6 months). So cute.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cried in the bathroom at work when I read this

It is so sweet. Made me extremely homesick for California. Sniffle.

http://www.ocweekly.com/features/best-of-oc/the-arts-and-other-highfalutin-stuff/27770/
The print version is on the stands in OC right now!

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Best OC Playwright No Longer Living in OC
Johnna Adams
myspace.com/johnnaadams
Multiple winner of various OC Weekly awards and accolades, Adams has turned her back on California for the greener artistic pastures of the Big Apple. If her blogs are any indication, she has hit the Disneyfied Times Square concrete running: She attends numerous readings and plays; got a cool rejection letter from South Coast Repertory; has gone through the process of applying to New Dramatists; and has taken classes with playwrights as diverse as SCR-produced Christopher Shinn, Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel and avant-gardist Mac Wellman. She has also just started a new trilogy of plays. You can read about the process of an artist in development by making her your MySpace friend.

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I love it that Joel Beers, the writer (unless it was Dave Barton?), thinks my applying to New Dramatists is newsworthy. When I stumbled into the New Dramatist offices with a rumpled paperbag holding my application materials (on the last day of the deadline) and mumbled "uh, yeah, turning in my application stuff," little did I or the staff there realize that there would later be press coverage in California!

And media coverage of my rejection letter status at SCR? You guys are awesome! Brangelina doesn't even have that.

This issue also has an excellent write up on Eric Eberwein, who is the legit best OC Playwright of the millenium and the amazing work he does promoting new work in the county. And a super write up on Brian Kojac from STAGEStheatre (where I cut my milk teeth) who produced my first play. And Breath of Fire Theatre Company, the best new company in the county. And Jay Frayley, actor extraoridinaire. I got misty all through reading this. I am getting so sentimental with old age.

OC ROCKS! Miss you guys.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New Angel Art

Photo of an angel in my sketchbook. Sort of looks better as a photo than in real life. Background is way too busy.

My Play Sans Merci is a Reva Shiner Finalist

2007-2008 Reva Shiner Playwriting Competition

winner:

WORK by Terri Wagener

finalists:

12 Dogs by Jeanne Drennan
All Things Being Equal by Faye Sholiton
American Icons by Harry Michael Bagdasian
EROICA by David Alex
FRONTIER by Robin Rice Lichtig
Going Home by Ann Snead
Opaline by Mary Fengar Gail
Sans Merci by Johnna Adams
THE REPLACEMENT by Jacob M. Appel
Thieves by Doug Bedwell
Tying the Knot by David Rush
Uncovering Eve by Kevin Isom
Violet Sharp by William Cameron

Also got a very nice email from the contest people telling me they enjoyed the play and I should consider resubmitting it next year. That was nice, and I had no idea that you could re-submit the same play, so I am glad they told me.

Mary Fengar Gail is the only playwright on the list I know. She is awesome. Haven't read OPALINE, but I have read or seen two or three of her other plays. I love her.

This is a good little pick me up. I was feeling a bit pessimistic about the whole play submission process. Am hoping to do a day of play submissions this weekend.

Went to Reverie Productions Writers meeting last night and we read the first 24 pages of Rattlers. It is coming along. Needs trimming.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Patrick Memed Me

Got Memed by Patrick Gabridge at Writing Life x3. It has taken me so long to respond that I have seen 4th or 5th level responses on other people's blogs already! I have read at least five responses from people not originally memed. The project has great-great grandchildren already and I am just now moving my lazy little fingers. But, here goes just the same:
"So, here's the challenge: make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It's not really bragging, it's an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you'd like to see share their strengths."

1. I don't worry about what people will think about what I am writing while I write it.

2. I follow Gary Garrison's advice to "Go to your writing as if you were a child being set loose on the sandbox during recess."

3. I keep writing.

4. I have a good sense of humor about my writing.

5. I give myself permission to write badly when I want to.

I tag deadponies, Dave Barton, Dan Ward, Chris the Playwright and Stylist!



Two Gents, Eskimos, Lights Rise on Grace


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UPDATE: In the comments, Adam points out that the Pulitzer Prize nomination form (http://www.pulitzer.org/EntryForms/lentformbutton.pdf) waives the $50 fee for drama entries. Which is good, because Chad doesn't really need my money. ;-) -JA
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I saw three great plays weekend before last and thought I would jot down some notes and praise before the rapture happens and everyone loses interest.

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Four O'Clock Productions presentation of Willy Shakespeare's THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA was the first play I saw on my three play weekend-- my friend Isaiah Tanenbaum was playing Speed. The director (Erik Lurz) took an interesting angle on the play and decided to set it in the 1930s bars around Brooklyn and Manhattan. I thought there were moments where the concept worked quite well-- in particular when a sonnet was sung as a torchsong by Carolyn Demisch, and a few places here and there where the sitting around in a bar ambience added something to the shooting the shit scenes some of the minor characters have.

But, I have been forever spoiled for Shakespeare adaptations by seeing a stellar, ultra-low budget TITUS ANDRONICUS at STAGEStheatre in Fullerton, CA, in the late 90s (co-directed by Patrick Gwaltney and Adam Clark? or KC Mercer? Anyone in OC remember?), where they went whole hog gangster on the material-- transforming the script into the ultimate 30s era gangster vengeance fest. Loved, loved, loved that show. So, I kept comparing this to that production and wishing the director had had a little more fun and taken a little more license. And cut those painful, unnecessary set changes.

I give the director great props for changing the notoriously crap TWO GENTS ending and having the women walk out in disgust instead of going through with the marriages. I am sure that in the afterlife, Shakespeare and I will one day be sitting in a bar ragging on some of our own plays in a comraderly playwriting fashion and he will confess that he had some producer breathing down his neck so just said "screw it" and did not spend a second thinking about this ending. Anyway, I thought Isaiah was a clear standout and all the supporting actors in the piece were solid to amazing. The leads were a little young (although age appropriate to the script 'tis true) and left me feeling a little like I was watching a college production. The costumers (Nicole Quinones and Christina Hernandez) knocked it out of the park! Probably with about as much money I will spend at lunch today and I am cheap. Lovely outfits on their nubile little cast. Definitely on board to check out Four O'Clock's next Shakespearen adventure whenever that happens.

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Saw TWO GENTS as a matinee, then that evening I met up with several of the attendees at the Chris Shinn Workshop I did at EST's summer retreat and we all went and saw fellow classmate Ken Urban's new play, produced by his theater company, The Committee Theatre, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ESKIMOS.

Loved it! The picture at the top of the post is from this one, and the guy in the greenish/yellow shirt on the right side of the picture is comic genius Andrew Breving who stole the show for me in every one of the multiple madcap roles he plays in this. He is especially appealing/annoying as the co-worker from Hell, Tom, who shares a cube with Marvin (a solid Michael Tisdale). I have worked with so many Toms (my office amigos!) that I found the whole work culture parody in Ken's play absolutely hysterical. Seriously need to poach this actor and put him in all my plays (so do all of you). So funny.

The story concerns Marvin, who has lost his sister in a bombing. She left a final message on his cellphone for him, and by extension the cell phone has become something of a sacred talisman for him. When the cellphone is stolen from him, he makes contact with the new owner and goes to extreme/ultimate lengths to get the phone back. I love this concept. Added to that, Marvin's grief has become actualized in the world of the play as a bleak, snowscape full of black ice and deranged Eskimos. The Eskimos only speak in actual spam email text (from spam emails sent to Ken over the last year). Occasionally the real people in Marvin's life speak in spam in moments when he is overwhelmed by the world and unable to process them.

I really responded to and was effected by the poetry of Marvin's grief world. And I loved the suspense elements in this. The voice on the phone that Marvin connects with turns out to share his bleak grief world unexpectedly and she works as a professional spammer-- which I thought was clever. The final, emotional climax of the play is enacted in the snow with the spam Eskimos and was very powerful and moving. I think there is a delicate wonder and pain to the script that was really touching. It was also fascinating because Ken had worked on one of the scenes from the play in the Chris Shinn workshop-- so it was neat to see what had been a class exercise for us a few months ago on stage in an off-Broadway production.

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Then on Sunday, I ambled over to the Fringe Extension to see Outstanding Play Winner LIGHTS RISE ON GRACE by Chad Beckim. Seems like every Fringe show I saw the playwright has been enlisted to pass out programs. I picked up programs all over the city from the likes of Adam Szymkowicz, August Schulenburg, and Mac Rogers during the fest. I wonder if people have stories like that from the early careers of Arthur Miller and Edward Albee? I didn't notice Tom Stoppard doing that when I went to Coast of Utopia. But, low and behold, I picked up my program from none other than Chad Beckim! Must be in the new Dramatist Guild contracts (playwright agrees to license this play to the producers and pass out programs . . .)

On to the play! What a gorgeous script this is! It is a three person comtemporary drama that manages to deftly weave together the stories of three fragile people trapped in complex circumstances who can't help but wound one another at every turn. The transitions in the play (assisted by the masterful direction of Robert O'Hara and a stunningly tight and focused cast: Ali Ahn, Alexander Alioto, and Jaime Lincoln Smith) are really amazing. The play has a fluidity and sense of speed and purpose that is quite dazzling. Toward the end of the play, I thought the characters were so vulnerable and so in danger I was having a hard time even watching. The dark trap of the plot unfolds like an awful flower-- it was lovely to contemplate the frightening and unfortunate ways the characters had trapped one another with their needs-- but it is a pretty brutal place to go.

Anyway, if I were on the Putlizer Committee (which is not even a distant possibility) and this was submitted for consideration (which Chad should do immediately, I will loan him the $50 fee if he needs it) it would take an act of God to get me to vote in anything against it. Enough said. All praise to Chad and all good fortune on his play.

Monday, September 17, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Jordan, The Wheel Turns

Fantasy novelist Robert Jordan passed away yesterday. Here is a link to novelist George R.R. Martin's notes on knowing and missing Robert: http://grrm.livejournal.com/21250.html

There had better be a campsite in the afterlife where we all get a chance to sit with Robert, eat smores, and spend a few months of eternity listening to him tell us how the damned books were going to end in graphic detail! I think I have read about 143,000 pages of his work-- and it will now have to be brought home and all prophesies fulfilled by someone other than the great wheel turner. Arghhhhhhh! I wail, I weep, I tear my hair and eat ashes. Eleven 1,300+ page books into the series we lose the prophet! Unendurable!

Obviously, God is a big fantasy fan and ran out of patience waiting to see how it would all end. The bastard.

I am going to start sending George R.R. Martin emails nagging him to get regular check ups and offering to pick up some preventative healthcare costs. If Song of Ice and Fire goes uncompleted I am going to have a complete nervous breakdown.

Mennonites Rock Times Square!


From my cellphone camera. There is a corner in the Times Square subway where the best of the best subway performers congregate. Usually you see shirtless phenom break dancers or astonishing gospel singers.

On Saturday, it was the Dohner Mennonite Church choir from Anville, PA. I stopped and watched them sing a couple hymns and took some literature to be a good sport. I loved watching all the bemused New Yorkers, who, like me, watched in astonishment and happily took cellphone pictures. Mennonites are so adorable!

I was rushing from the New Dramatists building to the Public Theater on playwriting missions. Despite my lovely post on the New Dramatists' admission discussion a few weeks back, where I cautioned playwrights not to wait until Setpember 15th and hand deliver their submissions, I, ahem, did exactly that on Saturday.

And then I had to run over to the public and drop off another copy of my application for consideration in their emerging writer program because I didn't follow directions and only sent in one copy when they asked for two copies. If I make it to the interview round in November I guess I will have to come up with a response for "If you are so interested in being in our writers group, why can't you follow the application directions?" Sigh.

Hank III at Highline Ballroom, Nov 13



"I no longer drink, but I love songs about boozing, and these are beauts. The Hank III album is called Straight to Hell, and I imagine the Nashville establishment wishes young Mr. Williams would go there, posthaste. Me, I hope he sticks around. This is the real country: hollow of eye, pale of face, and bursting with the rhythm of the damned."


-Stephen King, novelist,
screenwriter, columnist

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fundraiser! Fundraiser! I'm Going to a Fundraiser!

On Monday night, October 22, the New York Theater Review hosts its 2nd-ever Fall fundraiser at Manhattan's Performance Space 122. I am so there!

Here is the description and link for further info:

Come on down and be part of an evening of
live music and performance by
REGGIE WATTS BETH COLLINS
and special guest stars THE RISING FALLEN

PLUS!

Original New Performance Pieces byDowntown Theater Companies
Bluebox Productions
Direct Arts
Flux Theatre Co.
&
More Still Being Added!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 22!
8-11PM
at
PERFORMANCE SPACE 122
150 First Ave. at E. 9th St.
Manhattan

$25 at the door$20 advance purchase

HELP SUPPORT ONE OF DOWNTOWN NYC THEATER'S PREMIER PUBLICATIONS!

THE
NEW YORK THEATER REVIEW'S
2007 FALL FUNDRAISER!

FOR MORE INFOVISIT US ONLINE AT:
www.nytr.org

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Days in the Woods at Little Pond

Was going to call this post "Six Days in the Woods with Flux" but that sounds like a really horrible and private medical condition. Ahem, Flux Theatre Ensemble was kind enough to invite me and my work to their annual retreat, held in Nazareth, PA, the week before last at Little Pond. Little Pond is a lovely, rural artists' retreat run by Bill, Bridget, and Anisa George. Truly a delightful little retreat site where I got to mingle with Flux actors, directors, and writers and we worked daily on new plays and prospects for Flux's upcoming season.

I got to hear three of my plays read aloud over the course of the first three days. We table read THE SACRED GEOMETRY OF S&M PORN the first night (hell of an ice breaker) with the whole company. The group marriage scene and the pentagram kisses went over very well. Then we did a lightly staged reading of COCKFIGHTERS the following night. This seemed to be the favorite of my three plays-- it is the play most commented on later by the company. I found that I remembered the play (which was last produced in 2003) better than I thought I had and it held up better than I expected. A few of the actors really seemed to like it, and we had an outstanding cast for the reading. It is sort of strange to see a lightly staged reading of a script you have seen produced twice. And there are really some wince-worthy typos in the script I need to email the publisher about (my fault, I did the proofing).

Then on the following day we read the first draft of my latest play, ANGEL EATERS. It is hard for a first draft to stand up to back-to-back readings of more mature older siblings, which have had multiple drafts and productions. And I thought I made a hugely wrong decision about how to end this script. And there really needs to be a lot of cutting in the first half. But there are glimmers of goodness that can be built upon. I expect the second draft of the play to be quite different from this first draft, though.

I spent the rest of the retreat reading one of the male leads/would be suitors in THE THREE SISTERS (Chekov). They were out of guy actors. And working on the second play in the ANGEL EATERS trilogy, which I am now calling RATTLERS. It is going to have the feel of COCKFIGHTERS and features a characters that raises and captures rattlesnakes for a living (I have a second cousin who does this in Mangum, OK). It is a thriller/whodenit with a supernatural twist. I am about 10 pages in. Hoping to have 20 pages written by tomorrow to take into the Reverie Productions writers group.

Got to see TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA by Four O'Clock Productions; Ken Urban's latest play at The Commission, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ESKIMOS; and Chad Beckim's Fringe Extention of LIGHTS RISE ON GRACE this weekend. Will report back on those later!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

More Fringe! THE COMMISSION and HAIL SATAN!




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UPDATE: My secret plot to spread misinformation over the web has been thwarted once again! Zack points out in the comments to this that Susan Ferrara was the actress in THE COMMISSION with the lovely nude scene with Patrick Melville. Deep chagrin! I have corrected it below. One of these days I will open the program I am given at the start of a play before I write about it-- I promise!
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I just got back from spending a week in the woods with Flux Theatre Ensemble at their annual retreat in Nazareth, PA. Will blog about that next, but first I wanted to jot down some thoughts on the last two NYC Fringe shows I saw last weekend. I didn't get to LIGHTS RISE ON GRACE by Chad Beckim because I found out on the day I was scheduled to go that the show was extended (as was Gus Schulenburg's RIDING THE BULL-- the Village Voice Audience Favorite Award-winning play!). So, I booked a ticket for the extension and will see Chad's play (which has gotten extremely excellent reviews) on Sunday.
First off, Steven Fetcher's play THE COMMISSION. This one was directed by Sarah Gurfield, who directed my play COCKFIGHTERS in 2003 when Oberon produced it in New York. And one of my actors from the COCKFIGHTERS production (Patrick Melville, who played CD) was in this. I thought everyone did an exceptionally lovely job- acting and directing wise. Patrick in particular had a glorious scene with Susan Ferrara-- a sort of vicious, nude, adultry blackmail scene that was the best moment of the play. But, I found it overall hard to follow what was going on. The play is written in backward moving flashbacks (like Harold Pinter's play BETRAYAL) and that didn't help me place the action in any sort of context. It seemed as if the situation (the play is about the mass murders and rapes in the former Yugoslavia and how a small group of people weather the war) was incredibly rich with potential, but the actual scenes all felt long and dull. Not sure how you can make mass murder and institutionalized rape dull, especially with great actors and good directing. But somehow it didn't come together for me. But individual performances (especially that Patrick and Ferrera scene) were fantastic in this.
And, my last official Fringe Fest show was Mac Rogers' HAIL SATAN. This is a ROSEMARY'S BABYmeets THE OMEN meest THE OFFICE wild comedy. I LOVED this!! This was absolutely hysterical. I am so disappointed that it didn't get picked up for an extension because I wanted to make people go and see it. The basic premise is a new guy is hired for a four person marketing department at a large corporation and discovers (in a gut-splittingly funny scene) that all of his co-workers (who seem so nice and normal) are active satanists bent on enabling the coming of Satan to rule his kingdom on earth. New guy gets involved with a girl in the office, and suddenly finds himself attending 'devotional' meetings, and then there comes a day when they need a 'human altar' and would he mind helping a bit? I thought it was completely brilliant, charming, and adorable. The cast was fantastic!

Will blog later about the Flux Theatre Ensemble Retreat!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fringe Fest Adventures!



I have taken in two NYC Fringe Fest Shows this last week and am planning to get out and see at least three more.
The Seen Stuff

I hit the opening night for Gus Schulenburg's RIDING THE BULL on Saturday August 11, and hit the after party at a nearby bar. This show is fantastic! It was a remount of a Flux Theatre production from a couple years ago. The play is published in the 2006 edition of Brook Stowe's NY THEATER REVIEW. It is a two person comedy/drama about a rodeo clown and an outcast Texas farmer who find God in sex and gambling and lose him somewhere around Graceland. I loved the way the plot unfolded and all the neato complications and character shifts. The one you think is the good guy turns into a very bad guy and the story offers so many surprises. Kelly O'Donnell's direction is amazing in this and I loved the actors (Will Ditterline and Liz Dailey). Jason Paradine's set is a third character in the show at times and gives a stand out performance in its own right!

Nice nytheatre.com review of the play can be found here:
http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/fr_rev2007.php?0=S&1=110

Then on Sunday August 19, I went to see Adam Szymkowicz' SUSAN GETS SOME PLAY. This was an adorable hour-long comedy with a little bit if original music at the end. The premise is that a moderately successful, but highly neurotic and self-defeating, NY actress holds mock-play auditions for a new boyfriend. Adam manages to take a simple plot in several outrageous and unexpected directions. I was never able to guess what would happen next. The actors get high props for delightfully over the top performances. There is even a cool audience participation portion of the evening where one of the men in the audience gets pulled onstage to audition for Susan's romantic attentions. Very entertaining!

James Comtois' blog has the best review of this one that I've seen. He knows Adam's work well enough to get the in-jokes:
http://jamespeak.blogspot.com/2007/08/jimmys-fringe-roundup.html

To See

I am planning on seeing these other shows this weekend at the indicated times. Join me if you can!

THE COMMISSION
By Steven Fechter
Directed by Sarah Gurfield (she directed my play Cockfighters at Oberon Theater a few years back)

The seduction of war. The casualties of passion. This world premiere by acclaimedwriter Steven Fechter ("The Woodsman") spins backward in time to revealthe fragments, both personal and political, left behind in the wake of a bloody civil war.
1h 35m

THE CONNELLY THEATER
Venue #1
7220 E. 4th Street
Between Ave. A & B
Subway: F/V to 2nd Ave.

I am going on: Saturday, August 25 at 2:00 pm

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HAIL SATAN
Gideon Productions, LLC
Writer: Mac Rogers
Director: Jordana Williams

"The Omen" meets "The Office." Witness the birth of the Antichrist--andmeet the Corporate Communications Department responsible for raising her. HAIL SATAN:His Kingdom is coming and his adorable daughter is preparing the way.
2h 0m
New York New York Comedy Drama
VENUE #15:

Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street - The Bleecker Street Theatre
hailsatantheplay.com

I am going on: Fri 24 @ 7:15

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Lights Rise on Grace
A new play by Chad Beckim
Directed by Robert O'Hara (OBIE-winner for "In the Continuum")

Grace falls for Large. Riece falls for Large. Large... falls. First love. Lost love.New love. Tough love. "Lights Rise On Grace" follows three desperate NewYorkers as they defy tradition, uncover and recover secrets.
1h 0m

This has been getting great reviews and sounds fantastic!

The Connelly Theater
220 E. 4th Street (b/w Ave. A & B)

I am going on: Sunday, 8/26 @ 2:00 pm

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Art for Auction at Rude Guerilla Theatre Co Fundraiser Next Month


The angel art above is going up for auction in Santa Ana, CA, next month at the Rude Guerrilla Theatre Company fundraiser. I donated this drawing (99 Cent Angel Sale: pen, sharpie, metallic paint pen and felt marker on 9in by 12in paper), a hand knit green scarf and two signed plays for the silent auction. I expect the stuff will go super cheap, so this is your chance to pick up some Johnna originals at a steal.

They haven't posted the info on the time and location of the fundraiser yet. But watch their website for more details.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mark Ravenhill on Arts Journal and Work Monitors MySpace

Great article about UK playwright Mark Ravenhill on Arts Journal this week (link below).

He has a cool new premiere at Edinbourgh this year and talks about an epilectic seizure he had this year that resulted in a blank spot in his memory for the first part of this year! Wow, I can't even imagine what that must be like. Good thought energies that he makes a full recovery.

He is one of my favorite playwrights and Shopping and F*cking is an all-time favorite play. Also, one of my only flattering acting pictures is from a production of his play Handbag which I loved acting in (except for my lame, incompetent attempts at stage combat that almost left me with a concussion at one rehearsal!). If I can dig it up from my files I will post it here. I play Maurette and am holding a vial of pretend sperm. Friend Erika holds a turkey baster which her character intends to use to impregnate me with the sperm. (See, even the desciption of the picture is cool! Sort of gross, but cool.)
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At a marketing meeting last week one of the big managers said that HR had done a screening of employees' MySpace personal sites and created a list of 5 or so sites that were pornographic (!!?!) and also named the company I work for in the "employer" area. They said there is nothing they can do legally about it, but they are continuing to monitor the situation.
Of course, I have lamentably little to post in the nature of personal pornography (fully-clothed fake sperm-holding photos aside) and don't mention the name of my employer on my myspace site. But it was still a bit of a jolt.
Am interested now in searching for those 5 sites to see if it is anyone I know!