Monday, April 30, 2007

Love Tom Stoppard and Other Notes of Playwrighterly Horror and Delight

Loved The Coast of Utopia marathon on Saturday! I went in not knowing anything about it and not having read the plays. And I loved every second of it!

Okay, I admit there was approximately 20 to 40 minutes in the combined show running times of nearly 9 hours where the script was way more intelligent than I was and I couldn't follow the political discussions. But I filled the time with stuff more on my level (admiring the pretty costumes, trying to remember tabloid accounts of the famous cast members love lives, looking for the ventilated wig fronts and microphones, etc.) So I was never bored. I amused myself even during the cerebral parts. I could have come back two hours after the final curtain and watched another installment if they were willing to present a part four at 1 in the morning.

At the end of the evening the audience started calling out "Author, Author," just like in the Al Pacino movie of the same name and Tom Stoppard mounted the stage from the audience and took a bow. I had never seen this happen before-- it was very exciting.

I definitely felt that play two (Voyage) was the best of the bunch, with play one (Shipwreck) a close second. I liked the third one, but the production seemed to lose a little stamina there.

The trilogy inspired me to go back and finish the trilogy I had in mind when I wrote my play about the Oneida Community. Of course, it occurs to me that when Tom Stoppard writes large-cast, historical epic trilogies they are more emminently producable than when I write large-cast, historical epic trilogies-- but who the hell cares? I'll write it first and worry about whether it will ever be seen anywhere other than the inside of my desk drawer later. The plan is to re-work Oneida: Servants of Motion some (mainly restructing, I think), and then write two more plays, tentatively: Oneida: Stillness at the Falls (about cult-founder Noyes' final days at Niagara Falls) and Oneida: Perfectionists in Exile (about the Townerites abortive attempts to restart the commune in Santa Ana, CA). I hope to go back to the Oneida Mansion House (I only live a few hours from there now-- I can rent a car and go whenever I feel like it!!!). I will probably book a room for a few nights in the actual mansion house where the Oneida Community lived and try to do some writing there. Big excitement! Lots of research! Lots of money to be spent on research! Hundred of pages to write that are probably unproduceable! What more could a playwright ask for? Have already been outlining it a bit.

Found out last week that I did not get into Brooklyn College's MFA program. Disappointed me some. But I intend to re-apply for next year, and this way I will be able to establish residency-- so it will be cheaper if I get in next year.

I got the news that my car sold in California on the same day I got the news that I did not get into Brooklyn College. That was tough. I have (had) this absurd, animistic, anthropmorphic attachment to my little car in Los Angeles. She was just a little beat-up Corolla, but I named her Sara and would tear up or cry any time she needed major repairs and talk to her while I drove around. I blame a short story I read in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine in the late ninties (can't remember the story name or find it on the web, I just tried) about a witch in Austin, TX, who discovers at the intersection of Braker Lane and 183 (near where I grew up) that her car is her witch's familiar. Anyway, I gave up Sara to come out here and it was like giving up one of my cats. I had planned on keeping her for at least another 5 years and really wasn't ready to say goodbye. So, it was sort of sad to hear she was gone on the same day I got the news that I didn't really have to move out here after all.

I am going to Adam Szymkwicz' reading of his play Incendiary at Ars Nova tonight. Will report on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Awful Play of Mine Tanks in the Turnip/American Short Play Fest

Did my part to lower the quality of Manhattan theater on Monday night. :-)

My short play "How to Suck a Million Toes Without Being Electrocuted Once" was selected by Turnip Theatre and the American Globe Theatre for their 13th Annual Fifteen Minute Play Festival and produced there (merifcully for only one showing) Monday night. It isn't all that awful of a script, although I think I sent two or three plays to the contest and remember being a bit surprised that this was the one selected. It is a pretty facile, easy little domestic comedy. About ten minutes long. Written in haste and repented at leisure in some ways.

This play has had six or so productions in the US and Canada. It is popluar because it is very accessible and easy to follow humor, I guess. Concerns a young couple-- the woman has been recently devasted by the loss of their dog, Porkchop, who was blind and mistook the rubber nubbin on the end of an electrical cord for the husband's toe (his favorite chew toy) and electrocuted himself to death. She is now on a crusade to do articles for consumer magazines to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to others. The husband thinks Porkshop was a droodling, retarded burden they should have put down long ago. So, they come into conflict over this issue. Blah, blah, blah.

I am not much of a short play writer. My talent is full lengths. I don't bring the same depth of attention to the short plays that I bring to my full lengths and it shows. This festival certainly made me vow to do better with my short play writing before I submit any others. To spare the audience. And myself. Ugh.

I am probably coming down a little harshly on the script. I think that in terms of script writing, the play was pretty middle of the road compared to the other four plays performed Monday night (Luigi Jannuzzi's "Trash Talking Thespians," Chris Saunders' "A Period Piece," Gretchen O'Halloran's "Web." John Pizzuto's "Heartstrings"). It was in no way a stand out script, but held it's own with a few of the pieces.

My performers, however, had problems. The actors lost their lines about three minutes into the play. Someone accidently opened the door to the theater looking for late seating and waved an apology to my actors. They just never really got it back after that. So, about three minutes in, just after the door opened-- they start trading lines back and forth like "Well, I don't really know what to say." "Well, I don't know what to tell you. "Well, I really don't know what you want me to say." "Well, neither do I."

For the first moment or so, I sort of thought I must have written such garbage filler and thought to myself "Wow, I must have written this a lot more conversational than I thought. No wonder I never liked this play." Then it soon became apparent that the lines were gone, utterly, for both actors. The woman playing the wife was carrying a clipboard. I didn't know then and still don't know why the script wasn't on the clipboard if they had line problems. But instead, after several minutes of back and forth filler, the play was rewritten as follows:

Well, you know what?
I think we have completely forgotten our lines.
Wha--? Huh?
And I think we should start this over from the beginning.
Oh. Wha--?
We are going to start this over.

And then, I think the actress playing the wife marched off stage, pulling the confused and astonished actor playing the husband after her. I am not sure because I had a hand over my eyes and was feeling the way I used to feel when I was a young child watching "Leave it to Beaver" reruns. Beaver would do something so unbelievably embarassing and get caught at it and I would have to hide behind a chair and be unable to look at the TV until Ward or June made everything better with a little parental lecture at the end of the episode. Ward or June did not show up on Monday. Instead, we started the play over. They got through it this time, in a highly para-phrased, cole-slaw sort of way. I got a lot of pity praise and sympathy afterward from Luigi and Gretchen, the other two playwrights in attendance, which I thought was astonishingly sweet and nice of them.

Anyway, wounded narcissism aside for now, the rest of the evening was really quite wonderful. I am veteren 10-15 minute play festival attendee and my expectations are generally pretty low for short play fests. But, I was stunned at the quality and high performance values of the rest of the plays.

Chris Saunders' "A Period Piece" in my opinion really schooled the rest of us on how to write a short play. It was completely outstanding. Showed a Victorian woman having a love spat with a punk rock-looking modern ne'er-do-well adulterer. She is using heightened Victorian speak, he is using coarse modern cant. Then in the middle of the piece, her era-appropriate Victorian boyfriend comes up and takes up the fight, and the punk's modern-era young male lover comes up and takes up the fight with his boyfriend. So, you see the same fight playing out separated by a few hundred years. It is really spectacular-- my dippy synopsis doesn't do it justice.

And I thought John Pizzuto's extremely ambitious "Heartstrings" came off very well. They had 6 person cast, including a concert-level violinist, a child actor, and a story spanning 40 years-- and pulled it off extremely effectively. It really did what it promised-- tugged at those heartstrings in a wonderful way.

Luigi and Gretchen's plays were also wonderfully done. I thought Luigi's "Trash Talking Thesbians" had a wonderful, gentle, and immediate quality and his two actresses were really natural and convincing. Gretchen's piece had wonderful twists and turns and never went where I expected it to, so it was wonderful to watch. Her actresses were also wonderful to watch.

Anyway, that is what happened at the Turnip Fest. Chaos and mortification. I may attend the finals-- it is such a strong group of plays the finals are sure to be a great show.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fresh from the Battle of the Bards

Spent most of Saturday volunteering and then attending the Partial Comfort Productions' Battle of the Bards. This was a great little theatrical event, all proceeds going to support the fine work Partial Comfort plans over the next year.
I was volunteering because I know Chad Beckim slightly. We were in a Mac Wellman workshop at The Flea theater a year or so ago. And Chad gets high marks in my book (along with awesome and outrageous Des Moines' playwright Tim Siragusa) for taking Mac Wellman's words to heart when he told our little class of playwrights to stay in touch with one another, help one another whenever possible, and be nice. Anytime I have emailed Chad to promote my plays or when I moved to New York-- he got right back to me with congrats or welcome emails. And introduced me around to some of the people hanging around during the day was we prepared for the battle. All above and beyond the duties owed to fellow playwriting workshop attendees that you know only slightly. I depend on the kindness of other playwrights, and Chad is lovely kind.

My job was program-passer-outer. I ended up not being the only program-person (too much responsibility for me they probably figured), and worked with an NYU (Playwrights Horizon School) acting sophomore named Nicole. They had between 300-350 attendees, and not the projected 700 or so, which is a real shame. It was a fun evening with an awesome celebrity panel and I wish more people had come out.

David Cote was the first celebrity judge to arrive (I got to see them all arrive from my posh location as program girl). I thought it was very nice of him to get there 30 minutes early, very professional. From his recent blogs, I wished I had some dramaturgical materials to hand him (perhaps about the process and history of instant playwriting contests?). But, alas I was only equipped to hand him a program. Which I did. He is a bit shorter than I thought he would be. But seemed nice. Josh Lucas showed up next. Nicole was chatting with someone and didn't notice him walk in and was then mad that she hadn't seen him. I handed him a program, too, and his friend. He looks a lot like Luke Perry in person. Then Adam Rap arrived in a white suit. Having read the article Marsha Norman wrote on him for BOMB magazine when Red Light Winter premiered in NY, where he confessed to spending whole nights in bars because he was addicted to playing Buck Hunter II (don't ask-- just read the article), I expected someone a bit more un-savory looking. Shaggy haired and red-eyed. Instead, he was very neatly turned out-- the suit was quite spiffy-- and well-kempt. Smiled politely. He is extremely tall. Signourney Weaver and Jim Simpson arrived next. They breezed passed me and did not feel the need to take programs, although I held programs out officiously, as was my job and assigned purpose. They are also very tall. Everyone else looks like children next to the two of them, and they have very regal bearings. Robert Woodruff and his wife were the last judges to arrive. I pointed out the coat check location to Mrs. Woodruff and she did not seem to want to relinquish her nice multi-colored leather coat.

Well, that ends the exciting program distribution and celebrity encounters portion of the blog. Wasn't that exciting?

On to the show. I am not clear on exactly how the contest works (an area where the program could have helped). But, the participating theaters have two weeks to come up with a ten minute play and there is a prop that is mandatory (David Lindsey-Abaire selected the prop, a life preserver). I don't know if there are any other directions to the writer (prompts, dialogue lines, cast breakdowns, etc.). Several of the plays also contained music, which I presume was written by the playwright as well.

The Resonance Ensemble went first, with a Shakespearean-themed play called O AND J (written by Jeremy Dobrish and directed by Eric Parness). The play shows a meeting between Juliet and Ophelia. Juliet fails to kill herself with a prop knife and then tries to drown herself in a river, which Ophelia hastily informs her already taken. The show goes on to playfully attack Shakespeare's misogynistic tendency to suicide-off his female characters. Sensational closing musical number "What Are You Dying to Die For?" really sold the piece for me. I think it didn't do well in the final results just because it went first. I rank it pretty highly as a contender. Charming performances from Jill Abramovitz and Erin Leigh Pack.

Youngblood went up next with ODYSSEUS (by Emily Conbere, directed by R.J. Tolan). This was a musical exploration of Odysseus' journey as a debt-ridden playwright challenged to write a play for the Battle of the Bards. Hysterical lyrics and a star-making performance by the lead, William Jackson Harper set this one worlds apart from its competitors. It could have been a trite and self-reflexive subject, but the deft writing made it charming and refreshing. I really related to the line "They call me emerging and I've been writing for ten years!" Here, here. And there was just something about the powerful, sardonic quality to Harper's voice that really made the material sing (pun intended). Featured a cute homage to the judges where Harper blatantly pleaded for votes "Adam Rapp-me in your arms tonight," being my favorite line from that section. This went on to deservedly win the Judges' Award at the end of the evening.

Partial Comfort's entry, ALL IS FORGIVEN (by Ross Maxwell, directed by Alfredo Narciso) was third. Well, the actors were wonderfully comitted (Alexander Alioto, Frank Harts, Vincent Madero, and Ivy Risser). And I thought they did an outstanding job trying to sell a script that didn't quite hold up. I think that Maxwell thought he would try to win over the audience with tongue-in-cheek crude humor. But the audience failed to see the tongue-in-cheek part and just saw the crudeness. Plot involves a fighting girlfriend and boyfriend who resolve their anger with some mutual spanking, and there is a God of Blood Vengeance and a scheming neighbor after their apartment. Spanking plays just don't work. I mean, maybe you could hold a spanking play festival (if you wanted to), and if the audience went in knowing it was going to happen. Maybe. Otherwise, it doesn't come off cute and kitchy in the way it did when Desi Arnex spanked Lucy on I Love Lucy Episodes in the fifties. Too much cultural weight now on battered spouses and association with S&M. Or something. I am not sure why it doesn't work. But it just makes the audience feel like they are swimming after the Exon Valdez and need an immediate bath. But, the actors really went for it and did an outstanding job.

The Vampire Cowboys were next with a backyard wrestling homage to great playwrights, THE UNDISPUTED BARD: PRESERVING THE LEGACY (by Temar Underwood, directed by Robert Ross Parker) . This play pitted William Shakespeare against Tennessee Williams in a backyard wrestling match for the title of undisputed bard. August Wilson runs in at the end for a surprise victory. Talk about committed actors. These guys almost went to the hospital. Slammed each other into ladders and tables. The commentary on the match was quite clever. It was less about the words though and more about the body-slam-a-minute action with this one. Reminded me of Jon Dorf's one-man show on backyard wrestling, which I saw and loved at Secret Rose earlier this year with Westly Thornton. Good times.

Ma-Yi went next with GIDDY UP ORVILLE (by Michael Lew, directed by Ralph Pena). I have to say that I gave Ma-Yi half a tour of the space early in the day, and you could not ask for a nicer, cooler bunch of people. Seems like a great place to work. The story of this one (which went on to be the Audience Choice Award winner for the evening) centered around two couples on a cruise ship. A young mother steals a life preserver from the parapalegic son of the other couple because the cruise directors are cheating and letting the parapalegic boy win diving competitions against her talented able-bodied child. I had trouble hearing from where I was standing in the back of the club (the event was held at Studio Mezmor, which is not set up for theater, needless to say). So, I couldn't follow this one as well as some of the others (sound system problem, not an actor problem I think). There was a great bit where the women got on the men's shoulders and played chicken for the life preserver. I think this one wins best use of prop and best use of the stage and environs in my book.

Then we had team Electric Pear's SWEET ON THE DONOR (by Ashlin Halfnight, directed by Seth Soloway). I saw snippets of this earlier in the day while they were rehearsing and was a little worried that the subject matter would come across as tasteless-- but was delighted to discover that this one played beautifully when seen in its entirety. It centers around a bungled attempt by three misfits to steal a kidney from one of the misfits' dentist. Obviously, the thieves have drawn their plot directly from the cautionary hoax emails about kidney thefts. I thought it was hysterical. Good acting and solid directing, but really outstanding writing. To quibble slightly, the button on the end of the play could have been a touch stronger-- it had the feel of the first scene in a longer play rather than a stand-alone. But it certainly won the coveted Johnna Adams' Award for Most Excellent Writing of the Battle. The dumbest of the three would-be thieves kept trying to put the life preserver around the dentist's neck so that wouldn't drown in the bathtub and then accidentally summons housekeeping. Ha! ha! Loved it. On a related note, Martin Denton has reviewed Ashlin Halfnight's latest full length Mud Blossom here. I intend to run right out and see it soon, it sounds fantastic.

Last but not least, we had New Georges' HOW KENNY BECAME A VEGETARIAN (by Sharyn Rothstein, directed by Shoshana Gold). This one suffered the opposite misfortune of the Resonance Ensemble and went last, which I think hurt them a bit. This wins second place in the under-publicized Johnna Adams' Award for Most Excellent Writing of the Battle (perhaps a tie with Youngblood's ODYSSEUS, I'll say). Featured a creepily-amiable serial killer who ruins his brother and sister in law's Thanksgiving with yet another brutal murder of one of their single female neighbors. The bodies are piling up in the compost/mulch garden and the excuses are getting harder for the long-suffering brother invent. This one also suffered because of the brutal, recent rape and attempted murder of a Columbia grad student. The writer came up with an unfortunately similar scenario for the murder her hapless serial killer commits, which undercut the humor (as you can imagine). But, I am perverse enough to have still liked it.

Well, that is the festival. Kudos to Youngblood and Ma-Yi on their wins. But they were all winners in my book. :-)

If anyone cares, here is how I would have ranked the top four were I a celebrity judge:

1. Youngblood (strong writing and in my opinion Will Harper put them over the top by the sheer force of his will and personality)
2. Electric Pear (you gotta' love an unraveling, bungled, email-hoax-based kidney theft plot, you just gotta')
3. New Georges (I have a sick sense of humor and this tickled it)
4. Resonance Ensemble (rough luck that they went first, I was still singing "What Are You Dying to Die For?" this morning).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Partial Comfort Battle of the Bards Fundraiser Tomorrow Night

WHAT: The third annual Battle of the Bards. A Fundraiser for Partial Comfort Productions.
WHEN: Sat. April 21st., 6:30pm (doors open), 8pm (the battle is waged)
WHERE: Studio Mezmor (530 west 28th street, 'tween 10th and 11th aves)
HOW MUCH: $50 Level 1, $75 Level 2, $100 Level 3

WHY GO: Well, for one thing yours-truly was officially appointed HEAD program hander-outer at last night's organizational meeting. Well, I made up the HEAD part. But, I am going to be handing out programs! I am the only, lonely, person assigned to program distribution (as I prefer to call it). And will be soley responsible for the distribution of numbered programs to an anticipated crowd of 825 or so. I may have to add this to my professional resume, it is such a postion of notable importance and power. If you want me to hand you a program (in my professional, courteous, yet distant and unassuming manner)-- just show up. And pay.

In addition to getting a program from me, you get some sort of show. Bunch of theater companies around town performing ten minute themed plays for celebrity judges like Sigourney Weaver, Josh Lucas, Adam Rapp, Jim Simpson, David Cote, etc. Not as exciting as the program-getting portion of the evening, sure. But you can't expect it to be astonishing moment after astonishing moment all night. Or maybe you can. Show up and see.

My friends Kay and Kara are volunteering too. You will know them tomorrow as level 1, general admission gift bag girl, and lady with the sharpie marking hands.

The meeting was nice last night. About 30 or so volunteers, so quite a crowd. Held in the lobby lounge at Theater Row. So, I got to go in the stage door and then wander around the backstage areas. That was fun. Felt like a real theater person.

Sunday I may go and audtion for a one act festival. It is for Looking Glass Theater (not the big one based in Chicago, a smaller theater in NYC that focuses on plays by women and women directors). Will let you know if I motivate my lazy ass to go (got to dust off a one minute monologue, too).

Oh my goodness! Little hobbit house!!

See the wee hobbit house? Love the wee hobbit house?
Saw this on boing boing, Cory Doctorow's outstanding blog, and had to immediately spread the fame far and wide for LiveJournaller Obelia Medusa. She has built (from scratch) this amazingly intricate Hobbit House for Bilbo Baggins, based on the Lord of the Rings Movie.

You can see pictures of how she built it here.
And a grand photo tour of the finished home (not to be missed!!!! The tour is conducted at hobbit eye-level!!!)

I love the hobbit house! I want to build one to scale and live there forever. I might put a toilet in place of the chamberpot in the bathroom, but that is the only change I would make!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fasting, Short Stories, Partial Comfort Tonight

Am going to try and juice fast today and then wean myself off of the destructive Starbucks addiction.

Lovely short fiction in the New Yorker this month. "Something Like Happy" by John Burnside. Not the sort of thing that I generally go for (no space aliens, swords, lustful dragons, zombie hordes, etc.) I am pretty solidly pleb in my reading tastes, and this is highbrow fair (although about lowlifes). The narrator is a girl from an unnamed Midwest projects, sort of fighting a life of poverty and sort of giving in to it. Chronicling a vicious turn in her sister's love life. I found it utterly compelling. Wished it were a full length. Maybe Mr. Burnside will expand it someday. The New Yorker has lured me back into the seductive embrace of the short story. I gave up that art form years ago.

Readers who have known me since college will remember my ambitious plan to publish fantasy and science fiction short stories-- I still have some rejection letters from circa 1995 from Marion Zimmer Bradley saying things like, "I know you must have had a point when you wrote this story, but you utterly failed to make it." And a few coffee stained stories of mine that she read and returned with the word "TRITE" scrawled across the margins in pencil. Despite this, I really loved MZB for publishing that magazine-- sent a good dozen stories in and got close with one. The editor put a note in my rejection saying "I really liked this story, but some of the other staff members thought it wasn't well enough developed." High praise after "TRITE" written on all the other stories. Another dozen stories would have probably got me in the magazine (she said smugly and optimistically), but I switched over to screenwriting for a bit and lost interest. And, of course, MZB passed away and the magazine went away. I was sad about that. Well, another few weeks of reading the New Yorker and I may be writing short stories again.

Thinking that I might serialize the play I wrote this weekend and let people read it on-line. You can all help me write it that way. And brainstorm on good titles. Still noodling this.

Going to a planning meeting for Partial Comfort Productions tonight with my friend Kay. Will blog about that tomorrow. Should be fun.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Forte for Theater News and Opinions

Jason Grote's blog notes a great new meta-theaterblog site. Available Light Theater (based in Ohio) has started Forte, a site that collects and reports on all the theater blogs out there (English-speaking) sorted geographically. Cool.

Skin Shedder

As I was taking the train home last night, it suddenly struck me how completely life has changed in the last few weeks . I thought about my car for a second, and the searing, shocking thought "You don't have a car anymore," hit me profoundly. I saw my old car's comforting beige interior for a second (my car's name was Sara) and felt this awful sense of distance and loss.

I felt suddenly very disconnected. I have shed that old skin and I am now a person who takes trains places. I have read the entire New Yorker magazine three weeks in a row (it is easier to read magazines on the train). In my previous life in LA I read one New Yorker magazine cover to cover, once, and it took WEEKS. Now, my co-worker made some comment about Wolfowitz at the World Bank and I had all this intelligent stuff to say because there was a New Yorker article about it last week. In my previous life, I would have thought dully, "Oh, is Wolfowitz at the World bank now? Did I know that?" and made some sort of vague response to her remarks. Today I rattled on, New Yorker-informed, about the similarities between his and Robert McNamara's administrations and I thought for a second, "is this me talking?" I am waiting for someone to ask about Chinese political prisoners based on this week's issue. That will be astonishing if I start rattling off an opinion about that!

I am much less raw vegan now than I was in LA. Partly because my kitchen is not set up yet. Partly because I am lazy. Partly because I need a little more comfort to ease the transition. I have taken to getting Starbucks frequently. In the last four years in LA, I have not had anything but hot tea at Starbucks. Since moving here, I have lost count of the decaf lattes with soy and chais with soy. I am almost a different person. I am a familiar person, because this life harks back to my college years, spent in Chicago. But different. I take stairs without complaining. Getting me to walk up a flight of stairs in LA was impossible.

Yesterday, my friend Kay and I passed on the street in our neighborhood. She was getting her laundry and I was getting produce at one of the stalls. We said hello, confirmed that we were going to the theater tonight to see Dying City (I had forgot!-- I am still a space cadet half the time, some things don't change) and then we went our separate ways. I used to be joined at the hip with Kay when I visited NY. She hosted me and took around everywhere. Now my life here is separate from hers. That feels odd somehow.

The comic book store here has some sort of reward program where they give you $20 in free spending for every $100 you spend. They told me yesterday that I am already up to $50 spent. I think I went to the comic bookstore once every four months in LA.

I think I am changing into something better in some ways. Something a bit more alert, informed, and interested in life. Some of the insulated feeling you get driving around in LA has fallen away from me now. I am waiting to see what I become now-- like a catepillar or tadpole. It is a curious and disconnected feeling.

Didn't feel like working on the one act last night. Definitely have to change the title, I think. Was joking around with Robert on yesterday's post, and now I can't get "Days of Never Going to Get Produced" out of my head. Inauspicious.

Work has picked up a notch today and I actually have things to do. Bummer. You mean they actually want something in exchange for the big raise and chance to live in NY? The nerve. Later.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Toner Mishap Loves Me!

Awwwwwww! Check out the post my ex-co-worker put up on the Toner Mishap blog about me! That is so sweet. I love the playbill cover. Isn't it cute?

I miss the co-workers from my last job in LA (well, most of them-- definitely the Toner Mishap crew is a big personal loss. A few of the others I don't miss. They know who they are.).

I hate the fact that I had to leave so many great people in LA behind when I moved to NY. Sniffle. Sniffle.

On the other hand I got my first check on Monday-- with the GIANORMOUS raise I got with this new job. And that helps. It really helps.

Thanks Misanthrope for the blog well-wishes. I will definitely get you into a lot of cool NY parties when I am wildly successful and famous. ;-)

Check out P'Tit Boo's Freedom Spice Blog

P'Tit Boo is a Seattle-based actress/producer. Her company is putting together adaptations of Raymond Carver plays. That sounds cool. She sounds really nice.

I was naked in Seattle once. At the Seattle Fringe Festival in, gosh, 2003 maybe? 2002? I will have to think about the dates. Dave Barton directed me in two of the plays that are published in the Theatre au Naturel book (see link under my publications).

In fact, I may be the only playwright in the history of the planet who's first published plays come with a nude photo of the playwright. Maybe. I haven't done a survey. I don't think Sam Shepard has that distinction. I could be wrong.

That is all I know about Seattle. Seattle saw me naked.

Finished My One Act - Claiming a Partial Victory

I finished my one act last night. I claim a partial victory on it at least. I don't consider it completely finished-- but a draft is finished. Have shortened the title to Days of Never instead of The Days of Never. Because the latter sounded too much like The Days of Our Lives (soap opera). It still sounds like The Days of Our Lives, so I am casting about for a new title. Days of Never is a little on the nose, anyway.

It clocked in at 77 pages. So, it currently runs maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. Not the 90 minutes I was planning. I don't feel like scene three-- the one I wrote last night-- is all there yet, though. In the rewriting I may add five or so minutes there. And I think scene one could stand another five to ten minutes, maybe. Not sure. I will re-read the whole thing tonight and see what I think. It may be a desk-drawer play. But I learned a lot writing it and I think some of the moments in the play are good. Am glad I worked on it. Not putting out a call for readers until I fix some issues. I'll keep you posted.

Going to volunteer to help out with Partial Comfort Productions' Battle of the Bards this weekend. I will blog about that. It promises to be great fun!

Monday, April 16, 2007

2007 Pulitzers: It's the Rabbit by a Nose

From the Pulitzer site:

"For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000),

Awarded to Rabbit Hole by David Lindsey-Abaire

Nominated as finalists in this category were: "Orpheus X" by Rinde Eckert, "Bulrusher" by Eisa Davis, and "Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue" by Quiara Alegría Hudes. "

I thought that Rabbit Hole would win it. Didn't I say that Rabbit Hole would win? I think I did. I have never heard of any of the finalists which is exciting. I guess I have some research to do. I am so glad they awarded a prize. It is numbing when they don't give out an award. It is like they are sending out a little press release that says "Your life is futile. Give up now."

I saw Rabbit Hole in previews last year and came out with a very positive opinion about it. I love the scene with the mother and the teenage boy-- I thought that was quite lovely. Congrats to David Lindsey-Abaire. Now to start researching those finalists and trying to find copies.

My Ten Minute Play at Turnip/American Globe Fest

One week from tonight you can catch my ten minute play, HOW TO SUCK A MILLION TOES WITHOUT BEING ELECTROCUTED ONCE as part of the 13th Annual 15 Minute Play Fest hosted by Turnip Theatre and American Globe.

Their marketing blurb: "Selected from over 300 entries from across the country, thirty three short plays are presented over the course of two weeks. This is an amazing opportunity to see premiers of emerging playwrights - and the audience gets to vote for the Best Play!"

When: Monday, April 23rd, 8pm
Where: American Globe Theatre145 West 46th StreetNew York, NY 10036
How: Tickets are available through theatermania:

Why: Well, why not? I'll be there and we can meet up!

Pulitzer Day! And Johnna Starts a New Play

They will be announcing the Pulitzer Prizes at 3pm EST today. That will be exciting. I had thought that Rabbit Hole by David Lindsey-Abaire was eligible and was a front-runner, but this play is not mentioned on other blogs, like Martin Denton's.

Hmmmm, I thought I read last year, when nothing won, some blogs that said if Rabbit Hole had been eligible they thought it would have won. Leading me to believe it would be eligible this year. The arcane and mystical Pulitzer Process defeats me. Martin Denton suggests Candy and Dorothy by David Johnston as a dark horse contender and that would great! Other blogs are predicting yet another no-drama winner year. That would be extremely depressing.

This weekend my friend Terence Anthony was in town. Terence writes the web cartoon Orlando's Joint that I keep telling you web-types to go watch. He is also an outstanding Los Angeles Playwright. His latest play is about a dude who goes to Cuba in the 90s to experience "real communism" based on a sort of hero-worship crush on Castro. Needless to say, his trip leaves him disallusioned and in serious danger. We were reading in my playwriting workshop at Moving Arts and I only got to see the first act. Terence promised to send me act two-- but it isn't the same as when you get to see it serialized in weekly workshop meetings fresh off the printer. I miss my LA workshop! I need to find something like that in NY.

Anyway, Terence was in town to visit his fabulous actress girlfriend Sara. We met at Shakespeare & Co books and then had lunch. I bought Christopher Shinn's anthology of plays because I signed up to take EST summer conference class with him. For $355 they are going to drive me to the Catskills, give me a place to stay and food, and give me a three day class with Christopher Shinn on playwriting. That seemed like a good deal. There is no vetting process-- you just pay and you are in the class until they run out of spots. You send in some work (6 pages) so that Chris can get to know your writing. (Like 6 pages are going to adequately open up the world of Johnna for the poor guy- doesn't know what he is getting himself in for, does he?). I read Four from his anthology on the subway and Saturday night. I thought it was an amazingly gentle script. Deceptively easy-looking writing. Large themes laid out in very human terms. I liked it a lot.

Then my friend Kay and I went and saw Arlene Hutton's Last Train to Nibroc at the 78th Street Theater. It was my second time to see the play. I saw the Los Angeles production of the whole trilogy at Actor's Co-op last year. I love the script. It manages to be intelligently sentimental and gloriously precious. I don't know how she does it. By never condescending to the characters or something. I thought the space was better for the show in the LA production, and somehow the end of scene two fell flat in NY where is was astonishing and heart-stopping in LA. The actors were about as good as the LA actors, although the chemistry was not entirely as strong.

The Hutton and Shinn plays I saw/read on Saturday inspired me to then go forward with a play I had been noodling on for nine months or so. So I wrote Saturday night and Sunday and now have 67 pages on a 90 minute one act I am calling The Days of Never. I hope to finish it tonight. It is a story loosely based on my parents' (tragic) relationship (which I think is the basis of the Hutton play, her own parents' story) and sentimental in the way that that story sort of has to be. And I am going for a more naturalistic style, influenced by the Shinn piece. So far it has been a very interesting journey. I am two scenes in (the play will be three 25-40 minute scenes separated by a little over a decade between each scene). I like the play, but am a little worried that it is too low concept to get much traction anywhere. Three actors. Simple story. Highly conversational, low action. Also, it is written just after Godsbreath, which I have not even started marketing yet. And I am planning on writing a big noir, OC-history laced comedy next. Usually the play written between two high-concept pieces gets shafted. I call this the Tumblewings effect, after my play Tumblewings which was written between Oneida: Servants of Motion and The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn. Being the middle child between those giants meant that Tumblewings got screwed marketing-wise. I sent it to two places, I think. I hate the marketing part of it.

Anyway, The Days of Never is a sequel to In the Absence of Angels, which will shock those of you who remember how much I whined and bitched about that play when Write Act Rep did a workshop of it last year. It is still one of my least fav plays of mine. But I have always been happy with Carrie's monologue about the undertaker that loved her. So the new play starts with a meeting between Carrie's husband Everett and the undertaker, in the parking lot behind the funeral home where her body is laid out for viewing. Then we skip 14 years and show the two meeting by chance at a diner. Then we skip another 13 years and see Ted, the undertaker, meeting Grace, Carrie's daughter at Everett's memorial service. This world is a little different that the Angels world, even though I am using the same characters, because I have made Grace a struggling actress and not a "star." Am interested in seeing how it all turns out. I hope to finish it off tonight. I am about 23 pages from the end. Will then solicit for volunteers to read it. Should be a quick, quick read.

May post again later today when the Pulitzers are announced.