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
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.
The print version is on the stands in OC right now!

Best OC Playwright No Longer Living in OC
Johnna Adams
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.

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


WORK by Terri Wagener


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
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

UPDATE: In the comments, Adam points out that the Pulitzer Prize nomination form ( waives the $50 fee for drama entries. Which is good, because Chad doesn't really need my money. ;-) -JA
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.

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.

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.

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:

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
and special guest stars THE RISING FALLEN


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

150 First Ave. at E. 9th St.

$25 at the door$20 advance purchase




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


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!
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!