Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great Sans Merci Review for BPP

Got a great review from the Bloomington Herald on my play Sans Merci, produced by the Bloomington Playwrights Project as this year's Reva Shiner winner. I spent the weekend in Bloomington, getting to meet Reva Shiner and hang some with my amazing cast and uber-cool artistic director Rich Perez.

Here's the review. I totally agree that the acting and directing on this show was amazing! As were technical elements. Feeling very blessed.
‘Sans Merci’ both brutal and tender
By Glenn Kaufmann H-T Reviewer
October 27, 2008

This past week, Bloomington Playwrights Project unleashed this year’s winner of the
Reva Shiner Full Length Play Contest on the world.

A take-no-prisoners, highly charged emotional drama, “Sans Merci” is by turns brutally
honest and achingly tender and gentle.

Set in both San Francisco and Colombia, “Sans Merci” draws its name from the John Keats poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” which tells the tale of a knight who is bewitched by a woman who steals his heart and then leaves him stranded and alone, but forever thinking fondly of her. This theme of a woman who has stolen your heart and left you stranded is key to “Sans Merci,” the play, and writer Johnna Adams deftly mirrors and reflects it in every second of the drama on stage.

Elizabeth has come to visit the home of her deceased daughter’s best friend to collect any and all tokens of her daughter’s life that may be left behind. Though they’ve never met, it’s clear from the very beginning that there is a tension between Elizabeth and Kelly (the friend). When it’s revealed that one of the possessions left behind was Tracy’s Gay Pride flag, the pieces drop into place.

The scene shifts to the day that Kelly and Tracy met and first fell in love. On that day, Tracy presented an oral critique of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” to her sophomore literature class. Nervous, she falls into a panic attack and is “saved” by Kelly. The two develop a bond of friendship that quickly grows into a love affair.

As “Sans Merci” shifts back and forth between the combative conflict a grieving mother has with her daughter’s lover and the growing passion of two young lovers, headstrong, blissfully unaware of their own, and filled with the urge to make things “right” in the world, we are granted glimpses of both beginning and end. But Sans Merci never betrays itself. Nothing is ever spoiled. No piece of information is meted out too soon. We are given just enough to push the story forward. Though in the end we know too much. The truth of how and why Tracy died is so painful and the delivery so moving that it challenges our notions of love, and what it means to carry a person with us forever.

All three women in this show are outstanding. Francesca Sobrer is deeply moving as Elizabeth, a loving parent who wrestles with not only her daughter’s death, but her daughter’s sexual orientation, and finally the knowledge that she was loved more deeply than she ever imagined. Margot Morgan is a wonder as Kelly, the lover left alive but mortally wounded and forever recalling the woman who stole her heart. Molly Kruse, a newcomer to the BPP stage, is spot on as the beautiful, brilliant, yet painfully shy college student, who learns to embrace love and life, and sadly pays the ultimate price. There is a very rare chemistry between these women and it fills the stage with a palpable energy.

Director Bruce Burgun molds this energy exquisitely, creating moments of utter clarity onstage. While Lee Burkes’ set design deftly keeps Elizabeth and Kelly apart for much of the play, mirroring the emotional distance they feel toward one another, his set gives Burgun the freedom and flexibility to bring the women together from across the room in the play’s most powerful scene, as they divide the artifacts of Kelly’s life between them.

Despite the fact that this play does contain nudity and graphic content, I highly recommend it for all but the youngest or most impressionable audience members. For sheer theatrical skill and raw emotional power, this show is a rare gift to the artistic life of any community, and we are blessed to have it in Bloomington for even a short time. You must go see this show.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Photos of some doodles from my writing notebook

Notice I misspelled antichrists in the middle doodle and had to squeeze in an 'H'. All my doodles right now are screaming women. I wonder what that means. Nothing good.

Angel Eaters Postcard

Get your three show pass here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rattlers Postcard from Orange County, CA

Here is the postcard for my STAGEStheatre production in Fullerton, CA. I am so bummed that I am not going to make it to the show. The cast is fantastic, the director (David Campos) is amazing-- and my thoughts are with them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tickets on Sale for my Angel Eater Trilogy!

Photo by Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Rebecca McHugh as Melanie, Zack Robidas as Jeremy from 8 LITTLE ANTICHRISTS


Tickets are now on sale for the Trilogy, you can buy tickets on the Flux Theatre website,, now.

Special Discounts Offers!
Flux is offering $11 tickets for the first week only (Nov. 3-9) for a limited time. Use code "AEWEEK1" to take advantage of this deal. Offer ends October 17th, so buy early. Here's the link:

SHOW PACKAGE for only $40!
We are offering a special mini-subscription package for audience members who are interested in seeing all three plays in the trilogy. This offer is valid for pre-sales only. Here's the link:

TRILOGY BENEFIT and opportunity to buy flexible tickets
On Sunday, October 19th in the evening, Flux will be holding a benefit party to support The Angel Eaters trilogy. Venue details are being finalized. Flux will be offering the best deals on tickets at the benefit party.

FLEX TICKETS at the benefit
Only at the Trilogy benefit party will people be able to purchase (cash only) flex tickets. This means, they can buy their ticket but don't have to lock down a date right away. This is a great option if you definitely want to come but don't know your schedule yet.

Prices will be as follow:
One play: $15
Two plays: $24
All Three plays: $30 (there will never be a discount lower than this one!)

Sans Merci at the Bloomington Playwrights Project

Artwork for the Bloomington, IN, production of Sans Merci.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Monologue from New Verse Play


It is a light, frothy silliness that desperately wants to be a Moliere play. But he is dead, so it is stuck with me. It is supposed to be written in iambic hexameter with rhyming couplets-- but I suck at iamb's and hexameter, so I am mainly just going for the rhyming couplet part right now.

STUB is the worst buttonholer in the Danish court (circa 1807). He has buttonholed a young maid (SESTINE) in a chapel.

Oh, I say, I say, dear girl, do you have the time?

(SESTINE shakes her head no.)

Of all things on this planet, aren’t churches sublime?
This nice spot, how the light from the stained glass ripples!
But the reverend here, dear, well, you know he tipples.
Churches are like that. Gorgeous, breath-taking exteriors,
But inside, clergy and parishioners, oh, simply inferiors.
No, it never fails. Yes, it’s just the way of the world
Ever since God, glorious majesty, his creation unfurled.
Not a simple apple can be found, without a worm at its heart,
Nothing man builds with his hands will not fall apart.
Oh, it distresses me greatly, every night I weep and moan,
But pray as we might, God’s left this poor world on its own.
We must learn to care for our brethren, our fellow man,
On that topic, I’d like to give you some advice if I can.
Do you mind? Would it bother you? Tell me if you’re peeved.
I won’t say it if you think my intentions ill-conceived!
Oh, you sheltered darling! Poor God-fearing Lutheran child,
In this apostolicity is one who would see you defiled!
Apostolicity. Greek derivation. Of or pertaining to
Apostles. Etymology? Are word origins of interest to you?
Well, not important. Off the subject. I digress,
I’m here to save you, Sestine, in your time of distress!
No, don’t look ‘round you, as if you fear I am mad,
If you value your virtue, of my counsels be glad.
A dark skulking despoiler mars the chapel’s serenity,
Determined enemy of your precious virginity!
He hides at the church door, plotting the longer you stay,
To grab you and hold you and have his fiendish way!
I see you grow pale and then bright red at the image.
He’s eager for his sport. He’s at the line of scrimmage.
There’s not a moment to lose in evading his plan.
Poor dear, flee the church, or know too much of man!
I see you hesitate. I see you uncertain. You waver.
Sestine, honest maid, I can’t believe this behavior.
I’ve said it before, child, let me say it again,
A darkness hides in the most light-hearted of men.
Do you doubt me? Is it possible? How unkind and thorny.
Sestine! You know nothing of men when they’re horny!
Get out now. While you can. You’re young and strong,
Don’t let him degrade you and then string you along.

(SESTINE picks up her bible and exits into a side chapel.)

Where are you going? That’s not the exit I see.
Now, now, my dear Sestine, flee the pervert-- not me!

Angel Eaters Teaser Photo

Marnie Schulenburg as JOANN and Cotton Wright as AZAZYEL

Facebook Distracts Big-Name Playwrights from Writing

UPDATE 2: Also managed to spell Jeffrey Sweet's name wrong (Jeffrey not Jeffery). I do nothing but spell names wrong on this blog, it is official.
UPDATE: Oops, that should be Mike Daisey -- not Daisy. Sorry. I do nothing but misspell people's names on this blog. Sorry, Mike! Thanks for letting me know. :-/

I spent a good portion of yesterday messing around on facebook and decided to invite every playwright I could find to be my friend. Within 24 hours I got an accept friendship notice from every playwright listed below (loosely in order of response time).

James Comtois
Matt Freeman
Gary Winter
Qui Nguyen
Kate Ryan
Jeffrey Sweet
Colin Young
Carlyle Brown
Aaron Zook
Barry Rowell
Stephen Adly Guirgis
Kristen Greenidge
Madeleine George
Annie Baker
Carlos Murillo
Kara Lee Corthron
Young Jean Lee
Crystal Skillman
Prince Gomolivilas
Nicky Silver
Dale Andersen
Mike Daisey
Patrick Gabridge
Lucy Thurber
Erik Ehn
Susan Bernfield
Luis Alfaro
Kathleen Warnock
Carolyn Hoederman
Rafael F.J. Alvarado (poet)
Hilly Hicks
Jeff Jones
Andrea Ciannavei
Tim Fannon
Liz Duffy Adams
Jonathan Marc Sherman
Julia Jordan
Tom Jacobson
Gina Gionfriddo
Israel Horowitz
Adam Rapp
Randy Baker

I wonder who many plays are not being written because we are all messing around on facebook?

1928 Lecture on Playwriting from "Leading Woman Playwright in America"

Was wandering through the mid-town branch library pulling books on writing verse for the next play I am writing, when I came across a slim volume of playwriting lectures from 1928. The University of Pennsylvania English department arranged for five speakers to come lecture playwriting students ("thirty-three seniors and juniors who had shown evidence of special ability and serious interest") in the spring of 1928 and created a publication based on the lectures due to popular demand.

The last lecturer in the series was (to quote the introduction by Arthur Hobson Quinn, the Chairman of the English Department):

". . . Miss Rachel Crothers, generally recognized as the leading woman playwright in America. . . . "
Sadly, I had never heard of Rachel Crothers. Her wikipedia entry says that in 1937 she wrote her most famous play SUSAN AND GOD, which was turned into a 1940 movie with Joan Crawford. And amazon is actively selling several of her plays, so she is hardly forgotten today, just fairly obscure.

I have pulled out a few of the more interesting bits from her lecture for your delectation and delight.

"The theatre, of course, is the quickest escape from ourselves into the world of imagination and apparently that escape is more and more imperative as civilization makes life more hideous for us. A long time ago, when we were all more or less disdainful of the movies, Jennie-- who spent her life rubbing fat off ladies of leisure to keep them beautiful, and whose husband apparently had no name and certainly no job, and was always referred to by Jennie as 'him' --- Jennie said to me, "When I go home at night I'm too tired for anything. I can't sleep-- I can't read-- I can't speak and I don't want nobody to speak to me-- but for five cents I can go to the movies and set [sic] and rest and see things I never could see in any other way-- grand people-- wild animals-- foreign cities-- wonderful houses and strange and beautiful things-- and I forget about myself and go home all made over-- and the things I have to stand from him don't seem half so hard."
I thought this was an interesting little tidbit. A woman whose job centers around other women's bad body images, turning to movies for an escape from an (apparently) abusive spouse. And basically Crothers goes on to say, isn't this great? Look how powerful theater is? She is subtly indicting the women of lesiure who are obsessed with their looks and the abusive husband, but only as an aside while making her point about the theraputic efficacy of movies (which she interestingly does not really consider a separate art form from theater).

She also has some very nicely put language on the musicality and artistry of playwriting structure:

" . . . . in these acts and scenes and speeches and lines is rhythm. Each can only carry so much-- its own beat. A little too long and the effect of the whole is hurt. Music-- harmony. And in it all and through it all well-balanced movement-- groups of characters flowing together and dissolving into smaller groups with variety and grace. . . . Grace and variety of movement are as necessary to playwriting as color is to painting."
Also, I collect metaphors about playwriting (i.e., "playwriting is like architecture because . . .", "playwriting it like choreography because . . . .", "playwriting is like archeology because. . . ") and Crothers presents an interesting one I hadn't considered before:

"It is also a science-- chemistry. Imagine a glass of clear water into which two chemicals are dropped-- two different colors. We watch them come together and change color-- moving, twisting, growing, evolving, gradually becoming one new color because of their own natures and their effect upon each other-- until a new shape and composition-- a result, is formed. That's playwriting."
I like this because it describes conflict in a very organic sense. Characters come into conflict, not because they are seeking it, but because there is a chemical reaction that forces them inevitably into the conflict. Perhaps against their will. That seems to me a very feminine way of expressing it. I have often heard professors or playwriting lecturers liken theatrical conflict to things like boxing matches or other sporting events where people are directly pursing conflict. And that runs a bit counter to my personal understanding of conflict (perhaps a more feminine idea?) that it is something you avoid desperately, but seems to seek you out anyway-- because you fell into the wrong petrie dish with the wrong other chemical compound. I don't have much interest or affinity with characters who enter knowingly into boxing matches I suppose. Much more interested in characters who find themselves in boxing rings because of unavoidable circumstance.

Anyway, the lectures are collected under the title THE ART OF PLAYWRITING, and feature additional lectures from Jesse Lynch Williams (winner of the first Pulitzer Prize for playwriting), and Langdon Mitchell, Lord Dunsany and GIlbert Emery (whoever they were). It is an entertaining read. They were concerned with the exact same issues modern playwrights are concerned about. I will try to hit some of the highlights before I have to return the book to the library.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Angel Eaters Production Calendar

Helpful graphic to aid you in figuring at when you are going to see each of the plays in my trilogy. Created by Isaiah Tannenbaum, cast as Enoch in ANGEL EATERS (little red angel icon on the calendar).

Chance to see the Adam Kraar play I liked

Are you gnashing your teeth because you didn't get to see that Adam Kraar reading I blogged about attending a couple of months ago? Well, now is your chance. Adam has scored a Lisa Peterson-directed reading at LaMama.

I don't think my rehearsal schedule is going to permit me to attend, but everyone else on the planet should go.

by Adam Kraar
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Monday, October 13th, at 7:30 pm
74A East 4th St

EMPIRE OF THE TREES is set in India in 1963. When Deborah, a young American woman living in New Delhi, strikes up a literary and romantic bond with a traveling Indian bookseller, she discovers she has a mysterious connection to ancient Indian myth. She tries to share her new awareness with her husband, an ambitious journalist, but clashes with his inter-cultural suspicions, and cruel facts of class and history. She seeks spiritual solace with the bookseller, and from the wise old Banyan tree in her yard - which causes her household to explode, and myth to spill into reality.

I Can't Go, But I Wish I Could, to Chad's Reading

I have a rehearsal, so I can't make this. But , you can go without me!! I am sure it will be fantastic.

Partial Comfort Productions presents The 2008 Welcome Mat Reading Series...
"That Men Do"by Chad Beckim
Directed by Heath Cullens
Featuring: Andrew Garman
Sarah Nina Hayon
Mark Rosenthal
Paris Yates
Tuesday, October 7th @ 7:00 pm
(Doors open at 6:45 pm; First come, first serve)
Teatro Circulo
64 East 4th Street (between Bowery & 2nd Avenue)
All readings are FREE and open to the public. No RSVP necessary.