Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little Xmas Home Movie

Yes, I know Xmas is over.

But here is a cute video of my dad in his Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer nose, his santa hat, and his BAH HUMBUG t-shirt on Christmas morning. Also, mom, playing with a stuffed animal from her Xmas stocking. This is right before we started opening presents. It is only 12 seconds long. I am not much of a filmmaker.


video

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gorgeous SONG OF EXTINCTION at hotINK

Caught my friend E.M. (Ellen) Lewis's SONG OF EXTINCTION at hotINK on Saturday night. It played beautifully and tenderly. Superb cast and lyrical writing.

We were reading this play in Lee Wochner's playwriting workshop when I left LA, and I got to see the first half but not the conclusion before I moved to NY. The play chronicles the death of Lily (Kathryn Erbe), who leaved behind a biologist husband who appears to be more interested in the extinction of Bolivian beetles than his own wife's extinction (Ellery, played by Frank Wood) and a devastated teenage son, Max (Jade Hawk) who knows he is losing something irreplacable and can't accept it.

I often read the role of Cambodian high school biology teacher Khim Phan in the LA workshop. You will be happy to know, as I am sure Ellen was, that NYU had no trouble finding a much, much better fit for the role-- the incomparable Francis Jue, who is currently in Yellow Face at the Public. He was magnificent! Really a highlight. Such warmth and compassion. Francis had a wonderful scene with Jade Hawk as Max set in a lonely al-night noodle shop, that I thought was just magical. I also enjoyed Kathryn Erbe of TV's Law and Order, as Lily, and Frank Wood's Ellery. They were throroughly believeable and heartfelt.

Am off to see Jason Grote's MARIA/STUART tonight at hotINK tonight. Also planning to catch Mark Schultz' play DEATHBED later this week.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Friend Jen Maisel's Daughter is Going to Marry Harry Potter

My friend (LA Playwright) Jen Maisel recently started the cutest blog. It is all about chronicling her five-year-old daughter Julia's obsessive interest in the unfortunately fictional, and therefore unavailable, Harry Potter.

I especially like the post where Jen tries to counsel Julia into a feminist approach to her fictional relationship by telling her not to hate Ginny for marrying Harry, but to try and dislike Harry for dating another woman. Julia says that Harry is more famous and so she doesn't see how she could ever dislike him more than Ginny.

Ah, the joys of parenthood. Link

Enjoyed Partial Comfort's THE MAIN(E) PLAY Last Weekend

I caught my friend Chad Beckim's The Main(e) Play at Theater Row on Friday and thought I would send a recommendation out into the blogosphere. This the latest from his theater company Partial Comfort.

The actors did a lovely, naturalistic job. The final scene is searing and impactful. You don't see where it is going, so it takes you for a quick sucker punch in a good way. Also nice to see a well-made, naturalistic play that is so bold and well-produced. Kudos all around.

I will try to post about their up-coming fundraiser, Battle of the Bards, when they solidify dates.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Public Announces Emerging Writers Group

I didn't get in the Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group. Pass the sour grapes, please.

It is not news to me, they had interviews in December and I didn't even make it that far. I didn't even make "alternate" for the interviews, another designation I heard they had. Me big loser.

I don't know anyone on this list, but well wishes to them all. I will definitely go to some of the readings if they open them to the public.

The Public Theater Announces First Emerging Writers Group
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Posted: 11:49 AM - by BWW News Desk
New York, New York --

Expanding on its 50-year history of developing new plays and cultivating new voices for the American Theater, The Public Theater has announced the 12 members of the inaugural Emerging Writers Group, a new program launching next month that targets playwrights at the earliest stages in their careers and nurtures their artistic growth by providing necessary resources and support.

With this new initiative, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights. The Emerging Writers Group is the first element of The Public Writers Initiative, a long-term program that will provide key support and resources for writers at every stage of their careers. Time Warner is the Founding Sponsor of The Public Writers Initiative.

The inaugural group of Emerging Writers was selected from more than 700 applicants. The 12 selected are Radha Blank, Leila Buck, Raúl Castillo, Chris Cragin Day, Christina Gorman, Ethan Lipton, Alejandro Morales, Nick Nanna Hadikwa Mwaluko, Don Nguyen, Akin Salawu, Alladin Ullah, and Pia Wilson. Each writer will receive a $3,000 stipend; participate in a biweekly writers' group led by Associate Artistic Director Mandy Hackett and The Public's Literary Department; attend master classes with established playwrights; receive career development advice and artistic support from acclaimed writers and Public artistic staff; receive complimentary tickets to Public shows and supplemental stipends for productions at other theaters; and have their work presented in at least one reading at The Public.

The Public Writers Initiative will foster a web of supportive artistic relationships across generations of writers that will influence the future of contemporary American theater. Many of today's most honored and recognized playwrights such as John Guare, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Rabe, Christopher Durang, Wallace Shawn, Ntozake Shange, Sam Shepard, Tony Kushner and Nilo Cruz have a long history developing their work at The Public. The Public has also produced some of today's most important plays and musicals, such as Hair, Sticks and Bones, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, The Colored Museum, Topdog/Underdog, Caroline, Or Change, and A Chorus Line. The Public Writers Initiative will ensure that The Public's great tradition of supporting playwrights and playwriting will remain central to its future.

The Public Theater was founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 as the Shakespeare Workshop and is now one of the nation's preeminent cultural institutions, producing new plays, musicals, productions of Shakespeare, and other classics at its headquarters on Lafayette Street and at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The Public's mandate to create a theater for all New Yorkers continues to this day on stage and through its extensive outreach and education programs. Each year, over 250,000 people attend Public Theater-related productions and events at six downtown stages, including Joe's Pub, and Shakespeare in the Park. The Public has won 40 Tony Awards, 141 Obies, 39 Drama Desk Awards and 4 Pulitzer Prizes.

2009 Emerging Writers Group application guidelines will be available as of spring 2008. Check PublicTheater. org/artists/ emergingwriters.php regularly for details on applying for the next cycle of this program.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Convert to the CHURCH of Young Jean Lee

Saw and loved Young Jean Lee's Church last night at the Public Theater's Under the Radar series.

This interesting play starts with a long sermon, delivered in the darkness, that brilliantly dissects modern unhappiness. It is social commentary with almost mathematical purity and insightfulness. From there we enter into a bizarre church service that is at times heartfelt and full of genuine joy and spiritual connection, and also occasionally a snarky, aggressive indictment of pretentious righteousness.

The genius of the piece is that you never quite know how you are supposed to react. There are a few clear moments where you are obviously expected to laugh at the church pastors, but then there are also moments they make you desperately want to believe, join in, and evangelize. So you end up with a multi-layered experience. You feel partly superior and partly astonished.

The writing throughout is lovely, with an emphasis on self-editor free story monologues that were very evokative of the church experience. Hope some of you can catch it if you haven't seen it already.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hauntingly Lovely WIDOWS by Ariel Dorfman from Reverie Productions

I attended Reverie Production's benefit performance of Ariel Dorfman's Widows at the 59 E 59 last night. Reverie is presenting the New York premiere, which is pretty cool.

This is an interesting script that has had a longer than usual development cycle according to my web research (it started as a poem, became a novel, and has gone through several drafts as a play script, including one collaboration draft with Tony Kushner).

The story concerns the plight of a group of women in a small Chilean village. The village men have disappeared and are feared dead. The captain of the occupying army wrestles with the question of whether to deal ethically with the women's requests for news of their husbands or to surpress their potentially violent demands for justice ruthlessly. An elderly woman summons dead bodies of faceless men from the river and has her own internal struggles around the cost of staying silent in the face of injustice.

The play has the smooth, moral purity of Brecht's Mother Courage and the epic and poetic feel of Lorca's House of Bernarda Alba. I enjoyed it quite a bit. The lead performance by Ching Valdes-Aran as Sofia Fuentes has utterly magical. There are not many actresses around who could make Sofia's moral journey so profoundly moving and deeply stirring. On the surface, this is a bulldozer of a character who starts the play righteous and ends the play tragically righteous-- but Valdes-Aran showed me the personal cost and fear at every step of Sofia's crusade for closure. Actor Mark Alhadeff pulls off a similarly satisfying journey as The Captain, the military leader who honestly tries to salvage a bad situation for most of the play and then loses his soul to monstrous compromises and devious manipulations.

Due to the closeness of the room the benefit was held in, I got caught for a moment or two in a close three-person conversation with Ching Valdes-Aran and Ariel Dorfman! That is my celebrity encounter for the week or perhaps the year (decade?). I didn't contribute anything beyond some polite smiles and a muttered "lovely" while they asked each other how the process was going. Cool, cool, cool.

Also got to catch up with playwright Amlin Gray. He is starting up a Latin American Drama class at Sarah Lawrence this next semester (he teaches there) and was getting in some last minute research. He is delightfully nice.

Tonight I am going to see Young Jean Lee's Church at the Under the Radar Festival at The Public. And will round off the week with Chad Beckim's The Main(e) Play at Theater Row on Friday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Congratulations, Adam Szymkowicz!

Playwright Adam Szymkowicz is celebrating his new commission from South Coast Repertory!

They couldn't spend their money any better.

New Cockfighters Scene

Okay, if you haven't read Cockfighters, this new material has spoilers. So, stop now!

For those of you who are familiar with Cockfighters, I tweaked the lines Clarence has while he is holding Shirl's body last week. This section of the play has been a disaster area since the play premiered in Orange County (2002?). I don't know that I can fully plant a flag and declare victory. But, I like this version better.

I will pick it up with the monologue from RYE that prefaces the Clarence/Shirl part. Seriously, this is a spoiler if you haven't read the play!

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

RYE: She started screaming at me in the truck. And she started cursing me out. I guess I got mad. Then she grabbed the wheel and drove us into a ditch. I hit her in the jaw with my fist. She opened the passenger door and tried to crawl out of the truck. But I grabbed her around the waist and we both fell to the mud. I landed on top of her and the breath got knocked out of her. She was flailing around with her legs, trying to get them under her I guess. She was trying to stand up. And she kneed me. I guess that is what happened. I saw red and got even madder. I don’t know why now. I don’t know what made me so mad. I couldn’t think about who she was. I didn’t really know it was Shirl, I guess. There was a beer bottle on the floor of the truck and it rolled out when we fell through the door. Shirl was screaming and crying. So I picked up the beer bottle, and I just swung it. Not to hurt her. Just to make her be quiet for a minute.

I don’t remember the rest. I guess I kept hitting her, because the next thing I remember, I was laying on top of her—her soft little body—and her T-shirt was soaked in blood. Her face was all cut to pieces. But her eyes were open and I could see her breath puffing out in little clouds. It was like she was waiting on me to look at her one last time before she passed on. To stop hitting her and look at her. Her eyes met mine, and they had the most glorious look to them. Soft and shining and loving. I don’t know whether she was getting her first glimpse of God or seeing me and saying goodbye. I reckon it was God’s face she was seeing, because I don’t deserve a look like that. Then she just stopped breathing and a little while later her eyes got all cold and quiet. I passed out after that. Must have been out an hour or so.

Then Uncle Hump pulled up in his squad car. And he said he’d take care of it. And I guess he moved her into the ditch. Some how she got moved down there. I guess Uncle Hump did that.

(Light shift. The whole stage is lit. CLARENCE lifts SHIRL’s body out of the truck and carries her near the pit. Her blood runs down his clothes.)

CLARENCE: Shirl? Shirl! Are you sleeping? Wake up, Shirl. We gotta’ get home. Come on and wake up and we’ll go home. He’s sleeping back there by the truck. He won’t care.

CD: And you just drove off and left her there?

RYE: Yeah. Yeah, we did.

(CD points the gun at RYE.)

CLARENCE: We better get home. If Mama knows you snuck out she’s going to be up at her bible reading. Reading her Ephesians. Reading her Nehemiah. Reading her Judges and the Lamentations. . . . . Wake up, Shirl.

(CLARENCE lowers SHIRL to the ground and brushes her hair out of her face.)

CLARENCE: Pull your hair back from your pretty little . . . Oh, Shirl. Shirl? Did he bleed you?

(CLARENCE licks at her blood where it stains his hands.)

TAMMY: Now, CD. Be reasonable, now. We are going home. Come on. Let’s go. CD. Come on.

CD: No.

CLARENCE: If he bled you, Shirl, he don’t know how to do it right. It got everywhere. There ain’t going to be enough for the bucket and the vinegar. You want me to hold Duke’s head down in a bucket of your blood? So he’ll be a good fighter? . . . Shirl? I’ll do it for you.

TAMMY: Now, CD. Now, CD.

CD: Get out of here. I don’t want you watching me.

CLARENCE: Trim his wattle, shave his comb, work him on that ping pong table ‘til he’s spry and mean! Make him a killer. I’ll put your blood in the bucket with Sparky’s, if that’s what you want. That way Duke goes down fighting for you, Shirl. Fighting tasting you. You taste like metal. Like when I cut my tongue running it over the boys gaffs. I like the way you taste.

(CLARENCE licks his fingers some more and then kisses SHIRL.)

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

Works a lot better than the crap that was in there before, at least. There is a link to the right where you can order the new Cockfighters book. I think the publihser is getting ISBN numbers on all the books right now. So there may be a hold up if you order the play now. He said he would get that sorted out in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

8 Little Antichrists Draft Gets a Reading

Apologies for the Christmas shutdown here at Blindsquirrel Bloggings! Christmas always kicks my ass, and I had to finish the draft of 8 Little Antichrists for a Flux reading (held Sunday Jan 13th). Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I will do my utmost to be better. Hopefully, I can post some Christmas pictures from my holiday time in Texas later this week.

I officially have a first draft finished of ALL THREE PLAYS IN THE ANGEL EATER TRILOGY! Hooray! That is the good news. The bad news is that Angel Eaters and 8 Little Antichrists need some big rewrites. Rattlers needs some smaller rewrites. And from my Cockfighters trilogy (btw, the producers hate it when I call it that, and if anyone has a suggestion for a better trilogy name, please speak up!) Godsbreath also needs a desperate rewrite, with Tumblewings also needing a moderate rewrite. So I am in rewrite purgatory for the foreseeable future.

I rewrote a section of Cockfighters (Clarence's monologue over Shirl's body) last week. It felt very strange to re-work a play that old. Like having lunch with old high school or college friends and picking back up on those almost-forgotten personal dynamics. Will post the re-written section later this week for anyone who is familiar with that play and curious.

Flux Theatre Ensemble held an informal reading of 8 Little Antichrists on Sunday for company members-only. I was dreading it, because I know a the script isn't where I want it yet. But, Flux proved once again that their ensemble could cold read the phone book and make it look fantastic. I left with a smile on my face and a heart full of optimism for the future of my most ambitious play yet. Gus Schulenburg suggests I could turn the plot of this one into a sextology (which sounds very dirty) .

Recommended shows I've seen recently include: August: Osage County (brilliant second act!), and Reggie Watts' Disinformation at the Public's Under the Radar Festival.

August: Osage County features a character named Johnna, btw. That was irritating. Every five minutes the cast members were screaming my name. And she is the maid, which meant I kept feeling like I should get up from my seat and fetch things for them when they ordered her around. Also, they all speak in Oklahoma dialects. My mother is from Oklahoma, so it also felt like my mother was screaming orders at me from the grave. Despite all this, it is one of the best things I have seen this year and I heartily recommend it.