Saturday May 3 was a fantastic performance of the show (called Sweet Cantatas). We had a big turnout for Brat (almost 100 people, I know, nothing for NYC but a lot for up there). And they were enthusiastic, laughing, clapping. Great support, great turnout, great night.
What have I gotten into? Originally I booked the NEYT theatre space with the intention of presenting an evening of my own work. Sort of an intro to the work to my hometown. Seemed like a nice thing to do.
Between the date the show was booked and the date it was to go up, I began a project with NEYT called the Performance Writers Lab. It’s similar to the labwork I’ve already talked about here, done in Brattleboro not NYC, that’s really the only difference. Otherwise the usual drill – a chance to foment new projects, hear new work, give writers a chance to bring in fresh pages and hear them for their music; chance for performers to practice their cold reading chops and maybe, just maybe get a line on a new part in a new project. And of course, all done at no charge to anyone, and with respect for the playwright and performer always paramount.
Then figured, well, jeez, since I have this project date all set up, why not make it about the lab work, rather than just an evening of my work. So it went from doing a full-length of mine to doing shorts (again, with the shorts) of my own and the work of other writers.
Then I had trouble getting a director who’d do the project so decided to direct the pieces.
So here I am now, in typical all-hectic mode, scheduling, directing, and even performing in several short pieces. All going up May 1-4 here in Brattleboro.
Gallery opening tonight for friend Susan Yankowitz’s husband’s poetry magazine Parnassus at Heidi Cho Gallery. Saw two photos there, wished to buy but didn’t buy. Yoy… no money.
Adam Szymkowicz’s play coming along the home stretch to production in surges, froths… lots of energy there. New draft came out. Still things to do… however it’s coming along fantastically.
You’ll be there, won’t you? July 6 we open at the Kraine, 85 E 4th, we run 4 weeks mostly Th/Fr/Sat. Cheeeeap tickets… $15. This play is the fuckin funniest thing I’ve seen in a loooong while, friends, and I read a lot of scripts. End of self-plug.
Have a play opening in Romania about now, however communications are fuzzy. They were supposed to send a check, haven’t seen the check… time to fly to Bucharest and COLLECT, man. I got a flurry of emails from them, then promises of payment. No, they didn’t ask for my bank account information. Well, they did actually. But I didn’t give it to them. Maybe they were really from Nigeria? Heh. My luck, prob-a-ly.
These are the times I wish I still took drugs.
It’s not too late.
Actually there’s info about it here and I’m listed right next to a production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis. Auspicious company.
Now where are those drugs?
A woman slowly turns back into a man again – with dread, with fascination, with horror, with a growing sense of pride, with a growing sense of resentment, calling into image Tiresias, Busch, Fierstein, Ludlam, Quentin Crisp; gay lib and women’s lib at the same time.
It takes ten minutes to do something completely rapid and mundane that would normally take 10 seconds. Example: During a 10 second orgasm at the end of a brief affair between a lonely man and a lonely woman; one minute per second, we see the waves of realization and horror come over them, we see things happen in realtime in the body (the physical and neural events surrounding orgasm) and in dreamtime in the mind (the details of their meeting, their shame at this affair, their joy at this affair (sliding into or around a stranger reminding them of freer sexual times, of being bad, of bring a good lover mechanically, of the marriages and friendships betrayed by this affair). These were two good friends that have now messed up their friendship perhaps. A million details that interweave and contradict. Ten seconds can be a lifetime.
New ideas coming in…1. The immortality product (LifeX) needs frequent upgrades which extend life in “paks.” The current pak lets people live to be 125 years old, prevents mental or physical aging. After that, an upgrade would be require to extend life to 135, then 150, etc. They are advancing the science the same way that chip scientists are advancing the evolution of microprocessors… they are not infinitely fast or efficient, but each new generation is faster and more efficient. Same with LifeX; and the benefits of this dynamic are similar to those experienced by chipmakers; customers have to pony up to get the latest upgrade or they lose out on the improvements to the technology.2. We find out a covered up fact: Kate was a scientist involved in the initial stages of development of LifeX. She left when it was clear it would not be publicly available and free technology, but would rather be an expensive product only available to the richest people on the planet. The argument that LifeX used is that the funds permit continuous improvement. But Kate’s argument was: you seem to be condemning the large parts of Earth’s population to death. Having this background as a scientists and researcher bolsters the believability of her skills with genetic manipulation, and simultaneously gives her a stronger, more personal motivation for wanting to take down LifeX.More ideas coming soon…
OK… this is a capture of what in some ways are notes for the next stage in the evolution of this project.
It’s clear that I’m strongly in favor of keeping the two worlds both present in the script. I got a LOT of notes saying that I needed to root the play in one world, and eliminate the other – the one most wanted eliminated was the fantastic world. The main note was that the future world is lost completely when the fantastic one intrudes, and the play becomes a plot machine and loses its ability to access subtlety. All true!
But there’s a strong energy in the fantasy world, which actually represents a post-singularity world and is so strong I can’t deny its actuality.
One cast member though had a key for me… Shakespeare’s DREAM play introduces both worlds in scenes that alternate and eventually collide. That’s the key to the success of this work.
1. Vera is having visions that have served her up until the story begins… giving her almost supernatual insights into her world and making her a terrific journalist, in fact, one of the greatest.
2. The visions begin to take on a more fantastic aspect… they in fact become what she knows of the Bush.
3. As the story progresses, her dilemma is made clear through increasingly surreal and strong visions. And she discovers the origin of these visions, and it’s not what she expected it to be.
I know this is still vague, but I don’t want to sperl it…
The comments are coming in and it appears that many colleagues are not picking up on what I was trying to do. Is this what I meant? Probably not.
Think I am definitely onto something and feel pretty damn obsessed about it, it’s just going to require some more work.
There need to be two worlds. The worlds need to intermix better and earlier, so we don’t have to meet the second world at the very beginning of act ii – I think it does slow down the play – instead we need the second world to be waiting on the first world to make the first move, back in Act I… and for the characters in the new world to ready/steady themselves for what is to occur back then.
Around the end of June it’ll be picked up again and worked on.
Ahhh… the six workshop productions – which took the form of staged readings – are now done.
The actors and director worked incredibly hard to do a low-tech realization of the draft. The energy they brought to the piece was palpable, and their talent and
Audience response was educational and sometimes heartening.
About 30% saw it and had a response similar to drinking a triple espresso… they responded with energy, excitement, enthusiasm, even. The draft as it stands today – “scene complete” but nowhere near finished or polished, inspired a lot of comments on its ideas and constant drive forward through its complex worlds. Those responses were heartening. I can expect that even if I get really wild, this 30% can stay with it.
As for the 70%… there were comments like “a play is *that*… a play is not *this*” – meaning a play is not what they saw. Most commonly this came over in a somewhat distressed tone. The draft is sprawling with characters, scenes, modes, ideas, words, images. It is not in its current form easy to follow. In a sense it has too much in it. But there was confusion between faulting it for its ambitions and faulting it for its complexity. It is too complex, it does need to be lined up and neatened. It does tend to burst out of the space and that’s not always a good thing. In that sense, they’re right… but they didn’t need to be so distressed about it. The draft was a scratchpad for the play in a sense… a testing of various ideas and modalities for telling this particular story; exploration of possible character arcs and character forms from the ironic to mythic to the realistic.
What they saw was a series of experiments, testing the limits of what the play – when it’s finished and actually becomes a play – can get away with. A few people somewhat condescendingly trying to define what a play was… nice of them… the definitions tended to fit into TV and well-made forma. One place, a few people talking, conflicts on a personal level. Someone actually said, a novel is about a conflict inside someone, a play is about a conflict between people, and a film is about a conflict of a person against the world. They are missing the point, but that’s OK. Another person faulted the science aspects of the play, saying it’s known the scenaria are implausible. Well, it’s a work of fiction. But even so, scientifically it all really could happen.
A subset of those who responded enthusiastically were non-American folks. I think for them the expectations that any work for the stage would have a necessarily linear plot with clear precedent at every point for the main characters, that focus would necessarily be primarily on the protagonst, are different. Whereas Americans are more used to TV entertainment that reaches all the way into their living rooms to get them; they have fingers that twitch at an imaginary remote control whenever they see something that doesn’t draw them in instantly or that floats above their line of sight.
Now I’ll be taking a break from The New Life for about a month – a necessary cooling off period before I go out to absorb everything I learned, re-read the draft as if someone else wrote it, and apply a gimlet eye. Always need to do that… otherwise I’ll start the rewrite with a strong sense of ownership and the changes and cuts will be too hard to do. You can’t have that sense and still make the brutal cuts and rewrites that will be needed to turn this mass of twitching machinery into a real play.
Rehearsals are going well… a little creatively chaotic (after all we have a fairly difficult 2-hour play with original songs to rehearse in five sessions – you have to admire these guys for their enthusiasm, talent and efficiency!).
It seems that the ideas and tableaux in the play seem largely to be borne up in rehearsal, and as always there are hundreds of deeper things there in the script that make it funner and funner to work with as you rehearse – some of these are intentional and some, at least overtly, not.
But it’s apparent there’s a static block of a scene sitting in the middle of Act II… so I’ve now cut another character (Donna Morgan) and am back to my writing room to completely rewrite that entire section. The best part of it is that watching the rehearsals has given me a set of clear ideas on exactly what to do. Now it’s just a question of making it, and making it fun.