Rehearsals

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.

Hooboy.

Houses, Openings and Closings

Vocabularian Car Crash…

My house in Brooklyn has been sold and the sale is closing this coming Monday. At the same time I’m obsessed with houses and openings with Sanctuary. And of course two shows are closing in the coming weeks. It’s all just conflated.

Talked to old friend – not that either of us is old mind you – Jane Scarpantoni, rock and roll and newjazz cellist. We talked about the tension between the public parts of our careers, in both cases we enable others but less so ourselves – she doing string arrangements for other musicians’ albums, in mine productions of other playwrights’ plays – and our inner desires to see our own work done and promulgated.

One wishes all could happen for all… but at some point one must push all others away and begin to realize the work that breathes within our own souls.

On the train I wrote, finally, a page of pretty good dialogue and realized… I can still do this.

This year I’m going to get an entry out to New Dramatists. And to see some more of my work produced both by me and by others. That’s got to remain a promise and be realized as one kept. Otherwise I’m just cheating.

There’s a safety in enabling others to get their work up… then I don’t have to deal with the possibility of failure in my own work… of mistakes made, or proving I’m a fool making bad choices. I can work with Sanctuary and pick great plays and make them happen in front of audiences, and the Times can come out and love them, as they did with Adam’s play. But if I’m not taking the chances with my own work, investing the time to write them, and the heartbreak that inevitably falls from actual productions of the work, then what sort of playwright can I call myself? Love others, yes, but love onesself too. And self-love means seeing work completed, and produced.

So what’s there to complete? Well, since The New Life, and the short Flick See Gears in the Sparklight, I’ve laid back in the safe zone of creating snippets of work, a character drawing there, a page of dialogue here, and not completed anything of substance. This cheat must stop. I must dedicate real time in each day to completing writing and real additional time in communicating that writing to real theaters who might produce it, and to garnering support and resources around myself as a playwright. To do these things will give me the ability to once again call myself a playwright.

More good stuff

NYTheatre.com gave Food for Fish a great review too…

We’re very lucky here… to have this piece by wonderful Adam Szymkowicz, and the work of Alexis Poledouris and the cast, at this moment.

And crowds of folks – folks we mostly don’t even know – are coming out to see it and laughing and saying great things about it and telling their friends. And putting up with the lousy AC in the theater and still keeping up good spirits and still laughing and clapping at the end.

On a personal note… the house closing is now on schedule and the buyer is a nice lady who told my son (very sad about the sale of his childhood home) that he could come visit anytime. Gabe has sworn that he will grow up and become rich and buy the house back. Heh.

There’s a lot of stuff here all about love – defined as the moments between people where they wish each other well and strive to do the right thing by each other – and of course, all this amazing, beautiful luck.

Sure, working your ass off for 20 years and saving and paying bills and helping other artists and hoping it all works out in the end, all the promises you make being kept, etc… that’s probably part of the basis. Having a dream of making something that helps a lot of people, and that brings some more great beauty into the world, a world crying out for some beauty, is part of it. And focusing strong and relentless energy and concentrating all your positive thoughts on the outcome and being organized and cooperative and friendly is part of it.

There are probably 3 or 4 plays in all this complexity. Funny plays and sad plays. When all this slows down, and there’s time to reflect, some wisdom will trickle out of all these experiences… many painful, many almost unbearably achy, and some humiliating and embarrassing. And these will be the basis of, one hopes, some kind of art. That speaks some truth to people. That communicates the value of hard, positive, focused work and good intentions and good plans.

The time to reflect on all this is coming. That reflection will bring about those many plays. And now we have a machine that can bring those plays to people. Now we need to gather about us all the support we need to make this happen. It must happen.

The NY Times

Bless you Anita Gates for your review of Food for Fish… it feels great… though… wellll… really all this stuff is really ephemeral, I mean what is the point of anything… “press…” whatever. Still a moment, to breathe and feel maybe something was accomplished… ahhh….

Still we need to sell a bunch of tickets to this thing to keep us out of the poorhouse. Oy. I can complain multi-culturally.

Though it never made the NY Times, in the Daily News the Caption read: “Save the life of my child.”

Dunno whar that crap comes from… the sump of the unconscious prob.

My dad, ever the guy from the previous generation, but kind, says blow up the NY Times article and laminate it and post it in the lobby. As if there were room in the Kraine lobby for it. I think we should, make us feel like NY Theatre Workshop or whatever.

Too much-a

It’s-a whadda you say, you know?

A combination of multiple stimuli (stimuluses) has lately been conspiring (if stimuli can conspire) to reduce me to a bundle of over-stressed threads. Self almost completely obfuscated behind said bundle. What threads? Thread: Apartment hunting. Yech. After all the house is closing (hope) in a matter of 2 weeks. Must be done, however who EVER wants to move to a new home? Even a snakepit is better than moving. Moving out of this gorgeous Victorian, though, now that’s hard. Thread: Starting the BratFlix festival. That seems to be getting off the ground well. Thread: Managing the Hooker-Dunham and keeping the bills paid. Thread: Writing the prospectus for Susan/Taj’s opera. That’s yet more stuff to do. Thread: Doing the dayjob dance. That’s… well… it just is. Thread: Producing Adam’s play (to open July 6 at the Kraine). That’s going well. Think. Thread: Getting Larry’s piece up to the H-D. Thread: getting workshop pieces up there for retreat work (have heard from many playwrights and each needs care and feeding to get their projects up there).

Yet all is not lost. Morgan Faust, a filmmaker from Brattleboro, has proven amazingly organized and resourceful in helping get the BratFlix festival off the group. The Wonderful Alexis Poledouris the director (bless her soul) and B. Carter Edwards (stage manager) have found us a likely assistant – after my own efforts to find one (on top of all else I hadda do) proved useless.

Yet, dealing with that, I have this messed up kneejerk reaction. It’s like 25 years ago when I was doing the EST thing, and had to “sell” workshops, and did OK but was still 1 short for a goal, and a friend brought me a sale. I didn’t know how to deal with that. How do you respond when someone is just being really nice to you and doing you a huge thing like that? God. What kinda person are you? Do you feel OK when someone gives you something you need… or do you have that flash like me, where you think, “why am I such a leech?” When you’re not really… you’re just a nice person and people want to help you.

Where does that crap come from? Having trouble accepting help from others? Inherited from weird parents, or what? Point is, it IS there. Guess the main challenge then with that is to learn to accept the favor anyway.

…Tra : Art…

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?

Keeping it above water

First in a series titled: The Trials and Lessons of a playwright recently become Theater Manager

Had some funny feedback today about the Vermont project. Every month all the galleries in Brattleboro get together and organize this thing called Gallery Walk… everyone comes out for it and all the galleries open up to the public. It makes for a nice evening.

The feedback was, the quality of the free food we serve at Gallery Walk is starting to disappoint folks.

In past years, many of the galleries timed their openings for new shows to this event, and many in the traditional “show opening” spirit served food, some times healthful and solid, others lavish.

But over the past year and a half, many galleries in Brattleboro, squeezed by the arid funding climate and reduced art buying by the strapped middle class, have either cut down or eliminated the free eats. In that period, the Hooker-Dunham became known as “the last remaining place” to get a good, classy, free bite. And that supposedly kept it on the itinerary of many residents, despite its lack of a good art show. So it came to pass that folks who were hungry but not particularly interested in seeing a lackluster art show showed up, ate the good eats, and left with their families, leaving only a trail of breadcrumbs in their wake.

Then the Hooker-Dunham fell. And , well, the spirit of Hansel and Gretel aside, we decided when we took over the gallery and theater that our primary responsibility when we came in there was to keep it going. And to eliminate the practices that caused it to previously go through hard times and close. We noticed that we weren’t selling a lot of art, that the art shows at the gallery were not well-regarded, and that on gallery walk night most people who did show up, simply grabbed a bite and left.

So we made a judgement call. We cut down our emphasis on a good feed that night, and focused our resources on a better show in the space for Gallery Walk and the month following. We asked a curator whose work looked particularly special to give us a try. She brought much better shows in. We also went from a solid $175 a month in gallery rent to a free arrangement, with the hope that if we could build this right, and attract the right artists, we’d get more art purchases and that would offset the loss of the rent.

Well the gamble is still being tested. Little art has yet been sold, though we definitely have good art in the space and most folks love the shows.

So some residents resent we have de-emphasized the great feed we used to have. They used to show up for the food and they want to know why we’re not offering it with the same aplomb.

Well, hm… I guess they’re right. For now at least, we think it’s more important to have a great art show for people who want to come in and see an art show. We’re a gallery, not a restaurant.

And we spent some time looking at the folks that seemed to most relish the food we put out… they typically left immediately after securing victuals. Not a glance at the art. They were just hungry. If you asked them on the way out the door what the name of the space was, or whose art was being shown, or even when the next performing arts show at the theater was going to take place, they’d typically give a blank resentful stare. As if it was an imposition for them to expect anything other than, we’re here for the food, lay off.

To my amazement, I was told, that’s why we should have first class food, to serve the community’s need for good food on gallery walk night. This when all the other galleries in town have either gone to a pay for eat model (like the Museum) or stopped it altogether.

Are we wrong? We seem to be getting good traffic for the gallery. We still do have free food, it’s just more frivolous stuff, bruschetta and chips and crudite and cheeese and finger-size hot pizza bites. We’re still one of the few serving anything. We would just rather be known for being a great gallery where important artists are being shown. We aren’t making anything on the gallery yet, we don’t yet have a sponsor to cover this, and in fact we’re laying out $80 a month for what we’ve got, and frankly can’t afford that $400 spread any more.

That’s the complaint for today… next time I’ll talk about the accessibility harpies.

Suddenly the Fringe (part 2)

So there I was; had read the script before. It wasn’t perfect, but it took a Robert Frost poem dead serious and was, well, odd. And odd was good. Most definitely.

Re-read the script and did a whole bunch of charts. I knew blocking a show, with little other directorial input, and without those critical one or two weeks taking the script apart together, would be a challenge. But it was going to get done.

Showed up the first night and spent, as I figured, a good 45 minutes on scene 1. A pretty short scene. Adam got nervous about time, but I reassured him if the first scene in this situation took less than two hours, we were in good shape. He was concerned we’d not get through half the script – in his mind beginning of act II – by end of the four-hour BlockFest I. I said, don’t look at it that way, there are 75 pages in the script, 75 minutes onstage. Halfway was really page 35. And that was still in act I. He was reassured.

I had lots of nutty ideas to open the script up. We used commedia characters, we used weird positions onstage, we talked about burying treasure and finding it – to me the heart of comedy. We got to page 35.

It was a getting a play on its feet by the seat of its pants. But it was up, halfway, and it was working.

Suddenly the Fringe (part 1)

Well, the Fringe is pretty unfair to writers. It’s unfair to everyone. Yet it’s there, it’s big, it’s loud. And when anyone anywhere is making a big fuss over theatre, how can one not?

I’d co-produced a reading of Adam Klasfeld’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors at a Chashama space a few months ago – and to say that, really, I just helped that poor hard-working guy get space and took care of a few other assorted things. The kind of stuff I’d rather not do if *I* had a reading going up. At the time I’d offered to help him with directing but he didn’t need it. He had a director already.

Adam decided to put his show into the Fringe… his director was on board. Gave my standard pre-Fringe warning. Same thing always happens, once they’ve decided to do it, it’s going to get done.

Three weeks before show open – around the beginning of August – he called. His director was gone to England – paying work. For some crazy reason, I volunteered to block his show and get it on its feet. We had two days.