Wazzup, Baby… Playing God

Got a job as God recently…

Actually, a friend was having a reading of Bruce Jay Friedman’s Steambath, funny and dated play from the 70s.

Tried out for a part in it as a hoot – since I saw the play on PBS in the early 70s, always had a fantasy to play the part of God, a Puerto Rican steambath attendant. Don’t audition much and don’t think I looked that impressive. Weeks went by during which I didn’t think much about the audition – at that point was sure I wasn’t cast.

Then the director (Eric) contacted me to tell me I didn’t get my coveted part, but I had a part – Bieberman, the least attractive guy in the cast. Was game to do it anyway.

Just before the first rehearsal, got an email that God had quit (and why wouldn’t he) as He was moving to Burlington VT (and why wouldn’t He), offering me the part. So now am playing God, unmetaphorically speaking.

Rehearsals went well… we had a surprising number for a script-in-hand reading. End result I felt like I was the biggest liability in the cast. Sure that a playwright shouldn’t mix in and try to perform (example, wasn’t very impressed with my work on the show we did in the Spring either).

However, when the audience was there, they laughed with us a lot and all had a splantasmic time. It all stunned me, suddenly I was playing a lead role in something that people liked. Gotta tell you, now I understand why actors stick with this business… if you can finally get a chance to reach any kind of audience, it’s an amazing experience. Nothing like it.

So if you’re in the Brattleboro VT/Chesterfield NH area tonight (Aug 23 2008) come see the show. Sure, it’s quite sexist in its portrayal of its only female character, but it does have a raft of big laughs – with me as God.

There are at Least 1001 Reasons to See Jason Grote’s 1001

Jason Grote’s 1001 is flat-out the best thing I’ve seen so far in 2007. And I’ve seen a lot. You must put down that graphic novel immediately and rush out to see it.

Why am I gushing like this? For starters it’s huge. The character list includes a one-eyed Arab, a Jewish/Palestinian couple, Scheherezade, Dunsiad, Shariyah and the king’s Vizier, Gustave Flaubert and Jorge Luis Borges (now how many times can you say you saw a play that featured a blind Argentinian writer?). Due to the amazing Krazy Glue of Jason’s eclecticism, and the whole-cloth, filled with Unity direction of Ethan McSweeny, the entire thing not only holds together but seemingly expands, giving you plenty of space in which to contemplate the generous helping of ideas, symbols, comedy and pathos. Though the play runs only 110 minutes it feels as if an entire world is contained within.

Despite a cast of only 6, its character list positively sprawls; but due to McSweeny’s deft direction and the cast’s terrific chops (and faster than light costume changes), it doesn’t feel at all tight. The logistics of the production alone are worth watching, because the cast and technical crew pull off all the pyrotechnics – from places to moves to props – without a hitch.

One aspect of the show that’s not going to get a lot of attention but in this case definitely deserves it is the music. True to Jason’s 21st-century tastes, I can honestly say this is one play with a killer soundtrack. From dance-electronica to various forms of Arabic rhythms from the parodic to the sublime, suffused with subtle rock, this is an iPod of a show.

Rachel Hauck’s production design is top-notch and thoughtful. A series of colored lines on the floor guide you to your section, and once you spy the mise – a bombed and blasted NYC streetscape in Arena, with two-deep audience seating, you know you’re in good hands. Tyler Micoleau’s lighting is comprehensive to say the least. The backstage geek in me stopped counting at a 120 cues.

Page 73 Productions has stood behind this play all through its creation, from Jason’s initial drafts to the masterful concoction that’s now playing in Gramercy. They are to be commended for their support and patience, as works this ambitious can take years – in this case nearly 3 – to come to fruition.

So how to sum up? The nice couple from Jersey sitting next to me asked me, “what’s the play about?” I’d seen previous readings and hesitated, then blurted out – “it’s about how our lives are wrapped in stories, and how our lives wrap themselves around stories. It’s about the oldest story, the largest, about the tellers of stories, about their stories.”

1001 closes in only two short weeks (Nov 17) though the director said they might get a 1-week extension. The house is small. So you better get off your bum, get out there and catch it. It’s at the Baruch Performing Arts Center/Nagelberg Theater on E25 between Lex and Third.

PS: Variety‘s Mark Blankenship’s given Jason’s play a rave as well; have a look:

Being out of it

Some artists never go through the periods known as “out of it.” Those with the courage or the ability to go it alone can usually do it. Some are born with a silver spoon and that’s how they manage. Others meet someone who’s amazingly supportive. If you have none of those things, whether by choice, marrying for love or whatnot, you invariably end up spending large amounts of your time doing work that runs… let’s say… counter to your bliss.
So in case you’re wondering why I haven’t blogged since last July, and why all that seems to come from me right now is static, that’s why. There is some writing going on, but not the kind that cranks out large works quickly. No, it’s been short plays when and if. That and course outlines for a school at which I’ve done work, etc.
Somehow it all feels like stalling. You say to yourself, it’s just a matter of time before the waves of chaos recede and you can go back to it.

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.

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.

sanctuary ready to go…

After all the waiting, finally last week we got the Dept of Edu approval to proceed with our incorporation… and today I finalized the signatures. That pile of checks from all those wonderful donors who have wanted to support sanctuary… will shortly be depositable.

Exciting… well, I think so anyway. Possibly elicits yawns from other artist friends for whom hacking the real world holds less appeal.

love directing…

a friend – adam klasfeld – who’s also a terrif publicist – wrote a play i admire titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, about to go up at the Fringe. His director moved suddenly to England – no fault of Adam’s of course. He was in that weird position, not enough time to find another, unable to really have time to do it himself but feeling obligated. I’m stepping in to help as a “consulting director” – to do blocking, coaching, traffic cop stuff. Tho it doesn’t pay and won’t garner me more than a “co-” credit, no matter… I really love doing this.

I’m delving into the script… it’s a fun piece but also very meaningful. Starting out with a basic visual concept, I think the piece is about “seeing: not seeing” and am basing the visual and movement vocabulary on this.

Of course I have to run it by Adam first… he’s my “boss” on this project…