Friday, November 20, 2009

Let's try this again

Well, this seems like as good a time as any to return to the mundane and self-aggrandizing world of my blog. I suspect of these “I’m sorry, I’m bad, I’ll try to do better” entries outnumber the more legitimate daily motions type that were the blog’s purported purpose. So, no promises. well, no elaborate promises, I will try to blog at least twice a week from now on, so watch out Mondays and Thursdays. Yes I know today is Friday but committing to Friday seems like a guarantee of failure.

Anyway it’s been about a month and here are the plays I remember reading:
1. Travesties by Tom Stoppard
2. Happy Days by Samuel Beckett
3. Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett
4. Some other short later plays by Beckett
5. No. 11 (Blue and White) by Alexandra Cunningham
6. Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin
7. Back Story A dramatic anthology by a whole slew of writers
8. The Divine Fallacy Tina Howe
9. Standard Time Naomi Wallace
10. The Phone Plays 2000
11. Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage by Jane Martin
12. The Phone Plays 2001

I also applied to several internships and solicited letters of recommendation from teachers for some others. I have an interview with Ensemble Studio Theatre next week and one with Lark Play Development Center for the following week ( I shamelessly name dropped one of my friends on that one).

I saw a truly dreadful play yesterday. I knew I would hate it, but the tickets were so free, and I was told that the tech and the performances would be really good, and it was an opportunity to see my friends, so I went. The actual technology was impressive but it was only really artfully used twice in the two and a half hour production. The actors were probably talented, but the script was so bad that there was no way to be sure they could act, and the sound system was so loud and the music so laden with over-embellishment that they were constantly blowing their mikes and there was no way to be sure that they could sing. The costuming was impressive, except for the occasional moments of improperly secured boob (no emergencies but a couple close calls) which were very obvious from the upper mezzanine. At this point I feel obligated to inform you that the show was Dream Girls, the friend who lured me there with free tickets only to abandon me was Aryana (she works at the Apollo), and the friend who suffered by my side was Amanda. I also feel the need to mention that we go caught in the tide of people leaving the theatre and were forced to spend twenty minutes wandering Harlem in search of a bathroom before taking the the train to Grand Central for relief. After we parted I was so sleepy and the A train was so messed up that it took me over two hours to get home. I was not happy, but it’s better that I got out... I guess.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So I went to this group thing,

the one I talked about yesterday. And I’m not sure. I’ll go again and talk to the woman who runs it, I don’t exactly know what I’ll say to her. I should have talked to her today, but I just didn’t or couldn’t, I don’t know. They have my contact info. I gave notes which I shouldn’t have done because I was a visitor and didn’t really have the right, but it was good to be back in a workshop, I’d missed it and I couldn’t help myself.

All the writers were considerably older, the actors where either older men or women my age, the woman who ran it assured us that there were often more people. The work was kind of old. I think that's what I'm not sure about. I'm so used to being with writers my own age and my playwriting teachers of the last two years were in their early thirties and both pretty new wave. This work felt stodgy. The critiques were on point, the guy whose scene was pretentious and didn't have anything at stake was told so, as was the guy whose play was endless and actionless, and the one with two many characters to keep straight. It's not that I think I'm so great, or so avant gaurde, or so free from the shackles of exposition, that's not what I'm saying... it just felt wrong. It was good to be in a workshop again, it felt good to hear cold readings and feel insightful, but it didn't feel right. Their whole aesthetic just felt wrong to me, too expository, or naturalistic, too demanding of full sets, people who look related, and psychiatrists without prolems of their own. I heard parts of five plays; exactly one character swore, and it was a big deal in the play that she did. Maybe they deserve another chance, but I couldn't imagine bringing my work into that room.

So, I don't know, I just don't know if I should go back.

Plans for the incredibly near future

I spent some time looking for playwrights' opportunities in the city. There were some decent leads, I’ll do more with them. Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to go to a meeting of the NYCPlaywrights group. They meet every week, you have to submit work and be accepted, then you have to pay $60 for a five month membership which gives you free tickets and some perks but mostly it means that you can get your work read. The meetings are open so tomorrow (today, I guess) I’m going to go as a visitor and I'll apply if I like like the atmosphere. usually I wouldn’t talk about this until tomorrow but, in light of terminal issues with motivation, I thought it would be best to post about it now so I’ll feel obligated to attend. More info to come.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ambivalent reading expirience: concluded

It seems I can’t get my act together until midnight these days and for that I apologize. I suspect that comes from the hope that more will be accomplished if I just wait, as if I’m not the one I’m waiting for.

I finished the Alexander Plays. I think that on the whole I liked them, or at least there were very few things that stuck out as problems and they made me think, which isn’t quite the same thing as liking something but it’s certainly not nothing. All four plays center around Suzanne Alexander who is fictional, at first I was determined not to look this up, to just view the plays as plays without getting bogged down in the historical stuff that usually makes me not like things. However, in one of the plays the main character referred to She Talks to Beethoven as her best known play, written about when her husband disappeared. I got incredibly, embarrassingly disoriented by this, I found myself talking (in my head) like every character at the climax a farce with identical twins, because, of course, that’s the name and subject of the fist play in this collection. So, the character was claiming to have written another play in the book, of which she was the lead, one in which she was not writing a play about herself and didn’t seem to be aware of the audience. I found it disorienting and started to wonder if she was a real person, or the author's name was a pseudonym, or what was going on, then I felt like I was being fucked with and then I felt stupid. So, I guess I’m not sure how I feel about that particular dramatic device, after all it did have an effect.

The other thing I want to talk about is how she used found text, or source material, or the public domain, or the classics or whatever you want to call it. This is one of those things you see sometimes, I guess it’s natural. Writers are intelligent, over-educated, romantically self involved people, of course they feel the need to draw literary and historical parallels that elevate and explain their characters. Kennedy does it well, in The Ohio State Murders she weaves Tess of the d'Urbervilles into the story of Suzanne Alexander as a young black student at the newly desecrated Ohio State who’s daughters are are murdered by the white professor who fathered them. In The Film Club, a monologue about her waiting for her husband after a second disappearance, during which it turns out that he was imprisoned and tortured, she incorporates Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Diop’s poetry. The Dramatic Circle covers the same time and adds the letters of Napoleon and Josephine to the mix. It’s a technique I’ve never been tempted to use, not because I don’t think it can be effective but because it’s not really in keeping with how I work or think. I’m not sure why I just made that personal but let’s move on. The effect is not heavy (it could easily have been heavy) but weighty, it gave this woman’s life a context, and a feeling of importance and belonging among the great tragic love stories. I think it worked mostly because we saw her looking to these texts consciously for comfort and guidance and the feeling that she wasn’t alone. I think it worked because it came from the character rather than being slapped on top by the writer.

All that said, I’m glad I read these plays but I just didn’t enjoy them. I guess enjoyment isn’t everything.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ambivalent about plays

I read half of Adrienne Kennedy’s The Alexander Plays today (I know, yesterday, but cut me some slack; I just got home) and I’m not sure how I feel about them. I certainly respect what she’s doing but I don’t know that I like it. I’m not sure whether this was Sally’s recommendation or Jordan’s but I know I heard about it at school and I don’t know what I’m going to do when when run out of names to remember when I see them on library shelves. Anyway, She Talks to Beethoven incorporated the often problematic historical-figure-brings-wisdom-to-another-time trope, which I’m not such a big fan of. However the fact that he was sent by the main character’s husband to be with her during his disappearance, and that he was bond between them who they had argued about the morning he left, gave it some legitimate emotional weight. The other play, The Ohio State Murders, I haven’t finished so I shouldn’t really write about it, but I do appreciate the ambition of a play in the past tense and although I don’t know if I like it I think it uses memory more skillfully than most. Also it makes me suspect that Jordan Harrison was the one who recommended it because his play Doris to Darlene was pretty obviously influenced by it (I liked his better though).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving forwards/backwards

I applied for an internship at Ensemble Studio Theater today. It’s unpaid and I said I could work 30-40 hours. I just want to get involved again at this point and stuff like this is what makes the most sense. It’s one of the most respected new works theaters around, they run a writers group I was recently rejected from but would like to have another crack at next year, if I get it (and I think I might finally be over-qualified for something) I’ll be reading new works and maybe have an active role in development. This would be good for me. Not financially of course but, you know... something. And if I do something like this then it’ll be a lot easier for me to stomach getting a mindless part time job. When I came here I said that I was sick of working for nothing but a pat on the head, that I would get a job that was actually a job, but here I am, applying for internships, same when I was in school.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Some promises and some pretension

Okay. I need to be back. I need to really do this, commit to keeping up with my blog. Even if I don’t hit the deadlines I set for myself, even if I don’t get a job, no matter what, I need to start doing this again and I will. I am back, back to daily updates, back to thinking seriously and doing something theatre related five days a week. If on any day I fail to do something theatre related I will at least write about something theatre-y that’s on my mind. Even if it’s about how I feel about the format of published plays, musings on how many layers of black paint are on the average stage, the difference between “theatre” and “theater” or something else equally inane, I will post.

On that note, here’s something:
While I was on the train to return books to the library I read Beckett’s Happy Days. I read half of it really, then I sat in Bryant Park and read the other half. I hadn’t been reading my Beckett because it’s not easy, he gives you so much, such precise language, grammar, stage directions but really it’s nothing at all. I mean it’s amazing, but without information it can be hard to get a grip on something. Beckett is a master of essence (at least that’s what Albee said in his intro), he’s a master of making you feel something, or love, or hate, or pity a character without you ever knowing why. He makes you feel like you know a person without biography or history, without names really, he seems to posit that you can learn more about a person from hearing them describe a particularly good ham sandwich than you can from hearing them describe their father’s death, and it seems like he’s right. I can’t tell you what was beautiful about Happy Days but I know it was there, I know that play had something in it. I returned my copy of Beckett’s plays to the library, its better that way, it’s better for me to read them one at a time, not to be able to go back, not to be able to try to decode them. Meanwhile a copy of Waiting for Godot and a copy of Krapp’s Last Tape burn a hole in my bookshelf and become less magical every time I read them. It’s better for their lightness to be preserved and for me to remember that knowing everything is the worst way to understand something.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learning stuff, and stuff

On Monday I went to a panel discussion at the Lucille Lortel, it was the Stella Adler Studio’s closing of their Harold Clurman festival, which I know absolutely nothing about. Enough names for you in that sentence? I wouldn’t have known about this discussion either except my friend Aryana had an extra ticket and her boyfriend would rather have chewed off his own foot than attend (former film major, no respect for the theatre). anyway, it was centered around a book I haven’t read (I read a review, does that count?) called The Necessity of Theatre, which, among other things, broadens the definition of theatre to include things like football games and weddings. Having not read the book I can’t be sure, but I think that the general idea is that theatre is anything that requires one group of people to watch another and feel something collectively. I guess that’s kind of beautiful but it doesn’t make me like or respect either football or weddings. Anyway, the other major thing that I think the book dealt with was what it means to be part of an audience and how watching as well as making drama makes us more human. I’m pretty sure the answer was something about empathy but they didn’t go into much detail about that.

So, the author Paul Woodruff was on the panel, but he’s a British philosophy professor who teaches somewhere in Texas and was barely allowed to speak. Also featured (a bit more prominently) were the director Anne Bogart (who I saw speak at Purchase and liked despite the fact that she directed the god-awful Charles Mee play Hotel Cassiopeia), Ben Cameron from the Doris Duke Foundation, Peter Meineck who translated several ancient Greek texts with Woodruff and I think does something else too, and the woman who head the acting program at NYU whose name I can’t readily find. They were theatre people (which is why they so easily upstaged a philosopher), they cared about the subject, they spoke well, and they loved the book.

The major themes that emerged where education, innovation, technology, funding, a changing of the guard and audience outreach. They talked about how audiences were dwindling, how in a time when people where consuming more entertainment than ever the theatre isn’t a part of their lives, how people feel closed out of theatre. They talked about technology in two senses and moved without warning between stage technology, rotating stages, projections, holograms which could open theatre up in incredible ways but needed to be used wisely so as not to strip a play of it’s humanity, and technology as enemy, the internet and TV that keep people at home and the phone calls and texts that haunt them even if they make it to the theater. Also, they talked about house lights and Anne Bogart called Stephen Spielburg a fascist, Wagner too, but that might be more literally accurate. Bogart also announced that “post-modernism is over”, which is frankly a relief. She seemed pretty relieved about it too, but she also thought it was on us (the young people) to come up with a name for the new thing. A couple of them, mostly Cameron, talked about how nobody believes in “art for art’s sake” anymore and that art need to prove it’s social value if it wants money (and art’s always hungry for money), which he says isn’t such a bad thing for art because it’s been lazy and self referential for too long. Needless to say he’s a funding guy. I don’t know how I feel about that point, I mean I guess I don’t think art or theatre should be a closed circle, viewed only by the people who consider themselves worthy of making it, but if you say that a play needs to promote diversity, or teach kids about STDs (have they changed it STIs, I can never keep it straight), or draw attention to a genocide, or to gay rights, than there’s no place for what I’m interested in. I know that my life experience is considered invalid and over played, that I’m upper-middle class, atheist, white, young, self-absorbed, that my vocabulary is not child-friendly, that my work is generally about how hard it is keep yourself breathing rather than about global warming, but... I don’t remember where I was going with this. Anyway, I don’t like it I don’t like the idea that good work (not that mine is) isn’t valuable enough to society, especially when so much that apparently has social value is such crap. Back to the discussion. The talked about how the current generation of artistic directors is retiring (the ones who where mentored by and took over directly from the people who the theaters are named after) and young directors won’t replace them unless they are allowed to take these institutions in their own directions. That means that turmoil with might mean interesting stuff.

All in all it was interesting and thought provoking, but it ended on a sour note (for me at least). An actor got up and asked the final question which was something like “how can we as actors experiment and express ourselves and connect with the audience and still respect the writer’s text”, okay the truth is that it was an actor question and I wasn’t totally paying attention, but the answer I heard, Paul Woodruff, the author of The Necessity of Theatre and translator of ancient texts said “screw the writer”.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I got rejected from Youngblood today, it’s not surprising and it was a nice e-mail (although I’m sure it’s to one everybody who isn’t good enough gets).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bad News and Potentially Good News

I can’t write today, it’s a terrible start to my ambitious new plan but it is the result of circumstances beyond my control. See this plan was formed last Friday when I was unaware that my mom was coming down to the city today, and it was cemented Monday when, although I knew she was coming and wasn’t going to be here until 4PM, I did not know that I would have a job interview at noon today. Writing a ten minute play essentially requires me to set aside four hours of uninterrupted time (after three days of consideration), and I don’t just need to be physically at my computer for that time, I need to be mentally there(here). Even if I had gone to be early last night (I couldn't get to sleep until 4:30) and gotten up at 6 it would have been very difficult for me to keep my head in my work with my interview fast approaching. Afterwords I came back and only had about 2 and a half hours before I have to go out again. So, no writing. I’m doing the leg work though, researching, image inspirations, finding names, stuff like that and I’m going to drug myself with Nyquil tonight, go to sleep at a somewhat decent hour, set an alarm (which I never do), get up tomorrow and write this thing.

My interview went well: I really liked the guy I hope to be working for. I never do as well as I want to when it comes to “do you have any questions about our organization”, but other than that I think I made a good impression. I’m sure they talk to everybody like they already have the job (I mean, the conditional tense is such a pain in the ass to use) but was comforting to hear phrases like “you’ll be my right hand”, “we’ll call you Monday to come in for a trial and see how you fit in”, “I might need you to write grant proposals”. Also he told me to send him my script, which I’ll send along with my "thank you for meeting with me" e-mail. I know there's a whole system o thought about hand written thank yous but the theatre moves faster than the post office and I just can't afford to be that old fashioned. At present I’m cautiously optimistic but I’m sure that by Monday I’ll have worked myself down to certain of failure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

48 Hour Stoppard-over in Brooklyn

I missed yesterday but I’ve been reading at truly alarming rate so I have lots and lots of Stoppard to talk about.

I really liked The Real Inspector Hound: the play features two theater critics occupying seating block which mirrors the actual audience, and watching a truly awful murder mystery farce. The critics’ hushed discourse on the one’s professional rivalries and the other’s dalliances with ingenues weave into the play they’re watching until they are dragged into the story themselves. it’s really good.

After Marguerite was almost but not quite as good. It was a comedy about a couple and one of their (they were not in agreement as to whose) mother preparing to go out and being questioned by the police in their very odd living room. Like Hound it demonstrated Stoppard’s talent for farce, linguistic play and the accumulation of circumstances.

Dirty Linen was centered on a cabinet meeting at British Parliament about the improper sexual intrigues of MPs as reported by local papers. Nearly every person at the meeting had slept with the clerk. I didn’t really like it. It was kind of tedious, the language and characters of parliament were broadly drawn and didn’t seem to be as familiar to Stoppard as those of the theatre (for obvious reasons).

New-Found-Land was kind of unbearable.

So far I love Dogg’s Hamlet but I’m less than half way through it so I’ll reserve judgement.

Also, I have a job interview tomorrow for the personal assistant job I applied for on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Quick Update

So, I just applied for a job. Part time personal/office assistant to the Artistic Director of a non-profit. Eight dollars an hour, ten to twenty hours a week, just a hair over minimum wage is more than I’ve made for four years, actually it’s more than I’ve made ever. I may have implied that I’m slightly better with Excel than I actually am but other than that my cover letter was totally truthful and I hope he or she thinks my unusual background prepares me for administration as well as I claim it does. As an added challenge there was absolutely no information about who this company is, so it was really hard to tell them that I admire their work and want to be a part of it, which made the cover letter a little difficult to write. At least this job interviews Friday and probably hires by Monday so at least I’ll know fast that I’m not getting it.

Writers Read

Today was less ambitious but almost as high-minded as yesterday: it was another library day. I’m going old school this week: early Stoppard and Beckett. And although I promised Aubrey I’d read Arcadia, it’s going to have to wait a little longer because it hadn’t been returned to the library I went to (somebody owes 15 cents) and I was feeling sick and didn’t want to shlep all the way uptown. I was at the Jefferson Market Branch which is very pretty in a story book kind of way, the staircase is in a clock tower, it has non-religious stained glass, and there’s no way for the space to be economically used for books. I have no idea what this building used to be but there’s probably a plaque. It doesn’t seem possible that it was a market. Anyway I picked up The Real Inspector Hound and other plays by Tom Stoppard and Samuel Beckett Volume III: Dramatic Works (it’s part of a very handsome set). By next week I intend to be more enlightened. They’re both linguistic masters, possible the greatest of their respective times and it’s about time I educated myself further, plus I’m watching too much TV and becoming too preoccupied with motion, I need to get back to talk or else I won’t write. (Plus I really like what I wrote after reading Krapp’s Last Tape, even if it is two pages long and requires the hanging of three actresses.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

20 Minutes a Week

I wrote a ten minute play today. It wasn’t very good, but it’s good that I did it and it kicks off my new program which is tentatively titled “20 Minutes a Week”. The new plan is that I will write ten page (presumably ten minute) plays every Monday and Friday in response to a prompt to announced the Monday or Friday before. This means that independent of any work I do on existing scripts I’ll be producing 20 new minutes of stage time every week, which is what the name refers to. Prompts may be a phrase, an image, a single word, a quote, whatever I come up with (usually they will be completely random and chosen without any preconceived idea of what the play will be).

Today’s prompt: hothouse flower
Friday’s prompt: unmentionables

See, I’m having some trouble functioning without the structure of academia so I’m simulating it. What I’m trying to do is create both deadlines and consequences, the deadlines are self explanatory, but consequences come from the fact that because I’ve now committed to this in the blog people will know if I don’t follow through. I guess I could lie but that seems to contradict the spirit of the whole thing, so I won’t. Anyway that’s it, look for future non sequiturs in the coming weeks, tagged on to Monday and Friday posts.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More Excuses

Today I have much the same excuse as yesterday for not spending the day soaked up to the neck in theatre stew, except that I was painting my friend’s apartment instead o mine and it was much, much more work. It reminded me of being on build and made me miss theatre.
I know that builds are long and strenuous and messy, and rushed, and I never fail to miss a meal call and reach red alert hunger level, but I miss it. I miss painting, setting props, losing things, tech-ing during rehearsal, hating actors with a passion, being confused when I leave the building and see that it’s dark outside, or if we’ve really been working, see that it’s light. I actually like fourteen hour days at a theater, and I always have (even when I’ve complained about them) it feels like being part of the most important thing in the world, and I’ve never liked going home when there’s still work to do.
I’m still working on how to translate those feelings into something that will feed and house me, but I just wanted to share them.


Okay, I didn’t accomplish anything theatre related today because I was pretty focused on painting my room but here’s a thing that I’m thinking about based on recent reading: I don’t like lecture plays.
There I said it. I just don’t. Christopher Durang’s Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You is a possible exception, but even Sister Mary starts to grate before the other characters come in. It’s pretty self explanatory but I feel like I should clarify that a lecture play is a play dominated by a single person talking directly to the audience, acknowledging that they are an audience and educating them on some subject (personal, anecdotal or academic) in which the speaker is presumably an expert.
It doesn’t sound very interesting, does it? It’s not. I’m sick of it, I’m sick of people putting a short story into a character's mouth, giving them a prop to fiddle around with, having them flail around the stage a bit when the story gets dull, and calling it a play. There’s no change in these plays (change is what makes something like Ignatius an exception and really not a lecture play at all) the characters are never challenged in their ideas or their sincerity and that never grow or fail, they just are, they just talk, then we all just leave. I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’m saying that I don’t recognize that as drama. I dare anyone to tell me it is.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some Reading, Some Griping

I read a play today. It was pretty good but I did not manage to get excited about it. It was from the same book I was reading yesterday and was called She Stoops to Comedy, I don’t have the book in front of me so I’m not sure but I think it was by David Greenspan. The play was about an actress (to be played by a man who is never to be in drag) who having recently broken up with her girlfriend disguises herself as a man and gets cast as Orlando in a production of As You Like It which stars her ex- as Rosalind. it’s kind of a farce, and kind of a backstage comedy, and kind of queer theatre piece, but really it’s about theatre conventions: fourth wall, soliloquy, cross dressing, cross casting, post-modern stagings of the classics, the looming specter of film, changes between drafts (there’s a character who is either an archeologist or a lighting designer depending on the scene and everyone is very open about the fact that this was change the writer considered mid-development and never really settled) et cetera. And in that way it was pretty entertaining, but there were a lot of inside jokes and although I knew almost half the references it was a bit tedious and a little preoccupied with being smart about theatre as artifice.

In an unrelated matter: is really poorly designed website. I spent about forty-five minutes today going through all twenty seven pages, every posting they have. I went through every job because their location sorter is apparently entirely ornamental. I’m sorry but I refuse to believe that there are no theatre job postings for New York, NY. On top of that there is no obvious logic to how the jobs are sorted, the site doesn’t include a posting date so I don’t really know what’s new and what’s old. All they have is an expiration date for the listing ,and many of those are actually set to after the jobs they advertise are finished (I know because there where a lot of jobs listed as “last minute” (which I think just means that the listing is about to expire, not that the companies are desperate) for shows that had August runs). They even have a setting where you can only view postings after a certain date but when I tried to use it it said there were no jobs posted in the last two months which I, being a frequent visiter know isn’t true. The truly maddening thing is that they know what people want in a job seach site, you can tell they know because they put it there. so you log on and everything looks great, then, slowly, you realize that it was all a lie.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Deep breath.
I just sent out an application. It isn’t the kind of work I’ve been applying for up to now, but it would be really good for me if they decided against all odds to hire me. It’s a position as development assistant for this great downtown theater that focuses on the development of new work: a creative environment, new plays, great people to know, possibility of advancement within the organization. It’s a year long part time job that pays $10,000, which is about minimum wage but that’s really good for entry level in the arts. If I get it I’ll still have to get something supplementary, but that’s not unexpected.
I am, of course, totally under qualified. they want someone with a background in arts administration. I don’t have one of those so I wrote them a really sincere cover letter, which talked about how much I believe in their mission, admitted that I don’t have an administrative background and told them that I was a good writer and know how to talk to people. essentially my strategy was to make them like me, name drop my teacher whose reading I saw there, tell them I love them, and swear that I’ll try. All I can hope is that they find my earnestness interesting enough that they want to meet me. If I can get an interview I think I have a shot. They also wanted writing samples so I gave them two two page writing assignments from school (I didn’t know what exactly they wanted) one was a pretty negative review of Tracy Bersely’s production of Measure for Measure, and the other was about upward mobility in Manhattan Transfer. Because I didn’t know what they wanted I gave them evidence that i can think critically and form my own ideas and evidence that I can assess and speak coherently about a theatrical production. I hope that’s what they were looking for.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bad Blogger

Okay, so I haven’t been posting. I could tell you that I’ve been busy reading a novel or two and a few plays, fighting various bureaucracies, being berated by strangers, getting drastic haircuts and smashing my head on river rocks. That’s all true but it’s not an excuse. The point of this blog was to post every week day and I’ve failed to do this. So: mea culpa, I’ll try to be better. The past two weeks have been incredibly weird but we’re looking forward and getting back theatre and self discipline... and to being a good blogger.

Today I read about half of Play: a Journal of Plays, Volume 3. It’s a very modern collection of (you guessed it) plays that was edited by two of my former teachers (Jordan Harrison and Sally Oswald) I really liked the first play, The Lincolnshire Poacher by David Bost: it was short, it had characters, it had a really interesting premise and real emotional weight. Also, all the dialogue was written in an invented short wave radio code. Very cool, very me, it was my kind of construction, my kind of resolution... I almost felt like I could have written this play, in the best possible way.
I’ve also read most of The Always/Never Her Trilogy by Lisa D’Amour and Katie Pearl, and I don’t like it nearly as much. What I will say is that these are less plays than assembly instructions for a theatrical experience and that’s totally valid but a lot less suited for the page. There are directions and dialogue like in any play but these are deconstructed, site specific pieces with built in gaps for a performer or director’s self expression. What i struggle with in this piece and pieces like it is the problem of emotional disconnect, they feature strange stories (told rather than directly dramatized) but the persistent visual weirdness and the speakers’ detachment distance the audience from the emotions of these stories. to be fair i have a feeling that the inherent coldness of stage directions was the real problem and in performance i might like these plays a lot. There really is nothing more painful than reading directions for interpretive dance... although I also kind of hate interpretive dance.

(It should be stated that this is my definition of interpretive dance: an unchoreographed, semi- or self-choreographed segment of movement, usually performed by a non-dancer, to fill in an emotional beat ill defined by text)

I also applied for a job: a costume apprenticeship at a mostly modern dress Shakespeare company that pays a stipend, I don’t know how much.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I applied to a wardrobe assistant job at a community college in Brooklyn today. I'm not sure how coherent my letter was, as it written in a nyquil haze, but I’d be really well suited for the job: it’s part time it has benefits starting 6 months in, it includes managing the costume shop, doing some general PA stuff on shows, costume work, and over seeing student projects. It was posted 12 days ago so it might already be filled.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Social norms and the women who love them

See, there’s a (at least to me) unforeseen consequence of reading plays in public: in my two weeks of data gathering this was the second instance of an actor striking up a conversation. That’s a lot for me. Strangers don’t talk to me. In that time, in a city of a million people, the only other person who talked to me was an old Slavic woman at Whole Foods (we where both looking for rye flour). I assume that I’m unapproachable because I appear focused, or upset, or busy, or not to give a shit about people, but for whatever reason nobody in libraries or subways or the post office ever talks to me. When I’m caught reading a play, however, the rules are apparently different.

The first time somebody asked me if I was an actor, in the library elevator (the first time in the period in question that I saw another human being while clutching an arm full of plays) I just said “oh,” and the doors opened and that was it. Actually I think it might have happened again in the park but I don’t exactly remember.

Well, last week I was reading American Buffalo on my train platform and this guy asked if I was an actor, without really thinking about it I said “no, I’m a writer” what I didn’t foresee because I wasn’t paying attention was that we were not in an elevator where the doors would open and the exchange would reach a natural end, but sitting next to each other, waiting for the same train. I had made eye contact and given a piece of information about myself, so etiquette dictated that I ask him the obvious question and predictably it turned out that he was an actor. So then there was a ten minute wait and we couldn’t exactly ignore that we knew each others professions and that we were in the same field. We exchanged light shop talk and basic biographical information and he gave me his e-mail and said he’d like to read some of my stuff. Then there was a ten minute train ride, and when I got to my stop he reminded me to send him something.

Now, I’m not an idiot and my talent for self deception is good but it’s not quite that good, so I’m pretty sure I was being chatted up. I enjoyed talking to the guy but I don’t think I’m interested in (for lack of a vaguer term) dating him. So, is the right thing to do not to send him my work? Actors are good people to know. Strangers are good people to get to read your work. I don’t know any one or meet anyone and I shouldn’t pass up opportunities for contacts. I’ve been meaning to copyright my submission portfolio (which is just anything I have written that I’d consider submitting to theaters, groups, contests, or grant organizations), so I’ve used the fact that my work is unprotected as further reason not to deal with this. But for all I know this guy was just being friendly, or trying to make a professional contact, it’s good for unemployed actors to know unknown writers, maybe he was looking to get cast in a reading... I’ve never had feel for this stuff, I don’t know how I’ve survived this long with no intuition at all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More reading

Last week was obviously wash in terms of my noble ambition of posting everyday. I haven’t posted since Tuesday: that is truly a disgrace. I’ve two read plays in that time but it’s mostly I’ve been fulfilling familial obligations. Anyway, here’s my reading news:

Last Monday I took another trip to the library and picked up four plays. Two about suicidal women, one about the American dream and one about being young and crazy and hopped up on speed (I think, I didn’t know the writer but the cover was very colorful and everything else i got was so heavy). So at present I’ve finished Susan Sontag’s Alice in Bed and David Mamet’s American Buffalo.

Sontag’s Alice in Bed: it’s the story of Henry James’s sister Alice who spent her entire life as a recluse with a mortality obsession, but the play is infused with Alice in Wonderland is a pretty subtle (obvious but not beating you over the head with it) way. It was neither bad nor great, and while it hardly represented a revelation it was rarely a chore to read. The one thing I want to talk about is the second act of the play (I don’t have it in front of me so I’m not positive it was divided into acts, but this was the large middle section) which consisted of an imagined tea party with the 19th century women, living dead and fictional, who Alice admired, gathered to give perspectives on mortality. This is well trod and muddy ground in playwriting; manipulating the voices of one’s idols can be illuminating and give the work both a place in history and a timelessness, or it can be an exercise in intellectual masturbation. Alice in Bed oscillated. The two characters that best represent the extremes were Margaret Fuller and Emily Dickinson. Fuller she got right: the character was solid and well drawn, a pragmatist who believed in life and engaged Alice, holding her position while addressing Alice’s. Dickinson was unbearable (particularly because I saw a friend of mine write her well three years ago), she spouted lines and was totally detached from the scene, wandering in and out without any concern for her fellow characters. I know what charactor/caricature of Dickinson exist in the public consciousness (mine too) but detachment just isn’t good theatre, who cares about a character who doesn’t care about what they’re saying or doing? What was the effect of Sontag’s Dickinson.

Maybe I’ll talk about American Buffalo tomorrow, maybe not.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weird, weird news from the land of adaptations

I had to post again because yesterday I was indulging my nasty little podcast addiction and I heard two pieces of very odd news.

The first was courtesy of the NYtheatrecast: at the end of a discussion with three producers of independent opera they each announced their seasons. Among the aria cabarets, winter solstice orchestra showcases, and Hansel and Gretels was a workshop of a new adaptation of Tom Stoppard’s Rozencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead, with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Opera, Stoppard, modern dance. In response to this disorienting news I e-mailed my friend Aubrey for whom Tom Stoppard might just be the center of the universe. I am glad to say that I am not alone in my confusion.

The second came from NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!: I’m just going to come out and say it this time: Disney, David Mamet and the Diary of Anne Frank. Another Fellini-esque trio and possible evidence of the coming apocalypse. To repeat: David Mamet is adapting the Diary of Anne Frank for Disney. But it’s okay, they’re going to down play all the Nazi stuff and pitch it as a young girl’s “coming of age story”.. No word on what rating this movie will carry but is hard to imagine Mamet’s clipped, curse-laden, dialogue in the mouth of any thirteen year old girl, much less Anne fucking Frank.

Futile efforts/who knew I was so plucky?

I just sent in an application. I feel terrible about it. You know how I always think that I don’t have a chance at getting anything I want? This time I sent the application in late. I applied to Youngblood, which is the emerging writers group at EST, it’s an organization I’ve known existed for two years but I completely forgot about it until today. So I went on their website today and checked the due date for the application: August 15.

I was crushed. I can’t believe how stupid I am. I can’t believe I forgot about this opportunity. I had three choices:
1. curl up and die/dwell on this and what it says about me as a human being and it’s various implications for future failure.
2. try to shrug it off and drown my sorrows in distractions.
3. apply anyway and pray for mercy.

In a deeply uncharacteristic demonstration of grit, I opted for #3 (with a side of #1, let’s face it #1 was getting in no matter what). I took an hour and rewrote my artistic statement, I made a PDF with that statement, my resume, the ten minute play from my senior showcase, and the one act I talked about expanding in my statement (they requested 50 pages and this seemed like a better move than chopping the ending off my full length play). I sent it, with this in the body of the e-mail:

I know that this is late and I apologize, but I hope you will consider it anyway. I would love to be a part of your organization and if you choose not to accept this application I look forward to applying again next year. Thank you very much either way.

Kate Pressman

I don’t have a shot in Hell.


I love instant gratification and here is:


No worries, we can get you into the pool. Thanks for the application, and we'll be in touch around mid-September.


Monday, August 17, 2009

More Theatre Consumption

I read another play and I saw a play.

The play I saw was Space//Space at the Ohio, by the company Banana Bag and Bodice. It was weird. In it’s defense (or at least to clarify) it was aware of being weird and possibly driven by the goal of being weird. It was the story of two “bothers” who had been launched into space in a pod and had some stuff to work out.

Questions that were explicitly in dialogue asked but not answered: why were they sent out with vinyl records and a turn table? Why was one of them a girl? Why were they in space? What was the deal with the sandwiches? What happened to earth? What was in the blue tubes? What’s the deal with space noise?

Useless complications in the reality of the play: I have to bring up space noise again, see what would happen is this: there were noises that we were told came from space, and sometimes the noises and the lights and one of the two characters would go crazy, like he/she was being possessed by the noise. There was no explanation, or change, or exploration, or dramatic payoff for this phenomenon, it was just a bit of random weirdness. The annoying thing was that it felt important. There was also no need for them to have been brothers on earth, I don’t even think there was any need for her to have been male on Earth because although they talked at length about the fact of this change they never came to an conclusions about what caused it. Essentially this was the conversation: “why am I like this?” “I don’t know” over and over with different words. Plus it had no bearing on their relationship at the moment of the play.

The whole story really was that he was a man locked for three years in a tiny space with an unconscious woman and she wakes up disoriented and demanding answers. It’s that simple and that classic. It’s a man and a woman and hormones being what they are, what happens. There was a lot of other window dressing but none of it amounted to anything: there were no answers, there where barely theories. this wouldn’t have been a problem if this was a reality that both characters just accepted (I use that trick all the time) but she just kept asking questions and pointing out what we weren’t being told.

The set was cool, the lighting was cool, the sound design was very good, the acting was middle of the road and over burdened with that weird actor/writer gravity. It was basically a decent theatre experience.

I saw some people I barely knew from school and had to say “hi”, that was awkward.

I also read Neil LeBute’s The Shape of Things: it was good but not the kind of thing I kept thinking about after it was over.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

As Promised

So I read that last play last night and here’s the verdict:

Paula Vogel’s Mammary Plays: first of all, aptly named collection. both plays featured a preoccupation with their main character breasts, one with the attention they garnered and the other with their presence or absence (I’ll explain). The first was How I Learned to Drive, it was incredibly critically acclaimed and won a whole slew of awards and I can tell why: it was really good. The second, The Mineola Twins, was not as known and not as good though equally busty.

On the back cover How I Learned to Drive is described as a “delicately told tale of the sexual awakening of a young girl under the tutelage of her uncle” which is accurate and succinct but fails to capture what’s haunting about the play. Vogel paints a relationship that is inarguably characterized by pedophilia, but with such sadness and love that you want to argue it. It’s simultaneously sick and sincere and inexorable, and as a reader I found myself grappling for an explanation, for a way for it all to be alright. The characters clung to the perception that they were right and good and they hurt each other with the purest of intentions while still somehow knowing the truth. One the other side, there where staging elements I had trouble imaging (primarily because of my own limitations in that area) and of course the specter of double casting that haunts the modern theatre made itself known. The play required a Greek chorus, which could act as a literal crowd, at a dance, or the gym class showers or in the kitchen, and as a vague presence observing and judging, and from which members could be pulled to play small parts in the story. I’m sorry, but three people does not a Greek chorus make. Maybe I’d feel different seeing it but reading it made me wish we weren’t slaves to finance.

Mineola Twins was nowhere near the same level, it was billed as a political satire but the joke never quite landed and the most effective moments where the dream sequences that occupied a kind of familiar meta reality of movie moments and eerie twin connectedness. I should go back. The play is about a pair of identical twins named Myrna and Myra living their separate and connected lives from 1959 to 1989. One is chaste, then married, then republican, then a Christian talk show host, the other is a promiscuous beatnik, then a radical hippy, than a fugitive of the US government, then a lesbian. The prude is well endowed and the rebel is flat chested, thats how we’re supposed to tell them apart (except when their masquerading as each other). I don’t really know what to say about it. The characters were kind of broadly drawn, and the time gaps made many scenes feel either expository (if she chose to catch the audience up on the last ten years) or disorienting (if she didn’t).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gone Readin'

I started reading plays again this week. I think I mentioned Monday that I went to the Library and picked up some recommended reading, well in the intervening days I’ve read four plays (three by Wallace Shawn and one by Paula Vogel) and I’ll probably read the last Vogel play by Monday. This of course conjures plans of Library Mondays in which this fallow period (writing wise) will be one of intellectual growth in which I’ll read five plays a week, refilling my coffer every Monday with new dramatic riches (the management apologizes for the weak metaphor). This is of course bullshit.

I’m a notorious binge reader, I’m a slow reader (bottom two percent for my IQ, mother fuckers) but when I get that reading feeling I’ll spend days doing very little else. Plays don’t even require that kind of fanatical devotion, plays are quick reads and in fact I’ve had to force myself to leave time in between plays so I could process them (albeit hardly enough time). Time is the enemy of these moods, doing other things dampens the apatite and makes it more likely that I won’t return. The point that this paragraph failed to capture is that I’ve never been a reliable reader, either I feel like reading or I don’t, I embrace it or a shun it, I don’t read thirty pages a day at the same time every day, I read two books in a long weekend and never see the sun then I don’t read for a month. The point is that to expect that my current book consumption rate will last is ludicrous.

Anyway here’s a little on what I read:

Wallace Shawn’s A Thought in Three Parts: this one was three acts written in very different styles dealing with the theme of sexual isolation (this is a big, big theme for Shawn, he’s all about people getting what they ask for but not getting what they want out of it). The first act features a couple in a hotel room having two conversations but they never both occupy the same conversation at the same time, the mundane and the imperative are discussed with equal weight and heard with equal indifference. I don’t even remember if they have sex, but their dissatisfaction which each other and themselves certainly has sexual overtones, or undertones, frankly the text and the subtext are so intertwined that it’s hard to know which is a metaphor for which.

The second is a bizarre farcical orgy taking place between five characters that manages to be both madcap and sad. The perpetual switching of partners and graphic onstage sex are a little overwhelming (in the way all farce can be on the page) but I think Shawn makes his point about detachment and the futility of desire. Also it posed a problem to the stage manager part of my brain, which has considered the challenges of blood and urine (only in abstract, thankfully), but never been faced with simulating the appearance of other bodily fluids. It would have to be simulated because what Shawn demands is physically impossible or, barring a very strange and rigorous audition process, patently un-castable.

The third act was a monologue, presumably delivered on a stage covered with the products of the previous act, which I don’t think shone to its full potential on the page. After the frantic activity that proceeded it I think the detached, image driven stream of consciousness monologue would have taken on a kind of arresting gravity but reading it it just felt a bit dead, but then perhaps that was the effect: it was delivered by a character named Mr. Frivolous.

One last fun fact about this play, then I swear I’m done, I looked at the production history of the play so I could place it historically (it premiered in ’76, big surprise) and I saw that Judy, one of the characters in the middle act was played by my very own former teacher (renowned playwright) Kathleen Tolan.

I was planning on talking about the others plays I read but I think this post is long enough. I’m sure more reviews will be forthcoming.

Please excuse the vaguely schizophrenic use of parentheticals in this post.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mission Accomplished

This post was written yesterday and would have been posted yesterday if my internet were even remotely reliable.

Today I handed in my application- literally handed in- my application for the Emerging Writers Group at the Public. I took two subways, printed my submission at a Kinko's, painstakingly filled out all three copies of the form with the guy-behind-counter’s pen (making only one mistake), put binder-clips (brought from my apartment for the occasion) on both copies of the script, carefully slid the copies, the forms, the resumes and the artistic statements in to a pre-addressed 10x12 envelope (also brought from home), walked the remaining block and a half to the theater, pulled the door opened (I read the handle so as not to embarrass myself), walked up the stairs and over to the information desk, the receptionist (a black man with glasses in his late fifties) glanced up and said “yes?”. That was the last time he looked at or spoke to me in our exchange.

It was anticlimactic. Predictably so. I felt the relief and dread that I anticipated, but not for long and not very strongly. This is the problem with everything I do, from getting an apartment, to getting into college, to getting out of bed: as difficult, daunting and important as things seem, when I’ve done them it doesn't feel like I’ve accomplished much of anything. I’ve wasted time and energy, I’ve complained and obsessed and probably alienated people, and all for nothing. I makes me feel like an idiot.

In theory this is the hardest application I’ll ever do: my first major one. After this the empty “so what” feeling will probably be a constant, but the anticipatory “this will never happen” feeling should lessen. So at least there’s that. They should also get done faster now that I have two versions of an artistic statement, a solid resume and secured references. Most importantly I’ve now given my play to strangers once and survived. The idea of it feels better already, or at least reading other submission requirements it feels less like they’re asking me to chop off my fingers and consign them to the USPS.

Weird Tuesday catch up post

I missed Tuesday and this whole project is worthless without discipline so here’s something. It started out as a kind of musing but completely of its own accord morphed into a mini-narrative. I think it makes the switch too abruptly but I got sick of trying to figure out how to fix it, and it didn't seem worth it to dwell for a week on a blog posting:

It’s common for writers to say that their works are like their children. They feel like they generated this thing, brought it out of themselves through a kind of mystical but painful alchemy, and there is bond with the work based both on that shared experience of creation and a kind of genetic recognition. They describe feeling protective, defensive, loving.

That’s not exactly my experience. As an only child I can’t be sure but I think I regard my texts more like siblings. I know that in a temporal, cause-and-effect kind of way that position makes no sense, but cause and effect have never been my strong suit and I have the plot problems to prove it. But despite that I’m inclined to cling to this portrait o my work or of my attachment to it. I don’t have the tenderness that other writers describe but I do have something, something as basic and as complex.

To be clear, Ours is not a blissful, two peas in a pod, finish each other's sentences, braid each other's hair kind of sibling relationship. As much time as we spend together we are not close. It’s the tense truce of kids who are too unhappy and too much alike, forced to sit too close together in the backseat of car- no, I’m older, I’m driving, he has to go to a special school an hour and half away, has to be driven there and back every day. We sit in silence or with NPR playing, and although it’s what we both would pick where we alone, it fails to generate a feeling of camaraderie, and the inherent monotony of it fails to ease the tension as music might. I feel myself looking sideways at him in a distrusting sort of way and seeing myself, but oddly distorted, as if he’s made of the same parts but they happened to come together in a different order. There’s something uncomfortable about how familiar the features are, how he looks like me but not exactly like me, how he sounds and thinks the way I sound and think but with jarring exaggerations, subversions and deviations. Maybe it’s just that I can see, laid bare in him, all the things I’ve strived to keep buried in myself: the weakness, and the meanness, and the pride in his intelligence, and the certainty of his damnation. I don’t hate him. Even though he’s everything I hate about myself, made simpler, courser, slower, I don’t hate him. I can’t. We’re too close, something deep inside my brain recognizes him as mine, as being indistinguishable from me, as sharing too much of what I am. We’re more than kin and less than kind; as much as we’re alike it’s the anomalies, the fact that we’re immutably disparate animals, that make the recognition sharper, more personal, closer to the bone.

He looks straight ahead through the windshield, thinking his own sick, broken thoughts, wanting things he can’t name because he knows only the words I’ve taught him. If I had been kind he might have been happy, but kindness isn’t in my nature. But then, if we’re accepting the idea of natures, happiness isn’t in his. He maintains an expressionless focus, the same blank concentration I had when I was his age, and which I can still find in myself now if I allow for it. He’s absorbing the whole world and giving it nothing in return, learning the bumps on the horizon, the license plates on passing cars, the voice of Terry Gross, filling himself up and feeling empty.

I signal, turn left into the drive, the dark trees close over the car as it joins the cue, all waiting to unload in front of the austere wooden structure, relentlessly utilitarian, classically New England. We don’t look at each other, there’s no need, we can both learn more about the world from looking at anything else. He and I. We maintain our silence, heavy and fragile, as familiar and comforting, as suffocating as snow. Finally we’re at the front of the line, he gathers his things and opens his door, makes his careful way up the walk. I watch him, directly for the first time on our ride and only now that he can’t see me doing it. He never looks back, but I can’t leave, I can’t bear to drive away until I see him disappear behind the door.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Improving my mind

Well, the inconvenient internet snafu persists so I haven’t submitted my application. I did go to the website and click on the link about a million times in both the Mac and PC sides of my computer. That seemed pretty constructive.

Enough about non-action. The main thing I did today was go the New York Public Library and check out their plays. It was a good selection, and I didn't even go to the Lincoln Center branch which I think houses their big showy collection (it’s probably all rare recordings and no take home content).

The standard fare advice for young writers (besides telling us to write) is telling us to read. Everybody says if you want to write you have to read, you have to internalize the written word, expose yourself to a diversity of styles and points of view because there’s no telling what’ll inspire you. In theatre they tell you to see as much as you possibly can for the same reason. As lovely and important as that all is there are also practical concerns: theatre (like art, design, music, literature, film, and I assume medicine and animal husbandry) is a somewhat insular and snobbish world. everyone has essentially the same knowledge base and if you haven't done your homework you’ve got nothing to talk about.

I’m cheap. This is a good thing because I’m unemployed and if I weren’t cheap I would very soon be poor. Because I am cheap I’m reluctant to see as much theatre as I probably should because basically every show in existence costs more than two days worth of food for me. So even though new plays take a long time to get through multiple productions and rewrites and edits, at theaters of ever-greater importance before publishers even consider them, and a very small percentage of plays get published at all because they don’t make anybody any money, and what’s new in theatre is old before it’s in print, and as slow and skeptical as the publishing industry is library’s are doubly so, despite all that the library is an important resource for me.

See, I was really happy with my education on the whole (just over half of my teachers were intelligent and helpful, that’s actually a really good percentage), but it was very writing intensive. Actually from what I’ve heard Purchase is uniquely writing intensive for an undergrad program, but the result is that it was not particularly reading intensive. There just wasn’t time for it to be both. As I’ve mentioned previously, recommendations were thrown around like Mardi Gras beads during critiques, and rather than taking these recommendations I generally just recorded them. I recorded them hoping and doubting that someday I’d have the time and motivation to refer back to these poorly spelled scrawlings and that they might expand my mind.

Apparently that day has come: Four Plays by Wallace Shawn (really just three since I’ve already read Aunt Dan and Lemon) and The Mammary Plays: How I Learned to Drive & The Minola Twins by Paula Vogel. I’ve got them until August 31st, maybe I’ll learn something.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Divine Intervention

I don’t believe in a higher power. Not believing in a higher power is kind of incredibly important to me. I’ve based my entire world view on the fact that there’s no one manning the controls and that we are entirely alone. I think that feeling metaphysically alone is what defines the human experience, not thumbs, or language, or (as I heard recently on NPR and thought was a really interesting perspective) cooked food. No, I believe in feeling alone. But every now and then I think that’s all Modernist bullshit and that in fact the whole system is being run by a vindictive eleven year old boy... or at least he runs the internet.

My last post was Thursday and on Thursday I claimed that I was nearly done with my artistic goals/personal statement thing for this application I’m working on. That was not, strictly speaking, true. Although I had done a lot of work on them I was nowhere near done and I honestly have no idea whether I was knowingly lying or merely exercising my considerable gifts for self deception. Well, now I’m done. I took me three (I’m not counting Friday) days to write a single-spaced one page document with slightly expanding margins, half of which was taken directly from a practice artistic statement I wrote in May. The point isn’t that I’m pathetic, the point is I did it. Or maybe the point is that it still isn't very good and probably isn’t what they’re looking for.

No, here’s the point, and believe it or not it connects to that first paragraph (and to the paragraph I wrote but am not letting you read because it stretched the metaphor too far and completely lost focus). The point is that the internet wants me to fail. Now that my artistic statement is written, my references are secured, my play is complete (though as always it needs considerable work) the only thing left for me to do is fill out an incredibly simple basic form with simple basic information. This is what the internet thinks of that idea:

Not Found
The requested URL /images/festivals/ewg_application09revised.pdf was not found on this server.

I clicked this link a lot last week, I looked at that particular PDF with its heavy lines and sans serif font several times, I could probably name almost everything they ask for on this form, but as soon as I need it it’s gone. Gone. It’s not ironic, unless of course you’re Alanis Morissette and don’t now what ironic means, it just sucks.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I spent a decent chunk of today rewriting my artistic goals. They’re not done. They’re not all that different from when I started except that a different organization is identified as my future savior. I’ll finish them tomorrow.

I also sent e-mails to two former teachers asking them to act as references. One said yes, I’m still waiting on the other. If that comes in I guess I’ll apply tomorrow. Or not. See this is a constant dilemma: this application isn’t due until the 31st and my play needs work, and I really want this one. So, do I wait until I’m so close to the deadline that I can see the whites of its eyes, probably obsessing over it and making myself miserable, possibly letting other things slip away, risking the possibility that I’ll lose my nerve and not send it at all, all in the hopes that I’ll get my shit together and do a rewrite? Or do I settle for what I have and hope for the best? If I send the thing tomorrow I’ll be overcome by a combination of relief and dread, the alternative is pure dread, followed by either relief + dread if I send it or relief + despair if I don’t. Either way it’ll be over.

The reality is, of course, that I probably won’t get this thing either way, that I’ll be lucky to get an interview (I’d give a foot for an interview, I interview really well), but when I get my polite rejection form letter I’m going to blame it on the decision to send the application now or to wait.

Yesterday's News

I wrote this yesterday, my internet was down in the evening:

Today was research. Researching fellowships, Researching writers groups, Doing the footwork necessary for my next two applications. Checking and for money-work (not much money but something and something in theater). I think I’m going to put in resumes to a couple of places with on and off costume and stagehand work. I can sew, I can lift things, I can hang lights, dress actors and run light and sound boards, even if I can’t program them: I have skills: I’m not unemployable. I think maybe I have a shot with these, they’re the kind of places that put you on file and don’t call until they want you.

God, it sounds like prostitution.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

applying myself

I applied for a job. Not a job I’ll get but, you know, something. It was a costuming apprenticeship with the Pearl Theatre Company which does a lot of classics, which means period costumes which means NOT EASY. I’ve done some period stuff before: cloaks, Renaissance and regency gowns, a disastrous tailcoat, but never on this scale and never on a serious deadline. I don’t have this job and won’t get it. I should not be worried about my ability to do it well.
I won’t get it because they want a fashion student and a fashion student I am not, what am is an unusually young amateur sewer with no references. There also seem to be almost no jobs like this available and I just don’t know how to feel about that. Will there be tons or competition? Or is this some kind of weird niche where no one else will look? Oh well, I’m not quite ready to give up on sewing as a source of income.
I also got my writing resume together and now all I have to do is get my play together and I can start applying for writers groups, contests and fellowships... which I will also not get.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Did you try...

Thinking of my weekend I’m reminded of the scene in the Roman portion of History of the World, Part I where Mel Brooks is at the unemployment office. What happens is he goes up to the counter and tells the woman (I think it’s Bea Arthur) that he’s a stand up philosopher:
Arthur: oh, you’re a bullshitter. Did you bullshit this week?
Brooks: no.
Arthur: did you try to bullshit this week?
Brooks: yes.

Well, I tried to bullshit this weekend. I tried to go to a play, it was the absolute last performance of Pinter’s Mirror (three short plays by Harold Pinter from around 1980) at Shakespeare and Company in Lennox Massachusetts (I was visiting my parents and they’re great about buying my tickets). The fates however would not have it. After human delay (my mom), leaving my dad with the check for lunch and human error (my mom didn’t know where the theatre was) I ran into the box office at 2:02 and asked if I was too late for the play. I was informed by the confused (it’s amazing how everyone seems to be slightly retarded when you’re in a rush) unpaid interns that the show didn’t start until 3:00 but they would gladly sell me the one available ticket. Unless they would have gladly driven me home when the show ended I could not partake.

I wanted to see this play not just because it was an opportunity to see some rarely produced work of a Pulitzer prize winning playwright by a respected company, but also because somebody told me to. I don’t remember who told me to but who is not important. At some point in the beginning of last year I decided to write down everything that was referenced in my classes, by teachers or students. Narcism being what it is I very quickly discovered that I was pretty inattentive to all references that didn’t relate directly to me and my work. Since I graduated I’ve occasionally gone through my note books and, in addition to favorite quotes (including “the thing that was genius about Robo-cop...” and “I also do perverts”), there where names and titles scrawled on nearly half the pages. Pinter came up a few times, not specific titles, usually just “Pinter” or “read Pinter”. I haven’t yet read Pinter, it would have been nice to see some.

What we ended up seeing was Funny People, it was just okay. I had forgotten that I hate everything about Jason Schwartzman.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Okay, so I didn’t post yesterday and frankly the last two days I haven’t been keeping up with my ‘something theatrical everyday pledge’ but I have a descent excuse for yesterday:

I was planning on posting yesterday evening, but I got an invitation from a friend to go see Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Movie with a View. So I went. I wasn't about to pass up the chance to see a classic film on a big screen in one of the most beautiful man-made sites in the world so I could do internet research and write self-deprecating jokes. it really was gorgeous, the park is in between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges in Dumbo and you can see Manhattan across the water, when the sun went down and the movie started it was impossibly quiet. The combination of being surrounded by strangers, seeing the lights of the city and the bridges and their reflections, and feeling the hush of the crowd seemed a little magical.

Today I did some theater related stuff via e-mail but it seems mundane so I don't feel the need to talk about in in anymore detail. I also finished Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, which is a novelist and writing teacher's account of the writer's process. I found it to be friendly and relatable in most respects but frightening inconsistent with my own experience in a few perdictable places. (frightening in that they don't bode well for me and perdictible in that I've heard them all before).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I wrote post, it was two pages long and had obscenities and a list in it. It talked about what I failed to accomplish today and contained several mentions of disorders and insecurities, all in the context of what I did accomplish today. Then Pages (Mac's word processing program) shut down unexpectedly and, because I write everything from to blog posts to emails in a separate window where I have a reliable spell check and no possibility of accidentally hitting send, my post went down with it. Lost to the ether. I suppose this could be considered a cheap lesson, a reminder that I should never work on anything, regardless of its length or value, in an untitled document... but I already knew that. And it doesn’t feel cheap. It feels like further proof that the world just wants to screw with me, that I should just bow to the most paranoid tendencies within myself, and that most work is ultimately for naught because sometimes shit just disappears for no reason.

I guess it also bears mentioning that I worked on my play today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Things

Today I did two theater things.

I’m going to start with the normal one and move on the important one and I’d like for you not to judge me until I’m done. Hear me out: I think your first impression will be that I’m a slacker, but further reading will prove that, in fact, being what I am requires a lot of energy and dedication and forethought. I should mention that what I am is a hopeless neurotic.

I read blogs and I sent an e-mail.

I spent two hours on theater blogs. I immersed myself (in a totally one-sided non-networking kind of way) in my community. I read their musings and their quips. I followed their links to their friends’ musings and quips. I added two events to my Google calender and am optimistic that I will not decide that I’m too tired to attend at least one of them. I discovered that the purpose of my blog is not the purpose of their blogs. Although I found two closing announcements for blogs that had been started in the spirit of mine and ended when their writers became more successful or more well adjusted. Most playwright blog postings fell into one of three categories:
1. Shameless plugs (generally identified as such) for their own or a friend’s production/reading.
2. General rants about something unrelated or only tangentially related to theater. (Politics, celebrity ect.) These often contained or were closed with an implication that artists know more, and either could do it better, or prove their (our?) superiority by letting the idiots rot while producing works that would enlighten them if only they’d look.
3. Criticisms of a specific posting in the Upstaged blog/online column at, which accused theatre bloggers of being boring.

So, that was fun and educational and probably did nothing to forward my career but I think it’s something I’m going to commit to doing at least once a week. Also Viral sounds kind of terrifying and potentially good.

I also sent an e-mail:
It was to my teacher who I spent two semesters in very small classes with until two and a half months ago. The information I just provided was important: you’ll find out why. This was a very ordinary, very casual e-mail, following up on a note from my last meeting with her which I found going through my notebooks. I spent the last three days drafting this five sentence e-mail in my head. Actually that’s not, strictly speaking, true: I discovered this note a week and a half ago, forced myself to forget it, had it resurface in my mind, and then started drafting. This is not a person I’m afraid of, it’s not someone I had a tense or problematic working relationship with, it’s also not someone who does not know me for whom this e-mail represents a first impression. There is no reason for this to be difficult. It was. There were times when I was convinced that she wouldn’t remember me, and I drafted sentences containing the titles of the classes I had taken with her and debated signing the e-mail with my full name (my email address is my full name Even today when I finally typed up the e-mail (even though I set myself yesterday as a deadline) I wrote six versions of the opening sentence after the salutation. I still hate the one I ended up sending. I also started a sentence with “because”, it was totally grammatically incorrect but there was no way around it. I know because I stared at it for a full minute and couldn’t figure out how to fix it with out cutting the whole preceding chunk of text.

The point is I know I didn’t accomplish very much but I did hit send. I actually read the ramblings of my peers rather than becoming overwhelmed by how many of them there are and watching an episode of 30 Rock instead. I didn’t take the forty-five minutes needed to write that e-mail and then copy it into Pages so that I could review it in the morning to make sure that it was exactly what I wanted. I hit send, and it’s not enough but the point is: it’s something.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I spent this morning going through my copy of Dramatists Guild Resource Directory, highlighting in different colors everything I’m thinking about applying for according to what month the application is due. This was intended to give me the feeling that their are opportunities and that they are manageable.

One interesting problem I ran into was the cast limit issue. See, the last full length play I wrote, really the only one I have that’s in any shape to be submitted, has huge television presence, which means that there are “characters” who need to be cast once and recorded but don’t actually appear on stage, or need to be present at rehearsals or performances. Who am I kidding? These people aren’t casting productions, they’re casting readings and for readings these characters need to be played by human actors. Even theaters without limits are going to look at my cast list and say “pass”. They wont even read it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stated Purpose

So this is what’s going to happen with this blog:
1. I will update it daily
2. It will create the foundation for the schedule that I so desperately need in order to get my life together.
3. I will not post these schedules because they will be boring and embarrassingly unambitious.
4. It will always be about theater, in order to make me feel theatre-y and to encourage research and playgoing.
5. That was a lie, I’ll probably talk about a book, a museum, or a movie if I get excited, or really angry, or, heaven forbid, I’m researching a play.
6. I will really try not to talk about TV.
7. When I apply for anything I’ll post about it.
8. If I receive feedback, I’ll post about that too.
9. There will be a lot of lists. Sorry, it’s genetic.

If all goes well this blog will become a pretty comprehensive picture of my life starting out in theatre, and my former teachers, in a remarkable combination of laziness, thoughtfulness, and misguided pride, will assign it to future classes. Who will:
1. Ignore it.
2. Hate me for showing how much of pain in the ass it is to be unknown.
3. Assume my lack of success is the result of my being a talentless hack.
4. Switch to screenwriting.

First Post

Okay, so I’m starting a playwright’s blog.

I don’t know if I’m authorized to do this be cause I’m not sure that I am, in fact, a playwright. The story is this:

1. Two and half months ago I graduated from SUNY Purchase’s Dramatic Writing Conservatory Program (this is the kind of thing that would be very impressive if anybody had heard of it).
2. As of that point I stopped being a student and when people asked me what I "did" this long soul crushing silence ensued, in which I was forced to decide between saying “I’m a playwright” and “I’m unemployed”. That's where I am now: in that silence. In truth there is almost no difference between those two states of being but they do make people look at you differently*
3. Four weeks ago I moved to Brooklyn. I know. It’s trite. My apartment’s great and I don’t know whether it was a bad omen or a huge windfall, but my third day here we had stunningly gigantic flood. It was amazing, it’s on my roomate’s blog. and my first month’s rent was waived.
I haven’t been writing. It’s awful and it makes me miserable.

*How people look in response to “I’m unemployed”:
a. Sympathetic eyebrow lift.
b. Awkward aversion of eyes.
c. Condescending sneer.
How people look in response to “I’m a playwright”
a. Open mouthed shock-smile.
b. Straight faced nod.
c. Tight lipped smile, usually reserved for the homeless or mentally ill.