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.