Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some More Happy Endings

Aaron Riccio at That Sounds Cool chimes in on Blue Coyote's Happy Endings.

And so does Flavorpill.

Only four more performances, and don't count on tickets being left at the door.

Information coming up soon on Blue Coyote's fundraiser post-Happy Endings. Yes, it's the Afterglow Party.

C'mon. You know you want it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adding Machine

I saw Adding Machine at the Minetta Lane on Sunday - also ran into my friends Brian, Denise, Goody & Bill there, too. The show I thought was terrific. (Here's my disclaimer: the original producers of Adding Machine, Next Theatre, have commissioned my next play. And the Artistic Director of Next, Jason Loewith, will direct. So take this as nothing but shameless logrolling if you like.)

More later, but I thought Adding Machine was an excellent production. The music is not easy - the opening number may send some screaming from the premises. It's ugly, disorienting and not for everyone. But the evening has great originality, humor and a bleak and uncompromising ethic to it. This is a play I read in college, and what was surprising to me about the production was it made Elmer Rice's 20s Expressionism seem fresh, brand-new, far-sighted and damned entertaining.

Three of the Chicago actors reprise their roles. They're all outstanding, especially Joel Hatch as Mr. Zero, who for all the world reminds me of a younger, singing John Mahoney. Isherwood at the Times gave the show a sloppy wet kiss with the promise of more to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Circle is a Necessity

I had been out at South’s with my friend Brian last week - post-Happy Endings - and he was raving about this show. It’s called “In Circles,” and he did a production of it in LA back in ’86. It’s based on a Gertrude Stein text called “A Circular Play.”

The music was written by a man named Al Carmines, whose music is apparently highly regarded, but not widely known. He died about three years ago, and had been a minister at Judson Memorial in addition to working in the theatre in New York. He wrote the music for the Stein piece, and premiered it at Judson over forty years ago. And it’s astonishing.

As B. growled at me at South's, “It's great. And you KNOW I hate that shit.”

It’s done in a circle at Judson, everyone seated around. Cast of 9, wonderful singer/actors. Brian pointed out that two of them in the cast had been in the LA production with him twenty years ago. It’s a group of friends with very defined relationships, although who they are is not delineated in a traditional sense. They fight, love, eat, make up, talk each other off ledges and deal with unrequited feelings for each other. Then one of them dies in a war. The friends pick up and go on.

The words are strange, banal, everyday and resonant – ‘A circle is a necessity. We each each have our circle.” Lyrics about strawberries, yellow flowers, hats, paintings. ‘Stay in your circle and do not despair.’ It was strange, funny and profoundly moving. (Brian commented how much the production had deepened since LA in the eighties. Same director.) And the music is just stunning – very simple, catchy on the surface, resonant and rich in its repetition. Like Stein’s words, but without any whiff of artiness or ‘high’ music. Martin Denton wrote a lovely review of it here.

It only has four more shows. If at all possible, go see it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Friday, February 8, 2008

Discounts for "Happy Endings"

Use the "IN&OUT" ticket code for $10 tickets during the first week of HAPPY ENDINGS! We're opening on Tues night, Feb 12.

Blue Coyote Theater group commissioned nine of their favorite playwrights to create new short plays about the lives of sex workers.

Featuring original short plays by Blair Fell, Matthew Freeman, David Foley, Brian Fuqua, David Johnston, Boo Killebrew, Stan Richardson, Christine Whitley, and John Yearley

Performances by Robert Buckwalter, R. Jane Casserly*, Joe Curnutte, David DelGrosso*, Laura Desmond*, Samantha Desz, Brian Fuqua*, Tracey Gilbert*, James Paul Ireland*, Carter Jackson*, David Johnston*, Khris Lewin*, Adam Rihacek, Alexis Suarez, Phillip Taratula*, Matthew Trumbull*, and Dash Vada

Directed by Kyle Ancowitz, Robert Buckwalter, Gary Shrader, Stephen Speights

Sets: Robert Monaco
Lighting: Evan O'Brient

Tuesdays at 9pm
Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm

February 12th - March 1st at Access Theater, 380 Broadway 4th Fl.
Tickets: $18 via Smarttix

Good News

We've signed the papers, it's official and now I can blog about it. Next Theatre Company -a Chicago area theatre - has commissioned a full-length play. I've been talking for several months to Jason Loewith, the producer & artistic director - and I have a working title and about two dozen pages; "The Rapture Project." In the next eighteen months, we'll be reading and developing the show in Chicago, after I - you know - finish writing it.

Jason is, by the way, the librettist for the upcoming "Adding Machine" at the Minetta Lane. This project was developed at Next last year, and is now in previews Off Broadway. Opening night is Feb 25.

Who Will Be Our Happy Puppet Now?

“Oh boo hoo we’re Conservatives down in Conservative-Ville and boo hoo no one is reflecting our values boo hoo John McCain loves Mexicans and gay marriages 'cause he's gay and he only has an 82 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union not like that dreamy Rick Santorum with 88 and boo hoo everyone betrays us and our core values why did Ronald Reagan have to die and now Mitt Romney is out oh boo hoo after we went through all the trouble of programming him oh boo hoo hoo who will be our happy puppet now?”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Breaking News: Ted Haggard Still Gay

From Colorado Confidential: "Technically, it only took three weeks of intensive "restoration" a full year ago to make Ted Haggard a "complete heterosexual." But on Tuesday night, the new pastor of the Colorado Springs megachurch that Haggard founded has announced that Haggard is quitting the team -- and that "the process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete.""

How to Turn Jury Duty into a Holiday! (Part Two)

Last Thurs, on my lunch break from jury duty, I ran down Canal Street to the Eldridge Street Synagogue. It’s that area east of the Fung Wah buses, past the Manhattan Bridge on the East Side. It’s an area of the Lower East Side that still has resisted gentrification, even if it is kind of an extension of Chinatown at this point.

The building is a little jewel. I went inside, paid my ten bucks and asked for a tour. A woman - the tour guide - chatted with me and said she would give me a private tour if no one else showed up.

The building was built in the 1870s. Some East European Orthodox Jews had already been here since the 1850s and had done well for themselves. One, Jarmulowsky, had become a prominent banker. So they decided they would build their own synagogue. Many of the synagogues at the time were buildings that had been converted from other purposes – Christian churches, storefronts. This time, they wanted to build a synagogue from the ground up, something that would be their own. As my tour guide said, they wanted something that would uphold all of their Orthodox traditions from Eastern Europe, but would be American as well.

They have some beautiful artifacts from the time on display. In one, they display the ashes of the original mortgage that was burned in a happy ritual in the forties. They kept the ashes in a ceremonial jar.

An NYU professor in the 70s bribed a caretaker into letting him in to see the sanctuary. There has always been a small but active Orthodox congregation, but the sanctuary was sealed off in the fifties. By the seventies, the ceiling was falling in and there were pigeons and rats everywhere. The NYU professor, who was writing a book on the synagogues of the Lower East Side, got the ball rolling. By the mid eighties, there was a nonprofit in place to restore the building, and it opened last year.

The sanctuary is gorgeous. Breath-taking. The restoration was lovingly done, with a great attention to detail. Some things were left unfinished so the viewer can see what shape the building was in thirty years ago. My guide Naomi had us look at the grooves in the floor. The floor is the original wood, just refinished. The Orthodox men wore grooves into it with praying and chanting so they kept it as it was, physical evidence of the hard work of prayer.

Naomi asked if anyone had noticed the outside of the building with its prominent Judaic symbols and Stars of David. “Do you know why they put all that on the outside of the building?” No, I said.

“Because they could.”

Here’s the thing – I haven’t felt good about my country for the last five to six years. I’ve heard our elected leaders sit and parse narrow legal definitions of ‘torture,’ I’ve heard them say the Geneva Conventions – the rules of war derived from our own Civil War – no longer apply to our enemies. I’ve heard Republican candidates for the nomination turn words like ‘amnesty’ and ‘sanctuary’ into insults. I’ve listened to our leaders extol the sacrifice of our soldiers and then leave the wounded laying in the hallways of Walter Reade Hospital. I could go on.

Going to the Eldridge Street Synagogue made me feel good about this country in a way I have not felt for a while. You can see what this country looked like to a bunch of dirt poor Orthodox Jews fleeing the Czar and enforced military conscription, rape, persecution. They came to the Lower East Side, made money and built their own house of worship and could put their name all over it, something they couldn’t do in Poland or Lithuania or Russia without inviting death and disaster. The tour guide told me of her great-uncles, who worked in bike repair shops, saved their money, and then used it to bring over the next youngest brother in turn, finally bringing Mom over. Bit by bit, nickels in a jar.

This country was the place where they could do that; live and make money and prosper and go to synagogue in broad daylight and announce who they were in the street and have kids and then move off to bigger, nicer houses. They couldn’t have that any place else in the world. Be who they were. And it made me feel proud of my country again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

How to Turn Jury Duty into a Holiday! (Part One)

Two days on jury duty last week. I have to admit, I had a great time. It’s really changed since the last time I was there. It’s a lot cleaner now – there are snack machines and a cafeteria, so you don’t have to leave the building just to get a cup of coffee anymore. They’ve gotten rid of all the old ashtrays and weird signage. There’s wi-fi in the jury rooms, and state-provided laptops so you can check your email. There’s another room for eating and drinking, but they have it outfitted with a PA system, so you can hear what’s going on if they call your name.

First day of jury duty, I was down there at 8:30 AM. We got the shpiel, and settled in with New Yorkers and newspapers. Broke for lunch at 12:00, and I made a beeline for Baxter Street, to that Vietnamese place I liked so much when I was on grand jury several years ago. It's called Nha Trang, and you can't beat it for lunch in that area. Had barbecued beef and rice, and that great French coffee with the sweetened condensed milk.

Then went to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I told the girl there the Factory was the best part of jury duty, and she gave me a card and told me how to order ice cream and t-shirts online. I got a double scoop – green tea and red bean. Walked over to Columbus Park. They’ve finished fixing the pavilion there, so you can go up and look around. They’ve also finished what looks like a nice soccer field – I could see it from the 15th Floor of 100 Centre Street near the elevator bank.

I didn’t see the old men playing dominoes and smoking though. Guess they’ve all died. They would sit down there, smoking and slamming those big Chinese dominoes on the stone tables. The language always sounded angry to me, but of course they could have been saying, “I’ve loved you all my life! Let’s always be in this park playing dominoes! Kiss me!”

Then, I went to 70 Mulberry Street, a big old converted school building, to the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas. Very interesting – old life insurance policies, pictures of all-Chinese baseball teams in Echo Park, Los Angeles, old costumes from the previous tenants of the building, the Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association.

Fascinating history. When the US sealed its borders against the Chinese, it begat a widespread fraud known as ‘paper sons.’ A Chinese person could not immigrate here, but by that time the Supreme Court had established that someone born in this country – even someone who had two Chinese parents - was still a citizen. So, fraudulent papers could be bought and sold, where it named someone as a ‘son’ who had been born here of Chinese parentage, even if they were just off the boat from Shanghai.

The bigotry the Chinese suffered in this country was pretty pronounced. (They look different!) Immigration restrictions did not work. They just forced people underground, and into decisions where survival meant adopting criminal behavior. Wish all these Minutemen- no 'amnesty'/no 'sanctuary city' – anti- immigration blowhards could spend a half hour at MOCA.

Exhibition-wise, MOCA leaves something to be desired. It's a really cramped space. I’m sure they must have other things, but it looks as if there is no place to put them. The Chinese opera costumes looked to be in desperate need of restoration and conservation.

Chinatown looks like it's having quite the boom - new real estate development, huge banks that weren't there a few years ago. Makes me wonder why the money in that area isn't stepping up to the plate to preserve that history.