Monday, March 31, 2008

More on No Song, No Supper

Martin has graciously plugged the night on the One Night Only readings page for No Song, No Supper, part of the America in Play Project at the Tribeca Peforming Arts Center tonight at 7 PM.

Gesundheit


Last night watched one of my favorite movies, "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo, Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller. It's still as exciting to me as it was when I was a kid watching it on TV. (More so now - I recognize the locales.) Peter Stone's screenplay ought to be studied as a model of clarity and story telling - not a wasted word or image. It's brilliantly constructed - all trying to answer the question, how are the hijackers going to get out of the tunnel once they've got the money? Matthau actually looks like he could be a transit cop, and the cast is full of fine character actors like Doris Roberts and Martin Balsam doing great turns.

It's a film that makes dirty, dangerous early seventies New York look oddly...fun.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ah, What the Hell...

OK, I've been holding off on it. The paperwork hadn't been signed yet, and they haven't updated their website. But the contract arrived, it's been signed, and my friend Dave just emailed and said it's been posted in the breakdowns for the EPAs in Backstage. So, if Backstage can talk about it, dammit, so can I.

Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre is premiering my new play, "The George Place," in September in Wellfleet, MA.

Have a good weekend. I've had a fucking awesome week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New York Innovative Theatre Awards

I wrote this article on space issues in NYC theatre for the people at NY Innovative Theatre Awards. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No Song, No Supper


Info below on No Song, No Supper, the America in Play Project, part of the Work & Show Festival, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. The evening includes a reading of a short new piece of mine, entitled "Greenland."

***************************************************

a variety entertainment
conceived by Lynn M. Thomson


featuring The Stage Struck Yankee [1840]
by Oliver Durivage
with Tangents and Interruptions
by the writers of America-in-Play [2008]



Playwrights: Beth Blatt, Erin Browne, Lawrence Dukore, Stephanie Fleischmann, Adam Gwon, C.S. Hanson, David Johnston, Andrea Lepcio, Jenny Levison, Quincy Long, David Myers, Dominic Taylor, Susan Tenneriello, Gary Winter



Also see Exhibits of American curiosities from across the last two centuries, with songs from now and then, and a few surprises.

When: March 31 AND April 7 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Doors open at 6:45 for exhibits and music



Where: TRIBECCA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Theatre 2
199 Chambers Street

FOR MORE INFORMATION: americainplay.org and read about us in the New York Times

NO SONG, NO SUPPER is an event in the Work & Show Festival at Tribeca Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. http://www.tribecapac.org

Don't Lie to the Easter Bunny


Phillip Taratula, who stole the show in Blue Coyote's "Happy Endings" as the Easter Bunny, is working on his one-man show at the Access. In it, he plays - yes - Anne Heche and a dozen of her closest and dearest. Phillip is a hilarious, talented and adorable guy, so after you attend the Candy & Dorothy reading on Saturday, toddle on over to the Access at 380 Broadway for 'Call Me Anne.' He had told me about this show and it sounds like a panic.

Candy and Dorothy reading this Saturday



A Warhol Superstar. A Catholic Activist. A Match Made in Heaven.

On the heels of two sold-out productions (in New York City and Cape Cod), rave reviews, a GLAAD Media Award (Best Play) and a Drama Desk Award Nomination (Best Actor: Vince Gatton), CANDY & DOROTHY is off-Broadway bound in the fall of 2008.

Reading details:

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Doors: 4:30 pm

Reading: 5:00-6:30 pm

Reception: 6:30 pm

RSVP: dhjnyc@att.net


Featuring: Sloane Shelton, Vince Gatton, Nell Gwynn and Brian Fuqua.

Directed by Kevin Newbury

Stage Manager: Mary Kathryn Blazek

Produced by Matthew Principe, Kevin Newbury and Adam Blanshay

Thursday, March 20, 2008

WHAT Playwrights Alliance

Up at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, they have started a playwrights group and I'll be heading up for the first residency period in mid-April. WHAT is the theatre on Cape Cod which did Candy & Dorothy in 2006, and the Boston Globe named us one of their top picks of that year. It's a great place, and I love the people. I'll be working on a new play, entitled "The George Place."

The White Star

An old one-act of mine, "The White Star," is going to be done at the Studio Theatre at William and Mary April 21 and 23. If you're in Williamsburg, VA, on those dates, go see it and tell me how it goes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good Old Coney Island


Reading “Good Old Coney Island” by Edo McCullough. Interesting stuff on prizefighting and horse racing in the late 1800s, but the remarkable chapter is the one detailing the Dreamland Fire of 1911, which ended Coney as a high-rolling Saratoga-style resort. All of the circus animals kept there were killed. McCullough also recounts the story of the Brooklyn cops tracking a Nubian lion, Black Prince, down Surf Avenue, when it escaped, singed, from its holding area. They had to put over two dozen bullets in the lion to kill it, and the next day exhibited the carcass for a dime a look. It’s an amazing story. 5.2 million dollars worth of damage in 1911 dollars.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Greenland at the Work & Show Festival

Just found out, a short piece of mine called "Greenland" will be read at the America-in-Play Project's Work & Show Festival on March 31 and April 7 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. This evening is an offshoot of the program I started last fall, a workshop devoted to the study of American theatre and popular culture in the pre-O'Neill years. More details here.

Sunday in the Park with George


I saw “Sunday in the Park with George” last Wednesday at Studio 54. I’m not sure if it’s a great production. There is, as always, that heavily reduced Roundabout orchestra, five pieces for this one. It always sounds a little chintzy to me, but they are getting better at faking a fuller sound. The two leads are good, but the woman in particular does not erase the memory of Bernadette Peters and that clarion voice full of longing.

But this production sneaked up on me . It’s less about the distinction of the players than it is about the genius of Sondheim. The physical production is stunning. My friend Brian said that the technology had finally caught up with this musical, and he's right. And because the second act takes place in the early 80s, George's art can be presented as a faddish period piece - a Lite Brite in a museum. Because of that, story-wise it now works. Technology actually works here to tell the story.

And the music. There’s that amazing Sondheim score. I find that music resonates more and more the older I get. And the second act now, instead of feeling like an afterthought, feels like the emotional climax of the piece. The first act is great – the songs, the world of Seurat – but it’s now the second act, and George’s longings and cruelties and loneliness – now that’s what it’s about.

I blubbered and sniffled a bit during the first act. The second act, I basically started crying at “Children and Art” and just continued till the end when the hanky was ready to wring out.

I don’t know if this is a great production, but it hits me like a wrecking ball.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Today's Secret

David DelGrosso plays Dungeons & Dragons- I mean, he KNOWS where to get all that geek crap! OH - and he's totally upset that the guy who invented it died.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gray Area, Rock n Roll, Sam Harris

Went to see “Gray Area” at the Barrow Group on Monday night. Lots of problems with the play, but it has it charms. It’s about an NPR commentator who’s kidnapped by Civil War re-enactors. John Ahlin, who wrote it, also acts and he’s a lot of fun as an overly-well read hard-core re-enactor. It dissolves into a lot of rhetorical nonsense by the end, but before that happens, it has some very good acting and very funny dialogue.

"Rock n Roll," the new Stoppard, is a bore. Sinead Cusack and Brian Cox are very good. I had a lot of problems understanding Rufus Sewell. It's hard enough for me to follow Stoppard, but if someone has a Czech accent and I'm in the mezzanine, and they're not speaking up, it's a long three hours. The play is just too damn long, to sit around and listen to people passively commenting on the earth-shaking changes going on offstage. There’s got to be a more interesting way to show people caught up in the events of history than ‘the Communists broke into my apartment and smashed up my Pink Floyd LPs.”

Just read “Letter to a Christian Nation” last night, Sam Harris’ little tome. Much better than the Hitchens book, I thought. Harris makes his case much more persuasively, and never falls into Hitchens' shrill hysterics. Also, whatever he feels about moderates and liberals in religion, he makes a difference between them and religious fundamentalists. “Christian Nation” is basically a letter to the fundamentalists, and again – like Hitchens – I agree with Harris 90% of the time. I just don’t agree with his central tenet.

I have to say though – both of these authors, as well read and well reasoned and smart as they are…there’s also something dangerously na├»ve about their views. They both honestly believe that if you could wave a magic wand, and get rid of all organized religion, we would all be good and reasonable and make decisions based on logic, and science would save us.

Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But they do have this childlike faith in everyone’s ability to embrace reason if only they were free of all of the superstitious cant of religion. And I do not agree. I do think there’s something like human nature, and we are very resourceful at finding ways to behave badly. I think someone could fill up a few books about the abuses and excesses and horrors that ‘science,’ ‘reason’ and what Harris charmingly refers to as ‘the laws of psychology’ have brought us. As if these principles and belief systems were somehow incorruptible.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Announcement from Jason at Next

The official announcement re the Next Theatre commission on their site. And go see Adding Machine if you haven't yet. It got another glowing mention in a piece about Off Broadway this weekend in the Times.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blah Blah Blah I'm Christopher Hitchens Blah Blah Blah I'm So Smart

Some book recommendations from my friend, Brian. I loved Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare, called "Shakespeare: The World as Stage." It's a delight. Bryson simply writes down all the things we definitely know about Shakespeare - when he was (probably) born, baptized, what real estate he bought, when his kids were born, when one of them died...what's fascinating reading it is the realization of everything we don't know about him. But Bryson is readable and breezy and a great companion, and his writing is free of all the pretense that comes with a new book on You Know Who.

Now. Reading Christopher Hitchens’ “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” Boy howdy.

Hitchens is brilliant, erudite, passionate, possessed of a crushing intellect. Hitchens loves justice, reason, fair play. But it’s hard to get past the feeling that what Christopher Hitchens really loves is the sound of Christopher Hitchens. If the book were half as long, it would be ten times as good. A little smidge of this boozing, chain-smoking Brit goes a long way.

I can’t argue with his facts. I wouldn't dare. He'd yell at me. He'd come to my home and yell at me, I know it.

But you know what? It’s the endlessly hectoring tone…like you’re at a family dinner and crazy old Uncle Bob just won’t shut up about the Commies.. and he’s right, they’re not nice, OK? Stalin - not a nice man. Ditto Lenin. So you smile. And nod. And agree. And he goes on. And on. And then you pass the turkey. And everyone looks embarrassed. And now Uncle Bob is on Castro and why didn't we kill him when we had the chance…and you wonder how you can sneak away from the table and go watch "Casablanca" on TV…that’s what reading an entire book by Christopher Hitchens is like.

His prefaces to Orwell and Graham Greene? Loved ‘em. Worth buying a new edition of "Animal Farm." But a whole book? Yeeps.

The thing is – Hitchens does just what the extreme right wing does. (Although, yes, even though he’s an atheist, I’m in closer agreement with him on virtually everything.) But Hitchens insists on a literal - a fundamental - reading of Biblical texts. If the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneiad were read as literal history - and removed from their original context - they would sound pretty off the chain too.

And for his examples, he cites the most extreme, the most egregious, the most heinous things he can find. Yes, like Mulsims in the Sudan, the Stewardship Committee at St. John the Divine believes in God. However, that doesn’t mean that the Stewardship Committee at St. John the Divine also believes in genital mutilation. They’re not the same belief system, OK? There are varying degrees of religious belief, and yes at the far end of the spectrum lies fanaticism. But it’s not the whole story.

On one page, Hitchens excoriates Mel Gibson for his anti-Semitism. Fine. Yeah, Mel has some wacky ideas on the Jews and he hates the gays, too. I never saw Passion of Christ. Just looked to me like a good nap ruined. Braveheart was dull and offensive enough. But on the same page as his lambasting of Gibson, Hitchens tips his hand by glowingly citing a quote by his idol, H.L. Mencken, with nary a mention that Mencken wrote some things privately which are every bit as nasty and bilious and anti-Semitic as anything Mel ever said. More so, since Mencken had a bigger vocabulary.

Hitchen is a great mind, and a fascinating writer. He really is. He's a secular humanist in the best sense of the phrase. And it's good to see these books out there and getting so much play. (The NYPL system has 230 available copies - clearly folks are demanding it.) It takes a little wind out of all that 'we're a Christian nation' nonsense.

But let's face it. We're Americans. And why is Newt Gingrich never going to hold elected office again? Because he's like Christopher Hitchens. And we just don't like a big mister smarty-pants know-it-all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

August: Osage County


Everyone had told me I needed to see it blah blah blah. So finally on Sunday - a little treat for myself to celebrate the run of "Happy Endings" - I bought a discount ticket for the mezzanine to see this play that everyone around me cannot stop jawing about. Brian, Dena, Dave, Phillip...I mean, the constant chorus of "Have you seen August Osage yet oh my God!" It was getting annoying. So I went.

Well, guess what. I can’t wait to go back and see it again. Over three hours long, and like Dena said, “It feels like twenty minutes.”

I don’t know if August is the great play for the ages. My friend Matt said, “It’s not Virginia Woolf,” and I agree. But I didn't care. The whole thing is so damnably entertaining. Deana Dunagan, who I’ve never seen before, I strongly suspect is giving the performance of her life. I can’t comprehend someone giving a better turn as the mad, vicious fucked-up mother Violet. Amy Morton is also a wonder as Barbara, the daughter who stands up to Mom and is the one most in danger of turning into her.

I've thought about the play for a few days now, and in many ways, it's a damn mess. I think Tracy Letts lives in mortal fear of boring an audience for thirty seconds, so if he has to throw in shocking revelations about incest, infidelity, pedophilia…by God, he’s gonna do it and do it cheerfully. He gets away with murder in this script - no, wait he gets away with serial killing - because there are so many things in it that just shouldn’t work. There are too many hairpin curves, too many melodramatic, plot-driven shifts in character. The play is stuffed with wrong turns, dead ends and red herrings. It’s over the top, unfocused, messy, tangential, in desperate need of a strong director who’ll cut the shit out of it, right? Right?

And it's glorious. Letts gets away with every cheat in the book because the play is so hellishly fun - even as you’re being hornswoggled, you’re having a blast. I wish it was six hours long with a dinner break.

It made me – in one way – think of Angels in America. Like Angels, on paper August Osage sounds like a recipe for a disaster. Angels is in two parts, seven hours, no stars when it was first produced, about Mormons, Reaganism, and AIDS. Producing it on Broadway sounded like a sure fire way to lose every penny. Now take Osage. An American play – over three hours - one set family drama where Dad is a drunk, Mom is a drug addict and the title is not “Long Days Journey Into Night.” Madness. Producing it would be insanity, without an extensive development process where they would tighten it, focus it, make it produceable, and trim the cast of thirteen down to five. That’s what you’d need to get this play to New York, right?

And funny. There were lines in this play – I hadn’t laughed at anything like that since I saw a preview of The Producers seven years ago. I want to go see it again.

"American Cake" at FRIGID Fest

My review of this one-hander is up at NYTheatre.com

And if you haven't gotten down there, I do recommend it. There are a number of pieces I'd love to go see, if I had a little more time. Definitely worth checking out.