Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard

Oh man, this show is going to be awesome....



The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard
By Greg Romero
May 24 - 26, 28 & May 31 - June 1 @ 8 p.m.
May 27 @ 3 p.m.; June 2 @ 7 p.m.

-- City Attic Theatre, an emerging off-off-Broadway company, proudly continues their second season with the World Premiere production of Greg Romero's The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard.

Inside of The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard, a Man and a Woman breathe in the possibility of a blank piece of paper. The paper becomes a sailboat, their breath becomes a journey that busts the world open, spilling out a truth so big that it could only fit inside of a human heart in love with another equally and beautifully broken person.

The play was selected from nearly two hundred scripts as the winner of CAT Tales, a playwriting competition hosted by City Attic Theatre last May. The script has been previously developed in Texas and in New York with the Boomerang Theatre Company, New Dramatists and Kitchen Dog Theater.

The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard runs May 24-26, May 28, and May 31-June 1 at 8:00 p.m., May 27 at 3 p.m., and June 2 at 7 p.m. in the Under St. Marks Theatre, located at 94 St. Marks Place. Tickets are $15 and are available at the door (cash only). For reservations, please call 212-330-7045 or e-mail

The show is directed by Andrew Merkel, designed by Amanda Embry and Joshua Rose, and features John Conor Brooke, Dianna Marino, and Lucy Walters.

City Attic Theatre provides a home for theatrical artists, creating new opportunities to nurture their craft in a collaborative setting while developing powerful theatrical masterpieces. The goal is to remove the boundaries that dictate the traditional roles of artists, to release and unify the collaborative imagination. For more information, please visit This production was made possible through the support of The Field.


rock on,


Thursday, May 17, 2007

THANK YOU Richard Nelson!

This ranks up there with Todd London's "The Shape of Plays to Come".

Sound the trumpets:

The Laura Pels Foundation Keynote Address by Richard Nelson, April 9, 2007

First I want to thank Laura Pels - a truly generous woman. Generous in both
the obvious sense, and also always with her time, her energy, her enthusiasm,
her humor. She and I have had a few meals together over the years, both here
and in Paris, and I've enjoyed every minute of them and always left inspired
and encouraged. And I wish to thank A.R.T./New York for inviting me here
tonight. I have to say I was surprised to be asked, but also very honored.

I am also very honored to be speaking to each and every one of you; I know I
am in a room of people who care about theater, who love theater, many of you
have and are devoting your lives to theater. And any lover of theater - must
also be a lover of plays. And any lover of plays will, I am sure, recognize the
unique place of the playwright in the making of theater. And it is this place
that I wish to speak about.

By the way, I think this will be the first 'speech' I have ever given; fifty-six
years old, and I've managed to escape giving a speech until now. I suppose I
never thought it was my 'thing,' I love hearing what I write spoken by others,
not myself. But things change, we change.

I remember when I became a father for the first time. And suddenly I found
within me an ability to fight for my child in ways that I could never have fought
for myself.

A year and a half ago I began teaching young emerging talented playwrights at
the Yale School of Drama. Tonight I want to talk about issues that are important
to them - and to me, and I believe to all American playwrights.

But mostly to them. And I suppose it is because of them, and because of the
hundreds of playwrights whose work I now read each year, that I feel the need,
the passion, but more importantly the responsibility to discuss the state of
our profession with you tonight.

So much has happened to the profession of playwriting since I had my first
professional production at the Mark Taper Forum Lab in 1975. And so much of
what has happened has not been good for playwrights.

The profession of playwright, the role of the playwright in today's American
theater, I believe, is under serious attack. Some who attack are simply greedy,
some ignorant, some can't understand why theater isn't TV or film. But perhaps
the greatest threat to the playwright in today's theater comes from not those
greedy and ignorant, but rather from those who want 'to help.'

'Help.' 'Playwrights are in need of help.' This is now almost a maxim in our
theater today. Unquestioned. A given. But where does this mindset - for that is
what it is - a mindset, come from? Of course playwrights need things - money,
productions, support, encouragement. So do actors, directors, designers,
artistic directors. But THIS mindset is different, because what is meant here
is: 'Playwrights are in need of help -- to write their plays.' 'They are in need
of help - to do their work.' 'They can't do their work themselves. '

How strange. What other profession is viewed in this way? What other person
in the theater is viewed this way? Imagine hiring say a director with the
assumption that he couldn't do his work himself. Now I am not saying by this
that a director shouldn't listen to others, receive notes, be open to
discussions, and so forth. Quite the opposite, for THIS is all part of what a
director does. AND I am NOTsaying a playwright shouldn't listen to notes, be
open to discussions, and so forth - because THIS is what a playwright does.
What I am saying is that the given mindset should not be that the playwright
cannot be trusted to lead this process. Cannot betrusted to know how to work
within the collaboration of theater.

Nor am I talking about mentoring - or educating young playwrights here. I'm
not talking about a classroom situation. I'm talking about how our professional
theater looks at playwrights and the playwright's play. About assumptions made
and about the various specific solutions theaters THEN make based upon these
false assumptions.

What is really being said to the playwright by all the help? From the
playwright's perspective it is this: that the given now in the American theater
is that what a playwright writes, no matter how much he or she works on it,
rewrites it at his or her desk, the play will ALWAYS not be right. Will ALWAYS
need 'help.' In other words, writing a play is too big of a job for just the
playwright to achieve. This, I believe, is now a prevalent attitude in the
American theater. And this mindset is devastating.

Emily Mann told me the other day that in her 17 years running the McCarter
Theater the greatest change has been - that now more and more plays are
submitted that are obviously unfinished. That writers today recognize that if
they wish to participate in a process that perhaps will lead to the production
of their work, then this will require rewriting and revision guided and cajoled
by others. So why finish anything?

I sit with young writers and hear how they now leave chunks of their plays
purposely badly written - hoping that the 'help' they receive will concentrate
on these areas and not on others that they care about. Tricks, games that many
a screenwriter has learned over time, but now finding their way into the
writing of plays.

Now no doubt many of you are thinking - but the plays aren't finished, they
need help, and they do get better.

Again, I am not saying that a playwright should avoid and ignore comments and
reactions to his work, quite the opposite. But I am saying that our mindset
toward playwrights should be this: 1) the playwright knows what he is doing,
2) perhaps the plays presented is as it should be. So that the onus for
change is not on the playwright but on others, on the theater.

And the theater is there with a full array of tools to support the playwright
as he or she attempts to improve upon his or her play. How to improve a play
should be the domain of the writer, with the theater supplying potential tools,
a reading say, or a workshop with clearly delineated goals. These are tools
that should evolve out of a need, as opposed to being a given.

Now a culture of 'help' breeds a culture of dependence and this is what, I
believe, we now have in the American theater: the culture of readings and
workshops, one unimaginable when I was a young playwright thirty years ago.
A culture of 'development.' And this culture, more than being an activity,
a process - is a mindset. Having spent a great deal of time in classical
theater, I have watched actors and directors approach classical plays that
have massive contradictions and address those plays not as works to be fixed,
but rather to be solved. So I am arguing for a theater where the mindset is
not to fix new plays, but to solve them.

Now if it is assumed that all plays need to be helped along, then no playwright
actually has it in his or her power to complete his or her play. Therefore, can
it really be called his or her play? Ah - now we come to other trickier sides
of this equation, where the 'help' given writers also has strings. In the time
I've been given, I'd like to look at just a few - there are many - examples of
how this mindset has infiltrated our theater and what it is doing to my
profession. So let's get specific.

And let's look at the actors, directors, even audiences who have been
taught/re-educated by this culture to feel a responsibility to 'help' the
playwright write his or her play. Producers, literary managers, dramaturges
who 'help' with rules about what makes a good play, who 'help' by mandating
readings because they must be 'helpful'. Let's look at managers who 'helpfully'
organize commissions so that the theater can encourage OR is the word 'enforce'
changes that are 'helpful' to the play.

There are contracts that demand remuneration for this 'help.' There are
foundations that allow their monies to be used in a developmental hell that
breeds the loss of confidence and control that every playwright needs, must
have, to succeed.

SO. Readings. Mandatory reading of plays for judgment or to 'give help.' Be
careful. This is dangerous, and has already caused great harm. A play with
two people at a table having a conversation - this works in a reading, we get
a good sense of what the writer is after. But what about 7 people in a room,
moving about, talking to two, then three, unheard by a forth, and so on. This
makes no sense in a reading. And so playwrights, practical people that we are,
slowly - like a bad evolution - we stop writing in forms that don't work in
readings. And again, slowly, our plays begin to look alike, dramaturgically
similar. Of course a playwright can benefit from a reading, but one needs to
be so very careful about why the play is being read, what hopefully is being
gained. And, what is being lost. All those reading series out there - careful,
careful, in the long run are they doing much more harm than good?

Workshops. What are they? What IS the role of an actor or a director in a
workshop? To direct or act in a play requires, I believe, a strong element of
confidence in the play; a belief that the answer to one's questions or confusions
can be found - in the play. This is what a director or an actor does, this is
their talent and how they explore. But if the playwright is encouraged to - no
CELEBRATED -for rewriting during this process, then where does that put the
actor, the director - not acting, not directing - but there - 'to help.' Isn't
this the wrong mindset for a director or actor to have? Is this the way they
should be looking at a play? Couldn't their talents be put to better service
trying to solve what the writer has written - as opposed to trying to help him
fix it?

Audiences. By involving them in readings and discussions and god forbid
workshops, we are apparently asking for their 'help' with the play. But doesn't
this confuse even warp the role of the audience? And in terms of new work
doesn't this put an audience's focus overwhelmingly on 'does it work?' as
opposed to 'what is it about?' or 'why was it written?' or 'does it matter?'
Aren't these the questions we want discussed? Aren't these the questions that
help generate the sort of substantive discussions we in the theater wish to have
with an audience?

Rules for writing plays. My god. One hears young playwrights being told what a
play 'must do,' or 'how a play works.' One hears writers being told that a
character's 'journey' isn't clear enough, or that the writer needs to determine
a character's 'motivation.' One hears how a play has to 'build' in a certain
way, or how 'the conflict' isn't strong enough. These are terms that seem to
suggest a deep understanding of what a play is and how it is put together, but
in fact they tell us very little. Perhaps a particular play might be helped by
one of these suggestions, but they (and other 'rules') are too generally
prescribed. To see how silly this prescription is, one has only to ask: what is
the clear motivation of Lear? The playwright doesn't write out of 'motivations'
but rather out of truth and reality, out of people and story and worlds he or
she wishes or needs to create for us. These terms are perhaps useful to the
critic, or the dramaturg in finding a way in for themselves to these plays; but
such considerations are not how plays, good plays, great plays are made.

The word 'text.' I may be crazy, but I think I just woke up one day and suddenly
somehow people starting talking about the 'text' instead of 'the play.' How did
this come about? Since when does a playwright only write 'words.' Isn't that the
hidden meaning of this? To make the playwright the 'word guy' and leave the
theater making to others? As if the writer was only a source from which words
flowed that others made into plays.

As I tell my students endlessly - theater is the only artistic form that uses
the entire live human being as its expression. Playwrights write people, not
words. We write words to convey the people. To push us aside, to make us the
'text guy' and not the 'play guy' is a subtle but dangerous change in thinking
and betrays a new mindset about the place of the playwright in the making of

Step commissions. These are commissions - and this is pretty prevalent I
believe - where the playwright is paid in say three stages. First when he
agrees to the commission and signs the contract, 2nd payment when he submits
the play, and 3rd payment when he submits the rewrite.

Now what is wrong with this picture? What is the underlying assumption here?
That the play the playwright submits will need to be rewritten and that the
playwright will only do this rewrite only if he or she is paid for it.

Now as we all know the playwright still is the owner of the play, he or she
owns the copyright. So - say you build a house and you own this house. And
someone comes along and suggests that you add a window. Now if you agree
and think this would improve your house a great deal you are going to add
this window. However, suppose a guy comes along and says - he thinks you
should add a window and he will pay you to do so. To your own house! How
bizarre. This guy must be thinking maybe you don't want to add a window
and you need to be paid to do it. Well, that is very much what these step
deals suggest - and once again insidiously we have the role of the playwright,
or at least his judgment and understanding of his own play and what it needs
doubted, questioned. In his mind he's thinking he is being paid to do what
he doesn't necessarily want to do.

Here's one that will upset some of you. And the one that will take the longest
to explain and discuss. The idea of 'participation.' You should see my first
year students' faces when I explain what 'participation' is. You mean, they
say, thatI give up a percentage of my play forever? Why? Because, I say, the
theater has done your play. Why? They ask again. Because -- and I tell them
the theaters will give you two reasons: they have enhanced the play's value by
producing it in a important 'market' and two, because the theaters have HELPED
the writer with the writing of the play. Ah this HELP again, which may have
been unwanted, now we have to pay for! How did this happen?

A little background that most of you know, I'm sure. Participation has been
around a long time in the commercial theater, but it is a fairly recent
development, certainly as a pervasive practice, in the non-profit theater.
And it just sort of happened. No real debate that I know of. Now who is to
blame for this? Of course playwrights themselves need to accept a good bit of
that blame, for not fighting this harder when it began to occur in non-profit
contracts. But - and I would guess that those who now run the Dramatist Guild
might even agree until very recently our Guild was pretty myopic, and saw
theater only through the lens of Broadway where participation was a given. So
there was no understanding of why it should be stopped in the non-profit
theater. And so there was little if any serious debate or opposition. Only
when Gregory Mosher and Bernie Gersten took over Lincoln Center and they
refused to take any participation from new work was there even the glimmer of
discussion. And certainly nothing like the praise that those two gentlemen

So it happened because no one fought it. The playwrights were too weak and
disorganized to fight back and understand what was being done to them. So -
I suppose it's our fault. However, as we all know, that's not how the theater
works, the serious theater works.

I remember an executive committee meeting many years ago at the Guthrie where
I was working, when we were going over salary increases for the next season.
When it came to the proposed raise for actors one new board member said, 'but
I understand that there are always lots of actors who want to play each part.
So why are we now going to pay actors more? We should pay them less and save
that money.' A few minutes later a couple of more experienced members of the
board took this gentleman aside and explained. And what they explained is
obvious to all of us in this room: we in the theater have a responsibility
not just to our immediate bottom line, but to the future of our art and
profession. You apply principles of hardnosed business to every element of
the theater and you will destroy the theater. So yes, we playwrights did not
protect or fight for ourselves. Yes, we should have. But that failure does
not make us -- fair game.

We write our play, we own our play and we should continue to own our play -
all of it, at least as long as we stay in the non-profit theater, which is
a theater that raises its money often on claims of producing new writing.

Now only one argument about this has ever made sense to me: if a playwright
has a huge hit, shouldn't some of that money come back to the theater and
support other writers and other productions? And I have signed many contracts
in England stating just this, that should I make a very large amount of money
from the playduring a given year, then a percentage is owed to the theater.
That makes sense. That is responsible.

But I have never seen an American theater contract with anything like that
language. If theaters won't take it upon themselves to rectify this situation,
if playwrights prove as a group too weak and unfocused, then I say let's turn
to the funders themselves, the foundations and donors, and ask does this make
sense to you, that healthy percentages of future incomes from plays presented
in smallish theaters with small royalties, requiring months and months of work
and involvement by the playwright - should these theaters now have a right to
this? Should they now own part of the plays? And what signal does this send
to the writer, especially the young ones.

These are a few - there are many more - specific examples of how this mindset
toward the playwright has found its way into all reaches of the theater and
therefore how difficult it will be to change.

Finally to conclude, as I'm running out off time: EMPOWERMENT, that I
suppose is what all this is about - allowing the playwright to feel that he
PRIDE IN THAT OWNERSHIP. Prescribing 'rules' - this does the opposite. A
culture with a mind set of 'help,' does the same. The loss of a percentage
of one's play - the same again. And so it is my hope and I believe my
profession's best hope -- to change this mindset and the culture based upon it.

When I was asked to give this speech, I was told to speak about anything I
wanted. I knew right away that this is what I wished to talk about with all
of you. Because, it is my great belief and hope, that it will be from
gatherings like these, gatherings of caring, dedicated theater professionals,
lovers of theater, that we can change how we think, change the broken ways,
and reinvigorate, even re-imagine our theater.

Thank you.

Richard Nelson


Richard Nelson's plays include Conversations in Tusculum, Frank's Home,
How Shakespeare Won the West, Rodney's Wife, Franny's Way, Madame
Melville, Goodnight Children Everywhere (Olivier Award, Best Play),
The General from America, New England, Left, Misha's Party (with
Alexander Gelman), Columbus and the Discovery of Japan, Two
Shakespearean Actors (Tony Nomination, Best Play), Some Americans Abroad
(Olivier Nomination, Best Comedy), Principia Scriptoriae. His musicals
include James Joyce's The Dead (with Shaun Davey, Tony Award for Best Book
of a Musical), My Life with Albertine (with Ricky Ian Gordon), Paradise
Lost (with Hal Prince and Ellen Fitzhugh). He has adapted and/or translated
numerous classical and contemporary plays, including Chekhov's The Seagull,
The Wood Demon, Three Sisters, Strindberg's Miss Julie, The Father,
Goldoni's Il Campiello, Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro, Pirandello's
Enrico IV, Moliere's Don Juan, Erdman's The Suicide, Fo's Accidental Death
of an Anarchist, and Jean-Claude Carriere's The Controversy of Valladolid.
His work for film and television includes Ethan Frome (Miramax Films),
Sensibility and Sense and The End of a Sentence (both American Playhouse).
He has written numerous radio plays for the BBC. Mr. Nelson is an Honorary
Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a Professor (Adjunct)
and Chair of the Department of Playwriting at The Yale School of Drama.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Hottest Party You've Ever Attended

As we continue to ramp up to my production of The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard, we also continue to throw bitch awesome parties.

Here's the latest one that YOU should be at!


Host: Amanda Embry/City Attic Theatre

Madame X
94 W. Houston St.
New York, NY

Friday, May 11, 9:00pm


Welcome to the Anti-Lullaby, a welcome party for City Attic Theatre's upcoming prodution of "The Most Beautiful Lullaby You've Ever Heard".

There will be burlesque dancing, "Hands on a Hard Body" game, a sexy silent auction featuring your own personal photographer for an erotic photoshoot, and some serious spanking from a dominatrix.

There is no cover charge to enter the party. Donations are always accepted, as all of the money received at the party will go towards "Lullaby".

The party starts at 9pm and keeps on going. When you get to Madame X, mention City Attic Theatre and you get in FREE at the door (hot!).

Come, bring friends, drink and GET SPANKED!

Check out Madame X online at:

Or for more info, contact or

rock on,


Friday, May 04, 2007

We Got it on Video

A few of you were there for this (and you rock)-- for those of you who couldn't make it, theatre artist Jeff Scot Carey put together a really great video of the experience of shaving my beard (thanks Jeff!).

You can check it out on You Tube.

The video does a wonderful job of capturing how much fun the whole night was. I just wish I hadn't drank quite so much that night.


In any case-- thanks again to everyone for making this such an incredible event in every way (and come and check out the show!!!).

Rock on,


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

73 Passions

I just put together my application for the P73 Playwriting Fellowship-- a highly generous award sponsored by Page 73 Productions in NYC.

I wanted to post part of my response to the application, because I know that it's already motivated a couple of close friends in a really cool way. And plus, I think it's a really cool window into what I do and how I do it.

This was their question:

Describe your professional goals and artistic challenges. How do you think the P73 Playwriting Fellowship could help you attain those goals and meet those challenges?

Like with everything I do-- I try to answer in a way that was fun and unique to me. So I offered them this:


It's a commitment to myself to find a new way to express my professional and artistic goals every time someone asks me about them (because it keeps me honest and it keeps me thinking about my work).

With that in mind, I offer you a list that I hope to continue to add onto until a new person asks me about my goals again. I call this list, "73P". It is my expectation that the P73 Fellowship will help me attain every single one of the 73 Passions listed below.

1. To have as many people as possible see the plays I write.

2. To make these people go home and have a dream about my play that changes their life.

3. To always stay hungry no matter what.

4. To make a living by writing plays by the time I reach 35 years old.

5. To not get a regular job until I absolutely have to.

6. To always be asking questions.

7. To always be the best listener in the room.

8. To write plays so freaking amazing that people feel like they HAVE to work on them or else they'll die.

9. To write characters so compelling and honest that actors would beat each other to play them.

10. To run as fast as I can straight at my fears.

11. To meet, work with, and learn from the most profound people imaginable.

12. To never be scared of falling in love because love is the place where my best work comes from.

13. To have people recognize my name and immediately know that when they see it attached to a project, they can expect to be challenged, captivated, and confronted by a high-quality, imaginative, purposeful, and theatrical live event.

14. To always have fun while working.

15. To always push against the edge of expectation until it topples over and something new and incredible busts out of the broken pieces.

16. Snacks.

17. To always be able to buy a round of beers after a good night's work.

18. To actively seek out and embrace the I Don't Know.

19. To be proud of every production that I work on.

20. To model ways in which a playwright can successfully collaborate with others.

21. To shift the expectation of how a playwright interacts with their text.

22. To believe in everyone I work with as fully as possible.

23. To blow the lid off the roof constantly.

24. To tirelessly create and evaluate new goals.

25. To recognize the poison of sentimentality in my work and apply the leeches as fast as I can.

26. To be part of a theatre culture that eloquently and urgently expresses the need to develop and produce new plays.

27. To not be scared of what my family might think of my work but honest enough with myself to know that I really want them to be proud of me.

28. To always be learning.

29. To continually ask, "how can that be more theatrical?"

30. To write plays that people feel deep down in their bones.

31. To destroy sarcasm.

32. To create plays that feel a little bit like wild animals.

33. To stay in awe of how the world works.

34. To stay in awe of how amazing humans are.

35. To breathe more deeply.

36. To never compromise my work EVER.

37. To stay off-balance as much as possible.

38. To write every day no matter what.

39. To never be scared of failing, but in fact risk everything all of the time.

40. To travel around the world with my work.

41. To have people know that when they work with me, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of their life.

42. To not be scared of the dark places, but in fact to fall in love with them a little bit.

43. To not be afraid of cutting myself and bleeding to death.

44. To stay humble.

45. To see the big picture and the small details out of each eye.

46. To have an elephant in every play that I write.

47. To have each play that I write be better than the last one I wrote.

48. To stretch every day.

49. To make people walk out of my plays thinking a lot about their life and what it means to be a flawed and beautiful human.

50. To find new ways to put words on a page.

51. To never have to worry about money.

52. To be as honest as possible, especially when vibrating inside the truth seems like the worst idea of all time.

53. To surround myself with people who will kick my ass.

55. To know that sometimes thinking too much is my enemy.

56. To pay close attention to my dreams.

57. To explode the idea of what a play is or can be.

58. To write a play that gets someone pregnant.

59. To be constantly flattened by other people's work.

60. To take the best care I can with the people I work with

61. To make my plays feel like a jook joint.

62. To have my collaborators not have to worry about a low balance on their metro cards.

63. To always be able to identify and obtain the best materials and resources possible.

64. To be capable of both long-term planning and of being intensely in the moment.

65. To write plays that win the kinds of awards that I believe in.

66. To make my characters do things that are amazing and scary and unforgettable.

67. To invite as many people to the party and as often as possible.

68. To give every community in the world an opportunity to experience my work.

69. To give myself an opportunity to experience every community in the world.

70. To make people fall in love with their imaginations.

71. To write plays that taste like a Keg Stand.

72. To always remember that I'm writing for at least three-dimensions.

73. To write plays that live hundreds of years longer than me.


I hope they dig it. If not, it was really helpful for me to think through all 73 of those things. I actually had a few more than I needed-- I ended up writing about 85-90 Passions. But I had to cut it down, and passions such as "to have lots of mind-blowing sex" and "to take a bullet for a friend" unfortunately didn't quite make the final cut.

rock on,