Monday, December 07, 2009
For any gift larger than $ 33 (2 dang 3s, plus that's how old I am), I will perform ANYTHING you ask me to, for up to three minutes. Send me a piece of writing, a challenge, a piece of music, a dream, an object, a demand, a question, a drawing, an impossible task, and I will perform it, somehow, on January 1, 2010. For serious. Make it something awesome. Dare me. I will perform anything and everything asked of me as part of the performance, Thirty-Three.
Eighteen very generous friends responded, twelve of them giving me a performance challenge. I am now working, for the month of December, on creating a performance project from their generosity.
Thank you to those of you that helped, here is the performance challenge inspired by you:
Family of 9 at the dinner table. And you're all 9 of em. And oh shucks Benoit just spilled the gay.
A monologue about birthdays: 13, 23, and 33
Father visits the aquarium on Mondays and the arcade on Thursdays
A monologue from Hideki Matsui's perspective about Game 6 of the World Series
A project involving wrestling
My birthday and my name
Something re: mou shu pork
Something in Outer Space, no Zombies allowed
"Moonpies" by Hank Schwemmer
A dream about pear trees
A bit from The Wind in the Willows as Mr. Toad
The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and Abu Graib torture photos
A peacock at my parent's house
Something about cell phones
These gifts (along with the dozens of other gifts offered to me through the project, Three Dang Dollars), have given me the opportunity to work on a number of creative projects that I otherwise would not have the time for.
THANK YOU very much, my THIRTY-THREE collaborators:
The Burn Ward Theatre Company
Nancy Mouton and Chester Forest
Wanda, Doyle, and Kristi Reeves
Pat and Johnie Romero
Sean Kendall Schneyer
Monday, November 30, 2009
After journeying to Dallas, Texas, to watch several of Audacity Theatre Lab's performances of my "time-traveling tragicomedy", THE MILKY WAY CABARET, it is my hope that Arnie will get another shot at his magic acts, that Alice will continue to brave the stars, and that Buzz and Charlotte will keep re-growing their hearts together while staked-out for their next assassination.
I learned a lot from this play's second production, thanks to the good work put in by the good folks of Audacity Theatre Lab, and to some good conversations with my own traveling companion (the lovely and talented Megan Slater). This trip taught me that, though the play has its flaws, there are a lot of good things about it-- there is a lot of beauty, pain, imagination, and magic inside of it. And the artists of Audacity did a wonderful job bringing out the play's strengths.
In addition to the good work, I was moved by the company's hospitality, generosity, and companionship while I was in town. It is these kinds of experiences that make me thrilled to be an artist and feel privileged for the opportunity to share my work.
Big thank yous to Brad McEntire, Ruth Engel, Jeff Swearingen, Jeff Hernandez, Cassidy Crown, Tyson Rinehart, Rhianna Mack, Angela Parsons, Trista Wyly, Jaymes Gregory, Sarah Barnes, and Megan Slater, for a wonderful, memorable journey.
Thank you also to the friends who came out to see the show (you rock, Jason Tremblay and Sheila Doyle), and to Mark Lowry for his thoughtful press coverage of the performance.
As with all of these projects, I loved the experience, and I look forward to the next one.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The play steps inside a 24-hour greasy-spoon diner inside the haunted brain of Clinton J. Hill, the Secret Service Agent who couldn't quite save John F. Kennedy's life.
The piece, originally written as one of 37 of TRAVEL PLAYS, has become another collaboration between me and electronic music composer Mike Vernusky. Vernusky has created an 11-minute composition that includes a re-creation of the voices of Arlen Specter (voiced by Michael Kranes) and Clinton J. Hill (Cody R. Kirk) from the 1963 Warren Commission hearings after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The project finds its performance legs in the shared space between the script, the composition, and the movement/gestural language created by director Ken Kaissar and performers Chris Braak, Porter Eidam, Anabelle Garcia, Felicia Leicht, and Aaron Oster.
The play is one of six short works beginning at 8:00 pm at The Shubin Theatre (4th and Bainbridge).
Big thank yous the collaborative team for their great work on this presentation, to co-producers Todd Holtsberry and Bill Rolleri for putting the project together, to Nick Anselmo and Nan Gilbert at Drexel University, and to Dianna Marino, for who the orginal play, DALLAS, was written.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Currently teaching "Dramatic Analysis" (and totally enjoying it), I will have the privilege of teaching two courses each upcoming term: "Theatre History I" and "Theatrical Experience" in the Winter (January-April) and "Theatre History II" and "Theatrical Experience" in the Spring (April-June).
Because I am not a historian, these assignments will add to my own theatrical education, which I am thrilled about. This assignment will force be just as much as a student as the Drexel undergrads, which is something I always hope for/attempt to create while teaching. Together we will make some fun discoveries through thousands of years of studying live events and I look forward to the journey.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am very excited about this production, and thrilled to see what other kinds of magic Audacity Theatre Lab brings to the party.
Tickets, by the way, are NOW on sale.
Monday, October 05, 2009
The project, 37 different plays written for 37 different friends (taking place in 37 different locations), will be explored by six different directors leading six different creative teams. Each team will work on 6-7 plays, exploring/exploding these works with one leading maxim-- be as imaginative and as creative as possible. And have a fucking blast!
The work will culminate in a group-sharing event, open to the public on Saturday, October 10th at 5:00 pm. (if you are reading this and in the NYC area, I would LOVE to see you there!)
I am thrilled to continue working on this project, as it continues the multi-layered gift-exchange between me, my friends, and my work. I am excited to meet a large group (six directors, over 20 actors) of mostly new collaborators and to continue to make exciting theatrical discoveries about these plays and about live performance in general.
Big thank yous to Tim Errickson, Artistic Director of Boomerang, for his interest in this project, and for organizing and producing the event.
THE TRAVEL PLAYS
by Greg Romero
Adriana Baer, Marielle Duke, Michael Flanagan, Andrew J. Merkel, Daniel Talbott, and Jordana Williams
Tim Errickson and Boomerang Theatre Company
Saturday, October 10th, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
244 W 54th St 12th Floor
New York NY
(To view the Facebook event page, go here.)
Sunday, October 04, 2009
The show also gets a mention by Dallas/Fort-Worth area arts writer Mark Lowry in the popular theater site, Theater Jones. Lowry also links the production's "trailer", which I freaking love.
For more information on the Nov 11-21 production in Dallas, you can visit the online home of Audacity Theatre Lab.
Big thank yous to Brad and Mark for their work.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 22nd begins my first day teaching in the Performing Arts department of the Antionette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design at Drexel University.
(can you feel the heat?)
As an Adjunct Faculty member, I will be leading a class of mostly first-term Playwriting/Screenwriting students through "Dramatic Analysis". We will get our hands super dirty taking apart a handful of plays from (and not from) the Western theater canon. And we will compare the dramatic structure of plays to the dramatic structure of the surrounding campus and West Philadelphia architecture.
And we will, of course, spend lots of time traversing through space.
I look forward to the adventures ahead, and thank Nick Anselmo (Theatre Program Director) for bringing me into the University. I look forward to getting to know another group of students, another campus, and to all of the wonderful discoveries ahead.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
I have received over 90 individual gifts totaling around $ 1,500, which is, of course, incredibly useful and empowering. These gifts will allow me to give more time to my creative projects without having to take on a third job (for now).
(to see the full list of gift givers go HERE and HERE).
The outpouring of help has fueled me with even more motivation to go deeper inside of these projects, and deeper inside of myself as an artist and human. I am overwhelmed now with the urge to give back for all of the generosity I have received. And the best way I know to do that is to create the best work I can, and to work with people on these projects in the most thoughtful, bravest way possible.
These are promises confirmed by your gifts, and I thank you again.
Since the time of my original ask for help, the production dates for The Milky Way Cabaret have been confirmed (November 4-14 in Dallas, Texas) and the creative team of Audacity Theater Lab met just last night to begin exploring the play and to lay the creative groundwork for the production process.
Additionally, the workshop dates for The Travel Plays (An American Potlatch Road-trip) have been set (October 6-11 in New York City) and the good folks of Boomerang Theatre Company and I have begun organizing the creative teams for that project.
Your generosity has helped make these projects possible.
Thank you again to everyone for your gifts, and for believing in me. You are awesome.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Travlin' Alice (Cherie A. Roberts) will take another journey through the Milky Way Cabaret.
Originally commissioned by The Cardboard Box Collaborative (Philadelphia), this will be the play's second production, and the second leg of the "3P/3Y Collaboration".
The production will be directed by ATL's Artistic Director, Brad McEntire, and be performed in the black box theater of Teatro Dallas.
Big thank yous to the gang at the Cardboard Box for commissioning me to write the play, to the creative team from the original 2007 Philly Fringe production, and to Brad McEntire and Jeff Swearingen at Audacity for taking an interest in continuing the play's life.
This is a work that I am really proud of, and I am thrilled to be working on it again, and sharing it again with an audience.
Friday, August 07, 2009
As part of Audacity Theatre Lab's radio theatre project, Eye in the Sky, my short work, GOODB(EYE), is now playing as part of the project's second episode.
Audacity Theatre Lab hand-selected a number of playwrights from around the country to take part in this innovative collaboration. The short blurb above served as the launching point for the playwrights to create one to three page scenes, monologues, letters, songs, newspaper clippings, thoughts, etc.
There's an eye in the sky. How has it effected those on the ground? What does it mean? Where did it come from?
From the contributions of the playwrights, Audacity has launched a large-scale project to that will stretch on for the entire first half of 2009. 6-7 episodes, each featuring three radio pieces will be engineered and posted on this website. By the end of the summer, we plan to have the whole series up online.To listen to GOODB(EYE) as part the three-play episode (featuring additional plays by Erin Courtney and Daniel Talbott), visit the ATL website.
Thank you to Artistic Director Brad McEntire for inviting me into the project, and performers Jeffrey Schmidt and Lydia Mackay (who both, amazingly, appeared in one of my very first plays ten years ago...I love this big small world).
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
As I near the end of my time as the Resident Writer of the ArtsEdge Residency (which I have totally loved), I am full of ideas on how to continue finding support for my creative work. Because I am determined to stay committed to my writing (and to the time necessary to write as much as possible), I am not above asking for help.
So I am.
I am asking you for THREE DANG DOLLARS.
I am asking you to reach into your pocket, or your change bag, or your milk jar, and pull out three crispy (or crumpled) bills, three bucks worth of coins, three dang dollars.
Because three…is the magic number (yes, it is).
And because I have done the Math, and if everyone I ask throws down three dollars, I will have enough support to get me from September (when my residency ends) through the end of December.
Therefore, Three Dang Dollars = Four Dang Months.
Together we can be an awesome, grassroots Patron Collective.
But for the Math to work, I need help from everybody (and feel free to give more, just in case!).
So why should you give me three dang dollars?
1. Because it’s a generous gift, without being burdensome. Those three dollars will probably come back to you next time you have a beer with me.
2. Because your three dollars will allow me time and space to work on the following awesome projects:
A: The Most Beautiful Lullaby You’ve Ever Heard. I am collaborating with Austin-based composer Mike Vernusky in a slammin’ new production featuring his electronic music composition (which sounds INCREDIBLE). Our target date for production is the 2010 Philly Fringe Festival.
B: Completion of the first draft of The Babel Project. “Babel” is another collaboration with Vernusky—an “electro-theater” event that is cracking open our understanding of language and sound (audible and non). It is our biggest, most ambitious project to date. Our early work on it has us ridiculously excited. We are creating the project for full production in the Fall of 2011.
C: Continued work and production of Zombie Heart Salad Sandwich. I am developing this 15-20 minute piece for production with two additional Zombie-themed plays written by artists. We are targeting a brain-eating, Fall/Winter 2009 or early 2010 production.
D: Fall/Winter production of The Milky Way Cabaret. This full-length play is going into a November production with the cool cats of Dallas-based group, Audacity Theatre Lab. I am working on the script in preparation for what is its second production (it premiered in the 2007 Philly Fringe Festival).
E: Continued work on The Travel Plays: An American Potlatch Roadtrip. Many of you have already helped on this project (and thank you!). I am in conversation with a theater company about a potential Fall/Winter workshop in the Apple (we are going to bust it open!).
F: International, multi-city staging of The Marco Polo Project. I am organizing a worldwide event, which will perform this site-specific piece about cowboys, clowns, world explorers, and loss, in bathrooms all over the globe.
G: The live project, Thirty-Three, which will be performed on January 1, 2010 (01/01/10 = 3). This public performance will be based completely on your response to THIS fundraising letter. (Yes, you read that right...you are participating in a performance possibility at this very moment.)
And that should be enough work to do for the next four months. :)
BUT!!—to make all of this work come to life, I need your THREE DANG DOLLARS (or more!) for the necessary time and space to create and complete these projects.
Very simply, without your help this work cannot be done.
And to thank you for your support, I offer these gifts in return:
So let’s do it!!!
THREE DANG DOLLARS!!!
And if you are feeling more generous (and want me to perform something for up to three minutes!):
Otherwise, you can mail your gifts to:
322 N 39th St
Philadelphia PA 19104
THANK YOU for helping me create live performance!!
Have an awesome dang day!!
For gifts larger than $ 33 (2 dang 3s, plus that's how old I am), I will perform ANYTHING you ask me to, for up to three minutes. Send me a piece of writing, a challenge, a piece of music, a dream, an object, a demand, a question, a drawing, an impossible task, and I will perform it, somehow, on January 1, 2010. For serious. Make it something awesome. Dare me. I will perform anything and everything asked of me as part of the performance, Thirty-Three.
I will list the donors on this page, as well as what they are asking me to perform. I will also keep this page updated with any other specific performance information.
I look forward to it!
Gift-Givers (and their gift to be performed)
1. Jodi Alonzo (TBA)
2. Alexandra Bassett (Family of 9 at the dinner table. And you're all 9 of em. And oh shucks Benoit just spilled the gay).
3. Ilana Brownstein (TBA)
4. The Burn Ward Theater Company (TBA)
5. Hugh Craig (a monologue about birthdays: 13, 23, and 33)
6. Deena Gerson (TBA)
7. GerRee Hinshaw (Father visits the aquarium on Mondays and the arcade on Thursdays)
8. Kate Houlihan (a monologue from Hideki Matsui's perspective about Game 6 of the World Series)
9. Deven MacNair/Fire! (a project involving wrestling)
10. Nancy Mouton and Chester Forest (my birthday)
11. Dustin Puryear (something re: mou shu pork)
12. Wanda, Doyle, and Kristi Reeves (TBA)
13. Pat and Johnie Romero (TBA)
14. Sean Kendall Schneyer (Something in Outer Space, no Zombies allowed)
15. Hank Schwemmer ("Moonpies" by Hank Schwemmer)
16. Heidi Taylor (A dream about pear trees)
17. Angela Turner (a bit from Wind and the Willows as Mr. Toad)
18. Jeff Williams (The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and Abu Graib torture photos)
To donate your Thirty-Three Dollars, you can PayPal me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or mail me at:
322 N 39th St
Philadelphia PA 19104
To read the entire fund-raising letter, go here.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
(to become an awesome person, go here)
Chuck Bradford/Dr. Brad Chuckly
The Burn Ward Theater Company
Gregory Scott Campbell
Central Dollars Gang and Sxxxy Chocolate (Jodi Alonzo, Jeff Carpenter, Erena Messina, and Bryan Nelson)
Bella Bear Coyne
Jenae Yerger Glanton
Rand, Barb, Mae Mae, and Precious Harmon
Richard Kotulski and LiteraryManager.org
Robby Lambert/Earthquake McGoon
Eve Harrington Scholarship Winner Taylor Maddux
Elizabeth McDonnell (to raise money to fight breast cancer, go here)
Andrew J. Merkel
Nancy Mouton and Chester Forest
Erica S. Nagel
Jen (the Hen) Patureau
"The Nature Boy" Randy Pease (Woooooo!)
Sarah Pitre/Powder Blue
Wanda, Doyle, and Kristi Reeves
Cherie A. Roberts
Pat and Johnie Romero
Genevieve and Aaron Saenz
April Feld Sandor
Sean Kendall Schneyer
Vanessa L. Sparling
Skipper Chong Warson
Abe Louise Young
Thank you to all my students for such a great experience, and to Renee Dobson for the opportunity to teach, and for her continued support of my work in the classroom.
I look forward to the year ahead--to meeting new students, to continuing the relationships with last year's group, to our continued journeys through "space" together, and to my own continued journey through teaching/learning and how to explore/explode dynamic, imaginative, creative ways of engaging with people and information. I look forward to continue helping people learn, including myself.
It will be fun to see what objects we stand on, how we change the space of the room, how we surprise each other, how we connect huge ideas, how we look through the lens of live art to view our country and our lives, how we rip it up, and how we transform each other by deepening our own understanding of self.
It should be a fun time! Cheers to a good year ahead of us.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
After a rewarding and busy first year in Philadelphia, I spent my second year (from the beginning of July 2008 through the end of June 2009) trying to top myself.
I am not sure if I succeeded, but I definitely feel fulfilled by a full year's worth of work. It was another year of learning, of exciting opportunity, of deep questioning, of getting deeper inside the City of Brotherly Love.
As a highlight reel (and to compare it to Year One):
Worked as a dramaturg on Jennifer Haley's play, Breadcrumbs, as part of the 2008 PlayPenn New Play Conference. It was my first experience in some time working as a dramaturg, and I was generally just happy to be working on the conference (of which I am a fan). I liked Jen's play a lot, and got to work with a lot of new people (both in Philly and nationally) that I didn't know, but was thrilled to meet and experience.
My ten-minute play, Two Bubbles, is published by Playscripts, Inc as part of the anthology Great Short Comedies, Volume 3. The play, originally written in 24 hours, shares a volume with Steven Dietz, Rolin Jones, and others.
If you are wondering, YES, copies of the play are still on sale.
Began my second year of teaching at The University of the Arts.
Began a new teaching job at Saint Joseph's University, teaching "Introduction to Theater" and "American Theater", mostly to non-theater majors.
My one-act play, Valentine's Day, goes into production as part of the Philly Fringe Festival. The play is produced by The Burn Ward Theater Company as part of the project, Mittens Descending and Other Tales. The play was directed by Andrew J. Merkel and performed by Molly Casey on September 5th and 6th.
My Butoh-inspired piece, Shovel, is re-imagined as a site-specific project, 4 x 4, which featured four short, theatrical pieces staged in environmental spaces inside of Plays and Players Theater (Shovel was performed in the theater's catacombs). The play, also part of the Philly Fringe Festival, was directed by Andrew J. Merkel, performed by Cherie A. Roberts, with costume design by Jamie Grace-Duff.
Moved to West Philadelphia, beginning the first-ever ArtsEdge Residency, created by the University of Pennsylvania and The Kelly Writers House. I begin an eleven-month term as "Resident Writer", offered subsidized living and studio space in the West Philly community. The Residency introduces me to a number of wonderful people, writers, and events, as well as to a part of the city that was unknown to me. Big, continued thank-yous to Jessica Lowenthal, Erin Gautsche, Al Filreis, Greg Djanikian, and Gina Renzi for making it all happen.
Complete the short piece, Goodb(eye), written for Audacity Theatre Lab's Eye in the Sky project.
The Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series and I get pepper-sprayed in the ensuing Broad Street riots. I also am almost crushed by a dumpster that was on fire.
A pretty historic (and awesome) event takes place, sending the city into its third riot within six days. I do not almost die, but feel reborn.
My Butoh-inspired play, Shovel, goes into performance as part of the inaugural New Orleans Fringe Festival. The piece is produced by Austin-based Cisne Negro Productions and performed in the dive bar, Hi-Ho Lounge, on St. Claude Avenue.
Attended a free lecture given by Robert Wilson at Drexel University, which opened with him standing in silence for ten minutes at a podium. He later declared that we should burn down the universities. I became an even bigger Bob Wilson fan.
Completed Doctor Helix and Keggy the Keg, a ten-minute play written as a gift for my microbiologist, home-brewing brother-in-law, Adam Guss. The play is a fictional re-telling of the kidnapping of the unofficial mascot of Dartmouth University.
Began my second semester teaching at Saint Joseph's University.
Began teaching Creative Writing at The University of Pennsylvania, my first Ivy League teaching gig. The course I taught was: "Space, Place, and Character in Playwriting and Fiction". We read plays and fiction, wrote every class period, explored lot of weird spaces on campus, participated in a Flash Mob, field tripped to the Annenberg Center, to the Mutter Museum, created characters and expressed them through MySpace profiles, watched a play together, had class in the dark, had class in the park, and the students wrote A LOT of great work.
An in-progress version of the epic project, The Travel Plays, is presented at The Kelly Writers House as part of my ArtsEdge Residency. The project is directed by Wally Zialcita and performed by a really talented, fun ensemble: Mark Cairns, Michael Dura, Tomas Dura, Lyndsay Hart, Dawn Harvey, Brittany Holdahl, Aaron Oster, Jerry Rudasill, and Andrew J. Tardif.
Organized and curated "The Zombie Bake-Off" (along with help from Philly-based director and actor, Daniel Student), a writing event connected to the inaugural Philadelphia New Play Initiative Conference, whose keynote speaker is Paula Vogel. The event, hosted by Plays and Players and Philadelphia Dramatists Center (PDC), inspires almost 20 new plays about zombies, abuse, and chicken salad sandwiches (truncated versions of the three "ingredients" given to the writers), including my offering, Zombie Heart Salad Sandwich.
Completed the first draft/journey of The Travel Plays (An American Potlatch Road-trip), a collection of 37 short plays that journey from the Walt Whitman Bridge to Ozona, Texas, and back. All 37 plays are mailed to each of the 37 friends who inspired their individual play.
Belize's Place, a full-length play co-written by me and Austin-based playwright/musician Jason Tremblay (under the collaborative pseudonym "Tav Keyinde"), is given a first-read.
Joined InterAct Playwright's Forum, a collective/support-group of invited Philadelphia playwrights that meet monthly at InterAct Theatre's home in the Adrienne Theater.
Nominated for the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theater Artist, a $10,000 award given annually to a Philadelphia theater artist of exceptional promise. This is a huge honor for me, especially considering the brief time I've spent creating art in Philadelphia. I do not win the award, but am thrilled to be considered.
A workshop production of my full-length play, Dandelion Momma, is presented at The Kelly Writer's House, as part of my ArtsEdge Residency. The project is directed by Wally Zialcita, dramaturged by Terri Epp, and performed by Kevin Bergen, Wendie Hetherington, Brenna Schiman, and Miriam White.
My one-act play (one of my first plays ever!), The Ride, is presented at Saint Joseph's University, as a senior project directed by Fine and Performing Arts major (and Varsity basketball player) Edwin Lashley.
My one-act play, Valentine's Day, is performed at the University of San Diego, also as a senior project, by one of my former National Theater Institute students, Stacey Hardke.
Another production of Valentine's Day (another university project, another former NTI student, Ben Smolen, directs it) is scheduled for production at Wesleyan University, but canceled due to an unfortunate campus tragedy.
My one-act plays, Zombie Heart Salad Sandwich and Doctor Helix and Keggy the Keg, go into production in Austin, Texas, by Debutantes and Vagabonds at the Rollins Theater at the Long Center for the Performing Arts as part of the project, Are You Alive? The plays are directed by Amanda Garfield, and the production runs for three performances, May 14, 15, and 16.
Began creation of a new collaborative work, The Babel Project, with on-going creative partner and electronic music composer Mike Vernusky.
Celebrated my 33rd birthday with fireworks at a Camden Riversharks game in New Jersey.
Contributed (along with seven other unknown/anonymous writers) to the collaboratively-written (in the style of Tennessee Williams) play, We Share the Same Air for a Moment, as part of Anonymous Theater, produced by Philadelphia Dramatists Center.
Returned to The National Theater Institute (at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT) to work as the Playwriting Faculty for the Summer Intensive Training Program: TheaterMakers.
Ate really amazing blueberry pancakes at The Broken Yolk Cafe in New London, CT.
In all, it has been an outstanding, rewarding year. In addition to the work, I have continued to learn the city, feeling more and more like Philadelphia is my home. I have found more friends, more beauty, more of the city's little secrets, and more truths (and questions) about myself.
I am looking forward to the journey of Year Three, and hope that I can continue to contribute to the city, as well as find new ways to grow as an artist and human.
Thank you to everyone for a really good year.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The performance will be part of the National Theater Institute's Summer Intensive program, where I am currently teaching Playwriting. Each Tuesday during the summer, the students create and prepare an entirely new production of new works, which express an on-going laboratory for the advanced "TheaterMakers" to explore and apply their intensive training in a collaborative and project-based process.
I am thrilled to be invited to contribute my own writing to this ongoing project/process, and am excited to be working with guest director Gregg Wiggans, and NTI student performers Aaron Profumo (Oberlin College) and Kristen Johnson (Carleton College).
The play was originally written in two and a half days during February 2009 as part of a "Bake Off" created to celebrate Philadelphia's New Play Initiative Conference and its keynote guest, Paula Vogel. The play has since seen production earlier this summer in Austin, Texas, with Debutantes and Vagabonds as part of Are You Alive?, produced in The Rollins Theater at the Long Center for the Performing Arts (directed by Amanda Garfield).
The experience at the O'Neill, however, will be my first time in rehearsal with the play and I am looking forward to the discoveries and exploration ahead with my talented collaborators.
And I am LIVING A DREAM to have my writing up and being performed in the historic Barn Theater, adding my own contribution to the unique and rich legacy of The O'Neill Theater Center.
Thank you to Jeff Janisheski, Artistic Director of the National Theater Institute, for inviting me to contribute my work, as well as Nick Roesler, Associate Director of TheaterMakers, for making it all happen in the awesomest way possible.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I was unfortunately unable to attend (I am still at The O'Neill), but the early responses I've received have all been very enthusiastic. From what I understand, it was a hugely fun evening and I was happy to contribute to the good times.
It was a sincere blast to find my inner Tennessee Williams, allowing me to return to my southern roots and my love for Williams' writing. I only wish I could have seen and heard the performance out loud.
But I am encouraged by the responses, and I am hopeful that this event will continue to contribute to forward momentum being created by PDC (and others) in the effort to more deeply transform Philadelphia into a more dynamic, creative, highly fun new-play city.
Big thank yous to Richard Kutolski for producing the event, Wally Zialcita for his organizing and dramaturgy (and for inviting me to participate), Daniel Student for directing what must have been an impossible (and impossibly fun) process, and to the other writers and the performers for taking such a bold and risky creative leap into the void.
Below is a description of the event:
The World Premiere of a Play by
(a group of writers writing in the style of)
A play is written in secret by a group of playwrights whose identities are kept secret--even to each other.
The play is cast with actors whose identities are kept secret--especially from each other.
The actors rehearse one-on-one with their director, but never with each other, and never in the theatre.
On the night of the performance, the actors arrive in street clothes, indistinguishable from the audience members. As you wait in the lobby, then take your seat in the house, you wonder ... who among us is in the play? Is it that nervous fellow sitting on the aisle? Is it this quiet woman sitting right in front of me? Is it someone in my party?
The actors in the play are thinking the very same thing. As each of them comes to their entrance cue, they will stand and start speaking their opening lines as they make their way to the stage. And only on the stage, in front of a live audience, will they discover for the first time their collaborators in drama, romance, conflict, redemption .... or the actor's nightmare.
For the first time ever, PDC is presenting an original play, raising the stakes even higher for a concept that was already full of risk. All of the playwrights involved are PDC members save one -- the adopted muse for this play.
For one night only, come see the spirit of Tennessee Williams brought back to life in this world premiere event.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I have no idea where I am or how I got here.
Am I dreaming?
I try to stay still and listen to what’s surrounding me, try to make sense of what is going on. I can hear the traffic sounds…cars passing by on a nearby street. I don’t hear any people, so I wonder if I’m outside the city. From what I can tell, I am in a room (I am definitely inside) with an open window…or maybe an open door. I can almost feel a breeze.
The cars continue passing, but they do not notice me…it is the only sound, lonely as a single vibrating violin string, humming forever across an empty continent.
And I wonder if I’ll ever be able to play again.
Should I scream for help?
I am too scared of calling attention to whoever might be holding me captive, so I remain silent.
And then, the stench hits me. Urine. And shit.
I have been bound in this chair (I assume it’s a chair…a wooden one?) for so long that I have emptied my bowels all over myself. I adjust my body enough to feel the wet sand I am sitting in, confirming that I am full of waste.
How long have I been here? Hours? Days?
Is there any way of knowing?
I try to stand up, but my entire body is bound and I am filthy and helpless.
I try to piece my memory together—do I remember anything?
Nothing stirs in my mind. No clues reveal themselves. Blank and soiled, I sit and continue to listen to the cars pass on the road, and a few of them begin to sound like the ocean.
I feel myself drifting, but I cannot allow myself to dream…I must find a way out.
I scream for help—maybe my voice is urgent enough to reach into a distant passerby’s ear. The air fills my lungs and I cry out, but my voice is stopped by something in my mouth…a rag? A towel? A gag? The texture pushed against my tongue is rough, perhaps an entire bathrobe is shoved in my face.
I keep screaming and can feel my voice filling my own ears, and I continue, desperately, until the screams press upon my temples and blanket my brain. But none of the sounds can get out and I begin to taste the blood from the back of my throat, all for nothing.
Why am I here?
I have no idea.
I rock my chair side to side, trying to tip myself over onto the ground. The wood creaks under my weight, and I am sickened by the excrement mushing under my body as I shift myself from one side of the chair to the other.
Finally, I fall over to the ground, landing hard and loud onto the floor. The side of my face tells me I’m on hardwoods, perhaps…pine? No, maple.
I hear a door slide open…glass doors? I hear footsteps walk towards me from the other room, their sound echoes through the vibrations I feel pass against my face pressed onto the floor. The footsteps walk closer, until I know they are right next to me.
Who is standing over me?
A voice above me says, “Walter?”
It is a man, and he knows my name. And, of course, I cannot answer.
He presses the heel of his shoe against my face, taunting me. Slowly, he shifts his weight until my cheek feels the entire burden of his body. And, of course, I cannot scream. I can only wait and hope for him to stop.
Something in my face pops, I don’t know what it is, but it is a bigger knife and it is stabbing me just underneath my left eye.
He finally removes his foot from my ruined face and I can smell the fresh blood, feel its warmth as it slides down my cheek, an adagio of pain.
I want to ask him who he is, why he’s put me here, but I can’t, and it hurts too much anyway.
“Can you hear me?”
I know of no way to answer him but to squirm my body on the ground, enough for him to assume I’m still barely alive and listening.
He takes this as a “yes”.
“Do you recognize my voice?”
I don’t quite. The voice is sonorous, younger than mine, but somehow timeless.
“Do you remember me?”
I wish I could. The voice is still unplaced but not unfamiliar. It is a voice that comes on the end of a comet’s tail if it were swimming through a river.
I can’t make sense of the next few sounds—I know the man steps away from me and I hear three individual snaps. A creaking—a case of some kind opens. What is in there? A gun? A sword?
I hear the footsteps walk more about the room—his steps are direct. Is he looking for something? I hear an object dragging on the floor towards me…a chair?
Yes…he drags the chair next to me, still lying, bound, on the floor. I can feel one of the chair’s cold, metal legs pressed against my forehead. I am sure this is intentional.
I feel the chair bear the weight of the man as he sits down in it. What will happen next?
He clears his throat. And then I hear it—the bow glides over the violin strings and out come the first two, unmistakable, haunting notes. And inside the perfect vibrato of his second note, I know he is playing “Clair de lune”.
He continues playing, elegant and masterful, and I am no longer on the floor, bound to a chair, soaking in my own shit. I am with the angels. I am drifting above the sea with the other lonely and delicate, night-time souls, the moonlight illuminating the water in its wonderful half-light.
The violin sounds naked, even more vulnerable and magical without the piano accompanying, and it sends my soul even higher.
This stranger, my tormentor—or is he my angel?—continues gliding through the music, richly, perfectly, his notes impeccably placed, elegant and longing, his phrasing is graceful and mournful, and I feel he must be certain this is my favorite piece of music, the most perfect piece of music, and also the only piece I have failed to master. Dozens of years of attempting, but I don’t have the skill to play. I’ve always known I couldn’t play it because I loved it too much.
I know he is nearing the end of the music and I never want him to stop. I would lie on this floor, bleeding and broken, if I could continue to listen him play forever.
He reaches Debussy’s final note, capturing and gently holding it in the air for as long as possible, though it will never be long enough for me.
I hear him finally untuck the violin from his neck, the piece is over, but the final sounds continue passing through my mind. I am distracted from mentally replaying the music only when I feel the violin bow puncture my neck and pass all the way through my throat.
I lie on the ground, completely ripped open and spilling on to the floor.
The man stands, and I hear his footsteps leave the room. All is silent now, except for the cars that continue to pass, unchanged, outside the window. I still can make no sense of these last few moments.
Of course, at this point, it doesn’t matter.
I know my time is done. All I have left is the music, which I continue to listen to in my mind as it slowly, painfully fades away, and everything is completely gone.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Big thank yous to Jennifer Hannan for taking the time and interest in interviewing me, and for the lovely write-up.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I taught at NTI last summer and loved every minute of it. The students were talented, brave, smart, dedicated, and showed a lot of guts by testing themselves in the 7-day a week (no kidding), 6 week program. For 42 days straight, the NTI students push it to the max, and I will be there doing my best to stoke their creative fires, to continue to learn from them, and to help all of us explode the thing wide open.
I also look forward to rejoining several talented teaching artists, including Yuriy Kordonsky (Wesleyan University) and Broadway performer (Passing Strange) Colman Domingo, among others. My work at NTI last summer undoubtedly made me a better teacher, more aware of ways to embody the teaching/learning process, and more dynamic and bold in my own use of space. Because of and motivated by the talent that will surround me, I see this teaching opportunity as a way to challenge own skills as an educator, and to push against my own teaching expectations.
As an added benefit, the summer training will be in session during the National Music Theater Conference, as well as the National Playwrights Conference, and there are lots of fun overlaps betweens these programs as well as a lot of high-quality work to witness.
It is a TRULY exciting place to be during the summer, and I can't wait to get started. We are still sorting through some of the details, but it is likely I will be in residence for the entire six-week program, beginning June 14th through July 27th.
Big thank yous to Jeff Janisheski for re-hiring me this year, and to Nick Roesler for being so radical and mystical. And thank yous again to all of the 2008 crew-- the students and staff-- for such a memorable summer last year.
FORT GRISWOLD OR BUST!!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thank you again to The Kelly Writers House, to the wonderful artists who worked on the project, and to Jennifer Hannan for taking the time to come to the event and share her experience with others.
To read the article, go HERE.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The live theatrical performances will be coupled with live music from a different Austin band each night (how Austin!).
Two of my plays, Doctor Helix and Keggy the Keg and Zombie Heart Salad Sandwich, will be part of the line-up.
Doctor Helix was written as a Christmas gift for a brother in law (the title character is based on him-- the doctor, not the anthromorphic beer keg). Zombie was written as part of a city-wide "Bake-Off" project I organized in Philadelphia in February. Both are dark and funny and strange (both plays involve people/things being tied up and abused), and are being fully produced for the first time (Zombie was read out loud during Philadelphia's New Play Initiative Conference).
I unfortunately will not be in attendance for this production, as I am always looking for an excuse to go down to Austin and see good friends and take in the wonderful Austin air. It is my hope that friends still in A-Town will go out and check out the show in my stead.
Big thank yous to Frank Rodriguez for asking me to send him some plays to consider for this project, and to him and Amanda Garfield for selecting these plays and putting so much work into them.
The show funs May 14-16 in the Rollins Theater in The Long Center for the Performing Arts (701 W Riverside).
Here is the info from the producers....
DOUBLE STEREO and DEBUTANTES & VAGABONDS have co-produced three (3) nights of theater and live music at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on May 14th – 16th with White Ghost Shivers, The Georgian Company, and Scott H. Biram.
Directed by Amanda Garfield and Paula Russell, "Are You Alive" presents an evening of twisted theatre (macabre vignettes written by Hunter Davis, Aimee Gonzalez, Fred Jones IV, Francisco Rodriguez, Greg Romero, and Sarah Saltwick) that will leave the audience wondering what it really means to be alive. Each performance will feature live music from a different Austin band.
* Thursday, May 14th - White Ghost Shivers *
* Friday, May 15th - The Georgian Company *
* Saturday, May 16th - Scott H. Biram *
After each show, the Tiniest Bar in Texas will host a party with complimentary beer and alcohol.
**Performances begin at 8PM and tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, please visit www.dnvtheatre.com.**
If you are on Facebook, go to event page, HERE.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Their final projects were to take at least three of the (nine) plays we've read over the course of the semester, to smash them together in some way, and create a performance out of their collision. The rest of the details were up to them.
The biggest expectations I impressed upon them was to make use of what they'd learned over the course of the semester about the plays they've read, their understanding of the uniquely theatrical elements ("what is theater?"), their observations made from witnessing live events, and their in-class experiences with performance, somehow creatively expressing all of this semester-long learning in a 15-20 minute original work of live performance.
But most importantly, I just wanted them to have fun engaging their own creativity.
I deeply believed in all of them, yet the class still exceeded my expectations.
And because I am so thrilled with the projects they came up with and presented to each other on Thursday, I wanted to share them publicly.
Project One was an episode of "Celebrity Jeopardy", hosted by Alex Trebek, with contestants Romeo, Georges Seurat, and Willy Loman. They answered questions from categories like "Plays by Stephen Sondheim", "Shakespearian Tragedies", humorously expressing the tragic flaws of all three of these leading men. Loman wins the final, decisive round, as Romeo and Seurat (bursting into song) both answer incorrectly the question, "what is theatre?". Loman is thrilled that he can now support his family and tell his boss to stick it.
Project Two was a parallel telling of three plays-- Crimes of the Heart, Romeo and Juliet, and Oedipus Rex, as Mafia/crime family adaptations. Re-imagining the McGrath sisters as "three incompetent New Jersey brothers who eagerly await the return of their father from prison", Crimes of the Cannoli was a five-minute play exploring the "main themes of family, loyalty and misfortune". Group Two's second play re-visioned the opening moment of Romeo and Juliet with servants Sampson and Gregory and Montague kinsman Benvolio instead as two warring mafia families (the Lucianos and Costellos), with "Vinnie"/Benvolio as an associate from the Luciano family. A fight breaks out (instigated by "Frankie"/Tybalt), prompting the head of the Gambino family (Prince Escalus as "Nicky Gambino") to threaten the warring families into peace with each other. Their third adaptation was the moment in which Tiresius (as wise "Dr. Milano") reveals the prophecy to Oedipus/"Vinnie Bruno" about his doomed fate as his wife/mother Jocasta/"Concetta Bruno" attempts to console him.
Project Three presented two short plays-- a smashing together of two plays each. The first, Romeo & Juliet: The Seven Year Itch, transformed the final moment of A Doll's House, expressing the Ibsen's Torvald and Nora through Shakespeare's young lovers, thirteen years after their re-imagined union in the Elizabethan tragedy. Juliet tells Romeo she's leaving, that she knows of his affair with Rosalind, and that the young lovers have grown older and distant. She exits amidst Torvald/Romeo's protests, slamming the door in his face. The group's second piece places Crimes of the Heart's Babe (McGrath) Botrelle in a therapy session with Equus's Martin Dysart, in which they both continue to question and come to an understanding about healing and passion and "normal" behavior.
Project Four, titled: Attrition, imagines Babe Botrelle again, this time during her fifth year of institutionalization in Whitfield Asylum. She's visited by Dora Strang, five years after the final curtain of Equus (and now separated from her husband) on a soul-saving mission to the mental hospital. The students took a lot of inspiration from Shaffer's use of space, creating in the classroom an encircled playing area in which the two live actors were divided by a single partition (a piano bench). The third performer (a member of the SJU Softball team and out of town at a tournament) was summoned via an Ipod and narrated the emotional action through the character of Tartuffe's Elmire Pernelle (and in ryhming couplets!). As Babe and Dora gained emotional closeness, the actors invisibly crept forward in their rolling chairs, expressing their emotional distance physically (they also changed time and space during sections of the play by adjusting themselves differently in their chairs and directly addressing the audience with their inner thoughts).
Project Five was a couples group therapy session led by Equus's Martin Dysart. The play opens with Dysart questioning his ability to counsel while the four couples all sit on stage, much like the chorus/horses in Shaffer's drama. Dysart attempts to counsel the Helmers (Nora and Torvald), the Lomans (Willy and Linda), the Maxsons (Troy and Rose from August Wilson's Fences), and Georges Seurat and his pregnant mistress, Dot. The couples find places of intersection and disconnect (even within themselves-- Willy continues searching for his brother Ben, Georges at one point places a cardboard cut-out of himself while he leaves to "finish the hat"), eventually resisting Dysart's counsel and exit, leaving the psychiatrist to contine questioning himself alone on stage.
In short, the students did wonderful work digging into their creative reservoirs and birthing new ways to inhabit and present these plays. They tapped into their creativity in ways that surprised them, and expressed themselves in ways they thought impossible. And more thrilling, it was evident that were really ENJOYING it, evidenced by their hard work, attention to detail, and the sparkle in which they presented themselves.
As an additional assignment, I asked the students to reflect upon their experience working on these creative projects, and I was thrilled with their personal discoveries. Of these, I wanted to share a couple:
"After about 20 minutes into writing, we began to have a great time with the script. We were coming up with new, fresh ideas and the project did not seem to be a burden at all. The problem of not being able to write enough quickly turned into a problem of writing too much and having to edit many parts out to be conscious of time. We became so engulfed in our work that if we were permitted to, would have continued to write an entire script because we were having so much fun with it. Never did I imagine I would have this much fun with the project and so much curiosity would be sparked in me. I learned many things from this project. The main thing I learned was to approach all things with an open mind. Secondly, I learned that I had a creative side of me that I never really thought I had."
"Overall, throughout the length of the semester, I learned how theater in and of itself is a continued experience of the creative journey; and I have a much deeper appreciation for theatrical works. While I learned a great deal, I am well aware that the learning process will only continue long into the future."
These reflections from my students are the highest reward they can offer their instructor, because it demonstrates that they have been transformed by their experiences, and feel more alive because of them. Witnessing their revelations teaches me to continue to search for my own, and to continue finding the joy inside my own creative expression and teaching.
For them, it is my hope that they continue and deepen their dance with this awareness and with their creative selves, as it is clear to me that they all became brave, curious, and joyful learners, open and engaged and full of light.
Thank you again, HAWKS, for a lovely semester.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
The bigger concerns are with the students and University community as they deal with a strange and traumatic event. I send you all my love and hugs, and hope that you are safe and surrounded by good people.
Thank you again Ben Smolen and Emily Vallillo for all that you have given me, I wish I could offer you more right now than just my play.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
The piece is one that is dear to me, originally written for a friend in February 2007. Since that first production (produced by RedHouse Arts in Austin, Texas), the play has gone up once more at the Philly Fringe (September 2008, by The Burn Ward Theater Company) and I am thrilled that it continues its life.
The play is about Opal (who is one of my favorite characters I've ever written) who decides every Valentine's Day if she's going to kill herself. She makes lists, she makes pizzas, she rollerskates, and she's afraid of hula-hoops.
The project is being directed by a former student of mine from The National Theater Institute, Ben Smolen, and I trust with his talent and passion that he and actress (and fellow Wesleyan student) Emily Vallillo are doing excellent work. With the generous support of the University, I plan to Amtrack up on Saturday to Middletown to see the work they are doing, and to offer my thanks and encouragement and to continue to learn the play through them.
Thank you Ben and Emily.