As a producer, you can sometimes feel like the ugly stepchild of the Off Off Bway world. No one wants to be that person. Well, not enough people. I remember reading with delight about three directors choosing to produce the work of another fellow director and a playwright. These three women met at…
Reading THIS blog by a playwright named Mariah MacCarthy triggered some uncomfortable nostalgia for me. Among other things, she talks about how weird it is that most big theaters say that they want to attract young audiences but continue to produce plays by and for old people. And it is…
I saw an adaptation of the famous robot play R.U.R. the other night. This production by Resonance Ensemble was set in the not-too-distant year of 2030. A private firm is manufacturing lifelike robots to perform menial labor all over the planet. We know from the start that it can’t end well for us…
I went on a field trip with my first grader’s class this week. It was amazing. We entered a superhero supply shop and were ushered into a secret hideout behind a door that looked like one of the shelves in the store. We were told that the young man who let us in worked here for a meanie of a boss named Mrs Mildew who paid him to write stories. He loved his job, but Mildew didn’t love his work. This is where the 1rst graders came in. They had to help the adorable young man keep his job.
He was fantastic. He led them ever so gently into creating their own story. He never fed them ideas. It all came from them. He did make sure it made sense, and he prompted them for the necessities of good storytelling (which the kids came up with at the beginning), things like including dialogue, letting us know what the characters were feeling, and making sure something exciting happened or that there was a problem to be overcome. This was all awesome. It’s no surprise that this particular field trip is so popular that classes have to enter a lottery to go on it.
So why the blog? This is all great. Good teaching of great writing skills plus rampant creativity. I should be grateful (and I am!) Here’s the problem. To come up with a main character the kids all offered ideas then voted. The star of the story was a talking pencil! Awesome! Now they were asked to name their character. A child suggested Mr. Freeze for the name. Our leader said “that’s a good idea, but wait a minute: is our pencil a boy or a girl?” Some shouting ensued, so he realized we needed another vote. The class has 23 children, 11 girls and 12 boys. 18 voted for “boy.” 4 voted for “girl.” This means at least 4 girls voted for the main character to be a boy. The 4 who voted for the main character to be a girl were all girls. There was some grumbling among the parents (yes, I was loudest) and a couple of moms expressed the idea that the vote may have gone that way because the name MR. Freeze had already been suggested (that name did indeed win). I acquiesced (not really).
Then it came time to name the villain. A robber who also happened to be an eraser! Awesome! The nice young man running things asked them right away, “OK, so is this bad eraser a boy or a girl?” There was a resounding “BOY” from the audience. No vote was taken. A parent was heard to mumble, “No one suggested Mr. that time.” OK, it was me.
I know this is only one instance and proves nothing scientific. So I’d like to challenge you to an experiment. Ask the children you know what gender their stuffed animals are. Try to ask a lot of children if possible about as many stuffed friends as possible. It’s great to be able to do this when visiting so you can point from one to another and ask “is this elephant a boy or girl? How about this turtle, is is it a girl or a boy? That giant snake on the shelf; girl or boy?”. I guarantee you will find that ALL children have primarily male stuffed animals. Girls may have a couple of female stuffies. Often they are pink and have long eyelashes, and I know one boy who (bless his heart) has one female furry friend but the overall theme is clear.
Here’s another thing to try. Next time you see an animal that you don’t know, a wild animal at the zoo or a stray cat on the street, listen to how the people around you refer to it. Do they say “awww, that poor kitty needs a home, she looks hungry” or “wow, that giraffe is so tall, look how high she can reach to eat those leaves”? NO, people in this society always refer to the unknown as he. It’s a fact. Just listen.
This is a major problem for me. I have trained myself to refer to creatures with unknown genders as “she.” It has NOT been easy. Have you ever had a friend change their name? Now you have to start calling Bobby “Robert.” It’s almost impossible to do. It feels weird. I have friends who won’t even try. They say they just “can’t.” That’s how hard it can be to make myself say “Oh honey! Look at that cute little marmoset! Awww, she’s chasing her tail!” So why? Who cares? We should all care because every little girl and boy internalizes the subliminal message that female is the 2nd choice. Not the go to, not the obviously interesting thing to choose for your main character. Male is the default. When in doubt, go male. NO. I say when there is any doubt, let’s go female. Let’s change this trend for our children. We can make a difference in the writers of the future and in the employers of the future, and in the egos of future women by helping everyone realize that female is just as good, that Mrs Freeze is just as exciting as Mr Freeze.
I love this blog post and have been working hard on how we define success for YEARS now. We’ve been defining our success for a long time, in part at least, by how much we help others. Developing early career artists has been a central part of our programming for ages. We mentor our artists in their creative growth. We encourage networking and know that making connections is absolutely central for theatre artists to grow in NYC. Many creative partnerships have come out of our Forums and Internships. I’m always excited when I see these young artists finding each other. Truly compatible collaborators are rare!
But on the point of helping others succeed (#2 toward the bottom of the post) we are going through a transition. We no longer maintain a full time space. In the past, much of our support for our nearest and dearest and for new artists trying to find their way was in the form of a physical space. We gave space to play, have readings, do productions, develop work and develop as artists. We loved being enablers able to say “Go. Make art. Don’t worry if it’s commercial and don’t worry if it’s a finished project. Just make sure you follow your inspiration into the deepest, farthest corners of your mind and don’t compromise on trying EVERYTHING you want to!” We will still do this. We will have readings and develop work and produce plays, but there will be fewer of them. We don’t have a space to fill 365 days a year (whew!), so how do we continue to support all of our brilliant alumni and fellow artists, the playwrights, actors, directors, and designers that we love so much and don’t want to miss out on even for one season?
Here’s how … and you can do it too!
See their plays! Now that we’re not producing 365 days/year, we can see more theatre. What better way is there to support a theatre artist? See their work.
Talk about that play you saw. There is no more powerful marketing tool than word-of-mouth, so we will talk, write (see recent blogs), tweet and update our friends about the work that inspires us.
Help them fundraise. Everyone needs money. It’s hard to get. So I will give to as many as I can (small amounts perhaps, but we all know that if everyone who saw your campaign gave just $5 we’d all be rolling in the dough, right?) AND we will spread the word about your project in hopes that our friends will help you too.
Of course, no one can see everything, but even when we can’t see your play we will tweet it, FB it and basically try and help you get the word out.
These ideas aren’t as creative as I might wish, but I hope they are a starting point. If you have any to add please do let us know!
I think we just might define success for 2013 as being seen as a company of artists who will support each other and be there for our fellow artists. We will be your champion. As long as you are making something you love, we love that you’re doing it.
Looking back at 2012 … WOW! What a fantastic year! We have much to brag about. In our mainstage work The Angel Play was as beautiful, original and exciting as we expected. East of the Sun West of the Moon was truly charming, with its Bear in the audience and Heroine saving the Prince. We also had a fantastic Forum of original work with some promising artists taking chances and taking names!
Then came the decision to leave our long-term home. Talk about a big change. While we are pretty sentimental about leaving, we are loving the freedom we now have to focus on the art (you know; writing, directing, acting) and NOT to worry about running a facility or the limitations of being a non-union house. Our reading on December 11 of “The Goddess” at the Richmond Shepard Theatre was an excellent experience of feeling at home in someone else’s home. It was a fantastic night with such wonderful performances and dream feedback! We heard everything we needed to hear. We can’t thank our audience and artists enough!!!
We need your help to celebrate this anniversary right, so please DONATE. Even $5 can buy a costume piece, and $5000 could pay our rent in a beautiful theatre for up to two weeks!
OUR ANNIVERSARY SEASON:
THE GODDESS. Our anniversary celebration will be a full production of the play that rocked the house in a staged reading last month! Challenging conventional beliefs about love, marriage, and sex, the Goddess Venus appears to Mike and Emma to shake things up. Venus accuses Emma of having become boring and bourgeois in her conventional marriage and challenges her to let her husband have an affair. The couple explores a new kind of relationship with extreme freedoms on both sides. But can this work in the long run? Between hot trysts and exotic travel will they have time for more? How can they return to the emotional slavery and sexual prison of monogamy? Is Venus keeping them together or ripping them apart?
Developmental Readings: Brand new work by old friends!
ANOTHER SPRING by Yasmine Rana: This piece about a university student in the Middle East who takes a risk and ends up imprisoned is sharp and relevant. The student made a bad choice, but was it really her choice to be photographed that way? Awaiting judgment and punishment, her only visitors are a reporter and her memories of love and betrayal. Will she survive, and, even if she does, will her spirit survive? She was inspired, now is she defeated?
ART OF NECESSITY by Karin Diann Williams is about Lea, her three sons and their inheritance. It’s about a hoarder who is forced to give up her stuff. It’s about a youngest son made homeless by his older brothers. It’s about Glory and her daughters Emily and Ember — one sings, one models. And maybe it’s about the truth there is to be found in a Magic Eight Ball.
TBA One more new work by a fabulous artist as yet to be determined!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 MAGNIFY YOUR DIRECTING With Justine Lambert A directing workshop to put some oomph behind your urges
Where: Looking Glass Theatre, 422 West 57th Street
When: Saturday, October 22, 3:30-6:30pm You have the creativity, you have the ideas with inspiration to spare, now you just need to implement those ideas with as much passion and conviction as you feel.
This class is an accelerated sketch of what needs to be done. In three hours we will touch on implementing concepts, crafting the acting to serve your needs while being true to your actors own impulses and telling the story through the lens of your vision.
The class begins with an email exchange in advance to ensure that you are prepared and can get the most out of the class time. Scenes are assigned for you to read and think about in advance, and our talented Fall 2011 acting interns will be there; ready to work, grow and get to know you and your aesthetic.
Breakdown of activities; Meet and Greet; Accelerated Viewpoints Workshop; Concept Discussion, initial direction and showing of scenes; Staging with Viewpoints Workshop; Moderated Scene work; Final Showing; Wrap Up discussion
Cost: $20 suggested. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
On Saturday September 24 we held a reading of Dragonslayer, the one woman show that I co-authored with the amazing Judy Sheehan http://www.judysheehan.com/. It was so exciting and HELPFUL! I can’t believe how much work these four talented actresses were able to do in only two rehearsals. Huge thanks to Shannon Altner, Emily Daly, Arielle Hader, and Hannah Tamminen.
After the reading there ensued such a lively and helpful discussion with cast, staff and audience that I never wanted it to end. Perhaps most gratifying for me was the participation of members of our creative community - Robert Gonyo, the artistic director of Co-Op Theatre East, the company in residence at Looking Glass this season, and Looking Glass staff members Aliza Shane, Rose Ginsberg and Erica Nilson. Knowing that I have a community to lean on for my creative needs is tremendously important to me!
I learned so many things about our play. I saw who this young woman we’ve created was, and the audience has made it clear that they want to know more; more about her inner workings and more about who she is. Who will she be after this play if she survives? Why does she need the things she needs? I am excited to continue to explore this character that I’ve come to love and this world I sometimes wish we all lived in.
The following Monday night I had the privilege of sitting in on rehearsal for Calamity Jane Battles the Horrible Hoopsnakes (Written by by E. J. C. Calvert, directed by Jacquelyn Honeybourne and featuring Abraham Adams, Gianna Cioffi, Jessica Kelly, David Mangiamele, Monica O’Malley, Katie Proulx and Sarah Pullman. To my great joy, our preview in Time Out NY Kids came out the very next morning! http://tinyurl.com/3audvt7
I greatly enjoyed listening to director Jacquelyn Honeybourne giving notes when I first arrived. Then after getting the lowdown on set, scenes and snake costumes, the real fun began. I only saw four scenes run in their entirety, but within them was an encapsulated world - courageous Jane and her mom heading off to make a new life for themselves only to encounter the cowardly (adorable) inhabitants of a town harassed by Hoopsnakes.
As they try to fit in well enough to be allowed to spend the night something happens…Mom is mom-napped! But never fear; Calamity Jane is not panicked. She’s ready, willing and eager to embark on a rescue mission. She has quite a lot of convincing to do with the Townies however who are quite happy with their cowering ways.
We also see the other side of the situation. Mom is in the lair of the snakes. They have an interesting discussion (yup, discussion with snakes) regarding what Mom has done wrong (in her life or in Hoopersville is not certain yet) and discover things about snakes that you might not guess just by looking at them.
Whenever I am in a rehearsal room I inevitably learn something, sometimes about theatre (usually), sometimes about life. Last night I learned something that can be applied to both: snakes are not only scary (they’re a bit scary, that’s a given) they’re also funny. Slithery, slimy, limbless silliness.
The Season is Upon Us! You might think that since our first full production is opening in October we’re having a calm start to the season, but Fall is already barreling full steam ahead. We’ve been so busy, in fact, with getting our programs up and running that I have barely had time to look up from the computer and appreciate the artists I’m working with. Here’s a quick rundown of what to look for this season!
Our Fall acting internship is well under way with 12 wonderfully talented performers working in the office, taking improvisation classes with our Fall acting instructor Naima Moffet-Warden and getting ready to perform in our Writer/Director Forum in December. The rising stars are: Joey Lozada, Olivia Boyle, Samantha Cains, Cindy de la Cruz, Nathalie Frederick, Josiah Laubenstein, Norma Perez-Hernandez, Kiley Rothweiler, Nathaniel Ryan, Jodi Savitz, Chanel Thomas and Nick Zappetti.
Dragonslayer — A free developmental reading this Saturday, September 24 at 7 p.m. I co-wrote this with long-standing collaborator Judy Sheehan. This is the first time I’ve had the honor of co-authoring a piece with this consummate professional. One of the original co-creators of Tony-N-Tina’s Wedding, Judy has had eight shows (I hope I counted them all!) produced here at Looking Glass. I’m so excited to go on this journey as we create an entire world and one amazing character together.
Calamity Jane Battles the Horrible Hoopsnakes — Already cast with rehearsals underway, this family show is a piece of laughter and childhood. Inspired by our own Jacquelyn Honeybourne’s love of the traditional American Tall Tales, E. J.C. Calvert has written an original story about the plucky heroine as a young girl faced with an unusual and hilarious situation involving scaredy snakes- wait, I meant scary snakes of course… or did I? ;-)Runs October 15 through November 20.
Co-Op Theatre East Residency— We are so excited by our new partnership with this amazing company. They will be an artist in residence for the entire season starting this Fall with bi-monthly workshops and Radio COTE, their 2nd annual radio play festivalon November 15.
Staged Readings of New Works – The 5 shorts for $5 bucksseries returns! Title TBA. On Wednesday, October 26, we’ll be holding the third of our exciting new short play reading series. Based on the set of the current show (in this case it will beCalamity Jane, so who knows??!), so far the themes have been “Submerged” and “Naked.” With an open call for artists to create “on theme,” we’ve already had amazing and inspired work come out of this series from veterans and rookies alike. I am truly excited about the potential for growth and new projects this program is bringing us.
Big Benefit Party- Our Fall benefit party is set for Tuesday, November 8 from 6-10pm. That’s right, Election Day! So put it in your calendar; after you rock the vote, come rock with us. Planning is well underway; our interns have begun soliciting (and getting!) exciting raffle prizes and musical guests are banging down the doors (well…they’re emailing) for the opportunity to perform. It’s going to be a blast!
theater IN ASYLUM’s Frankenstein – This exciting Fall space grant recipient presents their re-imaging of Mary Shelley’s classic November 15-19. I enjoyed reading this proposal so much, and I can’t wait to see this show happen in our space.
Winter 2011 Writer/Director Forum — Of course, this half of our season will culminate with our semi-annual festival of new works in December. We have a very full Forum with ten talented directors currently in the process of choosing their projects and getting geared up for the big meeting in early October. We have a perfect mix of experienced artists and new blood this go round and I am not exaggerating when I say this one promises to be one of the best. With planning started earlier than ever and the ideas flowing so smoothly already, I can’t believe I have to wait until December to see these shows! —————- Justine Lambert Artistic Director Looking Glass Theatre - www.lookingglasstheatrenyc.com
Finally three shows that go together…sort of. Well, they don’t have all that much in common actually but they are all definitely comedy! They run the gamut of comic styles from full on realism to flat out absurdity! GIN JOINTWritten by Gabrielle Fox, directed by Eva Gabrielle SchelbaumFeaturing Shea Davies & Gus Zucco Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into his…in a wedding dress
This is a realistic comedy all about a silly situation. It may be shorter than your average sitcom (clocks in at about 12 minutes) but it certainly runs much deeper than one. The delightfully wacky setup involves a woman stuck in her sister’s wedding gown and the only person who can help her is a stranger. He’s an actor about to star in a production of Casablanca and that great film is a touch point helping to add the deeper notes to this charming ditty about possibilities that have passed us by while new ones open up.
WHO IS DAN SCHILLER?Written by Bella Poynton, directed by Ariel FrancoeurFeaturing Petra Denison, Jesse Kane-Hartnett, Dave Herigstad, Sarah Klein, Dan Lovley, Claire Nasuti, David O’Hara & Tom Simonetti Please turn off all electric devices, make sure that your tray tables are in the upright and locked positions, and hold onto to your sanity…
This play is just absurd. In a good way! In fact one of my only notes was to go ahead and make it even more absurd! It’s about what the best absurd plays are all about: a sane person lost in an insane world. It begins on an airplane and may secretly be about the insanity we all feel when we are heading thousands of miles above ground in a tin can. The story actually follows a man’s descent into hell as he discovers first that his best friend is dead and is then accused of his murder. But plot isn’t really the point here. So what is? Sanity vs. Insanity? Style & Comedy? The way we all feel when faced with the shocking illogical nature of humanity? I’m reeling from “Weinergate” as I write! Life is absurd and I for one need a laugh!
SIGN MEWritten by Naima Moffet-Warden and Allison Ungar, directed by Naima Moffet-WardenFeaturing Richard McDonald, Margaret Odette, Ryan-Ashleigh Reid & Biniam Z. Tekola When Adrian’s business and love test her destiny, all she’ll be screaming is… JUST GIVE ME A SIGN!
Not absurdist but not fully realistic either, Sign Me is about a young lady’s search for love or success or preferably both. It’s also about another kind of absurdity. The absurdity of trying to find a mate and doing it through the internet. But in this day and age, how else?? Being developed specifically for this Forum, the play is being written (and re-written) with the cast improvising to help develop it as we speak. The tight cast of four plays multiple characters of many astrological signs. They are experimenting with extreme and exciting physical choices/characteristics and the ride is funny, fun and sexy. If I wasn’t married I’d consider “sending out a sign” for love too.
Huge thanks go to the Assistant Directors/Stage Managers:Rebecca Cunningham & Estefania Fadul for making the evening go smoothly and listening patiently through my many absurd and/or realistic ramblings!
Week Four of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 23. I can’t wait! This evening of three has something for everyone and after all who doesn’t like comedy?
I ended last week talking about how Assistant Director/Stage Manager Karyn DeYoung saw both of the Week Two plays as relationship plays…behold this week starts off with every artist in the room referring to the first two of these wonderfully diverse offerings as “relationship plays!”
THE TRACKS ARE ELECTRIFIED Written by Jane Miller, directed by Abigail Strange Featuring Tyler Gattoni & Bethany McNamara
How long are you willing to wait?
This show is about a young couple on a subway platform. First there’s banter. They seem happy, cute, if quirky. Then Rosy wants to play a game to pass the time, Max is reluctant. Why, we wonder? Does he dislike games, silliness? Is he easily embarrassed? There doesn’t seem to be anyone else waiting for the train at this time of night. Why not indulge her? When he finally gives in to her wheedling it turns out the game is a little scary. It also turns out her motives weren’t so simple. She knows her boyfriend’s issues and has chosen this moment to bring them up. This seemingly happy relationship may be in peril just as the train finally begins to pull into the station…
BACK IN THE BOX Written by Mary Flanagan, directed by Gretchen Ferris Featuring Rob Getz, Elyssa Mersdorf & Emilio Paul Tirado
When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it. ~ Yogi Berra
Back In the Box starts with a couple and a complication. This play takes us farther into the workings of a dysfunctional relationship. Helen is clearly unhappy. We don’t always know why as we watch her journey towards escape. What is she escaping from? Is it spousal abuse or cruelty of some kind? Not precisely. The issues here are subtle. There is indeed something wrong- too much of a good thing, perhaps. Love turned to need, dependence turned to obsession. I find myself hoping Helen’s journey will be a smooth one after the blackout.
FIRE THIEF Written and directed by Laura Hirschberg Featuring Emily Daly, Arielle Hader, Timothy Mele & Kevin Russo.
Prometheus brings the spark of inspiration to man. Is it worth it? Come play with fire.
I am inspired and delighted to discover that our talented director Laura Hirschberg is also an impressive talent as a playwright! Fire Thief is full of complex ideas that unfold with wit and clarity.
What a difference. And yet I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the importance of relationships here too. Of course in Fire Thief they are relationships between gods. The fire Prometheus steals is the fire of inspiration. He steals it to bestow it upon his own favorite creation: mankind. Of course in doing so he incurs the wrath of the Gods but more importantly be betrays two people (well, gods) he loves. His journey of self discovery includes allowing an unusual relationship to grow; the one between himself and his creation. If he can love us mere mortals for more than just our finer traits (such as theatre I’d venture) perhaps he can survive what’s coming to him.
Big thanks to Assistant Directors/Stage Managers Jessy Grossman and Sarah Outhwaite. They were a delight to work with. Full of insight and ideas, they were an integral part of our discussion throughout the evening.
Week Three of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 16. I’m excited to see this thought provoking, wit filled grouping of three with all the finishing touches!
Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum, Week 2-Challenges as Playthings
Forum Rehearsal 5/23/11 Dance and Shakespeare; these are the challenges the directors of Week 2 have taken on. These challenges also prove to be lovely toys to play with, adding multiple dimensions to a week of light uplifting fun.
Close embraces, open embraces, and embellishments follow three couples through the complicated circle of dance and love.
This is practically a dance piece and yet it tells its story through dialogue seamlessly interwoven with the movement. The characters almost never sit still. It’s a simple story of a girl at a dance waiting to be asked. Why do women still feel we have to wait to be asked? I guess that’s a discussion for another time… This woman clearly feels she must wait for a man to request her company. She’s here to dance and so are the men who do indeed ask her. But are they looking for something else? Are they looking for more? She herself seems to be looking for more but it’s not necessarily the same more. She’s seeking depth, human connection, someone like herself, interested in more. We are rooting for her. I want her to find that something…or maybe even someone more.
TWELFTH NIGHT Written by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Dana Dobreva. Featuring Kevin Bunge, Michael DeSantis , Charlie Gorrilla, Robert Klein, Amie Lytle, Greg McGoon, Jacob Mondry, Rebecca Nerz, Elliot Wadsworth & Jillian Walker
The Hollywood Remix…
Twelfth Night is a favorite of the gender-bending comedies penned by the Bard, and it’s clear why; this play has all the tricks! A woman in love with a woman she thinks is a man, a man in love with a woman he thinks is a man, mistaken identity, drunkenness, debauchery and Beyonce. What? Yup Beyonce is making an appearance. It’s a modern setting and pop music abounds.
You know the story right? Viola is shipwrecked and thinks her twin brother is dead (he’s not). She dresses as a guy and goes to work for Orsino (Why? Dunno, I’ve only seen it twelve times so c’mon.) Orsino sends Viola to court Olivia for him. Olivia falls for Viola (dressed as a boy, remember). Sebastian the missing brother shows up, gets mistaken for Viola, gets in a fight then marries (!?!) Olivia who thinks he is Viola. Immediately upon discovery that his male servant is a female Orsino proposes to Viola who has been pining for him the whole time. Meanwhile Olivia’s relatives are cavorting with and playing pranks on the help. And then there’s the fool. Forget Lucy, I love Will!
As I was leaving the theatre I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Karyn DeYoung about her experience working on these two very different productions. She observed (forgive me if the quote is imprecise) “I’ve realized they’re the same play.” In discussion it became clear that she has come to see both shows as “relationship plays.” It’s certainly true that the human connections or lack thereof are the focus in each. The universality of that need is expressed uniquely in both plays. Thanks so much Karyn for sharing a part of your experience with me and for all your hard work!
Week Two of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 9. I can’t wait to see these plays in performance. This should prove to be a joyful romp through relationship confusions. Can’t wait!
Forum Rehearsal 5/16/11 And they’re off! My first observation for the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum last night was an exciting start to the process that will culminate in the Forum Awards on Monday June 27th. Three very different plays; (although two have a suicide theme…) these are extremely strong offerings with experienced Forum artists represented in each and every project.
First I observed IN THE CHANGELING,written by Maiya Pendleton, directed by Melody Erfani, featuring Heather Burgher, Lash Dooley, Andrew Dunn, Andrew Gelles, Sarah Miles, Kathleen O’Neal, Alzie Rejouis, Marianne Riera & Adam Tyrer. The tagline for this show is “In high school it is all about the drama…a reimagining of the classic by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.”
Another classic translated to a High School setting. So different from Forum Producer Aliza Shane’s Misanthrope (Forum Winter ’06) yet similar. Why do artists want to set universal stories in High School? Because it’s a universal experience here in the US and one that brought out the worst in many of our lives. High School was miserable…so it’s the perfect place for drama! This compelling script follows the “It girl” and her machinations to get what she wants. She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone but then she doesn’t really mind when she does either. Will she get what’s coming to her? What is coming to her anyway? We sympathize, even while feeling appalled at the effects of her plotting. After all, who doesn’t “want it all”… but at what cost?
Next up was RISK,written by Yasmine Rana, directed by Ashley Scoles, featuring Brooke Hills & Jonny Schroeder.This plays description is (like the play) poetic and intriguing “Two lovers must decide whether to take the risk to love or become engulfed in the flames of hate.”
Spoiler alert; below I will give away a major surprise that comes out in the first 3rd of the play. Yasmine’s intense drama is about something none of us can imagine. What if you were about to go blow yourself up, with others…? How would you or anyone handle it? We understand that the emotional questions usually left unasked would not sit quiet at such a moment. But would you get the answer desired? Can the questioned party possibly know how to answer under such circumstances? Beautiful language examines an ugly situation in this challenging and powerful drama.
Finally I observedDOUBLE CROSS written by Annie Berke, directed by Katherine Sommer, featuring Benjamin K. Glaser, George Hutchinson, Stacy Ann Strang & Hannah Tamminen. The witty description of this play is: “Charles and Samantha are a happily married couple until the daily crossword drives a 5-letter word for “triangular tool” between them.”
Here we have a comedy of character. This married couple fights. They’re not even nice to each other. They seem to be trying to improve their behavior but they end up hurting each other. Even their innocent bystander friends get hit by the emotional shrapnel flying around. Clearly they shouldn’t be married to each other. Or should they? The surprises lie in the people and what they truly need from one another. The result? Comedy!
The charming and ever helpful Assistant Directors/Stage Managers, Anais Koivisto and Mary Trotter were both engaged and engaging in our discussions. I thank them for their work and insight all night long!
Week One of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 2. I can’t wait to see these plays in performance. It’s going to be a thought provoking and highly entertaining night!
Just A Reading is a play ABOUT acting and playwriting. More precisely, it’s about a writer writing about real people who are also actors who then play themselves. They must “act” like the real people they actually are. As such, rehearsal for Just a Reading is a rehearsal process about acting and writing. Together these two elements have to combine perfectly, to intertwine to make us believe, at least for a moment here or there, now and then, that what we’re watching is really happening.
Acting-wise, this is the ultimate job. These are roles any actor would salivate over. To begin with, the play has ultra-realistic, naturalistic behavior at its most extreme. You think Brando got away with mumbling? This show has potential for mumbling, shuffling, under-played acting at its best. But then the “actors” (played by the very talented ensemble of Jenn Boehm, Michael Sean Cirelli, Brandon Ferraro, Cas Marino, Alexandra Mingione and Stephen Reich) get to… wait for it…act! They show us their professional abilities to inhabit a character while pretending to do a cold reading. Tricky. Then, as the stakes get higher and higher tempers flare, emotions rise and the melodramatic passion lets fly! Whew. Fun, fun, fun if you’re crazy enough to love acting.
The writing, of course, has to support all this realism/transition/belief in two worlds with deftly smooth transitions and language that seems to say little while really telling us everything we need to know in order to care about, laugh at and worry for these flawed, needy actors.
What about directing? I’m afraid Chanda Calentine has a thankless job in this one. She is working incredibly hard juggling a million balls in the air, all for the sake of a disappearing act; her own. The direction of this piece (at least for much of the play) will be at its most brilliant when invisible: she makes the actors and writer look good. She makes them look real. They are lucky to have her and I am lucky to be privy to her process, but you the audience may never believe she exists. That is, if she does her job!
Just A Reading, written by Ryan Glass & Directed by Chanda Calentine, runs Thursday, April 28th through May 15 at Looking Glass Theatre, 422 W.57th Street, NY NY 10019.
Last week was such a fun week at super-busy Looking Glass Theatre. We just closed the beautifully theatrical and much adored (by audiences small and large) Three By the Sea. Read audience quotes and view photos here;http://lookingglasstheatrenyc.com/ThreeBytheSea.html
On Thursday (4/7/11) I got my first peek into rehearsals of Just a Reading (Written by Ryan Glass, Directed by Chanda Calentine).
We theatre people love a good play-within -a -play and this is quite a special one. It’s a full production masquerading as “just a reading.” A handful of actors (played by the very talented ensemble of Jenn Boehm, Michael Sean Cirelli, Brandon Ferraro, Cas Marino, Alexandra Mingione and Stephen Reich) casually enter the theatre, greeting each other, adjusting the folding chairs and picking up their scripts. We are introduced to the players and then hear the beginning of a witty little play about a new hit band about to embark on their first tour. So far this could indeed be a simple reading but some weird behavior begins to interrupt the action of the “play.” Actors break character and the playwright isn’t willing to discuss any of the problems that begin to arise. What’s happening becomes clear to us, the audience. This play is about these actors real lives and it’s freaking them out. As you can probably tell from the photo, at some point things go terribly wrong…. But Alan the playwright (now a big shot in Hollywood) has some clout (and manic energy) on his side and is going to see this through to the bitter (or will it be sweet?) end! I can’t wait to see how the play continues to evolve at rehearsal this week!
Friday night pre-show I attended a mysterious and exciting meeting with two Looking Glass artists Jacqueline Honeybourne and Mark Gordon. Have I piqued your interest? Good. There’s an unusual project on the horizon here, more on that in the future. Then I attended the first incarnation of a new play reading series. The brainchild of Producer/Director Aliza Shane, the concept is to solicit new short (10-15 minute) work from our artists based on the set of each mainstage production. This evening was based on the watery world of Three By the Sea so our theme was water and our title was Submerged. Billed as “5 shorts for $5 bucks” there isn’t a better deal in town! Also billed as “Staged Readings”, these five plays were almost mini productions. Most actors were off book and fully blocked. Scripts were in hand and referred to however which served as a good reminder that this was indeed work in progress. The evening went off without a hitch and was truly a blast. Actors, playwrights and directors all seemed charged up about the work and the new series. It was so exciting to see artists involved from our past, some who haven’t been with us for years. Just a couple of the shows represented were Adventures of the Puppet Princess (’08), Anna’s Perfect Party & The Amazing Magician’s Marvelous Mistake (’09), Ask Someone Else, God (’09),Are You There, Zeus? It’s Me, Electra (’09), and many many more! I now find myself wondering what the theme might be for Just a Reading’s set? After all, it is basically an empty, stripped theatre. Our very own bare black box.
The creative possibilities, as always with a blank page, are truly endless. Justine Lambert
MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2011
Having seen Three By the Sea two times now in performance, I’ve realized that the gestalt of this combination of stories is an ideal introduction to theatre for children. There are so many things they are being exposed to here: it’s like sneaking vegetables into the dessert mix! While they watch the charming stories they learn to suspend disbelief and see fabric (or umbrellas, or balloons) as water, to decipher intent through behavior, to appreciate the difference an atmosphere can have on how you interpret the individual elements of a play and how to appreciate the rhythm and flow in storytelling, not to mention simply being introduced to the great theatrical tradition of story theatre.
I really find myself enjoying each play within the play for different reasons. Working backwards, I’ll start at the end:
Foghorn Franny is a crowd pleaser. With its modern characters and sharp clear tone, it gets laughs easily while supporting the most complex story and message of the trio. The oldest audience members get a lot out of this one (both adults and tweens) because the subplot about bullying is clearly and dramatically explored and resolved. Everyone in the audience is held tight in the grips of the plot and even the youngest audience members maintain the hush required for the few (I think it’s actually two) brief moments of reflection. Coming last in the running order it is well chosen in its modern language and depiction as it leaves the audience feeling happy and thoroughly entertained at the end.
The second piece, Coyote’s Moon, is ideal for the central role in this production in part due to its simplicity. There’s not a lot of story here and so we are able to just sit back and enjoy the puppetry, lighting, water (umbrella) ballet, and characterizations. We love Lil’ Rabbit, we fear Coyote (a little), we enjoy the lights and the trickery…and …we’re done!
Appropriately, while our audience’s minds are freshest they are presented with the most complex piece. We are asked to immerse ourselves in the world, the otherness of the mythical Ireland of old. We meet characters from the town of Gollerus and enjoy their quirkiness while sensing what a stranger in their midst might experience in such a self-contained environment. The lilting lyrical language pulls us along in the story while the theatrical elements, such as mermaid costume, Shadow Puppet plays, and ongoing bits of business from comic cap-snatching to ominous umbrella-opening, devised by super-creative director Julia Martin, help keep our young audience engaged throughout.
Three By the Sea is opening this Saturday, March 5th at noon. I will be there with bells on with my family! I have been lucky enough to be a fly on the wall at three rehearsals for this complex, elegant bit of story theatre. This show manages to be both lyrical and fast paced. A study in the use of complexity in the service of simplicity this production uses multiple theatrical elements to tell its three enchanting stories. The stories are simple and sweet, funny and timeless.
“Paddy and the Mermaid” tells of an ordinary man who traps a mermaid. He learns that some things can’t be held by force, even if they are loved; perhaps especially if they are loved.
“Coyote’s Moon” is a classic tale of brains over brawn. In this case the brains belong to one sweet little bunny and the brawn to a coyote in a cowboy hat!
“Foghorn Franny” is a take on the idea that something seen as a weakness or even a fault can turn out to be a heroic strength. This story also addresses the timely theme of teasing and exclusion ever so gently and resolves with the teaser realizing the error of her ways.
This trio of tales comes across with clarity and a touch of the poetic and is wonderfully served by puppetry, music, lighting effects, shadow puppets, clever costuming, a beautiful set and even dancing umbrellas!
Speaking of those umbrellas, it’s worth mentioning that each play involves a body of water and each body of water is uniquely staged. As often seems to happen, the creativity and imagination involved in children’s theatre brings out the best (and hardest work!) in the creative team and cast. This group is no exception. Under the direction of Julia Martin this team has been in overdrive to realize the imaginings of playwright Donna Latham!
Notes from JustineForum Rehearsal 11/22/10 As I was leaving my Week Three observations last night, Assistant Director/Stage Managers Ashley Scoles and Elizabeth Swearingen and I all noted how this week is the most diverse group of plays this Forum. Two of the pieces are realistic tales with similar subject matter but one of the directors is not content with realism and has made embellishments of her own. The third play (that will be sandwiched in between them) is a light comedy based on the Adam and Eve story.
The first piece I saw was Clean by Nina Mansfield, directed by Laura Hirschberg, featuring Jake Miller, Taylor Miller & Erin Neufer*.
This slice of life in real time takes place in…..a church basement. So establishing location shouldn’t be too difficult! Two people run into each other in the middle of the night; one has a desperate reason for being there, the other a casual one but they are connected through the addiction they share. This uneasy subject gives them a basis for a relationship. When the Pastor arrives it becomes clear that he may indeed share this painful secret with them as well. Our talented acting intern Erin Neufer and her co-stars are exploring different aspects of their characters while working together to form relationships in this uncomfortable, hopeful depiction of the struggle with alcoholism.
Juice by Nancy Gall-Clayton, directed by Yoleidy Rosario, featuring Tessa Reynolds, Delnaaz Irani and Joshua Mahaffey is a drama about…an alcoholic.
Thematically related to Clean, this play goes at the issue from a different place. This is about family and fear. Additionally Yoleidy has added a framing device that explores the inner psyche of the main character in the play. This exciting theatricality makes the piece’s tone completely different and yet they grapple with the same weakness in humanity. Theme nights are not our usual choice in the Forum but the illumination of both how multifaceted this issue is and how multifaceted our theatrical art form is in addressing it is an excellent argument in favor of choosing plays connected by subject matter.
Adam’s Angels by Jacquelyn Priskorn, directed by Katherine Sommer, featuring Leigh Adel-Arnold, Scott Andrews, Jacob Lasser, Josh Martin, Caroline Ritchie & Elizabeth Wessa will be performed between the two plays described above giving us a touch of comic relief that may help us absorb the heavier content of the others.
Seeing Clean and Juice back to back made for a specific experience. Not a bad one at all. It had definite advantages but I’m guessing putting Adam’s Angels in the center, like a creamy filling, will be even better. This stylized comedy about Adam and Eve takes a modern approach, telling the bible story in a tongue in cheek manner. Gently poking fun at the concept of Woman as mere companion for Man the play has all of the Angels depicting aspects of humanity. If they are stereotypical they are nonetheless accurate in their comic representations of just a few of the possible types of companions Adam might have had. The team is clearly having a blast and will continue to explore the comic potential in this confection.
Assistant Director/Stage Managers Ashley Scoles and Elizabeth Swearingen were with me the whole way and are certainly enjoying a theatrical workout by participating in these three unique processes! I thank them for their work and insight all night long.
Week Three of the Winter 2010 Writer/Director Forum opens on December 16. I’m excited to re-experience this combination. It should be quite a ride!
Week Two of the Writer/Director Forum is a satisfying evening of theatre consisting of two basically realistic tales and one non realistic play. Interestingly, the stories of the two that take place in the real world are less concrete and revolve around character and location as much as storytelling while the one set elsewhere (not fully in the world but I won’t give away where) has quite the developed little plot.
First I watched a run through of No Boundaries by Yvonne Delet, directed by Eva Gabrielle Schelbaum, featuring Adam Auslander, Kimberly Carvalho, Alexandra Hiotakis, Gary Warchola & Michael Young.
The loose story about an evening at an open mike night shows us the insanity of people’s need to perform, be seen and express themselves. Equally, we observe the disregard they often have for others needs in pursuit of their own. This creative team is clearly having a blast creating the extreme characters and wonderfully quirky world of this play. Lots of fun character work is apparent in the acting and the setting is rendered with both love and ridicule by the author. Two weeks from now this has the potential to be a real treat of the ridiculous.
Inside the Three-0-Nine by Ruth Tyndall Baker, directed by Gretchen Ferris, featuring Bobby Gámez, Andrea Lattanzio, Genevieve Tarricco, Harrison Unger & Jill Wurzburg is quite a lovely little script!
Clocking in at thirteen minutes it manages to tell a touching story and make us care about the characters. Its brevity rarely, if ever, sacrifices the truth of what is being expressed. Gretchen and her ADs have a clear grasp of the piece and are telling the story with a light touch. Within that lightness the depth is beginning to emerge and I truly look forward to seeing this piece once it does. By the way, I don’t want to give away the story here because if you don’t know what the title means, the surprise element is delightful.
Less Talk, More Efficiency by Diana Stahl, directed by McKenna Dabbs, featuring Clio Davies, Keilly McQuail, Allison Whittinghill & Sharon Zaslaw is a bit wacky, which certainly fits in beautifully with the tone of No Boundaries!
Creating extreme characters isn’t the focal point for everyone in this piece however. There are some subtle ideas about the people’s lives and personalities being exposed here. This play is about Jess and Beth and seeing their lives juxtaposed against a stressful environment. It’s a comic and telling element in the play that this very stressful environment is ironically supposed to invoke peace. These two main characters seem pushed by their environment beyond the limits of a normal working relationship. I can’t imagine they are being paid well enough for this…but who knows; in this economy we’ll put up with plenty, won’t we?
Thank you, thank you, thank you to the beautiful and wonderful Assistant Directors/Stage Managers: Ava Kelley and Sarah Simmons for their help with keeping things going, and for their invaluable creative input all night long! It was a real treat getting to know them.
Week Two of the Winter 2010 Writer/Director Forum opens on December 9. I’ll be there with bells on!
The three plays chosen for this week of shorts are a truly fascinating bunch. While only The Plane Ride is overtly non-realistic none of these plays is merely what it appears on the surface.
What a quirky, challenging piece Melinda Prom has chosen! Written by our own Artistic Associate Karin Diann Williams, The Cleaning Service featuring Suzanna Chmielarz, Maria Concha, Rick J. Koch & Kelsey Ruvolo is a play about communication and sometimes about the lack thereof. Two maids who don’t speak each others’ language do more communicating with gestures and charade-like behavior while working than the occupants of the house they are cleaning can manage at their leisure. Acting however does communicate to us everything we need to know about both pairs (the two maids and the couple in the house they must clean). I hope the subtleties in this thirteen minute play continue to emerge in the next couple of weeks of rehearsal. After my conversation with Melinda I feel sure that they will indeed and be added to with a few subtleties of her own.
The Plane Ride by Diana Stahl, directed by Alex Mallory, featuring Shannon Altner, Andi Bohs & Mark Vashro is about a family about to crash. What will they do? Well really, what can they do? Panic, and talk, and… How will they resolve unspoken frustrations, questions and needs? Yet we ask as an audience, is there really a plane or is it just their dysfunctional lives that are about to crash into the Pacific Ocean? Alex and her team have a lot of choices to make and questions to answer for themselves as they continue to delve deep into the myriad meanings behind the complex dialogue of this play. We as an audience just get to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Mayan Mask by Lynn Snyder, directed by Jen Browne, featuring Victor Albaum, Eliza Huberth, Ashley Rutherford & Michael Wetherbee seems on its surface a realistic piece about a couple and their friends at a crossroads in life. Will Mitch change jobs and throw all their life plans into flux? Will turning thirty really mean giving up Joan’s dreams? But the spotlight also shines on the friendship between the two couples. This “best” friendship is questionable. How can you lie for selfish needs to your closest friends and what about that affair back in college? But what I would like to know is, is there anything real or valuable in this world? Do the big questions matter and are these questions about being fulfilled at work and feeling comfortable where you live or are they about the meaning of friendship and love? Am I even asking the right questions about this play? My interest is totally piqued! Perhaps the Playwright, Actors, Directors and Assistant Directors will let me know on opening night.
Much thanks to Assistant Directors/Stage Managers Alisha Silver and Abigail Strange for all their work! Extra thanks to Abby for holding it together while things are in flux and listening patiently all night.
Week One of the Winter 2010 Writer/Director Forum opens on December 2. Can’t wait!
Justine Lambert Founding Artistic Director Looking Glass Theatre
Balloon Baseball; how will the balloon appear? Perhaps a heavy balloon will be used so it can be thrown from the booth at the back of the house (behind the audience). Perhaps it will be pulled down from a mounted platform by a string…
Mom and Betsy popping up from behind the sofa while digging for “treasure” is funny and can and should be done more. Once it’s sharp it will be very effective in making the lines clear while maintaining the cute image of mom and daughter digging behind the furniture.
The phrase “The scarab of the ancient Mummy Hubba-wha” said over and over needs to be over enunciated the first couple of times to establish the long silly phrase.
Amanda and I discussed the comic potential in Betsy unfreezing the ancient frozen ice cat with her breath. Should it be slower? Should each body part unfreeze separately?
Because the “Houston we do not have a problem” Astronaut/Cat fantasy is so wild and noisy extra care will need to be taken to insure that the audience gets what’s going on (and the joke).
I was able to watch a rehearsal on Monday night and enjoyed the fresh fun character interpretations beginning to emerge. The kids are well… kid- like; spunky, whiney and cute. Betsy is a girl who just can’t stay bored for long. She tries to act like a typical “tween”: moping, complaining and protesting that she has no imagination but she quickly finds herself completely engaged in her own brain’s crazy machinations. She’s helpless in her inability to stay bored! Her big sister is even less able to remain cranky and seems completely excited by slinky races and even washing dishes! Dad is adorable, funny and likeable in his efforts to be the perfect dad and have the perfect family while weathering a long rainy day and Mom is so sweet that when she has to be the bad guy (by sneezing…) we can’t be mad at her. Then there’s the cat…hmmm, catty and sassy, she may just be the most human of them all but I’m still not sure I believe in her…
My chat with director Amanda Thompson was lots of fun. She already knew what I was going to say and I already knew that she would, but I think we still managed to be quite productive in our meeting. For anyone who is closely following my blogs; yes I definitely feel like I’m getting to know her more and more.
Can’t wait for tonight when I get to see it again!
First I got to meet with Amanda Thompson, Director of Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story - ACT II by Mariah MacCarthy. We’ve done this before. This was Amanda’s fourth Forum so I feel like I know her a little. Yes, only a little. Isn’t that funny? People take a long time to really get to know and sometimes artists even more so. We put our stories out there in our work so often our personas are a bit guarded. But I digress. I’m really enjoying the process with Amanda. She’s talented and smart and a really interesting person to boot! I hope our relationship continues to grow.
We had so much ground to cover in our meeting. We discussed the current summer acting internship, the upcoming children’s show Betsy is Bored, Bored, Bored, Bored, Bored!, a new script she’s interested in workshopping and of course Ampersand. I’m afraid that with so many subjects each one only got a few minutes, but a lot of good information came out of the discussions. I’m very excited to see what she’s going to do with Betsy not to mention many other projects going forward.
I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with the three first-time directors who each directed work by the lovely playwright Jennifer Barclay. Dara Malina directed Constriction; Laura Hirschberg directed Swallow It; and Alex Mallory directed Snapshot.
Having my first Forum follow up with these ladies was enlightening. So exciting to hear that Alex just worked with three-time Forum playwright Lauren Yee in the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. Small world. Who knew that Dara worked at the Prospect Park Alliance in my own ‘hood, Park Slope? What a great place to have a day job. And I learned that Laura just directed a full blown production of the opera The Magic Flute at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College with costumes from the Met - “.very posh!” Wow, these ladies are up to such cool stuff!
One thing all three agreed on was that Jennifer Barclay was terrific to work with, described as “lovely,” “wonderful” and “adorable.” I think Alex expressed something we all felt; that having a playwright be so enthusiastic and appreciative makes us all proud of our work and helps us remember that we’re doing something valuable.
As always, I felt honored by the opportunity to discuss these artists’ processes and get inside their heads. I learn so much from these conversations it’s like an ongoing class in directing and theatre
Follow up meetings are essential. This is where I get to know the directors I work with as artists & and people.
What do we talk about? Well, there’s a formula of sorts. First we chat, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. I love hearing about all the other projects these artists are working on and hearing a bit about their lives. And of course I enjoy telling people about me too : -)
Here’s where it gets more loose and fun. We discuss the show. How it went. What went right, what went wrong and what the director might have wanted to change. I give what feedback I have after I’ve heard what she thought. It’s great to know when we already agree. Sometimes I really have something relevant to say that speaks to the process. My notes are informed by having seen a stumble through, had a discussion with the director right after it and two weeks later seen a performance. Being inside the process means that if we both know that actor “A” was a last minute replacement there may not be much reason to critique his performance. In this case we can hopefully focus on more relevant issues (such as how to avoid this problem in the future!)
Of course just as often this mostly feels like a chance to hear what went on from the inside. To understand how things went and why the chips fell where they did. In these cases most of what I have to say falls in the category of “yeah, uh, huh, oh,” Which is to say that listening and understanding the director’s goals is quite important at this stage.
I often get the chance to discuss what the director’s hopes are for the future. Not just “ I wanna make a living as a director” but what kind of project(s) would you love to sink your teeth into next? What areas are you hoping to delve into in your work? This way I get an idea of what kind of artist she is or aspires to be.
For myself lately (this year at least) I’m feeling like telling stories with a point of view that is challenging. I want to tell stories that are not necessarily easy to agree with. I need to tell these stories through theatrical language. I do love realism of emotion, character and relationship and the truth of existing as a human always has a place in my work but I need to feel Why my work is on a Stage as opposed to being a novel, film or TV show. I need a touch of “Theatricality” with a capital T. I need to combine my love of Meisner technique and deeply real acting with my love of the avant-garde.
I happen to be right in line with what I hear from many of the talented inspiring ladies I have the privilege to work with and discuss our art with. My desires echo a lot of what I hear them saying lately.
Discussing plays with directors is always a pleasure. There is one aspect that is multi-faceted. Getting feedback on the other artists she worked with. On the one hand it’s tremendously valuable. I need to know how helpful, hardworking and talented the AD’s, actors, interns, design staff, etc have been so I know how much more work to offer them in the future. Also so I know how I might be of use to them in their growth. This can be a wonderful time to discuss how talented people are, how promising, and it often makes the future feel very bright to think about all the great opportunities that lie in wait in the form of future collaborations. Of course the other facet of this kind of discussion comes up when things weren’t so hunky dory on all fronts. How do we artists discuss what went wrong without being inappropriate? How do we tell the truth about our observations without unfairly ruining someone else’s chances? It’s not easy but I do think honesty and simplicity rule. If there’s any question about the communication we just need to stick to the facts. Even if the facts are something along the lines of “we just didn’t get along as well as I would have liked.” Examples of actual events are useful if told without coloration of personal opinion. It’s not easy. It’s partly made difficult to remain cold in discussion because it feels stilted and fake and I personally like to feel a rapport with people if at all possible…but I suppose sacrifices can be made in collaborative rapport occasionally for the greater good.
A good warning goes a long way. People can handle anything….with advance notice. Even good things sometimes require warnings. For example once I was holding auditions for The Three Sisters. This play has a lot of complicated male roles. I read tons of actors. This may have been the biggest turn out I’ve ever gotten at an open call. The callbacks took far longer than I had anticipated, finally ending after midnight. As I went over my choices most of the casting decisions made themselves…except for a couple male roles. There are a lot of young(ish) men in the play. I’d read dozens of talented actors. Finally I realized that one actor “Bob” who I’d loved didn’t fit any of the roles he had read for BUT no actor had really “taken” one role so I offered Bob this role, a good role that he hadn’t read for. He was taken aback. Slightly hurt that he wasn’t cast in the roles he read for. Affronted almost. I feel it necessary to say that this guy wasn’t a diva or a jerk. He did take the role and give an excellent performance but for the first week of rehearsals he seemed tentative. Crazy? Perhaps. Fragile ego? Certainly. But it would probably have been avoided if I had taken the time to warn him. Yes things were crazy, yes, he was at the call backs for hours and read many times but I should have warned him. Ideally I would have told him in person before releasing him that he was under consideration for other roles. That would have taken a lot of time if you consider that I truly had no idea that this would happen so just to cover my bases I would have had to warn dozens of actor. Maybe the better choice would be to post on the wall of the waiting area a notice to the male actors that they were being considered for all male roles even if they didn’t read for them all. It’s kind of exhausting when you consider how many things people should be warned about.
Do you expect your Assistant Director to sweep the stage? Tell him in advance.
Are Production Assistants expected to help out with marketing? Make sure they know before they are hired.
Will you be using bizarre improv rehearsal techniques? Warn the actors before they are cast.
As a producer do you expect the director to make the phone call to book the rehearsal space? Make sure she knows this at the interview.
Etc., Etc., Etc.
Artists have an almost unlimited ability to give of themselves for their art. Do not take advantage of them, but, if you need something, warn them.
It was directed by Dara Malina who’s Forum rehearsal I observed a couple weeks ago at Looking Glass. I was surprised and tickled by the similarities of the shows themes within the extreme style differences. They both ask us to think about peer pressure and to not be afraid to be yourself. The human struggle to be happy with who we are and not over value the opinion of others is theatrically brought to light through storytelling and stage craft in both. In Constriction by Jennifer Barclay the world is dark. Reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. The peer pressure is extreme and cruel. In The Emperor’s New Monsters! by Daniel John Kelley the peer pressure is exerted by silly brightly colored creatures who are clearly as insecure as the Emperor himself. Come to think of it those cruel nasties in Constriction are pretty obviously motivated by their own fears too. If only we could see as clearly in life as we can on stage. It’s a great thing theatre does; showing us ourselves. Whether it be as children or adults, live theatre has the power to entertain while giving us a perspective we lack in life.
Week 4 is the week for theatricality - with visions of hell, continuations of fairy tales and after a very long intermission; Act II of our lesbian, drag musical version of Romeo and Juliet. I’m so proud. No, really.
First up I saw Constriction by Jennifer Barclay, directed by Dara Malina, featuring Joey Faranda, Ava Kelley, Rachel Lin, Melanie Siegel, Jeanne Lauren Smith and Lizzie Stemper. So cool, so dark, so loud! We talked about the intensity, how to maintain it and yet give the audience time to take it in. We talked about the vulnerability of the characters whether they are good bad or ambivalent. These characters have the opportunity to be quite complex within the constraints of this ten minute play. Do we have time to see that? I think so. In the upcoming rehearsals the creative team will make the time.
The second play of the night Swallow It also by Jennifer Barclay, directed by Laura Hirschberg featuring Toccara Castleman, Lauren Hayes and Kevin Russo is a vision of what comes after the traditional fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. You may think you know. Well, this version is quite different. Yes, they did escape but not undamaged. Is the damage physical or psychological? I think I’d have to say both. You’ll have to see the play to find out more specifics. Laura and I also discussed character but focused more on relationship. We also had a lively talk about the time and place of this play. Oh, did I mention? The singing is great.
Finally I settled in to watch ACT II of Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story by Mariah MacCarthy, directed by Amanda Thomspon, featuring Brigitte Choura, Doug Harvey, Lauren Hennessy, Jeremy Michael Lagunas, Teddy Lytle, Sarah Primmer, Kevin Reed and Jordan Tierney. Finally! Been waiting to see how this thing would play out since the last Forum! You do not want to miss this. You’ll be able to say “I was there when” about this one. Fabulous play, fabulous director. OK, it’s a workshop and it needs some polish. Characters, relationships, structure, logic, love, violence, reverse-gender acting, etc, etc, what didn’t we talk about? I know things will change in the next couple weeks but there are so many possibilities as to direction. Is Tybalt a monster or just a bit of a jerk? What kind of friend is Mercutio? What kind of mothers are Mrs. Capulet and Mrs. Montague? And….how deep is their love? Tune in June 24-27 to find out. Oh, I can’t talk about the singing in this one because I didn’t hear the songs last night, but it is indeed a musical. Can’t wait to hear what the composer/musical director has cooked up.
I have to thank the ADs Eva Gabrielle Schelbaum and Katherine Sommer for keeping the evening moving along. We weren’t always on time (partly thanks to my keys) but they were extremely helpful in making sure things kept going and we stayed on track, even starting the third play a little early !
Week 4 promises to be a fantastically theatrical culmination of a wonderfully diverse Forum.
THIS week we get to see some reinvented Shakespeare, too.Othello with a female Iago as part of week 2 opening on Thursday June, 10!
Another Wednesday another Forum rehearsal! Once again we have two highly diverse plays. Yet it seemed to me that both center on victimized female heroines. Now I’d bet you good money that both playwrights would argue with that word “victimized” and for some very good reasons. So, why are they victimized? That question came up in both discussions (perhaps not in so many words). I wonder if I’ll find out the answer in two weeks.
Leap Year by Kate Marks, directed by Ariel Francoeur,Featuring Mark Gordon, Brianna Kalish, Laura Killeen & Stacy Ann Strang was sharp, clear, abstract, absurd, vague, precise and touching. In a word; Kate Marks. Ariel, Gretchen and I had a lively discussion about everything ranging from acting to sound cues to the effect of aging on the energy of the soul. Sounds complex doesn’t it? So is the play, and yet only 20 minutes long. Oh, I almost didn’t mention the crazy multimedia aspect. Seems a large portion of the play I saw (in rehearsal it was all done live) will be video projection! I think it’s going to be super cool. If any group can handle this kind of technical challenge, this is the one.
Jane’s Room by Monet Hurst-Mendoza, directed by Rebecca Lewis-Whitson, Featuring Rosemary Brownlow, Juan Carlos Diaz, Lindsay Dunphy & Noreen O’Neill is possibly a period piece, possibly a ghost story, possibly an abstract discussion on women being trapped. Also sounds complex doesn’t it? This 50-minute piece by a newcomer to our Forum has the luck of starring not one but two of our acting interns this season! The team and I had a long discussion, which was still going full steam when we were ever so politely interrupted by Do These Jeans Make My Butt Look Massive? needing to rehearse. On my way out, I had the chance to say hello to members of the cast of week one having their dress rehearsal. Whew, another busy busy night at Looking Glass.
Assistant director Gretchen Ferris was super helpful throughout the evening. I’m so glad to have had the chance to work with her.
I’m very excited that this week I get to see one of the first fruits of these labors come to the stage. I’m attending week one of the Writer/Director Forum tonight!
The second week of the Writer/Director Forum could hardly be more different from week one. This evening consisting of two completely different pieces was a blast to watch in stumble-through mode last night. Technically both plays were surprisingly far along, with some costumes in place and a clear beginning of design elements such as light cues and sound already happening.
First I watched Do These Jeans Make My Butt Look Massive? by Donna Latham, directed by Jenn Womack, featuring Leigh Ann Heidelberg & Jenn Remke, a charming 10-minute slice of life. I almost feel that if I say very much about our post-rehearsal discussion I’ll give something away. Jenn, Morgan, Taryn and I had a lively discussion about relationship, acting choices and even music usage. Suffice it to say that we all understood each other and rehearsals for the next couple weeks should be lots of fun!
Next up was Othello by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Melody Erfani, featuring Charles Brice, Xiomara Cintron, Kay Capasso, Julia Falamas, Brandon Ferraro, Keith Hendershot, Amie Lytle, Sarah Miles, Cara Sanders & Yoko. Wow, this thing was really getting into shape with some super cool, post-apocalyptic costumes and tight choreography/concept blocking. Fun! That Shakespeare sure could cook up a hot mess, and this version maintains the super intense plot at less than half the original length. Oh, did I mention, Iago is a woman? Just in case the original wasn’t passionate enough for you. Isn’t that casting just so Looking Glass? Love it!
The two Assistant Directors Taryn Kimel and Morgan Anne Zipf were super helpful and they seemed fully tuned into both processes. I’m looking forward to getting to know their work better.
Can’t wait to see what brews in the next two weeks. This exciting evening opens on June 10!
Had a blast observing Week 1 Forum rehearsal last night. I have to say that the policy of observing two weeks before opening has been working out so well. These plays are in great shape and the next two weeks promise to be super productive!
First up was Behind the Scene by Lenore Blumenfeld, directed by McKenna Dabbs, featuring Joey Faranda, Lindsey Freeman, Ashley Kuske, Kate Mickere and Craig Peterson. This snappy 10-minute comedy was so sharp, so snappy that McKenna and I actually discussed slowing it down. I suggested that the comedy could be enhanced by deepening the emotional reality of some of the characters. A number of possibilities presented themselves. Which character has the most invested? I think McKenna’s choice may surprise you. It wasn’t set in stone yet so I may be surprised, too!
Next I watched Snapshot by Jennifer Barclay, directed by Alex Mallory, featuring Andrew Breving and Rachel Pfennigwerth. What a cool concept, and these actors really get a fun workout/challenge. The discussion with Alex afterwards about how to insure that the play was clear enough to be rewarding for the audience was rewarding in itself as I felt we understood each other and were on the same page about what’s needed in the next two weeks to make this little gem shine.
Third was Buried by Kate Marks, directed by Dana Dobreva, featuring Kiersten Armstrong, Frank Leone, Carolina Ravassa and Scott Raven T. This discussion, like the play itself was the most complex. Kate Marks always challenges and this play on the subject of subway buskers about to be violently ousted from their domain is no exception. Dana’s vision is clear and strong. I’m so excited to see it come to life.
Huge thanks to Laura Brienza the Assistant Director for the whole evening for sitting in with me and being a rock star for all three shows!
This was a very satisfying evening of theatre. As always, when I advise directors what I mostly want is more of their directorial voice. The play is best served when that voice comes through loud and clear. I can’t wait to see the finished product on June 3!