Archive for July, 2007

Invite Me

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

I am acting in a show in this year’s New York International Fringe Festival and I’ve got some time between opening and the second show.

What show? Oh, sorry, of course, I’m in Hail Satan, being produced by some very attractive people over at Gideon Productions, with whom I’m tangentially connected.

My family’s coming and they’re gonna want to see some more New York Theater while they’re in town, but Broadway is looking more and more ridiculous, especially with the prices, and it occurs to me that they’re gonna be here to see my Fringe show… maybe they can go see other Fringe shows while they’re here!

So, I’m gonna write down a list of things that sound like they might be cool, but if you’re not here, please write to me and tell me to come to your show.

…Double Vision gets points right off for warning about nudity. It also seems to be set on a subway, so I’d love to see how they’re gonna pull off that staging.

7 Stories High has a really cool premise, and it fits nicely into our modern attention span. Does it suck that I’m excited by a 75 minute show? Maybe, but I’ve been swimming through the Fringe for years now, 75 minutes is not too big a commitment.

Ancestral Voices seems to be what the festival should be about. A dance troupe from Ohio telling a personal story, it just feels like this could be a really wonderful piece of theater.

Asking For It is not usually the type of show I do, but DARK, comedy and sex… even a one person show could be great.

Better This Way is another dance piece, but full company and multi-media and Greek Mythology thrown in for good measure.

Bucharest Calling just looks weird, awesome and foreign. Apparently, it’s in English, which is definitely a selling point…

Champ, A Space Opera can’t possible be as cool as it looks. I mean, this looks really friggin’ fun.

Dear Dad, Confessions of a Go Go is a show I want to see for completely wrong reasons. But… I still want to…

The End has a shitty website, but if Austin Pendleton thinks it’s good, then who am I to argue.

Farmer Song is one of those pieces that is doing for the Fringe what it should. some have argued that these shows aren’t being supported by the New York theater community, but it looks like it’s at least being supported by The Fringe this year.

Galatea (no website found) looks really fascinating. I’ve always been a little obsessed with the Pygmalion story, (as a guy who never had a very strong sense of self and who was obsessed with creating stories and characters) and this piece looks really lovely.

I Dig Doug probably doesn’t need my endorsement, but it does look like it could be a fun diversion. I’m beginning to notice that I personally have no need for serious political theater… I guess I feel like there’s no difference any more between political theater and the actual political theater. But it doesn’t mean I’m not interested in funny political satire.

The Jazz Messenger might be the most exciting play going up right now. This sounds just utterly fantastic, and I honestly can’t wait to see this.

Lost In Hollywoodland (etc.) could be terrible, but this is yet another show that looks like they had me in mind when they wrote it. I’m definitely down for this one.

The Mercy Swing seems terrifying and possibly really relevant and moving. I think when you’ve got the Fringe menu out, there are drama/comedies galore and you have to wait to see what resonates with you. This one set me off like a tuning fork.

Notes To The Motherland is yet another one person show that I’m excited about. I usually loathe these things, but the truth is that I’ve done really well going to one person shows in the Fringe, the festival really shines when the technical requirements of a big show are eschewed, and this piece looks marvelous.

Tomorrow, I’ll tackle the last half of the directory and hopefully narrow down the choices to a reasonable list that I can actually go see. In 2004, I saw about thirty Fringe shows, because I was acting and not producing, but the last two years I really screwed myself, only getting to see a handful each year.

I’m hoping that, but staying ahead of the curve, I can spend some days in the city between our opening and our second show, just jumping from venue to venue.

Coming Out Of The Woods

Monday, July 30th, 2007

I haven’t always been really good at publicizing the shows I’m in, and that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not always convinced that I’ve got enough control over the show to believe that it will be really good. That sucks of me, I know, I really ought to push like crazy…

Except I’m not sure the pushing gets anything. I get a lot of invitations to shows in my inbox and, clearly, I’m not going to plays right now, I’ve got a baby and my life from about 6:15 to 8:45 is pretty complicated. I mean, I’m sure we could get a babysitter, but we just kinda don’t want to. We want to be here with him while we can. But, even before I had the built-in excuse, an email, especially from a stranger, never once convinced me to go see a play.

There are a bunch of different things that will get me there, including personal relationships, possible great writing, cool ideas, awesome production, possible hot people wearing next to nothing… that kind of thing. But I think the thing that gets me in more than anything else is being invested in the producers and actors of a play.

I mean, it’s weird. Sirius radio has a Sinatra Channel, but it doesn’t play songs written by Frank Sinatra. He never wrote anything. It’s songs that tell us something about who he was, and who the people were surrounding him. When you go see the new Harrison Ford movie… I think the point there is self-evident.

We don’t do this with plays at all. I mean, obviously, we do it once you get on the Broadway level, half of what goes on in midtown involves at least one little bit of stunt casting, but we don’t do it where we make theater. Not enough.

There’s a late night show with some dude hosting it, I think it’s called “Late Night With Byron Allen”, but that might be the wrong title and wrong host, and please forgive me if it is, but it is essentially a sycophantic bit of craziness where television and movie stars are interviewed and they come across as charming and good looking, and the hope is that if enough people see these little things, then when War Of The Worlds Part Two comes out, everyone will flock to the theaters.

How can we do that?

How can those of us making plays in tiny theaters in New York get people to be invested in the personalities of these people? I mean, the steady stream of theater professionals who move into film and TV is pretty purely about money, I have to imagine, because the taped jobs aren’t any easier and they’re way less rewarding, so how can we keep everyone here?

I don’t have an answer, but I wonder if it isn’t a several step process.

1) Online video marketing and graphic marketing. By which I mean, video, audio and pictures from rehearsal, from breaks in rehearsal, from the production meetings, from the venue meetings, etc. The magic of putting on a show is utterly infectious, every one of us fell in love with the *process* in high school as much or more than we fell in love with “Godspell” or “Annie Get Your Gun” or whatever.

There was a show that went up a little while ago called “The Adventures of Nervous Boy” and I absolutely loved this show. I adored it. And what’s more, I would have been THRILLED to watch the process of them putting this show together. The company is packed with awesome, smart, funny-as-hell, dedicated people who I would love to know better. Do I want more news about fucking Lindsey Lohan? I do not, I want an online video-blog that I can subscribe to that shows me what Nosedive Productions is doing.

2) Parties. Look, there’s a difference between the theater and TV/Movies, and that’s that theater people are more willing to be physically uncomfortable. If we want to fight with movies, we can either let people eat candy in big comfy chairs while they wait for Godot, or we can just accept that people who crave comfort are gonna watch TV first, and if the cultural tides carry them, they’ll go to a movie.

But people who like to stand around with a beer and crack wise? These are the asshole we want in our seats. What if there were three parties a year, big venue, open bar, not supporting anything except the small theater world in New York. Not a party for a *show*, but a party for the community. That way, if you liked Nervous Boy, you could hang out with James Comtois or if you liked Fitz and Wallows you can go up and talk to Micah Bucey.

Be forewarned, Micah is enchanting. He will steal your soul.

3) Post-show Community Continuity. Yes, we all love our castmates, we all hook up with our romantic leads, we all have dinner with the guy playing Falstaff, but when the show ends these relationships dissolve quickly. It’s impossible to maintain a personal connection because a) as actors we’re all busy all day and then we’re in rehearsal all night, and b) we’re now hooking up with the next romantic lead and having dinner with the guy playing Mercutio.

But blog-communities can hold people together. Reading and commenting on each other’s blogs can keep those groups together by giving them a common ground, and that ground can be theatrical musings. I don’t know how to have a clearing house for theater bloggers, but if there was a single site, hooked up with RSS feeds that covered blogs from small theater enthusiasts, and if this site allowed discussion and a way to rank the topics according to their importance and relevance…

It would be like Digg for the small theater world.

I should say, I keep saying “Small Theater” because downtown doesn’t mean anything, and I think there is also a real need to keep the community theaters in America in touch with one another. We’re producing under the radar in New York, and I know for a fact that places like the Iowa City Community Theater sells out a giant house for every run of the shows they do.

Small Theater should include everyone working on the fringes of the professional world. Whether they’re in New York or not even close. If one is to assume that cultural hegemony is a problem, then the best tool out there for respecting and dignifying the non-metropolitan point of view is this here series of tubes we call the internet.

I should say, the idea that New York disregards the rest of America seems strange to me because we, as small theater producers, don’t have the AUDIENCE to have a stranglehold on any culture. I’ve been producing plays for seven years now in New York, and the one show we set in New York (Fleet Week) did, in fact, make fun of southern racists, it’s true. But the show I’m most proud of (The Second String) is set in, ironically, North Carolina.

But you know what? Not that many people know either show. If you’re reading this, chances are you might know one of them, but only a handful of people know both. And that’s because we haven’t figured out how to make these small statements heard. We’ve got the internet, and we’ve got a lot of people in one place, but we haven’t made it happen yet.

Dana’s B-day Present

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

We can’t really afford to “buy” stuff for each other very much, in fact this Christmas we just did away with the whole idea, but we still take birthdays VERY seriously. I made this for Jordana with software I found on my computer. I hope it doesn’t look like total shit.


Seven Months, And Late

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I have changed in the following ways.

1) I don’t have the stomach for overt navel gazing. Everything I say in this blog is going to be read by Barnaby one day, and I can see myself shifting slightly, away from being a son and toward being a father. This is the actual change, but it manifests itself in all the other smaller changes.

2) I don’t care who’s right, I just want things fixed. If there’s a problem, and a possible solution to the problem is posited, then I just want the solution tried, I don’t give a shit who’s been wronged or who’s suffered more. People make mistakes, and sometimes they make them because they are malicious selfish assholes, but usually they make them because they are trying to do the right thing and they fuck up. I don’t care if the problem was created by the former or the latter, I just want it fixed.

What this means is that I’m less out for justice and I’m more out for peace. It seems illogical at this point to talk about how badly the Arabs and the Jews have treated each other, it seems illogical to wonder about who’s parents were more abusive when we were all kids, and it’s totally illogical to ponder the *reason* that the baby’s diaper is so full it’s leaking. I just want to change his diaper, change his clothes and move the fuck on.

3) I’m less patient. I haven’t written because the creation of content for this blog requires a certain amount of time, and that time is spent in the hopes that one day this will mean something to somebody. I just don’t have that sense of the long-view any more, and by “long-view” I mean, I just can’t write and hope that tomorrow someone will write to me and tell me that what I’ve written matters to them. I need to know that what I’m spending my time on has real-world value to it.

4) I’m infinitely more patient. Every moment I spend with Barnaby is useless, half the time he’s screaming nonsense syllables or chewing on a piece of public property, but I know that the sum total of those moments will end up being more useful than a college education or a high-paying job will be to him. When I punish him, and when he’s terrified of my anger, he’ll also know that my anger is at his actions, not at who he actually is. And he’ll know that because somewhere in his hindbrain, he’ll know that I love him more than I’ve ever loved anything.

5) I’m more private. At some point, the love that I discovered in being a father left me without any way of talking about it. It isn’t a romantic or passionate love, it is basically beyond description. Not only that, but I think we all love our kids in different ways. For some people, it is a rhapsody, it does come across in poems and sonnets. But I can’t describe it. And knowing that there is, in the world, something that is unexpressable, that is completely internal… that’s made me feel both lonely and satisfied and it’s made it much harder for me to be close to people outside my immediate family.

6) I waste less time. I don’t remember the last time I watched TV when it wasn’t appointment television. I’ve seen one movie in the theater over the last six months, and if it weren’t for a job opportunity, I would have stopped watching “House”. My mom or my in-laws take Barnaby and I hear a starter’s gun go off in my head. I have two hours, and minutes later, I have minutes less, to do the things I need to do followed by the things I want to do.

7) I’m more frugal. I think about money a lot, but in a totally different way. I had always wondered how I was gonna survive from month to month, but now I focus on how I can make the road ahead easier. When I get too old to make money, will my son have to take care of me? As the years go on, will I be a burden, or will I provide him with liberation?

8) I have a completely different understanding of discipline.

It has always seemed to me that discipline was enforced, that you set yourself a goal and a timeline and then you screwed your courage to your sticking place and willed your own success. And this has been a useful tool for me to continue to hate myself and to blame myself for my shortcomings and my failures.

I’ve now discovered that discipline is organic, that I always act from my list of priorities, starting at the top. I’m doing really well right now, I’m following through on the things that I need to get done and I’m staying ahead of schedule on most things, but that is entirely because my sense of duty and responsibility slid, through no effort on my part, to the top of my list of priorities.

My sense of responsibility to my friends has disappeared. I’m writing this blog right now because I haven’t written it for the last four days, but I know that it needs to be written for Barno and for Jordana. But I also know there are social engagements to set up and to follow through on, I need to call about eleven people, and I tell myself that I will do it as soon as this blog is completed… but the truth is, if the baby wakes up, or if I get some of the information I’m waiting on in order to take the next few steps for Gideon, then I’m not gonna call anybody. I’m gonna keep working.

This is making me more and more isolated, and lonely, I’m sure. It’s been years since I’ve been able to maintain a night-life, but I did spend a number of years with my night-life at the top of my list, so I let myself off the hook. I tell myself that this is a productive, if lonely, time, and that every minute of every day, I’m essentially doing exactly what I want to, the same as I always have.

Anyway. The list.

9) I have more pride. I need less affirmation from the rest of the world because that same sense of the inexplicable has shown me that there is also no compliment large enough, no credit deep enough and no accolade loud enough that will fill that gaping maw inside me. The only thing that will stop me from feeling unloved is a sense of accomplishment. This translates into far less email written to my friends, far fewer blog posts, and far fewer social engagements. I am no satisfied with being a father, but I am utterly unsatisfied with praise for the things I do outside being a father. I still wish I could stop feeling so needy, but at least now I feel like the need is only going to be met by something inside me.

10) I want more artistic success. I just want Barnaby to be able to look at what we’ve done and discover that one can make their own way in the world if one chooses to. I want him to know that if he seeks happiness, if he seeks success, it is possible for him. When presented with a choice, I want him to choose based on how hard it is, and how much success he thinks he can attain, I don’t want him to feel like the harder path is guaranteed to fail.

11) I miss my family. My brothers, my sisters. I miss them all the time. I think about them all the time, and I really wish we could all live close enough to be in regular contact.