Dark Brew

The subtitle of today’s post is “How we were almost nominated for an award, and then weren’t, and then, actually, we were…”

We’ve been making plays for pretty close to ten years now, and we’ve had some people who thought we were doing really good stuff. Not a *ton* of people, but some people. I’d say, we’ve had a “fair number” of people who were fans of our work. A boisterous and somewhat modest group who like our shows and who, truth be told, aren’t actually all that boisterous, and “modest” might be overstating it.

A handful.

I’m gonna go with “a handful” of people have really liked what we were doing.

The problem, of course, is that we’re the bastard step-cousin of the entertainment industry. Whereas other people are stunned that their TV show got picked up by SpikeTV, or that they managed to make a movie for under five million dollars, we begged for 30 grand from investors and parents and friends, and made plays for TEN YEARS on it. The first time we sold out a weekend of shows, we were beside ourselves, we thanked the audience during the curtain call.

There were, of course, 54 seats. And that weekend had two shows.

So, yeah, we’ve been toiling in basic obscurity for a decade, but the truth is, we’re all toiling in obscurity, so it doesn’t matter. The guys who are just knocking shit out of the park, the Vampire Cowboys, the Flux Theater Ensembles, the Theatresources, all of these guys mean a *TON* to the people I hang out with, but are actually unrecognizable to most of the people who live in New York and say they love theater. We’re all still excited to sell out 54 seat houses, as long as we get to tell our stories.

But the obscurity can get a little sad. When you introduce yourself as a theater producer, and then you have to explain what that means, it can get exhausting. When someone tells me they are a landscape architect, I don’t have to have the very idea of “gardens” explained to me, but I find myself having to explain what “off-off-Broadway” even *is* to people. It sometimes gets a little old.

But, we do try to honor one another’s work as best we can. Mostly, this is done over drinks, in person, but the beauty of the internet for us is that we can all publish and talk about each other’s work *here*, and almost in real time. We can even have a dialogue that exists above and beyond the actual show. I wrote about how much I loved Infectious Opportunity, and Gus Schulenburg actually took it a step further, finding a moment in the show and interviewing those involved to find out how they achieved it. Meanwhile, James, who wrote the play, was reviewing Fight Girl/Battle World. It’s a fantastic round robin we’ve got.

Now, in a scintillating rainbow of fresh air, the New York Innovative Theater awards came along to validate the whole thing. I think it took us a couple of years to even realize that these awards were talking about *us*… we are so completely unaccustomed to anyone celebrating the work that we’re all doing in shabby basement theaters and in converted store-rooms. We were like, “Best Choreography? You mean… You mean that amazing Japanese gymnastic routine where they knocked over part of the set and we all freaked out… they’re getting an award?” It’s just too amazing to put into words.

We co-produced “Universal Robots” at Manhattan Theatresource in February, and we were holding our breath to see if maybe Mac would get nominated for Best Playwright. We really thought it might, we just loved the script so much, and it seemed like everyone just loved the script and… well, it would mean the world for us to get some recognition for Mac after ten years of toting that barge and lifting that bail.

Most of it, I must admit, is that I love Mac deeply and I think he’s really coming in to his own. He’s written three plays in the last four years that deal with humanity and the wavering definition of a person’s soul… and although that sounds like heavy stuff, he’s done it with office comedies and high action sci-fi thrillers. My affection for him as a dude, as the best man in my wedding, is beyond measure, but my love for his work is in line with the obsessions that I’ve had with various writers through my life. For me, he’s in line with Kafka and Tolkien and Tom Robbins and Stoppard and Churchill. It’s a personal obsession, I don’t mean to say he’s as good as these writers, simply that he means as much to me.

And then we found out… we’d gotten FOUR NOMINATIONS. Including “Best Play”. I nearly shat myself.

Now, here’s the funny thing – how quickly a person can go from being gobsmacked at the honor of being nominated to being annoyed that he isn’t getting enough credit.

There was a mistake. Somewhere, in someone’s computer – a computer full of “auto-fill” and pull down menus and nonsense, a tiny clerical error was made. Mac called me on my way to the awards ceremony last night to tell me.

MAC: Hey dude, there’s some bad news.

ME: We weren’t nominated? Dude, I don’t even care, as long as you got nominated, that’s all that matters.

MAC: No… No, wait, listen, no. I was checking the list to make sure you were on it, and they were all “Oh, is he with Dark Brew?” And I was like, “What?”

ME: Who’s “Dark Brew”.

MAC: Right. I said, “Who’s Dark Brew”, and they pulled out the program. Apparently, all of Universal Robots nominations are listed as a co-production between Manhattan Theatresource and “Dark Brew Productions”.


MAC: They’re gonna fix it in all the literature, it’s just a typo or a weird mistake somewhere.


MAC: And I don’t get how this could have… I mean, everyone’s doing tons and tons of shit and…

ME: There’s NO WAY that Lanie fucked that up, she was on the phone with you when she wrote it.

MAC: No, I know. I’m sure Lanie got it right, I just… I have no idea what happened.



ME: Dark Brew, huh?

MAC: That’s what it looks like.

ME: Man, this is so *us*.

MAC: (laughing) Dude, we can just use this from now on. Like, when something awesome is about to happen, and then something weird happens right in the middle…

ME: We can be all “Ah man, we got DARK BREWed”

MAC: “Ah, shit, that is some DARK BREW you got there…”

ME: “Dude, taste this. Taste this brew – This brew tastes friggin’ DARK.”


So anyway, it became the joke of the night for the Robots crew, who were incredibly kind in letting me horn in on their celebration. When you’re a back-seat producer, it gets tough to stand around with the actors who slavishly created one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever witnessed and pretend that you were even 1/10th as involved. Pete Boisvert, the guy who made our VIRAL site, offered to build us a “DARK BREW PRODUCTIONS” website, with links to all our other shows.

And, really, it is *us*. Not “us”- Gideon, but “us” the off-off scene. Two years ago, one of the shows at Manhattan Theatresource, directed by Daryl Boling, had been nominated for an award, and Daryl’s company name (using his initials) was “Dark Brew”. The NYIT group is a MASSIVE undertaking with hundreds of man-hours put in, and I’m sure someone pulled down the menu and inserted what they had from their database. Have you seen the list of shows, how many they had to see, how many adjudicators they had running all over New York fo
r months and months, all in an effort to shine a little bit of light on what we’re doing?

The beauty of it for me is that it took the piss, a little bit. I had a vision of myself walking around with a pimp cane and a fedora, getting my ring kissed (yes, this was a vision from when I was 24 and had no idea what producing theater actually means) but once I got there…

Last night was just beautiful. The love that everyone in our community has for their embattled brothers is the kind of love that can only occur in this atmosphere. I found myself elated by all the success that SoloNova had last night, even though I’d only met the woman who runs the thing ONCE. I was so thrilled for shows like Lee/gendary and Stomp and Shout (an’ Work It All Out), even though I hadn’t seen them, the crowds with them were amazing and the production photos made me furious that I hadn’t gotten to the shows.

It can’t be like this when you could score a 20 million dollar deal if you win the Oscar. There’s very little on the line except for the respect and admiration of the rest of our dwindling but engaged community. I’ll be honest, I was proud to be executive producer of “Dark Brew” last night, as well as Gideon Productions. I could say I was all smiles just to be in the room, but the truth is, I was mostly just so grateful that there was a room for us all to be in. The awards matter, simply because they are one more step in the greater conversation.