‘How to Stay a NY Playwright’

From a lovely article by Barbara Hammond on HotReview.org that could just as easily be called “How to Stay a Playwright”:

Brush and floss as you’re not going to see a dentist except in emergencies. Suck it up and get health insurance but don’t ever get sick. Get invited to fancy events where your dinner and drinks cost more than a week’s groceries and say thank you. Ask for help before things get desperate. Find beauty in every day. Love your freedom. Love your characters. Dive so deep into that pool that you’ve forgotten everything in and around you until you come up for air, or food or company.

Speaking of human company, don’t forego it. There is no reason to write plays unless you develop the part of you that loves humanity in all its frailty, in all its cruelty, in all its tenderness.

I imagine this one will get a lot of #2amt tweets and retweets.

New York (Part 3)

So why the hell were you in New York in the first place, you asked yourself way back when you were reading earlier posts about my now-not-so-recent trip.

Well, the Dramatists Guild pulled together all the regional reps from around the country for something that the business world would call “a sharing of best practices” and the arts admin world would call “a convening” but we called “a meeting.”

As a relatively new regional rep, I was excited to hear what other cities are doing, and I’m working on implementing some of the best ideas. This involves phone calls and planning and long-range thinking, so I’ll roll out details as they come together, but the basic gist is trying to get local guild members together more regularly — and having a reason to do so.

After the rep meeting, we hiked across town to The Players Club for the DG’s annual meeting/elections.

This was where I got to shake hands with Stephen Schwartz and tell David Ives how much his work inspired me to be a playwright in the first place and to check out the coolest library I’ve ever seen. If I could replicate this in my office, I would never leave the house. Or the office.

Since I’m showing photos, I’ll round out this post and wrap up the New York story with a couple random shots.

Here is what MoMA looks like when no one needs information.

Here’s a jazz club, with a cool cat playing drums.

And here is where I returned, back to “a climate for health and wealth without cyclones or blizzards.”

New York (Part 2)

A couple posts ago, I was talking about shows I saw in New York; specifically, That Championship Season on Broadway. That was on Wednesday, mere minutes after I checked in to my hotel, ran by the TKTS booth, and got in the always-short “Plays Only” line.

Thursday night, I saw Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire, also on Broadway, also with big name stars (Frances McDormand, Tate Donovan and Estelle Parsons). It’s in previews, but I’m going to take the liberty to “review” it early (even though no one has fallen to their death) by saying this: I thought it was terrific. Takes place in South Boston and the writing is fantastic. I just read that it’s been extended even though it hasn’t opened yet, and I’m hoping it gets published because I really want to check out the script in depth.

On Friday, I went down to the Village to the Cherry Pit Theatre to check out Thinner Than Water by Melissa Ross. It’s a LAByrinth production, which I guess makes it technically off-Broadway, but because I ended the evening in an after hours jazz club, I prefer to think of it as being way more downtown than it was. The theatre is one of those teeny black box, pillars-blocking-your-view kind of places that I adore, not unlike Boxcar or Stage Werx except with someone from Dexter in a tiny role. And it starred Lisa Joyce (who I saw in Red Light Winter back at Barrow Street whenever that was) as one of the main characters. Once again, it was about families and class struggles and people pissed off at the world, and I really dug it.

Saturday, I checked my bag at the hotel and caught the show closest to my hotel before jumping on LIRR to JFK: Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph. Interestingly enough (to me), this was the play that Rajiv was working on when I interviewed him for an upcoming article. And while it didn’t have the same theme as the other plays I saw, it did have someone else from Dexter: Jennifer Carpenter, who plays Dexter’s cop sister. Also Pablo Schreiber, who the internet says is best know for The Wire but who is probably better known by readers of this blog from Mr. Marmalade, Dying City, reasons to be pretty or Awake and Sing. They played characters at different ages, from 8 to 38, in a beautifully nonlinear storyline. Stellar actors, stellar acting.

I should also mention that right before I arrived, there was a blizzard, and right before I left, there was a cold front, but while I was there, there were record-breaking highs. And I shook hands with David Ives! (More on that later.) So the whole thing was pretty magical.

(Disclosure: Paid for ‘em all; mostly half-price.)

New York (Part 1)

Last week, I was in New York, and I took the opportunity to cram in as many plays as I could see. Since William Shatner and Priceline saw fit to give me a hotel about five steps from the TKTS booth, I ended up seeing more Broadway and off-Broadway stuff than I usually do.

I didn’t realize how many of these shows would be packed with stars and/or people I recognized from TV, although I should have known since that’s pretty much the only way dramas get done on Broadway any more.

The first thing that caught my eye was That Championship Season, probably because it’s about guys who won a high school state basketball championship back in the day and, years later, still relive the glory, which is also how you could describe my dad. (It was 34 years from the time his team won state to the next time his high school made it to the Hall of Champions.)

And, let’s face it, I also wanted to see it because I wrote a six-male-character play set in the world of baseball, and this was a five-male-character play set in the world of basketball, and I wanted to see if there was anything I could learn.

I had no idea who was in it when I bought the tickets; I figured there’d be a star or two, but it turns out the whole cast is well-known: Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Keifer Sutherland and Jason Patric, who is actually the son of the playwright Jason Miller.

It’s in previews, so I won’t say much about it except that I enjoyed it and it fit the theme of both my weekend in New York and the new play I’m working on: people who grew up, ended up in different social classes, and are pissed off about how their lives turned out.

I saw three other plays on this whirlwind trip, but this is getting long, so I’ll write more later about them, and why I was in New York in the first place.

(Disclosure: Paid for it.)

News Roundup

With Facebook and Twitter and RSS, almost no one gets news stories from blogs anymore. Then again, if you have 700 friends posting random bullshit on Facebook and you are wise enough to stay off Twitter, you may have missed a couple interesting things:

  • Arena Stage Building A Home For Playwrights. Cool New York Times article about the Arena Stage’s third theater space — “a small, enveloping cradle where we could nurture and stage newly birthed American plays” — and its New Play Map, where you can see who’s producing playwrights who kind of write like you but are much more successful (and thus target your submissions). Arena is quickly becoming “a national center for producing, presenting, developing and studying American theater.”
  • Off-Market Theater Closing With A B.O.O.M. PianoFight’s ‘Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night’ returns to the stage at Off-Market for one final performance as part of B.O.O.M. Fest, celebrating 7 years of indie theater at the soon-to-close Off-Market Theater. Not to worry, though; one of the PianoFight dudes is apparently loaded, as they’re about to open a zillion dollar theater (with its own bar!!) (I think I heard!!) in the Spring.
  • Fantastic Village Voice Article On Collaborative Theater. Really great article about devised theater or collaborative theater or whatever you call it, about the working methods of the Civilians, the Debate Society, Elevator Repair Service (ERS), Nature Theater of Oklahoma and more. Do companies find that someone needs to step in at some point in the process and stop the collaborative part and make directorial/dictatorial decisions? (Hint: yes.) Also, not all those companies accept the devised or collaborative or whatever you call it label.

SF Playwright Peter Nachtrieb To Take Over World

This is so great:

NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK TAPS NACHTRIEB FOR $25,000 FULL STAGE USA PROJECT

WASHINGTON, DC – The NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK (NNPN), the country’s alliance of non-profit theaters that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays, proudly announces the selection of playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb (Boom, Hunter Gatherers, BOB) for the first of five Full Stage USA commissions sponsored by New York’s New Dramatists. This aggressive commission-through-development-to-production grant provides $25,000 to the selected playwright, travel and development resources at New Dramatists, and $40,000 in subsidies for eventual production.

Read the whole thing.

‘COMPULSION’ at Berkeley Rep

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone to New York. For a while there, we were hitting it once a year or so, but this year’s been a little crazy, with a lot of moving and traveling and whatnot. Luckily, we have Berkeley Rep around, so we’re often able to see plays that will end up in New York anyway.

A couple years ago, when people in New York were discovering Passing Strange, we could rest assured that we’d already seen it. Ditto with In The Next Room; caught it about six months before New York did. (And our version had Stacy Ross in it, so there.)

This past weekend, I got to see Rinne Groff’s Compulsion, which will apparently be in New York soon, too. It stars Mandy Patinkin, and I use the word “star” purposefully, because it’s just like when I saw Rita Moreno playing Maria Callas: certain people are just stars, and the second they walk onstage, you can’t take your eyes off them.

Of course, it also stars puppets. I love puppets. Puppets brought me back onto the stage, when I was in this with these guys. I remember saying something before Compulsion started about puppets being “even more human than humans.” So it’s probably just me, but I wanted even more puppets.

Case in point: The knock-out scene, the one that Chad Jones over at Theater Dogs describes beautifully, is a protracted scene with Patinkin, the actor playing his wife — and a puppet version of Anne Frank. It’s stunning.

That said, I do kind of agree with Chloe Veltman that the script’s a little talky, a little long and a little repetitive. But then there’s this amazing actor, and this awesome stage design, and some mad puppet skills — and the fact that we got a taste of New York without having to get on a plane.

The bigger theaters are kicking off their seasons with some intriguing stuff. I’ve seen Trouble In Mind at Aurora and Compulsion at Berkeley Rep, and I just bought tickets for the The Brother/Sister Plays at Magic Theatre, A.C.T. and Marin Theatre. Next stop, indie theatre! Specifically, beer and theater under a pizza parlor.

(Disclosure: I was comp’d to this show.)

It’s ‘Fall Theater Preview’ Time

September’s here, and so are the various Fall Theater Previews:

  • In the SF Bay Guardian, Robert Avila’s “The Final Act” has 10 events highlighted, again including the Fringe Festival.
  • Karen D’Souza’s preview in the San Jose Mercury News (with the SEO-optimized headline “Fall Arts 2010: Theater”) highlights seven events across the Bay.
  • Most impressive of all, Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle breaks them out by month and features a stunning 39 shows in “Fall Arts Preview: Theater.”

Photo courtesy of A.C.T.; no photographer listed.

The most mentioned, in my non-scientific, don’t-bug-me-if-something-else-is-actually-mentioned-more study of these listings: Tarell Alvin McCraney’s highly-anticipated The Brother/Sister Plays, which premiered at the Public Theater in New York.

It’s a trilogy being produced by three San Francisco theaters: In the Red and Brown Water at Marin Theatre Company (Sep 9-Oct 3); The Brothers Size at Magic Theatre (Sep 9-Oct 17); Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet at A.C.T. (Oct 29-Nov 21). Learn more at www.brothersisterplays.org.