After the long dark weirdness of 2020, I’m back for my sixth season as a manager at Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square. Getting ready for this season was a challenge, with design changes to the land, new staff to hire and train, and Covid protocols to incorporate into what’s already a pretty complicated operation. But we did it. And now somehow we’re already half-way through the season! It’s beautiful to be back with this weird and wonderful community, doing this unique, emotional, deeply empathetic work. We’re all so happy to be connecting with each other again. Even the old familiar stresses inherent to any year at Santaland are kind of sweet this year, as they bring with them a sense of normalcy. But most significantly, I’m truly thankful for the daily acts of kindness and thoughtfulness I get to observe and take part in at the land. What a silly place. What a wonderful gig. As the song goes… there’s no place like home for the holidays…
Way back in 2006, I took a whack at reinventing the Prometheus myth as an exercise for my first college playwriting class. By the end of that year, I had a full draft. The first professional reading of anything I’ve ever written was that play, Fire Thief, at the Workshop Theater in early 2007. A few years later, I massively rewrote the play and put on a full production (with one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with) at the Looking Glass Theatre in Hell’s Kitchen. And then I put it in a drawer. And somehow a decade went by. This year, Skeleton Rep was looking for submissions for their Salon Series. And since their mission is exploring modern myth… I took Prometheus and co. out of the drawer. I’ve been working and reworking Fire Thief for about half a year and it’s amazing to see how the play has grown up and evolved. There’s no scene, no page that hasn’t been touched, but somehow it is, in essence, the same play I started fifteen years ago. Last night–after three speedy rehearsals spaced out over about two weeks–we had a reading. And while that was just a taste of what this play can be… it was a mighty good taste. You can check out the edited video here. Stay tuned for whatever’s next for this play…
On the horizon… The Workshop Theater’s Out of the Hat Festival is back again. I believe… I’ve written something for every Out of the Hat so far. And this year’s crop of plays are looking great! The prompt for the festival (which calls for short plays written for randomly selected and paired actors inspired by a single word prompt) is “home.” My play, Quo Vadis, was written for two fantastic actresses, Sarah Spring and Cherrye Davis. They are incredible. We filmed our reading this morning and the video for Quo Vadis and more than twenty(!!!) other short plays will be available on YouTube this December. I’ll throw that link up here as well. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of these two fabulous performers knocking it out of the park via Zoom.
After a crazy, beautiful summer Production Managing at Montgomery Place as part of Bard Summerscape, I’m back in NYC and happy to have a wonderful pile of projects to close out the year.
First, I am so grateful and proud that my first post-shutdown theater project is stage managing Katori Hall’s masterpiece, The Mountaintop, at Arc Stages in Pleasantville. Directed by Ryan Quinn, and starring Gabriel Lawrence and Shavonna Banks, this production is moving, powerful, vivid, and honest. It defies belief that this cast and crew built this show in less than three weeks. It’s stunning and meaningful, and I can only hope that my future theatrical endeavors live up to this high standard on and offstage. We had a great opening weekend, and tickets are available for our remaining performances (10/8, 10/9, 10/15, 10/16, 10/17).
Right after I say goodbye to The Mountaintop, I’ll be setting up camp at The Metropolitan Museum of Art as Production Stage Manager for Met Live Arts. First up is Gavin Creel’s personal musical journey through the Met: Walk on Through. A full evening of original songs, inspired by the Met collection and full of life and joy and reflection. Gavin is such a wonderful talent (and good human) and this show promises to rock pretty damn hard. Tickets are available for the 6pm and 8:30pm shows on 10/25. (Photo credit: Andrew Keenan-Bolger)
And just in time for Halloween, we’ve got a haunting and beautiful concert “Celebrating Arvo Part at the Met.” This concert, performed at the Temple of Dendur, will be epic and extraordinary. I also can’t quite believe that I’ll be helping to put on a show, complete with chorus and orchestra, in one of my favorite spots in the museum. Tickets!
Next time: Playwriting news!
The Pollinate Project is officially live! We “opened” a week ago and our audience already stretches from Oslo to Oakland. The site is really a marvel, with several different ways to navigate the works and new discoveries around every corner. The same piece looks and feels dramatically different depending on the path that gets you there. I’ve been bouncing around the site for weeks and I still haven’t poked my head into every corner. Check it out here!
I’m very excited to be one of the twenty artists chosen to participate in Amanda + James’ Pollinate Project this month. It’s a real privilege to be part of this community of singers, writers, sculptors, dancers, choreographers, film makers, performance artists, composers… These are artists without traditional boundaries, taking an opportunity to stretch, play, and reinvent. We all started with the same prompt, creating 20 different pieces. These pieces were then passed along to other artists in the group, and we all created pieces in response to what we received. We’ll repeat this process a couple more times, like a giant game of artistic telephone. I’m having a great time with this already and I can’t wait to see what we wind up with.
The Workshop Theater has been producing the wonderful Out of the Hat Festival for six years. I’m delighted to say I’ve written a play for every Out of the Hat. Some of my best short works, and most of my published monologues, have been inspired by this festival. Every year, playwrights are matched up with randomly selected actors and tasked with writing a play for those specific performers. Every play in the festival jumps off of the same prompt. One year it was “faith”; last year it was “environment”; and this year, it’s “luck.” I was blessed with three fantastic actors–Kevin Stanfa, Joseph Francini, and Annemarie Hagenaars–and the result was a charming little play: “Coin Flip”.
We recorded readings of all 22 plays (featuring work by 21 writers and 45 actors!), and the videos go live on youtube Wednesday, December 9. Viewers have until December 13 to watch as many as they like, and tickets are just $10. Donate here and you’ll receive a link! I’ve seen a handful of the pieces already, and I’m looking forward to catching the rest this week.
A handful of months have passed since my last update to this page–pandemic fatigue and an 800-mile move are hefty distractions. Here’s the latest:
The production of True West that I began work on in the spring finished rehearsals in October and we were able to record the production, edit the video, and post it online. There were all sorts of exciting hiccups along the way, including neighbors who were somewhat alarmed by the sounds of Sam Shepard coming through their walls via raised voices, but we put together a show we’re very proud of. Our two leads, Justin Walker and Logan Schmucker, were able to work together in the same space (Logan’s apartment kitchen), while our two supporting actors, Joanie Schumacher and James Bascomb, participated remotely. Rehearsals and our performance recording happened via Zoom, Facebook messenger, and Google hangouts. In addition to directing remotely (essentially being a floating head in the room during rehearsals), I taught myself a little film editing to make the final product possible. True West is a play that’s resonated with me since the first time I read it, back at CTY in 2002 (Hooray for Crafting Drama with Bo Wilson!). I feel truly lucky that this opportunity came along–or, more accurately, that we made this opportunity come to be. Theater as we know it isn’t possible right now, but for the past several months, these four actors, one fight choreographer, and I got just about as close as possible to the real thing. And it felt great.
In other news, I had a preliminary reading of my newest play, All the Things We’re Supposed to Be. It was my first time hearing the piece out loud. I put together a truly exceptional cast and the reading was wonderful, moving, and enlightening. The discussion with the cast gave me genuinely helpful guideposts for how to move forward with rewrites, so watch this space for more news about this play. It’s a special one and I think it’s going to go places.
Finally (for now), The Workshop Theater is continuing its tradition of producing the Out of the Hat festival, where writers are given a prompt and asked to write a short play on that theme for a randomly assigned group of actors. The theme this year is “Luck” and I was fortunate enough to be assigned three fantastic actors–Joe Franchini, Kevin Stanfa, and Annemarie Hagenaars. Inspired by my conversations with them about the characters they love to play/are sick of playing/have always wanted to play, and our combined thoughts on the subject of luck, I came up with Coin Flip–a fun little play I’m really looking forward to sharing with audiences soon! The Workshop has assembled a knockout group of writers and actors, and the festival will feature more than a dozen wildly different plays, all on this fantastic theme. We’re filming the readings next week, and they’ll be available for viewing in late November. Stay tuned!
The Estrogenius Festival is gearing up for its next phase of quarantined theatrical content! The Extro from Estro site is up and running and will soon be home to on-demand videos of a few of our shows from this year’s virtual festival. So, if you missed our livestreams earlier this month, you can catch them via Extro starting next week. The ticket price to view these shows will be pleasantly petite, and proceeds go to the artists, so please do tune in!
The Beach, written and directed by yours truly, will be premiering May 28th at 7:30pm.
A Project, written by Tawny Sorensen and directed by me, will be premiering June 4th at 7:30pm.
After those premieres, tune in anytime!
It’s been a few weeks since the first Zoom/Facebook Live readings of my work. Theater continues to be a resilient, adaptable creature, and we’re all figuring out how to navigate this new frontier. And while it’s still strange to think about how many cast members and audience members have now been introduced to a sliver of my childhood bedroom via webcam… I’m very proud of the work we’ve been doing so far! Verona Walls and The Beach both had wonderfully successful readings last month. Audiences were appreciative and responsive, and, most importantly, the stories and characters came across beautifully, even as we were all stuck in our respective virtual bubbles. Actors were able to connect to each other and the audience. And the texts, while not necessarily ideally served by this medium, still landed with people (a great testament to the directors and actors involved, but also… a pretty good sign when it comes to the words themselves!). These readings also gave everyone involved at least a little taste of that thing we’ve all been missing: Community. Communal experience. It’s very odd being together while being apart, but these performances were a lovely reminder that none of us are alone–connection is possible. Of course, somewhat paradoxically, these experiences also serve to vividly remind us of what we’re missing. My god, I can’t wait to be back in a cheap rehearsal studio with folding chairs and mediocre sound proofing, or my living room with all the furniture pushed into the kitchen, just working on a play with a bunch of people I care about who can breathe the same air, feel the same rhythms, and hold each other’s hands.
Social distancing has made me slightly ramble-y… so onto the news!
A Project by Tawny Sorensen, a short play I directed for the Estrogenius Festival, had it’s Zoom/Facebook premiere last week. We adapted the text to be a bit more suited to these Zoom-y times and the play went very well! Both actresses (Sarah Elizabeth Grace and Kate Russo) had a lot of fun with the medium and delivered honest, engaging performances. A Project and The Beach will both be available to view on demand via the Estrogenius website by the end of May.
My pirate play, Heart of Oak, has been selected by two festivals (both of which have shifted online) and I’m really pumped to revisit this piece and to see what magic people make of it in these weird circumstances. First up is The Femme Fatale Festival (based in West Virginia), which will be presenting the play on June 5th. Then, shockingly soon after, we’ve got Babycastles–an NYC-based, multimedia art collective–broadcasting on June 10th. Big week for lady pirates! Just about a month away!
And rehearsals have just begun for a production of True West I’m directing, featuring a really excellent quartet of actors, some of whom I’ve known for a decade and some of whom I’ve met and become a huge fan of during these past few crazy months! We’ve had a read-through and our first blocking rehearsal and it’s strange and thrilling to be digging into the text with this ensemble. Performance dates are still TBD, but it’s gonna be good, folks.
Thanks to the indomitable spirits of many a good actor and director, and the sheer resilience of theater even in these super weird times… I’ve actually got play readings of all sorts this week! Three different plays have been/will be sent out into cyberspace via Zoom and Facebook Live.
First, we had a lovely Zoom/Facebook performance of my short sci-fi play, The Beach on 4/15/20 via The Estrogenius Festival. Justin Walker and Emily MaRee knocked it out of the park with their performances, delivered from their respective apartments straight to audience members all over the country! The video is still available on Estrogenius’s facebook page, and next week it will be available to view for a small fee on the Extro from Estro website.
Tomorrow, 4/17, at 8pm, my full-length Romeo and Juliet prequel, Verona Walls, will be having its Zoom premiere. We’re doing a virtual staged reading–really exploring the medium and celebrating the text–featuring an astonishing group of exceptional actors, directed by Ania Upstill (sending their notes all the way from New Zealand!).
And Saturday, 4/18, at 5pm, my Western, Long Time Gone, will be featured by Play Readings with Friends via Zoom. This will be the first public reading of the latest version of Long Time Gone. I’m really looking forward to seeing it with fresh eyes!