Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lauria: Blogging BLOODWORKS

Courtney Brooke Lauria is all about CAKE LIGHT, happy places and Matt Laurer:

First let me paint you a picture. It's 7:25 am. Channel 4, the Today Show. Ann Curry has just finished stumbling over the news ( I say that with total love for Ann Curry) and she turns to Matt Lauer.

Hot, sexy, broken armed Matt Lauer.Matt: My next guest is a struggling playwright who can't find the right description for her up coming reading. Courtney Brooke Lauria, welcome to the program.

Courtney: Thanks Matt. I'm happy to be here.

Matt: Now, some of our guest may have never heard of you.

Courtney: Really?

Matt: Yes really.

Courtney: Wow.

Matt: You are surprised by this?

Courtney: Why yes Matt I am. I thought I meant more to you than this.

Matt: Than what? I'm sorry what?

Courtney: Look Matt I am not Tom Cruise, I am not Ann Coulter, you can't use your glib talk with me. Look, My bloodworks piece is called CAKE LIGHT. It is a series of overlapping scenes/monologues about birthdays. Each scene ending with the main character being only lit by the light of candles on their birthday cake. No one is upset, sad or crying when they are presented with a birthday cake.

Most people I interact with on a daily basis are making the most of the "mood" in America today. Everyone on the whole is pretty sad, pretty kicked down, but trying to have a smile. Trying to save for a vacation, or even just a nicer shirt. But then you realize you have to pay taxes, or they fire your intern, or your mom can't buy her medication, something can flip your mood. We are all trying to be so positive day in and day out, but I feel like everyone around me keeps getting knocked down.

So I am thinking of my happy place. And I am happy in cake light.

Matt: That was beautiful Courtney.

Courtney: I think you're beautiful Matt.

Matt: Coming up next Courtney and I will get married on the plaza. We'll be back after your local news.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Link: Blogging BLOODWORKS

Ladies & Gentleman, introducing YBer Patrick Link:

A short drama.

PATRICK’S BLOODWORKS PIECE (BW) sits alone at a bar. It’s 3 am. A BARTENDER counts cash at the register. A GENTLEMAN appears and approaches BW.

GENT: Drinking alone?

(BW sniffles over her dirty martini)

GENT: Where’s your playwright?

BW: Gone. He said he’s “looking at other material.”

GENT: Bastard. Cigarette?

BW: Thank you.

GENT: Sounds like this playwright doesn’t know a good plot twist when he sees one.

BW: He said I was flat.

GENT: You? He’s crazy.

BW: Said I didn’t arch right.

GENT: Sounds like his problem. Not yours. Some guys don’t know how to arch. Some lack the discipline. (GENT takes her hand) You’re cold.

BW: I’m fine.

GENT: He’s neglected you. Come with me.

BW: I can’t. It’s too soon.

GENT: Link is gone. He left you after a draft.

BW: That’s just his way. He’ll be back.

GENT: Playwrights like that don’t come back. They end up in Law School.

BW: He just put me on hold. So he could restructure.

GENT: You deserve better. How ‘bout I finish what Link started? Give you a nice beginning, middle and end. My car is outside.

BW: Why doesn’t he love me?

GENT: Hush. Come here.

(They kiss. PATRICK enters, soaked from the rain)

PL: Darling! I was wrong! You are the one. You’re the play I want to write!

(The kiss continues)

BARTENDER: You’re too late. She’s gone.

(BLACKOUT)

_

Okay, True Fact: I did tell my Bloodworks project I wasn’t interested and I DID almost move on to new material, BUT we’ve since worked things out. We sat down, talked to each other, and we’ve arrived upon a new structure and approach that is much more satisfying and our relationship has never been better. Thanks YB for keeping me honest and keeping us together!

My Bloodworks reading is June 23. The play is about a creative writing professor who is told by school officials to report any writing that could be considered “odd and disturbing.”

Kern: TRUE FACTS

More virulent than swine flu, bird flu, or simian humongous pox is the highly lethal lepidopteran tonsillitis. Spread by butterflies, the infection causes tonsil chrysalis, whereby the tonsils transform into radiant, colorful wings that choke the victim to death. So WARNING! Keep butterflies away from mouth. No whispering secret notes to butterflies. No polishing them with the steamy moisture of your hot breath. And if you makeout with a butterfly, please be sure to swallow a condom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lew: VICTORY BRUNCH Blogging

Michael Lew, one of the five YBer with plays in Sunday's Final Brunch of the Season (do you have your reservation, yet?), offers some insight to his piece:

I wanted to examine the idea of victory through a play about a young striver trying to break into the radio business (being a DJ), so that there's the conflicting victory of succeeding in a medium that - like the theater - is aging and perhaps on its way out.

I stupidly signed up to do the brunch during the same week that I have pages due for the group. I'm working on a full-length for Bloodworks and am trying to juggle the two projects.

In addition to being about Victory, this brunch piece will be an experiment in syncing my plays up to pop music. There's a section of the play set to a rap song. A couple years ago I did a brunch play called Pirate Tom Goes a'Courtin - for the Pirate Brunch - and the whole thing roughly synced up to sections of Queen's "I Want to Break Free." It was kind of this beautiful disaster and that's what I'm aiming for here, albeit hopefully pulled off with a bit more finesse this time.

Moench & Saleh: InterBlood Interviews

Second in our series of Youngblood playwrights interviewing one another, Anna Moench & Erica Saleh talk about crushed dreams of becoming Olympic sprinters, the lucrative upside of partaking in fake avalanches, and what would happen if the center of American Theatre relocated...

Anna interviewing Erica:
AM:In your great Blogging Bloodworks post you told us a bit about Dryden, NY, where you grew up. Did you start taking an interest in theater and/or playwriting in your hometown? Did 10 year old Erica know that she was destined to become a writer?
ES:I think I have always always processed things by turning them into stories, and as a really little kid wrote a lot of them down... but then I went away from the writing down for a long time. By the age of 10 I was more interested in being an Olympic sprinter, and then when it became clear that that wasn't in the cards I went through that long and cliched period of thinking I was going to be a human rights lawyer. Until college I was always thinking in terms of careers, I didn't really understand that there was a way to live life that wasn't structured around a five day nine to five work week. When I got to college I ended up taking a fiction writing workshop and ended up stumbling into the student run theater and realized that I was suddenly in a world even if temporarily where I could choose these things. And then I just continued to choose them. And I think I'm really just starting to understand that I can keep on structuring my life around making theater and that this seems to be what I am going to keep on choosing.
Erica--kicking the crap out of the 9-5 lifestyle
AM: You also mentioned the fluid nature of your style, that it is constantly changing as you explore it through your plays. Is there a central question, form, or concept that you find yourself returning to, even as your approach shifts?
ES: I sat here for a long time trying to think of a way to make my answer to this question more interesting... but I think that it really just comes down to the fact that I'm endlessly curious about people and the ways that we relate to each other and ourselves. The aesthetic, and the form, and the specifics of that curiosity change depending on what I'm doing, who's around me, where I'm sitting, what I'm reading... but the curiosity itself is constant, and I guess that's the central thing in everything I do and write.

AM: What prompted your play A FERTILE WINTER, a wonderfully creepy story about an expectant couple holed up for the winter in a cabin in the middle of nowhere? How does that piece compare with your other plays: LOVE, CANDY and SPLIT?
ES: What prompted it was actually a sort of traumatic set of miscommunication between my graduate thesis advisor, myself and the bureaucratic powers that be at the University of Texas. Long story short I found myself needing to write a new full length play in a very short amount of time. Which, as it turns out is kind of the thing that works best for me. Lots of writing in a little time. No time to second guess or overthink or plan. How the play that came out happened to be A FERTILE WINTER I really have no idea. There were a whole lot of false starts and then there was the thing that went. Which is how it goes.

AM: What was your first play about?
ES: Sex. Obviously and of course.

AM: If you had the power to move the center of the American theater community from New York to anywhere else in the country, where would you put it?
ES: I am unfortunately a little too hung up on logistics to really answer this question. I keep thinking of cities I like and then having to be like "Yeah but" ... and then think of all the ways that being the center of the American theater community would ruin most of the cities I love, or how a couple of the cities I love would ruin the American theater. I think theater exists in the way that it does in New York because this is the city that can sustain it. I love that cities like Minneapolis exist, which has made art and theater accessible and an important part of its infrastructure, and I love that there are pop up arts scenes in unlikely places all over the country, and that there are exciting amazing theater scenes in exciting amazing cities like Minneapolis and Portland and Chicago and Austin and and and .... but in the end I think the scene grows to fit the container. And it's not a mistake that the center is here. I also think that I am hopeless at hypothetical situations and I should go find an imagination.

AM: Any weird writing habits? Rituals? Human/animal sacrifice?
ES: I plead the 5th.

AM: If you could collaborate with any artist, theater or non-theater, living or dead, to create some kind of performance piece, who would it be and why?
ES: I mean, the smart thing would clearly be to hook up with a name that would make my name a name. But, honestly, I would prefer to collaborate with two or three select artist friends, who I will not name at the risk of hurting other artist friends feelings. I am really interested in working with people who are at a similar point in their careers and explorations as I am. I think collaborations should be about exploration and mutual learning and I don't want hero worship to come into that equation.

AM: What's in the pipeline? Any projects you're planning to tackle this summer, theater related or otherwise?
ES: I think it's going to be a lot of rewriting. I have a couple full lengths that have been sitting patiently waiting to be cleaned up. I'm also headed to Nebraska at the end of June to work as a dramaturg/mentor playwright at the Educational Theatre Association's National Thespian Conference, which means working with a high school playwright on revising their script and getting it ready for a staged reading. In non-theater projects there will be a lot of bike riding and sundress wearing, and lying in the park, and drinking wine on rooftops and generally remembering how awesome new york is when the sun is out.

---------------------------------------------------
Erica interviewing Anna:

ES: You revealed yourself at some point as having another life as a competitive skier. And I have a sneaking suspicion that you're one of those people who's infuriatingly good at everything she tries and that you will continue to reveal a secret set of skills as occasions arise... Am I right? Are you secretly a pastry chef triathlete card shark burlesque dancer?
AM: You're thinking of my time working for Mountain Safety at a Colorado ski resort, which was probably the greatest job I will ever have in my life, but wasn't competitive skiing...I'm definitely not that good. I've also led long distance bike trips, which was also great. It's incredible what people will pay you to do if you're willing to share a tent with high schoolers for months on end, or get buried in a fake avalanche to have rescue dogs dig you out half an hour later. I don't think I'm innately skilled at much, but I'm always up for an adventure and stubborn enough to keep trying when I'm not immediately great at stuff, and that's enough to get by until I actually develop skills. Especially when it comes to burlesque.

Anna --keeping those kids safe in the mountains

ES: I guess the obvious next question is: is there anything you're just lousy at?
AM: I cannot compose music. At all. My mind cannot fathom how to invent even a basic tune like "Hot Cross Buns". My brother and two of my cousins are composers, and I am resigned to the fact that they enjoy an entire world of artistic and intellectual fulfillment that will forever be closed to me. I am also terrible at things that require upper body strength, though I recently purchased an Iron Gym in an attempt to change that. Oh, and I suck at remembering birthdays; on my own birthday every friend who wishes me a happy birthday fills me with guilt because of all their past birthdays I've forgotten, and dread at the prospect of forgetting their future birthdays, which, in all honesty, is inevitable. And I take forever to get my crap together and leave the house. And I can't crochet. I'm no good at responding to text messages or facebook messages. The more I think about this question the more I realize how incompetent I am. Thanks, Erica.

ES: You work in and with a lot of forms in your theater making-- i have a lot of questions about this that I'm trying to roll into one, but i think i'd really like to just invite you to talk (er, write) about your work in puppeteering and object theater and any other forms you play with that I don't know about... and also about your collaborations with choreographer, Meredith Steinberg.
AM: I became interested in puppetry and object theater in college, and I wrote my thesis on the status of object theater as an emerging American performance form. Although I have a strong interest in puppetry and object theater, my artistic work in those forms is actually only a subset of my entire body of work. I don't think of myself as an object theater artist or a puppet artist. Yet what I believe I share with puppet and object theater artists is a keen sense of the visual whole of a performance and a highly theatrical approach to storytelling. Meredith Steinberg and I founded anna&meredith, a performance company (not really dance-theater as it has come to be known, but not fully dance, not fully theater). We each do solo work as an independent choreographer and playwright, but our collaborative work has a distinctive style and aesthetic. We decided to form a company dedicated to presenting the work we make as a team that fits that style.

ES: Do the different forms you work in tend to find their way into all of your pieces? Or, do they tend to result in distinct single genre (puppet or object or movement) pieces?
AM: I blend a lot of disciplines in my plays--music, dance, puppetry, theater--but not all at once, and not consistently. Some plays incorporate puppets or objects, many don't. Some are site-specific and require intricate art installations, many aren't. I write some plays that anybody can direct, that are more "traditional" in that respect, and then I write plays like BRAINS or FROGMAN, that are exclusively for anna&meredith. Then yeah, I'll write straight up puppet plays sometimes, because I do love puppets. GORMANZEE, for instance, is probably only performable by puppets, as it requires a chef to ritualistically kill a gorilla, human, and chimpanzee, debone and eviscerate them, and then stuff them into each others' body cavities. I dream of writing two companion pieces, RAT KING and one about another weird animal thing, and producing them in a triptych in an abandoned insane asylum in Detroit.



ES: Your play BRAINS has had a pretty awesome developmental life in the past few months and is going up at The Looking Glass Theatre at the end of May. Where did the play come from? And how did it get to where it is now?
AM: BRAINS, an anna&meredith play, has technically been in development since the fall of 2008. When I was writing THE PILLOW BOOK, I was fortunate to have a space grant that enabled me to workshop the script with a group of actors for 6 hours each week for two months. I generated a lot of stuff that I ended up cutting, that just didn't belong to that play. A two page scene about how the human body has two brains was one of those cast offs. When anna&meredith entered Spoke The Hub's Winter Follies competition, I expanded that scene into a 5 minute play about the glorification of science. We made it as precise, polished, and specific as possible in its staging and movement to complement its heightened language, which made the piece distinctive. It went over well, and we won! Then we were offered a few opportunities to revisit BRAINS (thanks to Oracle Theatre Inc., Indah Boyle, and Dixon Place!), and I expanded it to 10 minutes. Last month we got The Looking Glass Theatre's Performance Space Grant to do a full evening length version in May. As a writer, it has been a really interesting challenge to expand a tiny fragment by fitting things into an existing aesthetic framework, rather than having the freedom to let the play grow in whatever direction it wants. I'm so lucky to work with Meredith though, she gives me great feedback along the way and whenever I'm stuck I can just write some stage direction like "Here they do a dance that explains how things came to be the way they are" and she'll totally make it happen. Take that, expository prose!

ES: If you could have written one play that someone else wrote in the history of all plays ever, which would it be?
AM: I'm tempted to choose OUR TOWN or something else that gets produced all the time so I could make actual money off the royalties and not work a dayjob. But Shakespeare was the playwright who made me love theater as an 11 year old. So although it's a little trite to choose the bard, I'd probably say JULIUS CAESAR. "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Hell yes. I wish I had written that.

ES: What are you doing this weekend?
AM: Rehearsing BRAINS, writing GREAT EASTERN, and biking through the Palisades. I should also clean my room, but that is unlikely.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Conkel: NOTES FROM THE ROAD

Joshua Conkel:

I flew to Chicago over the weekend to attend The Pavement Group's workshop of my new full-length play, MilkMilkLemonade. I'd never been to Chicago except for once when I was a little kid, but that was just a layover at O' Hare so it didn't really count. As luck would have it, my best friend Jenny moved to Chicago six months ago so I already had a place to stay. I don't know if you've heard this, but Jenny's neighborhood Wicker Park, is really awesome. It turns out a lot of people from my undergrad years at Cornish College of the Arts live in Chicago and so the whole weekend turned into a whirlwind of beer, theater, and steak sandwiches. I never left Wicker Park once and found it to be very much like my beloved Brooklyn. Much fun was had by all and I can tell you I've never looked as gorgeous as I looked last night on the plane home (note sarcasm).

The Pavement Group is a theater company created by former and current employees of Steppenwolf (where I got to rehearse and, by the way, and do you know they have a stunning old fashioned theater inside of their theater they they never use?) Artistic Director David Perez and his crew were so kind and accommodating to me. The cast was impressive and hilarious and really, really sweet. The show itself was at the Elegant Mr. Gallery, a loft space so-named because it's located above Elegant Mr. Mattress on Milwaukee Avenue.

The show was packed with cute hipsters, including the lovely Joy Meads, Literary Manager of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to speak with her. She was so sweet and unpretentious and I walked away feeling like my faith in the American theater was somewhat renewed. The audience laughed a lot at my reading, but I couldn't tell if I lost people at the end. Things get really serious right at the end of the play and now I'm afraid that it's too manipulative or something. I also realized the play doesn't take place in Washington State like I thought it did, so I had to rewrite all of that before the performance on Saturday without the aid of script formatting software. My computer crashed a week ago, so rewriting has become a tedious nightmare.

I'm looking forward to working more with The Pavement Group in the future (I hope). Like Youngblood, this is a group of whip smart young theater artists and we would all be lucky to get our work produced there.

Chicago's skyline. Rumor has it, Joshua took this shot as he was recovering on the plane ride home to NYC...

Fortenberry: Blogging BLOODWORKS

Dorothy Fortenberry, in the midst of working on rewrites of her Bloodworks play, SPECIES NATIVE TO CALIFORNIA, gives us a glimpse into her process...as she tackles the recession, Checkhov, and rethinking the American Dream (all in two languages):


YB: You're revising a piece you've been developing for quite a while, what's it about?


DF: I've been working on this play, Species Native to California, for about a year, on and off. I'm really, really excited for the BloodWorks reading because it's a large-scale play (2 acts, 8 characters, 2 languages) and I have a hard time knowing what's working just in my head. It's inspired by Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (but it's not an adaptation - I learned that) and it's about land, power, immigration, wealth and wealth's disappearance. And what the deal is with California.


YB: Why are you revisiting this particular piece? Why now?
DF: When I finished the 1st draft of the play, it was mid-October. The economy was starting to collapse, but no one really knew what it all meant. And I thought I was writing a play about one family's very particular relationship to wealth and land. Six months later, we're in the middle of a national conversation about re-thinking the American Dream in a way I never could have imagined. I don't know how this changes the play, but it's what I'm thinking about as I work on it.


YB: How is the rewrite coming? Is it developing in similar/different ways than your usual rewrites?
DF:Gah. It's coming. I've had my head full of Caitlin and the Swan recently, and there's a new play I'm starting to work on, so it's tough for me to always remember which play-world I'm in. But having the reading is helping to focus me and light a much-needed fire under me. I don't think I have a pattern for re-writes except that I always have to step away from work for at least a month to forget what I wrote and then find out again.


YB: What are you hoping to gain out of the reading? Any particular questions you are trying to get answered?
DF: I'm interested in how all the characters work together - there are scenes with 6 or 8 people at once, and hearing them out loud will let me know what's working in terms of tracking all the different threads. I'm also fascinated with how language functions in the play -- what do people understand in Spanish? what in English? what is it like not to understand?


YB: Will you be working with a particular director/ particular cast?
DF:I'm still working on casting it, but I know that Becca Wolff will be directing. She's a friend from grad school and has directed several shows of mine before, so I'm psyched that she can do this, too.

News: May Brunch - SECOND SHOW ADDED

The VICTORY Brunch sold out almost immediately - BUT there are still tickets available!How does that work, you ask?




By overwhelming popular demand, for the final Brunch of the season, we're ADDING ANOTHER PERFORMANCE on the 6th Floor!

It's all the same shows, with all the same casts, just a half hour later. Curtain time for the 6th floor show will be 1:30pm, and there will be a bar and a buffet just like downstairs.


That's right. It's our first ever DOUBLE BRUNCH.


Be a part of Youngblood history - get your reservations now because the extra show will go fast!


See what happens when the playwrights of Youngblood write about WINNING, and the WINNERS who do it.



THE BRUNCHFAST OF CHAMPIONS!


Five brand new short plays about VICTORY from:
Rob ASKINS
Eli CLARK
Joshua CONKEL
Jon KERN
Michael LEW

Five brand new plays, plus our fabulous BRUNCH BUFFET of pancakes, eggs, bacon, pastries and fruit. And our morally reprehensible, fiscally indefensible OPEN BAR of mimosas and bloody marys - all for a TRIUMPHANT $15!

Reservations are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL!
call (212) 247-4982 x107 or email info@youngbloodnyc.org


Sunday, May 3


2nd Floor Performance:
doors open at 12:30 for buffet/barshow starts at 1pm
(food goes fast, so get there early!)


6th Floor Performance:doors open at 1pm for buffet/barshow starts at 1:30pm

Any reservations not picked up by 10 minutes before curtain time can not be guaranteed.

Ensemble Studio Theater: 2nd Floor 549 West 52nd Street (bet. 10/11)

Alick: Blogging BLOODWORKS

Jesse Cameron Alick, answering a few Youngblog's questions regarding his Bloodworks piece, NO POEM NO SONG:
YB:What are you working on? Something you’ve been developing a while? Something that you are revising/revisiting? Something entirely new?

JCA: I'm working on a play that I started a couple years ago called NO POEM NO SONG - it's been collecting dust for years however, and then in January after a trip to Grenada (my ancestral homeland) I injected new life into the play. And it's been rolling out of control since!

YB: what is your piece exploring?

JCA: In a nutshell, NO POEM NO SONG is about the relationship between West Indian folklore and East Indian religion. I use both traditions to create a pantheon and then use the gods and spirits of the pantheon to tell the tale of the end of the world. It's a story about myth and about freedom.

Jesse (seated), with his uncle in Grenada
YB: Why are you interesting in working on this piece RIGHT NOW?
JCA: This piece is another step in my journey of exploring the religions of the world through theatrical means. A lot of people will tell you the wack things that religions are responsible for - but I'd argue that it's their followers, not the actual religions that are wack. I'm a big believer in belief...
YB: What kind of inspiration is making this piece happen for you?
JCA: As I mentioned to Kern [as in Jon Kern, fellow YBer] the other night as we were riding the train home - I write in order to find a way to be closer to the Almighty. I don't know how that sounds, but its the truth, so there ya go! The idea behind a lot of my work is to attempt to understand the unknowable.
YB:How is the writing going? Is it developing in similar/different ways than your usual writing?

JCA: It's going...okay. I mean GOOD - but in a terrifying way. I'm trying a new method of development this time around - I'm having a sort of "pre-reading" with meat and bones theater company on Monday April 27th, then doing another re-write, then doing the YB [Bloodworks] reading in June. My hope is that by that time I will have ironed out the wrinkles in the worlds I'm creating...

YB: What are you hoping to gain out of the reading? Any particular questions you are trying to get answered?

JCA: I wanna see if it works. I'm wondering if the audience will "get" what I'm trying to do. I hope so! I really believe in this play and I'm enjoying the hell out of shaping and watching it's life.

One more thing: My little brother Kyle wrote a song based on a character that's in my play, LaDiablesse - here is the link to his bands website, where the song is.

Alibar: #1 FEMALE Revealed PRESS RELEASE

The following is the press release for Lucy Alibar's latest project, happening this Friday:

The Performance Project @ University Settlement presents: #1 FEMALE Revealed: In 4 Acts

Created by four of the hottest female writer/performers around: Paige Collette, Erin Markey, Lucy Alibar, & Erin Search-Wells

The title was inspired by artists Martha Porter & Kate Dundon who, one day over margaritas, fully realized their #1NESS and began to see #1NESS in other women too. You'll have a chance to take home #1 FEMALE the ‘zine, our twisted version of a typical women's magazine with avant-garde horoscopes, quizzes, and tricks to try in bed. It'll also be a record of the evening with performance texts and collages of other #1s like Michelle Obama, Martha Stewart, Suze Orman, and Beyonce.

when: Friday, May 8 at 8 PM
where: on the Lower East Side at University Settlement -- 184 Eldridge Street (at the corner of Rivington)
how: tickets are $15 -- $10 for students or seniors

for reservations please email therperformanceproject@gmail.com or call 212-453-4532

Kern: TRUE FACTS

The hottest chili pepper in the world is the bhut jolokia, which grows in India. Used as a home remedy for many aliments, this flavorful, scalding pepper is commonly referred to as God's chemotheraphy. In 2006, God treated His testicular cancer by consuming 68 total pounds of bhut jolokia and getting an inguinal orchiectomy. Now completely in remission, He thanks Himself daily that He has been so blessed. Bonus True Fact: God has only one testicle.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Saleh: VICTORY BRUNCH

Erica Saleh, sparked by Joshua Conkel's Victory Brunch piece from last week, ruminates on the definition of 'Victory,' explores the connection between athletics and theatre, and contemplates getting a 'not everyone thinks like you' tattoo:

One of my favorite things about the brunches (right up there with drunkenly enthusiastic audiences), is seeing how differently different writers respond to a common theme. The first brunch I wrote for was the October Obama/election brunch. I wrote about that special (erm, appalling) cohort of Hilary supporters who were opting to a) abstain from voting or b) vote for McCain, rather than support Obama. I was so obsessed with the existence of these people that I got a little autistic and just assumed everyone else was equally obsessed and that the five people who had signed on to write for the brunch were going to write five versions of the same play. This of course was not at all the case, as it turns out we are all individuals with distinct thoughts and takes on the world around us. This is really a big relief every time I am reminded of it. It’s nice to at least have some illusion of autonomy. I might do well to get a small reminder tattooed on the back of my hand “not everyone thinks like you,” it would be nice to look at while typing.

Anyway, my failure to remember the fact that other people are other people led to my surprise at reading Joshua Conkel’s blog about writing for the victory brunch. I was surprised by two things: first, the fact that “victory” led him to sports instead of George W. Bush in front of a banner reading “mission accomplished”, and second, the fact that he thinks sports and writing about sports and plays about sports are boring. Actually the second thing didn’t surprise me at all. I’ve met Josh. I just really disagree with him. I think that sports are inherently and purely good theater. I have often found myself leaning forward on bleachers, or biting my nails in front of a television, and wondering what it is that makes watching sports so viscerally and emotionally engaging. There is, of course, the obvious element of suspense and spontaneity in a good sports game, and there are very clear goals and stakes which give the spectator very clear instructions about how and when to react. But I think there is something more, something about watching people become their bodies- when the body is working that hard language tends to slip away and we are reminded of the animal, life feels simple: cause and effect, winning and losing, good and bad, exist in this world. And while some may call that boring and fascist I think that it is essential and exciting. In my everyday life I don’t believe in these things, I am theoretically opposed to dichotomies. I am also hyper analytic, my experiences tend to be mitigated by language- I experience the construction of the narrative about the thing instead of experiencing the thing itself. So things that get me away from this, thing that remind me about having a body, things like sports, are endlessly fascinating to me, if I wanted to put words to it (which I do, of course I do, sports are the other).

I realize that writing about sports is more than a little antithetical to the phenomenon that I am claiming sports produce. And yet, I am currently writing a play in which football and soccer both play heavily. They are used as tools to talk about relationships, they are used as keys to characters, but they are also used as themselves- and it is the moments that they’re used as themselves that I think will be the most interesting. There is a game of catch on stage, it is a moment of simple stakes and basic action- but simple does not mean low and basic does not mean boring. Instead, these things make the audience implicit in the action. They are in on the game. They know that the point is for the ball to leave one set of hands and be caught by a second set of hands, and they are relying on the actors to perform these actions to be able to stay inside the world. The ball drops and the body becomes human, the character becomes actor. But as long as the body performs, the hands catch, the ball spirals, we get to live for a moment inside a world where things go right. We are told what success looks like and we know how to recognize it, it’s as simple as catching the ball.


I actually think that this is a function of theater without a game of catch, I think that the game of catch just calls our attention to it. Part of the experience of watching live theater is feeling the tension between the world being portrayed on stage and our knowledge that those are actors who could forget their lines, or trip over their feet, or need to sneeze; and we are audience members who could stand up and scream, or walk on stage (or need to sneeze)… the success of the stage world depends on every person in the room, the more people involved the more likely it seems that something will go wrong… and it feels like a small miracle when it doesn’t, it feels like being invincible. So I say go team, sometimes we deserve to be part of something, sometimes we don’t need to be alone inside our head. Sometimes there is victory.
If you haven't reserved your seat for the Youngblood Victory Brunch on May 3rd, you should do that right now, by either by calling 212.247.4982 x107 or by emailing info@youngbloodnyc.org

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Moench: Blogging BLOODWORKS

Anna Moench, chatting about the piece she is developing via Bloodworks:

My Bloodworks play is a new project titled GREAT EASTERN, a reference to The Great Eastern Brood of periodical cicadas that emerges en masse every 17 years in certain regions of the Eastern US. For a few intense weeks, cities, suburbs, and countrysides are overrun with millions of cicadas flying clumsily through the air, blanketing every surface, calling to each other, mating, and dying. This spectacle is an example of predator satiation, a survival tactic of the defenseless that floods predators with such an overabundance of prey that some of the hunted are bound to survive.

I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, in the heart of The Great Eastern Brood's territory. I have been home for both emergences that have occurred during my lifetime, and each has happened to coincide with a formative period for me. One of my very first memories is from the 1987 emergence, when I rode a tricycle over the thousands of dead and dying cicadas that littered our street to hear them crunch beneath my wheels. The sound was a welcome change from the deafening mating calls that had droned on incessantly for weeks. Seventeen years later it was 2004 and I was home from college for the summer. I was an Adult, I was head over heels in love, and I was pretty certain that I had my entire life figured out. I thought deep thoughts about the cicadas' phoenix-like cycle of rebirth while cleaning splattered cicadas off the windshield of my parents' Corolla with an ice scraper.

Perhaps because these emergences bookend the period between my earliest memories of personhood and my earliest conceptions of adulthood, I can't help but link cicadas with adolescence. When a cicada turns 17 it tunnels out of the ground for the first time in its life, puts on a pair of brand new wings, flies around aimlessly, listens to really loud music, and is entirely obsessed with sex. When we humans turn 17, many of us leave home and embark on a similar journey. Out in the world, cicadas fall prey to a variety of dangers in the forms of birds, snakes, squirrels, and Corollas. We too have predators to face, especially when we're new to adulthood, when our exoskeletons are still soft. The characters in GREAT EASTERN hunt and are hunted by each other, shed old secrets to grow new wings, and sweat out a hot and humid summer in Baltimore as the drone of cicada songs crescendos around them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clark & Conkel: InterBlood Interviews

Introducing... A new series of YoungBlog posts dedicated to YBers interviewing one another... Eliza Clark & Joshua Conkel are kicking it off (Joshua (JC) interviews Eliza (EC), first):

1. JC: Where do you take inspiration from? Your family, childhood, television, pop culture? Where?
EC: To be perfectly honest, I have a lot of anxiety and fear. In my full-length plays, I use a lot of that fear. I'm really interested in the way that people try to order and control the world. I love the expression, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," though I don't mean it in any kind of religious sense. It's just interesting to me that the steps that people (and governments) take to feel safe, often end up compromising real safety. Right now, that's really on my mind, I guess. I also watch a lot of reality and competition-based television. THE BIGGEST LOSER factors very heavily into my psyche.
2. JC: Some of your plays have had a distinct science fiction element to them (RECALL, EDGEWISE) which is something you don't see very often, at least not in earnest like your plays. Do you feel like the theater in general is science fiction adverse? Do you feel that the theater is behind the times? Why or why not?

EC: I don't really think of my plays as sci-fi so much as alternative realities. I wish I could write a true sci-fi play - I love BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I think the theater world is probably not that interested in science fiction, because the best science fiction shows use ridiculously cool graphics, and CGI images of aliens, and devices that help you fly and brush your teeth at the same time. Theater doesn't do CGI as well as the Sci-Fi channel does. However, I am interested in creating worlds that look and smell like our own, but feel a little off-kilter. In both RECALL and EDGEWISE, I make a bunch of pop culture references - to Oprah, THE BIGGEST LOSER (see? I told you), Six Flags, etc - that ground them in a world like our own. Then I try to bring in science fiction elements (or even just unrealistic elements that tip the balance of the world).
3. JC: Is there a play that you've wanted to write but haven't yet? Are there any subjects you feel you can't write about?
EC: I'd love to write a play about my family that illustrates how wonderful I think they are, and ends happily. I don't know why my writing has gotten so dark - I guess that's just the way I think about the world right now. But I think it is truly the mark of a great playwright to be able to write a play that is subtle and raw and sad in all the ways that make plays great, but can end with a feeling that everything is going to be okay. Things tend to be pretty bleak at the end of my plays. It might be nice to try and write something where people can leave knowing that everything's going to be alright. I'd like to write a play that Jennifer Aniston might want to be in.
4. JC: You once told me it annoyed you when people make fun of Connecticut in their plays. How does your family/upbringing affect the tone or subject matter of your work? How much does ones background shape their work in general?
EC: I actually really love when people make fun of Connecticut in plays. I make fun of Connecticut too, because there are a lot of things to laugh about when you think about Connecticut. But "Connecticut" in the theater always means one thing -- it's men wearing pink pants with little embroidered whales on them and women with baby orange sweaters tied around their necks. There is a lot more to Connecticut than that, just as there is a lot more to every place. I just don't like it when I say "I'm from Connecticut" and people get this look in their eye that says, "Oh, you must be good at tennis." Because I'm not good at tennis. Suburban towns like the one I grew up in often show up in my plays. Although I write about New Jersey a lot -- maybe because it's like Connecticut, but I feel a little distance from it.
5. JC: Describe your best and worst moments in the theater.
EC: It's always really exciting to work on plays that scare you. At least for me. The process of discovering what is scary about the world of the play, and working with actors and a director to discover that is always the best part for me. But I have this problem where I think I'm writing comedies, and while there may be some laughs, there is also often a moment where people are disgusted or shocked and there have been times when I've been watching a line that I think is funny, but the audience is disturbed. Watching an audience watch your work is exhilarating and totally terrifying. I haven't had that many experiences with that yet, but I can tell that it will probably not get easier.

6. JC: If you could have dinner with any four people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
EC: Joni Mitchell, Philip K. Dick, Wendy Wasserstein, and Michael C. Hall (I'd really like him to switch between his Dexter character and his David Fisher character throughout the evening).

Now, Eliza interviews Joshua...

1. EC: If you had to have any profession outside of theater, what would it be?

JC: I actually have one. I market cable pornography. Seriously... I do.

2. EC: When do you write the best? Describe your writing habits (when do you write? Where do you write? What do you listen to when you write?)

JC: I write all my plays in my walk-in closet/office, which is very much like Harry Potter's cupboard beneath the stairs. It's a tight fit, quite dark, and there are clothes hanging on all sides of me. Obviously, I write under cover of darkness.

3. EC: What, if anything, do your plays have in common? Are there certain themes you are most interested in exploring? Are there certain things you don't want to talk about?
JC: I never think of writing about certain subjects specifically, and yet they always come up: poverty, gender roles, futility, cruelty, religion, mortality. That said, I hope they're funny. I like to think of my plays as comedies, but more often than not the lives of the characters sort of derail and everything ends horribly. For that reason, I try and write about the things I don't want to talk about the most. If the subject matter in my writing humiliates me, sickens me, depresses me... chances are I'm onto something. That said, just like you, I'd really like to write a play with a hopeful ending. Also, Jennifer Aniston is so under rated and I hate Angelina Jolie's puffy old face. Home wrecker!


4. EC: What is your favorite play of all time? And why? What is your favorite song and movie too, while we’re at it?

JC: I adore anything by Charles Ludlam of the Ridiculous Theater Company. I wish I was alive to see his work. He wrote all these crazy queer plays in the seventies performed by drunks and punks and miscreants. Talk about a business model! I also read THE BOYS IN THE BAND recently, which I flipped out over. It's so painful and funny and true, I honestly can't believe its so uncool amongst modern gays. Maybe it's just a product of knee-jerk liberalism? Anyway, I think it's a stunning play. My favorite song is "Ceremony" by New Order, which was the curtain call to my play, THE CHALK BOY. It's a really simple pop song, but it makes you feel sad and happy and alive all at once. My favorite movies are, in no particular order: HAROLD AND MAUDE, FEMALE TROUBLE, HAPPINESS, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, THE RYOAL TENEMBAUMS.

5. EC: You also happen to be a great director. How does being a director aid in your writing and vice versa?

JC: Thank you very much! Before I got into Youngblood I always directed my own plays, in most cases because I had no other options. At this point they're two sides of the same coin. If you read one of my plays, it's pretty much directed in the script. So-and-so moves here. So-and-so does this. It's a habit I'm trying to break out of. On the reverse, my writing is always trying to achieve a very specific aesthetic. I'm obsessed with the way characters move through space, what they're wearing, and so on. My plays are a lot more aesthetic and a lot less literary than other writers'. Wait... can a play not be "literary"?

6. EC: You recently sent me a link to a very disturbing article about people who snatch babies from pregnant women’s wombs. I believe this new phenomenon will play a role in your May brunch piece. Your unbelievably fabulous play THE CHALK BOY is a hilariously dark comedy about high school girls living in a town where a boy has gone missing (and is presumed dead). I also happen to know that you are a horror film aficionado. Can you talk a little bit about the conversation that humor and horror/darkness have in your plays? What about this combination interests you?

JC: I've always loved horror films. The stakes are so high, they're rarely pretentious, and you get an adrenaline rush when they're good. When they're not good, they can often be unintentionally hilarious, which is just as entertaining really. I'm very interested in walking the line between so-called "high art" and that which many theater buffs would consider trash. I like writing about things that hurt me or frighten me as a human being, but I guess I just don't think it's very fun to see them played out onstage as they really exist. For me, it's more cathartic if we can laugh about them a little. It doesn't always work, I guess. It's funny you bring up THE CHALK BOY because in response to that play the LA Times wrote that I'm abusive to my characters for "abuse's sake" and The New York Times inferred that I must not have "warm feelings for small town America." I tried to write the most sincere characters I could and be as honest as possible about their lives while still writing a play that was funny. Ultimately though, it's a play that's about cruelty. Imagine what they would have said if I'd written a straight drama! It was a really good lesson though: I have to figure out how can I write about cruelty without being a total dick and alienating everybody.
7. EC: What is the most frustrating thing about theater, in your opinion?

JC: Without question, the most irritating thing about theater is how boring and elitist it is. As Americans, we like to pretend that we live in a meritocracy, where raw talent and hard work can get you anywhere. This is certainly not the case. The truth is that privilege begins in the cradle and crawls it's way into every aspect of our culture. The rich have everything and in the theater, you can multiply that by five. Only the richest people with MFAs from the top schools get produced and that's that. In turn you get many, many plays about rich white people being neurotic in their living rooms and an audience full of rich white people who go home after the play to be neurotic in their living rooms. The theater has ignored everybody but the rich, both as artists and audience members, for as long as I've been aware of it. It sucks and it's a bore.8. What makes you keep doing it? Beats me. I like to say that I keep knocking on the American theater's door and the American theater keeps saying "no thanks." Still, as self-denigrating and critical of myself as I can be, I really believe in my work. I'm willing to fight for it. Plus, I like making theater for my immediate community. Even if have to spend my whole life making plays for my friends and family for no money: I'll still do it.

Kern: TRUE FACTS

Merry Earth Day 2009!

Earth Day was originally called St. Earthislav Day after the erratic drifter born in Thuringia (now Germany) in 1679. As the perhaps apocryphal story goes, St. Earthislav, to avoid taking food from the mouths of the starving children in his village, moved into the forest and took a vow to eat only dirt and badgers, if he happened to find a badger that was dead. In honor of his sacrifice and the merriment he spread as an object of ridicule, celebrations sprang up in his name during the 18th century. Every April 22nd, a key day in harvest season, adults would dress up like the hardy, filth-covered St. Earthislav and give children bags of sod. Also, many badgers would be killed. Soon, the joy of sod and badger slaughter spread throughout Europe. In 1970, a coalition of hippies, ex-hippies, and Richard Nixon secularized St. Earthislav Day, christening it Earth Day in order to promote awareness of environmental causes and to memorialize all the spacesoldiers that died in the Earth-Neptune War of 1969. To this day, we pay tribute to St. Earthislav's idiotic sacrifice, and to the space fallen, by throwing dirt at children and roasting a deep-fried badger to share with all our relatives, even the ones we'd rather not see.

Go Earth! You rock and are a rock!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Kern: VICTORY BRUNCH Blogging

Jon Kern's thoughts on his VICTORY BRUNCH Piece:
I finished the first draft of my May Brunch play [still yet untitled] yesterday. I brought it to the Ma-Yi Writers Lab and got a motherload of useful feedback that I now have to spend my subway hours thinking about. The idea for my play came from seeing a brief clip of the documentary "Winnebago Man" on the IFC channel Wednesday afternoon. That lead me to see that actual "Winnebago Man" clips on YouTube. So basically, this is a play inspired by a viral video on YouTube of outtakes from an industrial commercial. I originally had another idea for the May Brunch [even wrote 2 pages], but when I saw this Winnebago pitchman losing his shit I was immediately struck with the desire to see THAT on a stage. I've been wanting to write about the making of a commercial for awhile. In this media saturated, multi-networked, global mindspace, commercials are alarge part of our shared experience, and how they're made is the story of how we're being trained to see the world. When I saw this salesman caught between the animalistic passions he can't contain and the banality of his work, I was instantly smitten. Things clicked. His mounting frustration over how he can't remember his lines leads to this glorious, achingly pure profanity. I don't consider myself that good at communication [it's a massive irony that I'm a writer]. Most of life seems like things I wish I had said or didn't know how to say or can't even really properly give just due with the words I know. What I enjoy about theater is trying to express inarticulateness, hold that up for public view to uncover the emotions behind it. Jack Rebney, the Winnebago Man, embodies this existential state, the inherently dramatic struggle simply to live through each day, in the ordinary way, which to me is victory. Also, the video's fucking hilarious.

Kern: TRUE FACTS


The First Law of Thermodynamics is energy and matter can be transformed, changed from one form to another, but it can neither be created nor destroyed.The Second Law of Thermodynamics is NO FATTIES.

Clark: VICTORY BRUNCH Blogging

Eliza Clark, who's writing for May's VICTORY BRUNCH:

Victory makes me think of movies about sports teams where everyone is a misfit. Like The Mighty Ducks or The Big Green or D2: The Mighty Ducks. There’s always one fat kid, one smelly kid, one kid with glasses, one girl kid, one bully, one exchange student, and one teeny tiny kid who blows snot bubbles out of his nose. And they all learn from someone like Emilio Estevez who’s in some kind of bad place in his life (and probably hates children), but he pulls it together enough to lead the kids and learn about himself. First they lose a bunch of times in a really humiliating way until they learn more about teamwork and how to use their unique and completely non-athletic talents to their advantage. Then they start winning. And then they win the championship.



This is what I really wanted to write about for the brunch. But I wanted those kids, and I wanted there to be fifteen of them and I wanted them to be ten years old. That seemed like a little too much for a brunch – though you should look for it as a complex full-length that I hope to present on ice (it will most likely not be about a hockey team – it will be about a lacrosse or badminton team…just on ice). I thought for a few minutes about the prospect of having adults play children, but then you really miss out on the creepiness of the Emilio Estevez character spending all of his time with ten-year-olds even though he’s just been released from a DUI program.


Also, I thought a little bit about how that misfit sports team play might be the kind of play the Wayans Brothers would write if they were in Youngblood and Graeme and RJ asked them to write for the Brunch. Like, "Hey let's write Misfit Sports Team Ten-Minute Play!" That made me feel a little bad about myself.


So I wrote about lifeguards.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kern: TRUE FACTS


Hotel brand Comfort Inn was originally named Comfort Women Inn because that's where Japanese soldiers kept their captured Chinese concubines during World War II. The word "Women" was later dropped from the name when Comfort Inn stopped being an international chain of brothels.

Conkel: VICTORY BRUNCH Blogging

Joshua Conkel: "I have to admit I was a little annoyed by "Victory" as a brunch theme for the first few minutes I ruminated on it. It read "sports" to me for some reason, and I hate sports and would never, ever choose to write about something so dull. Then I realized the word has much broader implications in the idea of winning and losing. Winning and losing at sports, yes. but also at life itself. I thought, I can write about winning and losing at life!

The word "victory" made me think of an old episode of Stranger With Candy in which Jerri Blank tries out for the cheer leading squad and the cruel cheerleaders (having discovered that Jerri is illiterate) ask her, "Jerri, what does v-i-c-t-o-r-y spell?"

That's when I decided to write about what happens to cheerleaders when they age and how a person goes from being a winner to being a loser over time. But, you know... funny. I've also been obsessed with grizzly crimes in which women steal other women's babies right from their bodies, which I keep discovering more and more of, so I may try to work that in as well.

God, this play sounds so gross and depressing, but I promise it won't be! I plan to start writing today if I can.

I have a show opening tomorrow, a ten-minute play for Horse Trade Theater Group's new company of actors, The Drafts (which was due this week), and a workshop production of my newest play in Chicago next weekend (for which another draft is due).

All of this and I threw my back out on Saturday moving an enormous set piece like I was some kind of she hulk. "Youngblood" indeed. If I was so young I wouldn't have an Icy Hot patch on my lower back."

News: May's VICTORY BRUNCH


Sunday, May 3rd marks the final YOUNGBLOOD BRUNCH of the season--The VICTORY Brunch (details to follow!). RJ & Graeme challenged YB to explore 'What happens when we win?'


Watch for blog entries from the five YBers (Robert Askins, Eliza Clark, Joshua Conkel, Jon Kern & Michael Lew), who, I'm willing to wager, are drafting their short plays right now!

Saleh: Blogging BLOODWORKS

My Bloodworks play (which is, for now, untitled) is a new piece that grew out of my short play “Home Games” that I wrote for the April Youngblood hometown brunch. I’m tempted to say that this untitled piece is a departure from my usual style, but really, every time I write something new I’m tempted to say this. Which I suppose means that I do not have a “usual style” or that my style is constantly evolving developing shifting… The point is, that this untitled play is unlike anything I’ve tried before, namely it is the most traditional/realist/kitchensinky thing I’ve let myself write.

I had asked to write for the April brunch before knowing what the theme was, and when I found out that it was the hometown brunch I panicked a little. I had never written about where I come from and I was not interested in doing so. I played around with ideas to get around it- I considered writing a silent film play (my hometown, Dryden, lies just outside of Ithaca which had a brief moment in the sun as the nexus of silent film), I considered adapting a John Dryden play (for whom the town of Dryden was named), I considered lying about where I’m from. I did not consider that a two stop light farm town in the middle of New York state could make for good drama. In the end, I printed out a John Dryden comedy “Marriage a la Mode” and went to work to turn this five act 17th century romantic comedy into a ten minute brunch piece. Awesome idea, I know. But as I read Dryden’s play, places and people from the Dryden I grew up in started to take over, started to talk to me. And so I stopped trying to get around where I came from and decided to jump into it. Writing “Home Games” was fast and fun and at the end of the ten pages I felt like I was just getting started with the characters. My Bloodworks play takes the characters and central relationship from “Home Games” and spins them out into a full length drama. The fun of the short version was how many questions it brought up, and the full length attempts to answer some of these questions. I’ve been having a lot of fun writing this play, and I’m hoping this means it will be a fun play to watch. And if not, I’ll rewrite it as a five act silent 17th century romantic comedy. Obvi.

Xo,
Erica

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kern: TRUE FACTS



Want to know how to tell the difference between a Spaniard and a Portuguese? Just check their mouths! Spaniards have pointy teeth, while Portuguese filter in krill using baleen.

Alibar: NOTES FROM THE ROAD

Lucy Alibar has been MIA from Youngblood & NYC lately... Here she is, filling us in:

I am adapting a play that I wrote into a movie for the Sundance Film Lab, which will be in June, in Utah. We spent a part of January developing it at the screenwriter's lab...they pair you up with mentors who can steer you through the specific problem spots of your script. Since ours deals a lot with magic, and myth, and ferocious aurochs, Michael Goldenberg was an amazing help. He wrote the last Harry Potter movie, and he has really helped us maintain those very delicate, nuanced relationships in the backdrop of all the apocolypse craziness.

…[T]his go-around [in June] is about bringing the whole thing together, from the script to the music to the cinematography. My director, Benh Zeitlin, and I will be developing the script with actors, workshopping and shooting scenes, and also working on music with the Composers Lab. It's gonna be more fun than a tub of puppies!

Benh's last movie, "Glory at Sea", (it's the myth of Orpheus set in New Orleans) got a lot of well-deserved press and awards. I cry every time I watch that movie, it's totally brilliant. And the music, which Benh also composed, got picked up by the Obama campaign for several of their ads. So Sundance contacted him about developing his first feature under their guidance--because that's what they're so great about, is giving you all of these brilliant people and resources so that your work can be the most fully realized.

The movie is called "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and it's a coming-of-age story about a little girl in Louisiana. There are other things going on--namely, a global apocalypse--but that's essentially the story.

It's based on a play I wrote that's based on my own family in sweet home Lower Alabama, but Benh, my director, is obsessed with this community on Isle de Jean Charles, in southern Louisiana, which is literally sinking because of coastal erosion and global warming. It's this gorgeous, very unique community that will not be here in fifty years. And we were both so compelled by that, and we wanted that to be this little girl's community.
Isle de Jean Charles, in southern Louisiana that is literally sinking , the setting of Lucy's screenplay, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

I will be back in the city on Wednesday, and have two more deadlines after that, for the casting people and then the final deadline for the lab. And then in May I'm sharing an evening with Erin Markey, Erin Searche-Welles, and Paige Collette at University Settlement, where I'll be a playwright again, and then I go to Utah.

Gibson: Blogging Bloodworks

Mira Gibson’s DADDY SODA (directed by Kel Haney) will kick of Bloodworks on May 6th at 7 PM (check the Youngblood Website for details to come!)…

DADDY SODA is a dramatic play about Mary, a teenaged daughter who realizes that her quest to find her missing mother opposes her preexisting commitment to protect her younger sister from “drinking with Dad” and all the dark implications that surround it. In a town where God’s busy with people cleaner than you, this broken family discovers that rising out of the gutter may not lead to a better place.

Mira Gibson’s thoughts on writing DADDY SODA:

I was struck with the idea to write DADDY SODA last October when I became interested in “the nature of resentment”, particularly resentment born of a contradicting nature: to protect. When it comes to family and siblings, I think we all have the inherent instinct to protect, but at what point does this instinct pervert and turn against that which we are inclined to protect; at what point does active protection emotionally twist into passive resentment, and more interestingly, down what path is resentment capable of dragging us? For Mary, her instinct to protect her younger sister, Candice from their alcoholic father and his habits of “connecting” with his daughters through drinking beer, the notion of becoming resentful towards Candice is merely a kernel of Mary’s emotional drive. However my initial interest in these opposing natures, I found, had its place in the hearts of each of my characters, and became a guiding factor in the deepest levels of the story. For Mary, her resentment is hiding inside of a tightly calibrated need to escape into a fantasy that answers the question: where is Mom? Her commitment to finding Mom becomes so strong, in fact a desperate attempt, that Mary finds herself willing to drift away from Candice in order to become Mom, no matter that this choice puts Candice in a great deal of danger. Suddenly, what began as an effort to protect Candice becomes the cause of the greatest risk to Candice. Despite learning that Mom is not glowing in the Kingdom of Heaven as the daughters had envisioned, but rather writhing in the pits of Hell, Mary still continues to become Mom. This led me to another exploration in this story: what is the human capacity “to miss” and what are we willing to do in order to regain what we have lost?

Beckwith: Blogging BLOODWORKS

The vast majority of Youngblood will be presenting new work in Bloodworks, a reading series from May-July of new, full-length plays they are developing (check back for details!). We’re trying to document the process, in some way, shape or form, via the blog.

As of 3/31,
Nikole Beckwith shared…

"Imagine My Sadness will be my second full length play; which is like finding out the shoe fits, so now you have to walk in it. I'm finding that working on the second play is more intimidating than working on the first because you have set a standard for yourself, but also less maddening because you have a better sense of yourself. At this moment I am on page 53. If I was to describe to you where I am in my process I would say it's like the beginning of a new relationship; when you go over to each others apartments and watch a movie together but you never actually make it through the movie. So many dvd's go half-watched during the unfolding period of getting to know someone. Well, right now I am at the first time you see the movie all the way through. Good in it's own way but you have to adjust. Recalibrate your expectation. Head over heels is amazing but, you don't know what you're made of until you find your footing. Which is amazing too. Just slower. I imagine that by page 88 we'll be finishing each others sentences."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kern: TRUE FACTS


Jon Kern will be educating us periodically with his TRUE FACTS...

Dingos are curiously allergic to 1980s synth pop. It is strenuously recommend that, if you ever go hiking in the Australian Outback, you carry Flock of Seagull's "Flock of Seagulls" to protect yourself against dingo attacks.

Fortenberry & Conkel: CAITLIN AND THE SWAN Interview


Two Youngblood playwrights, Dorothy Fortenberry and Joshua Conkel, are currently collaborating on CAITLIN AND THE SWAN, starting performances this Thursday. Dorothy wrote the piece and Joshua is directing—it’s being produced by The Management, where Joshua serves as Artistic Director. Since the collaboration grew out of Youngblood, I asked them to do a virtual interview with me… ~Kel

KH: Can you pinpoint what drew you to one another as collaborators?

JC: Dorothy and I didn't know each other prior to Youngblood and I have to admit I was a little intimidated by Dorothy's pedigree. She seemed so easy in herself and confident to me, so at first I probably thought she was way out of my league as a collaborator. I hate to admit that when I e-mailed Dorothy about producing the play a part of me expected a "thank, but no thanks" response. (Maybe I have self-esteem issues?) Luckily, Dorothy is an incredibly generous and patient person and writer and this all turned out for the best. There isn't a pretentious bone in her whole body, which is one the most important things to me in terms of collaborating with somebody.

DF: The first thing I remember about Josh was his piece in Asking for Trouble - Up With (Some) People. It was hilarious and polished and surprising, and I thought,"Wow, Joshua Conkel, he's really good at this. He's probably been in Youngblood for forever." And then I Iearned that he was a newbie just like me. As for what drew us together as collaborators, saying "I like your play and want to produce it" is a pretty solid way to get me to think that you're a genius. I didn't know Josh's work as a director, but by then I knew several of his plays and was sure he had a strong sense of the theatrical, the funny, and then strange - so I felt I would be in good hands (and I am!)

KH: Am I right to assume Dorothy shared CAITLIN AND THE SWAN in Youngblood Playwrights Group?

DF: Yes, and because I didn't do an Asking for Trouble piece it was the first thing I ever shared with Youngblood. I remember thinking, "Well, they're either going to love it or hate it . . ." and I think folks did both.

JC: Dorothy brought Caitlin and the Swan to be read at Youngblood's winter retreat in the Poconos and I completely flipped out by its conceits and cheeky way of dealing with heavy subject matter, which is something that The Management likes in a play... a lot. When i got back to the city I met up with the girls from The Management and completely geeked out. "Oh my god, you have to hear this play about women who fuck animals!" They of course looked at me like I was a crazy person... until they read it. Dorothy submitted the play to our reading series but it just so happened we hadn't picked out a mainstage show for the Spring even though we already had the space booked. It was all a matter of timing, I suppose.

KH: Dorothy, could you give us a little background on the piece itself?

DF: The play was written as part of a bake-off workshop with Paula Vogel and the Yale School of Drama playwrights. We were given the theme of "Leda and the Swan," and a bunch of Swan-related art (Elizabeth Egloff's play "The Swan," the Yeats poem, paintings . . .) I started writing it in July, and the biggest theme in its development was surprise. I kept being shocked by what characters did -- all the way up to the end, I was thinking "Really? They're going to do THAT?" Sometimes when I write a play I have a clear sense of where I think it's going, and this one really blew my mind. Much more recently, I realized that this play is actually kind of a continuation of a play I wrote many years ago called All of the Above. That's a play about a group of women roommates on the night before they graduate from a very fancy, very competitive university. I wrote that play when I was 23, and all I could think about was the end of school. Although the characters are different in the two plays, in some ways Caitlin and the Swan picks up the story five years later and asks, "So what happens to these girls? Did they get what they wanted?"

KH: Josh, what drew you to the piece as Artistic Director of The Management?

JC:I was drawn to the play immediately. I'd been wanting The Management to do a play about gender and sexuality for a long time and just couldn't find anything that grabbed me. As a queer person the issues that Caitlin and the Swan deals in are my every day. I wake up with them and go to sleep with them, so sometimes it bothers me that nobody is really writing about them in new ways. Particularly in new ways that are actually, you know... entertaining… [A]s the Artistic Director of The Management, I helped develop the mission statement that seeks to present contemporary plays that explore life in America and are accessible, theatrical, and not pretentious. Caitlin and the Swan is a natural fit.

KH: Josh, I'm curious about your collaborative process as a director of a new piece--how is it affected by being a playwright yourself?

JC: My process as a director is incredibly collaborative. I take everybody's input, and I mean everybody's. I think this is how people learn to create art when there are very limited resources available to them. I'm willing to try anything and if it doesn't work, I just toss it and try something else. In fact, the whole reason I began directing was because there was nobody to direct the plays I was writing. I come from a very, very DIY place as an artist and at this point, ten years into theater making, directing and writing are two sides of the same coin for me. I hate it when people say playwrights shouldn't direct their own work. I don't always have to direct my stuff, but it just so happens I'm really good at it because at some point I had to be.

KH: Dorothy, can you talk a little about your experience having the director of CAITLIN AND THE SWAN as a playwrighting peer in Youngblood?

DF: It has been really fun and easy working with a member of Youngblood. I think Josh is either very good at switching the writer hat and the director hat, or, for him, they're not two different hats. And I have to say that everyone at the Management (Josh and Kelsi and Marguerite and Jenny) have all been very down-to-earth and focused on doing whatever needs doing to get the show up. Even if that's throwing a porno bingo fund-raiser.

KH: Can you two talk a bit about the casting? Have either of you worked with any of the actors before?

JC: Casting the play nearly gave me an ulcer. I hate, hate, hate auditioning actors and avoid it at all costs. In fact, this was the first time we've held auditions in years because I prefer to cast or in many cases write roles specifically for actors I know. I know that auditions are a part of professional theater, but a big part of me still feels like I'm a little kid at the pet store. I want to take them all home with me! That said, Marguerite French (Caitlin) is a member of The Management. Jake Aron and Teresa Stephenson came to us through Ensemble Studio Theatre. Brian Robert Burns (Doug) went to Yale with Dorothy and Shetal Shah (Priya) and I have many, many mutual friends. Elliott Reiland (Pig/Swan) was really hard to find because we needed a beautiful male dancer type and I had zero dance connections except for one: our choreographer Croft Vaughn, who totally delivered. Thanks, Croft!

KH: Josh, could you fill us in a bit on The Management?

JC: Our mission: The Management creates a haven for a community of artists and patrons to experience relevant, moving, unpretentious, aesthetically and financially accessible theater. We are known for our dark whimsy and critical exposés on American culture, while building rock-solid, visceral entertainment. I went to Cornish College of the Arts with Courtney Sale, a founding member and my Co-Artistic Director. I joined The Management on their second show, Naomi Iizuka's Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, in which I took a rare acting turn. I played Myrna, a passive aggressive female school teacher who doles out pearls of wisdom. Type casting, obviously! I directed a show and then when Courtney Sale left town for a year I became The Artistic Director pretty much out of necessity. When she came back we became Co- Artistic Directors. Caitlin and the Swan is our third show as a Resident Company of Horse Trade, and we feel so very lucky. Erez Ziv and the rest of the staff are incredibly nurturing and manage an incredible workload juggling the companies. I heart them.

CAITLIN AND THE SWAN runs April 16th-May 2nd @ UNDER St. Mark’s (Thursdays-Saturdays @ 8 PM). Click here for more details and to order tickets.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fortenberry/Saleh Hometown Brunch

Here's a little background on a couple of the Hometown Brunch Playwrights:

Dorothy Fortenberry, hailing from Washington, D.C. set HOME RULE in the local eatery, Ben’s Chili Bowl, where President Obama infamously made an appearance on January 10th & ordered a ‘chili half smoke’(see the YouTube footage). To further explore Obama's newfound prescence in Washington, D.C, check out this NY Times article, which Dorothy read while drafting the piece.

Dorothy, in front of the Washington Monument


Erica Saleh 's HOME GAMES focuses on former high school sweethearts in the small town of Dyden, in upstate New York. A chance hearing of Bon Jovi's "She Don't Know Me" sparks a revisiting the decisions they made surrounding Homecoming '88. Here are a couple of pictures of Erica, as 'a small town kid, doing small town kid things,' circa 1988 (left: Erica, at some sort of autumnal event; right: Erica in a parade (and sticking her tongue out!)

HOMETOWN Brunch



Six Youngblood Playwrights accepted the challenge to revisit a place where, let’s be honest, most of us avoid at least fifty weeks of the year…


The literal field trip wasn’t actually necessary, but for the April 5th, penultimate YB Brunch of the season, their personal hometowns inspired short plays by Courtney Brooke Lauria & Sharyn Rothstein (IN THE VALLEY - Avon, CT), Erica Saleh (HOME GAMES - Dryden, NY), Jesse Cameron Alick (OUTER FOCUS - Missoula, MT), Dorothy Fortenberry (HOME RULE - Washington, DC) & Mira Gibson (MASTER OF NONE - Sanbornton, NH).