Friday, October 29, 2010
This is not just a plug for Great Dog Almighty which is playing at Ars Nova on November 2 at 8PM, but a plug for becoming a lyricist. GDA represents my first dip into the world of lyrics, and while I was something of a poet briefly in high school, this has been a new venture for me and one I recommend other playwrights take.
This dip started roughly a year ago when I had an incredibly boring office job, during which I would challenge myself to write little poems to stay awake. One of these poems described a lone survivor on a civil war battlefield observing the aftermath of deadly fray. My composer friend Nate--who had the same job as me--set it to music. Our friend John sang it. We had so much fun we did it a few more times, invited in a few more folks to join us, and suddenly a little civil war-themed bluegrass band was formed.
I'm not sure if writing lyrics helps your playwriting skills, but it's a pretty fun exercise in collaboration. Lyrics are only part of a song. They're an important part (sometimes), but they do only some of the work. The melody will also do part of the work, as will the soul of the singer who performs it. Then you've got the rest of the band--your fiddle player, your bass player, your backup singers--who add whole new dimensions and textures to the song.
Playwrights may appreciate this process. You know what I mean. You write your scenes, you hand them off, you watch others build sets for them or create props. You watch actors delve deep into what we've written, finding things you may or may not have been aware of. You watch a performance of your play and you see things that you wrote, but also things you didn't. You realize your script is only part of a play. An important part (sometimes), but that other elements are at work too, contributing and enhancing the scope of your vision. You realize this work takes a village, it takes a band... it takes more than just yourself.
And then perhaps you realize--as I did while listening to Great Dog Almighty last night--that this is why you do it.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
By Joshua Conkel
Voted Best Off-Off-Broadway Show 2009
“An angry, bitter and very funny play about growing up gay in middle America.” “Theatrical gold.”
-New York Press
October 28th - November 13th
Thu - Fri at 8pm, Sat at 2pm & 8pm
THIS SHOW CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL CONTENT. CHILDREN UNDER 16 WILL NOT BE ADMITTED TO THE THEATER.
Astoria Performing Arts Center
Venue: The Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
30-44 Crescent St (@30th Rd)
Astoria, NY 11102
Directions: Take the N/Q to 30th Avenue. Walk down 30th Ave, past Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens. Turn left on Crescent Street, then right on 30th Rd. The entrance is the second set of red doors on your left. Street parking only.
MilkMilkLemonade by Joshua Conkel
Emory is an effeminate 11-year-old boy who lives on a farm with his chain smoking Nanna and his only friend, a depressed chicken about to be processed. Nanna wishes Emory would get his head out of the clouds, stop choreographing ribbon stick dance numbers, and be more like Elliot, the boy down the road with a penchant for burning things. But Emory and Elliot have a relationship — just not one Nanna would expect or approve of. With absurd, poignant dialog and brutal characterizations, MilkMilkLemonade is a bitterly funny exploration of gender, sexuality, life, death and the human body.
Andy Phelan*, Jess Barbagallo, Michael Cyril Creighton*, Jennifer Harder, Nikole Beckwith
Director: Jose Zayas
Choreographer: Nicole Beerman
Set Design: Jason Simms
Costume Design: Sydney Maresca
Lighting Design: Bruce Steinberg
Sound Design: David Margolin Lawson
Associate Set Design: Caite Hevner
Press Representative: Katie Rosin/Kampfire PR
Production Stage Manager: Alex Mark*
Production Manager: Annie Jacobs
Technical Director: Andrew T. Chandler
Assistant Stage Managers: Katy Moore* & George Spencer
Graphic Design: Kate Northern
*denotes member of AEA
BUY TICKETS HERE
Produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc. (www.playscripts.com)
Friday, October 22, 2010
A key bit of the post (though you should read the whole annoying enchilada) is:
I sometimes think the decline of naturalism as the standard format for contemporary drama has simply made it easier for writers to get sloppy in ways that were more or less forbidden to contemporaries of Ibsen and Shaw and Wilde. Young playwrights these days employ direct address indiscriminately, breaking the spell of essentially naturalistic works because they have failed to grapple with some problem of structure. One reason the work of Annie Baker (“The Aliens,” “Circle Mirror Transformation”) stands out is her very sparing use of direct address.
The idea that you have to know the rules – even master them – before you break them seems to have lost some of its currency, because in our post-Beckett theatrical landscape there really are no rules.
Yay for the Annie Baker love, but still... really, dude? Isherwood especially (and rather unkindly) calls out emerging playwright Kristoffer Diaz:
Examples are almost too numerous to bother citing. A particular offender from last season was the Kristoffer Diaz play “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” about the colorful world of professional wrestling. I’d estimate that at least three-quarters of the play consisted of, um, elaborate monologues from one or another character describing events the playwright was unable to dramatize or chose not to. This secondhand description was particularly frustrating in a play about a sport that thrives on the display of combat. Conflict, that key ingredient in drama, is hard to come by when the characters in a play refuse to engage with one another.I didn't get to see Diaz's play, but the reasons why Isherwood is dead wrong where the direct address is concerned are numerous. I'd list them all now, but lucky for me I don't have to. Diaz has already done it over on his blog. Seriously, read it.
I happen to fucking love the direct address. As an audience member and as a playwright. Do I like fourth wall dramas as well? Totally. It seems to me the theater lacks diversity on every front - lack of women, people of color, working class playwrights- but we also lack diversity in form. Isn't there (or shouldn't there be) room for everybody at the table? For all voices? It just seems to me that these sweeping proclamations about what plays should or should not be are poisonous.
I've noticed lots of criticism about young playwrights. We're too quirky! We don't follow the rules! Just google Sarah Ruhl, the queen bee of new and "quirky" playwrights, and you'll see what I mean. Some people spew perfect vitriol at her.
The thing is, we're not quirky at all. Just like every single generation before us, we have a different voice and our own rules. Whether Isherwood chooses to take part in our stories, to support our voices, is up to him.
Just Kids tells the story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s remarkable relationship. Patti Smith (famous for singing Jesus didn’t die for her sins) and Robert Mapplethorpe (famous for empowering photographs of S&M and the male form) met when they were two homeless 19 year olds trying to find fame in New York City. As Robert was dying he made Patti promise she would write their story and the result is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read.
Their escapades and brushes with the famous (Sam Shepard makes a delightful appearance) capture a time when artists could actually live in the Chelsea Hotel and Allen Ginsberg would hit on you at the automat. It’s a tender, brutally honest, and completely moving portrait of what it takes to be an artist.
Being part of an emerging writers group it was refreshing to read an icon, explore what it was like for her at the beginning, not just the spoils of her success.
-I recommend reading Patti Smith’s responses to comments about the book on Amazon.
-I recommend googling Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. The one of him pissing in a champagne glass is my favorite.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Look at this guy. Look at his blond hair. Look at his smoldering gaze. There's no doubt he's gorgeous. He seems kind of aloof though, doesn't he? He kind of seems like the kind of guy that girls fawn all over and the more he ignores them the more they like him, you know? Like Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life... but with the ability to read!
I don't know Tommy but we share the same hometown; Seattle, where cute boys are bred before they move to Brooklyn. Also, I once saw him in a production of Spinning Into Butter at The Intiman. He was really good!
Also, in an alternate (and wonderful) universe where cute boys are queer as a two dollar bill, I bet Tommy would dress like Brad Goreski. Which, OMG, would be amazing.
My transformation into a 12-year-old girl is now complete and I bid you adieu.
Monday, October 18, 2010
If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that Halloween happens every year! And usually in October, which is now. Have you picked out a costume yet? DEAR GOD YOU SERIOUSLY HAVEN'T? Ohhhhh, this is bad. This is really, really bad. I mean, you've got to figure it out, and you've got to figure it out now, right? But what costume will truly demonstrate to your loved ones/crush objects that you are a creative, sexy, fun-loving individual who possesses an unwavering, foolish love of THE THEATER? WHAT. COSTUME. WILL DO THIS.
It's okay. I'm here to help.
TOP FOUR AMAZING IDEAS FOR THE THEATER-RELATED COSTUMES
1. A REVIVAL. Dress in recent vintage, get a rich date, and act defensive all the time. Be prepared to hang out with a movie star who you liked a little bit when you were 12 but now find vaguely suspicious.*
2. THE FIRST PLAY EVERYONE EVER WROTE. A great choice for someone who wants to keep the "creepy" in Hallocreepyween. First, dress yourself in the scent of cheap beer and sophomore year all-nighters. Sprinkle a'top your head the magic fairy dust of not yet having your heart truly broken, but being fairly confident you can fake it. For the first half of the night, speak like a David Mamet character. For the second half of the night, speak like a David Mamet character who's realized he doesn't know as many swear words as he originally thought and how is this supposed to stay fresh ugggggggggh writing is haaaaard. PS this costume works best if you can get a friend to dress up as a prostitute. All night, offer her cigarettes while delivering lengthy monologues in her direction. Under no circumstances should you let her speak, think, or feel.
3. SHAKESPEARE. Did you know that no one knows anything about Shakespeare? This is true. You can look this up. All biographies of Shakespeare are written in the conditional, and all of his "plays" are written in a language that even our finest modern translators and cryptologists have not yet cracked. Some scholars believe that Shakespeare invented polio, while others believe that he hasn't even been born yet. Tough luck for people who like a concrete truth, but a real opportunity for the last-minute costumee. My recommendation: throw on a dinosaur costume, put a doily around your neck, and yell "AVAST YE THRICE WTICHES!" all night. Who's gonna know the difference? NO ONE.
4. SEXY YOUNGBLOOD BRUNCH. For the cutting-edge among you! Put on your tiniest pair of pancakes, your itty-bittiest bacon (for vegetarians: muffins will do), and your mostest charming (but lowest-cut!) production values. Write an amazing play that lazily, heavily-liddedly caresses a theme. At the party, turn off your cellular telephone, acknowledge the fire exits, and get drunk immediately.
So there you have it, four amazing ideas for four amazing theater-related costumes for your amazing theater-related life. If you have any other amazing ideas for theater-related costumes, please put them in the comments! If you don't, I am sad for you.
With fun-sized love,
* This idea was nominated for October's "Cheap Shot of the Blog" Award! It didn't win, though. Sucks.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Months ago, Eric March and Anna Moench had a brief conversation about how many taco places there were on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, which led to a pact, as brief conversations often do. The mission: to find the best taco place on 5th Ave. And 4th Ave too. And then to make dessert nachos after eating tacos all day, because gluttony isn’t gluttony unless it goes too far.
Last weekend we finally did it. This is our story. It has little to do with plays, but a lot to do with two playwrights and even more to do with tacos.
We visited five taquerias over the course of five hours and ranked each of them on a ten-point scale in four categories -- presentation, flavor blend, spice level, and "mmmm." We also established a supplemental "Mexican Coke" category, where we ranked the restaurants on a scale of "Mexcian Coke!" to "No Mexican Coke :-(," based on whether or not they had Mexican Coke. We tried to keep our orders as consistent as possible -- the plan was to order a chorizo taco and a fish taco at every stop -- but that turned out to be difficult to implement, as it turns out that fish tacos are a California, and not a Mexico thing. So the fish taco, essentially, became a wild card taco, usually something kind of like fish. Like shrimp. Or vegetables.
4th Avenue between President St. and Carroll St.
Cute little place on 4th Ave. Probably the most taqueria-y taqueria we went to, as far as ambiance goes, complete with walk-up-and-order counter, cardboard trays and lonely white man sitting at the taco bar, brooding over his midday tacos. We the five minutes before our tacos arrived developing our rating system, which felt a little douchey, especially once the other guy left, leaving us alone in the restaurant with just the employees. It sort of reminded Moench of the restaurant where she used to work, where there was a picture of Frank Bruni hanging in the back that the staff was expected to memorize. Suffice it to say, we both felt like pictures of Frank Bruni at that moment.
The tacos were pretty damn good (though in hindsight, it's possible they seemed more delicious than they were because we were really hungry). The veggie taco was awesome because of the prominent inclusion of avocado, though it could have used a little more kick to make the other veggies stand out. The chorizo was the crumbly variety, which Moench enjoys, but March prefers the sausage-like chorizo. This is an interesting distinction between March and Moench.
As we were leaving, March noticed a familiar-looking glass bottle in the beverage cooler. Could it be Mexican Coke -- the kind made with real sugar and not corn syrup and way better than regular Coke? Alas, no! The bottle was filled with the fake stuff gussied up to look like Mexican Coke. Nice try, Oaxaca. Study our faces for next time!
Flavor Blend: 6
Flavor Blend: 7
MEXICAN COKE???: FAKE MEXICAN COKE!
5th Ave. at President St.
Oh, Mezcal. The folly of the day. It’s really remarkable how much worse it was than any of the other contenders*, and also how much more expensive. We couldn’t get just tacos, we had to get the taco plate, which comes with three tacos alongside rice and refried beans, and the tacos only come in two varieties: chicken and beef. We asked for 2 chicken tacos and 1 beef taco, to get the big picture, and we specified soft tacos, because all the other places have soft tacos. This is a Scientific Study, and tortillas are not a variable here, people. Well, we got hard tacos -- all chicken -- and Moench unceremoniously sent them back before the plate even touched the table (first time in her life ever sending anything back). The soft tacos looked weirdly like enchiladas, all rolled up with sauce on top, and the rice and beans were less than remarkable. When the bill came, it blew away in the wind, and when we paid, somehow the money fell in the taco sauce. And when we got up to leave, one of us (who shall remain nameless) knocked over a chair. In sum: total disaster. Safe to say, the worst thing that's ever happened to either of us. I wish we’d had a camera.
*Including the shuttered taco truck (see below), because at least it was on our way and at least it didn’t cost us anything to visit.
Flavor Blend: 2
OTHER CHICKEN TACO
Flavor Blend: 2
MEXICAN COKE???: COSMICALLY OPPOSITE MEXICAN COKE
Degraw St. between 4th Ave. and 5th Ave.
Wishing we'd had a better way to document the carnage at Mezcal, we decided to run back to March's apartment to retrieve his camera. We were about to pack it up and leave, when March noticed that his roommate's cat was nowhere to be found. We searched the apartment high and low for 15 minutes with no success, ultimately deciding to try our luck under the various cars parked along the street -- where the cat also wasn't. We asked a friendly neighbor, who asked a lot of questions to try and discern if our lost cat was his cat. It wasn't. WHERE WAS THE GODDAMN CAT?
Well, as it turns out...
THE CAT WAS IN THE APARTMENT THE WHOLE TIME.
You suck, cat.
Flavor Blend: Basically gave us a heart attack
Mmmm: You're lucky you're cute
OKAY, BACK TO TACOS
5th Ave. between 11th St. and 12th St.
This was March's favorite prior to the tour, but since had, until today, never really had another taco in the neighborhood, he wasn't sure if his warm feelings for it had to do with the actual tacos themselves or:
1) The restaurant's proximity to his first apartment in New York
2) The "eclectic" jukebox that alternated between hair metal and treacly, Latin love ballads
3) The Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay poster that remained up for at least a year after the movie had opened and closed.
Both, as it turns out, but in the best way! The tacos here are a little expensive compared to the offerings farther south, but the deliciousness is solid. March’s favorite chorizo is here in all its sausagey glory. The shrimp tacos are great, the shrimp is chopped up into manageable chunks and browned for added flavor. There was good reading material near the register and the music was indeed soulful.
Presentation: N/A -- Takeout
Flavor Blend: 8
Presentation: N/A -- Takeout
Flavor Blend: 8
MEXICAN COKE???: NO MEXICAN COKE :-(
4th Ave. and 37th St.
We walked through Green-Wood Cemetary to get to Sunset Park in an attempt to digest the numerous tacos we’d already consumed. Neither of us had been inside before, turns out it’s beautiful! And very crowded on a nice autumnal Saturday afternoon. A kindly groundskeeper directed us to the 4th Avenue exit, which put us exactly where we wanted to be: at the Taco Truck. It seemed as though everything was coming up tacos. Until…
What the heck is the deal with Tacos 2004? There were multiple neon signs that said “OPEN” in the windows, and the door was unlocked. We went in, desirous of tacos, and we asked for tacos. The woman at the stove kept asking “Que quieren?” and the man at the counter kept telling us to go away. So we went away. Queremos tacos, senora! Por que no tacos??
5th Ave. and 45th St.
Yes! This place was the real deal. We waited a very long time, which gave us the opportunity to observe all the other dishes as they came out of the kitchen. All looked incredible, and we definitely plan to return to try some of them. Best of all, we FINALLY got to drink a Mexican coke while we waited, and determined that yes, it really does taste better.
The tacos from Xochimilco were really good. Really good. They definitely seemed more “authentic” than Nuevo Mexico, and by “authentic” we mean simpler. No flashy ingredients, nothing fancy happening with the flavors or seasonings, just solid, simple, delicious tacos. Perfect level of grease oozing from the filling. The restaurant itself was fun, and the staff seemed cool with the guy sitting at a table with his empty plate, reading a book for a while. It might be a fun place to do some writing if you’re looking for a café alternative.
Presentation: N/A -- Takeout
Flavor Blend: 7
Presentation: N/A -- Takeout
Flavor Blend: 7
MEXICAN COKE???: MEXICAN COKE!
5th Ave. and 45th St.
Walking into Matamoros, we were convinced that our trip was about to take another turn for the disaster. It looked -- and there's no other way to say this -- like the vinyard-that-Paul-Giamatti-and-Thomas-Hayden-Church-go-to-at-the-end-of-Sideways of tacos. Mariachi on the jukebox. Lots of red and green bunting. Our hopes were not high.
Well, turns out we were suckers. Matamoras was the definitive champion, which we both determined right away, despite having already consumed about 6 tacos each, plus the random Mezcals add-ons, before we got there. The tacos were as straightforward and tasty as Xochimilco while also doing some pretty rad flavor blending action a la Nuevo Mexico. They were simple and not at all fussy, but exciting and delicious. The chorizo was the crumbly kind and they had fried it a bit so it was slightly crispy. The pastor (billed as “spicy” – it was not spicy) was at the ideal grease level. Definitely worth the trip to Sunset Park.
Also, Sunset Park is worth the trip to Sunset Park. We were a little early for the famed sunset, but the westerly view of Manhattan is easy on the eyes.
SPICY PORK TACO
Presentation: N/A -- Takeout
Flavor Blend: 9
Presentation: N/A -- Takeout
Flavor Blend: 9
MEXICAN COKE???: PROBABLY MEXICAN COKE. BUT WE FORGOT TO CHECK
Prospect Ave. between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave.
Oh God. Just, oh God.
Look at them:
For fuck's sake look at them:
We MADE that! And then we ate it.
If you want definitive proof that this is the best universe of all the universes, it is right here.
Flavor Blend: 1,000,000
- Tacos are good
- Some tacos are better than others
- Tacos Matamoros is the best place to get tacos in Brooklyn, out of the five places we tried
- Nothing beats dessert. Nothing ever.
- Anna Moench and Eric March, Scientists
Monday, October 11, 2010
by Joshua Conkel
Directed by Lila Neugebauer
A vicious comedy about radical individualism vs the American family. Stephanie Schwartz is a working mother who enrolls in a strip aerobics class only to realize she hates men and promptly becomes addicted to drinking cleaning products. That's when things really begin to unravel...
Featuring the most bananas crazy talented cast ever assembled: Hannah Bos* (The Debate Society), Denny Bess* (EST), Amy Staats* (EST), Paul Thureen (The Debate Society) and Steve Boyer* (EST). Stage directions read by Gwendolyn Ellis.
549 W 52nd St., Sixth Floor
New York, NY 10019-7799
FREE! FREE! FREE!
rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
This blog entry is not about Now Circa Then, a play I haven’t yet seen. Rather, I’m taking this opportunity to ask a pretty simple question: Why do theater critics continue to tsk-tsk playwrights for working for Hollywood? What makes them think it is any of their business?
If your friend was a furniture maker who occasionally took a construction gig to help pay for his weed habit, would you accuse him of turning his back on his craft? If your kid’s kindergarten teacher spent happy hour performing at a local bellydancing joint, would you bewail the loss of a talented teacher? We live in a multi-everything world, where college kids start billion dollar companies while studying for Feminist Perspectives, and CEOs run for/buy their own political offices, and yet theater critics still insist that a playwright should aspire to a pristine career based solely in the Theater.
Here’s the truth about playwrights: first and foremost, we’re all WRITERS, and we’re all hungry to make a living by doing just that – writing. Most playwrights I know would write copy for Depends if it meant they could quit answering phones for insurance companies and actually affix the title “writer” to their business cards. But writing copy for adult diapers, just like writing for a TV show, doesn’t make a playwright less of a playwright, and it doesn’t make a playwright not a playwright. It makes him or her simply A Playwright Who Also Writes Other Stuff.
It’s time that critics stop their moaning about the flight of the mythic playwright. When a single review in The New York Times can make or break a career that promised a poverty-line income to begin with, maybe the few of us still out there who love and cherish theater, should actually applaud the fact that a few lucky, talented playwrights each year get selected to write in the City of Angels. It may “pain” the critics to “lose another talented writer”, but without Hollywood’s largesse, there would be even fewer of us able to pay our rent and still write for the great American stage.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
Ma-Yi Theater presents "microcrisis"
by Mike Lew
directed by Ralph Peña
Starring: Jackie Chung, David Gelles, William Jackson Harper, Lauren Hines, Alfredo Narciso, & Socorro Santiago
Sept 28 - Oct 23, 2010
Tues-Sat at 8:30pm; Sat at 4pm
Additional performances on Mon, Oct 4 & Sun, Oct 17
Ticket info: www.ma-yitheatre.org
microcrisis is a ridiculous comedy about the world's next financial crisis. It's about what happens when bankers exploit microcredit, the tiny loans to Third World entrepreneurs meant to alleviate global poverty.
microcrisis was first presented last October in Labfest, Ma-Yi Writers Lab's annual reading series. It was then presented in February in Unfiltered, Youngblood's annual bare-bones "workshop production" series (6 performances, no press reviews). Now it's back at Ma-Yi for the premiere production.
I'm so grateful to both Youngblood and Ma-Yi for providing this kind of continuous artistic support. Real production opportunities are so hard to find, especially for young playwrights and double especially for playwrights of color. Plus my fellow Youngblood and Ma-Yi writers are super-talented, and having a community of sharp writers has really kept me on my toes and forced me to work harder.
Since this is the Youngblog I'll talk about the Unfiltered project in particular. Being able to hone microcrisis in front of an audience was critical for this play. Last February, we were constantly adapting the play based on audience response. The actors had new lines (and even new scenes) on a daily basis. Readings are great, but after a million readings we'll all end up writing radio plays. Unfiltered was a singular experience because it let me see the play in 3 dimensions - we got 3 weeks of rehearsal followed by 6 performances (with design elements) in front of an audience. The fact that Unfiltered is not subject to press reviews is similarly crucial. Without the pressure of reviews, we were able to focus on honing the play rather than worrying about a premature critical response.
I hope you'll be able to check out the results this October and stop by the microcrisis premiere. I also hope you'll check out the fabulous lineup of Unfiltered projects coming to Youngblood this Spring.