Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top 30 Albums (14-1)

14. Panda Bear - Tomboy



There's no way the hype could be matched with the height of anticipation any Animal Collective related release garners lately, so Noah Lennox's "Tomboy" was bound to disappoint some. It's still a perfectly solid record, as Lennox tightens up his arrangements into neatly crafted and structured pop songs. Tracks like "Last Night At the Jetty" were perfect for when that stretched out winter we had was finally warming up.

13. Jay Z and Kanye West - Watch the Throne



"Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy made beats" Jay-Z raps in the opening verses of album of the titans "Watch the Throne." I guess it only makes sense that Jesus is the only guy big enough for two of the hugest superstars in the world roll with. In this 16 track ode to excess, both artists don't quite match their solo work, but when you hear "Gotta Have It" you can't help but nod your head. Hov and Yeezy bring it back to their roots: "I'm riding through yo hood, you can bank I ain’t got no ceiling/ (Made a left on Nostrand Ave., we in Bed Stuy)/ Made a right on 79th, I’m coming down South Shore Drive/ (I remain Chi-town) Brooklyn ‘til I die."

12. Cold Cave - Cherish the Light Years



Songwriter and author Wes Eisold started making music around ten years ago in Boston with the loud and manic hardcore band American Nightmare, and later in the smutty, near grindcore act Some Girls. Cold Cave is a huge step away from these aggressive bands, it's pitch perfect 80's pop a dead ringer for New Order and the Cure, Eisold's once bark now a Morrisey croon. Throughout the years and changes in styles, Eisold still holds the same intensity and sense of humor throughout. "Cherish the Light Years" is probably his best work yet.

11. Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me



Ohio 22 year old Jessica Lea Mayfield's second release is a carelessly reflective, beautiful country record musing on navigating love and sex. Mayfield's lyrics are stories of lonely nights doing things you probably shouldn't do with those you probably shouldn't, sung with a cadence like a shrug. "I'll not let hate be the one to make me naked for you/ my self esteem is heating up the room/ you're intimidating as all hell, but I ain't scared of you." Mayfield let's us know on "Our Hearts Are Wrong" she's a talented songwriter, but even more a talented story teller.

10. Das Racist - Relax




Das Racist are hilarious. I saw them a couple years ago and wrote them off, but with this year's "Relax" and their other mixtapes I was converted. Almost every line on this rap record out of Queens brings a smile to my face. It's not just the sardonic wordplay that makes these guys stand out, they write songs that are catchy as hell and can out MC most rappers out right now.

9. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake



Just before the Arab Spring and Occupy protests came to define 2011, PJ Harvey released a heavy weight protest album. While a lot of indie is criticized for not being socially involved, this year saw a change in that with more artists voicing their support for the Occupy movements, but none releasing a preemptive and strong armed work like this great record from the classic songstress PJ Harvey.


8. The Sandwitches - Mrs. Jones Cookies



The video for "In the Garden", the first track of San Fransisco girls "Mrs. Jones Cookies" finds the ladies doing an out of sync, sultry dance to this dark, creepy and sexy song while a nun in drag and other weirdo dudes watch and dance. Those visuals could set the vibe to the whole record; a beautifully seductive and spooky, heartfelt crooner.

7. Atlas Sound - Parallax



I've been a fan of pretty much everything Bradford Cox has put out the past few years beginning with Deerhunter's 2007 "Crytograms". Atlas Sound has become a home for some of Cox's most accessible songs, with "Parallax" he finds himself placed between his sunny drone and mournful pop, in the right place as usual.

6. The Black Lips - Arabia Mountain




"Arabia Mountain" kicks off with a rollicking devil, "Family Tree" that these Atlanta boys make sound like running through a swamp being chased by an alligator. Whether it's vicious garage punk or dirty jukebox slow dances about Peter Parker, this is the record of their catalog most likely to get stuck in your head.

5. Cults - Cults



In 2010 Cults released the single "Go Outside" and other then that not much else was known about the bubble gum pop group. With just a couple songs online they signed to Columbia Records and released a short, sweet, to the point and highly infectious pop album that makes you wanna go outside and dance all day.

4. Yuck - Yuck



The Pavement comparisons are inescapable, but these 90's nostalgia enthusiasts from London deserve more credit for making one of the most driven rock records of the year. There's a certain yearning in the feeling of the record this band reflects that's missing in a lot of today's more apathetic indie. They seem to nail it without really trying, especially in the first three tracks.

3. Tom Waits - Bad as Me



"Bad as Me" in some ways seems like a best of Tom Waits record. It's everything you've loved about him from the past 25 years on, but more succinct. The rowdy bar songs are rowdy, the ballads are tender not cheesy, and the weird ones are weird. Props for those funny promo videos too.

2. The Babies - The Babies



I think this record was overlooked by a lot of people because of the "indie super group" nature of the band (it features Cassie Ramone from Vivian Girls and Kevin Morby from Woods). I think Vivian Girls backlash in particular, the Twitter ready, adorkable, (I can't believe I fucking said that), gossip inducing girl group made people dismiss The Babies self titled debut and the band altogether. This is a big problem with the "Hipster Runoff-ification" that's been going on lately, when bands with attractive people make catchy music, blow up, and then are hated a week later. All this aside, this record is at the top of it's field. It's goes from punk, to pop, to almost country anthems without feeling like switching bands. It really hits it's stride with the last two sprawling heartfelt jams "Wild" and "Caroline".

1. Times New Viking - Dancer Equired




Okay, this might be a weird one. Times New Viking's third full length and debut on Merge Records fell off the radar for most people and was received with pretty mixed reviews. The Ohio trio that was "lo-fi" just before it was a thing cleaned up their act a bit for this just after their tour with the reunited Guided By Voices, to whom they owe a great deal of influence. This was a tough choice, but I went with this because it was one of the records I spent the most time with these year, and like The Babies, seemed to sum up things other bands were trying to do, but better. The double guy/girl vocals, jangly guitars, and goofy keyboards go between the sweet lines "I wanna know everything about you" to the nasty "fuck her tears" carelessly. It was an easy album to put on whenever for both it's sweetness and meanness. It has me convinced these guys are only going to put out better in years to come.


Honorable Mentions: Future Islands - On the Water, Man Man - Life Fantastic, Paper Cuts - Fading Trails, ASAP Rocky - LiveLoveA$Ap, Trash Talk - Awake EP, The Antlers - Burst Apart, Zola Jesus - Conatus, Mastodon - The Hunter, Fucked Up - David Comes to Life, Ty Segal - Goodbye Bread, Youth Lagoon - Year of Hibernation, J Mascis - Several Shades of Why, The Dodos - No Color

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Top 30 Albums of 2011 (30-15)

If 2011 wasn't the most remarkable year in music, it at least seemed to solidify some of the trends that have been going on in the past 2-3 years, mainly the dominance of electronic based indie rock, along with a more than healthy dose of garage rock for those who need their guitars. It was a great year for women in indie rock, as well as independent hip hop and R&B blowing up with online mixtapes. Unfortunately, the trend of faded neon neo-psychedelic triangular poster and album art seems firmly planted for now. At least there were slightly less upside down crosses.

Here's my top 30 albums of 2011:

30. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient



The War On Drugs have the unique ability to make contemporary rock sound like classic Americana, their newest record's songs pulling on each other like driving hundreds of highways. It's reflective in the ways those best classic American records are.

29. The Weeknd - House of Balloons



Ebel Tesfaye is the prolific Canadian behind The Weeknd, releasing a trilogy of mix tapes of dirty, dark ass R&B. Listening to these songs no matter where you are makes you feel like it's 4 in the morning and you're naked and fucked up somewhere you're not supposed to be.

28. Rival Schools - Pedals



Queens native Walter Schriefels has been making music for years, fronting legendary hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand. In 2001 he formed Rival Schools making a formidable post-hardcore band blending the elements of emo that were just about to explode at the time and late 90's alternative. The result, sort of a Jimmy Eat World with balls. Unexpectedly, Rival Schools got back together and released another album this year that sounds like they never stopped from ten years ago, in the best way possible.

27. EMA - Past Life, Martyred Saints



EMA's "California" is essentially a semi-sung, semi-spoken monologue about 22 year old Erika M. Anderson's life from South Dakota to the West Coast, it's meandering, intensely personal, and feels like an angry proclamation, or confession. In a time when lyrics are taking a back seat, Anderson isn't afraid to put her story out in front.

26. Widowspeak - Widowspeak



Brooklyn's Widowspeak's beautiful self-titled debut drags like smoke in a hazy basement. Vocalist Molly Hamilton sings just above a whisper "I always think about you" in "Harsh Realm", but the atmosphere is so relaxed it doesn't seem like she'll do anything about it.

25. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost



Girls returned with an epic third full-length album this year to heaps of critical hoorahs. Deservedly so, The album jumps between bouncy pop to intimate rock songs conjuring Elliott Smith in a way no artist seems to have been able to in the past decade.

24. Big Troubles - Romantic Comedy



Big Troubles transcended the bin of lo-fi garage rock groups this year with "Romantic Comedy", whose title is so aptly fitting as the group sings about love and loss with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. "Love is in the air/But I don't care/Because I don't want to love anymore/And if I hear the word again I think I'll shoot a hole in my head." the group sings to irresistibly catchy shoegazy power pop.

23. Twin Sister - In Heaven



Brooklyn's Twin Sister's first proper full length is a simultaneously delicate and dancey arrangement of dream pop songs firmly planted on the 80's tip. Andrea Estella's seductive voice creeps over quick beats and synths, perfect for the end of a dance party.

22. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy



Annie Clark's third full length release blends her diverse pocket of styles into a wonderfully fun and powerful album. Seeming to pull from every decade, she manages to sing over her insanely weird little guitar solos packing tons of fuzz and taming it down just in time.

21. Pure X - Pleasure



For all the bands smothering their sound in reverb these days, for Pure X it seems a creative choice rather than a trend. These slow shoegazey pop songs feel like they're being brought to you from a jukebox from the 50's that you're listening to in the Twilight Zone.

20. Woods - Sun and Shade



Three years in a row Brooklyn's Woods have put out three incredibly solid records more or less clinging to the same formula of short, fuzzed out folk songs blending into noisy jams. This year was no exception, and singer Jeremy Earl's falsetto rings over the songs to give it their signature timeless sound. Earl's also from my hometown, Warwick, NY, where he records bands at his Buttermilk Studio for the Woodsist label.

19. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo



The finger picking and background atmosphere the first seconds into "My Baby's Arms" on "Smoke Ring for My Halo" lets you onto the fact that Vile has really found his place as a song writer. A perfect love song, Vile never seems bothered by much in his songs, but his snarky Dylanesque whine keeps you gripped throughout.

18. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues



The highly anticipated sophomore release from Seattle's Fleet Foxes didn't disappoint most. A more personal album, the groups harmonious folk songs flow together once again in beautiful, if occasionally precious introspection.

17. Male Bonding - Endless Now



London's Male Bonding return with a pack of loud, fast and short pop punk songs that dip their toe just enough into My Bloody Valentine territory so as to not be confused with early Blink 182. Probably at the head of their peers who are turning this not too long ago derided genre into once again legitimate punk.

16. Iceage - New Brigade



Brought to you by a bunch of 18 year old kids from Denmark, Iceage exploded with their debut this year in an 18 minute record that blends old school hardcore, melodic punk and sonic Joy Division-esque pop styles into fist pumping anthems.

15. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic



Written just before the year long Pavement reunion tour, Stephen Malkmus goes into full on 90's rock mode and it couldn't be better. Cutting out some of the noodling that took up a lot of his past solo work, these songs are shorter and rock harder, his lyrics as goofy and inscrutable as ever. On Senator: "I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job/I know what everyone wants, what everyone wants is a blow job."

Tomorrow I'll post 15-1!

xo,
chris

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Defense Mechanisms, Part One

Or, "Castrating Despair with the Lightsaber of Radical, Starry-Eyed Idealism"



Today's Fact: It's kind of impossible to make a living as a playwright.

Today's Reason to Despair: You're a playwright.

Today's Act of Radical, Starry-Eyed Idealism (ARSEI): Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. You're a playwright, not a salesman. (And all playwrights know what happens to salesmen.) Do your work. Do your work. Do your work. Fall in love. Be generous. Do your work.

Source of today's ARSEI:

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. "Do you wish to buy any baskets?" he asked. "No, we do not want any," was the reply. "What!" exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, "do you mean to starve us?" Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off -- that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed -- he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man's to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other's while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

~

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Ryan Dowler Presents The ESTeen Youngerblog: Wisdom on Life, Love, and the Theatre from My Junior High Diary



Part Three: On New York City

I found my Junior High diary.





This is what's in it:

2-20-96

On Spring Break my Mom and Sister are going to New York City. If I got to go, then I'd go to the Theater or the Opera , go shopping, and go to the Hard Rock Cafe and all the other famous/expensive/elegant restaurants.




Sunday, December 04, 2011

LinkThinks - Legos

Link thinks that the world needs more legos.

When I go to a restaurant, I want legos on the table. Salt, pepper, and legos.

Every job interview should end with candidates building something with legos.

When you see a play, you should get a lego set based on the play you see. For example, if you see a production of Sunday in the Park With George, on your way out of the theater you'd receive a little lego set with George and Dot and the chromolume. If you see Noises Off, you get a lego set that replicates the set and even backstage!

Every first date should begin with the couple building something together with legos. If it goes well, continue on the second date.

The world needs more legos. The world also needs more people like Nathan Sawaya.



A Brand New Hand to God Testimonial


And here's yet another brilliant Hand to God testimonial.  Snag your tickets here, performances continue until December 18th.

Hope to see you at today's brunch. I'll be the one hunched over the bacon.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Cheap Tricks and Heteronormative Lenses (or, please stop insulting my intelligence)

If you’ve ever taken a playwriting class you probably know that reversals and subverted expectations are useful tools in storytelling. If you haven’t taken a playwriting class you probably also know this because you are a person that is alive and therefore consumes narrative. Usually in a story there are elements of surprise, there are revelations, someone or something changes, or someone realizes something. When these things are done well, you as the audience member might also realize something, you might also experience change and revelation. I think doing these things well usually involves taking your audience member gently by the hand and bringing them on a journey that they will experience through the lives and experiences of the characters they’re watching. Doing these things well generally does not involve tricking your audience, or making assumptions and generalizations about the opinions of your audience, and it certainly does not involve insulting your audience’s intelligence.

There are two marriage equality videos that have been all over Facebook in the past two weeks.

The first is this one: http://youtu.be/_TBd-UCwVAY

The second is this one: http://front.moveon.org/two-lesbians-raised-a-baby-and-this-is-what-they-got/

If you’re on Facebook and also reading this blog probably at least ten of your friends have linked to one or both of them and said something along the lines of “beautiful”. I disagree. I actually find the first one rather appalling and the second one a little bit disappointing. Here’s why:

Both of these videos use a heteronormative lens (the first one quite literally) through which to advocate for gay marriage; the basic argument of both seems to be “we should let homosexuals get married because if you didn’t know any better you might just mistake their relationship for a heterosexual one.” The assumption is that there is a good, moral working model for marriage and child rearing and that this model it is a heterosexual one. As long as a homosexual relationships can mimic this model then clearly homosexual marriage and parenthood should be allowed. Also, both of these videos use this assumption as a way to trick their audience (see above paragraph about how this is generally not a good way to subvert expectations and also for a link to how what I’m about to say sort of has something to do with playwriting and therefore belongs on this blog).

The Australian commercial takes us through two minutes of watching a relationship through the eyes of one member of a couple who we are supposed to assume is a woman because the one we can see is a dude, before revealing “OMG IT’S TWO DUDES!” GOTCHA! Don’t you feel so silly? Didn’t you think they were straight? Now clearly you see that they should be able to get married because they are wealthy and white and have straight couple friends and do things like barbeque and swim in the ocean.

The second one I’m more hesitant to criticize. I think this man is eloquent, and I was moved by what he said even though the crux of his argument is “see? We’re just like you.” He’s speaking from a place of truth and it sounds like his family is, in fact, a fairly traditional nuclear family and it’s not his responsibility to talk about the various ways in which one can successfully be a family, or love someone, or how it might also be okay if he had turned out to be a less conventionally successful and attractive and masculine man.

What I really object to is the title that has been attached to this: “Two Lesbians Raised a Baby and This is What They Got” “OMG WHAT THEY GOT WAS A REALLY WELL ADJUSTED SMART YOUNG MAN WHO IS PROBABLY STRAIGHT!” GOTCHA! I’m sure that all of the homophobes who were hoping to watch a hateful video about the weird little mutant freak that two lesbians raised have changed their minds about gay marriage. Because people LOVE being tricked. It never makes them confrontational or shuts down their ability or willingness to think and discuss like intelligent human beings. Also, let’s be honest, chances are really good that NOBODY watches that video wanting to see a kid damaged by being raised by two lesbians. Most of us read that title and know that it’s a joke and watch because we already believe in marriage equality, and in a homosexual couple’s ability and right to raise children. That title didn’t trick me. It only offended me. It offended me because I’m an intelligent consumer of media and I think that it’s a cheap trick that assumes my intelligence is less than it is. But it also offended me because it assumes that people who don’t support gay marriage are hateful and want to watch a video that shows a child having been damaged by homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong. I think that not supporting marriage equality IS hateful and bigoted, but I don’t assume that that hatefulness and bigotry extends to every aspect of someone’s life and results in them wishing ill on the children of gay couples.

Tricking people is not the answer. It assumes stupidity and simplicity on the part of our adversaries. It is offensive and counterproductive and if you went to see a play that pulled that shit you would most likely want your money back. And you would almost definitely not post it on Facebook with the caption “beautiful”.

Brunchify Wall Street SUNDAY December 4 1pm!




As one of the writers for the brunch this Sunday - Brunchify Wall Street, I thought it might be a good idea to see what was what at Zuccotti Park.

Both Lydia Blaisdell and I checked it out just hours before the city cleared away the numerous tents. Take a look at what was going on and then come see the brunch!

Learn more about the brunch and get your tix here FAST!

http://ensemblestudiotheatre.org/now-playing/current-productions/bruchify-wall-street/

See you Sunday at 1pm! Get there earlier so you don't miss the hot and delicious brunch buffet!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Collected, Increasingly Star-Studded Testimonials for HAND TO GOD

These simply defy belief.





And, in a slightly more earnest vein:





Another one coming soon, arguable the biggest deal (at least from a playwriting perspective).  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hanks Thanks Follow Up

I was so touched by Hanks Thanks that I thought I'd do my own 24. Here we go.

Coffee
Gchat
Puffy coats when it's cold
Supportive Parents
Good Roommates
Living in New York City
Fun things to do on the weekends
Brunch
Headphones
Youngblood
My band, Half Day
#serials at the Flea
My job
Upstate in the fall and summer
Living near a taco truck (sometimes not thankful for that)
Health insurance
Pumpkin Ale
60 degree weather
Living nearby friends
My bed
The news
Shows in grimy illegal spaces
WNYC
Star Wars

xo,
cs

THE CLOUDY MINDS OF LUCY GILLESPIE & DYLAN DAWSON

Recently, new Youngbloodians Lucy Gillespie & Dylan Dawson met for a drink to interview one another, half of which was accomplished.

After a drink or three, they decided to record each other talking about their typical writing day. It was an unfortunate affair.

Upon reading the transcript of this discussion in the sober light of day, it was decided that no good could come from posting said responses. So instead, Dylan & Lucy entered their transcribed responses into a Word Cloud apparatus in hopes to more honorably (and accurately) illustrate their processes.

Here are the results. Guess who had more to drink.

LUCY'S TYPICAL WRITING DAY


DYLAN'S TYPICAL WRITING DAY

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Leonard Lopate



Youngblood's Robert Askins will be on the Leonard Lopate Show today at 12:30pm, joined by Steven Boyer and Geneva Carr.

I'd listen if I were you.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Ryan Dowler Presents The ESTeen Youngerblog: Wisdom on Life, Love, and the Theatre from My Junior High Diary


Part Two: On Being The Best And Still Not Succeeding

I found my Junior High diary.



This is what's in it:

1-17-96

Here's a story about a boy named Ryan and the game he loved.

In May of Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Four, Ryan Dowler opened his last present. It was the 18th, his 12th birthday. He wasn't surprised, he had been anticipating and expecting this final gift.

But when he opened this gift, he opened the game of basketball. He opened an escape from his problems, a getaway from the modern world. He had opened his cherished dreams. His finest memoirs. From this day on, two sounds kept him going, "Bam, Swish," like the tick of a clock. Off the backboard and through the net. The backboard was the key to Ryan's game. Well, that and his growing ["fury to win" is crossed out] enthusiasium in the game.

He attended two basketball camps that summer. That combined with watching his favorite superstars battle it out on the courts of the NBA, Ryan learned and later perfected strategic basketball. Ryan never played to win, excluding those occasional friendly bets, he played to play. Ryan wasn't one for aggressive play, but he could block.

He played and played, "Bam, Swish", "Bam, Swish," until the glorious day came. 7th Grade B-ball tryouts.

Ryan showed up ready for basketball.

But his schoolmates weren't playing basketball.

They were playing "who-can-grab-the-ball-first-under-any-circumstances-and-throw-it-toward-the-goal-the-fastest." Surrounded in a whirlpool of fouling and illegal procedure, he stands there confused. These cheating slackers were stealing away his game. They were stealing away his basketball. Yes, basketball was his. He and every other honest player are the one's who own the game. By stealing his game, they were stealing his confidence, his hopes, his dreams.

That day Ryan went home, but today he didn't lace up, he didn't escape or get away. He sat down, turned on the television and sulked in his problems. He didn't watch a basketball game that night. In his eyes it was the game that had betrayed him.

The End. Goodnight.

I AM THANKFUL FOR JEN SILVERMAN

It's the Monday after Thanksgiving and I feel awful. Thankfully there's brand new Youngblood-er Jen Silverman to cheer me up!

What is the Halloween costume you are most proud of?
The Halloween costume I'm most proud of is also the one I should be least proud of, and none of you would still be friends with me if I talked about it (rightfully so), so we'll just leave that one to the dark mists of history. But I can tell you that after seeing all the slutty cats and slutty fairies and slutty vampires last [Halloween], I've decided that next year I want to embrace my geographic milieu & the zeitgeist of general sluttiness and be a slutty street-cart vendor. OR a slutty Times Square Tourist. I'll walk REALLY........REALLY..........SLOWLY. And show lots of skin above my belt-pack.

Was life harder at 13 or 23?
Thirteen. Definitely. I had just moved back to the US from Finland, and had started at a public high school in Connecticut, after having been home-schooled my whole life. I was home-schooled because we traveled too much for me to be in school (by 15 months old I was living in Tokyo, and my family managed to hit up Asia, Europe, and Scandinavia before high school). Also, because my parents were deeply discerning individuals who thought the American educational system was designed to drain all creativity/ individuality/ zest for life out of kids before they were even old enough to fight back. I have to say that generally I agree with them. Anyway, I went to high school mostly because I was curious about American Culture, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by Americans. Teenage Americans. They were very loud. It was a culture shock for me & everyone around me. I've never regretted that I did it, but I'm still grateful that year 13 is over.

Tell me something crazy about Iowa
There's this tornado siren that goes off at regular intervals during the summer/ spring, but also just kind of whenever Iowa feels like it. It sounds like a cross between UFOs landing and The Whole World Ending. It elicited this Pavlovian reaction from me of abject terror that had nothing to do with tornadoes. Other than that, it is a calm, sane, beautiful place, and I did a lot of writing & teaching instead of hustling & scrambling (which is what I guess I'm doing now). Also, I could bike from one end of town to the other in ten minutes.

Where did you grow up or where is home?
I grew up in France Japan Finland New Zealand Germany Italy Sweden Canada...and Connecticut. (With a dash of Arizona thrown in.) Home is Connecticut because my parents are still there, Iowa because my mentors are still there, Osaka and Okayama (Japan) because my little family of nomad compatriots is/ used to be there, Providence because I went to undergrad there, Boston because I used to live there with a friend who runs a scientific & artistic salon out of her dining room, and now New York.

Was there ever a time when you gave up or considered giving up writing?
Never.

What is the optimum amount of time to go between showers?
I shower every morning on days when I have to be coherent and functional, because I can't wake up otherwise. But in backpacking/traveling/ I'm-in-a-jungle-and-the-water-has-tiny-worms-in-it situations, I've gone for a week at a time.

Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys?
I'm sorry to be misanthropic, but I hate them both. They are both cultural symbols of an enforced femininity/ masculinity that I don't believe in, and a kind of desperate, rabid optimism that makes me queasy. I KNOW I KNOW I'm taking this too seriously. But it's true.

Where is your favorite place to write?
My favorite place in the world to write was in my kitchen in Iowa City, which got the most amazing light. I had a big round hardwood table that was the only piece of furniture I ever spent real money on, and I would use the radiator as a chair. I loved that table more than anything. Pretty much every play I wrote in Iowa was written on it. When I left Iowa City, I promised to sell it to my neighbor along with the rest of my furniture, and then at the last possible second I couldn't do it. I sent him this really lame email where I apologized a few hundred times and offered him my first-born child instead. He was very nice about it all, and the table is living with my brother now. Someday when I am living in places for more than nine months at a time, I'll put it somewhere with a lot of light and love it with all my heart. However in my current table-less state, I roam sadly from cafe to cafe looking for a home. Please email me with your favorite writing spots: jenseptcinq@gmail.com.

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Member Interviews: Willie Orbison interviews Tony Meneses

So Tony, where were you born?
Guadalajara, Mexico. Which if you’re now wondering if I’m legal, the answer is yes.

What was your childhood like?
I’m the baby in my family by a pretty decent gap, so I remember craning my neck back a lot to look up at everyone. To this day, I still don’t know what to do around people shorter than me.

What made you want to pursue playwriting?
I started to notice I liked storytelling in general when I was still playing with toys up to an age that by all accounts would be embarrassing. Once I Toy Story 3’d my childhood, I turned to the page.

What is your workspace like?
I write on the floor actually, and have for a while, which I think has affected how I sit in chairs now. Doesn’t feel right anymore.

What distinguishes a play by Tony Meneses?
I’m actively trying to get the audience to care more. I am interested in stories, with people and realities sometimes unlike our own, that still get the audience to connect to and see themselves in. This can sometimes veer toward the sentimental, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing people a humanity worth caring about. Maybe it can then translate into how we move through the world and how we treat others.

Who are your heroes, theatrical or otherwise?
Love me some Thornton Wilder, Caryl Churchill, and Samuel Beckett. Add Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to that literary mix, and we got a party. A special shout out to Oni Faida Lampley for gifting me the most moving experience I’ve ever had at the theatre.

What turns you on/off about theater?
Here are some of my loves: suspension of disbelief, plays with big ambitions, ensemble writing, diversity on stage (preferably a healthy mix of all kinds of identities.)

Bored with: the opposite of what I just listed.

What would your middle school self say about you?
“I see you haven’t gained any weight...”

Where do see yourself in ten years?
I really don’t make long-term plans for fear of mighty hubris striking me down. Ideally though, I’d like to be more stable economically, teaching, writing. Two or three kids would be nice.

If the apocalypse was tomorrow, what would you do tonight?
Dance party.

What are you working on now?
I spent Halloween weekend this year writing a ghost story. Next on the horizon is reading a lot in preparation for a play that I know now is going to require time and thoughtful crafting. Trying to do some homework before and cultivate and broaden my own sense of what literature and theatre could be.

Anything else you want to mention?
A plug of sorts. I have a play being produced through the DCA in Chicago this Spring. Should be a good time. Here’s some info.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

HanksThanks!

So:

there are many people/groups of people/things/ideas/places/activities I am thankful for.

Here are 24 of them (24 because Thanksgiving shall be celebrated on the 24th. What?):

My family
My very best friends
My friends
NSD 2010
Youngblood
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Graeme Gillis
RJ Tolan
Ryan Dowler's Junior High Diary
My sexy ass bike!
My apartment
Garza (high school drama teacher)
Cheryl Odom (college advisor and professor)
Tacos
India Pale Ale
Pinot Noir
A proper dance party
Haruki Murakami
Punchy Elderly Folks
All 5 senses
Running
Hugs
Feminism
My grandfather, Lincoln Hanks III (November 11, 1923- October 5, 2010)

I encourage you all to create your own list of 24.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ryan Dowler Presents The ESTeen Youngerblog: Wisdom on Life, Love, and the Theatre from My Junior High Diary


Part One: On Making The First Move

I found my Junior High diary.



This is what's in it:


4-4-96

Guess what? Theo told me last week that Katie H. (who I like) likes me! He said she has a boyfriend named Jesse. But she, I actually have a chance at. This is GREAT! ! ! ! I'm pretty tired.


4-7-96

I can't wait to see Katie tommorro. I don't know if I should talk to her or smile at her or what? We always pass each other in the hall or see each other in the cafeteria and we catch each other looking at each other, but we don't smile, we don't frown, but we don't smile. I should smile, but it's like I'm caught in a daze and I can't smile or make any reaction. Tommorro I'm going to smile. I'm going to do it!


4-8-96

I didn't see Katie today. Well, I saw her but our eyes didn't meet. My life is very HAPPY right now. I feel like I have a chance with Katie, but I don't need anyone. Just cause I'm not dating anyone doesn't mean that I'm not good looking. I mean I'm not bragging but 3 or 4 people like me right now and I have self-confidence. LL COOL J SUCKS! ! !


4-17-96

Theo told Katie to talk to me but she said she didn't know what to say and that she wants me to talk to her. Tommorro is my last chance to talk to her (before the dance). I better not get nervous like last time. When I heard Theo telling her to talk to me I got scared and ran into the bathroom. I really wish we could go out. That would rule! ! ! !


4-19-96

The dance was great! ! ! The headbanging was awesome, as usual! ! ! ! It ROCKED! The last dance I asked Katie if she wanted to dance. She said no. I'm kidding! ! ! ! She said "sure" and we started dancing (slow song). She had her arms around me and I felt so comfortable. She said "Your hands are hot" and I said "Yeah." And then she was talking to her friend who was standing right there. Then later I said "I was at the Toadies concert" actually referring to the "hot hands" comment but it was too late for her to realize the connection.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Interviewed! Blogged!

The great Adam Syzmkowicz had nothing better to do than interview me. Check it out! Other YB past and present playwrights featured too!

A generally great blog for all interested in the beauty and pain of playwriting:

http://aszym.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hand to God: Now Even Handsier!


Hand to God by Mr. Robert Askins is a bona-fide hit! And we here at the Youngblog are proud to say: we told you so. We are even prouder to say that the production has been extended through December 18th! Is there any better way to celebrate the holiday season than to see a play about a devilish hand puppet? No. There isn't. Please don't argue with me. I know from whence I speak. Also this time I have backup. Dig this:

"Satan, the great tempter of men’s souls, takes deceptively innocuous form in the frisky new comedy 'Hand to God,' by Robert Askins, at the Ensemble Studio Theater.... Mr. Askins possesses a perfect ear for teenage voices and the aggressive jostling for position among troubled or misfit adolescents. He is just as good at the characterizations of Margery and Pastor Greg, whose earnest professions of love for Margery cause her to wince in pity and fear. [Geneva] Carr captures with a piercing poignancy the discomfort Margery feels at these unwanted advances.... Under the direction of Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the cast is wonderful across the board, although first honors must go to [Steven] Boyer, who truly gives two distinct performances — one all bewildered innocence, the other pure beastly vulgarity — as Jason and Tyrone."
--Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

Yeah, that's right. The New York Times. Heard of it?

So the show now runs through December 18th, like this:
Wednesday - Monday @ 7pm, Saturdays @ 2pm & Sundays @ 5pm
Sunday December 18 @ 2pm & 7pm

Tickets: $35
Youngblood Special: $25 for anyone under 30, at the door with ID
Student Tickets: $15 at the door with ID, the box office opens one hour before showtime.

Get to it. Get back to it. Whatever you've got to do.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Member Interviews: Willie Orbison



Why 'Willie' and not William, Will, Bill, or Billy?


It's always been Willie. I mean, legally, it's William, but it's always been Willie. I.E. not Y. I remember my parents were adamant about that when I was younger. Don't know why. I tried 'Will' at a summer abroad program once in high school but that made me feel like an asshole. So, I have a feeling it's going to be Willie forever. Which is kind of unfortunate because, to be completely honest, I'm not crazy about the name. I actually tend to mumble it when I say it out loud and people think my name is 'Louie.' Which I like better, but I don't think I'm earthy enough to pull it off.

How does a new play usually start for you? An image? A concept? A title?


Honestly, new plays usually start for me with a bad mood. I'll find myself feeling crappy about something in my life, I won't know what to do about it, and that's where a play will start. Or at least those are the times when I'm like 'Fuck, why aren't I writing something right now.' And then a play will start, and whatever malaisey things are trailing me around will, hopefully, get worked out in the writing. But in terms of getting a draft together, I do find myself working towards, or off of, a theatrical moment that I can see quite clearly in my head before any words are on the page. But titles, as a rule, always come last.

Have you ever written someone in your life into a character in one of your plays? If so, who?

All the time. Not like people's identities, but speech patterns, characteristics, stories, definitely. I think you have to. I went to a talk that John Guare was giving once, and he said something like 'playwrights are scavengers.' That stuck with me. Like squirrels. But yeah, if something about somebody strikes me, I'll try to make a little mental note, and hopefully it will stick long enough to find its way into my writing. I have zero qualms about that.

What is the quickest amount of time you've written a play in? The longest?


I'm slow, Tony. Painfully slow. The quickest I've written a play, other than some I've done for 24-hour festivals, is probably like a month. I have serious issues bringing myself to that blank page sometimes. I wish I could bang em out like Adam Rapp -- or you, Mr. Halloween Weekend -- but no, I am the tortoise, Tony. I am the tortoise. So, the longest it's taken me? Sheeit, I'm coming up on two years now for one of them. But, to be fair, I've never had a full-on production or had anything published, so I'm still writing every play I've ever written -- right?

When is the best time of day for your writing?

10pm to 4am, no question. I've had trouble getting to sleep all my life.

Do you have any recurring dreams?


Ironically, when I do sleep, yes. Two. And I've been having them as long as I can remember. The first is about three hamsters -- one holstein spotted, one tawny, and one without any hair -- who live on the rim of a washing machine. Without getting super Jungian about it, I have a feeling it has something to do with me and my two brothers. I don't know exactly what it means; however, I'm pretty sure I'm the one without any hair. The second dream is an anxiety dream I tend to get when the going gets tough in my awake life, and it's always this: I'm about to play my first game at second base for the Yankees, and we're about to go out on the field, but I can't find my glove. I'll be freaking out and freaking out, and then someone will lend me a glove and I'll go out on the field. Then -- and I think this has to do with a particularly scarring error I made when I was actually playing baseball -- someone on the other team will hit a high pop-up to me, and whatever I try to do, I can't catch the ball. Sometimes my legs will sink into the dirt and sometimes the ball never falls out of the sky, but I'll never catch that f'ing pop up. And I'll wake up tangled in sheets.

What movie do you find yourself quoting a lot?

I was a misguided adolescent. I thought it was 'cool' to be able to quote movies in regular conversation. In fact, for a while in middle school, this was the primary source of my sense of humor. So, there are a number of movies I have committed to memory, and, for reasons totally beyond my control, might still be heard quoting from time to time. Among them, The Sandlot, Sgt. Bilko (the Steve Martin one), and, of course (forgive me) The Big Lebowski.

What play did you read and hate in high school but love now?

I'm embarrassed about this, but Waiting For Godot. People would make fun of it for being so boring and about nothing, so I jumped on the bandwagon (again, misguided adolescence). But now, I'm happy to say, I fully appreciate its genius.

What is the most embarrassing song in your itunes?


Probably something by The String Cheese Incident. Shoot me.

What is the last stupid thing you've done?

The last stupid thing. Hmm, so much to choose from. Perhaps having that punch at the Asking for Trouble closing night party. I was, indeed, Asking for ... well, you know.

Besides New York, any other geographies calling your name at some point?

Yes. Always. I have a tendency to over-sentimentalize things, so most of my fondest memories are tied to a certain geography -- the Green Mountains in Vermont, farms and vineyards in Sonoma County, beaches up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean islands, freaking all of Paris, and those places call to me. And then there are places I haven't even been yet that I know I have to visit, like India, Japan, Spain, Vietnam, Peru, Argentina, China, the Philippines, New Zealand -- my grandmother, who's somewhat of a spirit guide for me, travelled all over the world and always stresses the importance of seeing new places and new people, so it's definitely a life goal for me to see the world. But, it's funny, having grown up in New York City, whenever I leave for an extended period of time, I start to miss the subway.

Are there any recurring ideas or themes in your work?

Someone once said any writer worth their salt is always in some way writing about love and death. I think that's true for me, too. Not that I'm worth all that much salt, but when I sit down to write something, I do feel a sense of existential urgency that nudges me toward tackling the big stuff. It's the 'if I was hit by a bus tomorrow, would I be proud of what I was working on' question. And, for me at least, I would want to be, in my way, swinging for the fences. Life is short, Tony. Shit happens, as my grandfather used to say, and I don't want to be caught with my proverbial pants around my ankles, putting the finishing
touches on some half-hearted story that doesn't really move me. That's not to say every play needs to be Hedda fucking Gabler, but I truly believe that my task as a playwright is to add my little vision of existence to the pile before time runs out. And the way I see it, the way we understand love and the way we understand death has a profound effect on every single impulse we have as people walking around from day to day. So, when I'm writing a play, when I'm thinking about characters and what they want and why they want it and the way they interact with the world around them, yeah -- for me, it all boils down to love and death. I mean, when you think about it, what else is there, really?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Hilarious.

It's Monday, so it's time for funny internet videos. These are seriously some of the funniest fucking things I've seen in a long time. Watch this one first and then go nuts.

Herman Cain - A BLR Sound Bite

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Plays/Bands at Cake Shop Tonight


Dear Internet,

Are you enjoying your fall? Is it a little too chilly, or just right for sweater weather? Are you listening to the crooners on WNYC with a hot cup of coffee? Mmm, I hope so.

Tonight my company Pony Show Presents is throwing our next plays and bands show, this time in the lower east side's Cake Shop. Our goal as always is to bring indie rock audiences to indie theatre audiences and vice versa. Sometimes when people here this on the music side, a well justified look of skepticism crosses their faces. "Short plays? Eh..." The initial thought of someone who doesn't regularly attend new theatre is that these pieces are either going to be corny, boring, or laughably avant-garde. More often though, people are psyched because they get to see new plays by young writers with similar sensibilities and senses of humor to them, and get to see three killer bands they'd be seeing on a Saturday night anyway. All for 7 bucks. By the end of the night we've surprised and converted the skeptics.

New York theatre's ever existing problem, attracting young audiences, comes from people not knowing what to see, where to see it, and if they do they're too broke. That's old news. So just fucking put it in front of them and do it. We like to think it's easier done than said.

Tonight we have three shorts by Youngblood alum and recently wed, BEN ROSENTHAL, with "For the Love of Brandon." A group of friends is hosting an intervention for their friend Brandon, concerning certain distractions to the group's activities. Orgies. It also features EST favorites Megan Tusing, Will Harper, Dave Gelles, Risa Sarachan, Youngblood member Alex Borinsky, and Erica Lutz. Now imagine them all having sex with each other.

Current Youngblooder Leah Nanako Winkler's Asking For Trouble hit, "I Don't Want to Read Your Blog" returns, taking on a problem everyone has, internet stalkers.

And Brian Otano has "Henley" about Fleetwood Mac's crisis on the night "Rumours" hits Billboard's number 1. Lots of cocaine and women who do it with Don Henley.

and the bands...


SLOW ANIMAL --> http://slowanimal.bandcamp.com/

HEAVEN'S GATE --> http://heavensgate.bandcamp.com/

PERFECT TEETH --> http://tinyurl.com/44alo8g

Doors are at 8, Leah kicks it off at 9.
$7 Cake Shop 152 Ludlow Street


See. You. There.

Love,
Chris/PSP

Friday, November 04, 2011

Physics of a Pie-angle

1. Attend Death of American Centaur at Ars Nova featuring Youngblood luminary Alex Borinsky
2. Do not leave the theater when an actor announces that he will pay you back for your ticket if you’d prefer to take a walk outside.
3. Enjoy the scene where the company uses two whipped cream pies to induce tension into a heart to heart between Biff & Happy (seriously, the other brother in Death of a Salesman is named Happy?). Realize that every play could probably be better with two actors standing by with pies waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
4. At intermission, when the actors lay down a tarp and announce that the audience is welcome to pie actors or each other, turn to RJ Tolan and newly minted YBer Clare Barron and nod in unison. Attempt to convince Meghan Deans. Fail.
5. Clamber onto that tarp and stand in a rough triangle.
6. On the count of three, smash that pie into your assigned person’s face.

7. Realize that the whipped cream is actually shaving cream when you accidentally taste some.
8. Try to clean your face. Fail.
9. Turn back to see Meghan Deans from her pie-free seat in the audience with a Cheshire cat grin and an absurdly clean face.
10. Watch the rest of the play knowing that this evening was well worth that crumpled ten dollar bill.