Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sunday, February 6 is SuperBrunch Sunday!

Yes.  The Youngblood Playwrights are tackling sports.  This is going to get ugly.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Am Going To Make Fun Of You.

So, um... The Sluts of Sutton Drive opens tomorrow.

There was a moment in our tech rehearsal yesterday when I turned Graeme Gillis, Youngblood’s Co-Artistic Director (and actor in my play), and said, “Wow. I think this show might just come together after all.”

He agreed. “Yeah, I think people are mostly going to have a great time. Except for a couple of people who will really, really hate it.”

I laughed it off until later when I thought to myself, “Wait. Why would anybody hate The Sluts of Sutton Drive?” I mean, I could understand if somebody thought it was just plain stupid or poorly written or whatever, but the insinuation was that the play would offend somebody.

There was a reading of the play in Park Slope a few months ago and the email that went out had a warning on it. “Not for the faint of heart,” or something like that. I’ve heard actors in various readings and in this production too call it a “dangerous” play. My agent says most theaters won’t have the balls to produce it. Here’s the thing though… it’s just a comedy.

That’s all.

It’s never my intention to offend people. I love my audience. I want them to have a unique and thrilling experience. I may try to shock them a little, but it’s only to shock them into laughter. I write about things that hurt me or anger me- in this case it’s the subjugation of women, rigid gender roles, conformity, rape, income disparity, addiction- and then I make fun of them. For me, it’s a way to talk about them and take their power away. What can I say? I like cheekiness and I have a gallows humor as a result of my effed up background. Further, as a poor person without full civil rights, one of the only things I have at my disposal is my ability to make fun of shit. What... can't take a joke?

I could go a step further and spell out how offensive or shocking humor is an important part of a larger queer dialogue and an integral part of our community’s make-up, but that’s totes pretentious and not really necessary. True, but not necessary.

It’s especially annoying to me when other liberals get offended by plays. It’s always the same kind of liberal- a privileged, armchair, politically inactive one who complains about my dog and pony show without actually being offended by the things I’m satirizing. Liberals can be so annoying!

The Sluts of Sutton Drive isn’t a dangerous play. It isn’t a challenging play. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. What’s really dangerous is a whole art form’s insistence that plays be this particular thing or that particular thing. (This and that = white, male, straight, wealthy etc.) What makes people think they're exempt from being offended anyway? Frankly, it’s dangerous that there aren’t a shit ton of plays that poke fun of things mainstream theater audiences hold dear- because, frankly, almost all of us deserve to be made fun of.

The Sluts of Sutton Drive opens tomorrow. I hope you don't hate it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hot Playwrights XI

Look at THIS!

...and how about THIS...

Melissa James Gibson....she wrote THIS.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

now that I'm getting on in my years, it occurs to me...

Dear early-20-something birthday boy (or girl):

Now that I'm getting on in my years, it occurs to me.

You keep having your birthday party here:

But there are also places where you can get a drink here:

Just a thought for next year.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


When I write plays, I make a concerted effort to minimize or completely eliminate set, props, and costumes. I just know that such things will only cause me pain. Like the time my ribs broke in a car accident on the way to Materials For The Arts to find props for a show last summer. I have learned the lesson. Props=me in the hospital.

IN QUIETNESS, however, has a props list that's crazier than a bag o' mice. And while I'm always up for some Wilderesque minimalism, I really think that this play needs all the stuff. Why? Why I'll tell ya why.

Objects aren't just objects. We humans have these remarkable brains that invest meaning in even the silliest thing. For example, look at this:
  • Remember those?? Those pills you put in a glass of water and they expand to become dinosaur shaped sponges?? Those were so awesome. I remember getting them at the National Aquarium in Baltimore when I was a kid. My parents were amazing, amazing individuals and they had a family membership to the Aquarium and they took us there all the time, and it was amazing. We saw dolphin shows on a monthly basis. Dolphins! There were also beluga whales back then, though they don't have them anymore. There's probably a good reason that I don't know about, but I miss them. One time I was standing by the viewing window with my face pressed up against the glass and a beluga whale popped up right in front of me, grinning its cetaceous little grin, and I nearly peed myself. I'm positive that it was messing with me on purpose. Like almost every kid in the world, after visiting the Aquarium, I was filled with a burning desire to become a marine biologist. Like almost every adult in the world, after growing up, I am not a marine biologist.
See what I mean? Objects aren't just objects. They are little bookmarks in our lives. In life, encountering a specific object from your past, like dinosaur sponge pills, can make you suddenly confront a version of yourself who was certain that the future held nothing but bottle-nosed dolphins named Kiki.

Onstage, these objects can give a world context. IN QUIETNESS is filled with objects, costumes, and set pieces that act as a visual vocabulary. Windex, Murphy's Oil Soap, gingham aprons, pastel tablecloths, pitchers of sweet tea, finger sandwiches, and floral centerpieces are the everyday objects of the Homemaking House that immediately establish for the audience the priorities, values, and ideals of the characters within it. Cleanliness. Femininity. Beauty. Pleasantness. Etiquette. Hospitality. It doesn't need to be said. It's right there onstage, simultaneously louder and more subtle than a monologue.

It's still a massive pain to design, find, build, and manage all of those objects, though. So Renee, Maiko, Danielle, Lisa, Alice, and everyone else who has been hemming bed linens, moving boxes of heavy books, and making tiny sandwiches with the crusts cut off...thank you, thank you, thank you. And I'm sorry.

Opening Wednesday! Tickets here!

Jan 19, 20, 28, 29 at 7pm; Jan 24 at 8pm

by Anna Moench
directed by Birgitta Victorson

A former CEO follows her born-again husband to a Southern Baptist seminary and enrolls as a student in the Homemaking House, a place where marital bliss means never having to say thank you for cleaning the toilet.

Starring Katie Atcheson, Eric Feldman, Julie Fitzpatrick, William Jackson Harper, and Clare McNulty

Monday, January 17, 2011

Being the Belarus Free Theatre

Hey Youngbloggers. This is going to get a little lengthy, and I hope you'll stick through it with me, but just in case you've got a scroll-happy finger, let me tell you this bit now: In support of and solidarity with Belarus Free Theatre, the Public Theater in partnership with Amnesty International will be holding a public demonstration on Wednesday, January 19th, at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations, at 136th East 67th Street. The protest will be held from 12pm to 1pm. Text the word "PROTEST" to 27138 to receive information and updates on the exact meeting location. For more information: the Public's Facebook Event; the Amnesty International event page, and Amnesty International's statement regarding post-election protesters in Belarus.

Now we'll talk about why, and how, and what else.

So here's the truth. I didn't know much about Belarus until a couple of weeks ago when my roommate and I were discussing which Under the Radar shows we were most excited about. She rattled off her list, enthusiasm for her New Year's resolution ("Spend all my money on theater.") radiating. Then: "...and Belarus Free Theatre. If they make it here."

Wait hang on. If?

Belarus Free Theatre is a theatre company whose work puts them in danger. They write and perform plays that are often openly political, and they do so in a country whose government favors censorship and violence over open dialogues. As Laura Wade noted in The Guardian's Theatre Blog last month, Belarus Free Theatre is underground "...not because it's cool and edgy, but because Belarus is a dictatorship, and any opposition...can be swiftly and harshly silenced." They must perform in secret, and, according to The New York Times, the Belarusian government--and the KGB, still an active presence in the country--has threatened and intimidated the company and those associated with them.

On December 19th and 20th, protesters gathered in Minsk to protest the announced (and suspect) re-election of Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. The protest was violently broken up, and opposition candidates were arrested. Two members of Belarus Free Theatre were also arrested, while the rest went into hiding. The company escaped "in small groups, and not in an official fashion," arriving in New York on January 2nd. In this video, shot the day after her arrival in the United States, company co-founder Natalia Kolyada describes the dangers the troupe has faced--and what they still face--all for creating theater. Three days after their escape, The Belarus Free Theatre opened Being Harold Pinter at the Under the Radar festival.

My affection for Pinter and his smoking hot political activism have been well-documented here on the Youngblog. Being Harold Pinter combines pieces of that Nobel lecture with scenes from several Pinter plays and letters written by Belarusian political prisoners. Last Sunday--just one week after Belarus Free Theatre's arrival in the United States, just three weeks after they had been forced underground in their home country--I saw the company perform Pinter in a way I never thought I'd see Pinter performed. I thought I knew all sorts of things about The Homecoming--I've read or seen it dozens of times--but never before had the violence inside of it seemed so fresh and immediate. It wasn't just the story of a family violated, it was the story of minute-to-minute anger, fear, mistrust.

What Pinter does best is keep you in the present, at all times engaged in what's in the room at that moment. What the Belarus Free Theatre did was ratchet up the repercussions. Raise the stakes, but really. I was in the room with the play. I was in the room with the people performing the play. The play was real. Everything was happening, and the distance between me and them felt small, alarming, or nonexistent. The imagery was simply and strongly. The performances were passionate. By the time the play had moved on to Pinter's later, more overtly allegorical pieces, I felt engaged to a point of responsibility.

And that's so good. So rare, and so good. Remember up top when I told you a few weeks ago I didn't know much about Belarus? Well guess what. That's super-different, now. I've done my homework, and it's all thanks to a show I saw. Belarus Free Theatre makes art that seeks to inform within their country, but beyond it, as well. I know I'm preaching to the choir here when I say these things, but even the choir needs to hear it sometimes: theater can move people to action in a way that no other art form can. Theater can take place so near to you that you can have your hand stamped by it on the way in. So close that you can sit in the front row squinting at the faces of the actors in front of you, wondering about the provenance of their scratches and scrapes. So close that you can see the strength of it backed immediately by the fragility of it.

What can we do? As theater artists, patrons, just folks. Well, first, the good news is that what's gone on with Belarus Free Theatre has inspired action. In addition to Wednesday's protest, the Public Theater is holiding a benefit performance for the troupe, and accepting donations on their behalf. In her video statement, Natalia Kolyada puts bluntly the power that those of us in democratic states have. "Only when you speak, the governments could make changes to our country. Only when you speak to your governments, your governments could make a pressure on Belarusian government to release all people who are now in jail in Belarus. Just speak." So do that. Ever write to your Senators? It's super easy. Here's a-sortable-by-state contact list. For those of us in New York, you can contact Senator Gillibrand here, and you can contact Senator Schumer here. If you'd rather send it by post, here's how to do that. Read through the Amnesty International press release and ask your senators to lend their support to the Belarusian prisoners of conscience. 'Cause I know you theater folks, and I know there's one thing you do great, and that's talk. Now, let's make sure your talk gets heard.

Thanks, and thanks for listening.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goodbye, Ellen Stewart.

Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa, passed away this morning. She was 91. The folks over at Flux posted this beautiful quote from Stewart:
Not knowing anything about theaters, I thought it was like playing house...I would have this little theater and they would write plays and all their friends would be in them and live happily ever after."
Let Youngblood continue in this tradition.

Goodbye, Ellen. Downtown is certainly duller without you.

Hot Playwrights X: Rajiv Joseph

Welcome to the tenth edition of Hot Playwrights, our important initiative that celebrates any and all playwrights who don't resemble Susan Boyle or Comic Bookstore Guy from The Simpsons. This is just one of the many ways we keep it klassy here on The Youngblog.

A female Youngblooder who shall remain nameless asked me to post Rajiv Joseph and after I saw the picture she attached I couldn't disagree. Behold:

Oh snap! Look how hot he is. See his smoldering good looks? I like to think Rajiv is the sensitive, intense type of dude who writes poetry for his conquests and makes them eggs in just his boxers. He also looks like he might be super serious, like he'd admonish you for watching Millionaire Matchmaker or reading the tabloids. But maybe not. This next picture seems to say, "I'm smart and sexy but I also have a sense of humor about myself." Ready? Here it is:

Swoon! Wikipedia says Rajiv is from Cleveland, but in my imagination he's English. Just because. Anyway, Rajiv was nominated for a Pulitzer last year. Well, the girls and gays of Youngblood are giving him our prize for Playwright We'd Most Like to See Shirtless. Well played, Rajiv.

P.S. If you do a Google image search for "shirtless Rajiv Joseph" you'll be disappointed. Internet, please fix this grievous oversight forthwith.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Get On The Map

The Arena Stage's New Play Institute has been working on a map that measures the life of new plays and artists. If you're making new plays, get yourself and/or your organization on the map already.

Check it out!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Up Next - UNFILTERED 2011

For more info, see our Now Playing page.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Rehearsals, Unfiltered, and You

I love going to rehearsals. Heck, I love any excuse to leave my apartment. But rehearsals might be my favorite excuse to leave my apartment.

Why is that?

Well, at least in the case of Sweet Forgotten Flavor (opening next Thursday) for a long time the play basically looked like this:

Look at how sad that is. Oh, God. It’s just awful.

Plays are meant to be played and require many a player. Not just the actors (sexy, courageous, wonderful actors), but any participant that helps spin the imagination…those who read the words “Dining Room” at the top of a scene and imagine what that might look like, or how one might get to the “Dining Room” from the “Sitting Room” and how long that might take. Somebody else might think what sorts of objects may be in the “Dining Room,” how long those objects have been there, how much they cost, and what they might mean to the people in this “Dining Room”….

…and then it’s not just some playwright, alone, making stuff up in an empty room. It’s a group of people creating stuff together. A group of people that may include you, should you come to any of the performances of Sweet Forgotten Flavor, In Quietness, or The Sluts of Sutton Drive, where your humor, energy, and even your silence will endow this “Dining Room” with hilarity or fear or compassion.

And then it’s not just a few sad souls pretending stuff in an empty theatre, it’s a group of people sharing a collective experience, where we all can be players and everyone has an excuse to leave their apartment.

Photo Credit: Haskell King and Diana Ruppe rehearse a scene from Sweet Forgotten Flavor, opening January 13th at EST.