Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jen Silverman Delves Into The Dangerous Mind of Chiara Atik

While an unseasonable snowstorm raged, new Youngblood Jen Silverman met other new Youngblood Chiara Atik deep below-ground in an abandoned soviet bunker to interrogate her for top secret information. As helicopters and byplanes and drones hummed aboveground and musclebound Siberian bodyguards stood by the doors with their uzis clutched in hand, Ms. Atik revealed the following. Burn after reading, ladies & gents. And know that you have been one of the select few entrusted with this knowledge.

—How would you describe your style?
I just spent like 20 minutes agonizing over this question. Impossible. I just asked a friend. He said "lightly formal." Oy.

—What's the strangest situation you've ever been in?
Ahh, the one thing that pops into my mind right now is that when I was a kid, I accidentally saw Shari Lewis topless. As in, Lamb Chop's Sing-A-Long's Shari Lewis. She had a house in my Grandparent's neighborhood in California, but for some reason I was under the impression that she had moved out. So a neighborhood kid and I snuck onto the property to "explore" ... I think I literally thought we would find some discarded Lamb Chop puppet or souvenir. Instead, we found Shari Lewis sunbathing topless in the backyard. Her husband was like "Can I help you??" and we were like "oh....we wanted to see Shari Lewis?" (not true.) and he was like "Well, you found her....". And then we ran away.

—Is there anything that MAKES YOU SO ANGRY about/ in theatre?

No, actually! Surprising, as it is fairly easy to make me SO ANGRY about something.

—If you could say something to your teenage self, what would you say?
You were totally right: homework is busywork. Making a poster board is not a skill that denotes intelligence. 50 math problems to understand a single concept is ridiculous. As an adult, I feel like most of my teenage indignation was justified. But I should have been sweeter to my mother.

—What are you really grateful to your family for?
Oh, what a nice question! My parents are both supportive in their own hilarious ways. My dad is probably the one person on earth who won't get bored of listening to the mundane details of my life, and happily comes to any show or production, no matter how small. My mom is great for brainstorming and fun to bounce ideas off of. During the work-day, she's one of my favorite people to chat with on GChat, so I'm grateful to have a Mom who's hip with technology in that way. My little brother is so smart and funny and just the best company. And my entire extended family -- aunts, uncles, grandparents -- is wonderful and fun. So I'm grateful for all of that!

—Who/ what are you inspired by?

I think nearly every play I've written can be directly traced back to a trip. Traveling and seeing new places. Also books. But, yeah, mostly travel because the physical act of going someplace new sort sort of opens up my imagination and lets my mind do the same.

—Is there a place in the world that feels like home? Where is it?
My aunt's house in Philadelphia, which for the past 7 years has been a cozy refuge from New York whenever I've needed it, is definitely the place that most feels like home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Leah Winkler Asks Mary Hamilton Some Hardcore Questions

Hi! I'm new member Leah Nanako Winkler who interviewed fellow new member Mary Hamilton. Isn't she pretty?

How do you feel when you write?

Highly caffeinated and scared.

Have you ever failed anything?

Of course. In the third grade i wanted to be a boy. Not just any boy. I wanted to be Huck Finn. So for a week i sported a straw hat and a pipe, and went around without a shirt on. My cousin and I tried unsuccessfully to fashion a raft out of some styrofoam cubes and logs. Then the neighborhood boys came over. They didn't believe i was huck finn. So, to prove it to them (my logic here gets a little fuzzy) I went and peed in a bush. Needless to say this didn't work out too well for me. Neighborhood boys can be cruel. I'd definitely call my attempt to be Huck Finn an overall failure. I also used to want to catch for the new york yankees, but i was too afraid of the ball.
What do you consider your best and worst qualities as a human being?

Wow! Okay. My worst quality as a human being...I sort of compulsively lie? But not about anything too important. and not to anyone I know or like. I guess it's more that I subconsciously and compulsively alter details about day to day life to strangers. Maybe that is my best quality too. I try to keep things interesting and not stay married to reality. But it can be fairly problematic I think.

Who do you look up to?

My grandfather, my husband and Harpo Marx. not necessarily in that order.

What was the last thing you bought?

A cup of coffee.

What was your first play about and do you think it was a good play?

My first play was called "the pirate and the bunnies..." or maybe "the pirates and a bunny..." or maybe just "pirate and bunny." I was six. It was definitely not a good play. That said, many of its larger themes (desire; betrayal; the questionable morality of slaughtering small forest creatures) carry into my writing today.

What was the last life-changing experience you've had?

Giving birth to my daughter.

Describe your hometown to me.

My hometown was on the beach in new jersey. So, in the summer, lots of wealthy Italian undergrads (think the cast of Jersey Shore, but less muscular and self-reflexive) in bikinis doing shots on the boardwalk. In the winter: quiet, calm, and smelling vaguely of salt and dead fish. Apart from the summer tourism the town was not all that exceptional, I don't think. There were the kids who lived in "the hills." These kids had designer backpacks and drove BMW's to high school. then there were the rest of us, whose parents didn't commute to Manhattan. We were literally separated by railroad tracks. The railroad tracks ran behind my house. Every year in elementary school they showed a film about playing chicken on the tracks. These two kids are standing there in the middle of a track, holding hands, and a second before a train runs them over they dive onto the parallel track. They lie there together, breathless with excitement over their near death experience. If it were an 80's movie they'd start to make out. then another train comes from the opposite direction and runs them over. They actually show them being carried off in body bags at the end of the movie. Which needless to say sent us all straight out to play on the tracks. I have a lot of memories there actually.

What excites you about theater?

Its endless possibility for change.

Describe a typical day in Mary Hamilton land.

Okay...well...on weekdays: my phone alarm goes off at 4:30. I hit snooze. I get up at 4:36 or 4:42...or sometimes 4:48. I make a pot of coffee. I brush my teeth. If there is time, I write. My daughter wakes at 5 or 5:30. I change her diaper. I put on her shoes. At 6 I carry her around the corner where we help a volatile six year old get ready for school. The six year old watches sesame street and eats frozen eggo waffles. She will not eat them cooked. Only frozen. My daughter and I play with her toys. We walk the six year old to school at 8:30. We walk home. My husband takes my daughter while I ride my bike to the coffee house down the street to write. I return home at 11:45. My husband goes to work. I read "the very hungry caterpillar" ten or eleven times to my daughter until she falls asleep. On an ideal day I write for 2 more hours. On a less than ideal day I am distracted by searching the internet for better jobs or re-reading "the very hungry catepillar" to myself in spanish ("la oruga muy hambrienta"). My daughter wakes up from her nap. I prepare her lunch. i chase her around and attempt to feed her. I clean up all, or most, or some, of the food that has fallen from her mouth and scattered around the house. We read "the very hungry caterpillar" or maybe "the little blue truck" or "mr brown can moo, can you?" A few more times. Sometimes we go to the park. Sometimes other mothers are there with their babies and sometimes I bond with the other mothers about teething and the consistency of our children's feces. We return home. I pack a bag with goldfish, diapers, two bottles of milk and "the very hungry caterpillar." We get on the bus, where strangers give me advice on child rearing. I pretend I speak Spanish. I tell them that on Tuesday, the very hungry caterpillar ate two plums, but he was still hungry. We get off the subway and walk half a mile to St. Anne's elementary school where we pick up two pre-teenagers and take them to the park for soccer practice. We play on the astro turf at the park. I try to teach my daughter not to eat cigarette butts. Soccer practice ends. I argue with the pre-teenagers about whether to take the bus or the subway. They prefer the bus. Less homeless people, they say. I prefer the subway. Less advice on child rearing. sometimes they win. Sometimes I do. I take them to piano lessons and Hebrew School and guitar and tae kwon do. We go home. I put my daughter to bed. Depending on the day I: write; go to a play; watch a movie; go to rehearsal; come to a youngblood meeting! Fall asleep in my clothes. There might be a glass of whiskey or 2 in there somewhere...repeat. On weekends: I write a lot. and we go to the park. Sometimes a play. That's mostly what I do on weekends. oh and we've been watching the wonder years obsessively now that it is on Netflix. It's amazing. It's like nostalgia porn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Raise a Hand to God

Late spring, 2010. No. Actually, early summer, 2010. The playwrights of Youngblood were elbows-deep in their annual end-of-the-season reading series, Bloodworks. The final reading of the series was a little number called Hand to God, by Robert Askins. And friends, it was a good reading. It was a very, very, very good reading. Eyewitness reports used phrases like "doubled over laughing" and "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"; experts predicted the play would permanently change the face of American theater. "Yes," said the experts. "The face of American theater is definitely changing." The experts took a deep breath. "It is becoming the face of a hand puppet."

EST/Youngblood presents
Hand to God

by Robert Askins*
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel*

“The funniest play about faith, hands down,
on the contemporary stage.”

- Solange on Theater

Christian Puppet Ministries are a great way to teach children about the Bible. Each child gets a puppet, and each puppet gets his own personality. But children can be fooled by Satan’s tricks. For even within the sanctuary of the Christian Puppet Ministry, the devil lurks. The people of Cypress, Texas were good Christians. Until one day at Puppet Ministry, a boy named Jason, and his puppet Tyrone, let the devil in. This is their story.

Jason / Tyrone – Steven Boyer*†
Margery – Geneva Carr*†
Timothy – Bobby Moreno*†
Jessica – Megan Hill†
Pastor Greg – Scott Sowers*†

Assistant Stage Manager - Joshua Hernandez
Sound Design – Chris Barlow
Lighting Design -Matthew Richards
Costume Design – Sydney Maresca
Set Design – Rebecca Lord-Surratt
Puppet Design – Marte Johanne Ekhougen
Fight Choreographer – Robert Westley
Props Manager – Deb Gaouette

*denotes EST member
†denotes Equity Member

Dates: October 27 - November 20
Thursday - Monday @ 7pm, Sunday @ 3pm
Sunday, November 6 @ 5pm

Tickets: $25
Pick Your Price Previews: October 27 - 30
Opening Night Performance & Halloween Party Reception: October 31 (come in costume and get a free bottle of Robert Askins' home-brewed beer!)

Do not sleep on this one.

Also you can watch some exclusive video interviews with the cast! Here!
Do it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You see that? That's a frickin' movie poster highlighted in this article that you should really read and designed by this guy who is all kinds of awesome.

The article makes the point that movie posters aren't what they used to be, as in this:

and some independent movie houses are doing something about it by making their own posters by commissioning artists. Not only are the making awesome posters, by they're making bank selling them.

Theaters, take note. Commission artists. Get results.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Straight Play on Broadway Alert!

CHINGLISH - while it is not our practice to review plays in Youngblood, I must advise everyone I know and do not yet know to see this new comedy by David Henry Hwang. Without saying how thoughtful, funny, and clever it is, I recommend it to anyone looking for something extremely fresh and now. I won't go on to say how extremely well cast it is, how excellent the production value is, or how I hope this is a new turn for Broadway in producing globally relevant new plays.

I will just say that I have seen it and could not have enjoyed myself more. Thank you Broadway and all involved in making Chinglish available to theatre folk and tourists alike.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Death of American Centaur

One night, in McCoy's, a couple of Youngblooders were bemoaning the endless series of readings and reading workshops that stud the new play landscape like ghost towns in a Western desert. You can "read" a play to death, can't you? Sometimes you just need to do the play.

This is an early pitch for Youngblood's Unfiltered series, and it's also a reminder that Rob Askins' Hand to God is happening soon.

But there's a second part of the story. "What if we did readings of classic plays, y'know? Just as a weird kind of revenge." "Yeah, we could do Death of a Salesman." "Yeah!" "Yeah. Yeah. Let's workshop the hell out of that play. You know? Cause in the end it'd be... it'd be.... Yeah. It'd be a really good play, still. Hm." And then we trailed off.

Well, Youngblood was smart enough to stop there. American Centaur, the company that's remaking American theater and human life as we know it, was dumb enough to keep going. Death of American Centaur is revenge and tribute -- a desperate plea from the pimply guy at the middle school dance, asking the gorgeous cheerleader (Arty Miller) on a date.

Also, American Centaur is the beloved group of lovely people I spend a lot of time making theater with. We have a lot of fun together, and want to include you.

Come check it out -- Death of American Centaur @ ArsNova's ANT Fest, Saturday, October 22nd, 8 o'clock. Tickets are $10.

LinkThinks - What Would You Say?

Say that I'm a wealthy business man with some money to spend. I've retired (early) to a small town in the American South. You wouldn't recognize the name if I told you, so I won't tell you the name of it.

So say for a moment that I'm rich, retired, and living in this small little no-name town. I grow to like the town and become curious about its history. I become so curious that I decide to put a full page ad out in all the papers, including the local paper as well as The New York Times. The ad has no pictures, simply this text:

Wanted: Playwright to compose a play that depicts the history of this town. If not the entire history, at least a critical moment that allows me to relish in some of the complexities that have made this town what it is. Generous pay with generous living. Play must be complete and performed for me within three years with various milestones along the way. Content can be rated G or X, depending on what your topic dictates. Cast can include 1 to 100 characters and cannot be any longer than 120 minutes.

Now say I did all of that and I really wanted a quality play to be written about this town. Ideally, I'd want a play that could be performed every year of my life (and maybe after) that would be free for all the town to see. Now say I came to you with the following questions:

1. Should I hire a local writer or writer from somewhere else (for an outside perspective) to pen this play?

2. I only have time to look at their script samples or their resumes. Which should I look at?

3. When I interview this writer, what's the most important question for me to ask?

What would you say?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Adam Szymkowicz interviews playwrights

And most recently he interviewed a personal hero of mine, Daniel Alexander Jones. This man is one of the most inspiring minds and voices I have ever encountered and I think you should all read this interview:

It stokes a fire that we (or, at least, I) sometimes forget to tend to.

We Got What We Asked For

In the end, who knows how many were there. How many beers were drunk, how many moves were busted. Who knows what props were misplaced, what lines reimagined. What laughs were got, what tears, what gasps. What songs were danced to, what cheers went up. When we staggered out of Ensemble Studio Theatre at 2am, at 3am, at 4, 5, 6am, did we see stars above us? Or were those just tears, reflecting the light of true happiness?

Yeah it was all of those things.

One of the appeals of Asking for Trouble is that although all start in the same place (on the 6th floor of EST, suddenly realizing we have no idea how to pronounce anybody's name ever) we end up in wildly different places. This year's plays were set in bars, on cruise ships, in apartments, on rooftops, in the ocean, in minor league baseball stadiums, on strange communes, and more. Our characters were creepy, funny, old, young, sweet, romantic, edible, high, squids, pilots, klutzes, and French. And yet--and yet!--there were convergences. The collective unconscious of Asking for Trouble, the river of panic that we all drew from drew forth:

- Two plays that featured body-swapping of a sort
- Two plays that featured headlamps
- Two plays requiring ridiculous mascot costumes
- Two plays with dance numbers
- 2 Carols
- 2 Sashas
- And lots and lots of partial male nudity

Asking for Trouble 2011 was a blast. Thank you, so much, to everyone who made it possible and to everyone who showed up and supported. See you next year.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Video Promos Gone Wild

Darcy Fowler can not stop making ASKING FOR TROUBLE video promos.  This one represents a new high water mark.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Now We're Asking for Trouble

When we found out that Youngblood musical genius Eric March had written an (hilarious, but) non-musical play for Asking for Trouble, we got so mixed up that we locked him in an office and forced him to come up with a charming song that would make us all happy and un-mixed-up. And you know what, we're not even sorry! Because we got this:

NIGHT TWO of Asking for Trouble BEGINS IN something like TEN plus HOURS! Plays! Premiering! Actors! Acting! You! Drinking! Here's the full schedule! Don't let Eric March down!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Asking For Trouble Starts Tonight! Also More Videos!

When I say trouble you say asking trouble
trouble but how's it going? You ask? Well:

Huh, okay, well, hopefully you guys have some provisions on hand. Right? Do you guys have any provisions?

Wow, that's terrifying. I'm just wondering though if Graeme had to drink himself out of his office, is there anyone around who can recommend this strange and mysterious alcoholic beverage?

Well, I'm sold. (Thanks again to Darcy and Chris for putting those videos together.)

It begins tonight! Wednesday October 5th! And it continues the next day, and the next, and the next! Asking for Trouble! All that beer! Get yourself over to the furthest west 52nd street that ever were (cf. this classic Mike Lew post for more on the subject). Go on, now. Go one and have some good times with some incredibly sleep deprived writers, actors, and directors. Incredibly.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Asking For Trouble: No, We Actually Picked These Things Out Of Hats

We actually, seriously did, we had hats, we had four hats. Four. Hats. And we picked things out of them. Things.

(Trailer cut by our very own Chris Sullivan and Darcy Fowler. Well done, guys.)

Asking for Trouble. Seriously. Tickets/information. See you there.

Monday, October 03, 2011

So much trouble

I don't know about the other 124 people involved in Asking for Trouble, but this year I have been making the joke "I'm really asking for trouble" a lot more than I ever made it in previous years. It's not a funny joke at all which is great because that means it never gets old. Because it was already old. Or. Shit. See this is the thing that happens on Monday of Asking for Trouble week. You can't even make a bad joke about a bad joke. And you call yourself a writer.
A real writer could make that joke.
But no. She couldn't. Not on the Monday of Asking for Trouble week because on that Monday your brain just stops.
And then suddenly you're at your day job and you're just staring at your keyboard trying to remember what your day job even is, and wondering if your boss is going to notice how you are typing but your computer isn't even on, and then if she is going to fire you. Because when you decided to Ask for Trouble you really weren't asking for that kind of trouble but it seems to be sneaking up on you.

But not really. I'm being dramatic. Because I'm a playwright and it's our job to be super dramatic all the time. I'm not getting fired. And, if any bosses or co-workers are reading this, I'm still really good at my day job and never forget what it is I'm supposed to be doing, and I always turn my computer on, even if 90% of my brain is wondering if I can sneak over to EST on my lunch break to be at rehearsal. Which, also, I never did. And certainly not twice in one week.

What I'm really trying to say is that there are a lot of people going slightly dumb and crazy right now. But the plays they are working on won't be dumb. But they might be crazy. And really all I'm saying is come see Asking for Trouble! Wednesday through Saturday! This week! Hooray! Exclamation points!

Asking For Trouble 2011