Friday, October 29, 2010

Not exactly Marina Abramović

Extreme theatre from Playground, live from the freight elevator at the CMU School of Drama at this link.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, met with the dramatic writing students and their colleagues at the School of Drama recently. Working at Carnegie Mellon, where we are reminded daily that you really can achieve your childhood dreams, it was striking to meet a visionary who really has translated his lifelong passion for comic books into a career. Whether you like his blockbusters or not, I think it's hard to deny that they are powered by a genuine love for Batman, Superman, Alan Moore, and Frank Miller in a way that Hollywood's previous attempts to co-opt these characters were not. Whenever powerful film and TV people visit the School of Drama, I am surprised anew at their generosity and willingness to give a thoughtful answer to any question, from the mundane to the argumentative. Mr. Tull (not pictured) was no exception, and it was a delight to moderate a public conversation with him.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The best time to visit the CMU School of Drama

is during Playground, happening now. All School of Drama classes are cancelled for a week so that 50 student-initiated projects can be mounted. These shows, installations, and films are built and rehearsed between Monday and Thursday, and then performed, one after another, from Thursday evening through midnight Saturday. Shows take place in the elevators, in the stairwells, on the lawn, in the basement. It's like a fringe festival, if you can imagine a fringe festival that has access to (a) state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and video equipment, being operated by highly trained young people who actually know what they are doing, and (b) a population of actors who have already made it into one of the most competitive acting programs in the world. To say nothing of the directors, playwrights, designers, dramaturgs...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A play written specifically to open on November 2, 2010.

There are few living playwrights as inspiring as Richard Nelson. Perhaps the only thing more charged and confrontational than his last play at the Public, Conversations in Tusculum, could be his new play at the Public, described below. Note that opening night is election day, no less. Richard Nelson will be guest faculty in the CMU dramatic writing program this December.

Written and Directed by Richard Nelson
October 26 – November 14
Press opening: November 2

“A year later, I gotta ask the supporters of all that: How's that hopey changey thing workin’ for ya?” —Sarah Palin, February 6, 2010.

Election day, November 2, 2010.  Uncle Benjamin’s dog has died and his nieces and nephew have gathered for dinner in Rhinebeck, New York, to surprise him with a new one.  As they anxiously wait for the polls to close, the Apple family discusses memory, manners, and politics. Richard Nelson (Conversations in Tusculum at The Public, James Joyce’s The Dead) returns to The Public with a timely new play that examines the state of the nation at this pivotal moment in our history.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In which Pinter considers a door.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

embarrassing prom photos of the 13P

If you are not on the 13P email list you should join now because you are missing hard-to-believe stuff like this video.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Now available with a suggestive cover.

Aphrodisiac is now available from upstart young publishers Samuel French (founded 1830).

What’s the worst-case scenario? He’s hiding something terrible. He’s done something we never thought he was capable of. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have thought he was capable of having an affair. I would have thought he was too averse to risk.

Like Bill Clinton?

Maybe Dad didn’t see it as a risk. Maybe he saw it as part of the job. He’s a consummate professional.

Like Bill Clinton.

Best-case scenario. Benefit of the doubt. It was an innocent friendship. Here’s this young woman. She and her friend — what’s the friend’s name?


She and Trish are grad students in public administration. They go on what they call “political field trips” where they visit the offices of House members and have their photo taken with them. One day, they visit the representative from Ilona’s home town. Trish talks herself into an internship in the office, but Ilona, Ilona’s already interning at the Bureau of Prisons. But she and Dad get to be friends. They call each other often. Maybe there’s an element of flirtation, maybe not. Then she disappears. He is questioned. He tries, perhaps misguidedly, to protect her reputation, and as a result he is crucified in the media. Anything could have happened to that girl. She could have let herself get picked up by a serial killer in a bar. She went jogging alone at night. This is not a bright girl.

You don’t know that. She was an independent adult.

She was having an affair with a married womanizer congressman.

Have you never been involved in a stupid doomed self-destructive affair? Love, sex, whatever, makes you do stupid things. That doesn’t mean you’re stupid. That doesn’t mean you routinely put your life in danger.

May I answer the question? No, I’ve never been involved in a stupid affair.

Have you ever been involved in a smart affair?

Well, Alma, I’ve not been a perfect man.


(Pause. AVERY sips his beer.)

One thing you can say: now everyone in the 18th district knows who their congressman is.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

13P in the house (in the next room, of course).

13P onstage at Joe's Pub. Ruhl above head standing in way of camera. (Photo: Jim Baldassare)
Are there any young writers that you are particularly interested in? Maybe anybody you've mentored or whose work you just enjoy watching and following?
SARAH RUHL: Yes. I just did a panel yesterday with Annie Baker, who I think is really something. I thought Circle Mirror Transformation was really lovely. And all my colleagues at 13P — a group of writers. There are 13 of us, and we're our own artistic directors of our own plays. The group came about because we were all sick of [the endless development of our plays], so here, we don't just develop our plays but can throw them up without a huge budget. Young Jean Lee is in the group. Rob Handel, Winter Miller, Anne Washburn. I'm really fascinated by everything that that group does.

(Complete interview at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010


It has come to the present writer's attention that his mother reads this blog. Sadly, this makes it impossible for him to promote the work of his esteemed colleague Michael R. Jackson, whose cabaret at Joe's Pub tonight is called So Fucking Gay.

Michael is the author of the best musical you have never seen, Only Children, which is an adaptation of Wedekind's play Spring Awakening and can be distinguished from that other musical by two distinguishing factors:

(A) It actually adapts the play, by resetting it in the present time, and therefore a world in which teenagers are not shielded from the facts of life but are assaulted by them every moment, treading water in a sea of internet pornography from before they can read.

(B) It is a courageous act of art and social analysis.

Cabaret performance clips here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

As Samuel Johnson might have said

 It's the city of the world. It's a city where every place, every culture, seems to have a nook. If you're interested in the world, as most artists tend to be, you're going to be interested in New York.

Junot Díaz, from the video Do Playwrights Love New York? (via Jorge Cortiñas)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

On not shooting yourself in the foot

This may be the best blog post ever from David Bower. Read the whole thing.

Only submit worksamples that represent you well. Does it have your spirit? Does it have your voice? Does it match the level of thought that you put into the work you put on stage or on the page? A worksample that seems out of synch with the company will confuse the panel. A worksample that seems out of synch with the application will create distrust. A worksample that is poorly chosen, produced, or executed will irrevocably turn them off. No matter how much we talk on these panels about the challenges of getting good documenation of work in this sector, people ARE figuring out effective ways to represent themselves and those people remain standing at the end of the worksample reviews. The rest fall off the list.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Report: Government Science Funders Less Chicken Than Government Art Funders

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $700,000 grant to the Civilians, a New York theater company, to finance the production of a show about climate change. (NYTimes, via

A great opportunity - New Dramatists seeks spring interns

Bernard B. Jacobs Internship Program 

New Dramatists seeks interns to assist in all areas of administration in supporting a company of resident playwrights. The New Dramatists internship experience offers a unique opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a professional, non-profit arts organization in New York City. As essential members of the New Dramatists staff, the interns provide administrative, maintenance, creative, and clerical support. They serve as the first face of New Dramatists, staffing our front office and serving as liaisons to the many professionals who seek out our resident playwrights’ work. In addition to stage managing for play readings and workshops, the interns work as full-time assistants in our Literary, Casting, Development and Administrative offices. While the interns are not hired within a specific department, their professional aspirations often guide their experience to be focused on a particular discipline.

The New Dramatists internship program provides crucial early-career training to theatrical professionals and has proven to be a reliable stepping stone to careers both within the field as well as at New Dramatists specifically. Two of our current staff members previously held internships here: Morgan Allen (General Manager) and Erin Detrick (Artistic Programs Administrator). Several of our current resident playwrights also once held New Dramatists internships: David Adjmi, Zakiyyah Alexander, Jason Grote, Deborah Stein, and Anne Washburn.

An internship with New Dramatists provides great exposure to the playwright’s process, and serious involvement in the many workshops and readings that happen in the building. Our interns are invited to all of New Dramatists’ public events and are given access to complimentary tickets to Broadway and Off- Broadway productions. Throughout the season, we offer several intern workshops led by our resident playwrights and staff. These workshops focus on the craft of playwriting, on issues affecting the industry, on careers in the theatre, or on topics of interest specifically voiced by the interns. Recent workshops include sessions with Daniel Alexander Jones, David Grimm, Adam Bock, Sarah Ruhl, Anne Washburn & Dominic Taylor.

The best candidates will thrive in a fast-paced environment, have strong written communication skills, computer and general office skills, work well independently, and be incredibly organized. Self-motivated, enthusiastic individuals excel in such an environment, because an internship at New Dramatists is truly what you make of it.

Application Details: A complete application should include: 1) the application form; 2) a statement of interest; 3) two letters of recommendation from theatre professionals; and 4) your resume. Visit our website to fill out an application. The application deadline for the spring internship (January 3 – May 27) is December 1. (There are also internship periods in the summer and fall.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

the drama of extremely small situations

I recommend this great interview with new-play director Sam Gold.

“I’m interested in the drama of extremely small situations,” he said. “So the questions that Kim’s play asks — like ‘Can I get out of bed in the morning?’ — to me are really interesting dramatic questions, as opposed to whether or not I’m going to fulfill the prophecy of sleeping with my mother.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I think of him as a modern-day Virgil, if Virgil was homeless in New York.

These Healeys are what Ezra Pound would have called a "darned clever bunch." You may or may not be able to follow this link to a September 17 New York Times article about Cruel Puppet Collective, which is building a Dante Inferno from real-life stories of New York City Public Transit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Musicals are crazy. And wonderful. And strange.

Doesn't it sometimes seem that every press release about a new musical sounds like (a) a terrible idea for a musical that might turn out to be brilliant, (b) a terrible idea for a musical that will, in fact, turn out to be terrible, or (c) an adaptation of a property that should almost certainly be left in its original form? (Were I not so determined to avoid whining – even though this is a blog about writing plays – I would complain here about the way the producers of Leap of Faith: The Musical refer to the fifty-bloody-third most popular movie of 1992 as "the hit film of the same name.")

The truth is, it is nearly impossible to predict which harebrained scheme will work and which won't. Which is as good a reason to love theatre as any.

These thoughts are prompted by We Have Always Lived in the Castle, now playing at Yale Rep and based on a cult novel so beloved and flawless that you'd have to be nuts to touch it. Luckily, the nuts in this case (Adam Bock, Anne Kauffman) are the kind who invariably have a method to their madness.

Now available in blood red

Millicent Scowlworthy is now available from Samuel French. (Aphrodisiac is coming soon.)

PORTER: Remember when you’re a kid, and you get in trouble for fighting? You know the other kid started it. You know you’re innocent. You try to explain this, but the adult never wants to know who started it. Never cares who’s to blame. Everyone gets in trouble equally. So one of the first things you learn about civilization is that there’s no justice.

7M, 5F. Perfect for extremely violent high schools.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My kind of gimmick (and title): Panic! Euphoria! Blackout

When you buy a ticket to Talking Band's upcoming show, Panic! Euphoria! Blackout, you become a shareholder of the performance you're attending. The more people who buy a ticket to that performance, the greater the dividend. So do your part and reap the rewards.

This is how it works:

Purchase a ticket online at or call 212.352.3101. 
You will receive an email confirming your purchase and you can then track the current value of your shares. Bring your reservation confirmation to the theatre where you will receive your stock certificate and cash dividend.