Friday, November 25, 2005

MINOTAURS. TOREROS. Diary: Why this play now?

Met with Jen Swain today about the play and our submisiion package for STL. She is a wonderful dramaturg, and credits Oscar Eustis with teaching her well at the Trinity rep Conservatory for that.

We got down to some of the bones of the play. The best question she asked was, "Why this play right now?" She went on to say that this is a question she asks herself about any play she considers directing. How is this play of the moment? Why should we do it now? How does it lend itself to the present?

What a cool way to think about it.

The answer to that question will take some more noodling on my part -- but it has to do with the Minotaur -- aren't we all like the Minotaur -- at least a little? How do we deal with our Minotaur nature? And how is the Minotaur something mostly human? Why do we struggle so hard to kill it rather than understand it?

Something like that, anyway.

More to think about -- and a deadline to meet in a few days!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Viewpoints workshop at NTI

Members of the SITI Company were in-house at the O'Neill National Theater Institute last week. I attended a public viewing of some of the work thi past Saturday. For more info about NTI visit

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Doctor Faustus - a tragical tale

Saw DOCTOR FAUSTUS at Connecticut College last night, directed by my friend Donny Levit. It held my interest throughout, although the undergraduate cast was uniformly earnest and so a little drab -- that is until the 7 deadly sind showed up. The show never lost the fun and energy they brought to liven up the joint.

In the end, bad things for Faustus. This was Marlowes version after all.

Thanks to masks and wicked imagery the ensemble cast was able to change roles and weave an interesting evening of theater of the damned.

Friday, November 18, 2005

MINOTAURS. TOREROS. Diary: Set a meeting

I've set a date for next Wednesday to meet with my friend and theater director Jen Swain to talk about MINOTAURS. TOREROS. (That's the play about the woman matador.)

We'll be talking about the plan for further development of the work, and what materials to inlcude in a package we'll be sending out to Sundance Theatre Lab regarding the play. The STL deadline is at the end of this month -- so we've got a few to things to pull together in order to send out a proposal.

Jen's a great director, and I hope we'll get a chance to workshop this play as a team at some point in 2006.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

YANKEE TRADER Diary: Director chat

This is my first entry regarding A YANKEE TRADER. Seems the play won the Virtual Theatre Project's The Pen is a Mighty Sword contest -- so I'll get $2000 and a pro production (most likely in LA -- but they're checking into Boston as a possibility).

Talked with my director for the first time today -- Ian Vogt. He'll be directing A YANKEE TRADER out in LA next year. We seem to be on the same page regarding our approaches to theater -- which is cool.

He'll read thru the play a couple more times and we'll talk more after the holiday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reading-Up on women matadors

I'm working on a play that I wrote while at the ACA -- the first "bake-off" about the minotaur/labyrinth/icarus myth... the result of which was Minotaurs. Toreros.

I'm now in the middle of an investigation into the whole business of the Spanish Bullfight -- particularly how women matadors opperate. My play is centered on a woman matador named Miura. I took her name from a ranch that is famous for producing unpredictable and deadly bulls.

In fact, all of the characters names come from either bull fighting history or Lorca.

I'm also investigating the various aspects of the Greek myth of the Minotaur-- his death at the hands of Theseus; his birth by Pasiphae; and his betrayal by his half-sister Ariadne. I've learned that the Minotaur had a name -- Asterius -- although this is hardly ever mentioned.

So, I'm reading lots o' books that I've borrowed from the library or purchased on e-bay and am taking lots o' notes.

That's the word from my playwritig world at the moment.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Poetry In Notion at the Arts Café Mystic

Taking time to reflect and listen, to focus and think, to imagine and realize, this is what a poetry reading is all about. Poetry, after all, requires time and patience. At the Arts Café Mystic it is also about the time spent together with the poet.

The atmosphere is relaxed and congenial in the main gallery of the Mystic Arts Center. Tables are set throughout the room surrounded by white plastic chairs, like a garden party, with portraits and landscapes lining the horizon in all directions. The poetry and the art are a good match, and combined with java and juice provided by local eateries, make each Arts Café a treat for all the senses.

The most recent event featured Stephen Dobyns, an accomplished poet, essayist, and fiction writer, who now resides in Westerly, RI. Preceding his reading was Co Co Beaux, an all-male a cappella singing ensemble from Connecticut College, and local writer and poet Daniel Gula.

Arts Café organizer Christie Max Williams said the mix of music an poetry was part of the original idea over ten years ago, and still works. “The idea was to present nationally prominent poets and writers, and give local writers an appropriate forum, and combine it with music,” Williams said.

The idea seems to be catching on. As the evening progressed more and more chairs had to be pulled from the back room to seat latecomers.

The evening began with Williams acting as MC, welcoming the crowd and making introductions. He reminded people about the donation baskets raising funds for the young poet awards that would be granted in the spring, and made announcements regarding upcoming poetry events in the region, encouraging continued support and attendance.

When the series was first imagined, Williams said, 'There was a little poetry movement out and about the region.” An opportunity like the Arts Café, bring accomplished poets to the area to share their work, seemed a good fit. “There is a core audience,” noted Williams, and he has been encouraged that the community around the series continues to grow.

One new face in the crowd this season is that of Ryan O'Connell, a junior at Ledyard High School and a budding writer. “I've always been attracted to the poet reading their own work. I can take the words as I hear them.” O'Connell was seated next to his creative writing teacher from school.

O'Connell noticed during his first visit to the Arts Café earlier this season that he was the youngest person there. He is sometimes frustrated by his peers disregard of poetry, “They don't have time to read a poem.”

With an evening like the Arts Café O'Connell believes that younger people could be drawn by the poetry/music combination. “There's the opening poet, then the music wakes everybody up, and then the featured poet who everybody comes to see, and you're really listening.”

After the reading O'Connell approached Stephen Dobyns, shook his hand, and presented the honored poet with two volumes of poetry, one crisp and new purchased that evening at the book table, and the other bent and dog-eared. Dobyns graciously signed and returned both to the aspiring writer, speaking a few words before turning his attention to the next patron standing nearby.

O'Connell stood with his books, “I've always been attracted to things on the page. It's something physical, you can take it home with you.”

That sort of exchange is part of the Arts Café experience said Williams, “You're going to encounter poets who are accessible to their audience.”

It was interesting to watch Dobyns take to the podium. A substantial man with thinning white hair, he had to bend a bit to get near the microphone. Sifting through marked pages, he read to us without looking up. Far from being a showman, Dobyns spoke with restraint, allowing the words and the images they conjured to do the work.

Williams put it this way, “I think the Arts Café can be viewed as one of those out of the ordinary adventures. If you ask somebody out to a poetry reading it says something about you.” He added, “It's a relatively inexpensive destination. Cheaper than a movie.”

Between the music, the poetry, the art, and the cookies, the Arts Café Mystic proved to be a good Friday night out. While the event seems simple, it is actually a lot of work sustained by a host of volunteers.

“It's fairly involved,” said Williams in his understated, breezy manner. The committee does a lot of reading to discover possible poets, there is booking and travel arrangements, finding appropriate music groups, setting up and taking down the tables, selling tickets and greeting people at the door.

The Arts Café Mystic will present a trio of poetry/music events in the spring, including recognition of young poets from the region. Additionally, Stephen Dobyns will be conducting a talk on the creative process of writing on November 30th at the Westerly Library.

Williams is committed to the growth of the community around the series, and that the experience of hearing poets read their works remains inviting, “The words are transformed and magnified when we sit in a common room together.”

For more information and schedules contact The Arts café Mystic at the Mystic Arts Center, 9 Water Street, Mystic, CT 860-536-5680,

The Westerly Library call 401-596-2877 or toll-free 1-866-460-2677.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Bright Room Called Day - Elemental

Photo: Deb, Michael and Heidi at the door for A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY in Providence.

The Elemental Theatre Company put together an outstanding production of Tony Kushner's A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY, which closed this past Sunday in Providence.

The play itself , written prior to the milestone Angels in America, is a mixed bag of momentum, heart, and pathos, and could easily have taken a turn for the overwrought or maudlin. This production, directed by Peter Sampieri, played it as a mix of truth and terror, with just the right amount of humor to mix some air and light into the heavy ideas and realities of the play-world.

Centered around a group of friends living in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party, the play tumbles forward through time, landing in our own present-day paranoia. The two times effect one-another, and draw occasionally heavy-handed comparisons from the Nazis to the Republicans in the White House.

This is obviously an early play from Kushner, but still, it is exciting, vital, and of the moment, always engaging and never lagging. The play is brimming with important world themes that Kushner has since delved into more fully and subtly thru his body of work over the years. But evident throughout is the voice of a master playwright. His turns of language and thought are always true to the world of the play and owned by the characters. The movements backward and forward in time are precise and warrented.

Of course, without a talented cast, and an insightful director, this difficult play would have been a muddle. Kudos to the Elemental Theatre Company. I look forward to seeing their work in the future.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

2recent outings to trinity Rep

I've been going to a lot of theater in Providence lately. This is the first year that I've subscribed to the entire Trinity season. Last month I saw The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- a flawed play -- too freakin' long -- but a fun production of that flawed play was worth the trip.

I wish i could say the same for Suddenly Last Summer. An over-wrought production of an under-wrought playlet. Perhaps 50 years ago this play was shocking and surprising, but not anymore. The fully-realized-realistic set served as an opressive reminder of how far from the mark this work by Tennessee Williams is.

The only strength the play has is its evocative use of language, the imagery inherant in the language, and the heightened poetic form. By placing it in a highly detailed realistic setting the production seemed at odds -- and the poetic language was hammered into the "real-world" with dissapointing results.

A sparser production would have highlighted the language instead of overpowering it. The language would have been the landscape and we would have traveled with it with our imaginations, instead of scoffing at the old-fashioned morality and non-shock of the "shocking" ending. Having the grand house split and spill with light through its cracks did nothing for the final moments of the play except to underscore how much better something unreal would have served the entire production.