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Entries in Playwright (84)

Friday
Aug252017

Call Answered: Nancy Holson: "Me The People" at the Triad Theater

November 8, 2016 was doomsday for a lot of people. Since then, everyone has been finding their own way to get this dingbat removed from the White House.

Well, Emmy award winning writer Nancy Holson has found her way to fight the resistance...she has written a hilarious new show called Me The People, a musical revue lampooning #45. It's an uproarious take on the craven, self-dealing Trump agenda intent on tearing apart our government and building a stupid wall. The show delivers a topical, up-to-the minute mockumentary of red-white-and-orange America. You don't need to be a nasty woman, a Mexican or a Bernie-bro to find cathartic laughs in this 90-minute tonic for your 2016 election hangover.

Me The People plays at the Triad Theater (158 W. 72nd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Ave). Click here for tickets!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I was always that kid who wrote the summer camp songs for Color War and family shows for birthdays and anniversaries. When I got older I kept doing it. I ran out of friends and family, so had to expand to a larger audience. As far as political satire, I grew up with Tom Lehrer and Alan Sherman, and they were certainly inspirations.

Cast of "Me The People"2. Your latest show, Me The People, a new musical revue lampooning #45 is an uproarious take on the craven, self-dealing Trump agenda, currently playing at The Triad in NYC. When did you first think, I have to write a musical comedy about this loser? Then, when did you actually start writing the show? Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency thanks to the Electoral College (which clearly is even more of a sham than Trump University). He didn't win the popular vote - or maybe he did if you discount all the votes by dead illegal aliens who crossed state lines to vote multiple times for Hillary Clinton. Imaginary voter fraud aside, the day after the Election, after emerging from a state of shock, I knew that I needed to write this show. I began writing the day after the inauguration (the best attended inauguration EVER in ALL OF HISTORY). The Woman's March was inspiring and gave me the push I needed to put pen to paper.

3. With his ever changing craziness, what is the biggest challenge presented for you in wanting to keep the show as up-to-the-minute as possible? I've been writing political satire for 25 years. In all of this time, there has been a fairly predictable pace to the news. Well, "Dorothy," we're not in Kansas any more. This is a presidency on speed. Forget my plan to take a vacation! This guy is keeping me chained to my computer.

Opening night cookies at "Me The People"4. When was there a time when you wish you had a crystal ball to see what was going to happen so you would have had more time to write one of the scenes in the show? I can handle making the changes I need to make to keep the show current, but I sure would like to have a crystal ball so that I could glimpse the joyous day, hopefully in the not too distant future, when this dangerous charlatan is impeached.

5. What was the hardest part of the show to write? What was the most fun? The hardest part of writing this show was living in the country which actually produced and elected Donald Trump. The most fun part is going to be closing the show because he is no longer in office.

6. What is a scenario you wanted to have in the show, but for whatever reason, you just didn't put it in? I did do a number with Trump and his three wives, where they took multiple cheap shots at him, from his small hands to his obsession with big towers. It was pretty satisfying to write a bunch of nasty dick jokes, but ultimately it didn't serve our purpose of dissecting the Trump agenda with intelligence and class.

7. How did writing Me The People help you? In all seriousness, I believe that in this dark time, all of us must step up and do whatever we can to try to make a difference. Writing ME THE PEOPLE is my contribution to the resistance.

Cast of "Me The People"8. Everybody is looking to laugh these days as this tyrant has caused so much heartache for our world. At the same time, people just want to find a way to escape from this monster and all that he is doing, which is, I feel, why people look to the world of entertainment. For someone who wants to laugh about this dork, but is hesitant to come see show about him, what are reasons they should come see Me The People? Many people have said to me that this situation is so dire that there is no way that they can laugh. However, after they see ME THE PEOPLE, they tell me that not only did they laugh their asses off, but that by the end of the show, they felt a real sense release and even catharsis.  It will be the bigliest catharsis EVER!

9. What is one or two of your favorite audience reactions from seeing the show? We end the show with a segment which encourages the audience to sing lyrics which suggest in impolite parlance, that the president has sex with himself. It's a riot to see the whole audience - especially the old ladies - giving the president the finger and yelling obscenities at him.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. I normally ask my participants what is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day. But for this interview I want to know, what is something you feel we can do 1% better everyday to get this fucker out of the white house? I love this section! So let me get on my soap box. All of us need to engage with politics. We need to be educated and informed - there is such a thing as REAL news. In a Democracy, we cannot afford to sit back. We need to be realistic, which means that there are times we need to compromise - you may not get the candidate you love. But you need to VOTE!!!

Nancy HolsonMore on Nancy:

Nancy Holson is an Emmy-award winning writer, director and producer whose 25-year career spans the worlds of commercial live theater, corporate theater, and television. Nancy wrote, co-produced and co-directed the long-running hit show The News In Revue (1992 - 2011), on PBS (5 Emmy Awards), NPR, Off Broadway, the Berkshires and numerous venues from coast to coast. Writer/Director/and/or Producer - Off Broadway: Bush Wars and Ludwig Live! NYC and Regional: Parenting 101: The MusicalDear Mom, Can I Really Date A Guy Who Wears A Yarmulke? London: Ludwig Live! Her new piece, Nutcracker! The Musical, had its initial productions in New York and London. Nancy believes that we all need to resist the horrors foisted upon us by the Trump administration in whatever means we can, and Me The People is her way of using her voice.

Friday
Jul212017

Call Redialed: Conference Call: Marina Tempelsman and Nicco Aeed: "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark" at HERE

Niccolo Aeed and Marina TempelsmanOnce again Marina & Nicco have answered my call! Their haunting comedy Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark is returning to the stage, but this time, the run is at HERE. In an unconventional staging, the audience lends a hand by lighting the stage for a couple that is literally, and figuratively, feeling their way through the dark. Flashlights will be provided.

In Unpacking, a happy couple has just moved into their new home. But the novelty of homeownership quickly fades as they face a sea of boxes, a major blackout, and, shortly thereafter, the ghosts of all their past relationships. The newest play combines two of our biggest fears: the dark and commitment.

This production will feature Temesgen Tocruray as "Anthony," SJ Son as "Melissa," Emily Mathwich as "Serena," Jeff Solomon as "James," Monique Moses as "Lona," Odera Adimorah as "Lou," and Sarah Heveron-Smith as "Catherine."

Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark is written & directed by Nicco Aeed, Written & Produced by Marina Tempelsman, Produced by Michelle Francesca Thomas, with Set Design by Ally Spier, & Lighting Design by Kaitlyn Cecchetti.

Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark will play July 26-August 13 at HERE (145 6th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Marina and Nicco be sure to visit http://www.marinaandnicco.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Funny or Die!

1. This summer you're show Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark is returning for a new run a HERE! What made now the right time to bring this show back, as opposed to say, around Halloween?

Marina Tempelsman: We were particularly excited for it to go up this summer, since the Fringe is on hiatus. Our play (and the rest of HERE’s SubletSeries and other curated rental programs like it) are testaments to how independent theater will always find a way to thrive.

Nicco Aeed: I bet our ghosts would be upset if we only thought of them during Halloween when I feel like they’re putting in hard work haunting us year round. I bet something is haunting you in July, and if something is haunting you, it’s the right time to see this play.

I’m also pushing 30, and I feel like everyone’s coupling up and having babies, creating new lives and moving away from old ones. I guess maybe it’s a feeling that will be around during Halloween, but who knows if America will be around then, so why wait?

2. What did you learn from the previous run at The People's Improv that will make this run better?

Marina Tempelsman: Well, one major thing we learned is that the flashlights get dimmer as the battery power fades. The second show in our first run was probably a littttttle darker than we intended. But it still looked great!

Nicco Aeed: Yeah there were a lot of flashlight and lighting based discoveries, but I think the thing I learned that stuck with me most is that it’s a blast to watch couples watch this play. Couples definitely move closer together and further away from each other depending on the scene. There’s something voyeuristic about watching the play on the stage, but also it’s fun to be a voyeur of the audience as well.

Jeff Solomon in the original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly3. In this show, the stage is lit by the audience, who's holding flashlights throughout the show. What was the funniest thing that happened as a result of this in the show's previous run?

Marina Tempelsman: It’s funny to see the different types of flashlight holders that emerge. You get the voyeurs, who really hone in on the action of the stage, and the sleuths, who are hellbent on making sure nothing’s going to surprise them in some dark corner.

Nicco Aeed: The audience seems to mostly act like a collective group of fireflies following cast members as move off and on stage.

4. Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark is part mystery, part romance, and part comedy. You have been working together since 2006, both in performance & writing. What part of your relationship is a mystery? What part is romantic? What part is comedic?

Marina Tempelsman: Someone recently said "You’ve been working together for 11 years? You must know EVERYTHING about each other." But I think in a good writing partnership you’re always surprising each other with new ideas and experiences, even as your minds meld in some respects.

Ours is a deep friendship and a writing partnership -- we’re not dating and never have. It’s not a romantic relationship, except in that creating worlds together and being a part of each other’s creative process is an intimate thing to do. Seeing early drafts of each other’s work is, I guess, the collaborator equivalent of seeing a significant other put in their retainer before going to bed. (Nicco thinks this is very funny and true).

Nicco Aeed: Yeah none of our relationship is romantic. People sometimes seem surprised by that or wish there was a juicier story but we disappoint them. That being said yeah, knowing someone for 11 years does NOT mean that new mysteries aren’t revealed all the time. I heard that all the cells in your body die and are replaced within seven years, so on like a cellular level I have known like at least two completely different Marina’s and she’s seen a couple different me’s. The funnest part of the mystery is seeing who we’ll be and what we’ll create in the future. (Marina loves this answer).

Temesgen Tocruray and Priya Patel in the original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly5. This show is about a couple, who shortly after moving in together, begin to see the ghosts of their past relationships in every moving box and unpainted corner. When you and Nicco write together, what ghosts do you see in each other?

Marina Tempelsman: This is a really interesting question. I think that we see ghosts in any long-standing relationship, romantic or not. Nicco and I have never dated, but we’ve written together for almost eleven years. There are times where I feel like I can feel snapshots of past-us in our meetings, though (unlike the characters in the play) I tend to react to those feelings more with a sense of security in how our writing and our process has evolved. Take any life stage, add a pinch of time and nostalgia or uncertainty, and boom! There are the ghosts.

Nicco Aeed: Yeah we wanna emphasize this is NOT a romantic relationship. It’s more like what "Marley" and "Scrooge" had in A Christmas Carol. I’d probably see Marina’s ghost before I saw the ghost of The One That Got Away, or a haunting vision of my children in the future.

But what would be our ghosts? Once in college, we did a show in Philly where there were more people on stage than in the audience, and there were like four people on stage. That’s always a little haunting. But mostly I don’t feel like I see ghosts in our relationship, because that would’ve meant something in our relationship died or ended or just went away but our relationship is immortal and undying.

6. The play is about the pieces of ourselves that we just can't (or don't want to) let go of. What pieces of yourselves can't you or don't you want to let go of?

Marina Tempelsman: This is a tough question to answer! I feel like part of growing up is just feeling safe and secure in letting go of the traits and things in your life that no longer serve you. I feel lucky that I have people around me who tend to nurture the good parts of me, and make the "letting go" process much less painful. But I’m a very nostalgic person in general, so even when I know I’m evolving past something in a good or productive way I tend to get emotional about it.

Nicco Aeed: Such personal questions, Adam! I feel like spaces are haunted for me, and that no matter if I feel like I’ve left something behind for good, if I go back to a certain place (the apartment I was a kid in and grew up in, or visit my old high school) as soon as I step through the threshold I’m brought back to the person I was when I spent time in that place.

Rasheda Crockett in the original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly7. When in your life have you felt your way through the dark?

Marina Tempelsman: When I stayed in an AirBnB that had no lamps and the lightswitch was all the way on the other side of the room opposite the bed.

But also, I think feeling your way through the dark is a pretty apt way of describing trying to pursue a life in the arts. It can be very hard to orient yourself and know when you’re making forward progress, when there’s no clearly-defined context for what a career track can or should look like.

Nicco Aeed: Good answer Marina. Yeah career is definitely a place where I’m feeling my way through the dark.

8. What is one ghost that you still have yet to unpack?

Marina Tempelsman: I think that we’re constantly making new ghosts for ourselves as we live life, make decisions, and live with the memories or the what-ifs. And I should also say not all ghosts feel bad to see -- sometimes it’s comforting to be visited by what once was or what could have been. There’s a beautiful passage in Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire, where a character talks about how the feeling of grief evolves.

She says "At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under, and carry around — like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: 'Oh, right. That.' Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda...not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is…fine, actually."

Of course not all ghosts are driven by grief, but I do feel that they generally come from some sort of friction with your current reality. And sometimes bringing traces of the past or what could have been into your reality is comforting.

Nicco Aeed: I think parents (living or dead) are ghosts you have to unpack for the whole of your life. What I admire in my parents and what I see of them in me changes at every age I'm in. As you realize how many people you become as you live and grow older, it makes you realize how much of your parents you didn’t know throughout your life.

Oh yeah, maybe it’s worth talking about happy ghosts. I think anytime you experience something beautiful, something really beautiful, that you know a picture won’t do justice, that when described to friends they won’t really appreciate how awesome that moment was, those things are haunting. That beauty is passing and short and something that you have to work to keep with you in your memories.

The original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly9. What is one aspect of your life that is like an unpainted corner?

Marina Tempelsman: I just had chunks of plaster drop straight out of my ceiling a few months ago, and I FINALLY got that repainted this weekend. So that’s the only unpainted corner I have on the brain and it is officially taken care of.

Nicco Aeed: I feel like I’ve lived in a couple apartments where the bathroom ceiling has fallen in a couple times. Though it does get plastered back up there, it never gets painted. Oh but you mean metaphorically?

10. If you had to choose five "Ghost" themed songs, movies, or TV shows to describe this show, which ones would you use?

Marina Tempelsman: Oh, interesting question! So there is quite a bit of music in the show, but I’ll try to exclude those songs from this answer. I would say…

It’s not exaaaactly a ghost TV show, but I do feel like The Good Place seems related, both tonally and thematically. It’s funny and poignant, but it’s also about characters trying to overcome their circumstances by sheer force of will -- and eventually coming around to acknowledging that it takes something more profound to bring about the change they need.

And WOW I’m drawing a blank, now! I guess ghost movies tend to be scary (unlike this show, which is largely a comedy and drama), and I hate scary movies. So I don’t see a lot. Nicco, what do you think?

Nicco Aeed: Below is a weird youtube mixtape just for you Adam! It’s a bit ecclectic but all about the past:

Chris Pureka Covering Haunted

Relevant Lyrics: We are all alive but you would never know

We walk side by side like invisible ghosts

Everyone is lonely and everyone is sad

We all want the things that we have never had

I got somethin' to say but no one's here

We march on and on and we damn the fear

But we are haunted

Office Musik (Lil Wayne Hustler Music/The Office Themesong mashup)

Relevant Lyrics: See I be riding, just riding alone

With my daddy on my mind

Like you gotta be kidding

How the hell you ain't here

To see your prince do his thing

Sometimes I wanna drop a tear

But no emotions from a king

Juke Jam by Chance the Rapper

Relevant Lyrics: We never rolled at the rink

We would just go to the rink

You ain't buy tokens no more

You just hip roll at the rink

You had a man then, I couldn't stand him

But when they play "Take You Down", Chris Brown,

I am his stand-in

I mean it's just dancing

It's harmless as fuck

Then I put my waist through your hips and your legs in my arms just to harness you up

Then we hit the floor

All the kiddies stopped skating

To see grown folks do

What grown folks do

When they grown 

And they dating

Space Captain by Joe Cocker

Relevant Lyrics: Until we die, until we die

We are just learning to live together

Learning to live together

Learning to live together

Till we die

New Lover by Josh Ritter

Relevant Lyrics: Praise the water under bridges, the time they say will heal

Praise the fonder, that still grows on the absent heart and fields

Praise be to this pain, these days it's all I seem to feel.

But I will not chase your shadow as you go from room to room,

Droppin' handkerchiefs and daggers, smokin' guns and other clues

For what someone did with someone and who did what to whom.

I've got a new lover now, I hope you've got a lover too.

 

Marina TempelsmanNicco AeedMore on Marina and Nicco:

Marina and Nicco are playwrights and screenwriters based in New York, who emerged from the underground sketch comedy scene. Their most recent play, Room 4, was met with sold-out shows, standing ovations, and was listed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick in addition to receiving international coverage. Prior to Room 4, that they were playwrights-in-residence at The Peoples Improv Theater, and Marina Tempelsman’s play Simon’s Street ran at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre for eight months.

In addition to their theatrical work, their sketches and videos have been featured in The New Yorker's Shorts and Murmurs, on Comedy Central, and Funny or Die. They wrote for Morgan Spurlock’s Call Bullshit, and were finalists in the LA Film Festival Make Em LAFF competition -- in addition to their regular live shows at major comedy theaters in New York. They co-wrote the feature film Delusions of Guinevere, which was called "a surprisingly dark satire of modern celebrity" by The Village Voice and "sly and smart" by The New York Times. They have also written several pilots, a radio play series (MURDER!), and a number of original plays. They just finished a six-month playwriting residency at The PIT, and are currently developing an original web series for BRIC TV.

Friday
Jun162017

Call Answered: Doug DeVita: The Phillie Trilogy at Fresh Fruit Festival

Doug DeVitaI first came to know Doug DeVita when he was the Marketing Director of the Abingdon Theatre Company. He invited to me Abingdon's production of Marathon '33 where I met special guest Lane Bradbury, the original "Dainty June" in Gypsy starring Ethel Merman. Lane seemed to be the thread that kept us going, reuniting us for Lane Bradbury: Let Me Entertain You, Again which Doug wrote. I loved that show and am so excited to see Doug's latest play The Phillie Trilogy which will be part of this year's Fresh Fruit Festival July 19-23.

The Phillie Trilogy is about Phillie growing up gay in the "fabulous" 70s which was no picnic for the precocious "Phillie McDougal." Through nuns, priests, bullying classmates, parents – and years later the realization his best friend may not be the person he thought she was – he lived to tell the tales, with results no one bargained for. Including him.

The Phillie Trilogy will play in the 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival at The Wild Project (195 East 3rd Street, between Avenue A & B) on July 19 at 6:30pm, July 22 at 4:30pm, and July 23 at 3:30pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Doug be sure to visit https://www.dougdevitaplays.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. I first came to know you when you worked at Abingdon Theatre Company as their Director of Marketing, but now you have switched gears and started writing more plays. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? There were many roads I took to becoming a playwright; in addition to my career in the advertising world – which paid the bills – I was always concurrently involved in theatre. I’ve acted, I’ve directed, I was Artistic Director of the now-defunct Westside Repertory Theatre for a brief stint, and I even wrote reviews for OOBR (Off-Off Broadway Review) for a few years (until I realized I hated the person it was turning me into). It was while I was writing for OOBR that I developed a friendship with Carrie Libling, the head of Vital Children’s Theater, and she’s the one who cajoled, prodded, and pushed me into writing my first produced play – I wrote the book for a musical based on the enchanting Charles and Mary Lamb prose version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest; in the early 19th century, the Lambs wrote adaptations for children of most of the Bard’s plays, and they’re truly delightful. After the success of The Tempest, Vital commissioned another one from me (As You Like It), which was another success for them. I was then invited by another writer to collaborate on some more "adult" fare; I haven’t stopped writing since.

2. Your latest play, The Phillie Trilogy is going to be part of the 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival. Why did you want this show to be part of this festival? I’ve generally avoided festivals in the past; they’re a lot of work, they cost a lot of money, and I hate, loathe, and despise self-producing. But I’m a submission junkie, and last year I sent Fresh Fruit the script for my play The Fierce Urgency Of Now, not expecting anything. Well, it was accepted into the festival, and after a lot of hemming and hawing on my part (and some more prodding, this time from my friend Bob Ost, who’d done the Fresh Fruit Festival already and had a very positive experience) I decided, "What the hell, let’s do it." And it was a dream experience. They’re a smaller festival, so there’s a lot of attention paid to details, they’re a wonderfully warm, human group of people to work with, and the tone set by Executive Director Louis Lopardi and Artistic Director Liz Thaler invites you to really feel like you’re a part of something magical. There was no question in my mind – or in the mind of my brilliant director, Dennis Corsi ­– that we would submit The Phillie Trilogy this year. After several readings, and having won Scrap Mettle Arts Emerging Playwrights Program’s inaugural competition last year, Dennis and I felt it was time to see Phillie on his feet, and Fresh Fruit was the perfect place for this first steps. Again, there were no expectations we’d even be accepted, but we’re thrilled that we were.

"The Phillie Trilogy" 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival cast, Front: Maeve Press (Barbie), Daniel G. Cunningham (Keith/Jude), Bonale Fambrini (Phillie). Back: Carole Monferdini (Older Grace/Lina), Karen Irwin (Younger Grace/Barbara), Terri Kelsey (Veronica/Sheila), David Sabella (Pete/Philip).3. The Phillie Trilogy tells the tale of budding writer "Phillie McDougal" and the struggles he went through growing up gay in the "fabulous" 70s including the realization his best friend may not be the person he thought she was. How do you think "Phillie's" realization about his friend will affect his future friendships? Not a clue. The play ends with that question, actually; I’ve been asked many times what happens to "Philip" and "Barbara," and my answer is always the same: "Not a clue. What’s your fantasy?"

4. What do you think made "Phillie" able to survive all the hurt he encountered throughout his life to keep going as opposed to giving up? His wit. And his ability to realize that even though he had a contentious relationship with his parents – who definitely raised him with a barrage of mixed signals – they ultimately gave him, albeit reluctantly on the part of his father, the freedom to become who he was meant to become.

5. What were some struggles you went through growing up gay? I was bullied mercilessly in high school; I had lit cigarettes tossed at me, I was locked into lockers, I was followed on the street by schoolmates shouting taunts at me, the gym teacher called me a tub of shit in front of the entire school during an assembly…After I graduated, I left that school and never looked back. It’s interesting to me that I have a lot of friends from grammar school – kids I haven’t seen in over 40 years – who’ve looked me up on Facebook and we’ve reconnected, but very few from high school have sought me out, nor I them. And I’m absolutely fine with that.

"The Phillie Trilogy" ​Scrap Mettle Arts Reading, October 2016 Front: Zachary Clarence as "Phillie McDougal," and Kevin Ligon as "Pete McDougal" Back: Diane Chen as "Barbie," Karen Irwin as "Veronica McDougal"6. What was the most "fabulous" thing about growing up in the 70s? The Broadway shows and performers I got to see: the original casts of A Chorus Line and Chicago, Angela Lansbury in Gypsy and Sweeney Todd, The Andrews Sisters in Over Here!, Madeline Kahn in On The Twentieth Century, Irene Worth and a very young Meryl Streep in The Cherry Orchard, Frank Langella in Dracula, George C. Scott and the brilliant Jack Gilford in Sly Fox...so many wonderful experiences! (Such a gay answer! HAHAHA!) I also loved the grittiness of New York City; many of my relatives were shocked my mother allowed a 14 year old to go into Manhattan by himself, but she understood that the city, and seeing Broadway shows, was my refuge. Being a Manhattan native herself (she was born and spent her early childhood in Hell’s Kitchen), she passed on her street smarts to me, and was confident I could take care of myself. I miss that city. Mostly I miss being able to navigate quickly through Times Square. But there was something about the scrappy, dirty, slightly dangerous New York City of the 70s that was giddily exciting, something that’s sadly missing in the somewhat sanitized yet far more dangerous version we’re living in now. New York in the 70s was like one of those seedy but entertaining carnivals: you had to be careful but if you knew how to negotiate around some of the smarmier aspects, you were fine; today it feels more like that candy-coated, brightly-colored, but terrifying island "Pinocchio" barely escapes from in Disney’s animated classic.

7. If Doug today could tell Doug of his youth three pieces of advice, what would they be? You’re better than you realize, you’re smarter than you realize, and listen to your mother. Yes, she’s a pain in the ass, but you’re more like her than you want to admit, and deep down you know she’s right, dammit.

Doug DeVita, director James Phillip Gates, and the 2017 staged-reading cast of "The Phillie Trilogy" produced by The Great Griffon / Seeking The Queer Voice Reading Series at 13th St. Rep 8. If this show is based upon any of your life events, what would you say today to those you bullied you in school? How do you react now to someone who may say an off comment about being gay? 

1: Yes, that’s you in the play. [Gives a "Bronx Cheer"]

2: Fuck off. (My husband is convinced I’m going to be shot some day).

9. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Phillie Trilogy? Since this has the word trilogy in the title, will there be two more plays after this? Second question first: It’s actually not a "trilogy" in the strictest sense; although I wrote the play in a traditional three-act structure, only the first part, titled Checking The Basement For Leaks, can stand alone as a short play; indeed, in that format it has had productions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington State. The title actually refers to the books the adult "Philip" has written; in order to clarify this (and inspired by the inspired graphic design created by Christina D’Angelo), I’m mulling a title change to Phillie’s Trilogy after this production closes. So no, there won’t be any more plays with these characters.…For the time being, at least.

What do I hope audiences come away with? I hate this question.…I want them to be entertained, first and foremost…I want them to laugh their asses off one minute and then gasp in recognition the next…I want them to have a theatrical experience that allows for a spirited post-show discussion about what they’ve just seen, perhaps over a few martinis or beers...that’s the best answer I can give without falling down that rabbit hole of self-important playwright pretension.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I try every day to be a little less judgmental, a little more forgiving, and a little less controlling. Coming from a long line of judgmental Catholic control freaks, let me tell you: It’s a bitch.

Doug DeVitaMore on Doug:

A member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Doug’s play The Fierce Urgency Of Now was produced at the 2016 Fresh Fruit festival, where it won four Fresh Fruit Awards of Distinction, including Outstanding Play, Outstanding Production for director Dennis Corsi, and two Outstanding Supporting Performance awards. Other work includes The Phillie Trilogy, which won Scrap Mettle Arts Inaugural Emerging Playwrights Program competition, and was chosen to inaugurate Great Griffon’s Seeking The Queer Voice reading series in January 2017; The Gruesomely Merry Adventures of NELL DASH, An Irrepressibly Sensible Capitalist With A Vengeance (Winner of two Winterfest Competition ’17 Awards: Best Set Design, and a Best Director nod to Dennis Corsi); and Just A Rumor (co-written with Gary Lyons) which was a semi-finalist at the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference and has had readings at New York’s Abingdon Theatre Company and London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. His ten-minute play, Checking The Basement for Leaks (the first play in The Phillie Trilogy) has been performed at the Gallery Players Black Box Festival in New York, The Driftwood Players Short Works Festival in Seattle, Ramapo College in New Jersey, and The Warner International Playwrights Festival in Connecticut. He has also collaborated with actress Lane Bradbury (the original "Dainty June" in Gypsy, starring Ethel Merman) on her one-woman show Lane Bradbury: Let Me Entertain You, Again, which was performed at the Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles, and at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York.

Doug belongs to both The 9th Floor Playwrights Collaborative and The 36th Street Writers Block (formerly Abingdon Theatre Playwrights Group 1) in Manhattan.

He has also worked as an Art director/Copywriter for such advertising agencies as Grey Global Group, J. Walter Thompson, and N.W. Ayer, and was the marketing director for Abingdon Theatre Company for four years. He is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Advertising Design Department at F.I.T. in New York. Please produce his work so this part of his life can become a (sometimes) pleasant memory.

Tuesday
May302017

Call Answered: Crystal Skillman: GREAT AGAIN: "The Test"

Crystal SkillmanWhen I saw that Crystal Skillman had a show in the 2nd Annual Women in Theatre Festival, I called and was over the moon that she answered! You see Crystal is working on two separate shows with award-winning composer Bobby Cronin, Mary & Max and The Cover (written for Glee's Ali Stroker), and anyone who reads "Call Me Adam," knows my love for Bobby! But more than her connection to Bobby, I was quite taken by the subject of Crystal's play The Test which is the show in Project Y Theatre Company's evening of plays entitled Great Again.

In The Test, an English teacher in a struggling high school readies her junior students for the most important test of their lives. But when a symbol of hate appears in her classroom, she and two students on either side of the recent election find their lives forever changed.

The Test will play at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street, off 10th Avenue) from June 1-24. Click here for tickets!

For more on Cyrstal be sure to visit http://www.crystalskillman.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to be a playwright? While I was in a lot of plays (acting in various groups growing up - where I was always in the back row - clearly acting wasn’t my thing…!), I loved the visual arts, and found I had a talent for photography. So I went to the Hartford Art School, then Parsons School of Design. But I took an elective playwriting class (with playwright Edward Allan Baker) and man I was hooked.

2. What made you want to write The Test? After the election, we all woke up in a new, scary world. And perhaps the scariest realization is the hate, this backwards thinking we’re seeing is more rampant and normal than we could have ever imagined. It was always around us. But now it has a voice and platform. The first thing I noticed was how all the teachers I knew (full time or as Teaching Artists) flooded my Facebook feed, or when I walked into the classroom, with the same question: Why Teach? A man who is unqualified to hold office is now President.

Why work hard? Why learn? That is the point of school to prepare you for a world that is worth being a part of. What has meaning in this new world? What has value? The day after I went into teach playwriting at a high school as guest artist. There were students there on either side of the election. Two sweet boys tried to convince me that I was lucky Trump was president. I was being protected as a woman as Hillary had "killed" people. I saw this teenage energy swirling around, struggling to understand, and processing information in such a different way. Two days later a swastika was drawn in the "Beasties Boy" park by me in Boreum Hill. We rallied, we protested, it was painted over, but can something like that ever be taken away?

Crystal Skillman and Chiori Miyagawa3. Your play, The Test is just one of two plays in Project Y Theatre Company's double bill of new plays, GREAT AGAIN, that they commissioned written as a response to the November 2016 election and presented as the centerpiece of the 2nd Annual Women in Theatre Festival dedicated to broadening opportunities for women playwrights. What went through your head when you found out The Test was going to be part of run? Chiori Miyagawa and I got that lucky call last summer. The call was about the commission. Which was cool enough, but when I realized Project Y was also going to produce the plays, I thought that was special. Scary too! I mean…that’s a fast timeline! This time around, I wrote this play a lot in my head. When I sat down to write, the words flowed. I really love this play, and the struggle "Ada" has in this play. Chiori was an integral part of reminding us to wait and see what would happen (we had entertained writing them pre-election), and to write these plays from where we are at. This place of truth. She and I became close friends through the process. I’m so happy with how imaginative the plays are. To write a play knowing it will be produced creates the best work. That is the truth. Many creators wished that theatre worked more from this system, as opposed to picking plays for slots.

4. As a female playwright, why do you feel it's important to have a theatre festival dedicated to woman writers? There are so, so many great playwrights now - and so, so many are women. These festivals are important as I find theatre systems geared to season planning are overlooking many writers who are responding to the moment, or simply the overspill from this amount of writers. Project Y saw a need, and also was interested in politics, and created a space for this kind of work. In general, the DIY culture provides us much of the meaningful theatrical experiences in this city. Sometimes they are just here briefly, sometimes they transfer, but I hope they can become more than just a product. In this new world more than ever I believe we’re looking for experiences, not just something to sell or buy. I’ve said this in a few interviews - I believe it’s this frenzy for consumerism that got us Trump.

Crystal Skillman5. In The Test, an English teacher in a struggling high school readies her junior students for the most important test of their lives. What has been the most important test of your life so far? I think being a female writer, having a love of theatre, and trying to be sure your plays see the light of day in this world, tests you every day. It is an on-going test. I get through it more now by writing in other mediums: TV, comics. For tests I can see the outcome of, I’ve been doing a half marathon in the spring and fall. It is great to cross the finish line, it fills you with hope.

6. What is something you struggled with in high school that now you look back on and are like, "Why was that such a struggle for me?" Actually I think the things I’ve always been good at I got even better at, and those things that I wasn’t so good at stayed the same…I would say I’m better about identifying a bully, and feeling confident in how I deal with those that are trying to be manipulative, even if they aren’t being that way. I’m a really trusting person, but I’ve learned to be careful with my trust. It’s a gift. It should be earned.

Crystal Skillman7. How do you feel the outcome of this election has changed you? The balance of activism every day and writing. That day after I woke up, and before I went to teach, I decided to put my energy into working out pretty early. A van passed me and two guys shouted out the window "Hillary lost, bitch." There was nothing to identify any of my political feelings other than I was a woman. Something in me clicked. My eyes were opened in a new way. I’d been so kind, and overlooked so many misogynisitc encounters. By doing that, I allowed this kind of energy to fester. In terms of putting it in the work, that morning, that sad, sad satisfaction of "gloating victory," comes up in a climatic moment in my play.

8. With so much hate in this world, how do you think your work helps fight the hate? All creative work does. Fiction or non-fiction. By creating art, you are presenting a story or experience you must sit and live in. In theatre it’s especially effective, as you are going through your own feelings and revelations in a story the reflects today. How do we keep that going when the lights come up? That’s the question. There is a very judgmental, give-it-to-me-now culture that I’m not sure how to change. Recently I saw the revival of Fiddler on the Roof. After the moving image of those forced to leave their homeland, which the director clearly chose to highlight the plight of refugees going on right now, and after thunderous applause, and practically singing along to the songs they knew, the lights went up and the whole audience in mezzanine (a lot tipsy actually from drinking during a three hour show) started arguing with each other, pushing to get out
of there, get to their cars, etc. The work, and the sense of creating a community, or kindness has to go hand in hand. All I know is if you lead by example things do change. A homeless woman, her pre-teen child
leaning on her lap, was crying on my street in Brooklyn the other day. People walked by, walked by, walked by until a couple stopped and sat with her. Then one by one everyone on the street did the same. Lead. Lead in writing, lead by action, lead by teaching, lead by sharing.

Bobby Cronin and Crystal Skillman9. I can't do an interview with you without asking about working with the one and only Bobby Cronin. You are currently working on two different shows with him, Mary & Max and The Cover. First, what was it about Bobby that made you go, "Oh, I need to work with him. His music compositions and my book writing would just gel so perfectly."? Secondly, in The Cover there is a song called "Sleeping Sideways." What is something in your life that made you "sleep sideways"? Bobby and I have been good friends for ten years! I find his music so moving and electric. And I’ve always loved writing for musicals. Songs always creep into my plays. About four or so years ago, we began to work together as a writing team. It is such a joy. What we can create in the marriage between dialogue, lyric, and song I think is really special. We’re so excited to keep sharing our work. We’re also drawn to theatrical stories with heart, meat, and ones that are unique. The Cover is being written for the incredible Ali Stroker. It’s so fun and so meaningful to me. I love "Sleeping Sideways." It’s an extraordinary song, and really is "Abby," the character Ali plays. That song is the heart of her character. Before I met my hubby Fred it was a rough time. I have no doubt I was "Sleeping Sideways" every night!

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Patience. I try to do Yoga…but….I’m a runner at heart. Running has taught me patience. In the play, "Ada" is a runner as well. Her job is to have patience, but in her situation, as the school presses her to pick who she think did this act…time is running out. Maybe when patience breaks, it is a good thing. It makes us stand up….and as we
know, we’re going to need a great deal of that in the coming years…but in terms of my day to day I do wish I had the ability to be cool! A Zen-Master!

Crystal Skillman after finishing the 2016 Airbnb Brooklyn HalfMore on Crystal:

Award-winning playwright Crystal Skillman is the author of the plays Geek, Cut, and King Kirby (co-written with Fred Van Lente), all New York Times Critics Picks. Her new plays include: Rain and Zoe Save the World (2017 Blue Ink Award Finalist, 2017 O’Neill Semi-Finalist, 2016 New Harmony Project, 2016 Oregon Performance Lab), Pulp Vérité (2017 Judson’s Magic Time Series, 2016 BAPF Finalist, 2015 Clifford Odets Ensemble Play Commission), and Another Kind of Love, a punk rock play (Chopin Theater with InFusion Theatre Co., 2015, Chicago). She is the musical theater book writer of Mary and Max, and The Cover written for Glee’s Ali Stroker, both with award winning ASCAP Composer/Lyricist Bobby Cronin. Wild was just published by Chicago Dramaworks, following sold out runs in Chicago and New York (at Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel). She is also the author of The Vigil or The Guided Cradle, winner of the 2010 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length Script. She is a proud member of EST, Women’s Project Lab and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Her work can be found at her publisher Samuel French, as well as Chicago Dramaworks. She just finished the original TV pilot for her series Paper Heroes, co-created and written with Fred Van Lente.

Monday
May152017

Call Redialed: Marshall Pailet: Baghaddy at St. Luke's Theatre

Marshall PailetIt's so great to catch up with playwright Marshall Pailet, who I first got to interview in 2015. This time around we get talk about the remounting of his show, Baghdaddy, co-written with A.D. Penedo, a new musical based upon the true story of the Iraqi defector whose false intelligence was passed all the way through the CIA to become the justification for the Iraq War, which continues today. 

Baghdaddy plays St. Luke's Theatre (308 West 46th Street) through June 25 only. Click here for tickets!

For more on Marshall be sure to visit http://www.marshallpailet.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

For more on Baghdaddy visit http://baghdaddymusical.com and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

1. It's so great to get to finally get to interview you about Baghdaddy! The show is coming back around after a sold-out run in 2015. What made now the right time to remount this show? I wish we could say we were inspired by the current state of the country, the fact that this administration's foibles and reliance on alternative facts makes our story about one of the most significant alternative facts in modern history all-too relevant. But the truth is we've been planning this production since we closed the 2015 production. It takes a long time to put these things up.

2. Let's go back to the beginning. How did you decide to write Baghdaddy? Baghdaddy was a commission from our then and current producer, Charlie Fink. Doing a show about the intelligence blunder around Curveball (Rafid Ahmed Alwan) was his idea, and it was his idea to make it a musical comedy.

Cast of "Baghdaddy"3. Baghdaddy is based upon the true story of the Iraqi defector whose false intelligence was passed all the way through the CIA to become the justification for the Iraq War, which continues today. What was it about this time in history that made you go, "This would make a great musical as opposed to a play?" Again, that was Charlie's idea. Our challenge was to find the why of it. We found the comedy in the actions of the people involved - their negligence was almost farcical. But they were grounded and real because they were motivated by such human things - wanting to be loved, respected, finally getting what they deserved. The music comes both from the comedy and the emotion - this story has both, so musical comedy felt like a perfect (if unexpected) fit.

4. After the show's initial run and prior to this one did you revise/rework the script at all? If so, what was the easiest revision to make and what was the most challenging? Yeah, for sure. Our biggest re-write came between the first version and the 2015 version - the script is almost unrecognizable from that first draft. But for the 2017 production we've made a bunch of changes - some new songs, dialogue. But the story and structure remains the same.

Cast of "Baghdaddy"5. In Baghdaddy, characters are contending with their own ambitions, rash decisions, inflexible bosses, unrequited affections and unremitting boredom, until a fax arrives from Germany, with it a golden opportunity. Let's break these down over the next few questions. When has there been a time you contended with your own ambitions? I struggle with that a lot. There's thousands of years of literature proving that when we follow our ambitions blindly, it leads to unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. I know that's true, but I still want that stuff. I've gotten better over the past couple of years - when I get jealous of a fellow artist, I admit it, say it out loud to myself, realize I sound like a douchebag, then the jealousy slips away. It's made me a calmer person.

6. What is one rash decision you made that you now wish you didn't? I dunno - I tend to game out decisions - think through all the possible outcomes to an annoying extent. I made a couple rash decisions in college (and a lot more in high school) that I wish I could take back though.

Cast of "Baghdaddy"7. Have you ever had an inflexible boss? If so, what were they most inflexible about? Honestly, I've had some pretty boss bosses. The producers and executives I've worked for have all been great. Not sucking up - I've just gotten lucky that way.

8. If you ever had unrequited affections for someone, how did you finally make yourself understand, they were just not that into you? Haha. Um, yeah. What I learned is that when it's meant to be, it's obvious for both parties. If you have to convince someone they love you, they're probably (definitely) not your soulmate.

9. How do you cure your unremitting boredom? Podcasts. And X-Box.

10. What is a golden opportunity to happened to you? The day I met my future wife. (Cue violin)

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? To not need a screen in my face at all times of the day.

Marshall PailetMore on Marshall:

Marshall Pailet is a director, writer and composer for musical theater, plays, animated films, and is the proud owner of a wildly untrained, but ultimately well-meaning terrier-mix. He directed, composed, and co-wrote the Off Broadway musicals Who’s Your Baghdaddy (New York Times Critics’ Pick) and the now internationally licensed Triassic Parq (Chance ’13; Ovation Award, Best Musical; Ovation Nom, Best Director). Other Theater: Claudio Quest (Chance ’17); Loch Ness (Chance ’15; Best Musical, OC Weekly); Shrek the Halls (DreamWorks Theatricals). Film: VeggieTales: Noah’s Ark starring Wayne Brady (Original Songs). As Director Only: Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat (Adirondack Theater Festival); Wonderland (Atlantic Theater Company); EudaemoniaUncle Pirate; Stuck; The 49 Project; Thursday; With Kings in the Back; Bat Boy; Escape Artists; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is also on faculty at Molly College, Cap 21, and the Broadway Dreams Foundation. Graduate Yale University.