Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Poem from Berlin

In the August 11 & 18 issue of the New Yorker, there's a poem by Bertolt Brecht. It doesn't say where or when he wrote it, the poem has no title, there is no mention of the original German.  The poem was translated by David Constantine, who's not a German translator I'm familiar with.  But the more I read the poem, the more I like it.

"Send me a leaf, but from a little tree
 That grows no nearer your house
 Than half an hour away.  For then
 You will have to walk, you will get strong and I
 Shall thank you for the pretty leaf."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Write Out Front!

Starting tomorrow, over 125 playwrights will work in the front window of the Drama Book Shop as part of Write Out Front 2014.  Writers begin at 11am most days, taking two hour shifts.  I know a couple of them:  Jenny Lyn Bader kicks it off tomorrow morning; Roland Tec on 14th; Zack Calhoon on the 16th; and Robin Rice Lichtig on the 27th.  This is all the brainchild of Micheline Auger. 

I'll be working on my latest play on Friday, August 1, 3-5 PM.  I can't tell you what it's about, but it's called "I Loved It so Much." 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Paper of Record Broke My Heart

I had two jolts to my worldview on Sunday, via the New York Times.  In the City section, there was an article about a woman chronicling the history of Bank Street.  Among the illustrious New Yorkers mentioned, she knew Edward Tanner's real-life aunt, who was the basis for his character Auntie Mame.  She described Miss Tanner as unkempt, and missing several teeth.  How could this be possible?  Anyone raised on movies and musicals knows that Auntie Mame started as Rosalind Russell, morphed into Angela Lansbury and finally became Lucille Ball.  Not a shabby snaggle-tooth!

Still there was more disillusionment to come.  In junior high school, my friends and I avidly passed a copy of Go Ask Alice among us.  We were, I expect, much less sophisticated than teenagers are these days.  To us, Go Ask Alice was about drugs and sex and getting out from under parental authority-  all exciting things to contemplate.  It was the subject matter, not the style (I could figure that out even back then) that allured us.  The Bookends column in the Book Review revealed that it was not written by a real teenager who died of an overdose, but "Beatrice M. Sparks, a therapist and Mormon youth counselor." 

Next thing you know, I'll find out there's no Santy Claus.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


I finished reading Simon Mawer's Trapeze last night.  It could not be more different from Mendel's Dwarf, which I also enjoyed (you wouldn't think that a novel about the origins of genetics could be that compelling, but you'd be wrong).  Trapeze is about Marian Sutro, a young British woman who grew up in French-speaking Geneva, Switzerland.  She is recruited by the World War II equivalent of MI6.  Her mission is to make contact with and try to help a nuclear physicist escape from Nazi-occupied Paris.  The writing is beautiful, carefully researched (yes, I can tell) and Marian is a character whom you understand and root for.  Some less skillful novelist would cheat the ending, but Mawer doesn't.  The story ends just as it must.       

Saturday, March 29, 2014


I am fifty pages from the end of Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.  I had a hard time getting into it (I started it and put it aside last fall).  But about 75 pages in, it takes off.  The author is remarkable in her ability to go from the real to dream world and back again, and making it look completely effortless.  The two main characters, Ava and Kiwi, are equally compelling in their individual ways.  It also reminds me very much of a playwright I knew at La Mama Umbria who had a day job as a mermaid, and referred to her tail as "the uni-fin."

Illustration:  Blexbolex, via the New York Times

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Return of the Skull Beneath the Skin

"The Skull Beneath the Skin" is back by popular demand next weekend-  Saturday, March 15 at 5:30 and 7PM at 440 Gallery, 440 Sixth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Admission is free.  It features Cotton Wright and Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum, pictured above,  as Bertha Roentgen and Dr. Wilhelm Roentgen, the man who discovered xrays and won the first Nobel Prize in Physics. 

The play is written by me, directed by Christie Clark and the costume design is by the illustrious Meganne George.  It's being produced by Ellen Chuse, as part of her solo show of drawings and paintings, Finding the Root.

Photo by Tom Bovo.

The Tortoise and the Hare

I am reading this wonderful, touching novel by Elizabeth Jenkins.  It's not mentioned in her Times obituary (she died in 2010).  It's the story of the unraveling marriage of Evelyn and Imogen Gresham.  Evelyn is a successful lawyer, Imogen is a housewife and mother, about to pack her only child off to school.  They are temperamentally diametrically opposed.  Evelyn become distracted by and besotted with their neighbor, the heiress Blanche Silcox. 

There is a harsh introduction by Helen McNeil, which denigrates Imogen's character as a passive doormat.  But I don't see her that way.  She knows that her marriage is falling apart, and there really isn't much she can do about it, other than watch it happen; Evelyn is not the type of man to respond well to a "Modern Woman," whatever than meant in 1954.  Imogen is a sad case, not a victim.