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.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Skull Beneath the Skin

(Photo credit:  Wikipedia)

Tom Bovo has a solo photography show, Genius Loci, at 440 Gallery (440 Sixth Avenue, near Ninth Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn).  He commissioned me to write a play for it. 
Genius Loci is photographs of leaves.  After looking at the photographs, I decided that some of them reminded me of x-rays.  So I have written a ten minute play about Wilhelm Roentgen, the discoverer of the x-ray.  It's called "The Skull Beneath the Skin," and it's directed by Christie Marie Clark.  Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum plays Roentgen, and Cotton Wright plays his long-suffering wife, Bertha.  The costumes are by Meganne George.

Performances are Saturday, November 16 at the gallery at 4:40 and 6 PM.  Admission is free.  Wine and seltzer provided.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Uncle Julie

It's late in the day, but I wanted to commemorate Julius Henry Marx's birthday.  Groucho would be 123.  Is there any movie moment so great as his "Captain Spaulding" dance?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Still Room in Advanced Playwriting

There are still places left in my Playwriting 2 class.  It meets every other Monday night, 7-10 PM, starting Monday, September 23rd.  Students are expected to complete a long one-act, or an act of a full-length play.  There are five sessions, and tuition is $200. 

All classes are at Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th floor, in New York City.  For more information, contact Studio Manager Tish Brandt at 646.409.8033 or

Thursday, August 22, 2013

More Olmsted & Vaux

I'm tidying up the dramaturgy handout for the first show on Sat.  Here's a timeline of important dates for Olmsted and Vaux (pronounced "Vawks").
April 26, 1822           Frederick Law Olmsted born in Hartford, Connecticut to John and Charlotte Olmsted

December 22, 1824  Calvert Vaux born in London, England

August 1825              John Hull Olmsted (brother) born

February 28, 1826   Charlotte Olmsted dies, age 25, from an overdose of laudanum; speculation that it was suicide

1827                           John Olmsted marries Mary Ann Bull; they have six children

1840                           Olmsted moves to Brooklyn; goes to work for a silk importer at 53 Beaver Street in Manhattan

April 24, 1843           Olmsted sets sail on the Ronaldson to China as an apprentice sailor; at sea for 104 days

1846                           Olmsted enrolls at Yale College as a “special student”; then, decides to become a farmer

1847                           Father buys Olmsted a farm at Sachem’s Head, Connecticut, on Long Island Sound

1848                           Olmsted persuades father to buy him a farm on Staten Island

April 27, 1850           John & F.L. Olmsted travel to England; Olmsted fascinated by the landscape, and in Birkenhead Park,  first park built with public money

1851                           Vaux moves from London to Newburgh, New York to work for Andrew Jackson Downing; by 1852, Vaux & Downing are partners

1852                           Andrew Jackson Downing dies in the Henry Clay steamship explosion in the Hudson River near Yonkers at age 36
1853                           John Charles Olmsted born to Mary & John Hull Olmsted
                                   NY State Assembly passes bill creating the Central Park, from 59th to 106th Streets

1854                           Vaux marries Mary Swan McEntee

1855                           Charlotte Olmsted born to Mary & John Hull Olmsted

1856                           Vaux becomes US citizen; joins the National Academy of Design and the Century Club

1857                           Vaux is a founding member of the American Institute of Architects
                                    Olmsted & Vaux create and submit the “Greensward plan” for               Central Park
                                    Owen born to John Hull & Mary Olmsted

November 24, 1857 John Hull Olmsted dies of tuberculosis in Nice, France

1858                           Julia Vaux born

December 11, 1858  First part of Central Park, the Lake, opens for skating

June 3, 1859              Aunt Marie Olmsted (father’s sister) dies; she kept house for Olmsted

June 13, 1859            Olmsted marries his sister-in-law, Mary Olmsted, in Central Park; adopts her three children Charlotte, Owen & John Charles; together with the Vaux family, they move into Mount St. Vincent convent, in the Park at 109th Street

Summer 1859           The Ramble opens in Central Park

June 14, 1860            John Theodore Olmsted born, Mary & Frederick Olmsted’s first child

August 6, 1860          carriage accident, in which Olmsted breaks his leg and nearly dies; one leg is shorter than the other for the rest of his life

August 14, 1860       John Theodore Olmsted dies of cholera

June 20, 1861           Olmsted takes appointment as administrator of the US Sanitary Commission (forerunner of the US Red Cross)

1861                           Marion Olmsted born to Frederick Law & Mary Olmsted

1864                           Marion Vaux born

May 29, 1866             Olmsted & Vaux appointed landscape architects of Prospect  Park

November 24, 1866 Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. born; lives for 6 hours, dies

1870                           Charles Olmsted (called “Boy”) born to Frederick Law & Mary Olmsted; at age 6, he is renamed Frederick “Rick” Law Olmsted, Jr.

October 18, 1872      Olmsted and Vaux dissolve their partnership; Olmsted’s first solo job is McLean Hospital

January 25, 1873      John Olmsted (father) dies at 81

March 14, 1874        Congress appropriates budget for Olmsted to landscape design US Capitol

October 15, 1878      Charlotte Olmsted marries Dr. John Bryant at Trinity Church in Boston; they have three boys, Olmsted’s first grandchildren

November 21, 1881 Owen Olmsted (stepson) dies of tuberculosis

1883                           Olmsted and Vaux landscape design Niagara Falls (NY)

August 1892              Mary Vaux dies in a carriage accident

November 19, 1895 Calvert Vaux drowns in Gravesend Bay; speculation that it was suicide, though his children deny it

September 1898       Olmsted committed to McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts

August 28, 1903       Olmsted dies at McLean Hospital

1908                          Charlotte Olmsted Bryant dies in an insane asylum in Norwood, Massachusetts