Monday, December 10, 2012

It’s been 5 years (Really?  Hardly seems possible) since Open Source Gallery’s first Soup Kitchen.  I know that after the horrible fire on Fifth Avenue, I hosted a Soup Kitchen night in my apartment-  I think that was year #3.  My play, Mi Tigre, My Lover, opened the new gallery space up the block last year.   My dog Augie and I will be serving soup 7-9 on Tuesday, along with Christmas cookies.  I’ll also read a monologue from my Christmas play, Let Nothing You Dismay.  Or, rather, I am hoping to-  I have laryngitis at the moment, but I trust I’ll have a voice by Tuesday night.  The thing I love most about the Soup Kitchen is that I meet such interesting people.  Every time.  I’ve had conversations about art, food, recipes, the nabe, the dog, everything you can imagine.  Please come on Tuesday- it’s free, and the soup (I did a test run on Friday) is excellent.  It’s nice to have a friend who’s a chef (Giuliano Hazan was my scene partner in grad school).  Press release follows.  

Playwright Serves Soup and Reads

On Tuesday, December 11, Brooklyn playwright Anne Phelan will host Open Source Gallery's fifth annual Soup Kitchen.  Soup will be served 7-9PM. This event is free.  All are welcome.  Phelan will serve Giuliano Hazan’s Leek and Chickpea Soup (from his How to Cook Italian), and read an excerpt from her play about the holidays, Let Nothing You Dismay
Phelan is an award-winning produced and published playwright.  She was Playwright-in-Residence at the William Inge Theatre Festival in October and November.  The Festival workshopped her play The Benders (about the first U.S. serial killers), featuring Tony Award-winning actress Cady Huffman.  Phelan has had 4 plays produced at Open Source, the most recent of which was a September reading of The Tiger Play, which grew out of Open Source's exhibit of Naoe Suzuki’s work Mi Tigre, My Lover
Monika Wuhrer and Gary Baldwin are the curators of Open Source Gallery.  The Open Source Soup Kitchen seeks artists, cooks, friends, and neighbors to join them for a month of cooking, eating, sharing, and celebrating. For as many nights of the month as they have volunteers, they will provide the cookware and utensils and the volunteer chef will be responsible for the “one-pot meal” of the night. They welcome all kinds of unique dishes from any ethnic tradition.
Volunteers each choose a night and cook for approximately 15-20 people. Usually dishes are a soup or stew. The cook is also responsible for providing an artistic element to incorporate into the evening. In the past, participants have displayed photographs on the walls, read monologues, or played music. While the volunteers do not necessarily have to be artists, it is encouraged. Those who attend the soup kitchen vary from neighbors to artists to others who are down on their luck or simply hungry. Not a traditional soup kitchen, this event focuses on conversation, community, and art. Sometimes the conversation flows easily, and sometimes not, but the food is nearly always tasty (it’s New York, after all – we have standards!). So join us for good food, good art, and good conversation.  If you are interested in volunteering to cook for the Soup Kitchen, there are still slots available.  Please respond to  Open Source Gallery is located at 306 17th Street (near Sixth Avenue) in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rajah Is Back!!

Dramahound Productions and Open Source Gallery present a reading of The Tiger Play by Anne Phelan and directed by Tamara Fisch at Open Source Gallery (306 17th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215) on Friday, September 21and Saturday, September 22 at 8:00 PM. 

The Tiger Play is based on the remarkable life of tiger tamer extraordinaire, Mabel Stark.  The play examines the love triangle between Mabel; her eventual husband, tiger tamer Louis Roth; and Mabel’s favorite tiger, Rajah.  Katharine McLeod will play Mabel, Michael Raimondi will play Louis Roth and Kevin Loreque will play Rajah the Bengal tiger.

The Tiger Play was chosen by the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) as part of its “30 Plays for 30 Years” anniversary celebration.  The special LPTW member night is Friday September 21st.  There will be a talk-back after the reading with the director and the playwright.  This event is co-curated by members Cheryl L. Davis and Anne Phelan.

The earlier, much shorter version of this play was Mi Tigre, My Lover.  It was performed at the opening of Open Source’s new space for the show of Naoe Suzuki’s drawings, “Mi Tigre, My Lover” last summer.

This is Anne Phelan’s fourth play at Open Source Gallery.  She is a two-time Edward F. Albee Fellow and William Inge Festival Playwright-in-Residence; her plays have been produced throught the U.S. Anne is on the faculty at The Acting Studio in Manhattan.    

Tamara Fisch is a freelance theatre director based in New York City.  Recent credits include Race by David Mamet and The Scene by Theresa Rebeck at Portland Playhouse and Emma by Stephen Karam at PPAS. She is a graduate of Yale College, has an MFA from the University of Washington and is a Drama League Directing Fellow.   

For more information, contact Dramahound Productions at 917.991.4395 or; or, Open Source Gallery at 646.279.3969.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plays About Business

A few days ago, my student Gregory Cohan (to be seen in the Gallery Players' upcoming Lend Me a Tenor) asked me to suggest plays about business for him to read, since he's writing one himself.  Since then, my friend James Robinson and I have had a great time assembling the list.  One or both of us has seen or read each of these plays.  I think one of my favorites is Pinter's Trouble in the Works.  Very short, and hilarious.

Plays About Business, or set primarily in a workplace

What Price Glory?  Maxwell Anderson & Lawrence Stallings-  World War I Marines.  1924.
Tea and Sympathy.  Robert Anderson.  Prep school.  1953.
The History Boys.  Alan Bennett.  Prep school.  2004.
The Three Penny Opera.  Brecht & Weill.  (Mack’s crime gang and Peacham’s beggar syndicate).  1928.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Abe Burrows, Frank Loesser & 3 other guys. 1961.
R.U.R.  (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Karel Capek.  1920.
Serious Money.  Caryl Churchill.- London stock exchange.  1987.
Offices.  Ethan Coen. 2009.- offices
Anna in the Tropics.  Nilo Cruz.  2004.-  cigar factory
Butley.  Simon Gray.  Academia in London.  1971.
New York Actor.”  John Guare.  1992.  –actor/waiter
Steel Magnolias.  Robert Harling.  1987.-  beauty shop
The Dresser.  Ronald Harwood.  1982.-  theatre
The Memorandum.  Vaclav Havel.  1965.
Pravda. David Hare & Howard Brenton-  basically about Rupert Murdoch and the press.  1985.
Racing Demon.  David Hare.  1996.- Anglican clergy 
Mr. Roberts.  John Heegan & Josh Logan.  About the Navy, in an entrepreneurial way.  1948.
They Knew What They Wanted.  Sidney Howard.-  California vineyard.  1924. 
Once in a Lifetime.  Kaufman & Hart.- Hollywood. 1930.
The Cocoanuts.  Kaufman & Ryskind- the Florida land boom in the 1920s.  1925.
Parfumerie. Miklos Laszlo. (if you can't find it in English, rent the movie "The Shop Around the Corner").  1940?
Side Man.  Warren Leight. 1999. – the jazz world
American Buffalo.  Mamet.  1975.- small time business
Glengarry Glen Ross.  Mamet.  1984.-  real estate
Speed-the-Plow.  Mamet.  1988.- Hollywood
Little Shop of Horrors.  Menken & Ashman.  1982.- florists
All My Sons.  Miller.  1947.- weapons manufacturing
Death of a Salesman.  Miller.  1949.- sales
Waiting for Lefty.  Odets.  1935.- cab drivers
 Body Shop.” Phelan. 2003.  In  Best Ten-Minute Plays for Three or More Actors
2006. Smith & Kraus.- replacement parts
It’s Called Development.”  2005. The Best 10-Minute Plays for 3 or More Actors,
Smith & Kraus.  2007.-  philanthropy
Our Dolls.”  Phelan. 2010.  In Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2011.  Smith & Kraus.-  doll factory
They All Know Me.” Phelan. 2012.-  overseas employment agency 
The Hothouse.  Pinter- mental institution.  1958.
Trouble in the Works.”  Pinter.  1959.- factory
Enron. Lucy Prebble.  2009.- Enron
The Winslow Boy.  Terrence Rattigan. Military school.  1946.
The Adding Machine.  Elmer Rice.  1923.- the corporate world
Working.  Stephen Schwartz & Nina Faso.  1977.- combo
Doubt:  A Parable.  John Patrick Shanley.  Parochial school.  2004.
Four Dogs and a Bone.  John Patrick Shanley. 1993.-  Hollywood
Major Barbara (Shaw)- munitions.  1905. 
Other People's Money (Jerry Sterner)- corporate takeover 
“Interview” (part of America, Hurrah!).  Jean-Claude van Itallie.  1964.-  the hiring process
Fiorello!  Jerome Weidman & George Abbot.  NY politics.  1959.
Jitney.  August Wilson. 1979.- cab drivers

Monday, August 27, 2012

They All Know Me

We had a good run this past week.   Here are the usable production photos that I was able to take on Saturday.  Everybody did good work, the ladies are back to school, and I'm thinking about my September reading of The Tiger Play.

Katie Newcomer as Elena in "The All Know Me"

Jeremy Rafal, and Katie Newcomer  in "They All Know Me"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Almost a Fantasie

Here's a review of my student Mike Aguirre's play:
“Almost A Fantasy”
By Michael Aguirre
Directed by John Grabowski
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited


Teaching piano in a windowless basement studio somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania does not preclude having been a world-famous concert pianist earlier in life. Taking piano lessons at seven years old in that windowless basement piano studio does not preclude studying piano for the wrong reasons. It is Youthney’s fantasy that if someone can teach him piano and he has a student recital, his agoraphobic mother might leave their house. This, it turns out, is a wrong reason. Nonetheless, it is Dolores’ fantasy that her new seven-year-old student Youthney becomes an accomplished pianist.

Although Youthney does not play any Beethoven until the end of the play, the three movements of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata (Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27 No. 2)” parallel the movements of Michael Aguirre’s deeply beautiful and important new play “Almost A Fantasy,” currently playing at The Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. It is important to remember, as Dolores reminds Youthney, that the original title of this sonata was “Quasi una fantasia” (Italian: almost a fantasy).

The first movement of “Amost A Fantasy” (the Adagio sostenuto of the Sonata), develops the main melody of the relationship between Dolores and Youthney and then plays it again very similar to how it was originally played. Dolores and Youthney live out their disparate fantasies through a series of piano lessons, rehearsing one another’s stories. Dolores’ (Danijela Popovic) story is well-written with proper key signatures. Youthney’s (AJ Kiehner) story when he first meets Dolores is a blank staff, scarcely a sixteenth note and certainly no key signature. Dolores’ stories of escaping east Berlin and developing a successful career as a concert pianist at first embolden Youthney and encourage him to get in touch with his own (yet undiscovered) story: in particular, why he continues to study with Dolores despite her aggressive and sometimes maniacal methods. She wants her student “to learn” piano; Youthney only wants “to be taught.” There is a profound difference and in this profundity lies the mysterious, almost haunting melody of the first movement.

The second movement, the Allegreto, is (as in the Sonata) is fast-moving and often comedic. As he grows older and more comfortable with Dolores, Youthney becomes more playful and their lessons sparkle with wit and wry humor. However, this movement concludes with a seventeen-year-old Youthney who leaves Dolores as he leaves high school.

The final movement (the Presto agitato) of “Almost A Fantasy” surprises the audience with its hard-hitting, invigorating, and powerful passages (fortissimo) and progresses rapidly to the play’s conclusion and denouement. Youthney returns to Dolores’ studio after many years to find the building in a state of disrepair and Dolores in a similar downward spiral of aging and disability and disappointment. He bristles with new-found energy and proposes that he and Dolores should go on tour. Unfortunately, it is too late for that fantasy to play out. Instead, Youthney offers to play from his “cheap” edition of Beethoven Sonatas: something he had always wished to do. He asks if he can practice first and Dolores reminds him compellingly that “one does not rehearse Beethoven here.”

Under John Grabowski’s sturdy direction, actors Danijela Popovic and AJ Kiehner use their accomplished keyboard skills to bring this dramatic almost-love story to bristling life. Youthney does not become the pianist Dolores hopes he would: his interest in piano ceased when he no longer needed to perform his mother’s way out of her dysfunction and illness. And Dolores, disappointed in Youthney and, perhaps in herself, quietly listens to Youthney play the “Moonlight Sonata” bringing into remarkable counterpoint the “almost fantasies” of these two star-crossed musicians. At the lights fade, there were few dry eyes in the audience including the tear-filled eyes of this appreciative critic. There are only three more opportunities to allow yourself to risk playing your almost fantasies in the basement studio with one amazing (though sometimes terrifying) teacher and mentor and her almost-star pupil.

Presented by Chelsea Rep Lab in Association with The Acting Studio, Inc. and The New York International Fringe Festival. Written by Michael Aguirre. Directed by John Grabowski. Set Design by Oliver Sohngen. Lighting Design by Zach Ciaburri. Costume Design by Alison Parks and Corrie Blissit. Stage Management by Julie Greeneisen.

WITH: AJ Kiehner (Youthney) and Danijela Popovic (Dolores).

All performances take place at The Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor (Astor Place and East 4th Street) in New York, NY. Tickets are available at or 866-468-7619. $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Senior and Fringe Junior tickets available at the door for $10. Running time: 1 hour and 25 minutes with no intermission. For further information, visit:

Remaining Show Date:
Thursday, August 23rd @ 3pm
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Rehearsals for "They All Know Me"

Here are the photos that I took at They All Know Me rehearsal yesterday.  The actors look great despite the lighting and my camera work. 

First photo:  Katie Newcomer as Elena in "They All Know Me."

Second photo:  Katie Newcomer as Elena, and Jeremy Rafal as Tiongco  in "They All Know Me."

Third photo:  Jeremy Rafal as Tongco, Katie Newcomer as Elena in "They All Know Me."

The show runs this Thurs., Fri. and Sat. at 8; there's also a Sat. matinee at 2.  The theatre is Joria Productions, 260 West 36th, 3rd floor, in Manhattan.  Tickets at the door, or via Brown Paper Tickets.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

In the Relentless Self-Promotion Dept.

Talented playwright Adam Szymkowicz and I will be housemates at the William Inge Center for the Arts this fall.  Adam has a blog called I Interview Playwrights, and he just interviewed me.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

They All Know Me

So on Sunday afternoon, director Christie Clark and I start rehearsals for They All Know Me.    The actors are:  Katie Newcomber as Elena, Katharine Scarborough as Hannah and Jeremy Rafal as Mr. Tiongco.  Katie and Katharine are classmates of Christie's at The New School; Jeremy is an alumnus of The Acting Studio.  Yes, we still made them all audition.

The play is about cultural dislocation.  We live in such a connected world now-  I can email or Skype with my friend in Bratislava, or my friend in Montreal, and think nothing of it.  But cultural differences still exist, and one afternoon about ten years ago I was in a business meeting that ended very badly.  My friend Jelka (who unfortunately is no longer with us) and I were the New York office of a medical personnel company, and we had a meeting with a man from Manila who was a recruiter. We went to our favorite coffee place, the desperate-for-work recruiter arrived, and things went down hill fairly quickly.  After Jelka died, I thought that afternoon and Jelka needed to have a play written about them.

The play is part of Thespian Production's Slam-a-thon III showcase at Joria Productions, 260 West 36th Street, 3rd floor.  It runs August 23 & 24 at 8:00, and August 25th at 3:00 and 8:00.  Tickets are available at the door, or at Brown Paper Tickets.   

For more information:

The Top 100 NYC Movies

As you can see, I'm catching up on the blog. 

Back in July, Time Out NY's Joshua Rothkopf edited a list of the best movies set in New York City.  How you begin to categorize movies for this, I'm not sure.  Movies set in NYC?  There are many.  Of TONY's list, these are the ones I'm in total agreement with.  Not C.H.U.D. or The Hunger (really?) or Black Swan.  In most cases, I don't agree with the ranking.
Here they are:
55.  Fame (1980)
44.  Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
41.  The Godfather (1972)
39.   Metropolitan (1990)
35.  Midnight Cowboy (1969)
28.  All That Jazz (28)
23.  42nd Street (1933)
21.  Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
14.  Ghostbusters (1984)
10.  On the Town (1949)
6.  Do the Right Thing (1989)
5.  Manhattan (1979)

TONY's #1 is Taxi Driver.  Which I like, but not at #1.

The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2011

Smith & Kraus' The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2011 is out.  Edited by Lawrence Harbison, it includes plays by a lot of playwrights, several from the League of Professional Theatre Women:  Jenny Lyn Bader, Deborah Savadge, and me, plus Carson Kreitzer, Rich Orloff and others.  It's $24.99, but it's chock-full of new work. 

The Best Ten Minute Plays 2011My play is "Our Dolls" that was directed by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum for the 4th Annual Shortened Attention Span Festival at the Players Loft Theatre.  It featured Emily Louise Parker as Bitsy and Michelle O'Conner as Heather. 

Here's the link to buy the book:

Mike Aguirre's Almost a Fantasy

There are two posts up on about Almost a Fantasy.  A q. and a. with John Grabowski, the show's director and the director of the Chelsea Rep Lab (and until very recently, my boss), and one with Mike Aguirre, my student.

Here's the beginning of Mike's q. and a.:

Almost A Fantasy:
Michael Aguirre

An FringeNYC Q&A
Q: What is your job on this show?
A: Playwright
Q: Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
A: I'm a Midwesterner (originally from a suburb of Chicago) and a Hoosier at heart (I graduated from Indiana University)
Q: Have you been part of FringeNYC in the past? If so, how did you particpate? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
A: I, myself, have not been a part of the Fringe, but the company who is producing the play, Chelsea RepLAB, was a co-producer of a Fringe show in 2010 which was awarded Excellence in Directing (Kym Gomes)
Q: How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
A: I was taking writing classes through Chelsea RepLAB about a year ago in Anne Phelan's playwriting class.

To read more, go to

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Almost a Fantasy- More

My student Mike Aquirre's play, Almost a Fantasy, is in this summer's Fringe Festival.  They finally have the particulars. 

Performances are Tuesday, 8/14/12 @ 9:45pm; Thursday, 8/16/12 @ 3:00pm; Sunday, 8/19/12 @ 2:00pm; Tuesday, 8/21/12 @ 8:15pm; Wednesday, 8/22/12 @ 4:00pm; Thursday, 8/23/12 @ 3:00pm.  All performances are at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd floor (pretty much across the street from the Public; the nearest cross street is Astor Place).   Go to for tickets.

The Sealed Letter

I have read about Emma Donoghue, and Room (which my friend Irene told me is the best novel she's read in years).  But this week, I read The Sealed Letter, an earlier novel about a famous 19th century divorce case in London.   It was fantastic.  She is so good about the dynamics of friendship, how far friends can push each other and impose on each other (or not), and why.  I assume that the fact that she's a playwright keeps the forward motion of the story going, and tells us exactly as much as we need to know about the characters.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

I have been a fan of Jennifer Egan's fiction since The Electric Circus, which I think is one of the best novels ever written about the 1960s, set here and in Germany.  There was a producer trying to cut a deal with her to let me adapt the San Francisco section of the book.  Never happened, unfortunately.

My brother reminded me a few weeks ago that it is summer, and I should take advantage of that fact (if I fail to, I get very cranky by Labor Day).  So I've been on quite a novel-reading binge.  I'm also about to go into rehearsal, which means my brain is going to shift into rewrite overload, whether I actually rewrite that much or not.

So I finally got around to reading A Visit from the Goon Squad last week, and was pretty disappointed.  I'd read the excerpts in the New Yorker, I'd read interviews with Egan about how the novel was nonlinear (doesn't bother me) and had a chunk written in Powerpoint (which I'm still convinced is a gimmick).  I would say wait for her next novel.  

Paula's Visitor

My Chelsea Rep Lab student Keith Filangieri has a play in this summer's Strawberry One-Act Festival.  Some years ago I too had a one-act (Strike Two) in the Festival, in the old space, before it burned down.

Paula's Visitor came out of my Beginning Playwriting class last fall.  Keith claims that in his teenage years, he "wanted to be Stephen King."  There's certainly an eerie quality to the play.  Two married couples are on safari in South Africa, but things do not turn out quite the way any of them had expected.  The play will be performed at St. Clement's, 423 West 46th Street in Manhattan, on August 3rd at 8PM.  For $22 tickets,  At the box office, tickets are $25.

More Info on "Jeanine"

Jeanine Waits for the Train will be performed at  Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Co.’s MUSEUM OF DYSFUNCTION V (original shorts by writers from various places) during the second week of the run,  Thursday August 16, Friday August 17 and Saturday August 18, 2012.  It will be directed by Leighza Walker and performed by Jackie Pender Lovell.  Performances are at Studio 101, 1824 Spring Street, Houston, TX 77007.
All shows at 8pm. Pay as you like.
Tickets: or 832-463-0409

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jeanine Waits for the Train

Back when I was at La Mama Umbria, Naomi Iizuka gave us an exercise:  to write a scene that was somehow offensive, and somehow to incorporate a story that the person sitting next to us had told us.  I was sitting next to MT Cozzola, and she told me a story about using soapy water as post-coital birth control (that kind of story sticks with you).  

So I came up with a character, Jeanine, who is sure to offend pretty much everyone in some way.  She speaks in appallingly fake British accent, though she's from Rhode Island.  She smokes cigarettes, mocks physically disabled people, developmentally disabled people, physically unattractive people, and threatens to set her pet cat on fire.  

After I got home to New York, I tweaked the monologue a bit.  But it was so harsh, I didn't think of sending it out until a year ago.  This afternoon, I found out it's been selected for Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company's short play festival (Museum of Dysfunction V).   It runs August 9-18 at their space, Studio 101 (1824 Spring Street, Houston, Texas).  From looking at the website, they produce a lot of writers I like:  Mac Wellman, Chris Durang, Will Eno (fellow Albee Fellow), Len Jenkin, Naomi Wallace (fellow Hampshire College grad).  I'm excited!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The First Mention

I have a ten minute play going up in a showcase produced by Thespian Productions the third week in August (23rd, 24th and 25th).  Three shows at 8, and a matinee at 3 on the 25th.  It's called "They All Know Me."  Briefly, the play is about cultural dislocation.  Two women in Manhattan run a web staffing business.  They have a meeting with Constantine Tiongco, a recruiter from Manila.  The meeting doesn't go so well.  

It's at the Joria Productions Theatre, 260 West 36th Street, 3rd floor.  Tickets via Brown Paper Tickets.

The director is Christie Clark, who I haven't worked with before and is great!  We had auditions Tuesday and Wednesday, with more to come.  Yesterday, we cast Jeremy Rafal in the role of Mr. Tiongco (he studies with James Price at The Acting Studio, and gave a wonderful audition).  We haven't decided who the two female roles will go to yet (though there are excellent possibilities),  but we've got plenty of time.

Our first mention came up on

Tricks of the Trade

There's a recent article on NPR's website with five suggestions on cultivating your creativity.  Two of them usually work for me:  taking a shower, and taking a nap.  Even Mr. Sondheim writes lying down on his couch.

If you want to read about all five tricks, here's the link:

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

I've read a lot of Ray Bradbury in my time.  But it wasn't until after he died that I remembered he wrote one of my favorite short stories: "The Veldt."  I think we read in school, in the fifth or sixth grade.  It's absolutely magical.  I thought about it for years after-  I even dreamed about it.  I'm convinced it wriggled its way into my writing-  an awful lot of magic pops up in unexpected places. 

Players Club's in Trouble

All is not well at The Players Club these days.  There's an article about it in last Wednesday's New York Times:

I'm not a member, but I've been to many parties and meetings there.  Would be a shame to see Edwin Booth's house sold, or turned into luxury condos.

Above is the painting of Helen Hayes which hangs in The Players Club.  She was the first woman they admitted as a member.  It was a very big deal at the time.  

John Cage's Rules for Students and Teachers

Doug Riley, who I went to the Trinity Rep Conservatory with, shared this on Facebook a few days ago.  It made such an impression on me, I saved it and typed it up myself.  I have a feeling my students will be seeing it soon.

Some years ago, Cage posted this on the bulletin board at the Merce Cunningham Studio on Bethune Street; I walked passed there yesterday.

Ten Rules for Teachers and Students
John Cage

1.  Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.

2.  (General Duties as a Student)
Pull everything out of your teacher.
Pull everything out of your fellow students.

3.  (General Duties as a Teacher)
Pull everything out of your students.

4.  Consider everything an experiment.

5.  Be self-disciplined.  This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them.  To be disciplined is to follow in a good way.  To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

6.  Follow the leader.  Nothing is a mistake.  There is no win and no fail.  There is only make.

7.  The only rule is work.  If you work, it will lead to something.  It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.  You can fool the fans-  but not the players.

8.  Do not try to create and analyze at the same time.  They are different processes. 

9.  Be happy whenever you can manage it.  Enjoy yourself.  It is lighter than you think. 

10.  We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules, and how do we do that?  By leaving plenty of room for “x” qualities.

Helpful Hints:
Always be around.
Come or go to everything.
Read everything you can get your hands on.
Look at movies carefully and often.
SAVE EVERYTHING.  It may come in handy later.

Almost a Fantasy

My student, Mike Aguirre, has a play (Almost a Fantasy) in rehearsal for this summer's Fringe Festival.  He developed the play in my advanced playwriting class.  The press release follows. 
For Immediate Release
Contact: Patrick Avella at 646-691-0576

Chelsea Rep LAB Presents

The New York International Fringe Festival – FringeNYC
A production of The Present Company
August 10th – 26th
Tickets: $15-$18. For tickets visit

Chelsea Rep LAB is proud to present Almost a Fantasy as part of the 16th annual New York International Fringe Festival – FringeNYC. A new play written by Mike Aguirre, and directed by John Grabowski, Almost a Fantasy is a two-person play, which will debut at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival in August.

Almost a Fantasy maps the sometimes ardent and often turbulent relationship of an immigrant piano teacher (Dolores) with her young student (Youthney) over a ten-year period of piano lessons. Their time together forces them to cope with their past and learn to survive the present. The piano on which Dolores and Youthney play out their fantasies is an important element in the production, which should make this a must-see for classical music lovers as well as for lovers of new plays.

This show is being produced by Chelsea Rep LAB spearheaded by LAB members Patrick Avella and Greg Cohan, along with other members of Chelsea Rep LAB.

Michael Aguirre (playwright) is a graduate from Indiana University with a B.A. in Theatre and English. He is a suburban Chicago native, and has worked with the Windy City Players, First Folio, Steppenwolf, The Wilma Theater (Philadelphia), and the Hexagon Theatre (South Africa). Since arriving in New York, he's worked with the Pearl Theatre (City Centre), Wide Eyed Productions, Chelsea Rep and Lab, Coffee Black, ReniGraef, and he is a company member of Rising Sun.

John Grabowski (director) is the associate director of The Acting Studio, Inc. and has directed numerous productions including Stage Door (Ferber and Kaufman) Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare); One Flea Spare (Wallace); Getting Out (Norman); Moonchildren (Weller). He also wrote and directed Knoxville, 1915, adapted from James Agee's novel A Death in the Family, and The Loves of A, based on Arthur Schnitzler's The Anatole Plays for Chelsea Rep.

Chelsea Rep LAB is an on-going workshop environment intended to encourage experimentation in the creation of theatre and the formulation of a non-traditional methodology to help actors realize their potential. The LAB is comprised in large part of graduates of The Acting Studio, Inc. headed by director, James Price ( The LAB sponsors a developmental writing workshop under the tutelage of Anne Phelan ( Besides the Fringe Festival production of Almost a Fantasy, the LAB is currently at work on a series of one-act plays based on news accounts and stories about NYC’s Stop and Frisk policy.

Almost a Fantasy was featured in the LAB’s Emerging Artist Festival in the summer of 2011. The LAB’s work has been previously seen at the Fringe in 2010 in a co-production with Brava Company of By Hands Unknown, for which director Kym Gomes won a FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award for direction. The original material that comes from the LAB’s playwriting seminars reflects sensibilities not often heard from in the established venues of New York Off-Off Broadway theatres, perhaps because the LAB makes a concerted effort to draw its writers from outside the usual mix of university MFA program and established regional theatre playwrights. This results in the presentation of unique and diverse voices in our staged readings and festival productions.

Find out more about the production at:

Lebowitz Nails It!

In the June 18th issue of the New Yorker, there's a Talk of the Town piece about Mayor Bloomberg's war on Big Gulp sodas (Vice Dept.:  Fluid Ounces) by Lizzie Widdicombe.  At the end of it, she wisely interviews Fran Lebowitz, who is spot-on.

Lebowitz says:  "These are class issues...  Soda is the recreation- the summer house- of the poor.  It's an indulgence, and something they can indulge in.    [The Mayor] has eleven houses.  That's the self-indulgence of a billionaire.  He's one of a generation of Jewish men who feel if they didn't become a doctor they are a failure.  Now he's trying to become a doctor."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nancy Mitford

I have just finished reading Selina Hastings' biography of Nancy Mitford (Vintage, 1985).  It was quite an aristocratic family; her father was Lord Redesdale.  The one son (Tom) died in World War II.  Diana married Oswald Mosley, head of the British Fascists-  they both served prison time.  Another sister, Unity, was a fascist but so unnerved by Germany declaring war on England that she tried to commit suicide.  She botched it, and lived with severe brain damage for another 15 years.  Jessica (known as Decca) was a Communist who fought for the Loyalists in Spain and years later published The American Way of Death.

Other than finally unraveling the family knots (and thinking I must read Nancy's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate again), two passages really struck me.  One was a description of Mitford's father soon after he married her mother in 1904.  His father-in-law had set him up in a job, business managing a women's magazine.  It was not his cup of tea, as Hastings explains:
"hated being indoors, knew nothing of women's magazines, and had no interest whatsoever in the printed word.  (The only book he admitted to having read was White Fang, which he thought so good he never had the least desire to read any other.)  To make his day bearable, he bought a mongoose with which he hunted the rats on The Lady's Covent Garden premises."
I don't know how to top that.

Except to say that as I read the biography, and made it into the section where Mitford was writing about Mme. Pompadour, Hastings pulled a quote from the biography.  And I remembered, years ago, getting a love letter from a boyfriend in which he told me he was reading Mitford's book and put this very same quote about Mme. de Pompadour and Louis XV in his letter to me:
"a delightful relationship of sex mixed up with laughter ...  After a few years of physical passion on his side it gradually turned into that ideal friendship which can only exist between a man and and a woman where there has been a long physical intimacy.  There was always love.  As in every satisfactory union it was the man who kept the upper hand."

So I guess this explains why he's an ex-boyfriend.
Photo credit:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Peacocks

When I've been in the Close at the Cathedral of St. John the Unfinished (oops, I meant the Divine, of course), I have seen a peacock.  But only the white peacock, all alone. 
There is a piece on Gothamist (link below) with photos and video of all the peacocks showing off.  They are impressive birds, and they know it:

Maurice Sendak

Sorry to hear that Maurice Sendak died two weeks ago.  To people my age and younger, it's unthinkable to have had a childhood without his books.  Whenever we hear someone say, "Raise a wild rumpus!" we know precisely who they are quoting.
Below is a link from Gothamist with Sendak's interview on The Colbert Report: 


I admit it-  I've gotten a little obsessive about "Smash."  I just watched the season finale for the second time.  I know that there are big problems in the writing.  But there aren't many tv shows about people who write musicals, and I (probably over-) identify with Debra Messing's character.  It makes complete sense to me that she'd be nominated for a Best Actress Emmy.  She's the emotional center of the show.

I cannot imagine what the show will be like next season without Theresa Rebeck.  Who neglects her blog even more than I neglect mine; she of course has way more valid excuses than I do.

The Second One (and so soon!)

Another of my Chelsea Rep Lab playwriting students, Keith Filangieri, has got a play in a festival.  His "Paula's Visitor" is included in this year's Riant Strawberry One-Act Festival.  Keith has taken my Beginning class (from whence this play sprung), and wound up the Advanced class last Monday night.  He has been working very diligently on his playwriting, and I am glad to see that it has paid off.

Jacob Ouillette

My friend Jacob Ouillette is a fine painter.  We met at the Albee Foundation (aka the Barn) where we were both Fellows.  His "Why and What Blue" is above.  Jacob has work in a group show at the Nancy Margolis Gallery, 523 West 25th Street.  It runs May 24th through June 30th.
Jacob himself says:  "These most recent paintings manifest a deeper focus on color and the craft of painting by combining pigments of the ancient world with modern day-glow colors, side by side in one painting.  These curious combinations inspired the title, Why and What Blue?


As sad as it often is, I do enjoy reading  And every once in awhile, there is some unexpected joy.  This week, someone from St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery contributed a letter that W.H. Auden sent to the rector when he belonged to the parish.  To say that Auden was incensed about changes in the liturgy is an understatement.  I thought I took the liturgy seriously, but he took it Really seriously.  And what's more passionate than a riled-up poet?  It's worth it to click the link:

Theatre in Turkey in Trouble

Nedim on LinkedIn's American Theatre Group posted this deeply troubling article from the Guardian about the theatre in Turkey being under siege, with the pettiest of beginnings.  The Prime Minister's daughter felt insulted by an actor during a performance.


It shouldn't surprise me that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died yesterday.  He was old, and had been retired for sometime.   The above photo of him was taken at the premiere of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem.  My college library had the Decca recording of it, which I borrowed often.
There is a wonderful appreciate of Fischer-Dieskau's talents by Anthony Tommasini in today's Times:  ttp://   Also there's a multimedia sidebar of eight You Tube clips of him singing lieder.  His tone is incredible, though Erlkoenig sounded sharp to me.  Or I've got Fritz Wunderlich's rendition burned into my brain and can't properly hear any other.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The First One

My student, Mike Aguirre, got a play that he worked on in my Chelsea Rep Lab class into the Fringe this summer.  I believe it's his first full-length play.  It's about a singular piano teacher, Dolores, from the former East Germany, and her relationship with her young male student.  The writing and the way Mike has the piano pieces inform the story are really interesting.  Mike is a hard-working guy.  He's my first student to have work in a Fringe festival.  So it's exciting for both of us.
Here's more information about the Lab classes.  Mike is in the Advanced class now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NYC Municipal Archive Photos Now Online
The Municipal Archive has released 1,000,000 photos out of its huge collection and has posted them online.  I have included the Gothamist link, because the archive site was down yesterday.  But looking at the few in the Gothamist article, there is great stuff there.  In particular, one of a builder in Brooklyn looking at Manhattan as he works on the Manhattan Bridge, and Lucky Luciano's mugshot.  My favorite is the one shown, two girls walking east across 42nd Street in 1890. 

Athol Fugard
My student, Peter Evangelista, found this wonderful interview with playwright Athol Fugard and Charlie Rose from March 1st:
I've enjoyed Fugard's plays for years, and worked on a scene from A Lesson from Aloes in graduate school.  In this interview, he tells Charlie Rose how he does it (and makes it sound so easy).
The photo (which I lifted from from his publisher, must be at least 15 years old.  Fugard recently turned 80.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum

My friend and tireless collaborator (he's been in more plays of mine, by far, than any other actor) Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum is a fight/violence choreographer. His latest Broadway show is Peter and the Starcatcher. There is a great interview with him on Channel Thirteen's Metrofocus magazine, both written and video. It's a good look into how he works with actors (very, very patient) as well:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Radio Shangri-La Out in Paperback

My friend Lisa Napoli has written a wonderful book about Bhutan- both her time there a few years ago, and how the country continues to change. Bhutan was so difficult to get to for so long, it retained its distinctive character much longer than other places. Lisa went to advise the Bhutan radio station (prior to that, she'd been working for Marketplace on NPR). And I think because she is used to writing news, Lisa's style realy does make the reader feel like you're standing next to her as she has her Bhutanese adventures.
I have my own autographed hardcover copy of Radio Shangri-La, but if you do not, it's out in paperback now. It's also been chosen by Target as an Emerging Authors pick:

Another Blog!

I am a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary year. The big party is the League supporting 30 new plays written, produced or directed by its members. And there's a blog which each member is contributing to:
My posting goes up this Thursday, but there's plenty there to read already. Entries by Liz McCann, Cheryl Davis, Tisa Chang, etc.
The Tiger Play is part of 30 Plays for 30 Years- it will be read at Open Source Gallery on two nights in September. Watch this space!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is this The Best Comedy Song Ever?

Above is an link to an excerpt from "New Faces of 1952," which includes the "Boston Beguine." My parents had this record when I was a little girl. It may be the best comedy song ever.

La Mama Umbria

Here is my friend David Diamond's information about La Mama Umbria this summer. I understand that it's expensive, but it is a magical place. I had an amazing time there a few years ago at the playwrights' intensive.

"La MaMa Umbria Announces Artists for International Theatre Workshops in Italy"

Directors, Actors, Playwrights, Composers and Theatre-Makers from Iraq, Japan, Italy and the United States offer personal insights into theatre-making at La MaMa Umbria in July / August, 2012. This year’s emphasis is on Collaboration amongst artists in the theatre and other disciplines.

Among the renowned theatre practitioners who will participate are: Elizabeth Swados, Neil LaBute, Mac Wellman, Yoji Sakate, Stephan Koplowitz, Kwesi Johnson, Melanie Joseph, John Moran among many others.

Workshops range from Site-Specific Performance, Meyerhold Technique, Using Noh with Modern Texts and The Actor/Playwright Collaboration to Creating Theatre Through Music, Pataphysics of Performance and The Tempest and the Sea.

All participants live and work at La MaMa Umbria International, Founder Ellen Stewart’s 15th century arts complex in the Umbrian hills near Spoleto. La MaMa Umbria includes a rehearsal studio, an outdoor stage, gallery space, a café and other unique spaces. Fresh, delicious food comes from the garden and many meals are cooked in a 500 year-old stone oven.

La MaMa Umbria offers 4 distinct programs in 2012 including International Symposium for Directors/Theatre-makers, Playwright Retreat, Master Acting Workshops and Residencies. Most workshops include visits to areas of local culture including Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto or other ancient towns and performances at summer festivals and community events.

The deadline for Registration/Application for the various programs is May 15, 2012 (except Residencies). Detailed information and Registration/Application Forms can be found at For more information, call (212) 620-0703 or (212) 254-6468."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

100 Best NYC Songs

In Time Out New York's March 8th issue, they assembled their list of the 100 Best Songs about New York. I agreed with some of the choices, but definitely not the order.
Years ago I was working on a play about New York, and when I had to identify my favorite song (I was trying to make the ending work, it was 2 AM, and bourbon had been consumed) it had to be Cole Porter's "I Happen to Like New York." It's not just a song, more like a call to arms. In a more narrative vein, Kristy McColl and the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York is right up there with me. The TONY list has too much Springsteen, Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" (must you? Really?). It's never been my favorite Kander & Ebb song, and Sinatra got the lyrics wrong. The only bad thing about the Yankees winning the World Series is the incessant playing of that song. Steely Dan in on for "Daddy Don't Live in that New York City No More," but not "Bad Sneakers." There are a couple of original cast albums ("On the Town," but not "West Side Story"), and "Rent," God help us all. The Stones are on for "Shattered," but not "Miss You." Ella Fitzgerald singing "Manhattan" (from the Verve series) and Billie Holiday for "Autumn in New York." Much Simon & Garfunkel, and Lou Reed, including "Walk on the Wild Side." Joni Mitchell, not "Big Yellow Taxi" but "Chelsea Morning." And the great George Benson, "On Broadway."
So I didn't agree with a lot of it, but it did make me think.