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.
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