Monday, January 28, 2013

Alec Guinness

I lifted this off of Richard Toscan's recent LinkedIn post: 

Alec Guinness said, "There are three ways, I suggest to deal with critics. The first, most sensational, slightly dangerous but highly successful if carried out with sincerity, is to hit them." 

Sounds just like him.

Brecht in America

I have spent the last few days skimming Bertolt Brecht's FBI file.  Some parts have been redacted, but there is still plenty to read.  It's about 300 pages long, and covers 1941 to 1947.  The FBI was quite exhaustive in their surveillance, both visually and electronically.  

The link to part one is here:

There are plenty of people that you've heard of mentioned in the file:  Brecht; his wife; his mistress; his musical collaborator Hans Eisler; his children, Barbara and Stefan; Peter Lorre; Heinrich Mann; Charles Laughton; Elsa Lancaster; Elisabeth Bergner; etc.  I think the only one of them still alive is Eric Bentley. 

I'm not sure why the FBI chose Brecht's file to highlight.  Most of the informants' names are blacked out-  the only one that I recognized was Mrs. Robert Siodmak (we'd watched "The Killers" a few nights before). 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Swann's Way

The past few weeks I've been reading Swann's Way (Lydia Davis' 2002 translation).  I felt like not having read Proust was a gap in my education.  I'm not that well-read in French fiction, that's for certain, aside from Flaubert, Hugo and Balzac. 

So I finished reading Swann's Way.  I have no great desire to read the rest of In Search of Lost Time.  I really enjoyed Part I:  Combray, and the following two (Swann in Love and Place Names:  The Name) less and less.  A few years ago I knew a playwright who was trying to dramatize Swann in Love, and that still makes no sense to me.

Here's a quotation from the first part of Combray:
"I find the Celtic belief very reasonable, that the souls of those we have lost are held captive in some inferior creature, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object, effectively lost to us until the day, which for many never comes, when we happen to pass close to the tree, come into possession of the object that is their prison.  Then they quiver, they call out to us, and as soon as we have recognized them, the spell is broken.  Delivered by us, they have overcome death and they return to live with us."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Trip to Kansas

Back in October and November, I did a residency at the William Inge Theatre Festival (Peter Ellenstein, Artistic Director) in Independence, Kansas.  I shared Inge's birthplace with Adam Szymkowicz, who was working on a new musical about pan-sexual female pirates.  Adam was an excellent housemate!

Peter  took the beautiful photograph of the combined casts and creators of "My Dark and Scurvy Heart" (Matt Sherwin, lyricist, is sitting next to me; and Adam Szymkowicz is behind Forrest Attaway's head) and my play, "The Benders," which is set in southeastern Kansas.  Our shared actors were the wonderful Joe Gomez (the man with the mustache) as Johnny; Hannah Joyce-Hoven (next to Joe) was Actress #1 (who was so good I wrote more for her); Forrest Attaway (next to Hannah) was Actor #1; the lady in green was our beloved director Tamara Fisch; I'm in between her and Matt Sherwin; Sean McDermott (so funny, and so much menace, played Pa); Cady Huffman (yea!) played Ma, and Nellie McKay played Kate.

There is a zoo in Independence which I did not get to on my previous trip.  But Tamara and I made an effort to visit it this time.  It is, as Cady Huffman describes it, "a zoo with a door."  It is free.  There are monkeys on an island.  There are burros who tried to follow me.  And there were some pretty fine looking swans (this is my artistic photograph of the swan and its reflection

Winter Classes Start Tomorrow!

The Acting Studio winter term playwriting classes begun tomorrow night.  There is still room in each class.
The Advanced class meets every other Monday evening for ten weeks, 7-10 PM.  We are reading a full-length play for each class (tomorrow is Sophocles' Antigone; the next play is Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder), discuss it and then hear each others' work.  Students must have taken Beginning Playwriting or its equivalent.  Class is at Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th floor.  Tuition is $200, payable at the first class.  We have a diverse group of students this time around-  different ages and backgrounds.  I'm looking forward to teaching it.
The Beginning class meets every Wednesday evening for ten weeks, 7-10 PM, starting January 30th.  There is no prerequisite other than a desire to write.  For each class, we will discuss a short play, and do in-class writing exercises.  Homework consists of reading a short play, and rewriting work begun in class.
For more information, contact Acting Studio manager Angelo Berkowitz at, or leave a message at 212.580.6600, and he'll get back to you.  For a full list of classes and faculty, see