Monday, May 27, 2013


I recently finished reading Kevin Baker's Dreamland.  I was hoping it had some information on Jack Bostock's Coney Island circus.  One of the characters in my play, The Tiger Play, apprenticed as an animal trainer with Bostock.  It had a few pages on Bostock, with the attitude that he was crazy to tame lions and tigers at all, once a lion had lost him his hand.  

The novel was okay, though I had a hard time getting into it at first (the Yiddish seemed really forced to me-  I can't actually describe why).  I haven't read the other two novels in this trilogy-  Paradise Alley (about the Draft Riots) and Strivers Row (about a young Malcolm X). 

My favorite part of the book was his historical notes at the end-  where things I've read about actually were in Coney island.  The house in Annie Hall, built under the rollercoaster? That was actually the Kensington Hotel, and the Thunderbolt roller coaster was built over it in 1926.  The roller coaster and house were demolished in 1983, and they stood on the empty lot next to the Cyclones' stadium.

Those incubator babies on the boardwalk in Atlantic City on Boardwalk Empire?  That practice originated at Coney Island-  showing the babies in the incubators for a small fee.  That way the parents didn't have to pay for the babies' care.  Supposedly, Cary Grant (back when he was still Archie Leach) was one of the Infantorium's barkers.

The "first enclosed amusement park" in the US was Sea Lion Park, on 12th Street (now apartment buildings).  Next to that was the wooden hotel built in the shape of a 150 foot high elephant.   

Luna Park (which even impressed Maxim Gorky)was where Astroland and Deno's Wonder Wheel are now.  Dreamland itself was where the Aquarium is now.  The Aquarium used to be in Castle Clinton in lower Manhattan, until Robert Moses shut it down and moved it to Brooklyn after World War II. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Department of Transport

(l to r) Nicole McLaughlin as Senior Officer, Amanda Lea Mason as Junior Officer, Caitlin Goldie as Sheila   

(l to r) Nicole McLaughlin as Senior Officer, Amanda Lea Mason as Junior Officer   

As you can see from the above, director Angelo Berkowitz and I have a cast-  I took these photos in rehearsal last night.  I have done more work on the play than I anticipated, thanks to Angelo and the actors.  Always helps to see the play differently with actual people, as opposed to the ones living in my head.  

We are getting close to the end of the process.  I froze the script last night, and the first tech is Monday.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Department of Transport

I teach playwriting at The Acting Studio, founded by my friend James Price.  Until last fall, I taught in the theatre part of the Studio, Chelsea Rep Lab, which John Grabowski runs.  Last spring was the height of the stop-and-frisk controversy, so John had all the students write one-act plays on that theme.  He or James (I don't remember which) suggested that I do, too.   I was somewhat at a loss.  I can always make things up, but what did I, a middle-aged white woman know about that first hand?

The closest I could muster was that in high school, I'd played Theresa Palancia, a shop lifter, in a video for the Cuyahoga County Criminal Justice System.  When we were shooting in the juvenile detention center, I had a frantic five minutes where I was mixed in with the general population, wearing the uniform.  I wasn't afraid of the other girls (maybe I should have been), I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get out.

And then I remembered that about ten years ago I was held for three hours in a British airport because they suspected me of being connected to the Irish Republican Army, or another Northern Ireland paramilitary group.  It was not a pleasant experience.  Considering the fact my father's family left Ireland during the worst famine in the 1840s, it was not terribly logical.  That didn't stop the Department of Transport.   

So I wrote about it.   The play is far from autobiography-  I had to do a fair amount of research, things are articulated that were not in my interview (I knew they were looking for plastic explosives in my suitcase-  I didn't need to ask).  There was a reading of Department of Transport at The Acting Studio last December, directed by Angelo Berkowitz.  He's also directing the production at Gallery Players that goes up next week.  Details to follow.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Nance

Cady Huffman as Sylvie

I saw The Nance a few weeks  ago (being in rehearsal and writing a commission do not lend themselves to much blogging time).  Primarily, I was going to see Cady Huffman, and Nathan Lane and Jack O'Brien couldn't hurt, right?  Lewis J. Stadlen I'd seen play Groucho Marx in Groucho:  A Life in Revue which my late, great friend Rusty Magee had musical directed.  I was not a big Douglas Carter Beane fan; I'd seen Advice from a Caterpillar and The Little Dog Laughed.  Not bad, but really not my cup of tea.  When I read Hilton Als' review in the New Yorker ("The Nance ... is a nearly perfect work of dramatic art"), I thought he's lost his mind.

Well, I was wrong.  I loved it.  I loved the script, and the fact that within the first 20 minutes there are references to both Singer's Midgets and Julian Eltinge, and the Lyceum is the perfect theatre for it.  I'm not sure I would have visualized Cady as a Communist striper, but I believe her every moment.  She and Lane are both touching and hilarious.  John Lee Beatty's turntable set is fantastic, Ann Roth's costumes are perfect (she is Ann Roth, I realize, but that baby doll nightgown that Cady wears with the hands on the tits is simply hilarious), the acting is across the board good (best thing I've ever see Stadlen do-  he and Lane even perform the "Niagara Falls" routine), the direction is just right.  Beane and Glen Kelly wrote new period-appropriate songs for the burlesque numbers. So good, in fact, my friend composer John Prestianni and I thought they might have been actual burlesque songs we weren't familiar with.   

Nathan Lane as Chauncey and Lewis J. Stadlen as Efram

 The Nance was extended through August 11th, and I'm going again.

Lincoln Center Theatre photos by Joan Marcus.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sidewalk Closed - Use Other Side

My boyfriend, Tom Bovo, has a new solo show opening this Friday which runs until Sunday, June 2nd.  It's called Sidewalk Closed - Use Other Side, and features his photographs of Brooklyn landscapes, mostly around Red Hook.  There are some color photos, though most are in black and white.

The show is at a new gallery-  Peninsula Art Space, 352 Van Brunt Street (near Sullivan Street).  The opening reception is Friday, May 10, 6-9.  Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 7. 

For more information,

Above, Canal, by Tom Bovo.  Featured in Sidewalk Closed - Use Other Side.