Archives 'Experimental'

15 March
ibrews

B+

Hoo-rah!

  • Thoroughly enjoyed the set design. A large golden wall menacingly loomed over the stage through the entire production. It reflected just enough for effect, and produced misshapen  and powerfully defined shadows. This combined with a lack of any stage furniture lent the actors a restless energy as they paced the stage, pressed up against the cold concrete wall of the theatre. fell to the ground, or rocked back and forth on that wonderfully wood pellet-y ground. Very appropriate.
  • This was an excellent cast– strong voices, strong acting, and a thorough command of the language. Similarly to using the ‘empty’ stage well, they were great listeners (what I call ‘silent acting’)– staying right in the moment as other characters monologued on and on.
  • Oh, and this is a small thing, but I’ve seen a lot of show lately with some very unconvincing crying– all five or so actors who had to cry in this were positively dripping with genuine tears. I find that impressive.
  • I’ve always believed in Aristotle’s Poetics, and while I know ‘Music’ can be interpreted as far more than literally music, I think literal music nearly always adds to a production. This show made excellent use of literal music– it opens and closes with some (almost) overwhelmingly powerful sounds, and also contains a couple songs that allow that singing characters the opportunity to exude buckets of information on their emotional states.
  • Electra was insane! Kelli Holsopple plays the hell out of this part. In the moment you’re right with her thinking ‘oh yeah, well of course your mom was wrong to try to rescue your sister from your father sacrificing her to the gods’, but take a step back and of course you realize– “what a normal reaction for any mother to have!”
  • Because there were so few props, an extra level of intensity seemed to land on the small urn that’s meant to hold Orestes’ ashes. All characters who touched, spoke of, or stared at this urn were magnetic to watch. Side note: I imagine the speech Electra gives while holding the urn went on to inspire Shakespeare when writing Hamlet’s ‘Alas, poor Yorick’ speech.
  • The Greek Chorus as a single character was well-used and provided a nice way in to the story.
  • Good story Sophocles! Which I guess also means good translation Anne Carson! I can see why this play has lasted so long. I wasn’t familiar with the plot at all, and found most of the reversals to feel well-earned and surprising– no easy feat when you consider the vast number of plotlines I’ve consumed compared to an ancient Grecian. One reason I think this still holds up even today is that we are still horribly deprived of strong stories with a lead female character that aren’t centered on her finding ‘true love’. This is a revenge story, and one very specific to Electra as a believable female living within her station and all that that entails. Oh, and I imagine the original play is longer than this– the hour and a half here flew by and felt like about the right length for the story.

Blech…

  • While the lack of conventional seating or stage furniture was mostly well-used, Electra spent far too much time down on all fours weeping or writhing. Actually, this speaks to a larger point:
  • Electra goes too crazy too quickly. Pretty early on in the show you see her reach a level of irrationality that is hard to top, and she doesn’t. Then most of the play continues with her in a state of emotional extremes– super sad, super angry, super crazy… I would have appreciated more of a build.
  • Some of those monologues just go on and on, and while I understand this was typical of the time, I just can’t suspend my disbelief to think Electra’s mother would let her rail on her for so very long completely uninterrupted. Page Clements did her best with this– listening and reacting– but seriously, no one (even in ancient Greece) would let that kind of verbal assault continue uninhibited.

12 March
ibrews

B+

Hoo-rah!

  • Fantastically diverse collection of short plays, all of reasonable length, exploring the idea of ‘home.’
  • The first one was hilarious– a woman convinced she’s an alien and trying to convince a telemarketer that he is too. Great way to start the show.
  • Another one I really liked: a girl and her grandmother wearing a wig, trying to go on the run. The little girl is blissfully unaware of how hard it is for an old woman to do all the things required for being on the run, particularly wearing a wig. There’s some great comedy here and touching moments.
  • I think my favorite though was a poignant and funny multi-scene story about a gay couple where one of them is trying to become a citizen. It was called ‘The Procedure’ and featured some terrific acting and writing that explored the notion of getting a microchip implanted in you to become a citizen from an impressive variety of angles. The main characters were instantly likable, relatable, and clearly in love, and the diverse ensemble they bounced off of over the show’s 15 or 20 minute run time provided great opportunities to express their value and struggles.
  • The sets and props were simple and allowed the show to move between pieces quickly and fluidly.
  • The show was at Public Assembly, which provided a fascinating inverted Elizabethan theatre set-up: half the audience was seated in front, while the other half stood in the back by the bar. Surprisingly, this seemed to work out fine– the standing audience didn’t interrupt the show much at all.

Blech…

  • A couple of the plays felt underdeveloped or aimless.
  • There was a warning at the beginning that these plays were all very new and being workshopped, so please don’t be upset if you see an actor reading from a script or something like that. Well that’s a fine warning, but awkward when all but one play seems to have been rehearsed enough to produce a disbelief-suspending performance.
  • All of the shows could have used music… some excellent moments in particular would have played even better with the right scoring. Still, word on the street was each performance only had about 10 minutes to tech, so it’s a miracle all the light cues were correct and the transitions were so seamless.

 

Tales from After the Show…

  • This has nothing to do with anything, but in a mark of crazy coincidence, it turned out that one of the actresses in the show was the sister of someone I went to architecture school with, and another actress was the girl who runs the Trivia Tryste nights in the Park Slope bar, The Rock Shop. Small world!

24 November
ibrews

You might even call it a Post-Mortimer report. Ha ha ha, I am so darn clever!

 

Whew. The show is over. We made it. Though I’m keeping this website completely image/video free, here’s a few goodie links:

 

1) The final script!
2) The show program!
3) YouTube Video of the performances with captions!
4) The awesome flash file Dan made and operated during the show! (press ‘/’ to fade in or out, and press all sorts of other keys to make other things happen)
5) Oh, and also this ridiculous video I made when on a whim I asked TJ and Mike to perform the whole play in Simlish (but check out the English captions!) Not bad for being put on the spot…

 

It has truly been an exhilarating couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because it’s my first time doing this in a professional setting, but I’m sorry, two weeks seems like a super quick turn-around time to cast, rehearse, and tech any play– even a 10-minute one. Here’s a bullet-breakdown of how it all went down:

  • First, as you may have seen in my previous report, my very-recently-written play was selected for this festival even though it was submitted late. Minor detail I overlooked: it needed to be produced completely independently of the hosting theater–The Brick. Oh.
  • Welp, guess I’m directing now! I was lucky that right off the bat, TJ Clark signed on to play Mortimer Goth. TJ and I had a playwriting class together at Syracuse University, then started hanging out more in the city when he started taking Liz and I to Trivia Trsyt nights at The Rock Shop in Park Slope. I asked TJ if he knew any actors who would be good for a Sims-Style performance, but TJ wasn’t familiar with The Sims. Shooting in the dark, I linked TJ to a few pictures of Bob Newbie and asked him if he knew any actors who at least vaguely looked like the digital icon. “How about Mike Finn?” he queried, and gave me his contact info. Mike signed on too. Huge relief.
  • Then came rehearsing. We did it all at my place since Mike lives in Astoria and TJ lives in Park Slope, making Bed-Stuy a happy middle. As someone used to working with actors who are doing it ‘extracurricularly’ in their ‘free time’, I was blown away by the professionalism of these two. They insisted on rehearsing every other day, they always made it to rehearsal early, and they had their lines completely memorized in under a week. And Mike shaved his head for me– wowee wow wow!
  • I love rehearsal because I love workshopping my writing. I think of my scripts not as untouchable pieces of art, but loose blueprints to be brought to life by actors. The coolest thing that came out of rehearsal that wasn’t in the original script was the notion that the whole play could be taking place in Bob’s house. Originally, it was just about two different approaches to playing The Sims, but then it took on these lovely dark undertones by visually implying that Mortimer would become Bob’s twenty-fifth victim. Then we even got to have this lovely little twist at the end where the ‘player’ decides to lock Bob in this time, and now he’s destined to die as well. Hooray!
  • Meanwhile, I’m working with Liz and Dan on costumes, props, and real-time on-demand flash animation, all the while putting together the dozen or so sound cues I want and e-mailing Ian Hill at The Brick to try to figure out what exactly is possible in the space (please oh please let projecting from behind work!). I’m also in touch with Danton, Morgan, and Ian about any last minute thoughts on the script, and how to create a pleasing show program that properly addresses our first professional performance as WhAT (Warehouse Architecture Theatre).
  • Two days before the show we had a tech rehearsal at The Brick. Projecting from behind works-YAY! It went super smoothly except for one small thing– no sound cues. Here’s what happened: I bring in my CD. They tell me its blank. I tell them there’s no way its blank. After all, the night before, I burned it and played it on my computer using three different kinds of software. They insist I am mistaken. Alas, we do the tech rehearsal without my sound cues. I go home, put the CD back in my computer. It plays!! What the heck right? But then my computer starts making a noise like an exorcism. I open the CD tray. There are two CDs in there. The one on top is blank. The one under it is the one that burned, and has been sitting there ever since it was burned. Oh dummy am I!
  • The next night we do a dress rehearsal at my place, and we try to time everything with my sound cues from a small, spazzy laptop. At this point I’ll be up in the booth during the show making all that happen. Things look good though.
  • Night one goes great! Only real hiccups are TJ’s mustache constantly almost falling off (yeah… eyelash glue wasn’t working so we duct-taped it) and that the placement of Dan backstage forced him to have to leap through the projector, creating a shadow and turning it off briefly. Really though, it was wonderful. From the moment people started laughing when music from The Sims played, I was overjoyed…
  • Night two goes EVEN BETTER!! The lines are delivered with the strongest punch I’ve heard yet. We paint TJ’s mustache on this time, which makes more sense anyway since in The Sims, facial hair is a painted texture and not any kind of polygonal geometry. Dan sits on the side that doesn’t force him to stumble awkwardly into audience view. Only downside– like an idiot, I didn’t empty the Bloggie I had Liz filming the show on, so we didn’t get to record the last few minutes of the show, which was done to absolute perfection. Oh well. Theatre is always meant to be a live medium anyway, and its my hope the experience was extremely pleasurable for all involved, and at least a little pleasurable for all reading/watching this stuff after the fact.

And there you have it folks: my off-off Broadway playwriting/directing debut. I’m extremely grateful for everyone who made it such a lovely, welcoming experience. Now on to more!


3 November
ibrews

My very-recently-written play, ‘The Following is Based on True Events (From a Video Game)’, will now be very soonly performed!

 

On a whim, I submitted it (late) to The Brick’s 2012 Tiny Theater Festival, and they selected it! This is my off-off-Broadway Debut, and the first time Ian, Danton, Dan, and I will be using WhAT (Warehouse Architecture Theatre) as the name of our professional theatre company, despite how it’s still going strong at Syracuse University under the direction of some very fine archies.

 

This is quite the group effort. I wrote it, then received solid feedback from Kelly Gorga, Arielle Shear, Ian Nicholson, Danton Spina, and Dan King. Now, I’m also directing it. TJ Clark and Michael Finn star as Mortimer Goth and Bob Newbie, respectively. Dan King and I are working on creating an ‘on-demand’ flash file using graphics by Ian Nicholson (color-corrected by Morgan Shaw). This will display various icons above my actors’ heads showing their mood, like in the game.

 

And yeah, it’ll be performed in less than two weeks. Gulp. Here’s the whole script for your reading pleasure, and for your viewing pleasure, I hope you’ll come see the show!

 


28 October
ibrews

A-

Hoo-rah!

  • Incredible technical achievement. They made a film in real time, with all of the elements from acting to voice-over to sound to cameras visible to us in all of their beautiful artifice. The music wasn’t played live, but it still had to be synced in real time- still quite an achievement.
  • Perfect space for the performance. Open, cold, workshoppy, raw. I loved the way that the narration had an extra layer of real-time, natural echo, which was further enhanced in moments when two actors were reading the same words.
  • Also thanks to the large space, there was a wonderful ‘prologue’ section before the show where all of the actors recounted their own ‘personal’ memory of the story of Orpheus and Euripides.
  • So much fun to see hands, feet, face, chest, etc. all played by different actors, but cut together to look like the same person. This disorienting quality was one of the many ways the show explored the fickle nature of memory.
  • The ‘face’ of Orpheus and the ‘face’ of Euripides were both fantastic silent film actors– they conveyed so much through so little expression. I’ve seen a lot of film actors do terrible on stage, and a lot of stage actors do terrible on film. Big props to these two for pulling both off at the same time.
  • Loved the cinematography choices, and impressed that they never actually storyboarded anything. A lot of the shots, particularly the shots from below for the box and the water in the sink, felt very Breaking Bad.

Blech…

  • Because of coloring/lighting inconsistencies and the overall art-house film style, they should have followed suit with ‘…some trace of her’ and had the live film in black and white.
  • It was distracting to see people walk in front of the screen… it felt right to keep the ‘technical work’ and the ‘finished work’ separate. Or, rather than have this be a ‘necessary evil’, I wish they had found a way to have it mean something… maybe have people walk in front of the screen at moments when we’re supposed to be particularly aware of the artifice of the narrative medium… or something.
  • the final moments of the story, while beautiful, didn’t feel like it should have been the ending. Maybe it’s because the show as a whole was short, but there was a lot of time spent ruminating on moments (this is about memory after all!) and while I understand the end is the last time he sees her (therefore, the last ‘memory’), on a purely emotional level, it didn’t feel right to end there.
  • I wish Katie Mitchell and ‘…some trace of her’ was acknowledged as an influence.