5 November
ibrews

A-

 

Hoo-rah!

  • Very cool, well-executed concept– the first act is separated into three stories at three different points in a single marriage. Based on which ‘room’ you start in, you see the order of events as (1,2,3), (2,3,1), or (3,1,2). I saw it as 2,3,1. Interesting to have your information/questions dependent on the order in which you take in information– definitely a tightrope walk, but it works. The second act opens the three mini-theaters into one large theater-in-the-round and we see all the actors together carrying on the rest of the story. Seems symbolic of the dissolution of the marriage ‘opening up the world’ to them.
  • Exceptional acting all around.
  • Elegant use of ‘their song’ being played at the same time during Act 1 in both scene 1 and scene 3, but with different a effect on each of those moments.
  • A few times, though not as many as I would have liked, the dialogue from a scene in a different room had a wonderful poignancy in the room you were currently in. This was all the more effective if you had already seen the scene of the ‘ghost dialogue’ and therefore could imagine the character actually remembering that moment in their lives. If the scene was in the future, it became a strange bit of foreshadowing. If you as the audience hadn’t seen the scene yet, the dialogue you were overhearing became a tantalizing mystery.
    • Because we heard in a couple scenes about how much Marianne’s mother affected the relationship, it was a lovely choice to give us a conversation with her. Mia Katigbak playing her (who also did a wonderful job in Act 1 Scene 2 as Mrs. Jacobi), brought across the perfect mix of a loving mother that’s always wanted to see her child behave in a certain way.
    • ‘You disgust me!’ from scene 1 during a quiet moment in scene 3, well timed.
    • Seeing the end of a the relationship in a kind of flash forward– the scene 3 version of the couple at the end of the marriage walking by the scene 1 version of the couple. Particularly fitting after Johan brings up the notion that he couldn’t ever imagine cheating on her.
    • I liked hearing first in Scene 3 that Peter and Katrina are still together, then seeing Scene 1 and seeing that they seemed on the verge of divorce.
  • Whether it was intentional or not, I enjoyed interpreting the second act as an exploration of memory. We get three different ‘ages’ of Johan and Marianne interacting with all the different ages of the other one (sometime to orgiastic effect). I like to think that even when you’re older, you might still vividly remember what the younger version of both you and your partner were like, and that’s what I took from this.
  • Again, with my wife and I’s interpretation of this having a large ‘memory’ component, opening the second act with everyone on stage and the lines being repeated 3 time by the 3 different actors for each part–  I thought this worked beautifully. People remember their younger selves, so even though this was all taking place after the 3 events of the first act, it felt right to have the youngest iteration of Marianne and Johan played right alongside the oldest version of them. Having some of the more emotionally charged moments repeated 3 times in a row actually brought me to the tears at one point, each repetition bringing a new wave of that emotion on top of the old one.
  • It was 3.5 hours long, yet never dragged, and always kept me engaged. In fact, I would have loved to see additional scenes. That’s a good sign.

 

 

Blech…

  • There’s a weird final ‘interpretative dance’ thing at the end to a song from the original Thomas Crown Affair soundtrack, and it just didn’t do anything for me. So the ending felt odd.
  • Confusing timeline– in Scene 1 we’re told that they’ve been married for 10 years, and they seem to both be at most, 35 years old. In Scene 3, we can assume it’s five years later since, in the second act they celebrate their 20th anniversary and that’s supposed to be an additional 5 years. But actor playing the oldest iteration of Johan is 60 years old. So if they got married when they were about 25, then the very oldest we ever see Johan is 45. And in Scene 3 he should only be about 40. Hm. Not a huge problem to have a 60 year old man playing a 40 year old man, but I did find it distracting since the duration of their relationship is important.
  • Some missed opportunities in the first act where the volume levels of the scenes you’re not witnessing drowned out the action of the scene you’re watching, to the point of not being able to focus on the moment.
  • While in the spirit of the play it makes sense to have the actors of different ages interacting with the older/younger versions of the other, there was a noticeable lack of chemistry between all of the ‘mismatched’ pairings.
  • Strange set design choices, mostly for scene 2, which looked like a day care. Also the shared center area was strange. It just looked so technical in there, like there’s some kind of sci-fi component to the whole story (which of course there wasn’t) and I’m not sure what we were supposed to get out of seeing the characters from all three scenes occupy the same space offstage.

 

Scenes from a Real Marriage:

During Act 2, there was an older gentleman sitting in front my wife and I who needed the help of a hearing aid. However, his device was malfunctioning, and starting early in Act 2 it began to give off a high-pitched screech. His wife told him to turn it off, and he ignored her. A gentleman behind him tapped him on the shoulder, and was promptly ignored. The older man fumbled with the thing a bit but had no luck. Finally, his wife began hitting him on the shoulder with the program, punctuating each hit with words: “You! Are! Disturbing! The entire! Theater!” Scene 2 Johan, Dallas Roberts,  took on the heroic task of trying to help the man while staying in character, but ultimately had to give up. this continued a couple times throughout the act, and it was distracting/frustrating/enraging/sad.

 

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21 October
ibrews

Wow! I have not updated this in a while. How embarrassing. This is going to be a general post, and then hopefully soon in the future I can do a couple specific deep dives: a Dystopiapiapia post-mortem, and a ‘what I learned’ post regarding my experience making my first short film, ‘If Sims were self aware.’ Hmm… listing what I learned I believe is also the description of a post-mortem. So that.

 

So the summer of 2014– busiest summer of my life. There’s a lot non-theater stuff here, but this blog is near and dear to my heart so I’m happy to post about my life ‘as a whole.’ Here’s a ‘quick’ timeline of the past few months:

 

April

  • Found house that my wife and I want to move into up in Garrison/Phillipstown, NY. So begins three months of crazy paperwork, money-scrounging and fulfilling weird last-minute paperwork requests.
  • My friend and co-WhAT founder Danton Spina decides he wants to put on a little one-act festival in Philadelphia and asks me if I’ll write a short little play for it. I do, calling it “If You Were the Last Man on Earth,” basically with the premise ‘what if the human race died out because the last potential couple on earth made the seemingly arbitrary decision to not reproduce?’
  • ‘To the Table’ posts a thorough and fantastic video review of my board game, “Rum Run”
  • My play “Dystopiapiapia” is accepted into the Thespis NY Theater Festival with 3 productions set for July 9, 12, and 13. I will be directing.
  • I keep working on our Global Game Jam Unity game, Walkabout. On the one hand, I want to improve it. On the other hand, working on it serves as a great Unity/scripting tutorial, teaching me techniques I find myself using at work with the Oculus DK1.
  • Liz’s brother has been living with us since March, and will continue to do so until mid-September.

May

  • I begin casting my play. I’m nervous about hiring ‘professional’ actors since I know we’re going to be doing this on a near-nothing budget, and I didn’t know how they might feel about rehearsing in my apartment/parks/whatever we could find. Ultimately I (happily) settle on a WhAT-based cast. I’m particularly thrilled to be working with all 3 generations of WhAT, from original parents (Ian, Morgan, myself) to our ‘children’ (Sarah, Julianne, Dan King) to one of the current heads of WhAT at Syracuse (Alice Blank). I also get to cast Nick Douglas (head of Slacktory) in the excellent role of Colonel Gotye. We do a readthrough at Ian’s with Sarah joining us via skype. I’m excited to work with all of them.
  • Based on a Breaking Bad office mashup video I made over Christmas, Jules Fisher (9-time Tony Award-winning Broadway Lighting Designer) hires me to make six introduction/portfolio videos for his Broadway Lighting Design Masterclass at the end of the month. The videos are for Twyla Tharp, Jennifer Tipton, Mark Barton, David Weiner, Don Holder, & Japhy Weideman.
  • In a mad sprint, I spend a plethora of hours trying to use my new Unity knowledge to craft an interactive sightlines model for the Park Avenue Armory, who are about to put on their very epic and very expensive production of Macbeth in a couple weeks, but are just now realizing that there’s a lot of terrible views in the current layout. I make a super cool (non-Oculus) Unity model determined to squelch all doubt in our design. It squelches most, but not all doubt.
  • I start to realize how busy the summer is going to be and try to start performing basic editing on my Sims video, which I have promised to have done before The Sims 4 is released, the date of which is yet to be determined. Maybe early 2015?
  • Toward the end of the month, I’m struggling to complete a potential breakthrough freelance job for Screen Junkies, a youtube channel known best for their excellent Honest Trailers series. I contacted them after learning that Slacktory could no longer accept copyrighted content, and it turned out they were a fan of my Breaking Bad/Weird Al “Albuquerque” video and happy to see what I could do for them. Unfortunately, I’m so busy that I can’t quite get their idea of a ‘giant superhero battle mashup video’ there. I send some ‘draft’ footage, including a battle of Wolverine with Doctor Octopus, the Fantastic Four fighting Voldemort, Storm doing Thor stuff, Spiderman and Batman falling on Max’s taxi from Collateral (the title for this video should be ‘a better Electro origin story than the one in Amazing Spider-man 2), and an Avengers/Batman/X-Men mashup at Grand Central Station, but none of it is quite cohesive enough to fulfill the task at hand. Despite a nagging sense of unfulfillment all summer, it doesn’t get any further.

 

June

  • At E3 2014, it’s revealed that The Sims 4 will be releasing on September 2nd. Crap. I’ve had long-term projects often enough to realize that it is going to be a struggle to get this done by then.
  • Bob Campbell, a project manager in my office and I give my first public presentation of the work I’ve been doing with the Oculus Rift for my company at the ‘Intersections’ Symposium at the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. The way everyone fights over ‘their turn’ to play with the Rift after my talk amuses me to no end.
  • Dystopiapiapia rehearsals start in earnest every weekend, with Sarah commuting from Baltimore and Julianne from Connecticut. That’s dedication!
  • Danton, Ian, Lindsay, Morgan, Dan, and I learn we’ve been accepted to compete in the World Championship of Gameful Architecture in Witten, Germany. We launch a Trevolta campaign (like Kickstarter), I edit a video of Danton and the work we’ve done together, and we manage to raise enough money to fund almost our entire trip. Some people are crazy generous.
  • I venture to Philadephia to see Danton’s production of my play “Last Man” and enjoy it, though am confused by the main male character being transformed from an uptight, quiet, awkward guy to an athletic, charismastic, high-energy guy. Still very interesting to see one of my plays done entirely without my input during rehearsals.
  • Later in the month our marketing director Alexa and I venture to the Opera America Conference in San Francisco where I give my second public Oculus presentation (and have a booth set up for a few days). Because now we’re speaking to Opera donors and producers, I adjust the discussion from a focus on theater design and more to ‘how this technology can get people excited to go to/donate to the Opera.’ I’m proud of the 4 models I’m showcasing for the Oculus: 1) XIQU Cultural Center 2) Utah Performing Arts Center 3) The New Rose Theater (based on the set of Shakespeare in Love) and an Oculus version of: 4) Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth at the Park Avenue Armory. This also gives us the opportunity to get FDA to purchase a new work laptop, which I end up using a lot in the future (though I was scared to bring it to Germany).

 

July

  • July 4th weekend is spent feverishly rehearsing, preparing costumes, making fun/weird youtube videos, and watching Dan King struggle with a terrible new Adobe program called Edge. It’s intended as a Flash replacement since it outputs HTML5, but is super counter-intuitive and a certified mess.
  • Opera America interviews me for an article they’re writing about new technology.
  • Finally the show opens and hey! We’re at the Times Square Arts Center at 43rd and 8th, right off the C train. That’s rad, especially since it was supposed to be up in Washington Heights. Now I can tell people I’ve had a ‘surprisingly-not-far-off-Broadway’ show. I’m super happy with the resulting performances and super proud and super grateful of my cast. We have a beautifully fitting cast party at Nick’s house– fitting because I finally got the play into fighting form after editing it during a writing night at his place.
  • The week before going to Germany, I’m off to San Antonio, Texas for work to ‘punchlist’ the Tobin Center. Basically I shake a lot of seats and make sure the theater is being built to our specifications. It’s always great to see our theaters in the flesh, and I learn a lot from this trip.
  • Right after that, Ian, Morgan, Danton, Lindasy and I all take off for Germany for 10 days. It’s an incredible experience and for our prompt ‘create a space for intercultural communication,’ we build a giant epic 5-tiered foosball table. We receive awards for ‘Best  Community Engagement’ and ‘Best Craftmanship’ because, well, we made 5 freakin’ foosball tables in 72 hours. Of particular note is one that needed to be assembled on site because it wrapped around a tree. Really didn’t think it was going to happen in time– but then it did!

August

  • Hey-o! On the 11th Liz and I finally close on our house. We spend the rest of the weekends in August (3 day weekends because my office is awesome and gives us ‘summer Fridays’ in August) traveling to the house to unload stuff then going back to Brooklyn for the work week. Unfortunately for my wife, I don’t help with packing much at all because I’m working on…
  • My Sims film. Where did the time go? I have almost nothing done. I finally buckle down on this and end up with a lot of late nights. By the 14th I have a rough cut that I’ve sent off (no VFX) and get some very helpful feedback from Nick Douglas and Alex Schmidt. Despite the late hours, I feel energized, determined, and I’m having fun!
  • My friend and awesome comedian Alex Schmidt recommends me as a Macro-Video Editor for Cracked.com. They don’t have a macro video for me to make at the moment, but offer me a chance to make some money by doing some greenscreen editing on a web series they’re making called ‘Starship Icarus.’ I put together 28 shots, learn a bunch about ‘proper’ green screen editing, and then am thrilled to see when the web series comes out it garners all sorts of critical acclaim, notably from the NY Times and (to me) the AV Club.
  • Over Labor Day weekend we finally move into the house.

September

  • I finally finish my Sims film, unfortunately a solid 10 days after the Sims 4 was released. It doesn’t get a ton of views (just above 6000 as of now), but all the comments are glowing, and hey, 6000 views is way more than the actual play had! People seem to really like it, and I’m proud of it. I also learned a lot. Here’s a pro-tip either make tracking dots very large, or don’t use them at all!
  • Rum Run receives a thorough and fantastic review from noted board game critic Father Geek.

 

October

  • I host a three-hour lunch discussion with my office to talk about Revit. It goes well, and it seems like I’ll be leading the charge of this revolution.
  • Andrea Lackie, a friend of mine who I did a 3 day charette with back in 2008 (incidentally, Spring Semester of 2008 was the last time I felt as busy as I did this summer), asks if I would be interested in doing a freelance rendering for her company, Equinox. I do, and it’s simple, well-compensating, has a quick deadline, and the result is very satisfying. Would love to get more of these 🙂
  • I hit a new milestone with my Oculus Rift/Unity progress. We’ve received the DK2 and in addition to getting our models to work with its excellent motion-tracking feature, I manage to write some Unity scripts that allow for random audience generation– I fill the seats with legs, then from those legs sprout random torsos. Those torsos can then be given a random ‘height’. Next steps: individual audience member settings, and also randomizing hair across the 4 exisitng torsos I have set up (just needs more sprouting!).
  • After a screening of my Sims film during a ‘beer and pizza friday’ Charles Stone (one of the partners of FMS, FDA’s sister office) checks that I’m ‘the video guy’ and asks if I’d be interesting in moonlighting something for him. I assume he wants me to make a video, but he actually wants me to write a ‘narrative’ about a crazy LED system they’re building. I have no idea where to start, but when I ask him why he thinks I’m the guy to do this, he says ‘because I wouldn’t know where to start.’ A week later, with the help of Jeff McCrum in my office, I have something. He says it’s a ‘fine framework,’ which is what we were shooting for, so good.
  • A different partner from FMS now wants me to stay after work to give tutorials to different members of their team about using Revit. All as a freelance gig. Sounds good to me!

 

Whew! All that in addition to my standard 37.5 hour work week at Fisher Dachs Associates and keeping up with my daily ‘The Productive Commuter’ blog, which is about, well, you know, my commute time (which is now nearly 4 hours per day). The summer’s been undoubtedly fun, but I sure would like to lie down and turn my brain off for a while. I mean, I guess I’ve done a little of that. I beat Assassin’s Creed 2 and played a little bit of the new Tomb Raider as well as The Sims 2&3 (you know, as a reward for finishing my film). But now my current projects include more Oculus Rift craziness, editing Dystopiapiapia into a film, submitting Dystopiapiapia and other plays to various play events, adapting Cat’s Cradle into a play, writing a fun little Transparent/Six Feet Under mashup, writing a Firefly spec script with Danton, crafting a Game Crafter version of Masterplan, designing a new board game about meat-eating, finalizing the details of Rum Run so I can finally get a ‘final’ copy, color-correcting Terra Neo so I can finally get my first copy, and beginning to think about the 10 year anniversary of La Salle d’Or. Can my brain ever actually rest?

 

No. I think the answer is no. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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Here’s links to a bunch of stuff related to this summer:

** UPDATE TO THE UPDATES **
Now that the year’s over, it just seems right to finish off my crazy year of creativity properly, so I just wanted to add that Terra Neo Deluxe was released in December on the 2 year anniversary of Rum Run (December 8) and its gorgeous and I also started a one-man youtube review show! And here’s that ‘what I learned making my first short film‘ post! yay!!

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11 July
ibrews

Wednesday we had our opening night and it went great. I’m officially super proud of this show and everyone involved– it’s remarkable that I could rope this many amazing people (none of whom call theater their occupation) into one event. There’s two performances left- one on Saturday and one on Sunday. We’d love to see you!

Check out the official Thespis Theatre Festival page for the show here.

Check out the facebook event here.

And check out our awesome promotional videos here.

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25 June
ibrews

B-

Summary: Lovely music and production design can’t quite make up for over two hours of a predictable story with no sympathetic characters.

 

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen many operas in my life, and I was given free tickets by my company to see this in San Francisco as part of the Opera America conference. As usual at operas, I struggled to stay awake the whole time, and after the show I was unsure how I felt. Discussing the show with more learned opera-goers than myself (including one woman writing a dissertation on Madame Butterfly) helped clarify my own opinions.

 

Hoo-rah!

  • Pretty music with crazy talented opera singers
  • I enjoyed the physical performance of the guy playing Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton (great name). He had a frat-boyish, carefree kind of attitude that stayed interesting to watch throughout. Too bad he’s absent for the whole middle.
  • Excellent set design. A swirly ramp culminating in a platform was abstract enough to excite the imagination but practical enough to clearly delineate different spaces, from a house to a bench to a ship.
  • Some of the projection design was excellent. While the death scene at the end is pretty melodramatic, a great white projection where a drop of blood grows and becomes a mess was undoubtedly powerful stuff.

Blech…

  • Here’s the whole plot: guy with something falls in love with girl with nothing, marries her, bangs her, and forgets her (typcical frat guy). She has hope he’ll come back, and he does, but has a new wife. She kills herself in shame. All of this seemed inevitable from about 2 minutes in when he’s singing about how contracts all have to be renewed or they expire, and how much he likes that custom.
  • All of the characters basically come off as idiots. The guy is like ‘Whhhaaa? What do you mean you’re upset that I went off and started another family?’ and the girl is like ‘Just because he hasn’t contacted me in years doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me!’ I just can’t feel sorry for them.
  • Some of the projection design was too literal and frankly, dumb. Oh look! A boat is approaching! Let’s have a super simple animation of a toy boat silhouette with an American flag move cross the set for five minutes.
  • There was like a twelve-minute section in the middle of the opera with no one on stage and weird drawings of people being projected while soft music played. I had no idea what was going on, and neither did anyone else I was with. THEN I learned that Madame Butterfly is supposed to be on stage, during all of this, basically still, silently coming to grips with the fact that her husband has left her and she has nothing. Oh look! A chance for character development. Why didn’t they take it?
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25 June
ibrews

Summary: Danton Spina deftly directs a variety of short plays about ‘the end’ of something. The results are a night of fast-paced, entertaining blackbox theater.

 

Disclaimer: No rating because I’m too close to the source material– I wrote one of the plays and have been involved in two of the others, so my opinions simply feel too biased.

 

 

“Time Flies” by David Ives

  • Nice energy
  • Not sure what some of the set was for
  • Lots of puns… probably too many.
  • Great little meditation on the brevity of our lives

 

“If You Were the Last Man…” by Alex Coulombe

  • Tonally different from how I wrote it
  • The actress playing Sarah was a solid straight-man to the wackiness of Lester.
  • In some ways I enjoyed the ‘high-energy athlete’ version of Lester, but it makes the dialogue about how antisocial he is ring untrue.
  • There was no beeping… so I’m sure that aspect of Lester’s personality didn’t make sense. If they didn’t want to deal with sound cues, I’m curious why there wasn’t at least the speaking of ‘beep beep’
  • Since they did go with a much more energetic take on the show than what I wrote, I did like the way they built up and bounced off each other, culminating in a really fun ‘GOD DAMMIT LESTER!’ from Sarah.
  • Fun but sudden ending– kind of felt like the ending of an SNL skit that ran out of steam (no pun intended)

 

Variations on the Death of Trotsky by David Ives

  • Although Mrs. Trotsky will always be Nate Chesley for me, Julia Terruso was lovely.
  • I forgot how much David Ives loves puns… man, so many puns. I suppose those are more fun when you’re a kid.
  • Great accent for Trotsky.
  • Great comic timing, especially for all of the deaths.
  • I like the gargantuan size of the mountain climber’s axe.

 

“Forsaken Cubicle” by Danton Spina

  • Very Mad-Men-esque imagery and moments (there seemed to be a replicate Peggy Olsen presentation template there)
  • There’s a fun ‘what’s going on’ puzzle dynamic through most of the show, but I think at a certain point there needs to be more hints at what’s happening
  • I understand the ‘nostalgia drug’ thing in retrospect, but I think there’s too few hints at it within the show itself.
  • The ending happens a little too quickly so there’s not a chance to process it.

 

“The Zombie Aesthete” by Alex Dremann

  • Without a doubt the highlight of the evening
  • Even more entertaining than the production I saw Danton act in a few years ago
  • Stunning stage debut by Lizzy Henwood Spina– perfect listless stare and broken walk
  • Entrance by the other zombie couple is perfect– door slams open and they’re GRARRRHHHGG!!!
  • The brains they eat really do look like brains… ugh. Well done!

 

Danton Spina gives his thoughts on the full run of the show here. Liz, Morgan, and I were there for opening night. I wish I could have hung out longer after the show and talked with the cast, but I had to book it out of there to get back on a train to NYC for my 8 AM flight out of JFK to San Francisco for the Opera America conference!

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