Sunday, August 19, 2012
Our run is finished, and we are soon to be back in Greensboro. We had a great turnout for the last show, and a very enthusiastic audience response. This was one of the best theatrical experiences of my life so far, and I know I am standing on the shoulders of many. We’ll post photos from the show in the next few days, but until then, here are some links to press that we have gotten both in NYC and elsewhere. More to come.
Our review at NYTheatre.com: http://www.nytheatre.com/NytheatreNow/Review/fringenyc2012-the-27-club
Our selection from Playwrights Picking Plays: http://blog.indietheaternow.com/2012/08/17/fringenyc-2012-playwrights-find-new-plays-for-us/
An interview with Tommy from Gaston Today (actress Brittany Polk’s and my hometown of Gastonia, NC):
And to our Kickstarter patrons who helped us fund this trip, we owe you an eternal debt of gratitude (and in most cases, some signed scripts, programs, and CDs.) Tonight, it’s time to relax, get settled back home … and start on whatever it is that’s coming next.
Friday, August 17, 2012
It’s slightly cooler this morning in Brooklyn after a number of oppressively hot days. We began this trip with the best of culinary intentions – to shop at the farmer’s market every other day, to create new and interesting meals with new and interesting ingredients. But now it is Friday, and I am spending the morning with a bowl of Ramen noodles and a cut up hotdog.
Yesterday’s show was an interesting experience. I was very excited going in because I knew my friends Larry and Holly were coming to see the show. Larry’s a screenwriter and Holly’s a playwright, and both are very close friends of mine from grad school. The cast were all in great moods, we were feeling extremely positive about the show and each other, we were cutting up backstage … so you can imagine our horror when we begin our show and discover that we have something of an antagonist in the audience. We had … and I guess there’s no other term for it … That Guy. The moment our show starts, these sharp explosive guffaws come from somewhere in the middle of the audience. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
See, here’s the thing about our show. It’s not a comedy. Sure, there are a few funny lines in it to break up the tension here and there, but it’s mostly a serious play. Our audience heretofore has understood that and behaved appropriately roughly 100 percent of the time. This guy laughed where there were no jokes, did not laugh where there were jokes, laughed louder than any of the actors on stage were talking, and in doing so, largely monopolized the room for much of the show. All five of us are on stage for the entire play, so there were no moments where we could go backstage, break character, and touch base about what the hell is going on and who in the world this guy is. My guess is that he was laughing at our play’s perceived “pretension,” which I have always felt is the absolute laziest of insults, and which says much more about the person uttering the term than the artists or work under scrutiny, but whatever. So we had to put up with 90 minutes of some dude in the audience essentially screaming out, “Hey everybody, look at me! I’m so much better than this play, can’t you hear how loud I am laughing? Look at me! Me!” (NB: He was also covered in glitter.)
Pat Ball has a monologue midway through the play about the performer’s sometimes volatile relationship with the audience, and he very wisely tuned it like a laser onto this guy. Pat told me afterwards that was his most satisfying delivery of that monologue. It was hilarious. And by the way, everyone else who was there loved the show. But everybody started their sentence off with, “What the hell was up with that guy …?” *
In any case, it was fantastic to see Larry and Holly. We had a great meal at Virage, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant around the corner from the theatre. Amanda left early, hoping to get home and to sleep, and then got lost in Brooklyn. Daniel and I went on a rescue mission, but because nobody’s phones work on the train, we made it all the way out to the lost part of Brooklyn only to discover Amanda had taken a cab home and was waiting for us there. Such is life.
* Update: Learned this morning that Glitter Guy was there with a friend of mine who had seen the show earlier in the week and wanted to bring her friends out. Glitter Guy had come from his own Fringe show by way of another event and had gotten drunk in the process. Now, as my friend is one of the sweetest, smartest, kindest people I know, so I’ll just chalk Glitter Guy's behavior up to the sauce and leave it at that. So it goes. (Hey, that’s the title of the blog!)
Monday, August 13, 2012
Sunday, lovely Sunday. Our first day to relax (we have three in a row, and then back to manic show production), and it was possibly my favorite day up here yet. Got up, had some coffee and wrote for a while, and then old-pal Clay Davidson met us here in Brooklyn for a few hours before he had to catch his plane back to Greensboro. He’d heard of a place in Greenpoint that served something called Kyoto coffee, and since I am a coffee addict who could drink Maxwell House under the table (he’s a real person, right?), we hopped down to try it out.
Kyoto coffee is strong, flavorful, and the product of patience. It’s made in a contraption that looks very similar to an absinthe distiller, and basically it is room temperature water being dripped through coffee grounds over the course of 24 hours, served cold. A full diurnal cycle for a single pot of java. Thankfully, we did not have to pre-order our joe. Clay and I also indulged in “bootlegger s’mores,” these gorgeous little sweet sandwiches of creamy moonshine marshmallows (I assume the name is ironic), chocolate, and these incredible crisp graham crackers that were so packed with caramel and cinnamon flavors, I instantly wanted to burn down a Honey Maid factory. But if the s’mores sound rich, the coffee was richer – and I drink mine undoctored. I am embarrassed to admit, I couldn’t finish it. And I am so glad I surrendered. (More on that in a bit.)
Next we headed up through Greenpoint to a place Amanda had heard of called The Meatball Shop. They have these fantastic $3 meatball sliders: you mix and match a style of meatball with a style of sauce, with the option of checking a box labeled “family jewels.” You’re thinking the same thing, right? Brooklyn’s variation on a mountain oyster? Well, relax. It just means they add a fried egg into the mix. (Although it must be said that The Meatball Shop does lay it on pretty thick with the testicle humor, not all of it inspired. “Eat Our Balls,” read several of the servers’ T-shirts. Touché, Meatball Shop.)
Then we toured through the trendy Greenpoint neighborhood, which was set up like an open-air market for hipsters. Sidewalks covered with paperback books and vinyl records, all reasonably priced, all just the right authors and artists. It really was rather lovely, and a far cry from the open air market we visited in Manhattan the day before, which comprised endless rows of state fair food and oddball trinkets punctuated by carnival barkers all yelling “Two dollars two dollars!” as though we were strolling through John Cusack’s purgatory.
After a little bit of slow-paced shopping which culminated in the purchase of a single book (Alan Williams’ Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking), I started getting this very strange sensation – you know all the attendant phenomena that occurs when your stomach is upset? The sweating, the disorientation, the vertigo, the feverishness? It fell on me all at once, and it was suddenly time to go home. A universally helpful piece of information: if you have started your day with Kyoto coffee and meatballs and you suddenly find yourself in Greenpoint needing to get to Bushwick, do not get into a cab. Suck it up, you’re better off walking. After the harrowing taxi, I got home into the cool air and felt much better. And when Amanda began feeling the same way a few hours later, I was able to offer this kind gem of wisdom: it gets better.
The rest of the day was spent lounging around the apartment, reading and writing and talking and listening to music. By dinner time, we were all feeling much better, and I made a mustard-coated snapper with a spicy remoulade, purple okra, and some parmesan pasta, and then we spent the rest of the evening relaxing and waiting for our houseguests … my wife Mara and brother-in-law David. Man, it is so nice to see them.
NB: Had a quick phone interchange this morning with Clay Davidson, who is already back in Greensboro. “Hey buddy, how’s your stomach?” “It was pretty messed up yesterday afternoon – why do you ask?” Folks in Kyoto must be made of metal.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
A METAPHORICAL FANTASY LEADING UP TO OPENING NIGHT
(Or, How We All Feared It Was Going To Go Based On The Day)
ADMIN: Dr. Newelpost?
ADMIN: All right, you are scheduled to perform knee surgery this afternoon at 3:30.
DOCTOR: That’s great!
ADMIN: Yes, we’re all happy with your work. Couple quick things, nothing big – you’re going to have to perform the surgery in exactly 90 minutes because we have another surgery scheduled for right after.
DOCTOR: That’s just fine, I’m very efficient.
ADMIN: Excellent. Also – again, nothing big – this is a very old hospital, and our equipment dates from the 1880s.
DOCTOR: Oh. Okay.
ADMIN: And just to be sure, you might want to bring some equipment of your own. But it still needs to be compatible with our obsolete equipment.
ADMIN: You know, hysterotomes, arrow removers, artificial leeches.
DOCTOR: For knee surgery?
ADMIN: Cutbacks, you know. Trying to get a grant. You’ll be fine. Oh – minor thing, this – we’re not one hundred percent positive that the patient is going to be there.
DOCTOR: Not …
ADMIN: It’s a busy hospital and all, and it is knee surgery season, but you know, fingers crossed.
DOCTOR: Well, I guess if there’s no patient, I could use the time to catch up on –
ADMIN: Oh, we’d still need you to do the surgery.
DOCTOR: Do the surgery.
DOCTOR: If there’s no patient. So what exactly am I expected to cut?
ADMIN: I assume you could do this kind of thing in your sleep, right?
DOCTOR: Yes, but –
ADMIN: So just pretend you’re asleep. ‘The surgery must go on, and all that.’ So, um … you know, break a leg. (exiting) Or mend one, whatever it is that you guys do …
Fortunately … IT ROCKED. Yes, we did spend the bulk of the day searching the most consumer-friendly city in the country for a floppy disk (yes, those things) without finding one, and we did have to deal with a sudden bureaucratic staff upheaval, and we were all very aware that only two tickets had been presold to the show, and we also knew that we hadn’t actually successfully run our sound plot in that space, but our spirits were high. Backstage as we were stored in our dressing room, I mentioned something half-heart-warming about being proud of our efforts (because I really couldn’t be prouder) and that if there were only six people in the audience, we were going to rock their faces off, and the cast agreed. Most people get into theatre specifically so that they can rock faces off.
At this point, Daniel Harp (whom I have discovered to my delight has the same inability to sit still as the top from Inception) spun his way down and peeked through the curtain.
DANIEL: Yeah, so guys? There’s not six people out there.
US: In which direction?
DANIEL: The good one.
Fan-freaking-tastic, we’ve got a crowd. I peek outside and see Richard Davidson and Richard Hollis, the two splendid actors from THE ILLUSION at Triad Stage, sitting right in the middle. Nice. Now we just have to give them a show. Venue Director Natalia gives her curtain speech, the house lights go out, and the hopped-up-nervous jazz song that begins our show kicks in, and … the rest was just beautiful.
Post Script – Afterwards, Amanda and Daniel and I had the great pleasure of dining with two lovely gents: my oldest and best friend Clay Davidson, and my great friend from many years ago, the poet Rangi McNeil (whose acclaimed book The Missing is available on amazon.com.) These might as well be clouds I’m walking on.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
We open in 12 hours. Fingernails are being bitten, shirt tails are being chewed, thumbs are being twirled and possibly sucked. Nervous about performing, you ask? Nope – it’s that 1) due to a miscommunication we don’t have anyone to run our box office tonight, and 2) we have to find a space in town to do a pre-show run with sound before we go on. Sometimes, it’s the little things. Nevertheless, we remain firmly committed to the idea that through hard work and determination, a magic fairy will come solve all our problems.
Yesterday was more low-key and business-minded and less “Lost in Oz.” Amanda and I ventured into Manhattan at lunch to meet with my good pal Larry Brenner. I went to grad school with Larry, and Amanda directed his short play “The Box” for the Greensboro Fringe Festival a couple of years ago. After a couple of missteps (well, more than a couple: getting off at the Broadway-LaFayette stop, we headed in the wrong direction towards 4th Street and stubbornly kept going, intent on reaching 4th street by circling the globe if we had to), we met up with Larry and hiked to MacDougal Street in search of a nice bite to eat.
New York is a city of great food. Possibly I am not the first person to state this. You can virtually throw a rock in any direction and hit a delicious meal, and possibly an irate diner. So you can imagine how elated I was to find, by sheer dumb luck, the absolute worst cheesesteak in all of Manhattan. Amanda’s was covered in a sort of dun gravy that seemed to have been unevenly microwaved, so that each bite was alternately frozen and boiling. But we suffered through the gummy bread and radioactive cheese because it was so wonderful to see Larry, who is truly one of my favorite people on the planet.
And we then we get back home to find Daniel raving ecstatically about this amazing cheesesteak he ate one block from the apartment. What a dick.
The rest of the day was spent planning, thinking, napping, cooking, and reading (by the way, whoever lent me Hillary: A Modern Greek Tragedy With A (Somewhat) Happy Ending, I finished it and it was fantastic and I don’t wanna give it back ‘lest I haveta), and we made it an early night because …
We open tonight! If you’re in NYC, come to The Kraine Theatre at 8:15! Not only is there brilliant acting (Pat, Colleen, Daniel, and Brittany) and music (Clay), there’s also me being forced to say my own miserable, pretentious words! What could be better?
Friday, August 10, 2012
It is cool and overcast here in Brooklyn. Thank God. Yesterday sweltered more than Tennessee Williams in a sauna.
The day began innocuously: a little breakfast, some writing, a light lunch, and then off to Greenwich Village to meet up with the other members of our cast. Patrick Ball and Brittany Polk had both flown up, and Colleen Huley (our lovely leading lady) lives here. Our rendezvous point was a little restaurant called Stillwater, diagonally across the street from the Kraine Theatre. Incidentally, do you know what else is across the street from the Kraine? (Don’t answer out loud, I won’t hear you.) La Mama. The matriarch of experimental, playwright-driven theatre. That theatre has loomed large in my head for years, and it was wonderful to see the exterior for what it was – a time-weathered door with a jaded young woman sitting on its stoop, smoking a cigarette. From her sour expression, I imagine she was pondering the incongruity between the world-at-large and the works of Jean Genet. Or maybe she has IBS. I don’t know, I’m lousy at mind-reading. OH, that’s right – the cast. So it was great to see them.
This is one of the more wonderful things about theatre, incidentally – the relationships you develop with other people. I’ve worked a variety of other jobs in my life, and they’re all good for meeting new folks you wouldn’t have otherwise. Restaurant work, for example, puts you in those high pressure situations that forge friendships with strangers from all walks of life. But there’s something about theatre that is so much more intense. Possibly it’s the fact that you are obliged to open yourself up during rehearsals and general development of the play that makes for such easy and strong friendships. I don’t know. But upon seeing Brittany and Pat and Colleen, I felt such a strong wash of … I guess you would call it relief. Like my other parts had arrived.
We hacked around Greenwich Village for a while, looking for coffee and (for me) sunglasses. I am very hard on things, unfortunately, and constantly have to replace my possessions after quickly wearing them out. I settled on some Top Gun-era aviator shades I found on St. Mark’s. We found a creamy, delicious coffee at a little Vietnamese shop (estimated calorie count, 6,000), and then headed off to Fringe Central to pick up our badges. The badges are pretty cool – not only do they give us easy access to other Fringe shows, apparently they come with a discount at certain restaurants. I like to eat, y’see.
After a slight navigational error – which is apparently the theme of the trip thus far – we walked in to Fringe Central to find it packed. Some of the shows were doing five-minute previews. Commercials for the shows, really. As we walked in, the first thing we saw was a room full of earnest, nodding heads, all pointed in the same direction. As that usually means there is a show going on, we turned to see what they were looking at. There was a woman in her 60s in a bright yellow dress on stage, and she was – y’know, I’m not really sure what she was talking about. I have always joked (privately, because others don’t find it funny) that poets spend half of their time working on their poems and the other half of their time cultivating that “middle voice” that poets use to read their work publicly. The only person I’ve ever heard pull that off well is the poet Kathleen Driskell. Everybody else sounds foolish, and I wish they would stop. But it’s the same thing with theatre, and with one-person shows in particular: sometimes, the only difference between an audience and performer is that one of them is talking purposefully in a “theatrical middle voice,” and the other is nodding earnestly. Is there anything actually being communicated? Who knows. It’s a ritual.
In any case, we learn that our badges won’t be ready until tomorrow, and by this time we are cutting dangerously close to tech time, so we start hoofing it for The Kraine. At this point, Brittany realizes she has lost her phone – she thinks either at Fringe Central or at Starbucks. I mutter cynically that the odds of her finding her phone again are close to nil, but I am wrong because cynicism usually is, no matter how easy and comfortable cynicism might be. Her phone was sitting where she left it – on a stack of programs at Fringe Central.
Am I rambling? I’m rambling.
So we get to tech, and meet our Fringe liaison, Natalia. She’s the venue director for the Kraine. Lovely young woman whom I have been communicating with online for two months now, and she never mentioned to me that she would be speaking with a British accent, but there you are.
For those of you who are not theatre workers, tech is … how can I put this politely. Tech is only slightly more fun than getting kicked in the nuts by a middle school bully. Poor Amanda is running both light and sound by herself, and since this is NYC theatre, everything is tiny and barely works. But we muscled through the show, and the “garage scene” (come see the show if you don’t know what I’m talking about) was the best I’ve ever seen it. Pat and Colleen really broke my heart with that scene, and it was TECH. Sign of good things to come. Anyway, we got out of there at 9:30, and then the Judah Friedlander thing happened.
The Judah Friedlander Thing
So we’re next door to a comedy club. For whatever reason, every show I’ve done in this city has been next door to a comedy club. I can only assume that in NYC, every building is flanked on both sides by a comedy club. We’re sitting on the stoop, getting really excited about going to a tapas bar to eat while we wait on Amanda to finish up in the booth and come outside, when I see a familiar face walking up the street. Now – you have to understand, I have always loved TV and movies, and in fact, many of my closest relationships have been with fictional characters. So when I see this person heading up 4th street, my right hand does the only natural thing – it rises up to wave hello.
As it rises, seemingly in slow motion, my brain kicks in: “Tommy, what are you doing? You don’t know that guy. That’s Judah Friedlander. He’s not a friend of yours – he’s ‘Frank’ on 30 Rock. And he’s headed to the comedy club next door to perform a set. Put your hand down, you look like an idiot.” But it’s too late, I’m already waving, so I try to play it off like I’m waving at someone behind him. Smooth, right?
Moments later, Janeane Garafalo in all her tiny angriness extinguishes her cigarette on the street. I watch this happen, and have learned from The Judah Friedlander Thing not to wave. She goes into the club. I remark to fellow castmate Daniel Harp, “Dude, Janeane Garafalo just went in there.” Daniel says, “What? No,” and peeks into the club to check it out. A moment later, he reports, “Yeah dude, that was totally Janeane Garafalo. She just scowled at me for looking at her.”
We finally make it to Carrera, my favorite tapas bar in town, and have a litany of delicious foods: smoked salmon, white anchovies, mushroom croquettes, potatoes with smoked paprika aioli, pork belly, tomato goat cheese and baguette, blood sausage sandwiches, etc. Remarkable. Soon we are exhausted, and Amanda and Daniel and I head off to the train to take it back to Brooklyn.
A seeming eternity later, after waiting patiently in a subway station hot enough to boil a demon in, we discover that there is no M train to Brooklyn coming. Some discussion ensues – we are all tired and irritable at this point – and we decide to take a cab back. Amanda’s first attempt to hail a taxi was successful in that the driver stopped, but was less successful in that driver upon finding out we were going to Brooklyn peeled off and nearly ran over her foot. The second attempt was much more successful in that we did eventually make it home.
Today: lots of administrative work for the show, lunch with my good pal Larry Brenner, and probably some homebodiness.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Today is our tech day for THE 27 CLUB at the Kraine Theatre in NYC. We have three hours to figure out how to transfer our lighting and sound plot over to a largely unfamiliar board, do a quick cue-to-cue, and then run the show so that the Fringe Festival organizers can time our show and make sure it’s right at 90 minutes. It promises to be a fantastic mess, but it’ll also be the first time the whole cast is back together up here.
Speaking of the cast, Amanda and Daniel and I carpooled it up here yesterday. The long day of driving from Greensboro to Brooklyn was broken up by a stop in Baltimore, MD for crabs. The stop took us almost three hours. Extravagant? Maybe. A senseless waste of time? I don’t like your tone. Delicious? Absolutely. I have had a love affair with steamed blue crabs for the entirety of my life. My parents met when they were in secondary school in Maryland, and I was born in Ellicott City, right outside of Baltimore. Most of my mother’s side of the family spent all of their lives in MD, and I always relished the trips up because of the promise of crab. My grandfather in particular was a master crab steamer. To date, my idea of a perfect afternoon involves a newspaper-covered table, several wooden mallets, a little corn and sausage, and bushel after bushel of steamed blue crabs. I even don’t mind the paper-cut-sized wounds the little buggers give me in my haste, or the sting of Old Bay seasoning worming its way into the aforementioned wounds. Over the course of conversation, it was pointed out to me by Daniel and Amanda, both of whom have worked with me on productions in the past, that crabs manage to scuttle their way into several of my plays. (Notably WAKE-WALKING, which prominently features terrifying gigantic web-spinning crabs in Act 2. You would think I was a man of infinite financial resources, but no – just a dumbass.)
In any case, we met Amanda’s lovely sister Katie and had a prolonged al fresco crab pickin’.
The rest of the drive was light and easy. We got into Brooklyn around eight and met our liaison for the apartment we rented through airbnb.com (fantastic service that I had never heard of until recently), and relaxed for a bit. The apartment is nice – it belongs to a married couple who are out of town for a month. She’s a scientist and he’s a visual artist. The entire apartment is covered with his artwork, which is beautiful, and his metal works, which are stunning (and which we have been informed that we cannot under any circumstances get wet.) Then we took a walk down to the Bushwick Food Co-Op, which was a miserable failure, and then an open air grocery, which was a culinary triumph. I bought ingredients for a lovely dinner and some staples for the next few days. We hoofed it back home, and I made a nice farfalle pasta with sautéed eggplant, squash, onion, and zucchini, chicken sausage, diced tomato, and parmesan reggiano. I was too hungry to take a picture.
Finally, after a failed trivia night meet up with my pal Eve Campbell, we decided to pop into a little place nearby called MILES and have – yes – another bite to eat. We were semi-surprised to find our airbnb liaison in there as well. Small borough. We noshed on chorizo secco, some great slices of crusty bread, a beautiful mustard, and some gherkins – all for $5. It might be worth mentioning that I am almost more excited about the food up here than the play itself – but ask me again in a few hours when we hit the stage.