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.