Thursday, April 30, 2009

houseguests

Holed up in the woods for a few days with my folks who are on their way from touring Gettysburgh, PA.

We'll be doing re-enactments and waiting for this swine flu thing to blow over.

Loved the 100 day press conference last night, how refreshing to be thinking that the President is the smartest guy in the room.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

60 is the new 100

Welcome to the fold, Arlen.

Now let's make Franken official and get something done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

lend a hand

Check this out:

http://www.clydefitchreport.com/?p=1940

The Clyde Fitch Report is a great site and Stolen Chair is a great company, so do what you can.

Ann knows her Boys, sorry Rosie.

When traveling the MMMQ, always ride with the Lampshade Queen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

blazes

As in "hot as..."

Yesterday was another example of the new world of postmodern weather, in which the traditional narrative of seasons is disregarded by the Sky Gods.

Crazy out there.

Yesterday was also the first annual members meeting for the League of Independent Theater. Thanks to all for showing up. Always great to sit in a room brainstorming with like-minded people.

And yesterday I found myself listening to Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians and remembering a Sacramento summer many years ago when my buddy Steve Summers turned me on to Mr. Hitchcock. In those distant days Robyn's band was:

1. Lost Boys

2. Hard Boys

3. Soft Boys

4. New Boys

or

5. Blue Ridge Mountain Boys?

Winners get a ride on Brenda's Iron Sledge, losers have to hang with Leppo and the Jooves.

Friday, April 24, 2009

making shakespeare dull

Can't remember if I've posted this before, too lazy to check the archives.

In honor of the late great Billy Shakes, a day late, something from the vault:

MAKING SHAKESPEARE DULL


When I think of Shakespeare, I think of Gulliver in Lilliputia: a giant tied down and held fast by hundreds of tiny ropes. We are the Lilliputians when we approach Shakespeare, busily fastening our slim theories, inspirations and critical interpretations to the great bulk in a foolish and futile attempt to hold the Titan still.

Another metaphor: a ship so covered in barnacles that the weight makes the sailing sluggish and slow. The generations of criticism, prejudices, assumptions and unchecked misperceptions cling to the great ship Shakespeare and all but drag it under. The barnacles are then blessed with the pomp and sanctity of hallowed writ and the once living ship descends to the depths, the Titan becoming a Titanic, distant, cold, dead.

The constant miracle, of course, is that all one must do is read the lines aloud and listen to them, unvarnished and alive and Shakespeare is among us again, breathing hard on our neck and pushing us about the stage. And if we hold three things in our heads and refer to them throughout the rehearsal process, Shakespeare again becomes accessible, simple and immediate.

The first thing to hold in your mind when working with Shakespeare is that he wrote for the stage, not for the page. The Globe was open to the sun, half the audience was standing and the reverent, hushed atmosphere of today’s audience was something a player had to earn and fight to keep against great odds, not something assumed. For the actor, this translates simply to making the primary focus and scene partner not your fellow actor, but the audience immediately in front of you. It is not a job for psychological realism or imitative dexterity; it is a job for speaking clearly and standing still. The audience is directly addressed, of course, in the constant soliloquies and asides, but these moments are not departures from the world of the play but rather logical extensions. When playing Shakespeare, you are never in Verona, never in Arden, never in Egypt, Rome or England. You are always on a stage, playing a role in front of an audience. This consciousness will both heighten the urgency of your speech and action and add a necessary freedom and critical distance to the degree of your role-playing. By not burying yourself in character, you remain free to engage in the larger wordplay and dramatic conceits of the language. While this understanding is blatantly essential when playing a fool or a rustic, it is no less necessary in the more subtle and complex roles. There is always an awareness in Shakespeare that another living being is watching and listening. To disregard this is as crippling as disregarding the rhythm and meter of iambic pentameter.

The second principle, which follows from the first, is that Shakespeare used poetry to write drama, not the other way around. Since the formal, rhythmic constraints of blank verse shape the thoughts and expressions of his characters, the actor must understand and respect the rules of the verse. But neither the actor nor the director should ever be concerned primarily with the beauty of the language. Shakespeare has already created the language; your job is to make sure it is heard clearly. The creative team must be concerned with action, character, and drama. The reason Shakespeare’s plays are still performed is not because of their gorgeous language, but because of their theatrical economy, wit and intelligence. You are never reciting. You are always playing. The character is never engaged in wordplay for it’s own sake, but only to complete or initiate an action. One must accept that the characters speak in this fashion, understand the rules and governing principles of the style and then banish the idea of “poetry” and all of the word’s passive associations in order to chase and follow the actions and thoughts of the character and the play.

The third essential thing to understand when playing Shakespeare is the simplest and yet the most widely disregarded. This is the principle of playing the opposite. Over and over we see “regal” kings and “comical” clowns and “virtuous” heroines and “noble” heroes plodding dully across countless stages in what seems to be a conscious conspiracy to render Shakespeare dull, obvious and dead. Playing a clown as comical is as good an idea as pouring sugar on ice cream. To approach a villain with the goal of expressing his malice is to twirl a mustache and wear a black hat. It is a universal truth that comedy is funny in direct proportion to the gravity of the comedians. If Lou Costello doesn’t passionately want to know who’s on first, the bit becomes quickly endless and endlessly annoying. If we remember that the fools in Shakespeare’s time literally lived on their wits and depended on the understanding and appreciation of their words for their food, clothing and shelter, we would see far fewer slouching, winking, leering and unfunny fools on our stage. In the same way, a tragic figure is only tragic to us when we are allowed to see his frailty, her humanity. Play the man who bears the crown, not the king who wears it. Pay attention to the heroine’s work, not her worth. You will find Shakespeare reaching towards you and handing you the tools if you begin to play the opposite and the weight of the great roles will lift from your shoulders and become wings.

When working on Shakespeare, stay on the stage, aware of the audience, study but never play the poetry and look for the opposite of the established understanding of the role. With these three things in mind, Shakespeare becomes your collaborator and partner and his plays live again, rescued from the depths of unthinking tradition, liberated from the thousand thin ropes of theory.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

scotland

Looks like my one-man piece The Event is going to play Edinburgh this summer, thanks to the indomitable David Calvitto.

Thanks, Dave.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

interview

A long, profane and pretty hilarious interview Spitfire and I did for the International Brecht Society:


http://www.ecibs.org/new/ecibs/37/anthony-hostetter-interviews-john-clancy-director-quotfat-boyquot

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

faster

Great piece in the Science section of the Times today about some guys modifying a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter so that it will run on ground so's that they can break the land speed record.

Current record is 763 miles an hour.

On land.

I'd just like to be in the passenger seat playing with the radio on that ride.

Ann aces, Rose reaps well from under the wing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

good news, true words and the MMMQ

This from David Pincus:

Last week, Community Board 5 unanimously passed a resolution drafted by
its Arts Task Force, under the leadership of David Diamond, calling for
City and State Agencies to recognize the value that Small to Mid-Sized
Theaters add to the financial and community stability of New York City
neighborhoods.

In addition, this week's edition of New York Press has a feature article
on the State of Small to Mid-Sized Theaters, which provides an excellent
overview of the problems and positive strategies that some theaters are
employing in order to stay vital to their artistic missions.

Please read and pass this link along:


http://www.nypress.com/article-19673-stage-struggles.htm

So the Community Boards keep stepping up.

And in New York Magazine, Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin are talking about Waiting for Godot and Lane quotes Elaine Stritch:

“Oh, Nathan, if that play isn’t funny, it’s one long fucking night in the theater.”

Words that should be printed on the first page of every published copy of that play.

It's Monday morning and we've got Dylan playing over the loudspeakers of the Museum. Listening to the Bootleg Series Vol. 3 and for my money the best song on any of the volumes, Blind Willie McTell.

God is in his heaven and we all want what's his
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is


Our troubadour stands at the window of which hotel when these words come out of his mouth?

1. St. James Hotel

2. Clarendon Hotel

3. Heartbreak Hotel

4. Golden Gate Hotel

Losers get their big plantations burned down, winners get to strut their feathers well.

Friday, April 17, 2009

jesus

Just finished reading the Justice Department memos laying out how our guys could torture people and not worry about going to jail.

The most heart-breaking thing I think I've ever read.

Jesus.

My country, tis of thee...

http://documents.nytimes.com/justice-department-memos-on-interrogation-techniques#p=1

Thursday, April 16, 2009

gratitude

I get so wrapped up sometimes in what's ahead I forget what's right around me.

Grateful today for a loving wife, good friends, health, supportive and funny parents, the opportunity to work in the field I love and the sun shining down outside.

That's all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

history

Randomly checking out a This Day in History site this morning and found out that this is the day Lincoln died, the Titanic sunk and Jack Roosevelt Robinson integrated baseball.

Sort of makes you want to check out the news tonight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

quick post

Up against it a little bit today with a self-imposed Kill Me Now deadline and a raft of the usual nonsense.

Went to the 24 Hour Play Anthology launch last night, saw a lot of old familiar faces and then walked uptown for an Advisory Council meeting at the New York Theatre Experience, Inc.

Love them Dentons.

Ann continues her MMMQ domination and brings Rose along for the victory lap.

Monday, April 13, 2009

24 hours in a day

Got my copy of the 24 Hour Play Anthology in the mail on Friday, spent the weekend reading it.

Having been through the process, it's hilarious to read short plays by Adam Rapp, Theresa Rebeck, David Ives and others and know that at a certain point, say, 3:30 AM, they were staring at the page or screen thinking:

Fuck.

This is going nowhere.

Why did I agree to this?


And then they solve it at, say, 4:30 AM and these beautiful short pieces are born.

The anthology includes a short work by Mike Doughty, one of my favorite pieces in the collection, Ray Slape is Dead.

And this leads us to our MMMQ.

Besides being a fine playwright, Mike Doughty is also known as the frontman for what great alternative rock band?

Is it

1. Husker Du

2. Pavement

3. Blind Melon

4. Soul Coughing?

or

5. Porter Waggoner and the Waggoneers?

Friday, April 10, 2009

proofing

Spent most of the week with the Fatboy proofs.

The thing about being a writer/director is that you know you're going to be directing the thing so you don't need a lot of stage directions or extensive character descriptions in the script.

And then when you eventually stage the thing you come up with all sorts of gags and bits and blocking that don't get written down but become essential to how the thing is played, especially if you've got a comedy. If you know from experience that without a gag during a speech there's no laugh and the moment dies, you should write in the gag, right?

Anyway, that's the road I chose.

I used to laugh at all of the stage directions in the Samuel French scripts:

(She crosses three feet DS, stopping at the end table and furtively fingers the snapdragons in the vermillion vase, a wistful and winsome expression on her face.)

But now I'm spelling it out point by point.

What the hell. No one ever reads the stage directions anyway.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

mike lends a hand

We're getting a little help from above, as the press release below shows:


MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES NEW INITIATIVES TO HELP NEW YORK CITY NONPROFITS COPE WITH CASH CRUNCH AS A RESULT OF THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Steps Will Reduce Organizations’ Fixed Costs, Improve City’s Contract Procedures and Build New Partnerships to Help Strengthen Nonprofits

Assistance Will Support More than 40,000 Nonprofit Organizations and their 490,000 Employees

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today outlined new initiatives to help New York City’s more than 40,000 cultural, health and social service nonprofit organizations survive the economic downturn. A growing number of nonprofit organizations in New York City – which collectively employ more than 490,000 New Yorkers or 15 percent of the City’s non-government workforce – are experiencing an increase in demand for services while facing major cash flow problems and steep declines in operating support. To address these challenges, the City seeks to reduce nonprofit organizations’ fixed costs, expand loan programs, enhance the responsiveness and efficiency of City contracting procedures to speed payments, and build new partnerships to help foster stronger nonprofits.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

men at work

They're tearing up the whole world outside my window this morning, playing the classic Rat City symphony at full volume. We got the drilling, the generators, lots of loud, random beeping. Mark Twain said it way back in the day, New York will be a great town as soon as they finish building it.

Got the proofs for the acting edition of Fatboy yesterday. Looking good. I just need to go over them and make sure that what should be "motherfucker" isn't "cocksucker".

Ah, the vagaries of art.

Also need to put some time into the Philly Live Arts show I'm working on with Melanie Stewart. Working title was Time to Dance, now it's Kill Me Now.

So you can see what direction that one's heading.

Ann aces the MMMQ with a little extra credit as well. Dylan was first Lucky and then became Boo Wilbury. Rose tried to play it straight and so gets burned this week.

Sorry about that, Rosie.

Monday, April 06, 2009

little theater tonight

One of the most consistently entertaining salons in the city, Little Theater at Dixon Place is happening tonight.

The lineup:


SHE DIES IN A DAY
(after Mary Webb)
written & directed by Normandy Raven Sherwood with Jenny Seastone Stern & Edgar Oliver
music by
SEAN MEEHAN & RICARDO ARIAS

an excerpt from
THE UNFORTUNATE SQUIRREL
words by Sonya Sobieski
with Stephen Bel Davies, Robert Davenport,
Lawrence Jansen, Allison Whittinghill

a performance by
JONES & ALLEN

TUPU, TUPU, TUPU
a play by Scott Adkins
directed by Erin Courtney, music by Kris Kukul
with Neil Hellegers, Matthew Korahais,
Jocelyn Kuritsky, Preston Martin,
Jenny Seastone Stern, Nathan Shapiro

***************************************************************

Monday, April 6, 2009 at 8:00 pm
The NEW Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie btw. Delancey & Rivington
(F/V 2nd Ave; R/W Prince; 6 Bleecker, JMZ Bowery)

And as it is Monday out there, here's the MMMQ humdinger:

The all-time greatest supergroup of the 80s, The
Traveling Wilburys was the brainchild of George Harrison. George got his buddies Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan to sit down and play and the result was joyful, simple rock and roll. On Volume One, what name did Bob Dylan play under? Was it:

1. Lefty Wilbury

2. Muddy Wilbury

3. Boo Wilbury

4. Lucky Wilbury

or

5. Rose Howard Wilbury?

Losers get rattled, winners get handled with care.

Friday, April 03, 2009

random Friday

Rainy day in Rat City. Walsh is out in the country, I'm at home, prepping for meetings, scribbling notes, returning phone calls, answering emails, doing all the mindless drone work that has to get done.

Thrilled at the Hair reviews. Diane Paulus is an old friend and Lower East Side compatriot. She was a brilliant director fifteen years ago, great to see her getting the Big Nods.

Occurs to me the only two Broadway directors I know well are both women: Diane and the great Leigh Silverman.

All right.

Back to the grind.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

CB4 steps up

The following letter was passed by Community Board 4 last night, joining Community Board 3 in the fight to preserve small and mid-sized theater in NYC.

The Community Boards are great allies in this campaign, everyone should check their calendars and show up at the meetings.

Here's the letter:


Dear Governor Paterson,

Manhattan Community Board 4 overwhelmingly objects to the debilitating
(100%) 2009 second round funding cuts to the New York State Council on the
Arts (NYSCA) that occurred in the fall of 2008. As Manhattan District 4
is home to over 40% of all small to mid-sized theatres in New York
City[1], we ask that you restore funding to those theatres whose 2009
applications were being considered in that round of NYSCA funding. This
NYSCA cut blind sided scores of theatres in our area that were placed in
financial peril due solely to their arbitrary position in the
application cycle.

We further object to your proposed $7 million cut to NYSCA’s 2010 budget.
This amount represents a very small ‘savings’ for the State, but a
substantial loss for the performing arts. Given theatre’s proven ability
to leverage government contributions by a 5 to 1 ratio, this $7 million
savings could mean as much as a $35 million loss to the State in arts
economic activity[2].

With New York State’s budget currently slated to be $131.8 billion, the
restoration of NYSCA’s share represents a negligible addition to it. What
in the big picture would be considered a "rounding error" could literally
mean survival for a crucial component of the City's arts infrastructure.

Theaters provide jobs, support neighborhood economies, and enhance New
York's competitive edge. New York City's status as a culture center
attracts both the most ambitious and accomplished artists & professionals,
and as a result, the tourist and other revenue streams that follow. In
addition, small to mid-size theatres provide valuable research and
development for the entertainment industry; acting as entry points for
actors, choreographers, musicians, designers, et al. Nowhere is that more
evident than in Community District 4, which has had a major role in the
development of theatre in New York City for generations.

At the recent and unprecedented public forum for theatre professionals
(hosted by Community Boards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5), the displacement of small
to mid sized theatres was of crucial concern. Restoring NYSCA funding
will have an immediate and positive impact on the stability and survival
of many of our small to mid-sized theaters and the economic resilience of
our neighborhoods.

We urge you, please, to restore the NYSCA funds.

Sincerely,

Manhattan Community Board 4

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

24 Hour Play Anthology

In 1995, a group of writers, directors and actors gathered on Manhattan's Lower East Side for what was supposed to be a one-time-only event: write, direct, produce and perform new plays with the span of 24 hours. More than a decade and just over 300 plays later, The 24 Hour Plays have been produced on Broadway, in London, Los Angeles, Chicago and across the globe.

24 by 24 features the work of today's most celebrated theatrical voices, including Tony Award winner Terrence McNally, Adam Rapp, Tina Howe, Will Eno, David Ives, Theresa Rebeck, Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, and many more!


I'm one of the many more.

Playscripts is publishing this, looks great.