Monday, June 27, 2011

Hello Summer

A theater critic pal took me to see “One Arm”, an adaptation of several Tennessee Williams attempts at a film script adapted and staged by Moisέs Kaufman on Theater Row. I was delighted to see a friend of mine – Stephen Hauck - in the excellent cast of actors playing multiple roles. I enjoyed the performances and had no quarrel with the narrator, although my critic friend felt the narration an unnecessary device.
Saw Lydia Johnson Dance at Alvin Ailey. The only piece of the four which spoke to me was LAMENT which I found visually stunning and emotionally touching. All Johnson’s dancers had great fluidity of motion, and there were some exciting and remarkable lifts in some of the other dances on the program. In SUMMER HOUSE I marveled at the flexibility of the dancers stepping off the bench and flowing back on. My own legs ached just watching the movements!
George Zarr’s “The First And Last Musical on Mars” closed in Chicago this week. There was a taping made of this great popular hit. Paul Dexter, another of the playwrights I featured in Short Plays to Long Remember, our 2010 Indie Awards finalist, will be having another New York production of his “The Importance Of Being Doug,” one of his plays from that anthology, staged soon. Meanwhile, David Hopes, who has two of his plays in “Short Plays…” has been sending poems back from his travels in Italy, and I expect he will eventually find a new play in all this as well.
One of my pals wondered when I was going to get around to expanding “Spirit of the House,” the one act play of mine which had a staged reading this past winter at the Dramatists Guild. I had said then it would be a year before I would get back to work on it, and it appears I was right. The fantasy story books for bedtime reading to kids have taken over my writing life. Haven’t even time to work on my memoir about growing up during the depression.
Did reading from the bedtime story book Saturday, June 25 at Oasis, 52nd St and 10th Ave, as part of the Hells Kitchen Arts Event.
That night, saw the much raved about 4,000 MILES. Marvelous performances in this hour and 45 minute no intermission theatrical piece. Mostly absorbing, though not terribly theatrical, however. More of a character study of a man devastated by the loss of his best friend but still unable to get beyond his own self-centeredness, though making a stab at it. Looooong scene breaks and slow timing made play appear even longer than it was. The audience, having read the reviews, was ready to laugh and guffawed even at moments that deserved a mere chuckle. I felt I was sitting in the midst of a live soundtrack. It also felt like déjà vu, remembering a man of prejudice and plebian taste, who roared with laughter at the father in TV’s All in the Family – as if thrilled there was someone dumber than himself.

Just finishing Tracy Kidder’s book about Paul Farmer and the work of Partners in Health. Fascinating and compellingly told story.-Incidentally, my PCP just returned from Haiti and finds it mind blowing still!
Have been selected to judge several categories in the Global ebook Awards – poetry definitely, possibly writing and publishing
Also read three novels and a novella by William Dean Howells – who lived a century ago and whose books go deeply into the psychology of the people of his time. Mores have changed so drastically that their social consciences seem almost pre-historic. The books are absorbing and truly create their time of horse drawn carriages, candle lit rooms, and church bound thinking. Got a kick out of the tissue thin pages and the long silk ribbon for keeping one’s place in the book. Recalled the lovingly produced books I used to borrow from the library in my youth.
Am reading several play scripts – my favorite form of reading – the imagination can create the stage and people the characters from one’s own cast
Pixie Tales is now officially for sale as a paper book and is showing up on line at various venues. Elfin Tales will be delivered this week but not set for release until August 2. Fairy Tales Too is coming along slowly in formatting for both ebooks and paper bound books. Illustrations are slowly filling in the allotted pages.
Have asked several people for blurbs for the book – from themselves and in some cases, from little kids. It’s taking longer than expected to get responses on this, so the cover design is being held up as well. Ah, the joys of publishing.
And - off topic - though I am not personally a fan or marriage, hooray for my native New York State in its giant step towards equality - the gay marriage act. I expect many of the people I have worked with and been friends with over the last 35 years to legalize their long lasting unions. Bet they lower the divorce statistics in the years ahead.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ides and Ideas of June

Thoroughly enjoyed Amy Marshall Dancers at Alvin Ailey Theater. Their new piece, Dvija, costumed by Norma Kamali was breathtaking. This handsome troupe, all decked out in golden costumes and gilded skin were mesmerizing as they performed Amy Marshalls' demanding choreography with style, precision and gusto.
The combination of classic dance and athletic movement makes a distinctive signature for Ms, Marshall - and a wonderful showcase for Chad Levy and the other dancers. What a troupe and what a treat. Catch them later this summer at other venues.
A few days later, a complete change of pace as I was part of an enthusiastic audience watching a staged reading of "The Shomer" by Bill Barnett. I thrilled t see Tovah Feldshuh at the top of her game. Having watched her develop from her earliest work at Stage West in Springfield, Ma, through her many incarnations on Broadway and off, I was so pleased with her steady progress and her age defying energy. Others in the cast all played well.
The play itself has tremendous potential but needs a firm hand to cut all the repetition and polish it into a stellar theatrical experience. The basis is there, the humor is there, the humanity is there, but it is buried in too much of the same blather. Someone smart can make this play zing its arrows at tradition and our outdated concepts of good and evil and guilt.
Following day - "Cradle And All" at Manhattan Theater Club where two actors played two different couples in Act one and Act two, and except for speaking too softly too often, did a fantastic job on both. Any parent or parentless couple will easily relate to the situations and if they don't laugh with sympathetic glee in act two they are lacking a funny bone. .

Attended the CLMP 100th anniversary of magazines reading at the 5th Avenue at 42nd St. Public library at which editors rather than authors read from their various publications. As a fellow writer and actor remarked, the editors did not always do the works they read justice. Still, it was interesting to see what the current literary presses consider the best poetry and stories and articles they have published. Almost all their poems were prose poems and read as pure prose by the editors. Sorry, I am a classicist in terms of verse. No meter, no poem.
I read War Horse. The original teen book - very creative and fascinating. Read What Alice Knew - in which the James family (Henry, William and bedridden sister Alice) were depicted as detectives in the Jack the Ripper debacle. Intriguing but not totally satisfying in the end.
Never having been a fan of the circus, I was not as enchanted with Water for Elephants as so many of my friends claimed to be. I enjoyed the spunky old man and many of the characters in the well written story but wan't fully engrossed until the denoument.
My Pixie Tales has garnered quite a few votes and over a dozen fabulous quotes on its global ebook awards page. Just hope it makes it to the finals! It was great joy last year winning a finalist INDIE award for the play anthology Short Plays to Long Remember.
Will be reading a story from Pixie Tales and from Elfin Tales, second book in the series at the Hell's Kitchen Arts Event on Saturday, June 25 at noon at Oasis, 52nd and 10th Ave. Intend to have a couple of audience kids come up with me to read along. Those I select will get to keep Pixie Tales copies. Unfortunately, Elfin Tales is not yet in print, although it is available to all readers through
Artist Maggie Cousins and I are working on Fairy Tales Too, the third in the series.
I have an entry that was accepted in the Dragon Naturally Speaking contest along with about 150 other entries. You can find it on line on the Dragon contest entry site.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's June, June, June


Friday night attended City Visions Film Fest to see actor I directed in several stage productions on film... a take off on film noir and nicely done. Brandon DeSpain did a great job playing a killer's goon in "Rocky Must Die." I was especially taken with the film "Folkswagon" in which cinematography, script acting and diretion were all stellar. I felt "Alix" could be expanded into a full length film with what happens next. Films in this MFA program were most impressive. Don't know who won, but all were well worth seeing.

Returned this year to the Drama Desk Awards after a few years' absence. When finally allowed to go to our tables (those who could find them, no body knew where they were suppposed to sit) - tables designed to seat 10 were crammed with 12. We were lucky to be wkth congenial people, some old friends, some hopefully new ones. Since the two appetizers I had during crowded, noisy crush of a cocktail party that far overran its time were less than tasty, I didn't expect much from the meal. I was not disappointed when salads - a few leaves of green and one slice of tomato -arrived - an hour late. Bread was eaten, despite its not tasting fresh. Half an hour or so later, mere moments before the awards event was scheduled to start, the so-called entree came: Two tablespoons of pasta with meat sauce and 4 ravioli.
Wine and champagne and booze flowed liberally, perhaps so we would not notice we were all very, very hungry. It was noticed, and noted by one man at the microphone during the ceremony. His remark got the biggest round of applause of the night. There was no coffee or tea or dessert - we ate the 4 packs of godiva chocolate at each place setting. Harvey Fierstein, with whom I worked on "Torch Song Trilogy" from its inception until it landed on Broadway, was in bad voice. In fact, his voice was bad enough to desert him part way through the ceremonies. Because everyone was packed tight, there was no easy access to the stage for many of the nominees who won.
There were two big laughs of the evening - the remark about the non-meal, and a young man who must remain nameless announcing an actor had appeared in "The Mechanic of Venice."
At the disco after party upstairs there were tiny gluten free cupcakes, lots more booze and some coffee - no tea. After mingling with some critic friends went home to have supper at 1 AM.

A few days later at the Outer Critics Circle Awards, held as usual in the Eugenia Room at Sardi's. Everyone gibed and jested about the Drama Desk disaster. Here were salads bigger than our entrees at DDA, and dinnere of normal proportions, plus dessert and fresh rolls, and a convivial atmosphere. Hardly a speech did not refer to the DDA event negatively. OCC ended EARLY and we went on to the Irish Rep to see Charlotte Moore's beautifully directed THE SHAUGHRAUN By Dion Boucicault


Pixie Tales paper book with its gold sticker announcing its nomination in first Global ebook Awards. Paperback version will be released in two weeks. Elfin Tales, second book in the set is now an ebook as well.
These deightful LITTLE books about WEE folk to read to SMALL fry each have 5 fantasy stories illustrated by Maggie Cousins. Great presents for kindergarden graduations and special summer events for youngsters. Bring back the bedtime story with these and other childrens' books. Fight illiteracy by helping kids love books!

Talking of loving books. two I loved this week were
WHAT ALICE KNEW - involving the James family Alice, Henry and William - in Jzck the Ripper murder investigation and The War Horse - original book for tweens and teens which became the blockbuster Broadway stage hit.