Celebrated JM's birthday last night in the manner of our people, with friends, beer, and darts followed by a midnight screening of Spider-Man 2. For the record (as though you haven't already seen it) it's a great film--I think I liked it more than the first one, due in large part to Alfred Molina's bug-eyed Doc Ock.
The disappointing part is that the Comic Book Store guy's cousin, who is the only person who sat behind us, not only acted like a total tool during the film by laughing ridiculously at inside jokes and being an ass, but as the credits came up he bolted from the theater because he had robbed us--JM's wallet had fallen on the ground just at the end of the film, and when the worm saw it he grabbed it and ran. I can only hope that some guy spears him with a jousting stick at his next SCA tournament, defenestrating him but good.
Such a shame--a wonderful film and a wonderful movie, and then in the midst of all this talk of heroism and wonder some lowlife shit steals a wallet that has NOTHING in it--he got $20 and a bunch of immediately cancelled credit cards.
We seem to be recovering well, though--JM has her passport, and we're reconstructing things pretty good, considering we're 3000 miles from home.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Monday, June 28, 2004
Last night a posse of folks after the show informed me that they all read my blog. That would be these random scratchings, links and whatnot you see collected here. I find it amazing that
A) someone is reading, and
B) that it would inspire them to see something live.
Brave, brave folks. Thanks for coming out to the show.
Have you seen The Terminal? I hear bad things about it, and I've sworn off Spielberg, but I did love this report from New Yorkish, detailing how even though they BUILT AN ENTIRE TERMINAL for the film no one thought to pick chains that exist on the East Coast, where the airport (JFK) is ostensibly set.
(Why does he always look like this? It's like Thurston Fucking Howell III.)
Also, call girls are flying in for the Republican convention--demand is expected to be up, up, up!
Tonight is the second workshop for WASTING YOUR BREATH. I was reminded today how harrowing this story is--there's a lot to be answerable for, and I can't say I'm looking forward to it. Response so far has been very informative, and I'm hopeful that the story can unfold and develop here in a way that will make it better than ever. To that end, I'm off to fix lighting cues and get ready for the show.
at 3:37 PM
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Light clarity avocado salad in the morning
after all the terrible things I do how amazing it is
to find forgiveness and love, not even forgiveness
since what is done is done and forgiveness isn't love
and love is love nothing can ever go wrong
though things can get irritating boring and dispensable
(in the imagination) but not really for love
though a block away you feel distant the mere presence
changes everything like a chemical dropped on a paper
and all thoughts disappear in a strange quiet excitement
I am sure of nothing but this, intensified by breathing
at 12:25 PM
Saturday, June 26, 2004
I'm missing the Mermaid Parade right now, as I sit typing here on a Saturday morning. That's one of my favorite yearly NYC events, a wonderfully messy celebration of Coney Island and all it contains--the boardwalk, mango on a stick, ocean waves and damn hot beaches.
Instead, I am still in Berkeley--a place that is pleasant, but separated a million times over from the wonders of New York City. I'm missing NYC more today because of a rough audience last night--they were with me for the whole show, but when I uttered the forbidden word "hispanics" they bristled and folded up. It's frustrating--just the word itself makes them so uncomfortable that they can't hear what I'm talking about, or they'd understand immediately the dark irony I am trying to express. Instead it's easier to shut down, at least for this batch. I felt this great disappointment in them, which I never realized is actually worse than when I'm disappointed in myself. Me, I can do something about: these people have to go home and pray no one ever challenges their assumptions again, or they'll have to get uptight over and over for the rest of time.
I caught Jon Stewart on Larry King last night. I know a couple of people who work for The Daily Show, and i have to say that while I like my own life and setting my own agendas, I can actually imagine working for that organization--they do such bang-up work, it'd be hard to say no.
Anyway, the show was mesmerizing--Stewart goes in and out of his persona, with a few moments of real candidness, but Larry King is such a space cadet that he mostly flips him ultradry, very funny retorts that King constantly doesn't know what to do with. The transcript is available for reading here--I'd rather link to some video, but all I can find is this weird set of stills. What is the point of that? If you don't have the bandwidth, don't host the clips, fine--but why do we need 100 still pictures of Jon Stewart talking to Larry King?
Really entertaining piece by Jesse Green on Nathan Lane and his work in the new production of Aristophane's THE FROGS. He's wearing many different hats for the production, which is how JM and I work, and it was a pleasure to read about someone else undergoing a similar kind of hell. It's also great to hear about someone else working on integrating an acting life with a writing one, even if his profile is miles above mine. Good stuff, and I hope it gets to run for a while so I can see it.
Also, great piece on Kim Jong-Il's totally crazy food whims--he has teams of lackeys and bootlickers roaming the world, seeking out tasty things that he would like to eat.
Kim insists that his rice be cooked over a wood fire using trees cut from Mt. Paektu, a legendary peak on the Chinese border, according to a memoir written by a nephew of Kim's first wife. He has his own private source of spring water. Female workers inspect each grain of rice to ensure that they meet the leader's standards. (The nephew, Lee Young Nam, who defected to South Korea in the 1980s, was assassinated by suspected North Korean agents in Seoul in 1997.)
Kim's refined palate is not merely a matter of idle gossip, but the subject of serious study by political psychologists trying to understand the North Korean leadership.
Jerrold M. Post, a psychiatrist who founded and was the longtime director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, says Kim's obsession with eating the best food comes from being the son of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, revered by the propaganda machine as a god-like figure. Post diagnosed the younger Kim as a malign narcissist in large part based on information about his eating habits.
"This is how you prepare food and water for a god."
It's funny--Jean-Michele is always saying that before she serves me dinner on my solid gold serving dish.
I have a lot to do--we leave for the Cape Cod Theatre Project a week from tomorrow, and there's lots of business to get done in advance.
at 1:21 PM
Friday, June 25, 2004
We're on a tear now--we have shows every night from now until July 2nd.
There's an article in the Alameda Times-Star about WASTING YOUR BREATH--you can read that here. Quite a few factual errors, little mis-steps, and I can't tell if I didn't express myself well in the interview or what. For the record, I didn't do much theater in bars, though we often go to bars immediately after shows and that may blur matters. Also, my series at P.S.122 is called ALL STORIES ARE FICTION, but that's really quibbling in the end. I do want to say that all the fringe theater I've done is not bad--proportionately I think I did as much bad theater on the fringe as I would have done in the professional circuit, except that the disasters tended to be more interesting and bizarre, and hence ultimately better.
at 3:31 PM
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation and delight I give you this magnificent movie of THREE PUGS RAMPAGING IN THE BACK YARD. Feast your eyes on their total Dog-Ness and be astounded--with just seven pugs I could replace the Eastern Seaboard's need for old-fashioned "atomic" power plants. With eleven...
...I shudder to even speak of the possibilities. They make me tremble like a little girl. Look at my face, my terrible Churchillian face in that final frame--I have seen the future, and it is written in PUG.
at 5:58 AM
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
For those that missed it, you can listen to the radio play of 21 DOG YEARS for the next 3 days or so at the BBC. After that I guess it vanishes into the ether, though I may choose to host it at that point--the verdict is still out on that.
Last night's revival/resurrection of WASTING YOUR BREATH went very well--more audience than I expected, and they were tremendously loyal and attentive, which rocked. The show was much like a lot of my first attempts--much was there, some tones were screwed up, it's a bit clunky in sections and the whole thing ran too long--at two hours even my ass was hurting by the end, so I feel enormous sympathy for the audience, which I tried to express to them at the curtain call.
We did it without lighting changes, without sound effects or blocking--just me at a table, performing the story itself. After the show we went out with a few folks who had came, and I have to admit I was so shy, like an amateur--I was so naked, and felt so exposed from performing this story. It will take some getting used to, and some time to really run it up to the proper speed, but now we have a great palette to build from.
Also in the news this morning--we're extending here in Berkeley! I'm tremendously excited about this, and so is BRT--an official statement comes out today, but you heard it first here, which makes sense, as it's my website and JM and I are the entire team for the show.
Now I have meetings, writing, meetings and, if God smiles upon me, I will do laundry.
at 2:17 PM
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Death by workshop, a common phenomenon in the theater, is covered in today's NYT:
You may have never heard of the play "The Bread of Winter," by Victor Lodato, but apparently it's pretty good. After all, it's collected a haul of honors: it has been accepted by the O'Neill Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Conn., and given a staged reading at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival in San Francisco. It won its author a residency at a villa in the south of France. In 1998, it won a prestigious Princess Grace Award and then, in 2002, Mr. Lodato won a Guggenheim fellowship, an even bigger deal, for "demonstrating exceptional creative ability in the arts" with his play.
The one thing that has eluded Mr. Lodato's award-winning, globe-trotting play about a boy and his housekeeper is exactly what he, and every other playwright, desires most: an actual production, with real sets, real costumes and a real paying audience.
I've spent some time on the development bandwagon, and in fact a lot of my work happens there right now--WASTING YOUR BREATH is being done on Tuesday under that aegis, and Manhattan Theatre Club has had THE UGLY AMERICAN in development for the last year, with a reading in the spring which has led to a prestigious development opportunity at the Cape Cod Theatre Project later this summer. So I know whereof I speak.
I'm grateful that my chosen form saves me from a lot of the dangers of the workshop universe. I agree--most standard plays are getting workshopped to death. But for my shows, it's been nothing but good news, because the ways in which my work doesn't follow the standard theatrical idiom lend themselves to workshopping.
Point One: Workshops are bad because you get fresh performers each reading who do not have enough chance to fully inhabit the characters, leading to rewrites that pull the play off its original track.
Response: I am the only person who performs my work, so while a show may not be completely finished or as vibrant as I'd like it to be in workshop it's never the case that new actors throw the work off.
Point Two: Rewrites that happen as a consequence of endless workshopping blur the original, fiery impulse of the playwright and often blandify the play into gruel over time.
Response: I don't work from a written script, and this unusual way of working insulates me from excessive revision, since one of the points of oral traditions is the way they warp and twist over time, reacting to circumstance.
Point Three: Without a full set, costume, lights and sound plays don't get full expression on the stage, and the imagination of the playwright isn't getting adequate exercise.
Response: I practice a form of minimalist storytelling, and as such I rarely need more than a table, a chair and a glass of water. I also wear exactly the same thing every time I perform, and while both lights and sound can help shape and give wonderful definition to my monologues, ultimately the heavy lifting is in the speaking, and I have everything I need in hand for that already.
In fact, if there's a problem with this system for me it's that when I do a "workshop", for me it's really a full production--I need to run the show up to the same level of energy, if not higher to account for the lack of theatrical trappings, and it just happens that "workshops" are synonymous with "performances at which I am paid less than when we do full productions." Story is story.
What interests me, and rankles, I have to admit, is how the article points the finger of inquiry at the system and never at the playwrights themselves. I mean, take Mr. Lodato--he can win a Guggenheim fellowship for a play that hasn't been produced? WTF? I'm not currently up for a Guggenheim, but let me tell you--if I had the good fortune to not only be up for one, but to WIN, and I didn't have to actually execute the art on which the award was granted--well, that sounds like a fucking holiday, frankly.
This doesn't even touch his Princess Grace award, or his villa in France--where does this entitlement come from? From the arts system. It rewards people for NOT doing their plays, because there is precious little reward for actually putting a show up--once you do that the mystique is over, and it's all mediocre reviews and half-empty seats for most shows in American theater. Keep it in development and collect your villas in France is the watchword of the day.
Because we should make no mistake: Mr. Lodato could have his play produced NOW. He is an adult, a working artist--he should be able to find a director who would work with him for free, as there are thousands of those, and of those thousands even hundreds with some talent. He could certainly find actors who will work for nothing, and of the masses who would beg to be in the show some percentage will actually not suck...so on and so forth.
As for money, the great bugaboo--just put the damn play on in a meatpacking warehouse, an abandoned garage or an old shoe factory, to name three places where I've found myself performing over the years. Getting your play "produced" is not automatically synonymous with doing it at Playwright's Horizons or some such bullshit unless you're visionless--the beauty, the often-forgotten beauty of theater is that it is LIVE, and being such it is not bound to any particular space. If you want it up, get it the fuck up. Get your hands dirty and start lifting.
But Mr. Lodato doesn't actually want this. He wants a production with some prestige and élan, with an opening night party and a review in Variety and all the others bells and whistles that go with the theatrical idiom, because that's what gets Guggenheims and that's what gets stuff farmed out on the LORT circuit. Who can blame him? I'm working that world now too, and I'm much more inclined to enjoy receiving money for my troubles and getting to work with actual heat, actual publicists and an actual dressing room.
But if you choose to play the game, know the rules...and don't go crying that your play isn't getting any productions as you write the next one in a villa in France. You could have gotten off your ass, put your hands in the muck and done the work it takes--you choose not to. That's your choice, but don't cry so earnestly that your artistic lifeforce is being stamped out. You always have choices if you have the guts to make them.
I say all this with a foreknowledge of irony--I suspect in the upcoming years I, too, will be on the development wagon from time to time, and I can only hope that the time I spend there will be as rewarded as Mr. Lodato's time has been. But I will tell you this: I will not forget the time I spent performing in unheated garages, and I will not forget to return to that place, again and again, to keep authentic and honest the simple act of communicating with an real, breathing audience outside the walls of traditional theater.
(That is, if there are unheated garages near my villa in France.)
at 9:35 AM
Friday, June 18, 2004
The transcript of a fantastic talk Cory Doctorow gave on DRM to Microsoft Research is available here. He is basically trying to convince them of the following:
1. That DRM systems don't work
2. That DRM systems are bad for society
3. That DRM systems are bad for business
4. That DRM systems are bad for artists
5. That DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT
It's quite a hill he has to climb, but it's absolutely inspiring, smart and painfully dead on.
at 1:25 PM
at 1:18 PM
Leander writes today about the glories of Microsoft Word 5.1. I know what they mean--that was my word processor throughout college, and I miss it every day, though not as much as I miss Write Now, a kick-ass word processor written in assembly ages ago. Even under Classic emulation, it's a wonderful beast.
Also wonderful: paint can cameras.
at 1:04 PM
Boo. Bad show Thursday night--we've post-mortemed it incessantly, and it's a combo of small house, bad placement by house staff, orneriness and, finally, me. It's hard knowing that when it all doesn't work out I'm the one who's on the hook--I don't think the audience knows they had a less than stellar experience, because they don't know how good it could have been. Still, it's very hard for us to go home and nurse our wounds and regret.
Back at it tomorrow.
at 3:46 AM
Thursday, June 17, 2004
21 Dog Years appears as a slightly abridged radio play this Saturday on BBC 4 as their play of the week. I recorded this in 2002, and if fading memory serves it came out quite well--if you're in the UK, give it a listen and let me know how you think it went.
at 6:45 PM
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
The question we all keep asking: When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?
at 6:11 PM
From the Give Me A Fucking Break Department: Microsoft is planning on selling antivirus software.
This is baldfacedly ridiculous--if you can't keep the system secure, how can you sell the system with one hand and then sell a product whose purpose is to FIX YOUR MISTAKES with the other hand? Asked why they are not including it in the operating system, Microsoft points to this as an example of respecting antitrust rulings. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. It's time for MSFT to include antivirus software in its OSes, or, if remotely possible, secure its platform so that every Windows user doesn't need bucketloads of antivirus.
In other news, my friend Oote had a fantastic photo of his used for the cover of the new David Sedaris collection--many of Oote's works get used this way, and in this case when I saw the cover I thought, "I know that work..." It was a great lightbulb moment when I realized whose craft was at work.
A fellow I taught Speech and Debate to has a book coming out about Michael Moore--I haven't read it yet, but I look forward to some insightful hostillity.
I have six days until WASTING YOUR BREATH opens, so there's much to do, and the Great Engines are roaring back up to life. I spent yesterday down in the Mission and Castro after taping for TechTV...such a good time, with old friends, seeing a new city. I've always been deliriously in love with Mission-style burritos, and I'll tell you--they really do taste better when you have them in the Mission itself. Mix that in with strong cocktails, excellent hot cookies and an invigorating round of pinball and it's one of the best night's out I've had in a dog's age.
If you do theatre in Seattle, you probably already know: Sharon Ott, the Artistic Director of the Seattle Rep, has stepped down.
Even though I am a geek, I feel kind of empty about this museum in Seattle. Maybe I'm just getting old, but it all seems a little hollow. Maybe I just wish they had less Cylons and more Daggits.
at 5:57 PM
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Monday, June 14, 2004
Sunday, June 13, 2004
That sounds a little too dark. It's a beautiful day out there, and the show is very ready to be seen--in fact, most of my attention after tonight shifts to WASTING YOUR BREATH, a show that hasn't seen the light of day in six years.
Today we're going to go over to Telegraph and see what there is to see, then get to the theater early and put the show on for the good people. Afterwards, a party. Then tomorrow, back to work on the next step.
In the meantime, check out this Q&A with Tony Kushner. He can be a wordy bastard, and I've griped about him in the past, but damn me if this isn't one of the best Q&As I've read in a dog's age. That man is trying to win my heart, I tell you.
Hope to see you at the show this evening, if you're in the Bay Area.
at 3:24 PM
Saturday, June 12, 2004
Last night's show broke with the mold, and was actually a great second performance. Now the challenge is going to be to keep this streak going all weekend through the opening.
Also, I have to admit I'm a little bummed that the Beastie Boys are being idiots with DRM on their new CD. I don't even *use* CDs anymore--how is anyone supposed to listen to these tracks without pirating them? Bah.
Finally, check out this film of the Google Globe. It was shown off by Google, using a graphical representation of light to indicate the amount of Google queries happening, moment by moment, around the globe. It's very cool, and not a little freaky--I had a posse of Google employees come to the show last night, who told me that they loved the show because Google was the new home for World Domination. In fact, they said that it had been Bagel Day that day at Google...I guess the 90's aren't dead everywhere!
at 10:53 AM
Friday, June 11, 2004
Most folks who read this blog read Slate, but you may have missed Chris Suellentrop's wonderful piece on the marketing of Garfield. I was actually a fan of Garfield when I was very, very young--Pete Paradis and I watched one of the early 80's Christmas specials incessantly. It's humiliating to recount now, especially in light of what an utter marketing tool Jim Davis appears to be.
at 9:01 PM
Old rivalries die hard--I felt compelled to post this bizarre story of students forcing themselves to faint in Cape Elizabeth. It's exactly the kind of decadent foolishness I expect from my old Speech and Debate nemesis, Cape Elizabeth.
at 7:00 PM
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Here we are again--opening day. JM's a bit under the weather, a few cues are not entirely set, a few scenes are hung together with chutzpah and bailing wire but it looks like 21 Dog Years rides again this evening. Ticket sales have been brisk, and we're enthusiastic--it can be such a pleasure to work on something with such a track record, that we've done so many times. Simultaneously it also feels new, which is a byproduct of being able to set it down for seven months and then pick the show back up again.
Well, I'm off to make my preparations. More reports from the other side.
Well, I'm off to make my preparations. More reports from the other side.
at 7:21 PM
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Thank God someone reviewed the vibrating Gilette razor. Now I can die a happy man, once I have a mach 3 that buzzes.
Tech today went very well--maybe the best tech we've ever had for the show, and an exceptionally sharp lighting design. There's more to do, but so much is in such great shape that I'm simply ecstatic--or I would be, if I weren't so very ready for bed.
at 3:23 AM
Monday, June 07, 2004
In this time of national mourning it might be useful to remember some of the less laudatory actions, quips and rejoinders of President Reagan, just so the lionization doesn't get out of hand.
at 7:32 PM
Confessions of a Celebrity Freak Enabler
"I worked for a famous candyfreak: David Letterman. He had to have 2 Hershey bars (plain) before every show. These bars had to come straight from the factory in PA. He felt the bar only had a shelf life of 2 weeks so you couldn't buy them off the rack. Every week I had a new case shipped from Hershey's. I'd label the old from the new just in case he preferred last week's stash. The 2-week-old stash was fed to the interns. Also, did I mention that the bars had to be unwrapped for him and be fully intact—no cracks or breaks?"
From Candyfreak, by the big-hearted Steve Almond.
at 2:01 PM
Mother of God, I am so under the gun.
I would post some links, but I don't have time to find any good ones. Perhaps later? Perhaps never.
at 1:27 PM
Friday, June 04, 2004
I give you Todd Levin on not writing, the foolishness of Uncle Louie G's and unbeatable ice cream foo in one kickass entry.
at 11:42 PM
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Jeff Reifman writes a fairly decent overview of the challenges facing Microsoft today, and pinpoints some of the major issues at the company. I'm a Mac partisan, but I think he should have toned down the Mac talk in his article--it sounds faintly evangelical, and he could use OS X as an example of building with open-source rather than a sort of religious conversion. Still, this remains a good groundwork for understanding where Microsoft finds itself today--just keep in mind that it's a powerful company with lots of brilliant folks, who can overcome inertia and bureaucracy by force of will when needed.
For my part I'm actually happy with Microsoft for the first time in years--they released a new version of Office for Mac, and this one actually responds promptly to commands and behaves the way I've always felt Office should. Granted, it's still a hellaciously complicated suite, and it still overdoes it on assuming what I want rather than making the options clear, but it's so much more usable than the last option that I'm finally using Word for actual writing--before this I'd do all my writing in TextEdit, a bare-bones text editor, because Word was just too crappy.
Also on the topic of optimizations, here's ten things Apple did to make OS X faster. Interesting reading if you use Panther, because each new release of OS X so far (knock wood) is actually faster than the last one, which has been a godsend in making older Macs viable for use in OS X.
Enough tech. Big day of rehearsals today--we're in the work up to our necks here.
at 10:54 AM
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
300Mbps from a moving car, and the target is to achieve downstream speeds of 1Gbps when stationary. They’re getting an average of over 100Mbps, too, which is as at least as fast as any fiberoptic connection you can get at the moment, and means you can stream HDTV to your phone. Link
You can actually hear me drooling for that bandwidth through this website.
(Or you would, if I had sufficient bandwidth to make that possible.)
at 9:17 PM
Berkeley so far is a trip--sunny, bright, filled with happy people who seem to have their medications balanced. No one has compelled me to do yoga. Our apartment has a small patio. In all ways, I can totally work here, and the staff of Berkeley Rep are a dissolute bunch of yahoos in the best possible way.
I'm off to a 9am rehearsal. I guess the hours go with the yoga and the balanced mind shit, but daaaaaaamn...in NYC I'm often going to bed at 4am, so this seems like unnatural punishment.
Oblig NYT link: a review of Fascinating Aida, who performed with me at Edinburgh last summer. verdict from the Times is a big thumbs up.
Oblig snarky link: a great piece on New York theater's most hated critic, Michael Riedel. Required reading.
at 11:51 AM