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Been & Going

[TRENCHES] Failure

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Hello, children. I’d like to tell you a story.

Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin.

This is a story about failure. This is a story about well-meaning people who have committed their lives to doing spectacular things, only to fall horribly short in the critical moment of execution. This is a story about how trying is more important than success.

THE BEGINNING

Once upon a time, someone had an awesome idea. It was a lovely, pure thought. It made sense and everybody got decently excited about it. It was revolutionary. It captured a flavor of life that was dangerously unappreciated, like some sort of lychee chocolate, only not horrible.

It was the very thing this time and age needed.

THE PROCESS

So off to the races we went. People did stuff to make a thing. Talented people. People near enough to the top of their game to bother with unfamiliar territory. Big risks, big pictures and blue skies. The thing really looked to be shaping up to be A Thing. It may even be worthy of the definite article. Careers are built on definite articles. Signpost moments of spectacular convergence, where all mortars fire in glorious harmony and collide in a shower of brilliance.

THE REALIZATION

But it wasn’t.

The first clues that The Thing would never deliver on the promise it made for itself lay in the first few meetings. What was written off as exuberance is revealed to be naivete. What was forgiven as passion is recognized as a furtive desire to accomplish that which has not yet been accomplished. What was mistaken for moxie is exposed as a tissue of breathless half-lies. We all wanted the best, but we were incapable of facing the impossible reality of the situation we found ourselves in.

THE RALLY

The blinding realization well-heeded, we doubled down. Sacrificing sleep and good health for the sake of making a loose collection of stuff into A Thing, The Thing that Deserved To Be, a motley crew of tactful, clever folks attempted to elevate the work from an arduous trial to be survived to the transcendental experienced we had promised ourselves. By the sheer will of our bloody-mindedness, we would force into being this essential Thing. All due attention was paid and all due wisdom applied, not to mention the carnival of favors called to cover the shortfall.

THE FALLING SHORT

And short it indeed fell. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a collection of rad people hoping to accomplish something that should be, by all rights, impossible, will be in want of an unknown quantity of resources to accomplish the increasingly impossible Thing. However little known the feelings or views of such a group of creative individuals may be on their first entering a project, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding players, that they are considered as the rightful property of some one or other of those dependent upon their brilliance. Such a classical view, endemic to the pathological dreamers amongst us, causes the truly brave to redouble their efforts when up against the wall. Which, in nearly all cases, results in a group of people meandering at the back of the room, looking at the fruit of the horrors we have wrought.

This in-depth example of the process of crafting new work is painstakingly sourced from years of experience. Let it be a guide to you through your darkest hours; many have walked this path before. It is your sworn duty, against all odds, to succeed.

What are some of your experiences with failure? Please share in the comments.

[TRENCHES] Why I’m over previously released material at Fringe.

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Far be it from me to return from a protracted absence with an unctuous vituperation targeted at one of my favorite generative endeavors, but shit is fucked and I have to rail. Come with me to the Fringe, where in the near past I am sitting, despondent yet without words to spit. I’m painting with a broad brush here mostly to embellish otherwise mild impressions for dramatic effect.
I’ve simply had it all of the way up to here with previously published material performed at Fringe.

It’s just not quite the thing it could be.

It’s always a lesser version of a fully-produced effort. It could be because not enough time was spent rehearsing. It could be a lack of close examination of the scenes, beat-by-beat. It could be because design was not adequately realized or even considered. Ultimately, it says to me that we should have been a part of something scrappy and cool, but we landed around here-a-parts, so let’s just play the “It’s just Fringe” card and bail into the warmer waters of casual mediocrity. It’s warmer because somebody peed in the pool.

I’ve probably seen it before, and better.

STOP DOING “THE LAST FIVE YEARS.” I saw the definitive version of this production at UCLA a half-dozen years ago and my heart is still singing from the experience. You’re both very good-looking people, but I would forgive you far more easily for writing your own relationship-melting musical that just didn’t quite get there than I would forgive you for doing an okay version of this particular show. It’s going to sound like I’m picking on just that show – which I simply didn’t see – but that goes for anybody who thinks it’s time to get their hot friends together and do that show they love without respecting the fact that they have a far more important story to tell: something we haven’t seen before.

Try something truly daring and weird.

Unicycle Shakespeare. Tennessee Williams rap pastiche. Do a goddamn Beckett musical. I don’t even care; take advantage of this magical-ass chunk of the year to take your passion project and grind it to the next level in awesomeness. Just don’t cast yourself in True West then expect me to drop everything and go.

Unless you cross-gender cast. I heard Sammy hates that shit, and that tickles me.

Or go further!

Do six simultaneous one-person shows, with full tech. Do a musical scored entirely with plumbing utensils. Do a series of scenes based on Twitter conversations that didn’t even exist before Fringe started. Do a rock opera using only five notes. Do a clandestine “happening” piece at Fringe Central or some other main event that is never fully explained but somehow involved twenty-seven people in pinstripe suits discussing the weather and sipping martinis with a dance break. Do an extended monologue about how your cat is the best cat in the world and provide adequate evidence to support it. Do a dance piece where everyone just stands still for forty-eight minutes (but for the love of baby Jesus, start and finish on time).

Look, homie: we’re not all prototyping new-ass work or using Fringe to raise awareness for our theatre companies. That’s fine. You can totally do a short run of a show that you love and have always wanted to do. In fact, you should! Get your friends together and do something cool. Maybe even dare to knock it out of the park and give people a reason not to listen to me.
Just sell that shit as the passion project that it is, because there are people who are pouring their heart and soul into something raw, something new, something that JUST DOESN’T QUITE WORK YET but shows a glimmer of promise.

The damn thing is, they’re trying to grab hold of the same audience that you’re bogarting with your just-for-funsies bullshit. All of the Facebook pimping you’re doing is burning butts in someone else’s seats. Your meager attendance comprised of friends, well-wishers and people you’re sleeping with are actively burning out on theatre that is truly innovative, unless you step up and collaborate. Help them. Help the brave soldiers on the tragic battlefield of art. Everything you don’t do gets in the way of their development and success.
Share your audience. Walk the streets and tell the people. Go see other people’s shows, for fuck’s sake. Find the weirdest thing you can and find the gold buried deep in the under-rehearsed, half-baked crazy that holds it all together. Give and give, then give a little bit more. You will grow and mature as an artist yourself in this cauldron of concepts, this forge of raw ideas, but only if you look deep into it.

Courage, my friends. We are all Fringe.

[Trenches] Things LA Theatre Does

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I’m not dead, and neither is Theaatahh in Los Angeles. So I’ll hunt it. Because it can take it. Because it’s not our hero. It’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark night out in a bad neighborhood with poor parking and no decent nearby restaurants or bars to party at before or after.

Shitty Realism

I have spent more cumulative hours on a Manhattan Apartment set than I have spent in my actual apartment. My actual apartment, which is in the Valley, with a broken fridge and broken air conditioning. I’ve taken to mopping my brow with the cat. He’s not into it.

We keep diving into this trope because, for some reason, it’s not glamorous enough to be sweating balls in the most naturally gorgeous area to live in the continental United States, in barely-affordable lodgings mastered by indifferent slumlords of indiscernible, yet extreme, untempered ethnicity. We all have to pretend that living in a closet for twice as much rent makes your struggle somehow more legitimate, handily discounting the heady privilege that comes with being able to flirt with moving to New York in the first place.

Yes, that bookcase of disused, worryingly-stained Goodwill books, painstakingly chosen to somehow reflect the plot. Yes, that same family of Ikea chair, painstakingly reinforced because actors will persist in using their environs with the verve and aplomb usually afforded to our simian cousins. Yes, 9/11 Iraq war Bush 2 obscure restaurant name-check clever literary reference white people problems, because coming to terms with an America where you simply can’t get ahead just by showing up and working hard anymore is too uncomfortably immediate for drama.

Let’s all rage-watch Girls and drink Popov shots with Sriracha every time we catch the pungent whiff of nepotism or, against our best judgment, feel feelings. What we wouldn’t give to waste away in that concrete jungle that dreams are made of! That aggressively passive-aggressive Xanadu! That Margaritaville of the grudgingly enfranchised pseudo-elite! That Candyland of the gluten-averse, world-weary joyless! Let’s pretend to have hurricanes, frozen rain and sufferable transit, like the glittering capital of human effluence from which all True Art™ flows, just so that our problems are theatrical enough to be considered worth sharing!

Derisory Magnificence

Los Angeles has elevated mediocrity into a commodity. The vast irony looms of hipster enclaves in the sweaty, hilly bits to the east and the sweaty, beachy bits to the west churn twee intimations in a myriad of variety. Woven with mustache-tickled kisses, twelve dozen whispers of casually enjoyed popular pursuits of yesteryear are enjoyed with a new pseudo-fervor. It somehow became noble to just exist and have worryingly prevalent opinions about esoterica. You can write a blog about how your tomatoes are feeling and not get beat up.

LA Theatre is not immune to this. I’ve weathered hours of stirring speeches on the well-trod boards (or weary masonite) of the small houses, only to sally forth into a bold four weeks of near-anonymity. I love a St. Crispin’s day speech as much as the next Shakespeare iconoclast, but my give-a-shit has long been suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Rather than embrace the heart-crippling beauty of our evanescence, we seem desperate to assign meaning and value to the most inane of pursuits, often steeling ourselves against a miasma of mephitic apathy with the affirmation that we few, we happy few will lead the revolution and somehow coax an obligated audience of well-wishers and ex-lovers to revolt and somehow convince everybody that this is important.

The abecedarian, fresh-off-the-bus, pilot season day-tripper is usually the most culpable, but with so little else to believe in, who can forgive them their solipsism? They are, after all, totally for sure and absolutely for-real-reals about to Make It!™ in the most antagonistic climate since the last time somebody whipped out their smartphone to check the temperature. Fuck solar; if we could power America with naivete, Los Angeles would be the energy production capital of the world.

Irascibility

U mad bro?

A real member of the #community would be out of their mind with how up in arms and sheer ability to can’t even they are apoplectic with by now. I haven’t even started listing the accomplishments of so many companies who are trying so hard and totally getting noticed. Everything anyone spends the time to make is worth a look, which you would know, if only you were adequately indoctrinated into the insular world of theatre people. Clearly, you aren’t, and that’s obviously your fault. Why, if you only had access to the wealth of knowledge readily available to all of us firmly entombed within the #community! I could give you a few recommendations, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate them. Derisive sniffing intensifies.

Derivative of Cinema

Oh, is LA a movie town? You wouldn’t know it.

The language of cinema is pervasive. We are all sensitive to the tropes of the Movies – ask a theatrical video designer why he doesn’t just produce short films for a living. We’re all so dialed-in that it leaks out in weird ways. Daycare providers are expected to have craft services. Fast food workers carry themselves like assistant directors on the day of shooting the big battle sequence. Everybody calls Clothespins C47s, which pisses me off because what even is that?

It seems people are uniquely bothered by entertainment that doesn’t somehow indulge obsession with our hometown industry. Low-budget musical comedy parodies of movies soar (with unfair vanity) while powerful deconstructions of a film’s message and social context languish in obscurity. We don’t want to think about or be challenged by our perception of the popular product of our neighboring community, we want to indulge in tearing it down to our level, that of the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps that’s what you get when a town is mostly populated with the dream-shattered erstwhile-naive from earlier in this article. I guess film had it coming for not casting all of us within the first six months of stepping off the Greyhound/American Idol finals/shitty Mazda crammed full of our meager possessions.

Not Really Minimalism

We only have fifty bucks, but we’re going to try and re-create a restoration comedy with full costumes and dozens of consumable props. Why? Because it’s important to us, so logically, it has to be important to someone else! And there’s a lot of them! And because we’ve done such a good job miming all of the accoutrements we’re too poor to afford, but we have incredibly convincing teacups full of tepid water, they will come in droves! Droves, I say!

I’ve seen dozens of performances with two set pieces or a complete prop list that even the most harried stage manager could easily ferry between performance venues in a stately hatchback. The sad truth is that most productions will invoke the privilege of minimalism precisely when it suits them, but happily ignore it for the most arbitrary of reasons.

Excellent costume rental hookup? Awesome! A few shabby end-tables that can be anachronistically re-appropriated to stand in for their specific counterparts? Let’s do it! Can we solve our problems with more fabric and curtains? Watch me! O, what a delight it is to live in this world of iambic kings and nobles!

I think it’s mostly futile to attempt to capture the halcyon days of the Globe in a forty-seat theatre in the outskirts of North Hollywood with a single semi-functional bathroom you have to cross the stage to use. Most of the time, the insistence of quality in the absence of resources or utility is a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Worse, after Game of Thrones, nobody wants to see the Scottish play if Lady M doesn’t get her tits out.

Expressionism

I love theatre in LA. I honestly mean it. The rest of this article is a cunning diversion to keep you from getting to this point, because if you really, truly need to say something, you’re going to have to fight to say it. That’s what the theatre of this town is trying to do. It’s alive and things are happening here that are incredibly exciting.

People are telling stories because they have to. They gather in meeting halls, off-duty churches and parking lots to spin wild yarns with puppets and crazy musical numbers. If you’re still reading at this point, after that slag-fest, you’re one of those people I actually want to talk to. We make the most exciting, immediate and lively art in the world, on a scale that cannot be rivaled and at a rate that cannot be matched. We are hungry and we absolutely have to express ourselves.

Bright colors. Wild characters. Way not enough tech time. This baby is coming RIGHT NOW, so get ready.

Naked people shouting poetry and covering themselves in paint. Failed rock stars mumbling into half-busted microphones while an octogenarian ballerina creaks her way through a beautiful swan-dance of hauntingly beautiful fragility. Improv people. It’s happening here, and it’s happening because it has to, because we have no choice but to do what we do as loud as we can. We don’t have the luxury of being quiet. We don’t have the privilege of being refined. We have to run out into a room full of strangers who hate us because they didn’t get cast and deliver the good time we promised every waking moment of every day leading up to this night, because it will never happen again.

Nobody is filming us. Everything that happens tonight will be forgotten. A truly great show in Los Angeles will destroy your expectations and spoil you forever.

Essentialism

We do what we must not because we can; we do what we can because we must.

Nobody cares. Our tiny community of die-hards is routinely ignored by the elite, because old insults die hard. LA’s theatre scene is the screen door on capital-T-Theatre’s Polish submarine, and while the world has moved on to consider such humor in bad taste, it would seem the world left Theatre behind. Our tiny industry’s greatest aspiration has been stymied by desperate attempts to attract ticket sales, while the savvy rising stars contribute their brilliance to the occasional movie musical. Is “Let It Go” not ubiquitous?

They may not realize it yet, but everyone putting in real work in the trenches of Los Angeles Theatre at this point in history is learning vital lessons about what is truly essential in performance, from the improv theatres to the big-money comedy cabarets, from the 99-seaters to the depressingly few mid-sized venues, from the karaoke bars to the latest pop music reality show. While television ungracefully dies in the cauldron of web production and the cinema is buried by meticulously planned, long-form storytelling, there will be a swing of the pendulum back to well-crafted live performance. The generation of amateurs today slaving for the love of the art will one day be the professionals helming a new renaissance of work that acknowledges the enduring vitality of vibrant storytelling.

Nothing we do is important, and yet everything we attempt will one day very important indeed.

So go see something. It’s not all shit, and even if it is, you yourself may just learn an important lesson that will bring you one step closer to elevating your art. Do not be a passive audience. Take it upon yourself to declare “I am not dead.” Neither is theatre in Los Angeles.

[TRENCHES] Theater Clichés

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Every profession has a few quirky things that “go with the job,” which insider language for “this pisses me off but I’m raking cash moneys so screw.” The parade of human misery in Legal Professions. The endless font of body fluids for Doctors. The parade of human misery through endless fonts of body fluids for Educators. Theatre is hardly immune.
Although I tend to think we pull this shit because we’re bound and determined to enjoy ourselves. If you pulled Doctor/Lawyer hours for Substitute Teacher cash, you’d have jokes too.

Needless to say, these piss me all kinds of off but I grudgingly adore them.

• “Blinded by the light!”
If you have the modest blood alcohol level and boastful proprioception of a ladder-monkey, you might get roped into hanging lights and slinging cable for a pathologically lazy lighting designer. If you show up with your own crescent wrench and pair of gloves, you’re instantly a caste above the helpful company members that rescheduled their shift to hang out, farm hours and grow ass.
Once the fixtures start getting locked down and the juice starts flowing, you’re bound to be treated to a spontaneous rendition of the haltingly relevant Bruce Springsteen (and later Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) tune. Everyone honestly believes it’s the first time this joke has ever been made. Everyone does it. I wish you the necessary strength of sphincter not to rain liquid-hot halogen lamp hate from above on the struggling showcase production you got roped into supporting. I suggest pumping the brakes on personal hygiene, rolling up your sleeves and showing some burly arms; sparkies always get first crack at the ladies.

• “I want the soundtrack to this show!”
Be a sound guy. You’re trying to score that juicy musical theatre show that you know will line your purse and slay the Rent Demon for a couple months. You may even stoop to working on a production of RENT. In the meantime, you’re going to have spend a lot of time on iTunes listening to soundtracks from movies from which your director has cherry-picked their two-minute-transition tunes.
Invariably, two-thirds of the way through tech, someone is going to get all up in your business about getting the soundtrack from the show. Someone else will hear this and then someone else will have the brilliant and totally unique idea that “they should sell the soundtrack in the lobby!” You have one out: claim your macbook doesn’t have a CD drive and don’t even bother trying to explain the complicated nuances of copyright. You’re already well aware of the fact that nobody understands the concept anyway. If you can tolerate the smell of stale Cheetos and palpable misery over outsourcing of VFX jobs, you can commiserate with the video guy.

• Upstage Background Crowd Scene Mugging
We’ve all played “Spear Carrier Number Two.” We’ve all served time as the non-canonical superfluous army of innumerable Other Wise Men/Shepherds/Sheep. We’ve all been in crowd scenes with the requisite given circumstances to fully inhabit our unnamed character with a verisimilitude befitting the mise-en-scène.
This has not kept certain people from acting their dick off in the incredibly funny conversation they’re not really having with the cute girl that’s been directed to look at them during the extended soliloquy. You may even be this girl. I think the only thing you can do in the arms race of background one-upsmanship is play dirty. No bra. Tight slacks. Boys or girls, you’ve got goods to show. If you’re going to break out of the cyclorama Siberia of marginalized photogenicity, you’re going to have to prove that you’re more interesting to look at even while some guy is busy chewing the scenery. If all else fails, you can also chew the scenery.

• Tits out.
I know I just said above that you should showcase the goods. Ignore that. The only reason anyone should ever have to bare their genitalia or secondary sex characteristics – no matter how gifted they may be – is that they damn well feel like everyone they ever took a class with should enjoy it. It hasn’t been the seventies for a mathematically embarrassing age; we no longer have anything to gain artistically from self-exposure. It is purely an exercise for the exhibitionist that unscrupulous directors will take advantage of. If it’s what you want, get down with your bad self. If you harbor any concerns about revealing your body to a meager paying audience, don’t let anybody talk you into doing it. You are in control of your own body, you are the ultimate arbiter of your comfort in the expression of your art and too talented to stoop to what has become nothing more than a hack shock tactic.
Unless you really don’t care and aren’t talented. Then do porn. It pays and you get treated way better.

• GOING BLACK! (not going back!)
After dimmer check or at various points in tech, it may be necessary for the lighting board op to call out “Going black” to avoid plunging a room full of people unaccustomed to the jagged scrap metal set into the costly liability of blessed darkness. This is a safety concern (and occasionally a nifty check to see what half-busted dimmers are still ghosting). Only an indefatigable phallus would tack a lazy joke onto this.
Actually I do it all the time so it’s totally cool and you get a total pass.

• The Food Order
At a certain level, you may rely on the fact that someone always asks for the vegan, gluten-free, hypoallergenic, fair-trade, locally-sourced meal. Curiously, this person is also pathologically incapable of planning ahead and attending to their fringe dietary needs. This is an attention stunt and worsens with the financial compensation of those involved with the production.
You can out these people by placing the crafty standard Red Vines on a table in the break room/green room/communal toilet/dressing lobby. If they make a go for it, liberally bacon their privately catered meal and watch the lie dissolve. They all use cosmetics colored with insect- and seafood-derived additives anyway. Oh, did you not know that was a thing? It’s totally a thing. Read a label sometime.

• “Video guy! We should TOTALLY WATCH A MOVIE ON THIS SOMETIME!”
Only if you bring beer, popcorn, fried chicken, pizza, the DVD and don’t talk to me. But that’s cool.

• Spontaneous Cue To Cue Ballet
Cue to Cue is one of the biggest bummers for a performer. You’re up there struggling to remember lines out of sequence while sweaty dudes that haven’t slept in days blast way-too-loud sound cues, way-too-bright lights and way-too-complicated-to-program video at you. Sometimes, you’ll be standing there for an hour and a half while some half-drunk dude with his shirt sleeves rolled up makes eyes at you from the top of a ladder, occasionally pawing at a chunk of metal you’re half-convinced will later crash on your head.
Sometimes, all a girl can do is dance.
Reach down deep inside, to the time when the future was ahead of you and it seemed like everything you did was important and worth the effort. The commitment instilled through years of ballet classes barked by long-retired, stout professional dancers with a lengthy resume of Broadway choral roles – BROADWAY! – resonates with this endless moment of physical strain. An invisible force pulls the dance from inside your patched-yet-broken heart and you feel yourself moving in place, feeling the vibe of the stage.
Someone shouts at you. “Please don’t move; we’re focusing lights right now.”
It’s hard to believe that you’re the one at fault here. Nobody wanted to shout at you. You’re still pretty and your hair smells like strawberries. We just have to get through this one sequence so everyone can get back to the bar. In moments like these, anything that interrupts that is tantamount to setting fire to the painstakingly rented scrim walls of your stock Manhattan apartment set. Keep the dance inside…for now.

• “Is it really gonna be like that?”
We all know what you’re asking. Whether you’re the director, actor, designer, producer, playwright, theatre owner, publicist, child of parents too poor to afford rudimentary daycare or treasured pet of any of the above. You’re not happy. We feel for you.
Unfortunately, it’s not our job to make you feel happy. It’s our job to deliver as much radness as feasibly possible with the meager resources of no time, no money and a rapidly diminishing give-a-shit. If this truly will end your life and unravel the gossamer web of theatre magic we have so painstakingly sought to conceive, you are welcome to have that conversation in private, but only after the first time it is attempted. You are most likely not alone in your taste, but coming in hot and shouting that in front of everybody achieves the secondary goal of saying somebody is a failure. You’re not that mean.
Or if you are and don’t realize it, this might be why people don’t work with you more than once.

You can believe I have way more of these quibbles, hastily-scribbled in the dim light of a dozen low karaoke bars across this and other cities. I’ll be back with more.

[California Seething] A Day in the Absurd Life

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Transcript of phone call between Eric & Ronni Sims- March 1, 2013:

Eric: The mayor won’t let them film COPS in Albuquerque, that’s ridiculous! I agree, you should totally write about that in DESERT DROPPINGS (SHAMELESS PROMOTION ALERT). OK, hey listen, I’ve gotta go. No, everything’s ok- I’m just at work. Yeah. Well, they’re doing a reading upstairs of this new play about a Mexican-American family during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yeah, I know- it does sound interesting. Lots of interesting themes to explore there. Anyhow, they’re about to finish, so I’ve gotta strike all the chairs and music stands and set up the bondage mannequins and sex toys for the 50 Shades Red Room before the balloons arrive. What? Yes, bondage mannequins. Yes. Yes. Oh, sure, of course I’ll take pictures. What was that? You’re right- I should totally write about this.

Look, I know that in an Office-Parks and Rec-Community world, everybody thinks that their workplace would make just the funniest, quirkiest single Cal Seething-031014-parkscamera sitcom ever. While this means that 40 year old writers can feel better about their barista jobs because they can tell their worried parents that they’re “doing research” while they borrow money for rent, the result is a whole lot of terrible spec scripts and an epidemic of reader suicides. Don’t judge-you’d eat lead too if you had to read Coffee Shop followed by Post Office followed by It’s Totally Not the Apple Store Even Though We’re All Wearing Black T-Shirts and There’s a “Smart Guy” Bar at the Store followed by Office Max- about a corporate office supply super-store- where, get this, the main character’s name is actually MAX- get it?? Get it??? GET IT????? Hey, wait, that’s pretty good. NBC would totally produce that. I should write it. CRAP! I just killed a reader. Sorry, dude. I’ll tell your wife you loved her.

The problem is, despite what aspiring writers in workplace approved polo shirts may think, most jobs are more depressing than Cal Seething- 031014-dilbertwacky-not so much Parks and Rec – more like Franz Kafka guest-writing for Dilbert. And, to be fair, my job isn’t a sitcom either. It’s straight up Eugene Ionesco – and for those of you that didn’t squander your education by becoming Theatre Majors, that’s “theatre of the absurd.” Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with becoming a theatre major- hey- if you can spend 4-6 years saying “red leather, yellow leather” over and over again for course credit, lying on the ground and really paying attention to your breathing and rehearsing scenes from True West in your dorm room between gravity bong hits- then, Mazal Tov, Amigo- you win college. But, just a word of advice- if you do decide to convert your Theatre Major into an actual career in the field then get a temp job that makes you learn Excel- cause nobody in the real world actually gives a shit if you know who Eugene Ionesco is as long as you can make a budget for The Bald Soprano.  

Anyhow, the whole point of Absurdist Theatre is that characters are doing and saying utterly nonsensical things with the utmost Cal Seething-031014-binabeseriousness and conviction like Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech or a less bonkers version of CPAC. And doing nonsensical things with the utmost seriousness is exactly what being a theatre professional is all about!  Or, as Eugene Ionesco would have said “Cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos.” Because- when it comes right down to it, making theatre is about putting in absolutely heroic efforts to achieve utterly ridiculous objectives. I mean, just imagine you’re part of Seal Team Six only instead of being sent to kill Bin Laden, you’ve been deployed to help him alphabetize his giraffes. Or, even worse, to help produce his one man show about Abraham Lincoln- and, oh, did I mention it’s a rock opera? And you know it’s a terrible idea and that no one will come and that he can’t even sing, but you still spend three weeks frantically searching for the perfect stovepipe hat that’ll fit over his turban while you argue ferociously at a production meeting about the budget with the set designer, who wants to import lumber because it’s totally impossible to find enough trees in Pakistan to make a good log cabin- and if it doesn’t look 100% authentic, well then nobody’s going to believe that a singing Bin Laden is actually Lincoln. IT’S A FUCKING DISASTER.

Or, more to the point, imagine you’ve got to set up an S&M themed VIP area for 50 Shades! The Musical  and figure out how to share the space with a public reading of a serious new play about a Mexican American family during the Cuban Missile Crisis named Hope. Cause that’s actually a little more ridiculous- I mean, Bin Laden and Lincoln- well they’re both tall and have beards and were shot by Americans, so it’s practically like they’re twins – whereas Hope and 50 Shades! The Musical have absolutely nothing in common. 50 Shades! is a silly, fun and extremely raunchy show performed by a sweet, earnest, fresh-faced young cast that’s singing their eager little hearts out as they rhyme every possible synonym of penis and vagina- like Deep Throat performedtyler perry as madea by the cast of Glee. And the women coming to see the show- well, let’s just say they’re fanning themselves with their programs but it’s not actually that warm in the theatre. So actually, with all the well dressed, fanning, hollering women the whole thing feels like going to Sex Church or something out of Madea’s Bachelorette Party which is hands down Tyler Perry’s filthiest film. So, yeah, totally worth seeing for a good time. And naturally, a show like this needs an S&M themed VIP room or “Red Room”- which is a reference to something in the books that I am SO PROUD TO ADMIT I DO NOT GET. And the business to sponsor the Red Room- why that could be none other than independent, locally owned sex shop Pure Delish cause when it comes to nipple clamps, I’m strictly a locavore (pretty sure it’s a Mom & Pop cause one of the owners goes by “Daddy”).  Now, I’m no naïve little blushing kitten bunny, but I had absolutely no idea Pure Delish was a sex shop- I mean, I’d been by it a million times, but I just assumed they sold cupcakes- which I still think is a totally reasonable assumption- I mean, come on, it’s Culver City for god’s sake- I see Pure Delish in this part of town- I’m thinking Red Velvet not Red Room. It was only my devotion to the Sprinkles ATM that saved me from the unbelievable awkwardness of stopping in for a sugary treat at Pure Delish and being offered Cal Seething- 031014-delishan entirely different and far more disturbing kind of sugar from Daddy which I’m pretty sure is some kinda kinky sex thing or, at least, Def Leppard seems to think so.

Anyhow, a few days before the first 50 Shades! performance we picked up the disassembled mannequins from Pure Delish using a dirty old white van (just for extra creepiness) and, let me tell you, you don’t know what it means to be thankful you’re white until you’re driving through LA in a white van full of body parts- especially cause all the mannequins were white women. When we got to the theatre, Cat, the store’s owner (I may have slightly exaggerated about Daddy #poeticlicense #itstheonlylicenseicanget) guided me and a couple of my male staff members through the process of assembling the mannequins with the infinite patience and kindness of an American Julie Andrews- if Julie Andrews was a petite dominatrix in colorful yoga pants teaching arts and crafts at a Special Needs S&M Summer Camp. Actually, I was the only Special Needs student there. Both of my staff were surprisingly adept at putting the women together from spare body parts and dressing them proactively. One of them in particular was particularly adept. Disturbingly adept. Adept in a Criminal Minds, don’t go in the crawl space, it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again sort of way. I mean, I don’t like to judge, but he named his mannequin Gladys and I think they went to see Her together. For me, though, the whole thing was just a giant Elementary School Arts & Crafts anxiety nightmare. Like all of a sudden, I’m eight years old again, tears of frustration in my eyes, fingers all stuck together with Elmer’s glue, a pile of busted up popsicle sticks on the table in front of me glued together in every which way but the right one and all around me perfect little girls with perfect little collars up and perfect little bows in their hair and perfect little popsicle stick houses in front of them while I sit in the middle with my popsicle stick shitbox like that trashy house in the perfect suburban subdivision that everybody whispers about with the unwashed, homeschooled kids of indeterminate age and number who were never allowed to play street football with the rest of the kids but just looked out the window with the dead eyed curiosity of Russian orphans, the fleshy wife with the tired eyes and tight-lipped smile whose washed-out floral pattern bathrobe showed just enough cleavage to make her an unspoken masturbation favorite of all the neighborhood boys and the scary guy with a beard like a red-eyed angry Jesus with a beer belly and, yes, I realize I’m getting pretty far afield but if you made popsicle stick houses that were this evocative of The Virgin Suicides YOU WOULD HAVE ANXIETY NIGHTMARES ABOUT ARTS & CRAFTS PROJECTS TOO.

So, as you can expect, when it came to putting the mannequins together, I was useless. Every two minutes, I was like “Caaaaat, I can’t get the panties to stayCal Seething-031014-poppins on” “Caaaaat, why are her hands in backwards”, “Caaaaaaaat my node id caught id da nipple clampd.” And every single time, Cat would rush over with her infinite American Julie Andrews dominatrix patience and deftly rescue me singing “Just a spoonful of patience helps the nipple clamps stay on, the nipple clamps stay on, the nipple clamps stay on. Just a spoonful of patience helps the nipple clamps stay on. In the most erotic way.”

So, OK, great. Mannequins put together. Gladys looking fierce. Project done, right? Well…not exactly. We still had to hang the Pure Delish banners; set up the 50 Shades! step & repeat (that’s the thingamajig with logos you take pictures in front of at press conferences and premieres and stuff- I know, right- there’s a name for those! ) for photo opportunities; arrange the S&M paraphernalia on the table next to the 50 Shades! step & repeat including a feather, blindfold, riding crop, mask plus a wrench and a screwdriver for some reason that I pray to God I never have to know; put out the gift bags complete with commemorative tie, lube, Pure Delish postcard and women’s orgasm gel (I tried some. Amazing); and set out the decorative balloons, because everybody who loves bondage also loves balloons I think!

So, OK, great. Room is set up. Project done, right? Well…not exactly. Because right in the midst of the first weekend of performances we had that pesky public reading I was talking about earlier of the serious play about a Mexican American family during the Cuban Missile Crisis- and somehow, the director didn’t think the S&M mannequins would work for this presentation, even though he did keep trying to give Gladys his number and offered to let her read stage directions #poeticlicense. So…on Friday afternoon, before they came to rehearse, we hid the mannequins, took down the Pure Delish banners, struck the step & repeat (you feel cooler cause you know what that means right? Right? Yeah, you do.); boxed up the S&M paraphernalia including the wrench & screwdriver (I DON’T WANT TO KNOW); stashed the gift bags, popped the balloons and brought out chairs, music stands and a keyboard. Red Room becomes Reading Room- Ta Da!

Of course- after rehearsal – we had to strike the music stands, move the keyboard, put away the chairs, hang the banner, pose the mannequins, put out the step & repeat (go on- use it in a sentence. You know you want to) , set up the S&M props including the wrench and screwdriver (LALALLALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU I CAN’T HEAR YOU), set the gift bags back out, and put out the fucking balloons. Hurray fucking balloons!!

Then, Saturday, early in the morning…well I think you can guess. Banner, mannequins, step & repeat,  S&M paraphernalia, gift bags, balloons- OUT! Chairs, music stands, keyboard- IN! Serious reading about Mexican American family during the Cuban Missile Crisis GO!!

Which brings me back to that phone call to my mother, right where we started. The reading was about to end and I was tired. All I wanted to do was just restore the Red Room one more time and get the fuck out. And everything had been going so smoothly. We were practically home free. Just one more time- chairs, music stands, keyboard – OUT! Banner, mannequins, step & repeat, S&M props, gift bags and balloons…wait a second….where the fuck are the balloons??? What do you mean the new balloons haven’t been delivered yet?? How is that fucking possible??? Don’t these people know I want to go home????? How many question marks do I need to use to show just how FUCKING UNACCEPTABLE THIS IS????????????????????????????? ????????? QUESTION MARKS????????????????????????

Half an hour dragged by. I called the florist. They said the balloons were coming. They lied. Half an hour dragged by. I called the florist. I said terrible things. I screamed, I railed, I pleaded with desperation like a soldier in the Korengal valley covered in blood screaming into the radio for a Medevac while he watches his buddy bleeding to death on the hot sand only I was screaming cause the goddamn delivery of decorative balloons for my bondage themed 50 Shades VIP room was a motherfucking hour late and that shit was LIFE AND DEATH. GET ME MY FUCKING BALLOONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GET SOME !!!!!!!!!GET SOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Balloons, that is.

So, anyhow, a few minutes later, the balloons arrived, we set them up and left. Everything was fine. The way it always it. Cause that’s the other thing to know about theatre- we live in a constant state of narrowly averted disaster. And you would think that would mean I would calm down and relax a little cause I know things are going to work out and, sure, that’s what a rational person would do but if I was a rational person I WOULDN’T HAVE MAJORED IN DRAAAAAAAMA.

So what’s the point? No point. What, did somebody tell you there was going to be a point? Weren’t you paying attention? Music stands go out, bondage mannequins go in, balloons show up, I go home. Cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos.

So how do we cope with the meaninglessness? Me, I like to attend City Council meetings. There’s nothing like taking an active role in government to remind me just how much I love theatre. At a recent Council Meeting, a local man got up with his well worn yellow Legal pad and said: “I live at the corner of ______ and __________  and for the last 20 years, I’ve been coming before you to say we need a stop light. Well, last night, the long awaited accident finally happened- and while nobody was hurt, I urge you to take action.” And the Council naturally reacted like this was a serious problem but all I could think was- “Dude, that’s great! You have one little accident every 20 years- you’ve gotta live on the safest fucking street corner in America! You don’t need a stop light- you need a plaque and a parade in your honor!” And, talk about theatre of the absurd- check out these little dialogue snippets from last night’s meeting:

“Is there a special notification list for trees?”

“That would just be the initial initiation of an initial plan”

Are you kidding me? That’s straight out of Ionesco’s Twitter feed #cockatoos. He missed his calling as a playwright- he should have just run for mayor. As for me, I’m just gonna stay back at the theatre. With Gladys. Where it’s safe. Well, relatively speaking. I still don’t know what that wrench is for- but I’ve got a sinking feeling I’m gonna be around long enough to find out. At least I don’t live in Albuquerque. I hear the mayor won’t even let them film COPS there. Now THAT’S absurd. (SHAMELESS PROMOTION ALERT.)

Cal-Seething-031014-RedRoom

 

 

 

 

 

[Trenches] How to Not Improv!

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I’ve been studying the fine art of Improvisation. As such, I’m inspired by the easy out for an article deep tradition of improvisational theatre. As such, allow me to advise you against the breaking of critical rules.

Straight-up denying premises.
This is a cardinal sin of improv. The rule “Yes, And” is simple enough; eschew the “no” and refrain from “but.” In the heat of the moment, the blood rushes and the senses blur. One can be forgiven for any multitude of offenses, but leaving your scene partner desperately trying to justify why a cupcake baker would be hanging out on the moon? There’s so much going on. Throw a bone, dude. Don’t be a hater and give them room to be a normal person trying to make shit happen.

Physical intimidation.
You’re just damn bigger than your scene partner. Stronger. Perhaps faster. You have powers. You clearly call the shots. You should be king of the mountain, and you swell with all the swagger due the nascent emperor walking amongst the people. The problem is, your buddy is out there trying to make an awesome moment between a dad and his son. Give it to him. You get to be Wacky Dad and you will be crowned with the glory of The Weird One for all time.
Or at least until the end of the scene.

Don’t burn the scene doing a medical, dental, transactional or quasi-informational procedure.
You had this great idea to be a dental hygienist or phlebotomist. In worryingly little time, you exhausted your knowledge of such procedures. Where do we go now? We have no idea what the scene was even about. Everyone is mildly terrified. You’re going to have to reach deep and find something to make this world worth seeing more about.
It was better to just pull Wacky Dentist or Vampire Blood Guy out of your ass two minutes ago than suffer through this debacle. Be a person in the world. Envelope the awkward sense of why-isn’t-this-my-Obamacare-dollars-at-work. Make a strong choice and live in a world between two people in an unusual situation trying somehow to be people instead of languishing in the lukewarm waters of “kind-of a thing where an official person is sort-of not all about a relatively routine thing.” Save the children.

Can’t give up your shitty idea.
You’re on the back line. You have the best idea in the entire world and everybody needs to see it. Robot Celine Dion traveling through time to win gold in the Olympic Canadian Curling Tournament? It has gold written all over it – LITERALLY. Well, literally-ish. It doesn’t matter! The people need this. So, no matter what happens, don’t be a part of some active scene between two human beings having a moment of vulnerable connection. You should most definitely drop your genius A-Bomb on the Nagasaki of your scene and end the war on Funny forever.
Or, wait. Not that. Drop the pretense and roll with the easy scene. You’ll find a glorious joke from organically being two people having a problem and working it out. Celine will always be waiting for you, watching hungrily from the wings. Maybe she can rush on stage for the mercy blackout line.

Come in hot with time-traveling Ben Franklin typewriter-tweeting through carrier pigeons
This doesn’t work. I tried it. Fuck it.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO:
Refraining from Mercy Edits

  • Two Men Left Behind
    Don’t let your buddies suffer. They’re out there, trying as hard as they can to be funny people, but they’re out of reasonable things to explore. Save them. Start the next scene and be a hero.
  • Catching Lightning in a Butthole
    There was one zinger. It was glorious. The scene was buttoned-up, ribboned, lovingly packaged and super McOver. Now they’re out there just trying to spin gold into straw, because your friends are out of forward momentum. Save them. SAVE THEM. End the scene and throw Celine out there. It’s her turn to shine.
  • Heaven’s Gate
    It’s a group scene. Everyone is on the stage. Who’s left to stop the madness? Nobody. This scene consisting entirely of saguaro cacti eloquently waxing on their life on the high desert needs a mercy kill, but everybody is way too invested in the highly theatrical shapes they’re making to sell their characters. Somebody needs to put a stop to this. Everyone is a form-of-a-Cactus. Who’s the hero? There are no heroes. Pull the pin and end the madness.

You now know all I do about the ephemeral art of improv. Go with God and, for the holy one’s sake, don’t get stuck in taxidermist or asylum scenes. Life is too short.

[TRENCHES] Let’s All Become Theatre Critics!

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The population of working theatre critics in Los Angeles is now decimated. Wild controversy within the community as to the effects of this sea change persists. Will we be forced to shoulder the burden of professional malcontent with a series of flashy crowdfunding efforts? Will we languish in the sewer of illegitimacy, relegated to the cultural wasteland-that-was of showcase pieces and overfervent improv fringe? Will we even notice?
Rather than think it through or meaningfully contribute to the conversation, I’d like to personally empower YOU, the swarming hordes of my dozen readers, to launch your nascent career as a Featherquill Sassypants Los Angeles Theatre Critic! You too can stomp on the futile hopes of hundreds, you too can damn fragile talent in less than three hundred words, you too can wield the intoxicating power of the Confirmation of Arbitrary Mediocrity. Come with me, you shall be as Gods!

1. The purpose of a critic

As a critic, you’ll be expected to dislike and summarily dismiss all but the least comprehensible work. Anything pedestrian is beneath you and a simple reiteration of plot points with some salty prose is all that will be required. If you find yourself at a piece that is challenging and obtuse, it will be your sworn duty to read as much into it as possible, overextending your knowledge and showcasing your sheer brilliance.
Lesser mortals will cower beneath your wisdom. Lost souls will flock to your whimsical prose and find meaning in a bleak universe. It is your calling to be the authoritative voice of a conversation between the artist and the community. Don’t let it bother you that it is the last mad cry in long-emptied room.

2. Train up with these handy bullet-point exercises!

This is where we’ll build the real muscle you’ll be working with. Get ready to dig deep! We’re going to transform your permissive, flabby aesthetic into a hard-assed, opinionated damnation machine!

•   Practice sneaking into places and reducing them to a single-paragraph life story.
•   Find ways to use the word “pedestrian” as pejoratively as possible.
•   Go to dinner at a new restaurant. Find a way to make the experience your worst ever. If you can’t find anything wrong with the meal, critique the server flair, ambiance, decor, clientele or the fact that they served you.
•   Look for the hundreds of people that work very hard to make your day-to-day life better. Make a point to ignore them; if they were so good at what they did, you’d be a king by now.
•   If you ever have trouble finding fault with something, think of all the ways the world owes you.
•   Take a moment to reflect on how impossibly difficult it is to make anything of value. Laugh at the cretins who try anyway. They are the lowest form of life.
•   Apply your meager understanding of design culled from half-watched Tim Gunn reruns and a textbook you didn’t read in college. You obviously know more than people who got an MFA. For one thing, you weren’t stupid enough to get an MFA in anything. Suckers!
•   Know in your heart that you are a better director than anyone who has passed up the chance at a stable family, generative career or prospects of legal compensation for hard work. Crucify the unworthy.
•    Bitch about parking.

3. Start your own publication!

Did you know: it’s absurdly easy to publish in the semi-dystopic future we all inhabit? A variety of easy website-building tools are available to you, ranging from intimidating offerings like Wix, Squarespace and WordPress to the more pedestrian options of Blogger and Tumblr. All you need is a sassy hundred-and-fifty-word bio and a picture of you leaning disinterestedly toward the camera.
Boom! Now you’re in the biz! Start harassing producers, theatre companies and front-of-house staff for the industry comps you know you have coming to you. If you ever get push-back, casually mention your fifteen dozen Twitter followers and your regret that they will not receive your glowing praise. It doesn’t even matter that most of them are bland automatons you cleverly acquired after Googling that twitter bots were a thing!
Take it to the next level by creating your own awards, preferably distributed a few months in advance of whatever significant community-vetted awards are offered in your market area. You’ll give your dear friends and concubines warm fuzzies while roundly shitting on the popular kids who never talk to you at the real award parties.

4. Burning out? Pump the brakes!

Sooner or later, you’re going to have to bail on this glamorous lifestyle. It’s not your fault; the weight of legions of mediocre offerings will take their toll and damage your soul. It’s a triumph of the human spirit that you lasted this long. The time is for you to make a bunch of vague pronouncements about the steady death of the art and then recede to the lukewarm oblivion of half-realized 99 Seat Plan vanity projects from which you rose.
Like mighty Cthulu submerges into the evanescent waters shrouding R’lyeh, like the pillowy loam upon which Lord Dracula’s coffin rests six feet under, like the worryingly irradiated jetstreams on which Mothra sweeps in slumber, you shall become one with that which you once railed against. You shall look upon the latest generation of critics and nod with satisfaction: they will never spit such bitter shit you once lovingly crafted. Your work is done; sleep, dear one.

A word of warning: if you ever catch yourself genuinely enjoying a moment that dozens of people have conspired to painstakingly craft, despite the wage of profound fatigue and at great personal expense, you’re out of the club.

[Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Is This Broadway or a Seat in Coach?

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Love that feeling being crammed in coach on a long flight?  Now, you can have that same feeling on Broadway!

 

My seat for No Man's Land on Broadway.

My seat for No Man’s Land at the Cort Theatre on Broadway.

Broadway – dozens of shows and thousands of butts pack the seats every night.  But, it seems like the theater owners are taking a page from the airlines and jam packing more and more people in.

 

A few weeks ago, I went to see No Man’s Land with two friends, starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  We had $150 tickets, which put us in the front row of the upper balcony of the Cort Theater on West 48th Street.  Thankfully, being in the front row allowed us for a few precious inches of leg room.  I looked back and the people sitting behind me, who basically had their knees in their chests.   While the entire play was good, the first act of the show was a little long and dry.  It was becoming harder and harder to sit as the act drug on, with my legs falling asleep and fighting for possession of the narrow arm rest. Not to mention, the air conditioning was off and it really started to heat up in there.  I actually heard someone snoring behind me and saw several people nodding off all around.

 

Quite frankly, it was just flat out uncomfortable.

 

Sitting there that long reminded me of being on a long flight.  The seats are expensive, there’s little room, and you’re crammed in there for hours at a time.

 

Space in New York is at a premium, but have the Broadway theaters have gone too far?

broadway sign

Take a trip to the restroom, you’ll always find a line.  At the Foxwoods Theatre where I saw Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark (read my original review, here), men actually had to turn to the side to use the urinal.  They may be the smallest bathrooms – I’ve ever seen!

 

Being local, I usually see at least one show a year.  To me, I love the magic of the live stage performance, but the way they pack you in, I feel like a piece of cattle… just like on an airplane.

 

I get it.  The shows are expensive to produce, with actors, stage hands, advertising, story rights, and theater rent all adding up to big bucks.  So, the shows and venues are looking to maximize every dollar they can – and one way of doing so is by packing more people into the house.

 

Same deal with the airlines, the more fuel costs go up, the more seats they are adding to planes.

 

Sadly, the result for both is an uncomfortable experience for customers.

 

Another way both Broadway and the airlines are looking to cash in is the sale of alcohol.  Up until a few years ago, only a few Broadway shows sold liquor, now almost all of them have multiple bars and allow patrons to carry a cocktail to their seats.

 

At No Man’s Land, they had a guy walking up and down through the lower seats selling candy!

flight attendant

Where else have I seen that?  Oh yeah, on an airline!  $6 for a giant box of Milk Duds or a half canister of Pringles!

 

Around 1850, theaters first began opening in their current Times Square location on Broadway.  As smaller shows began closing downtown, the area was saturated with new auditoriums to satisfy New Yorkers and tourist demand for the shows.  In order to be classified as a full Broadway theater, the venue must seat at least 500.  (the same classification for a production to win a Tony Award.)

 

THE 411

 

What: Broadway Theaters

 

Location: Times Square Area, New York City

 

Number of seats: 500+

 

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS

 

So, where is the best seat in the house for a Broadway show?  Take the advice of Ryan Dixon, who taught me years ago to always sit in the front row of the middle or upper mezzanine.  You will get to see the whole stage and you’ll get a little more room!

 

Coincidentally, I now also find myself sitting there at Yankees games!

 

Image credits – Willem van Bergen, Peter Bellis, David Lytle

[TRENCHES] New Year’s Resolutions

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Waffling in the foggy afterglow of the annual feast of excess? Burning through the dying embers of the cruel afternoon’s hangover, promising “never again” but not entirely sure what? Working in theatre and looking for a cheap laugh?

HELP IS ON THE WAY, DEAR

New Year’s Eve Resolutions for Theatre Professionals

  • I will not wait until places is called to sprint for a quick pee.
  • I will not wait to check that my cell phone is turned off until the first blackout; I will handle my business during the not-really-popular-anymore pre-show music.
  • I will not pick any song off of a soundtrack, except where explicitly used for comedic effect.
  • I will not, under any circumstances, tell the designer what the actual budget is. They will only ask for twenty to eighty percent more; whores will have their trinkets.
  • I will not discuss moulding with anyone, ever.
  • I will only say the word “wainscotting” five times this year.
  • I will not reveal that I plan to fix anything with EQ, a paint treatment, diffusion, reverb, Viewpoints, haze, sheet plastic, a working iPhone prop, the box-step, a metatheatrical cop-out, a big dance sequence or video design.
  • I will not hire a video designer for this play simply because it’s not interesting enough. I will hire a video designer to provide sexual relief to the cast and crew.
  • I will not write a character who only appears for less than three pages at the end of the play, despite having never been mentioned prior.
  • I will not forget to turn off my comm beltpack LED/LCD/Disco Party Light before changing scenery behind a scrim.
  • I will not murder anyone in the chorus or principals simply because of bad diction (again).
  • I will consider at least one option prior to resorting to gaff tape.
  • I will not tape together cables with duct tape. Wait; I will not tape anything together with duct tape.
  • I will not call rehearsals before the last preview or opening, except for understudies or to give gifts and/or promise people how awesome they actually aren’t.
  • I will not call the understudy for every preview unless they’re actually worse than I am at the part and/or could use a big break.
  • I will not write solos with more than three weird time signature changes. Actors are distracted easily and this can make the sequence difficult to cue.
  • I will check the schedule several times throughout the week, not fourteen minutes prior to the curtain on the first – and unexpected – matinee.
  • I will invest in a clock-ass-god-damned-radio for the times that my phone fails to wake me for said unexpected matinee.
  • I will not send more than one e-mail a month to my mailing list, and even then, I refuse to release anything to my subscriber base that does not feature at least one funny picture of a cat doing something stupid.
  • I will not rely on Facebook Events, a hastily compiled trailer and a single reviewer from Goldstar as my PR.
  • I will not allow the theatre to run out of flat black, black gaff, glow tape, binder clips, toner or vodka.
  • I will not hire only one sound guy for tech. If nothing else, they have the best jokes/drugs.
  • I will not resort to aggravated assault should a patron request a temperature change in the theatre, regardless of age or blood alcohol content of the patron.
  • I will not write a play set in a Manhattan apartment. Fuck it; anywhere in New York.
  • I will not obviously play Candy Crush, Words with Friends or Facebook during tech.
  • I will not sign in five minutes early just so I can run next door and have dinner before half-hour.
  • I will  not show up to any call drunk, high or otherwise intoxicated without enough to share.