Category Archives: Broadway

Why Seeing the play “Wood Bones” is Important

Wood Bones is an important play for New York Theater. It’s written by a Native American playwright and it’s in NYC. When was the last time you saw a play written by a Native American playwright? In NYC? I don’t know about you, but this will be the first time for me and I’ve been going to theater in NYC for over 10 years. The play is also seeped in ritual and written about and for Native peoples who are so marginalized that we don’t even talk about them or know how to talk about them.  Through a haunted house story, the play invites the audience into a world I have rarely seen, one of the modern Native American Indian — the men and women who live on reservation land — or not, and who have learned to hate and  honor their traditions.

One of the things that I love about theater are the worlds it allows you to visit. For 90 minutes or more, once the theater is dark, the playwright, director and the actors are holding you captive and show you a world with living and breathing characters. You leave the theater, at the very least, being inspired, one would hope.  Possibly you’ve learned something that makes you think about things just a little bit or a lot differently than you did going into the theater. This should happen even if the play is bad or doesn’t make sense.

I’m going to tell you something — even my stinky plays take the audience on a journey. My very worst play, a play that got me nearly got me kicked out of my MFA program was about a brother and sister when the brother was sent away to a mental institution. The other play that really got me trouble (not because it was bad, but because it was about a professor) was about a guy who masturbated too much who was about to die, but he could turn things around if he could be nicer to women.

Plays these days are BORING and the coverage in the media is male focused (white male focused) and also BORING.

I am tired of seeing ho-hum plays that are extremely cliched and only made new by a celebrity or a prop.  This unraveling of quality is happening all over Hollywood and for the past 5 years it’s practically ruined theater for me in New York City — especially Broadway. Did anyone see that play Grace? So Paul Rudd is supposed to make your play interesting? That’s a lot of work for Mr. Rudd!

I rarely go to theater anymore. I have 2 good excuses – their names are Maya, who is three and Lilly who is only one.  My first priority is my children. I just don’t have the time to go out to theater like I once did. But I am also left a tad cold by the theater when I do go.

I am a playwright with some credentials, enough to speak my mind at least. I feel that I have a style. My own work is quirky, usually dark and edgy and I’d very much like to see things that have the following criteria:

The play should be well written, well acted, have some humorous moments that show intelligence and wit. But the play should not only be witty and it should not be perfectly well-made.  Revivals are fine, and who doesn’t love some of the old great plays?  I have seen most of them at least once, and I don’t really need to see them with a celebrity in one of the roles. I just don’t. It doesn’t make them any better, if anything, like in the case of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” I believe a celebrity actress made it worse. Another thing in this rant, why would I want to see a play where nothing happens?

Here’s what I want to tell producers:

I really don’t care about your set if your play is boring. That’s great that you can write beautiful prose, and say some interesting things and I love it that you are smart, but if your story is not new and exiting and by god original, then what is the point? Are you taking me on an exciting journey? Does your play make sense? Can I follow it? What do you want me to think and  feel when I leave? Have I learned something new, or have I merely been mildly entertained?

For me, the answer is always this: Your play should have taken me on a trip (I love “Trip To Bountiful”),  and would love to leave the theater having learned something new. I like bold subjects, and I don’t like prodding through topics that have been done again again.

Turns out, for me anyway, doing the PR for Wood Bones was an education, and a mind bending one at that. As soon as I took the job, I realized — oh wait, I’ve never done PR before, not officially. Also, I have no idea how to reach out to Native Americans in New York City. Is there a Native blog for New York? And I really don’t know very much about Native Americans or their community. American History was my favorite subject in college and Sacajawea my favorite book; and rafting down the Grand Canyon was one of my favorite trips of my life. And, by golly, my two-year-old nephew is part Navajo!  Guess what? Despite all that, I still don’t know shit.

I’ve been lucky in my career. I’ve worked in marketing since graduating college. Though I haven’t always loved that I do marketing, the fact that I am also a writer and playwright, and am a naturally curious person, my career path has led me to some interesting opportunities to say the least. The jobs I land are so very random, but usually in a good way. They are either good for perks (Starwood Hotels) or for something else — an entertaining story.

My very first marketing job was working for the French company, JC Decaux, an outdoor toilet company. Yes, that’s right. I helped open their flagship office in San Francisco. My focus was the display ads on the outside of the toilets, so I was making phone calls to Macy’s, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren,  but the office was small and I often took calls from druggies and people who just wanted to use “The John” in peace.

My next job was much more normal. I worked in a really fancy office on Maiden Lane in San Francisco. Obviously after my first toilet job, I couldn’t wait to have a respectable normal job. I worked for one of San Francisco’s chic advertising agencies as an assistant media planner and my client was Kia Motors, a Korean car company, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I spent my days dressing cute and flirting with a co-worker. It’s a frilly time…before the Internet boom, just before….and I was lucky to jump that ship and land at my next job which was the very cool, hip Salon.com. I loved this job, one of my favorite jobs ever.  I went camping with Jake Tapper and a throng of other seasoned journalists who are now on CNN and really very famous. Later, when I moved to New York, highlights included doing the online marketing  for the W Hotels and for DIRECTV. I got to go to fashion shows and held court at big meetings, but that power and money didn’t make me happy. In fact, I cried after my first day at DIRECTV because I just didn’t want to work for a big company, it’s not my style.

When I was very young I spent 2 summers in France working in restaurants learning French. I also smoked way too many cigarettes and drank like a fish and sipped lattes with a ciggy in one hand with a cute hat on my head. I used to be able to stay up all night and dance on bars, get lost and come to work at 8AM, drink a huge glass of fresh squeezed OJ and everything would be okay. This French experience is why I got my first job for the French company and probably why and more importantly how I got into marketing. I landed that first job because I spoke French.

At some point, when I was in NYC, I decided I wanted to be a theater artist and I worked my butt off to make that happen. When you have a true passion for something it’s not really that hard. Even though I had a marketing background, I spent 90% of my energy working in the theater. I got my MFA from the New School for Drama, I acted in numerous plays and was even the star of a Russian mini series. I’ve written and had over 40 productions of my plays over the last 10 years.  I spent the 3 years that I was in grad school working part-time as a theatrical literary agent. I was also copywriter for a major theater, a dramaturg for a summer, an assistant on Broadway.  I’ve directed plays, staged managed and written reviews. This year I can add two new titles to my rap sheet:  play contest judge and press rep.

So what’s my point? I’m not sure. It’s 5:30 in the AM. Wood Bones is original, Wood Bones is exciting – it’s well acted and makes sense, and I think you should see it. And then, perhaps a day or two later, when you want to know more, take a trip to the Native American Museum and bring your Kleenex, because you might cry.Image

How to BE the best?

This weekend I was dosed out with theater…Okay, first off, I know I haven’t posted in awhile.  I’m bad – or maybe, I have a good reason. I’ve been sick.  I should be better soon….times are tough with the Noni blog.  What’s new? I’m co-producing an all lady festival called Femme Feast in early May and we are having a big fun raiser called the Lady Cakes Ball where you can get free cupcakes in addition to seeing awesome live entertainment – uh, bands, burlesque dancers, the singer Deanna Neil….it’s going to be hot.  All for $1o bucks!  Cool, right?  It’s at Karma Lounge in NYC on April 16th — doors open at 7.

So all this is taking it’s toll.  We are also producing a theatrical event with 6 or 7 pieces, Butoh dancing, musicians — it’s wild!

So anyway…mid week, I was feeling my usual pain — can’t eat anything…ugh sick…and then I get a call from a director, Michael Parva, who offerred me one free ticket to his Broadway show currently in previews — the show — Irena’s Vow.  Don’t walk, run to get tickets!  I loved it!!  The NYTimes called it “cheesy”, and the reviewer felt it skipped over things — but c’mon we are telling a Holocaust story. I personally thought everyone did a beautiful job and hey — I cried, so I went home happy…which is more than I can say about a host full of mediocre cliched plays I’ve seen in the past weeks.   So good is good is my opinion and great is great. Go see Irena’s Vow.  It’s about something good, real and not just another war story.  In fact, I’m really happy to see all these Holocaust stories coming to life from other perspectives.  Remember when the only story we knew of was Anne Frank?  It’s okay. It doesn’t get tired. It’s part of history.

On Sunday I went to the BE company’s first fundraising event at The Rattlestick Theatre Company.  I was tired and didn’t really want to be there, but boy was I pleasantly surprised by what I saw — some extremely well written one-acts, that were certainly augmented by stellar acting and directing – with a bit of guitar.  Then, after it was over everyone was invited to socialize at Bobo — only my favorite restaurant in the village.  Unfortunately, I started to feel crappy and had to go home to uh…lay there and stare at the ceiling.  I heard it was fun.  And yes, when the BE Company starts producing plays make sure to check them out.  I want to BE them — classy, cool and full of talent.  Oh, I am…whew.

24 Hour Plays on Broadway: Morning Times

After we had a round table of idea sharing, Adam Bock, a playwright who is “on staff” for the night, went upstairs to write his play.  We all hung around and chatted, ate food and eventually we were all getting pretty tired.  At 4:30AM  I went upstairs to the writer’s lair where Ellen Maddow was looking for a story about the ocean, and Adam B was nearly finished.  He laughed that all the assistants were now sleeping on cots while the writers were still busy typing away.  I heard Adam laughing to himself.  I couldn’t really sleep, so I asked to see what he thought was so funny.  Tina Fallon (the producer) told me not to give anything away about any of the plays, so I won’t.  But my oh my, Adam put some of my stories in his play.  So perhaps before my official Broadway debut as a playwright, two of my shinning delightful (and hilarious) stories made it into a play that is going up on Broadway tonight.  It’s pretty funny that Adam just ran downstairs and asked us for stories and then wove them into his characters.  He’s a pretty talented fellow. We are both from San Francisco originally, so we talked about that for awhile.  I already liked his work (Five Flights) but now I really like him as a person too.  He’s a social butterfly.  I can’t wait to see the plays tonight.

Questions for 5AM: I don’t know what to ask.

I asked Adam what his favorite play that he ever wrote. Without thinking he said:The Typographer’s Dream.

A quote from Tina: “We have too much amazing.”

I’m tired.  I don’t even know what to write.  But obviously I thought this experience would be fun.  I get home at nearly 5:30AM, jump into my cozy bed.  As I drift off into my real sleep, I tell my husband, who is used to my goofy stories about my day.

The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway: It’s Sharing Time

I’m back!  I have decided to blog a little bit tonight because I happen to be up all night tonight working as an assistant for the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway.  We are all on the 5th floor of the American Airlines Theater (on Broadway), This is my third year to come help out, and so far this year is more fun that previous years.  For starters, we are all in one room together — assistants, producers, writers (the actors and directors went home to sleep).  Because we are all so near each other, some of the writers are using us for idea generation. For example, I just gave my best pimple story to Adam Bock.  Apparently Rachel Dratach is going to be a gay boy scout.  Sounds fun.  So we just got food, and we are reading the Times and stuff.  More to come soon.

One last good one: Bullets, Bums and Barack

Hope. Now I have it.  I’m so excited to see what Barack Obama is going to do with his presidency!  I feel proud for the first time that I am an American; that I had the chance to vote, to make a difference.
My interview project is nearly complete.   From September 17th – November 4th, I attempted to interview one person a day as an exercise to keep me writing.  The result is pretty amazing.  It’s a journal of New York City as we prepared to elect the first Black president.   On September 17th, the day after I arrived  in New York after spending two weeks in California, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the city in the fall.  It was as if someone had put V-juice in my coffee.  Or, I was in love again with New York.  The trees, the air, the people…everything was cracking with change.

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Don’t Be Trippin – Downtown cafe girl goes uptown!

What an excellent day!  I had two important appointments uptown and Audrey told me she got a new job!  She was so excited that she had to see me, so I decided to get “gussied” as much as possible and prepared for my meetings early, so that we could live “creative life” even if it was only for two hours.

This is a side note, but I really hate my new hairdo, it does make me look like Sarah Palin’s sister.

Me in my "library pose"

I look like a schoolmarm, librarian, preschool teacher or like I hunt for rabbits (no offense to schoolmarms, librarians, preschool teachers, rabbit hunters…well sure, offense to rabbit hunters).
Audrey and I meet up at Grounded and saddle up to a little table that we share.  Laptops are back-to-back.  I look down at my computer and realize that I haven’t prepared much for either of my meetings (been too busy writing my blog perhaps?).
One of my meetings is with a theater company. They have asked me to be prepared to discuss a marketing plan for “Of Mice and Men, the Musical.”  It was kind of a “what if?” type of question.  I’m pondering this. Audrey finds me a website with themes of Steinbeck novels.  So I am trying to imagine Curley’s wife singing a beautiful song about being lonely.  Hmmm.
I nearly tripped on the computer cord of the guy sitting next to me.
“Don’t be trippin,” He says with a laugh.  I can tell he thinks this he’s made a funny pun.
I smile and look back down at the “themes” page.
Audrey, my partner in crime, nudges me:  “Interview him,” she says with a raised brow.
“Ah,” good idea.
So I look on his lap top and try to see what he’s working on, see if it intrigues me.   It looks like it’s some kind of script for a commercial.
I have a feeling that Audrey and I are starting to get “known” in this café.
“Can I interview you? It will only take a minute,” I say.
“Sure, if it only takes a minute.”


Who:  Jason
Where: Grounded, NYC
Occupation: Movie trailer writer, advertising.
I actually felt like Jason was interviewing me, more than I was interviewing him.
“So what’s your blog about?” he says.
I can tell the whole coffee house is listening.
“Oh I interview one person a day, but I’m a playwright, so it’s not like an official thing.  I feel you and I have to sit across from you in order to interview you.”
“So what is it you do?  What are you working on?  It looks like a commercial, is it?” I say.
“I write teasers for movies and television shows.”
“Wow, that’s different.”
“I know so cool, right?” he says.
I can tell he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is a good thing.
“How did you get this job?”
I’m not sure if this is exactly what we said, but I think he said something like
“I know how to work it.”
Hmm. Something any New Yorker knows is the name of the game – working it, that is.
“I feel lucky,” he says.
The three of us laugh about it.
“Look at us, we are in a cafe,” he said.
I think I can most appreciate the luxury of getting to hang out in a café.  After all, I only just left the corporate “florescent lights” a month ago.
Whew.  I pinch myself.  I am enjoying every moment of this borrowed time.
From behind me a guy who is listening to our conversation says, “are you a playwright? I am too.”

“I’ve got a show coming up.”  He hands me his card and we talk for awhile about playwriting and the Samuel French Festival.  He won in 2007.  His play “To Barcelona” sounds fascinating.  He added me as a friend on Facebook while we were sitting there talking, and as you can imagine, my interview with Jason went south.  Oh yeah, my interview!
Thankfully Audrey took over with the interview while I became distracted with Michael the playwright and figuring out how many friends we had in common.
Jason and Audrey both went to UC Berkeley, so they had a lot to chat about.  We told him that we really only recently graduated and were like 27.  I think he believed us.
We laugh.
I think the whole café is in on this.
“Okay café,” I ask to the crowd at large, “what Broadway stars would be good in Of Mice and Men, the Musical?”
“ I was thinking of Allan Cummings as Curley,” I say.
“He’s too old,” says Jason.
Suddenly I’m hearing answers from all over the coffee house.
Back to the interview, sort of.
“So is your blog political?” says Jason.  “You say you are interviewing one person a day until November 3rd?”
“Well, that’s when I figure I’ll be exhausted. But sure, getting people’s political views is part of it,” I say with a sigh.
“I just assume unless you tell me that you are from Alaska that most New Yorkers I’m meeting are liberal.”
“Well,” says Jason with a snort:  “I fucking love Barak Obama and I will flee the country if he doesn’t win.  I don’t care how many vaginas (Sarah Palin) has, why would any woman vote for her?”
His outburst cracks all of us up because it came out of nowhere.
My day could have ended there and I would have been happy, but I did have two meetings uptown, so since I am still in my “looking up” mode, I snapped a photo of building that would make a great painting – love the pipe snaking up the side.

Since my lipstick had worn off, I stopped into Bloomingdales and got lost trying to find the makeup counter.  I stopped to look at a chic jacket and of course it was my favorite designer: Nanette Lepore.

I don’t own anything by Nanette Lepore, but the next time I have money for a shopping spree, I must get something from her collection.  It’s true love!
At 7PM, I meet up with another playwright-friend Sonya at the Women’s Project for the opening of a new play.  Sonya is the greatest.   Great writer, mom of a three-year-old, very smart, funny and supportive of other writers.  Here’s a fun secret bonus about working in the theater in NYC: I get to know a cast of very interesting characters– and I get to see lots of quality theater for free!
The play was good; the set and lighting design inventive and the acting superb.  The characters were Russian and both actors really knocked out a solid Russian accent.  Natilia Payne is one of my favorite actors, so how could I not find the play charming? Yes, charming indeed.


The after party was fun too, though we didn’t stay long.  On the way home we came out right as the Broadway stars from the musical “Spring Awakening “ were outside singing autographs, so I snapped some more photos.


Hmmm. Maybe someday this will be me? Nah, no one takes photos of the playwrights.  It’s a good thing. I don’t like my hair.
________

Skinny dipping in the East River?

The rest of the week…
Tuesday night I had a reading of my new play with the group “The Fold.”  It’s so thrilling to be writing a new full-length play and watch it come to life. As a writer, I think I tend to listen to my work as if I were an audience member, so when it’s over, it’s quite possible that you will look over at me and I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what’s going to happen just as much as you are.  When the reading is over, it’s pointless to ask me questions, especially in the beginning.  Truth is, I let the characters tell me what’s going to happen.

Writing the new scene was killing me.   Since it sounded like a bad soap opera, I re-wrote it and turned out to be pretty good.  Re-writing a scene is an impressive feat for a writer, I think.  I strongly believe one of the best things I’ve noticed about my skill set as I am maturing as a dramatist is my ability to re-write.  When I first started I certainly didn’t have this skill.  I was so lazy that I would get an idea for something once and that was that.  Let’s just say that jumping from having written one short play to being in graduate school where I had to constantly have ideas for new plays was a hurdle for me.  Now I feel like ideas come to me all the time and I can’t even keep up.  I can’t write fast enough.  I guess hard work eventually pays off.  Even though my body of work looks impressive to some, I don’t feel that I worked that hard because I love what I do.  I love to write characters and dialogue, but what I don’t like to do is set a schedule.  I am not a writer who “writes 10 pages a day” for example, like Hemingway.  I write when I get the inspiration to do so, which does not bode well for someone who wants to be a professional writer.  Because I am used to working a full-time job while also pursuing my writing career,  I am comfortable with thinking a lot about something and then spewing out a scene in 10 minutes.  I am now giving my writing my full attention which is both amazing (because I am ready) and scary at the same time.

My friend Audrey and I call this “ The Creative Life” and we are serious about it.   We make specific plans to meet up and go write together as much as possible.  We put our matching Mac Books back-to-back.  She is working on her PhD thesis and I’m writing plays, etc….it’s “fun times.”  We giggle a lot.

Wednesday, September 24th — sitting at Grounded, not exactly writing yet and my phone rings.  It’s someone from the theater (of a company who wants to produce my one-act play).  I had had some reservations about the contract.  Apparently the theater had another playwright who works with them give me a call so I could be re-assured.  Karen Williams is the playwright and she sounds like a very nice lady, so I decide to interview her, but it’s over the phone and I don’t think she lives in NYC, so I don’t think it counts.
Wednesday night.  I am running through my fabulous hood in the West Village on my way to dance class.  I try to interview my dance teacher, but I can tell she thinks I’m being weird.  So I took a picture of the window dressing of Sip and Snip, my local hairdresser.  I hope Ricky can fix my hair soon.
Thursday, September 25th – yikes, one day to my big reading.  I do some emailing for the “big reading” – found out that yes a Broadway producer might come.  Hmmm. No pressure.  I take off for White Plains to spend the day taking care of my aunt.  Nothing happens. I get home extremely tired and can’t believe that I used to commute to White Plains for my job every day.  What torture!  I can only pinch myself that I only have to do this once a week.
Friday,  September 26th – I meet tons of people.  My reading of Reporter Girl was happening.  At 4PM I met up with the actors and my friend Jamie, who was coming out of her early (just-had-a-baby) retirement to direct.  She’s incredible and I’m so glad that we are working together again. Yes, the Broadway producer was there. The audience seemed to love the play.  We only read the first act. The producer invites me out for a drink to talk business.  We went to a swanky secret Broadway club.  I order a Cosmo, then another.  Oh no, I feel myself sway and can’t remember what I just said.  Am I drunk? Really?  Seriously?  I pull myself together.   I think I was charming without seeming too crazy.  Can’t say what we talked about exactly, but we have a meeting next week.
I jump in a cab – off to meet my friends who are already at my house watching the debate.  My favorite line was something about McCain singing about bombing Iran.    My head is spinning too much to pay attention.  I dressed up like Sarah Palin and did a dead on impression: “In what respect Charlie?”

A friend of a friend is there and I decide to interview her, but since I was drinking so much who knows what she really said.  Here’s what I remember –

Who: Carol
Where: My house, the West Village, NYC
Why: Why not?
Occupation: Artist
Carol has lived in NYC since 1984 – crazy, right?  Her greatest NYC moment?
“Skinny dipping in the East River.” What? That sounds gross.
Apparently it wasn’t so gross, but one of those oh-so-daring moments.
“When else in my life would I do something like this?  It was warm and when I looked up from the water it was the most beautiful view,” she said, smiling, obviously remembering the moment with glee.
And I thought sleeping on the floor of the Grand Canyon was awesome.  Apparently one hasn’t lived until they’ve jumped in the East River.
Nope, not gonna do it.