Category Archives: Literary

The Confidence Man on a Boat

The Confidence Man

The Confidence Man

Actors from The Confidence Man

Actors from The Confidence Man

A couple of weeks ago, I set out for yet another New York City adventure – late in pregnancy too, which surprised everyone.  My friend Lara Gold was acting in a play on a boat, so without knowing too much about it, a friend and I booked tickets for the opening night of previews of The Confidence Man, which was a play being performed on the Lilac, a boat found on Pier 40 in NYC.  I was excited to go see a show on a boat – that’s a little different, but this experience was a complete surprise for me and my unborn baby.  The Woodshed Collective, a young group of producers who like to do interactive, large ensemble plays in odd places – like an office space, or on a boat for example, decided to tackle The Confidence Man by Herman Melville.  When we arrived at the pier of the Lilac on Pier 40, we were put in groups based on the number of our ticket and assigned to a docent, who would be our guide for the 2-hour boat play.  Turns out, this was not a normal play at all.  It was many interweaving stories out of the book put to dialogue – and depending on what number (or who your docent is) you will be seeing a different story.  Our docent was hilarious and a great improver, and the stories were fun too — though, none of it made much sense to be honest which is probably because they were out of context.  The experience, however, was still extremely unique and I did feel like I was in a different time altogether.  Even though the boat never left the dock, baby and me were in for the ride of our lives. The audience members had to run all over the boat, up and down and, well, for anyone of you who have a disability, have a hard time walking or standing – or happens to be 81/2 months pregnant, I wouldn’t suggest it.  I’m glad that no one mentioned the running around to me, or I probably wouldn’t have gone.  For now, I’ll chalk it up to one more wild adventure for a pregnant lady who loves drama.

Venue Name: The Lilac
Venue Address: Pier 40
Venue City: New York
Venue State: NY

Where: New York-NY Venue

Source: http://www.woodshedcollective.com

When: 8:00pm Wed 9.16.09-9:30pm Wed 9.16.09 with 15 other show times tonight through 9.26.09

The Week of the Playwright, starting with Sonya

It’s the funniest thing to sit next to a playwright as they watch their work being read out loud.  They smile, laugh and some playwrights actually say the words with the actors. Truth is, no matter how much we would love to hide our emotions, we are filled with a magical glee when we hear our words spoken out loud.
Eleven years ago was the first time it happened to me, it was a shock.  The actors started in, with scripts in hands moving about the stage (it was a staged reading of short play I’d written at A.C.T. as part of a class).  I worked in an ad agency around the corner, and was busy writing my first 10-minute play in between meetings.
As we were handing the scripts out to the “professional” actors who came in, the teacher informed me that we were out of guy actors.  So without thinking, my non-actor, new boyfriend stepped in to play the part of the husband.

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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.
________

Creative writing: fall interviews

More interviews…oh fall!
I always remember the first day of fall.  The air feels slightly chilly and it seems like signs for Halloween are everywhere, even if they are only in your mind. Once a romance that had been brewing all summer came to fruition on the first day of fall.  Everything seemed more poignant that fall.   Flowers were more fragrant.  I recall wearing tights that were too tight to pull up.  I got my solo apartment that fall, even if it was only a sublet.  It was a magical time, but then, fall always is.  It’s the biggest change of season, a time of re-birth.
So on with the Interviews – I haven’t forgotten.
Who: Rachel
Where: Grounded in the West Village, NYC
Occupation: Business Editor
Rachel is a fan of the Yankees, “loves Shakespeare” and will probably run a marathon someday.  She also happens to be a business editor.
“I hope my team isn’t messing up the coverage,” she says.
For the past year, she’s been my Sunday Yoga friend and that’s the extent of it.
We met while I worked in marketing for Salon.com, which is now forever ago. We met when Salon was relevant and we were not.  Things have changed.
These days Sunday Yoga is “our date” because it might be the only time we see each other in the month. We are both guilty of being busy, and we both travel a lot.  Rachel is always “off somewhere”- or “going to her country house”– or on a humanitarian mission to Africa. She seems like the kind of person who could put out a fire and save two babies on her way to work.  And no, she won’t tell me who she’s going to vote for because of her “journalistic integrity.”   Really? Okay.
Since I never go to Brooklyn, I have to appreciate that Rachel comes into Manhattan for our visits.  I’m a Taurus, which means I make people come to me.  Rachel is a Leo, which means, she controls things.
“Oh,” she says with the calmness of lion after its kill, “did I tell you that I accidentally ran a half marathon last weekend?”
“How do you accidentally run a half marathon?”
“Well, it just happened.”
But it was something, this marathon.  This was Rachel once again pushing herself to new, yet un-tested limits.
“Oh Noni, I’ve got to get going,” she says as she helps me finish my coffee.
Knowing that Rachel loves plays as much or more than I do, I ask her if she’s the kind of writer she really wants to be.
“I’m making my living writing.  That’s the kind of writer I want to be.”
Her answers are all business and I guess that makes sense.
“So, are you writing this down, Noni?”

——-

Who: Carolyn French

Where: The Fifi Oscard Agency, Midtown, NYC

Occupation: Literary Agent
I met Carolyn French over five years ago when I came in looking for a job at Fifi Oscard, a literary agency in NYC.
I was in the first summer of my MFA and really only knew that a literary agent position sounded interesting.
I stood in the waiting room with my resume thinking that I would just get to drop it off and I wouldn’t hear a thing.  Turns out that the owner, the grand dame Fifi Oscard wanted to see me.
“So what can you do for us?”  Truthfully I had no idea.  “I can….lick stamps, uh…I can…answer the phones….”I stammered.  Suddenly I knew what I could do.
“I can read plays,” I said with confidence.
“Oh good,” she said.
So Fifi gave me a play and I returned it with comments the next day.  The play was terrible and I said so.
“You should go talk to Carolyn,” she said.  So I did.
That day I became Carolyn’s assistant and for the next three years I read and commented on a great many plays. I helped Carolyn file, write letters and worked on getting people out to her writer’s events.  Eventually my role grew at the agency grew and I had my own clients.  I had quite a time there, but that’s not what I’m writing about.
The ever-stylish Carolyn was born around 1930, which means she was a teenager when my granny’s cartoon Brenda Starr had just come out.  She lived in San Francisco and from the looks of her now, I imagine she was quite a beauty when she was young.  She’s tall and slender, and boasts of how she still stands on her head every morning.
Carolyn got her PhD in English and Theater, was unhappily married and had one daughter and “traveled the world” before becoming an agent.
Carolyn is probably one of the smartest and most intellectual agents out there.  She’s an agent that really knows how to tell a good play from a bad one.  Honestly, so many agents are just into the hype, but not Carolyn.  Even if she forgets ten minutes later, Carolyn will tell it to you straight.
Carolyn only decided to become a literary agent later in life after an illness left her unable to teach.
“I lost my memory,” she said.  “So I certainly couldn’t teach.”  But she could surely choose plays.
When she came to Fifi’s to work as an agent she had to train, just like me.
“ I worked for free at first – and still do, practically.”
Carolyn was able to gain her confidence quickly as an agent.
“I only wanted a project that people would recognize,” she said.  “I was hardly expecting what happened next.  I mean where do you go from there?”
Carolyn’s first project as an agent was the play “Wit” and it won the Pulitzer Prize.
When I told Carolyn that I wanted to be a playwright she said “why?”
“A playwright really only needs one good play,” I said.
Carolyn’s become a fan of my work and a wonderful and dear friend.
These days Carolyn has a harder time getting around, but she still loves what she does.
In some ways she reminds me of my grandma (Dale Messick) who I miss very much.  “When you quit and sit that’s it” – that’s what Dale used to say.
That’s hardly the way the elegant and charming Carolyn would put it, but I think the sentiment is exactly the same.