Category Archives: New York City

Stranger Danger

The horrible story of Leiby Kletzky, a lost Brooklyn boy walking home from day camp who was killed earlier this week is just so awful and depressing, and I am just thinking about his poor family.  But as a parent myself to a precocious little girl it has me wondering what am I going to do? How am I going to teach my daughter not to walk away with a stranger?

It’s just so hard to believe that this little boy wasn’t abducted, he just asked for help from the wrong person.

This made me think back on something scary that happened to me when I was 6 years old.  First off, I grew up in the country and yes, my mom had talked to me about strangers. Probably because  I grew up in the country and wasn’t flooded with strange faces,  I think I was indeed more afraid and aware when someone was a stranger. I can remember  being fearful of my step mom because she said she had been to France.

Living in a big city like New York, I think about how many people and situations our children are exposed to, which is both good and bad.  At the playground, in elevators, on the street in cabs, etc, we (as parents) are always talking to strangers and so are our children.

One day long ago in a small city near our tiny town my brother was playing soccer at an elementary school, one that was, at the time unknown to me. It was a cold, foggy Saturday morning and my mom was sitting in the car with some other soccer moms chatting and laughing, so I guess she let me out to play — right in front of them in a playground. Sure, I played for a few minutes, but kids get bored and soon I had wandered off toward the school buildings, probably excited that I would soon be old enough to go to real school myself.

Before long I was lost and because of the fog, couldn’t remember the way back.
Out of the blue, a man appeared.  He asked me if I was lost. I was.
He said that he was a teacher and that he would show me the way back.
He held my hand.
As soon as he held my hand, I realized I had made an error. I was immediately uncomfortable and I had a feeling that he wasn’t a teacher.
We walked by a classroom and he pointed to it through the window and told me that this was his room and that he studies little girls bodies. I was very scared, and knew I was in trouble. I also knew that he wasn’t taking me back to where my mom’s car was. But I didn’t panic. I didn’t scream. I acted as normal as possible and actually continued chatting with him.
But I started thinking of how I was going to get away. I was looking around for where I could run, where anyone was. Where I could see people, hear people.
He took me to the back of one of the buildings and asked me to put my hands up against the wall, which I did. Then he asked me if I could take my clothes off.
I told him that I couldn’t easily do that because I had all my ballet clothes on underneath my clothes and I even showed him (I was wearing a pink ballet outfit with tights, all underneath my clothes) . He was not pushy. He calmly asked me if I would  take my pants off. I had the same response about the ballet costume and showed him again.
Then I heard voices, laughter. I looked to my left and I could see the other playground and that there was a girl was on a swing. From where I was standing, I could just catch sight of her when she’d swing to the back, because half the swing could been seen from behind the buildings where we were standing. This was not too far from us, maybe only one building away, and I realized that I was not completely alone and I needed to do something, anything.
So I pretended that I knew her. I yelled “Suzi!” Of course I didn’t know her or her name. I said to the man, “there’s my friend.”
So he said that I could go. And I ran over to the other playground. I waited until I felt safer and then walked along the sidewalk down to the other end where my mom was parked. I told my mom and her friends what had just happened and she drove me immediately to the police department where I gave an account of the story and a description of the man. They later caught him. He was a repeat pedophile who had molested other girls.

I realize that I was incredibly lucky and I learned a valuable lesson that day. I was a very independent, gregarious child and apparently before the age of 6, I used to get lost and walk away with anyone, despite what my mother had told me about strangers. When I was only one my parents lost me at the beach one day,  and turned to see my floating away in some wave. I was saved by a woman walking by who happened to see me.

This man could have taken me into the woods that were directly behind the school without a fence, or to a more private place. He could have been more forceful. This could have gone a completely different way, and I realize that I am lucky to be alive to tell the story.

One thing that struck me from my memory of this event is how easily I got confused and lost. Another is that I did have an awareness that this man was a stranger and I knew something was off right away, and I started looking for exits/strategies.
Outside of talking to our kids about “not going away with a stranger” maybe we need to talk to them about what to do if they become lost. What to do if they get in a bad situation. It’s easy to see how a lost child would reach out to someone who looks like a safe adult.  That’s what happened to me, and that’s what happened to this little boy from Brooklyn. Don’t forget, it’s very scary to be/feel lost to a small child. And there may not be a police man around.

My daughter is too little to talk to her about this yet, but yes, I am very scared. She is precocious and already runs away from me. She will be a handful when it comes to wanting her independence.  Sigh.

I plan to have this discussion with her as soon as I think she can understand.

A Delightful Evening of Social Romance

A Delightful Evening of Social Romance

I’ve always wanted to produce an evening of holiday themed plays and finally I’ve done it. Here’s a link to our press release on Broadway World.com

It’s a mini production, a night of readings, which has turned out to be a lot of fun, and it’s cheaper and easier than putting up a full production. These days, I really need to try to make my life a little easier…

To make up for the lack of production, we are only requesting a $10 donation. That’s a fair trade, right? The whole thing is a benefit for Manhattan Theatre Source, a theatre that needs way more than your $10 donation to stay afloat, but that’s another story.

Why you should go:

Do you like funny one-act plays, goofy songs, already miss the show Mad Men and often pretend that you are Don Draper? Do you miss the days when Santa filled your stocking?  Did you enjoy the book Memoirs of a Geisha, then consider how you might become a Geisha?  Have you ever met someone online? Did you like the movie The Social Network? Basically if you are a human and you live in New York City, you’ll enjoy this show. The only thing missing is alcohol, which you can get at the bar next door, North Square, which serves the best “Blood Orange Martini” I’ve ever had.

The new comedic one-act plays include: “Geisha School” and “How Don Draper Saved Christmas” both written by Laura Rohrman (moi) and directed by Li Murillo and Michelle Pace.  Sara Adler will perform 2 songs and there will be one other play “Cyberia” written by Aurin Squire.

The Benefit is one night only. Wednesday, November 10th at 8PM at

Manhattan Theatre Source which is located at 177 MacDougal Street/cross is at 8th

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

Go To the Fringe Festival – See Viral

If you are new to New York or just visiting, you might be wondering what’s “The Fringe” and why should you go? The NYC Fringe Festival is one of the largest and best festivals of new plays in the world. Every August for the past nine years companies from all over the world have come to NYC to showcase their work (from dance to theater) and hopefully get some needed recognition and sponsorship of producers. Many little Fringe shows, playwrights, actors and directors go on to be quite successful. Urinetown came out of the Fringe as did Matt and Ben and many others. Doing well in the Fringe can really help a playwright get to the next level in their career. I’ll be short and sweet with this one because this play will close and you must see it. Viral, a new play by Mac Rogers (who has written several other successful Fringe plays and other plays around the city – read my review of his last one) scores on so many levels that I think newbie playwriting students should go see this play as an example of how to hit every element needed to make a great play, which is extremely difficult to do and rare to see. Talk about it afterward and try to analyze what makes it so great. In Viral, Rogers brings the audience into his characters bizarre world effortlessly; and by the end we almost don’t want to leave it. First of all, he starts out right by choosing an intriguing subject matter (watching someone’s last breath). However, a great subject matter does not alone make a great play; it’s the je ne sais quoi that makes a play go from good to great, but playwriting professors will tell you that it’s the combination of craft and the uniqueness of the world that you create. This play has both. Rogers didn’t just create compelling characters with believable dialogue, he makes us root for them. More importantly he gave them something to do, a problem — with life and death stakes that takes the entire hour and half to resolve. Viral centers around three fabulously dysfunctional misfits who get off sexually by watching people die via “painless suicide.” The forth star of the play is the client, the dark and sexy Amy Lynn Stewart, the victim who wishes to die. The big question to be answered by the end of 70 minutes is clear and you won’t be disappointed. Obviously I don’t want to give too much away, but just know that the ride in Viral is a hideous and beautiful journey, well worth and hour and half of your time. Playwrights of every pedigree (and producers) should pay attention to this one. It’s extremely rare to see a play working so well with so much craft in place. I can’t tell you how many plays that have been lauded in recent years actually aren’t terribly well crafted or worth all the hype. I’m not saying these plays aren’t  enjoyable to watch; they are. In my opinion they are just a tad overrated. Those of us who know better, who are shooting to someday write a play that follows the rules that are so hard to master, should look no further than Viral, found in the bowels of New York City at the Fringe Festival: it’s perfection!

Viral is only playing for two more performances, so catch it while you can.

Ah The Summer Winds

Ah, The Summer Winds
This past weekend before I left the city for some fresh summer winds of my own, I was determined to get off my butt and support one of my friend’s plays.  If you are an artist in NYC, part of the job and fun is going to support your friends’ when they do plays and such, even if they don’t always go to your plays and even if the production values are sometimes rather drab.
Lately, because I haven’t been feeling well, I’ve all but stopped the process of seeing any plays at all (friends included).  I’m just hoping that my many years of good service will pay off and my fellow theatre artists will forgive me for my recent slight of their work.  But since I am starting to feel better, this weekend I made a point to see a friend’s play, The Summer Winds a revival of the 1991 published work by Frank Pugliese.
Who was the lucky friend?  Ian Streicher, a talented director who I’ve worked with several times. I also knew the writer, Frank who was my playwriting instructor when I studied at the New School for Drama in 2005. I had never seen his work, so I was interested in seeing the show.  Also, there were two good actors who I’ve worked with: Nannette Deasy and Robert Baumgardner, so I figured this wouldn’t be a waste of my time, and it wasn’t.
The Summer Winds is being produced by Family Tree Collective, a group of actors who are interested in “artistic growth through performance.” It’s playing at the very bohemian Nuyorican Poet’s Café in the East Village, on 3rd Avenue between Avenue B&C. Not the greatest neighborhood in the world, but a pretty good place to produce the show as it turns out.  The Summer Winds is a collection of short plays and monologues about “losers” in NYC – from Brooklyn to the Bronx. Pugliese seems to know this world well and he covers all types: a couple who have been married for six years and have nothing to hope for anymore, a dancer who never made it, a lonely garbage collector who spent time in prison and a woman who married the wrong guy.  All real New Yorkers – the ones who are sad, the ones we don’t talk so much about, but who we know well because we see them, hear them – and they are ingrained in us.  For every success there have been failures and for those of us who live day-to-day in New York, we know it’s tough and it sure as hell isn’t for the weak. These characters are strong and despite having lost sight of their dreams they still want to fight.
The plays hang together by a comedian and talented singer, Brian Murphy, who pulls off some Frank Sinatra greats, culminating with the song: The Summer Winds.  The material is unusual.  It takes a very skilled writer to write plays like this and truly great actors to bring them to life.
At times I had trouble seeing the action (the seating is not great at the Nuyorican, which is sort of like a bar) and I often  wished for a more comfortable chair.  Despite those minor inconveniences, the material, direction and cast of The Summer Winds is well worth your time.

The Summer Winds by Frank Pugliese

May 29, 30 at 7PM and May 31st at 6PM.  Tickets $15 at http://www.smarttix.com or call 212-505-8183

Nuyorican Poets Cafe – 236 E. 3rd between b&c

Oh, and if you want to see one of my plays? My one-act Without is part of the The Looking Glass Theatre’s Spring Writer/Director forum June 4th-7th.  To buy tickets: 212-352-3101 or go to their website at http://www.lookingglasstheatrenyc.com

“Without” at The Looking Glass Theatre

My play “Without” that I wrote in 2004 and was a finalist that year for the Samuel French Short Play Festival is being produced again at the Looking Glass Theatre in NYC June 4-7.  I originally wrote the play while studying playwriting at the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School. There is some interesting history to this play and it’s sort of ironic that it’s my most produced play (this is the third time it’s been produced in NYC).  Oddly enough, every time I get a production I re-write it a little, so it’s kind of always evolving.  The play is about a young woman who is attacked by a gang in Paris and as she’s trying to piece together what happend and who attacked her she discovers something – a miracle perhaps?  It’s one of my plays that deals with the psychology of the mind and plays with an alternate universe.  The Looking Glass Theatre is blogging about it,  so if you are interested in checking it out – you can buy tickets on their site.

Something for mom: Femme Feast

This Sunday at 3PM the Waverly Writers, Wanderlust Productions in association with The Playground Series at Manhattan Theatre Source will present “Femme Feast”, a veritable feast of female performances. With short plays by Bekah Brunstetter, Lisa Ebersole, Lara Gold, Laconia Koerner and Laura Rohrman (me) it’s sure to be outstanding! This is truly a labor of love and since I am one of the producers, I am certainly urging you to attend…and yes, bring your mom! Tickets are $15. Reservations: (212)501-4751 or order online.

Manhattan Theatre Source 117 Macdougal Street New York City between 8th Street and Waverly Place

Happy New Year Blog

Ashley Wren Collins

Ashley Wren Collins

Happy New Year!  Wow – it’s 2009.  Finally.
It’s been such a long time since I’ve blogged!  After my whirlwind one-interview-a day project, which culminated with Barack Obama’s victory on November 4th 2008, I was just so overwhelmed I had to shut down The Pop Cycle from pure exhaustion.
The winter snow falling on our city seemed appropriate. The chilly air brought a palpable fear with it.  In November I started a Russian class with a terrible Russian teacher who made me think learning on tape might be easier than pulling Russian lessons out of him.  Really, since I studied French for some five or so years, I know a thing or two about how to approach language study and no homework is not a good thing!
Anyway, just as a dark November pulled up to the curb and the job market got even worse, a small miracle happened (to me). I was offered a role as an actor in a fellow playwright’s play . Did I mention that I didn’t have to audition, and the role was one of those juicy roles that only comes around every so often for an actor?

See, I like acting, but I hate auditioning and since I am mostly a playwright why would I ever audition anyway? I wouldn’t.  But then, somehow, someone, quite randomly sees my acting ability, literally from afar and voila, I get cast in a play.  It wasn’t exactly like that – but my version is close enough.
Being on stage is such a thrill.  It’s creative, but in a completely different way than the work I do as a writer.  In the end of course, writing is the better of the two because a writer walks away from their hard work with a play in hand, the actor applause.
There is a thrill to acting that is ephemeral; like a bottle of pop constantly exploding. As a performer I’m a part of the process – and who doesn’t love being told that “you’re wonderful.” It’s addicting and I could get used to it, but alas, I always do this one-hit acting thing and then I’m back to the hard, hard work of being a playwright.

Talk about no glory!  Playwrights sit hunched over their desks sipping coffee or worse – drinking Vodka.  They are primarily loners and sulk about not getting produced.  Or, when they are getting produced they think the following: “I should have written that better but oh well,” or “the actors and director are ruining it.” And when people are loving your work, it’s the actors that get all the praise!  Since I have done both roles — been the actor and the writer, I can tell you with confidence that acting is hard work too; and playwrights are lucky when a very good actor likes their script.  It’s a collaboration.

Speaking of good actors, this brings me to my first interview of 2009:
Who: Ashley Wren Collins
Where: In front of the Waverly Diner, West Village, NYC
Occupation: Actress and celebrity assistant.
Hometown: Bethlehem,PA
“I love this diner!” quips Ashley as she arrives from the rain.
“Why?” I ask, looking around puzzled.
Really people, The Waverly Diner is just a diner with regular diner food.  Outside of their fresh squeezed OJ, I can’t say I’ve ever had anything amazing to eat there, but I swear so many people LOVE it and so many of my friends pick this damn diner as our meeting place.  It’s a Greenwich Village staple, so I need to cover it.
Ashley says she loves it for the “memories.”
“Ah, okay,” I say.
“My dad and I came here 10 years ago when I was getting my first passport. I remember the experience not just because it was the day I got my first passport, but also because Santa sat alone at a table next to us.”
“Really?” I say.
“No kidding.  Just me, my dad and Santa eating breakfast in the restaurant.  He was pretty relaxed, especially since it was Christmas Eve.  Anyway, here I am about to renew my passport for the first time, so it had been 10 years!”
Ashley is lucky, she’s always known that she wanted to be an actress and she’s studied her craft at the Moscow Art Theatre in Moscow.  I met Ashley when my friend and director Fritz Brekeller cast her in my romantic comedy My Life As You in the summer of 2006.
Ashley is a great comedic actress who really should be a character on Saturday Night Live.  She’s stunningly tall and blonde.  Kind of like a goddess who burps when she’s nervous. In any event, today, two years after My Life As You, we are meeting at 8:30 AM at the Waverly Diner.
I wanted to interview Ashley because she’s been busy. Not only does she work as a celebrity assistant, but she and her friends have created a goofy travel web series called  Suzy and Duddy.  The conceit of Suzy and Duddy reminds me a bit of  Flight of the Concords on HBO except instead of musicians from New Zealand, the characters are two super dorky Minnesotans who have created a super dorked out travel show.  In episode 2 they find a British sounding producer who is now part of the chaos as they take on NYC, which they do with pizazz in episode 3.

News for me: I am writing about Greenwich Village for the Examiner.com, so if you want to keep up on events and such in the village, become a subscriber to my blog.

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.