Category Archives: NYC Parties

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly in True West

The world lost a great actor today, but New Yorkers lost one of our own. I don’t know how else to put it. When I saw this terrible news of his death trending on Face Book today and someone said that it was a hoax, I was so hoping and praying it was true. I just can’t imagine that I am never going to see Philip Seymour Hoffman work his undeniable magic on the live Broadway stage. I’m pinching myself and feel so fortunate to have seen his work on the stage and not just know him from film. I think his movie roles are amazing, sure, but to me, they are nothing like the stage performances I’ve seen him in, that have frankly shaped and changed my opinions about theater. On the stage, he was, quite simply brilliant.  From my first few weeks in New York City in the spring of 2000, I started, rather accidentally following his career. Back in 2000, when I put my two feet on the soils of gritty New York, for whatever reason, the first theater show I decided to attend was “True West”. I had no idea who Philip Seymour Hoffman was and I certainly didn’t know the groundwork for the city yet, how to get around or who was who in the theater world. Shortly after seeing the intense production, however, one of my girlfriends back then had a thing for “this actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman,”  and as I remember it, she hung out with him a few times at some theater parties. So his name came up in my social circle, but I can’t say that met him, not back then.

In 2001, I waited with my friends all night to get free tickets to see “The Seagull” with Meryl Streep, Kevin Klien and Natalie Portman.  He was too old for the role he was playing. I remember that Meryl did a cart-wheel on stage. The show was spellbinding and inspiring.  Philip’s older age (he didn’t look 19 at the time) or looks didn’t matter, he nailed the complexity of role of Konstantin.  At this point, PSH could play anything. I was watching a master at work. He had this raw grit, full of pain, suffering and compassion. He made you root for the character. Had Chekhov been alive, I’m sure he would have approved of the casting. PSH’s palpable love and biting anger at his mother played by the amazing Meryl Streep was raw, seething, pathetic and powerful all at the same moment. After the performance, I was sitting with my friends in Central Park and chatting about the play and life over wine and cigarettes. The sky above us lit up by stars. Though surrounded by trees in the park, the city lights and buildings burst through all around us like a shadowy castle. Just above us, tiny flickering bulbs of the fireflies. The evening, down to our crazy fatigue and Hoffman’s ruthless performance was absolutely magical, one of my favorite New York moments.

In 2002, the summer after my first year of playwriting graduate school at the Actors Studio/New School for Drama, where classes were held in the West Village, I was writing a lot and hanging out at local cafes. No matter where I was, I often looked up from my work to see Philip getting a coffee right in front of me. About a month later,  I saw him in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on Broadway.  His award-winning performance ran the gamut: overpowering, raw and gave me chills. The whole play was moving and poignant but he helped tell the sad story of the brother, Jamie who was so charming and had so much potential but was so helpless and doomed to a life of debauchery and drugs to dull his pain, just like his mother. Philip was the new fabric, allowing old plays to take on darker life for New York audiences.  Then I met Philip, and he became part of my New York experience as my neighbor. My boyfriend Dmitry (now my husband) and I moved to West Village in 2002 and we frequented the same coffee shop as Philip Seymour Hoffman and his posse, Joe on Waverly Place. So I’d often see him, just hanging out, chatting with friends, sometimes alone, just chilling.  I can’t say that his grit and just thinking of him acting on the stage and then seeing him, sometimes chatting with him, didn’t affect me as a writer, I think it did. I met his girlfriend Mimi and cooed over his eldest son when he was first born. I saw him in a new light: as a loving father. The last time I saw him at the cafe, now nearly five years ago, I was very pregnant and our entire conversation revolved around child rearing in New York. He laughed and said “I’ll probably never see you again you’ll be so busy.” I can still hear his cracking laugh. We moved downtown, and it’s true, I hardly ever go to Joe, but I do get there once in awhile, but I never saw Philip again. The last show I saw him in was “Death Of A Salesman” on Broadway in 2012. The critics and I somewhat agreed that perhaps Mr. Hoffman, at 45 was too young to play the beleaguered, tortured father who should have been at least 55 or 60 since his boys were in their thirties.  I can remember thinking, why does Philip want to play this part now, he has years to play the older dad? I couldn’t help but feel that he stole the part away from older actors who could’ve done a fine job in the role. Perhaps he really wanted to play the role of Willy Loman, one of the greatest roles in the theater…and yes, he still nailed the role despite being too young for it. Maybe he knew he’d never live long enough to play the part at the appropriate age, maybe he just wanted to seize the day and do it NOW. As the New York  Times reported today so eloquently, we will miss seeing him all those wonderful parts for aging men.

My friend called me this afternoon, the one who used to study acting and hung out with him at theater after parties. I couldn’t talk because I was with my daughter who is now a chatty four-year-old. But I’ve been thinking about him all day, and into the evening, my heart actually ached. The World lost a giant movie star today, but New Yorkers lost someone who was part of our fold; part of the fabric of our city.  He was the most amazing stage actor I’ve ever seen, and he was my neighbor.  He was such a talented human being and he was so lucky to do what he loved and to be able to show the world his talent, to let us see old plays in a new light. To his family, to his partner Mimi who just lost her love and the father to her children (as a mother, I just have to say how awful and terrifying this would be — and I’m just hoping that she is surrounded by love and light right now) and to his children, the youngest who is just five, who just lost their father, who died with a fucking needle in his arm, I’m just so sorry. My heart breaks for his extended family, close friends and for his theater company.  I mean, what a tragedy and what a sad, and somewhat theatrical and tortured end to such a legend.

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.

Wonder Woman in a Cat Suit

Sadly, today at midnight I am going to end my “project” which has been to interview one person a day until the election.  Today when I went to vote I stood next to Patricia Keaton in line.  She is very nice and civic minded, but she really didn’t want to be interviewed for the blog.  Meanwhile, I am quite behind in my interviews and will be spending election night writing about the many cool people I met with instead of focusing on any poll numbers.  People are coming over to watch election results around seven.   My house is usually some sort of center of activity….

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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.
________

Interview 2, 3 and 4… and one crazy day in NYC.

I met so many people this week….where to start?  Let’s just do my day on Thursday, Sept 19th.  This is not a typical day necessarily, but it’s not completely uncommon either.

11 AM I found myself lost in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  Two Russian people starring down at me (I fell coming out of the subway). They grunted. I looked up, shocked that I’d forgotten my Russian.   Noon.  A Russian guy stalks me on the subway and begs to kiss my hand.  I think he said “me and you together in Odessa” but I’m not sure…like I said, I forgot all my Russian, but somehow he kissed my hand. 12:30PM washing hands vigorously.

2-5PM met Audrey “to write” at Doma “a writer’s cafe.”  I overhear two guys laughing at themselves writing a screenplay no doubt. They were typical though….”We want to write something like The Office, but it’s been done.”  6PM, jump out of taxi in front of the W Hotel’s corporate office to meet my old friend Kevin, we get drinks and eat Oysters.  My Russian friend Olga shows up wearing a fedora and also orders her own Oysters.  She tells us that NYC’s Web 2.0 sucked.  Kevin’s wife Andrea shows up and we all go to at a party for the Luxury Collection in Chelsea.  I met a French fashion designer named Thomas Renaud.  I think his thing might have something to do with Aqua Man given his scuba attire.  Then, I scarfed down some Salmon Roe, which was delicious while standing outside and admiring  the evening view from the 21st floor.   Sometime before we left the party, I ran into an old actor friend from my MFA program (Steve) and decided to ask him to be in my reading of Reporter Girl which is next Friday, September 26th.  He was working the party and had a headset on.

Many glasses of wine later, Kevin, Andrea and I ended up a the W in Times Square for yet another party.  There I consumed more drinks and started talking with my old friend from work, Leah.  Seems like we got kind of silly and Kevin and Andrea left and Leah and I and a bunch of blond girls who now work on the Luxury accounts hung out in the W Store.  I happen to know that the W Store rocks with amazing little finds.  One of the girls had really blond hair and talked like a valley girl.  She said that she spent $300 on cabs last weekend and gets her hair blown out every day. Her teeth were very white.

Midnight.  I arrived at my door with a new black hat, ear muffs and a hot pink scarf.  Dmitry had cooked the Cod I bought, so I ate (again). We had more wine and watched TV.  I checked my email and found out that one of my plays has been chosen for a December production in NYC.