Category Archives: Plays

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.

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.

The “It” Girl of 2005 is Back!

Tonight is the night.  Sure I want to know about the election results, but I’m also trying to close out my project, one interview a day until the election.   Olives are on the table and the champagne is being opened chez moi; my husband is already annoyed with me that I am in my room blogging instead of watching  and being social. In fact, I am still wearing my workout gear and a Hello Kitty T-shirt that says: “Being This Cute is Exhausting.”  Today when I was wearing this shirt at Grounded and asked the guy behind the counter to refill my Hello Kitty water bottle,hellokitty he looked at me with a funny grin.  I realized he was looking at my shirt, which I threw on when running out the door.
“What – you think I’m obsessed with Hello Kitty?” I said, realizing, of course that I looked utterly ridiculous.
“Oh this is a coincidence,” I said, pointing at my shirt.
“You are going to tell me that that’s the only Hello Kitty stuff you own?” he said.
“Uh, not exactly.” Maybe he should read this piece I wrote about Hello Kitty back in 2001.
Moving on.
So with nothing to watch a la moment but a CNN hollogram, I am off to catch up on my interviews.  What on earth are we all going to do for entertainment when this is all over? See more plays?  Be more creative?  Well this brings me to my next interview.



Who: Lisa Ebersole
Where:  Bar 6, West Village
Occupation: Playwright, Video Media Specialist
Lisa was the “IT” Girl of the summer of 2005.  Her play Brother caused quite a stir in New York City.  Her publicist sent an invite to me at my agent job at the Fifi Oscard Agency.  The title of this play had me intrigued, so I went out to the play and there was the playwright with a starring role in her own work that she also directed.  She was as good as any of the other actors in the fine play. For a few weeks at least Brother was the talk of Off-Off Broadway New York; it was edgy, dramatic and different. The New York Times gave it a rave review and Back Stage called her “The new voice in theater.”  I decided that we had to meet.  Even though I didn’t know how long I’d be an agent, I decided to represent her. How could I not?  Lisa is one of the coolest, smartest and talented people who I know.  Within a few months, I helped to get Brother published by the Samuel French Publishing Company, which was thrilling for both of us.  This meant, of course, that I indeed had a good eye for talent and of course the obvious: Lisa Ebersole was bound to be a star.
Fast forward three years to 2008 in the week preceding the presidential election.  I left my post at the Fifi Oscard Agency in 2006 to go back into online marketing.  Meanwhile, Lisa has staunchly refused to be represented by anyone other than me, and writing and creativity for both of us had taken a back seat to the stresses of real life.

Honestly, we’ve both had just about enough reality, and we could use a little sugar. In addition to getting a new President elected, we are both poised for a comeback.
“Oh yes!” Lisa says with a grin.
Lisa and I were in full secret planning mode and I’m not sure we did a proper interview.  From the looks of Lisa, she’s is certainly back from her “It” girl hiatus.
“I’ve got a movie premiere,” she says with grin.  Yup, she’s back.

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.

Continue reading

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.