Category Archives: playwriting

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.

Another Marker…10 Years ago this week my first play was produced!

10 years ago this week my first play was produced in NYC. The play was aptly titled “The Miracle.” It was about a young man who had lived with a false HIV test for three years. He discovers the test was wrong, but it doesn’t really change his life or his choices.

Because I didn’t know anyone in New York City yet, I was also the play’s director and cast all my friends in the parts. The play happened right after Sept 11th and it was such a scary time.  I was totally afraid to put on a play during such darkness, but there was light in this play and with these people. Plus, I was urged to continue. The play brought levity to a dark situation, so I learned that theater, my theater could heal the heart. I could make people laugh.

My roommate Gabe was our co-director and lighting designer. My other best friends were my actors. Somehow we filled those seats for every single performance. I remember sitting in the full audience feeling the energy and hearing the laughter. There’s nothing quite like it, hearing your own words being interpreted by actors. I felt so inspired…like if I can do this, I can do anything. You can’t go too far without good friends in this life. I love all my friends who helped with that production and I certainly haven’t  forgotten how much fun we all had. In December my 50th production/and or reading/public performance of my work will be produced in New York City since that crazy show back in 2001. Follow this link for updates. My play He Says His Name Is John, a one-act I wrote while commuting to my job in White Plains in 2007 is getting a small production at The Looking Glass Theatre’s Winter Forum. I wrote this play when I was working for Starwood Hotels and I took the train to work everyday. The only free time I had back then was during my train commute. I wrote this play in the first few months of the job. By the end of two years I wasn’t writing so much, I had been corprotized.

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

Voices Without Borders: It’s Possible

This fall has had so many amazing happenings. It feels as though I have been at the helm of many projects: my daughter’s first birthday, my husband’s 40th birthday party, getting back in shape, running a race and my part-time marketing business. I also have two full-length plays in development, many articles due and then there is this crazy rouge project that you must go to!

Back in March when I thought I wasn’t going to work for awhile, but be a stay at home mommy, I was in search of the perfect volunteer project.  I was looking for something that was outside of me, but still me.  So I signed up to be the producer of what was then called Voices of Africa, part of The Estrogenius Festival at Manhattan Theatre Source.  By June I had gotten really busy, taking on private clients that I never expected and the Voices project seemed dead in the water. We had no script coming from Africa this year. I was about to call it a day and forget about it. Then things shifted and Jen Thatcher, this year’s Estrogenius producer put me in touch with Jessica Morris, who is the executive producer of a kick-ass group of young women performers called Project Girl Collective that is all about empowering young women through performance. Jessica also happens to be one of the most courageous, driven and inspiring people who I have ever met.

Welcome to Voices Without Borders: Project Girl Congo. I am one of what feels like 50 producers who helped shape this piece.  Led by hip hop artist Toni Blackman, the Project Girl girls’ have developed monologues, poetry, song and dance numbers inspired by stories told by the Man Up delegates working in the Congo, who in this case, are men who are working tirelessly to stop violence against women in the Congo every single day. These men have lost wives, mothers and sisters to violence, lack of education and health care. Many women die giving birth since there is little to no access to maternal health care. These men are standing up for women, as are the young women/performers of Project Girl who are taking time away from school and their social lives to stand up for women in the Congo. What are they giving? Their time, their hearts, their energies. What are we asking of you? To give the same. Be aware of what’s going on in other parts of the world. Watch our show, which is a fundraiser.  Every penny of the proceeds goes back to the Congo to stop violence against women and girls. If you cannot come to the show, please log onto, http://www.s317461102.initial-website.com/donate/, to support this worthy cause.

“Just about every kid in America is told that they can make a difference in this world,” says Project Girl performer Alexa Winston, age 17. “Now I have a real opportunity with Project Girl: Congo. For the first time, I have heard first-hand accounts about what life is like for girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  These stories are the bedrock of our show.  I know exactly where our donations are going and am proud to support the courageous young leaders who are “manning up” in the DRC.”

This ground-breaking show will be a staged reading performed at Manhattan Theatre Source as part of the Estrogenius Festival on Oct 29th and 30th in New York City. The show tells the stories of young girls in The Congo and helps us all realize that we can do something right here, right now by just being aware.

I never knew, for example, that the fear of being raped is a fact of life for women in the Congo and that being permanently damaged (or “ruined”) from a rape is a common occurrence there.  However, what trumps all of this violence is the fear of being killed as a result of living in a war-zone where child soldiers are shown with precision how to abuse women as part of their military training.

Through education and enlightenment, it is our hope as producers that we are encouraging awareness about what is going on for women in the Congo and for women right here in our community who are affected by gender-based violence.  The statistic is 1:3 women and girls around the world are victims of violence.  Clearly, this is a universal travesty that our youth-led theater company, Project Girl Performance Collective and Man Up, a youth led movement to stop violence against women and girls are working to change.

Voices Without Borders with be performed in connection with Congo Week, which is October 17-23, 2010, and Voices Without Borders will be co-produced by Congolese human rights organizers, Ally Malumba and Jean de Dieu Tshileu and Lewis Kasindi.

Proceeds from this year’s Voices Without Borders ticket sales and donations will benefit Man Up Campaign’s global anti-violence work in the Congo.

For more information and ticket sales, please visit Estrogenius Festival (www.estrogenius.org), ManUp Campaign (www.manupcampaign.org), Project Girl Performance Collective (www.projectgirlperformancecollective.org).


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.