Category Archives: Women

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.

One last good one: Bullets, Bums and Barack

Hope. Now I have it.  I’m so excited to see what Barack Obama is going to do with his presidency!  I feel proud for the first time that I am an American; that I had the chance to vote, to make a difference.
My interview project is nearly complete.   From September 17th – November 4th, I attempted to interview one person a day as an exercise to keep me writing.  The result is pretty amazing.  It’s a journal of New York City as we prepared to elect the first Black president.   On September 17th, the day after I arrived  in New York after spending two weeks in California, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the city in the fall.  It was as if someone had put V-juice in my coffee.  Or, I was in love again with New York.  The trees, the air, the people…everything was cracking with change.

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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.

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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NYC Train Interviews: Thursday and Friday

NYC Train Interviews
Thursday is the day I go to White Plains to take care of my aunt, so it’s not usually very exciting.
I asked the mustached train conductor what the craziest experience he’d ever had on the train.
“Oh lots of things,” he says.
“Like what?”
“People having fun.”
“Fun drinking, fun what?”
“You know, having fun.”
Oh, I get it.  Okay.  Having “fun.”  I say this while I am imagining the scene from “Risky Business.”
“Can I take your picture?”
“No  way.”
The lady across from me who was wearing sexy smart glasses and an interesting animal print dress and high brown boots asks what I’m doing.
With a smile ear-to-ear she came and sat next to me and we chatted the rest of the way back to New York City.
“You know I have to interview you now, right?” I said.
“Oh no. I’m so boring,” she said with a smile.
You know, I’d rather interview someone who says that they are boring than someone who is supposed to be exciting who ends up being boring.

She could be Molly Shannon

She could be Molly Shannon

Who: Jackie
Where:  Metro North, heading back to New York City from White Plains
Occupation: Research Pharmacist
Jackie is a self-described optimist; the book she was reading about “Change” was just proof of her desires in life.
“I tried to be a real-estate agent once, but that didn’t work out.”
Jackie wants to be open to change, but obviously it hasn’t been in her past.  She stayed at one job for 13 years and when I asked her how long she’s been living in NYC, she said: “19 years,” before telling me that she was born and raised in Brooklyn.
So, really she’s been in NYC her whole life.
“Most people aren’t open to change, but not me,” she says with a renewed freedom.
Jackie loves to travel though and through her work, she’s been all over the world.
“Thailand was my favorite.  I just loved the people there.”
Of all the people I’ve met, Jackie had the least to say, but was the most happy and optimistic about life.  She reminds me of Molly Shannon in “The Year of The Dog.”
“Change is good,” she says with an even bigger grin than before.
There was something about her. She could be an actress. I can see her in one of my plays.
“Really?” she says.
“Yes, absolutely.”
Hopefully this is a Democratic change.
I took some photos of some people on my way home to watch the debates.
My husband wanted me to wait for him, but I couldn’t.
Here’s a weird thing and I’ll just say it.  I can’t keep my eyes off of Sarah Palin.
Okay, I said it.
Onward.
It’s really horrible that she uses her charisma and hotness to get ahead, or is it?
The things that Tina Fey makes fun of about Sarah Palin — the winking, the kiss blowing, the effusive goofiness, the hairdos, the hot outfits, I don’t know.   Is that really wrong?  Just look at what America appreciates.
As a woman and a feminist, it disgusts me that she’s chided for this. Obviously using her good looks is something that’s gotten her ahead in this world, why should she stop now?
Hillary was booed for her poor outfit choices and harshness.
We are either not pretty enough or too pretty, but that’s what people talk about with women instead of what’s really important.
Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president.  That’s the only thing that’s important to know about her.
Anyway, I had all kinds of plans, but ended up lying around my apartment all day hoping to feel better.  It never happened.
Finally at 3PM Beatriz came by and this would force me to leave my den.  Beatriz is the daughter of Maria our once-a-week cleaning lady.
Maria, Beatriz mom, put both of her daughters through school by cleaning houses for a living in NYC.  We inherited Maria as our cleaning lady when we got our apartment six years ago.  If you are wondering, “oh she has a cleaning lady” – I married into the cleaning lady deal.  I never grew up with one and never had one before.  It was my husband’s thing, but sure, a great idea.
Maria’s set of keys proves to me that she probably has 40 clients.  So over the years her daughters have come in and cleaned in her place; secret-cleaning genies who did things a little more detailed than their mother.  I often hoped that these girls would grow up and take good care of their mom; she deserves it.
Laura the elder is now a Police Officer.  Beatriz, the younger is an up-and-coming filmmaker, and I hadn’t spent any time with her until recently because she was studying in Spain.


Who: Beatriz
Where: My apartment
Occupation: Filmmaker
Beatriz is a like a little wind-up doll filled with extra batteries.  She talks a mile a minute and is doing a million things at once, including cleaning our apartment.
“Did I tell you that I got a job working with a production company that does gay sit coms?”
“Great,” I say as I get out my tape recorder.
I’d like to interview Beatriz.  I think she’s full of hope and excitement, but she talks too fast, even for my tape recorder.  Or maybe I am just too slow today.

Here’s some random photos I took of people around my hood.

Are All Americans Alike?

Wednesday it rained a lot.  Audrey and I went to the café and were not too chatty.  It was an off day for us.  She was grumbling about selling her van in California and I was just noticing that my “creative life” needs to be supplemented with some sort of income.  I hate reality.

The rain made the day kind of brisk, and by dusk I just wanted to curl up and watch TV.
One crazy thing did happen on Wednesday.

I had responded to an ad on Craigslist titled: “Private Russian Lessons.”  This can only lead to bad things, right?

I responded to the email saying that I’d like to get private lessons for two hours a week and I could pay $25 an hour.
I speak a little Russian already. Russians always think that I am Russian, until I speak for more than five minutes…
So, a very accented Russian man calls me.
“You called about the Russian lessons?”
“Yes.”
“Let me tell you a little about me,” he says.  (The Russian accent is very thick).
“Okay.”
“My name is Serge and I teach Russian.  I meet with you and can teach you grammar and we can speak.  I can also teach you other things.”
I’m already thinking he’s weird.
“I teach for large companies like New York Times.”
“Okay,” I say tentatively.  “Can you email me your resume and some references?”
“Oh,” he says.  “I guess you don’t want to learn Russian.  All you want to do is check up on me.”
“Excuse me?”  I said.
“All you Americans are alike.”
With that he hung up on me.

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.
________

More interviews from “Below 14th”

Sunday interviews.

It’s time to write about my two favorite neighborhood haunts: Joe’s coffee (141 Waverly Place) and Equinox gym on Greenwich Avenue. My morning started with a swim at the Equinox. It is the most amazing all-purpose, super swanky gym ever.  Where else can one work out in the weight room, take private Pilates, swim laps in the pool, take Jazz dance classes with someone who still uses “Jazz hands”, buy smoothies from the café and stop in the store to buy a cool pair of Stella McCarthy shorts?  Oh and did I mention the Spa? It’s nice too.

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Reading of REPORTER GIRL (a play about Brenda Starr Reporter) September 26th at 7:30PM.


If you like Mad Men, you’ll love my new play.  I’m just showing the first half (as a reading), but if you enjoy learning about history and feminist issues — and if you ever read Brenda Starr Reporter, you’ll love this play.
Watch a young female cartoonist as she fights her way into a male dominated culture in the 1940’s.  Years later her granddaughter struggles with some of the same issues and discovers what is true and fiction about her grandmother’s amazing story.

THE DRAMATIST GUILD Presents: FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTLIGHTS


NEW YORK, Friday, September 26, 2008
7:30pm – 9:00pm
REPORTER GIRL by Laura Rohrman
Laura Rohrman will present a staged reading of REPORTER GIRL,  a full-length play about her grandmother, Dale Messick, who created the famous cartoon strip BRENDA STARR REPORTER in 1940.  Dale Messick was the first syndicated female cartoonist in the world. The play has been a finalist for both the O’Neill festival and the Princess Grace award.
Friday Night Footlights New York is held in the Frederick Loewe Room, Suite 710, at 1501 Broadway (located between 43rd and 44th Streets), New York, NY  10036. you must have a photo I.D. to enter the building.

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.