Tag Archives: playwriting

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.

Vampire Cowboy at Work: Robert Ross Parker

Wednesday I went to Midtown to take care of my membership dues for the Dramatist Guild.  While I was there I stopped in to pitch a story idea to the magazine editor and get in an interview for The Pop Cycle.

Who: Robert Ross Parker
Where: The Dramatist Guild Offices, NYC
Occupation: Editorial Director, The Dramatist, Theater Director, Co-Creator of The Vampire Cowboys.
Oddly enough, a month before I met Robert, it was Sonya who was singing the praises of his theater company The Vampire Cowboys.  She said “you have to see this!”  I don’t even know if Robert and Sonya know each other, but see – that’s the NY Theater scene.
I’ve gotten to know Robert as my editor for the Dramatist, (The Dramatist Guild’s magazine devoted to playwrights and lyricists) and he’s gotten to know me as a “busy reporter,” which is how he referred to me during our meeting.  It’s funny to me that Robert and I have similar sensibilities and yet I haven’t seen his theatrical creations and he hasn’t seen mine – yet.
I’ve only written one article so far for the Dramatist, but it was a success and I’m hoping to write more.
Earlier this year, I turned my experience of working as an assistant on the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway into an intimate behind-the-scenes portrait.  I interviewed a gaggle of playwrights: Adam Rapp, Adam Bock, Theresa Rebeck, Tina Howe and several others about what it was like to create a play in 24 hours for Broadway, which is what they did for the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway, a process I’ve been a part of for the past couple of years.
Robert was new on the job when I first proposed my article back in February, but he quickly got to know how determined I can be, and I found out how down to earth he is. I like him.  Now, many months later, he seems to be more comfortable with his duties and skills.
Robert juggles two careers – surprise. Theater artists often juggle many jobs at once in order to do the one that they love.  In this case, both of Robert’s jobs fit together nicely.
He’s both the editor of the Dramatist, spending his day interacting with both the writers (who are playwrights like me) and heeding to the wants and desires of the famous playwrights on the Board of Directors, like David Ives.  In the evenings, he’s a director, creating new work with Qui Nguyen for their theater company, The Vampire Cowboys.
Today we are at his day job and David Ives, one of the greatest American living playwrights happens to knock on the door while I am sitting in Robert’s office.
David knows of me because of the article I wrote and because we worked together on the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway in 2006.
“What are you two doing?”  David says inquisitively.
I tell him about my interviews for The Pop Cycle and remind him of his not being included in my interviews earlier in the year.
Then I say, “you know, David, I’m going to have to ask you a question too.”
“Okay, he says.”
Great! I’m going to interview David Ives! Super cool!
“So, David, what are you reading?”  I say.  I always think what a playwright is reading is very informative.
He throws two books down in front of me and I write them down. The books are:
Something by T.S. Eliot that I guess I forgot to write down and “The Nigger of the Narcissus and other stories” by Joseph Conrad.
Then the three of us broke into a discussion of “The Heart of Darkness.”
“I just couldn’t get through it at first,” says Robert.
“The Heart of Darkness is one of the greatest war stories ever written,” says David.
“I missed out on the classics because I’m from Canada,” says Robert.
Hmm. We will have to get back to this Canada thing later, I’m thinking.
“I read it in college as part of my major,” I say “I loved it.”
“I just read it for the 5th time,” says David.
“I don’t read books a second time,” I say. “I’ve considered it, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Truth is, there are still so many books I am getting to for the first time.
“I only read books the second time, I skip the first time,” says David.
He makes sure that I write his quote down correctly before he departs.
After he leaves, Robert and I laugh.
“So that’s part of my day,” he says with a grin.
Robert has an awesome job and I think he knows it.  He seems to take it all in stride because he has so much going on.
“So tell me about your theater company “The Vampire Cowboys,” I see from your face book profile that you are rehearsing,” I say.
“Yes, we have a show coming up in the spring,” he smiles.
“It’s so much fun,” he says.
“We are interested in pop-culture, in creating a theatrical experience that is explored in comic books and television.”
“That’s interesting,” I say.  “So why do you think you are creating theater and not working in film?”
“Money,” he says, but he thinks about it more.
“Actually, I am looking to create these experiences that can only happen on stage, but that are very theatrical.”
“You can get away with so much for on the stage,” he says.
“For example,” I say.
“If your story has an elephant attack, there is a way to do that on stage – you can hear it, people can talk about it, but if it’s a movie, you sort of need to show that elephant attack.”
“Yes, you are right,” I say.
“So many plays are two guys sitting there on the back porch talking, I’m not interested in that.”
“Me neither,” I say.
Robert grew up in Canada, was a child actor who went to a high school for the arts before meeting his “Vampire” partner Qui Nguyen at Ohio University.
It’s worth mentioning that The Vampire Cowboys just won a NYITA award for Best Choreography, Best Costumes and Best Ensemble, so I am really excited to see their next production.
Before I leave, Robert shows me what he’s reading, it’s a book about the Commodore 64.
“Do you remember it?” he says grinning.  “I’m a techie geek,” he says.
I suggest that the next Vampire show should be a musical about the rise and fall of the Commodore.  Of course, in his world, Ninjas will fight with elephants and I’m sure a computer will get smashed.  As I leave, I can tell he’s toying with the idea.

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.

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.


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.