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Flux Sunday, September 27th

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 2 comments

(What is Flux Sunday?)

Our last Flux Sunday before The Lesser Seductions of History takes us over was great, if it nearly killed me getting us there! Sometimes, the amount of roles the playwrights write match perfectly with the attending actors; and then there are times where I have to write us into a balance. With a production meeting that morning, I had two hours to pump out some pages, but I hadn't quite finished by 4PM so we started rehearsing some of the scenes while I finished writing enough pages for all. Hot off the presses, indeed!

Luckily, I was ably assisted by Crystal Skillman's second scene from The Sleeping World (and if you haven't already read Crystal's new great interview at the Clyde Fitch Report, check it out.)

Directors Nora Hummel and Heidi Handelsman split the long second scene of The Sleeping World, and we saw beautiful work again from Gretchen Poulos as Sam, and reveled in the returns of Amy Fitts as Sam in part two (welcome back from Italy!) and Richard Watson as Luke. His funny and moving read of Luke's long remembering of his betrayal of Peter, a recently passed friend, was especially stunning. (If you're looking for a new monologue for auditions, Luke's would be a hell of a choice - funny, sad, caustic and detailed). Brian Pracht and Matthew Archambault split Tom, and Christina Shipp took a heartfelt turn as the wounded wounding Angie.

We then looked at (the very) new scenes from my Dark Matter (character/plot info here). First we saw two overlapping scenes - Winny telling Max about the job that will take her away from the family, and Marie convincing Donny to sleep with her - followed by a third scene where Maxine is caught stealing research from Afruz by her mentor Nikolay. Candice Holdorf found a great deal of complexity in Winny - thrilled by her new job, worried about the cost of leaving, bitter of having had to play the caretaker role for so long - as she navigated the reactions of the wildly emotional Maxine (played by Flux's scientist-in-residence, Ingrid Nordstrom).

Kitty Lindsay's portrayal of Marie found an especially strong moment when she explained to Donny why everything had to be perfect the 1st time they had sex (and their fumble to turn off "Single Ladies" was hilarious!) And everyone winced as Afruz (Isaiah Tanenbaum) showed his well-meaning pity for Maxine after catching her in the act of stealing from him, finally causing her breakdown (sensitively captured by Nancy Franklin).

It was a Sunday of bold and nuanced acting choices - a real actor feast that will have to keep us full until Lesser Seductions releases us from its clutches.

And if you were there - what were your favorite parts? Comment away! Read the full story

A Call For An Indie Theatre Repertory

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 11 comments

One of the greatest challenges facing the indie theatre field (and so the whole NYC theatre field) is the ability of Equity Showcase productions to transfer to longer runs. The focus of this challenge has been primarily directed towards Equity and the showcase code itself, but there may be something we as field can do (preferably) with or without code reform.

An Indie Theatre Repertory company: the best of indie theatre given a longer life through production in repertory.

Imagine a theatre where in one week you could see productions of Universal Robots, MilkMilkLemondae, Fight Girl Battle World and Infectious Opportunity. Where a production of Pretty Theft in the afternoon could be followed by Artifacts Of Consequence in the evening. Where all of the artists are getting paid an amount worth their initial investment.

The structural model could be like the FringeNYC Encore series in miniature. A 7:00 weekday showtime of one production would allow you a 9:00 performance of another, with three show days on the weekend (similar to our Trilogy production schedule, only a little more so). A production could see anywhere from 3-5 shows a week. As one show in rep was ready to end, a new show would be brought in to keep the rep fresh.

The challenges are obvious: difficult change overs, diminished design elements, and yes, union contracts.

The benefits, however, are substantial. Not only would worthy Indie theatre productions gain an extended life, but supported by the other shows, they would not need to prove immediately profitable. They would get the time they need to grow the audience they deserve. The premiere-itis of our major non-profits would be countered. Audiences previously made of friends and family would overlap, and over time, a legitimate following for the best of Indie theatre would develop. Plays that did especially well could transfer into commercial Off-Broadway runs, and/or gain an increased publicity that could lead to regional productions.

Everyone might benefit: commercial Off-Broadway would be revitalized with an in-town try-out for daring new work; artists who commit to an Equity Showcase would stay with the project long enough to reap the financial rewards of their efforts; audiences would be exposed to the work of the best new Indie companies; and the producing theatre(s)/producer(s) would have a thriving hub of new work.

The plays could be chosen by savvy producers; or the NYITA could provide a forum for audiences to vote their favorite work into a longer run, giving the audience a greater sense of ownership; maybe a little of both.

The initial investment of resources seems to me to be the biggest obstacle facing this idea; but the payoff would be tremendous. No longer would plays like Sleeper and Rattlers have to disappear just as they're picking up steam. Instead, they would have their lives extended by an organization dedicated to celebrating the extraordinary work happening at the Indie, Off-Off-Broadway level. We may be the stuff of dreams, but not all great plays need be roses, whose fair flower, being once displayed, doth fall that very hour. Read the full story

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Plays That Need Doing In NYC

Saturday, September 26, 2009 3 comments

I just finished a read through of Rami Metal's lovely play, Lullabye (thank you Mark, Polly, Matt, Lynn, Marnie and Christina) and was reminded of just how many good plays are out there that need doing here in NYC. The idea that most new plays are bad may be true, but it is more true that there are way too many great new plays that aren't being done in NYC, or at all.

Well, Flux can't do them all. So here is a completely subjective but passionately felt list of plays that your company should be producing now.

Please add to this list in the comments section, and while you're at it, why not send those plays to me at gus@fluxtheatre.org? Here's the kind of plays I like.

So...what plays do you need and want to see in NYC now? Here's me:

Lydia by Octavio Solis: This play has been done at Denver Center Theater Company, The Mark Taper Forum and Yale Rep, was featured in the December 2008 American Theatre magazine, and yet somehow has not graced an NYC stage. The ending of the first act is haunting; the end of the second, corrosively beautiful. I want to live in a city that does this kind of play first, not last; get on it, bigger NYC theatres!

Sans Merci by Johnna Adams: If you've seen the various readings, you know why I'm so crazy about this play. The mother and lover of a political activist meet to sort out the meaning of her violent death. It is sweet and hopeful, brutal and sad - the scene where they decide who gets to keep her last things is unforgettable.

Incendiary by Adam Szymkowicz: This play about a pyromaniac fire chief manages to be both screamingly funny and oddly moving; it combines the humor, speed and style of Hearts Like Fists with some of the awkward longing of Pretty Theft; this is the kind of play that could be a break out hit for any company smart enough produce it.

Ajax In Iraq by Ellen McLaughlin: You've already heard me rave about this play; so what are you waiting for, theatre-company-with-greater-resources?

Narrator One, by Erin Browne: Read all about it here. Erin's play is the kind of romantic comedy that's actually both romantic and funny. It also has a bitter undertow and some sparkling meta-theatrics to make your mind as well as your heart buzz and burn.

This Storm Is What We Call Progress, by Jason Grote: Speaking of making your mind buzz and burn, Jason's dizzying dagger of a play looks at both the need and the cost of power. Read the take on our Food:Soul here, then read about Rorschach Theatre's well-recieved DC production here. Then get producin'.

Lullabye, by Rami Metal: This rhythmic and lyrical play weaves three generations of a haunted family as they attempt to let go of various ghosts. The language of the play is both raw and poetic, and will need a brave and capable company of actors to make its moving heart sing. We just put together a joyous read-through of it, and maybe you should, too.

Miss Lily Gets Boned, by Bekah Brunstetter: A play about elephants, people and how loss and loneliness makes both species run a little mad; try to see it at The Lark, though I think the reading's got a wait list yards long. It is a wild and funny piece of bewildered wanting.

Texas Toast, by Katherine Burger: Oh man I love this play! A loving liberal couple falls apart when the husband brings back a statue of Kali from Thailand along with the guilt of an irreconcilable secret. Their disintegration is hastened by the vitality and hunger of a charismatic and destructive Texan couple that befriends them. There are five beautiful roles in this unsettling and funny play for any company tough enough to take them on.

Blue Beard, by Matthew Freeman: This haunting and spare look at the classic myth of the Red Door has that rare gift some plays have of making an entirely new world seem real; it is a beautiful and brutal nightmare of a play that the right company could knock out of the park.

Of course, I could go on (and will later), but that's a good start for now. Please put in the comments section plays unproduced in NYC that you want to see. Read the full story


The NYIT Awards - Congratulations, Asa!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 0 comments

We all had a great time at the NYIT Awards last night. We laughed at host Julie Halston, admired Matthew Freeman's script contributions, loved the documentary of Maria Irene Fornes, grooved with the Brick's dancing freaks, bowed down before the MFTA, and cheered the winners, most especially our own Asa Wember for Sound Design for Angel Eaters.


Flux was nominated for seven awards and took home one - not a bad night. And that same rapturous sense of community and purpose was present again - all of us in Flux are so proud and grateful to belong to a movement of such talent and generosity. Read the rest of the winners here.

There were a few sad notes - I would have loved to see more of our designers (and our extraordinary playwright!) take home some hardware - and the fact that the astonishing Universal Robots didn't take home any awards was just crazy. But that's not what these awards are about - many companies and artists I'd never heard of, in what come sometimes feel like a very small field, won big - reminding us of the width and depth of talent in Indie theatre.


And a huge thank you the NYITA Staff.

If you were there, what were some of your favorite moments? Read the full story

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Flux Sunday, September 20th

Monday, September 21, 2009 0 comments

Our first Flux Sunday at NYR Studios, where Flux is a resident company, was everything we'd been hoping for. We had room to move! Each of our three scenes had a comfortable space to work in, and the results were undeniable. There was a burst of energy and productivity that has me hoping this relationship with NYR will last (remember to mention Flux if you rent there!)

But to the nitty and then to the gritty...

First, Kelly O'Donnell staged the first scene of Crystal Skillman's The Sleeping World, a melancholy-funny look at playwrights gathering to read the newly discovered last script of their recently passed friend. Once close, the three friends clumsily fall back into the push and pull of their painful-sweet old intimacy. Their friend's script, as it turns out, is a thinly veiled portrait of them, and brings to the light all the old wounds and longings they'd kept in the dark.
Kelly O'Donnell did a lovely job of staging this - I watched the run before the shared run, and with a few small adjustments to blocking, she brought out the story beautifully. A special shout-out goes to the triumphant returns of Gretchen Poulos and Kitty Lindsay, who brought Sam and Angie to a subtle, detailed life. Crystal is bringing back scene 2 next week, and we're all excited for more.

Then, Heather Cohn staged the next two scenes of my play, Dark Matter. (For plot and character, check out last week's entry). Jimmy (Nancy Franklin) and Winny (Jane Taylor) battled it out over Jimmy's dreams (Winny is now a Jungian analyst, after reading that great article about Jung's Red Book in NYT Mag) and dementia; followed by Maxine (Carissa Cordes) confronting her mentor Nicolay (Isaiah Tanenbaum) about approving funding for a project from rival physicist Afruz Sen. These scenes were a nice contrast to the elliptical loveliness of Crystal's scene - these were jugular collisions between formidable opponents. I especially loved the staging and playing of Jimmy luring Winny back with the promise of his truly disturbing dream, and the moment where Nikoly kindly but firmly exiled Maxine from his office, her realizing too late she'd gone too far.

Speaking of triumphant returns, auteur Jeremy Basescu's back from the wilds of summer with a brand new joint. Lion Creek follows two couples, one seemingly thriving, one falling apart, navigating an awkward night of wine and Wii. There were notes of darker twists than twenty-something malaise, however; hints of secrets, hints of spies, hints of the mystery of Lion Creek sneak their way through the banter. Special shout outs to an icy-sweet Lynn Kenny as Tess and
goofy-charming Ryan Andes as Drake.

Yup, Flux Sunday and NYR are a good fit. Here's to many more.

And for those of you there, what were your favorite moments? What did you think of the new space? Read the full story

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3 Reasons to Visit Adam's Blog

Thursday, September 17, 2009 4 comments

Reason 1: He interviewed me as a part of his playwright series, and I talk about all sorts of things, including our upcoming production of The Lesser Seductions of History.

Reason 2: He has posted the cover of the published script of Pretty Theft and it is both crazy hot and a wee bit familiar...but you'll have to go to his blog to check it out. And then you should probably purchase that play.

Reason 3: Visiting Adam's blog will make you, almost imperceptibly, a better person. Read the full story

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Another great 4-letter theatre ensemble: EPIC

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 0 comments

Heather here.

As some of you may know, in addition to being a founder and the Managing Director (and sometimes director, set designer) of Flux, I have also been working in development at various other theatre companies/organizations for the last 6 years.

Recently, I joined Epic Theatre Ensemble as their new Director of Development. And I want you to come see Epic's next show - MAHIDA'S EXTRA KEY TO HEAVEN (runs Sept 16th - Oct 11th) - for a special discount rate for Flux fans.

For all performances in September, get $10 tickets using the code FLUX10. www.epictheatreensemble.org for tix

For all performances in October, get $20 tickets using the code FLUX20.

(Regular price tickets are $38.50, so this is a great deal!)


Written by 2008 Winner of the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Russell Davis' MAHIDA'S EXTRA KEY TO HEAVEN is a poetic, funny, and haunting story about crossing borders of all kinds. Thomas is visiting his mother's island home when he encounters Mahida, an Iranian college student stranded after an argument with her brother. The two strangers begin a beautifully awkward search for a common country, but discover that sometimes the smaller the world the bigger the invasions.
There are a limited number of comp tickets available for select performances: Sept 17 - 8pm, Sept 21 - 8pm, Sept 22 - 8pm. Maximum tix allowed per request = 4. To reserve, email ZakEpicAsst@aol.com and include your name, performance you wish to attend, number of tickets and contact information.

Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions "Postcard" Revealed!

Hi all, it's Isaiah.

One of the great things about being part of a multi-disciplinary company is that I get to do cool things besides act in shows. Sometimes I compose a cappella songs, sometimes I write plays for Flux Sundays, but most often I design stuff.

Stuff like our new postcard bookmark for The Lesser Seductions of History. (Click on bookmark image to enlarge)

And here's the back:

I just sent this to the printers, and so it should be available and in hand at the NYIT Awards ceremony on Monday. Hope you can make it -- we're up for seven awards! If you just can't wait, you can click on these images for larger versions and print your own!

Also, is there any interest in seeing a design journal? This postcard went through an unprecedented process (for Flux at least) of discarded ideas, tweaks, and alterations before arriving at the design you see here. Leave a comment! Read the full story

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Flux Sunday, September 13th

Monday, September 14, 2009 3 comments

(What is Flux Sunday?)

We're back! After a break in August for our 4th Annual Retreat at Little Pond and our Food:Soul of Volleygirls, we're back for the month of September.

We started with a more intimate crowd than usual, but that was lucky for me as I was the only playwright (beedle dee, deedle dee, dee).

Director Heidi Handlesman, hot off Bird House, returned after a long absence to helm two scenes from my new play, Dark Matter. This play follows Maxine, a physicist working with her mentor Nikolay at Princeton. At a conference, they drink and mock Afruz, a physicist more known for his showman mass appeal than his scientific accomplishment. Then Nikolay tells her that he has hired Afrux to work with them at Princeton.

This is the first of several shocks for Maxine: she then gets a call from her partner Winny that her father, the roguish charmer Jimmy, has managed to get his hands on the car keys. Suffering from the early stages of Alzheimers, Jimmy crashes the car.

Meanwhile, Maxine's daughter Marie, sick with a possibly terminal illness, is falling under the spell of her ne'er-do-well older cousin Donny. Determined to give her every experience life has to offer, Donny leads her down some dark alleys.

It was great to spend some real time with the play: Carissa Cordes and Lynn Kenny shared the role of Marie, David Crommett read Nikolay, Jane Taylor and Mariam Habib shared Maxine, Ryan Andes played Donny, Tiffany Clementi played Winny, Anthony Wills Jr. read Jimmy, and with her usual daring, Candice Holdorf played a wee bit against type as the older male Bengali physicist Afruz.

Highlights included Candice's Afruz handing the peace offering of the gum to Maxine; Ryan's bewildered amusement as Marie cleverly traps him in a lecture from Maxine; Anthony's realization that Jimmy's "How fast?" story was actually a ritual he plays with Marie and Donny; Lynn's reaction to the East Coast Chronic.

Thanks to everyone for a great return to Flux Sunday - if you were there, what else would you add to this brief history? Read the full story

Ensemble Structure II: Towers, Clouds, and Exponential Growth

Sunday, September 13, 2009 0 comments

(This is a continuation of thoughts on Ensemble structure - read the first post here.)

I just read Rob Cross' post on ONA, aka Organizational Network Analysis, via Beth's Blog on nonprofits and Social Media (just the way to start a Sunday). ONA looks like a wonderful tool for analyzing how a company/Ensemble actually works. Instead of looking at the traditional hierarchy of decision making power, it looks at who is connected in an essential way to the work of his/her colleagues.

The result looks more like a cloud than a tower; with central nodes of people who are meaningfully connected with many co-workers, and those on the periphery who have little contact with the rest of the organization. As the post has it, these central nodes are not always particularly high up on hierarchy, but without these central people, everyone else isn't able to do their jobs. Here's what it looks like:

As Beth notes, this ONA structure connects with Mark Pescue's essay "Tower and the Clouds", a thesis on the tension between tradition hierarchical models (tower to the left) and social media networks (cloud to the right).

This work is valuable on an administrative level for Ensemble theatres because our structure naturally tends towards the cloud rather than the tower. In thinking of how to grow organizational capacity, the cloud model is a much more accurate tool for our collaborative, flexible structure.

But what really excites me is applying this tool towards the artistic growth of the company, because it involves a conceptual shift. If we employed ONA on the artistic side, we would see a dense web with the show's director, SM and Core Members at the center, with everyone's work being directly connected (as we do try to more closely intertwine the usually separate actor/designer relationships).

In that web structure of production, an improvement to one part directly affects every other part of the whole. A great actor or SM doesn't just make their role better, but everyone on the stage (and hopefully in the process) better. Likewise, a hamful artist's negative impact will lower the quality of everyone's work, because in the web structure, everyone is connected.

But here's where it gets really exciting: that improvement is exponential, not linear. Great artist A makes artists B-F all improve; but then the growth of artist B also affects A-F; and the growth of artist C does the same; so that the impact of a great artist multiplies rather than adds; and the cost of a damaging artist divides rather than subtracts.

This exponential growth or decay happens most dramatically in the web, less so in the cloud, and is barely felt in the tower. Over the long term collaboration of an Ensemble, the exponential impact of each Member on the other is perhaps the most profound engine of growth. This is why there is no more significant decision than inviting a new Member into the Ensemble, or in asking a harmful Member to leave. We have to ask, will this new Member make each of our existing Members better? Will they lead to that exponential growth of the web, or are they merely filling a temporary gap in a tower?

This is also why the emphasis on mission, values and aesthetics, though very important, may in the end be secondary to an Ensemble's success when compared to the importance of Membership.

What is the model of your company? If you're an Ensemble, what has been the history of your Membership's growth? I see some company's membership never change; others seems to have a completely new group of artists every year. How do those two scenarios play out? Read the full story

Get Some Discounted Space And Hook Up Flux

Friday, September 11, 2009 0 comments

Flux is one of the Resident Companies at the newly formed NYR Studios, an artist-led rehearsal and performance rental studio. Through September 30th, NYR Studios is offering discounts on their spaces, and if you mention that you heard about NYR through Flux, you can help us earn a wee referral fee. You get space at a reasonable rate, and help Flux while doing so. It just might be the best of all possible worlds.

Here's how it works: contact NYR Studios at (212)-686-5020 or nyrstudios.bookings@gmail.com, and use the code INTRO to save 20%. Then, mention you heard about this deal through Flux, and make us the happiest of Ensembles. Please note: the INTRO discount only lasts through September 30th, but the Flux referral hook-up in ongoing. Drop our name, drop it often.
From the NYR Blog: The studios are housed in the Workmen’s Circle Building, at 45 E. 33rd Street on the 6th floor. The building is conveniently located next to the 6 subway line on the east side (near 33rd and Park Avenue). Rooms are available in sizes ranging from 8x11 to 30x24 with prices ranging from $7 to $30, respectively. Four of the aforementioned rooms include a well-tuned piano for music lessons. There are also studios set up for various forms of dance.

In addition to the rehearsal rooms available on the 6th floor, the 1st floor of the building offers an intimate 70 seat theater. This space is perfect for fundraisers, networking events, performances, or staged readings. Basic sound and light packages are included in the affordable and negotiable rental rate.

What sets NYR Studios apart is not just its convenient location in Midtown Manhattan. We are a completely artist-run facility. Currently, there are multiple resident companies who volunteer their time in exchange for the community that NYR Studios builds. Because of this, we are an extremely friendly, understanding, and accommodating space. We also create excellent networking opportunities for artists of all ages and professional backgrounds.

The hours of operation for NYR Studios are as follows: Monday through Thursday from 10AM to 10PM, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10AM to 7PM. Please contact nyrstudios.bookings@gmail.com or call at 212.686.5020 to discuss rental options. Mention the code INTRO to take advantage of the current discounted rates (discount code is valid for all rooms through September 30, 2009).
Read the full story

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3 Plays On Iraq - Oohrah!, Aftermath, and Ajax In Iraq

Thursday, September 10, 2009 3 comments

During the retreat, Flux was blown away reading Ellen McLaughlin's Ajax In Iraq, a play written for the ART grad program. On Sunday the 6th, Heather and I saw Aftermath at New York Theatre Workshop; last night we saw Bekah Brunstetter's Oohrah! at the Atlantic. 3 plays over 2 weeks that dealt, in one way or another, with the war in Iraq.

The short version is both Aftermath and Oohrah! are well worth seeing, and Ajax in Iraq desperately needs to be produced in New York City.

The longer version is both Aftermath and Oohrah! are in previews, so I shouldn't say too much; but Aftermath is notable for the extraordinary intimacy created by the simplicity of the staging, the engaging honesty of the actors, and the human decency of the stories gathered and shaped by co-creators Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank. This is not a play about war, nor even really a play about its aftermath; this is a play about the lives of these 9 Iraqis, and it is a great compliment to the play that their stories before the invasion have stayed with me as much as their stories after (maskmaking, dermatology, love it!) Perhaps because of the documentary nature of the play, all 9 characters are presented as wholly good people who heroically endure a tragedy - but given the media saturation of Iraqis as a violent people, and the debt our country owes them for the depth of that tragedy, a wholly positive charge may be necessary. There is also a beautiful story about the nature of God making something out of nothing told by the imam Abdul-Aliyy (the wonderful Demosthenes Chrysan) that alone is worth the (on Sunday nights very reasonably priced) admission.

Oohrah! is a mirror image of Aftermath - it follows a soldier (Ron) and his family after he returns from his fourth tour in Iraq. This is a fascinating play for many reasons, but primarily because it looks at lives that don't come together, connections that don't quite happen, dreams left unfulfilled; and so it is constantly undermining your dramatic expectations. SPOILER ALERT (don't keep reading if you haven't seen it) the violence you expect doesn't happen; the secrets you long for are not earth-shattering; all epiphanies are dodged and the play ends on a note of confused longing; Bekah's infinitely quick and corrosive wit is still here, but it now lives in a mostly naturalistic world (naturalistic the way The Cherry Orchard is), and you are left feeling the way the characters do, that some promise was made and left unfulfilled. For the characters, that promise is the heroic promise of service; that those meant to serve this country will be able to do so, and come home to a life equal to that service. A particularly stunning scene unfolds between a barely teenage girl drawn to the military and a Marine with secrets; both find themselves on the outside of that military dream; and there is a heat and longing in that scene that is the heart of what I loved best about this play - go see it!

While both Aftermath and Oohrah! are about the effects of the war, Ajax in Iraq is summons the war itself: its panic and confusion, its heroism and sacrifice, its horror and madness. Even reading the play, we all felt how visceral and shocking it would be played on stage. It is also the most wholly empathetic to our veterans - while Oohrah! looks at the longing to go to war, and Aftermath explores the civilian consequences, Ajax in Iraq gives witness to the consequences for the veterans themselves. It is also the most inventively theatrical of the plays, juxtaposing Greek myth with naturalistic scenes of soldiers playing cards, Maori war dances, direct address from veteran interviews, invocations to Kali, and a haunting service for a fallen soldier. This play needs to be done in New York now.

The sum of these 3 plays proves that not all of our artists are ignoring the huge shadow cast over our civic life by the War in Iraq; but wrestling with it to create beautiful, meaningful theatre. I hope these plays have long lives. Thank you to the artists and to the companies - now go see and produce these plays!

Comment time: if you are familiar with any of these plays, what did you think?
And are there other strong plays out there you would recommend about the war in Iraq? I know David Ian Lee's Sleeper deals beautifully with Afghanistan... Read the full story


NYIT Idea Bank

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 0 comments

The NYIT Awards have posted an idea bank, specifically for items they can bring to government partners, but I think an Indie theatre bank - a resource for brainstorms and best practices - could be a great help to the community, so I took their initial request for comments and ran with it a little.

Read up here, then post your own comments on their site.

Flux had our own Cool Ideas session at the Retreat - I'd love to see what could happen if we could tap all the creativity and experience out there and keep it in one place. Read the full story

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Interview At Visible Soul

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 0 comments

Zack Calhoon interviewed me for the interview series, "People You Should Know..." on his blog, Visible Soul. I was honored to be asked to participate in this series, as Zack has already interviewed impressive folks like Leonard Jacobs, Jennifer Conley Darling, Matthew Freeman, and Jessi Hill.

Speaking of Leonard Jacobs, he has a GREAT interview with Jesse Alick, the Artistic Director of Subjective Theatre Company. Jesse talks about faith, political theatre, and Subjective's radical practice of providing free theatre.

If you're still hungry for more interview goodness, Patrick Lee has a great interview with the lauded leading ladies of Viral, Amy Lynn Stewart and Rebecca Comtois. (Have you bought your tix yet for the extension?)

Meanwhile, the mighty mighty Szymkowicz has reached 50 playwright interviews...and Crystal Skillman is on the beat for the 50/50 in 2020. Read the full story

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Exploding Moments: Evanston, A Rare Comedy

Monday, September 7, 2009 2 comments

In order to move forward this conversation regarding quality, we are putting some of those principles into practice with a new blog series, Exploding Moments. We'll be exploring how quality productions work through the prism of individual moments. By asking the artists involved how they created a particularly successful moment, and examining how it works in production, we hope to find take-aways to apply to our own work. At the same time, we hope to celebrate excellence in the field through this specific, detailed, useful exploration of what works.

Past Exploding Moments include Two Girls and Infectious Opportunity. This post features Evanston, A Rare Comedy by Michael Yates Crowley, directed by Michael Rau (whose excellent work on The Great God Brown was featured on this blog here). Evanston, A Rare Comedy was a part of the undergoundzero festival at PS122 and The Summer Sublet Series at HERE.

The play begins with the disappearance of a teenage girl in deepest suburbia and ends when a meeting of The Evanston Women's Book Club goes horribly awry. In between, a transgender student dreams of death, a housewife dreams of Mexico, an economics professor has an affair with a Whole Foods check-out clerk, and the financial crisis rages on.

This post will focus on the moment when Sharon, a leader in the The Evanston Women's Book Club, mourns the death of Betsey, one of their most important members. As Sharon lists the products Betsey loved best, her eulogy moves from comedy to a surprisingly moving paean for the things her friend loved. Both sublime and ridiculous, it perfectly captured the painful depths beneath suburban superficiality.

I asked the playwright, director and actor Anna Margaret Hollyman (Sharon) some questions about that moment.

1. What was your process in writing this eulogy for Betsy? Was it there in the first draft, or did it come around later, and if so, why?

Michael Yates Crowley: The list of products has always been in the script, and it's actually changed very little since the first draft. I think I changed the order a bit. I spent a few afternoons researching product names, from Evanston shops and websites. There's something magical about the sound of these products ("Crabtree & Evelyn Cade Juniper Bark Scrub" sounds like some kind of incantation). One thing that has changed is that I was originally going to perform the list, as the ghost of Betsey, but Anna Margaret was so great we decided she should do it. And, of course, it makes more dramatic sense for it to be Betsey's friend.

2. The sound design (by Asa Wember) of this moment is especially striking: at first, comic; then beautiful; with a tension underneath throughout. Can you describe the design of this moment and how you got there?

Michael Yates Crowley: The song is Ravi Shankar's "Vandanaa Trayee". There was a point during rehearsal when both Rau and I realized the moment needed something more, and we'd always been joking about how Sharon would put on some oriental-sounding music and incense. I wanted something with a sitar and chanting, so I found this and Asa worked it into the sound bed. The song is hilarious by itself, and combined with Anna Margaret's performance it was definitely one of the best moments in the show.

3. What was the process like of working on this monologue? How sincere did you intend it to be? Is it a eulogy at her actual funeral, or does it stand outside of any literal place or action?

Michael Rau: Building this part of the show went through many revisions; I spent a long time in rehearsal with Anna Margaret figuring out the tone of the list; how it built emotionally, and simply defining the given circumstances. We spent a long time struggling with interpreting
Crowley's stage direction--that the list should be solemn like a graduation; I think we took a fair amount of license with it---by our last performance at HERE, Anna Margaret was practically dancing. This moment went through a lot of trial and error. I made poor Anna Magaret repeat the list so many times, with different attempts at placing emotional builds, or changing the given circumstances. And even then once I was happy with that, I still felt that it needed something more, so Crowley and I sat around one night and went through our mp3 collections, and read the list aloud. Crowley played this song, and instantly I knew that was the right one. We gave it to Asa, who mixed it into the sound bed, and we worked to re-calibrate the list with the song, and played around with different timings, and where and when in the music to say some of the items.

Anna Margaret Hollyman: Originally, the list was read much like one would read off names at a graduation, or more accurately, names of victims after a mass tragedy. Crowley had specific ideas about the cadence and intonation, so that eventually, the words themselves have no meaning, and the audience finds themselves lost in a tangle of products. We definitely played with that for a while, at one point I actually had pieces of paper with each individual product listed, and I tossed each one out into "the universe", and they all ended up on the floor.
But eventually Rau gave me the direction to put individualized meaning behind each product on the list, and all of this hinged on sincerity. I think the list is Sharon's strongest attempt at being sincere. Rau always said that the more seriously Sharon takes things, the funnier, and sadder, ultimately. We always envisioned her in her backyard, lighting candles, maybe wearing a kimono, playing Ravi Shankar, and trying to make the experience as, "spiritual" as possible. All of these things on the list essentially sum up the life of Betsey, and it's only through listing these things (with sincere feeling) that Sharon can mourn the loss of her best friend.

(SHARON is holding the bundle of paper from Betsey’s funeral. She reads each scrap of paper, then lets it fall. Her manner is studiously solemn; items are read in the same tone of voice as names at graduation, or in a list of disaster victims: flat, even, slow.)
Whole Foods Organic Grapefruit Mint Triple Milled Soap
Northwestern’s homecoming game
Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
Kiehl’s Restorative Argan Skin Salve
No-cal lemon gelato from that place on the corner
Lululemon Vitalize Tank and Dharma Crop Pants
Starbucks Raspberry Scones
Apple iPod nano in pink
Cold Stone Creamery coffee ice cream with bananas mix-in
L’Occitane Cade Juniper Bark Scrub
Ocean Spray Craisins
Brunch at Le Peep on Sunday mornings
Aveda Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser
Body Shop Seaweed Ionic Clay Mask
Nigella Lawson Bliss Mezzaluna Board, Beech
Jamba Juice Razzmatazz Juice with Antioxidant Power Super Boost
Skinstinct Kukui Nut Volcanic Scrub
Body-Wick triple system tech sport bra in grapefruit by Victoria’s Secret
Philosophy airbrush canvas spf--silk-to-satin pigment foundation
Amazing grace--perfumed firming body emulsion--skin firming lotion
Crabtree and Evelyn Nantucket Briar Foaming Milk Bath
Aveda Enbrightenment Brightening Treatment Toner
Whole Foods Antioxidant Shea Butter
(End scene.)

Sincerity is one of the keys to comedy
The banal and sublime are not all that far apart
A rehearsal process should gradually layer meaning onto a moment

If you saw Evanston, A Rare Comedy, what other moments did you find effective?
If you didn't, was this post specific enough to be useful anyway?
Is there a show you've seen recently that has a moment worth exploding?
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Survey for LINC

Sunday, September 6, 2009 0 comments

(H/T Bill George)

Leveraging Investments In Creativity, a ten-year national initiative to improve the conditions for artists working in all disciplines, is holding a survey to see how the recession if affecting artists. I filled out the survey in a neat fifteen minutes, and they're asking good questions, so if you have a moment, please help them gather the most robust data possible by clicking here. Read the full story

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The Metabolism Of Theatre

Thursday, September 3, 2009 4 comments

One of the exciting things about engaging with the blogosphere is finding moments of common ground amidst separate discussions. Like the physicists of string theory before Witten's M-theory, we are all unknowingly using different languages to describe the same underlying thing. And like the different arms of M-theory, each language can unravel problems impossible in one of the others (truly one of the most amazing parts of the theory, which I will leave now before falling completely into amateur physicist nerdfog).

Such a case happened recently with two separate threads discussing the metabolism of theatre. How quickly should an artist produce work? How often should an audience come into contact with that work? Is there too much hastily conceived theatre, or too much expectation placed on over-developed work?

A post from 99seats featured this quote:

"If I read an interesting news story and I want to write a play about it, chances are it’s going to be, at best, two to three years before that play sees the light of day. In that time, there will be a Law & Order episode, a CSI episode, an SNL skit, a 30 Rock reference, a novel, a YouTube video and a feature film all about the same thing."
Which led Tim Bauer at Direct Address to second this idea. In the comments, Malachy enlarges it, writing:
"Another aspect is that when work is done often and quickly it changes the way audiences approach it.
Today, a play that has been “developed” over long period of time and then presented in a season that is only 5 plays long, has a lot of pressure on it to be more than it might be, artistically and financially.
The disappointment is sharper because it’ll be another 2 month before the audience goes to the next show when it’s reminded again of how ponderous theatre can be.
But let’s say, for argument that a show is loved. Even this can be detrimental since it’ll still be 2 months before someone sees the next show – rather than capitalizing quickly on the bump the show gives the theatre.
Overall, the current system with its long lead times discourages the idea that the theatre is a place to explore."

From the other side, The Collective Arts Think Tank posits that artists should produce less - that the financial obligation of presenting work before it's ready diminishes quality. Much of their excellent post (and many of the comments that follow) pushes for a slower metabolism for theatre:

"We advocate the opposite philosophy: do less with more. Meaning, make work that is fully realized, full-resourced, and created in an appropriate amount of time.
This also speaks to a problem of supply and demand. If there are hundreds of small theatre and ensembles in New York, and all of them are half-full, then we are overproducing, substituting quantity for quality. Doing less with more may also mean the venues produce fewer shows, artists produce fewer works, and audience remain hungrier longer. We think that's a good thing".
So who's right? My sense is that every artist, company, project and audience have their own unique metabolism, and a sweeping fix would do more harm than good.

For Flux, however, our way may lie in the best of both proposals: bringing our development process more frequently to our audience, while at the same time not rushing plays to full production. This would mean more Have Anothers and Food:Souls, while being more careful of programming plays before their development is complete. I'm especially interested in pairing this philosophy with something like Stolen Chair's developing CSA model (moving towards a model of audience engagement that mirrors Community Sustained Agriculture).

In this model, the monthly crop of work in development is brought to an audience, deepening their connection to the eventually fully realized production. Ideally, this relationship goes beyond a clever reframing and moves towards a substantive conversation that leads to a mutually empowered audience and artist (linking to Scott's last great post on this subject).

In this model, Malachy's goal of sharing the exploratory nature of theatre with an audience rubs elbows with CATT's goal of longer production timelines leading to improved quality. Both goals address a problem the other is ill-suited to solve; both make each other better.

Thoughts? What is your artistic metabolism? Please post in the comments below. And for a visual image of Flux's somewhat intense metabolism, I offer this hilarious picture from our retreat:

(Photo: Tiffany Clementi. Pictured: Heather Cohn, Christina Shipp, August Schulenburg, Jason Paradine.)

We can burn hundreds of calories just by focusing...

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The Lesser Seductions of History, Dates and Location

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 0 comments

The Lesser Seductions of History

November 6 - 22
Wednesdays - Sundays @ 7:30
Sundays @ 2pm
Opening: Saturday, Nov. 7

At the Cherry Pit, 155 Bank Street*

DIRECTOR: Heather Cohn
PLAYWRIGHT: August Schulenburg
STAGE MANAGER: Jodi Witherell
SET DESIGN: Will Lowry
LIGHT DESIGN: Lauren Parrish
DRAMATURG: Angela Astle

ONE - Candice Holdorf
MARIE - Tiffany Clementi
ISAAC - Jake Alexander
LIZZIE - Christina Shipp
ANISA - Ingrid Nordstrom
TEGAN - Kelly O'Donnell
LEE - Isaiah Tanenbaum
BARRY - Matthew Archambault
BOBBY - Jason Paradine
MARTHA - DeWanda Wise
GEORGE - Michael Davis

*This production is not affiliated with the Cherry Lane Theatre
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Out and About, September 09

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 2 comments

So much to see, and do!

How many Flux friendly playwrights can you fit into one event? How about ForePlay vets Andrea Thome, Mac Rogers, James Comtois, Jeff Lewonczyk, and Crystal Skillman; then throw in a Pretty Theft Adam Szymkowicz and stir in some Lesser Seductions me? That's just what you'll be getting at Shstrng Prodctns' upcoming One-Minute Play Festival at HERE Arts Center. We're all bringing some new shorties - mine is called Kisses And Other Natural Disasters.

Speaking of Mac, if you haven't already, please make time togo see Gideon's production of Mac Roger's Viral, which has now extended it's run as part of the Fringe Encore series. Isaiah and I saw this one together and were both blown away (as you may have already heard me say once or twenty-twice).

Speaking of Fringe extensions, I am super psyched that Piper McKenzie's Willy-Nilly has been extended, having missed it the first time round. It's a more unusual take at the madness of the late 60's that we'll be chronicling ourselves in November, so hurrah for extensions and I hope to see you there.

Director Pete Boisvert (who dazzled the Have Another crowd with his work on Opaline) has a new production going up called The Brokenhearteds, which is what I assume I'll be if I miss it.

Director Isaac Butler tackles the newest piece from The Management, MilkMilkLemonade. Read a good interview with playwright Josh Conkel at Adam's blog here.

What else is coming up that you would recommend? Did you see any of the shows from our last Out and About, and if so, what did you think? Post away... Read the full story

Flux's 4th Annual Retreat - Round up

(Photo: Candice Holdorf. Pictured: Cotton Wright, Jake Alexander)

It wasn't all fun and games - behind Jake and Cotton are walls covered in Core and Aesthetic Values, Organizational Flow Charts, Departmental Responsibilities, and more. But it was also fun, and games.

And in that spirit, Heather suggested an open thread for all who were there to weigh-in on their favorite parts (and make suggestions for future retreat improvements).

To jog your memory, the days looked like this:

Sunday, 8/23: Set-up
Monday, 8/24:
4 Member Sessions - Core Values, Aesthetic Values, Timeline, Circles of Flux
Tuesday, 8/25: 4 Member Sessions - Strategic Planning, Org Flow Chart, What Are We Not Talking About, Cool Ideas
Wednesday, 8/26: Plays - The Lesser Seductions of History (workshop) by August Schulenburg and Incendiary by Adam Szymkowicz (reading)
Thursday, 8/27: Plays - The Why Overhead (reading) by Adam Szymkowicz, Crimes (workshop) by Erin Browne, and Cloud Tectonics (reading) by Jose Rivera
Friday, 8/28: Plays - Moving Statues (workshop) by Corey Ann Haydu and Menders (workshop) by Erin Browne
Saturday, 8/29: Plays - Ajax in Iraq (reading) by Ellen McLaughlin, Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens (workshop) by Johnna Adams, and Troilus and Cressida (reading) by William Shakespeare
Sunday, 8/30: Break-down

That list, of course, does not feature the bonfires, documentaries, Family Feud, ball games, Battlestars, and brownies that made up the befores, afters, and in-betweens of a whirlwind week. ALL of that is fair game - what worked? What didn't? What will you remember most?

And THANK YOU to Bill, Bridget and Anisa for their amazing hospitality at Little Pond - any company looking for a retreat could not find a better place.

So get your posts ready - and game on!
(Photo: Candice Holdorf. Pictured: Michael Davis, Matthew Murumba)
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Plays Being Published

We're back from the Retreat, and ready to post all the details of our very busy week. But first, some good news from past productions:

The Angel Eaters Trilogy is being published!

How did I find this out? Through playwright Johnna Adams' blog, who at last at last has returned to the blogging world.

And Adam Szymkowicz's Pretty Theft is being published by Samuel French.

Congrats to Johnna and Adam - we worked on new plays from both of them at the Retreat - but more on that anon. Read the full story