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NYTR Interview - Jacob's House

Friday, April 30, 2010 0 comments

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: Jane Lincoln Taylor, Zack Calhoon, Matthew Archambault, Tiffany Clementi, Jessica Angleskhan)

I had a great interview with Jody Christopherson over at the New York Theater Review blog about Jacob's House. Jody is an ideal interviewer for this play, since she would fit right in with the vitalists of Jacob's family - most recently she both produced and starred in (with a nimble and heartfelt performance) Erin Browne's Trying, all the while rocking the NYTR blog.

Read the whole thing here to learn more about who Jacob is, and just exactly why working with Kelly O'Donnell is something everyone should do. And then...score some $11 tix to opening weekend w/the code MANIFEST - tonight's opening is sold out but we'd love to see you Saturday or Sunday night. Read the full story

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NY Press Interview - Jacob's House

Thursday, April 29, 2010 1 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Bianca LaVerne Jones, Jane Lincoln Taylor, Johnna Adams)
I was thrilled to be interviewed by Mark Peikert of New York Press about writing Jacob's House after the denial of the JB rights. Phone interviews are so tricky - you don't have the considered economy of email interviews, nor can you pick up on the social cues when your idea has been fully heard and you've begun rambling. But thanks to the magic of the editorial pen, the interview does a great job of expressing my excitement about the process.

Read the whole thing here.

After you read, why not grab some $11 discount tix for opening weekend? We've sold out opening night, but we'd love to see you Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday on this oh-so-pivotal opening weekend. Read the full story

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Jacob's House Photos From Tech

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 0 comments

Isaiah Tanenbaum has some lovely shots from tech rehearsal for your viewing pleasure...and to inspire you to get your tickets now for opening weekend!
(All photos by Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Jessica Angleskhan, Zack Calhoon, Jane Lincoln Taylor)
Tamar tries to seal the deal on the unusual provision in their father's will.
(Pictured: Kelli Dawn Holsopple, Anthony Wills J., Jane Lincoln Taylor)
Three times collide: Dinah (2010) watches as her Aunt Rachel (1860) tells the story of their Great Uncle Essau (1786) and how he lost his gun.
(Pictured: Matthew Archambault, Zack Calhoon, Tiffany Clementi, Jane Lincoln Taylor)
More overlapping times, as Leah (1880) tells her children Joe and Dinah (2010) about the terrible thing their father Jacob (1786) did.
Yup, these characters live longer lives than you or I will...
(Pictured: Jessica Angleskhan)
Tamar is willing to fight for what should have been hers in the first place.
(Pictured: Jane Lincoln Taylor, Johnna Adams, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Matthew Archambault)
Dinah watches as her Grandmother Rebecca manipulates Jacob to steal something important from the dying Isaac.
(Pictured: Matthew Archambault)
Did we mention yet that this is a violent play?
(Pictured: Jessica Angleskhan, Zack Calhoon)
Tamar and Joe buried their father today, but his ghost is restless.

(Pictured: Bianca LaVerne Jones, Matthew Archambault)
Rebecca always gets what she wants from her second son.

(Pictured: Zack Calhoon, Jane Lincoln Taylor)
Will Joe and Dinah's fragile alliance last the night?
For tickets, click here, and don't forget to take advantage of the $11 opening weekend discount tix with the code MANIFEST.

Read the full story

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Two Fun InterWeb Things

The above brilliance was created (with some help from Google) by Jacob's House actor Matthew Archambault. Some said it wouldn't be worth it, Flux buying a Super Bowl ad, but clearly the proof is in the pudding.

In other news, Michael Roderick of Broadway World included our production of Jacob's House as part of his most recent A Look At Indie Theater's Movers and Shakers. This is especially cool because this Look also features our homies at Impetuous Theater Group, and their current production of Crystal Skillman's The Vigil, or the Guided Cradle. We can't wait to see our second play about torture in as many weeks (after taking in One Year Lease's disturbing production of The Tender Mercies)!

Yes, this is that time when the Flux blog is at the Tender Mercies of production concerns...more photos from rehearsal will go up next. Don't forget to nab your $11 tickets for opening night with discount code MANIFEST!
Read the full story

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Whither Presale Tickets?

So, while Jacob's House tickets are selling reasonably well - we've nearly sold out opening night - we're behind ticket sales from our past two shows, having sold 15% less then Pretty Theft (85%) and 42% less then The Lesser Seductions of History at this distance from opening. That's a significant downturn when we'd expected at least a modest amount of growth.

The question is why? Other than the evergreen Vampire Cowboys, I've heard offhand from a few companies that ticket sales are slow, so perhaps this is a wider issue (and if you are producing, please let us know if that's true in the comments).

But it's more likely something we've done (or aren't doing), and we want to hear from you what's what.

Is it because you were expecting JB, and are miffed by the loss?
Is it because it's two shows penned by me in a row?
Is it because you've been deluged by ForePlay information, diluting the pitch to come see Jacob's House?

This last possibility seems likely, as The Lesser Seductions of History sold significantly more tickets by this time than either Pretty Theft or Jacob's House, and unlike those two shows, had no exploratory ForePlay reading series leading up to it.

We'd always thought that the ForePlay series, besides being an exciting event in itself, was also a great way to build excitement for our full productions, but maybe, Freakonomics style, it's quite the opposite. If this hypothesis were true, it would be a significant challenge to this part of our programming.

So please let us know what's what in the comments below. A strong opening weekend is a the absolute key to a successful run - it's why we're offering the $11 tickets with the MANIFEST discount code - and we want to know what's not working.

And for less practical and more artistic inspiration, I offer again this Sonnet for a Short Run:

So you say you're going to see our show-
Thanks! We know the demands on your attention
Are great - TV, films, books, not to mention
Social media - still, you've said you'll go.

But when? Now the matter grows uncertain;
Not this week but for sure the next, until
Next pours itself into your cup and spills
Over, and you rush to miss that last curtain.

Then, ah! the sorrows and regrets! The vows
Of next time; though we know missed plays, like failed leaps,
Like lost love and other games played for keeps
Get no nexts; but get gone by the last bows.

Tomorrow starts before we're ready for today;
But make time for us and we'll stop time with our play.

So...see you at the theatre? Read the full story

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Jacob's House Rehearsal Pics

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2 comments

Just a few fun pictures from our Jacob's House rehearsals - don't forget to take advantage of the $11 tickets for opening weekend with the discount code MANIFEST! (All photos by Isaiah Tanenbaum except where noted).

Dinah (Jane Lincoln Taylor) faces off against Tamar (Jessica Angleskhan) as Joe (Zack Calhoon) tries to play peace maker.
Scheck (Anthony Wills Jr.) watches as Young Dinah (Bianca LaVerne Jones) admires the black diamond he found.
Jacob (Matthew Archambault) and Rachel (Kelli Dawn Holsopple) drunkenly tease Leah (Tiffany Clementi).
(Photo by Anthony Wills Jr) The Messenger (Isaiah Tanenbaum) has come to collect from Jacob (Matthew Archambault).
So get your tickets now - or face the racketful wrath of Tamar (Jessica Angleskhan)! Read the full story

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Exploding Moments: Craven Monkey and the Mountain of Fury

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 0 comments

(Photo: Ben Vandenboom)

Remember plays? How they're playful? How they're about people playing? I may have forgotten that a little amidst all the work of plays, only to be happily reminded by Piper McKenzie's
Craven Monkey and the Mountain of Fury. The sheer joyful invention of this dance/fight/play had me foolishly grinning from start to finish.

And so
Craven Monkey is the perfect way to restart our series, Exploding Moments. For those who may have (justifiably) forgotten, this series examines excellence in production through the prism of a single moment.

This time round, we're looking at Monkey's (Adrian Jevicki) battle against the Air Spirit(Becky Byers). We'll also hear from playwright/director Jeff Lewonczyk, co-fight director Adam Swiderski, and actors/arial aids Fred Backus and Mateo Moreno.

The Plot You Need To Know:
Monkey has lived a peaceful life of mating with his fellows when a bad back forces him to invent the missionary position. Exiled by his tribe for his sexual innovation, he wanders lost until meeting an enigmatic sensei who teaches Monkey some moves. Those moves may or may not protect him against a series of enemies set against him by the equally enigmatic Vital Spirit. After defeating the Earth and Fire Spirit, he faces off against the aerial aggression of the Air Spirit.

The Exploding Moment
: With the help of two other actors, the Air Spirit literally soars across the depth of the stage to pounce on Monkey's back. It was an exhilarating, hilarious, and beautiful moment that was the exact right escalation of the action. So how did it happen? Let's hear from the artists! (The interviews were conducted via email, and have been edited).

1. Jeff, you mentioned after the show that the structure of the play mirrored that of a video game. What do you mean by that, and how did it affect your work on this particular fight?

Jeff: From the beginning, as soon as we thought about doing a show for Fight Fest, I had video games in mind - probably because Nintendo is the closest I've ever come to actual physical violence. Still, one thing that I've always loved about video games, even more than the action, is the narrative hierarchy - the way they unfold with increasing difficulty and complexity from level to level. (I've always loved this in the aesthetic sense - as a player it often pisses me the hell off.) I knew I wanted to mimic that in the show by making each enemy the monkey faces more dangerous and unexpected than the last.

I also knew early on that someone needed to be in the air at some point - because why the hell not? - and that it was probably going to be Becky, with her dancer's training, her petite frame, and the fact that I really didn't care one way or another if she landed on her head and cracked her skull open. (Hope and I actually cast the show with people we wanted to work with and THEN figured out the details of the narrative - rather than the other way around)...

The music helped to shape the feel of the scene, needless to say. Even before we started rehearsals we had the entire show "scored" with preexisting tracks we wanted to use. The general musical theme Hope and I had in mind was indie rock instrumentals - we wanted things that were actual pop songs, with beginnings, middles and ends, that would be a couple of minutes long and fun to move around to. The piece we used for this number - "The End of You Too" by Metoronomy - was like manna from heaven - it had more of an 80s-arcade feel than the most of the other pieces in the show, but it was just so infectious and exciting - it made perfect sense to use as part of a fast-moving, gravity-challenged fight.

2.Talk about the soaring moment - what was the process in rehearsal of incarnating Air Spirit, and when did the lift with the Matt and Fred come into play?

Adam: Trial and error. :) Jeff knew he wanted the Air Spirit to fly, and to make that a big part of the fight. So, it just became a matter of figuring out exactly how that was going to work in practice. We pretty much figured right from the beginning that it would require the work of multiple actors to make the effect happen, despite my insistence that a complex and expensive bungie system would be fine. From that point, it was a matter of deducing what the effect would be. At first, we toyed with having the supporting actors keep the Air Spirit aloft, hovering, for extended periods of time, but that proved ineffective and too difficult to allow for the actors to do the requisite storytelling. What was settled on was this sort of bounding action that, much to our delight, ended up being more energetic and compelling than the alternative...

Mateo: ...the fight was choreographed up to the point where Becky would take off and fly. Knowing that we needed to really deliver the wow factor Jeff wanted, and to deliver something that was just as fantastic as the rest of the fight choreography, all who was involved (Becky, Adrian, Fred, & myself) came in early to one rehearsal. And it was one of those magical theatre moments where four minds literally completed each others sentences and thoughts and we figured out the entire fight sequence right there in a little over an hour. Jeff & the rest of the cast then came in, we showed him our full idea, and he loved it. After that, we showed Adam and Qui and they too approved. It's absolutely one of my proudest theatre accomplishments to date...

Adrian: Becky's an amazing dancer and actor and the best part about this scene, for me, was that we got to dance together. Adam came in and gave us fight choreography. Then he left and we just danced it. More so than the other fights, we were given the leeway to play with the song musically. In all the fights, Jeff wanted the structure of the song to inform the structure of the fight, but in this one he let us give in to the music and let it inform our movement. Also I think Becky and I were both just dying to dance a little. We ran with that feeling and found a really exciting rhythm and energy.

Becky: Aw, thanks, Adrian! I couldn’t agree more about the desire to just let loose and dance. I was so excited to have another fellow dancer to play with!

...Ultimately, as Mateo has mentioned, the majority of the piece ended up being born out of one rehearsal. We came in early and it was like a muse was speaking to us. We all started riffing off of each other’s ideas and in one night, boom! There was the entire piece, completed. I remember leaving that rehearsal feeling ecstatic.

3. One of the things I loved best about the fights was how well acted they were. How did you find all that detailed nuance among such furious fighting?

Adrian: Practice.

Becky: Yes, practice! Once you no longer have to think about the steps, then it’s no longer mathematical in nature, so you can stop thinking about it and just have fun. I got to giggle and bounce around on stage, so I really *was* having a great time kicking Adrian’s ass….well, until the end. I still disagree with the ending. Sorry, Adrian. ;)

Fred: To me it's not all that different from regular theatre (i.e. theatre that talks) - where you have a character and you've figured out how he or she talks and now you have to say these specific lines as that character. With this, you have a character who you've crafted to move a certain way, and now you have to execute those moves as that character...

Mateo: ...the fights were so elaborate, the costumes were so elaborate, that if the acting wasn't nuanced, the fights would look not only sloppy, but not nearly as exciting or compelling. We as a group didn't ever want a fight to look completely comical or silly. Sure, there are comic elements to each fight, but they should first and foremost be thrilling, both to the actors on stage and to the audience. And in a real fight, no matter how crazy it gets, your only focus if you're intending to win is your opponent, and you're not playing to anyone else, which means you're not being broad. You're actually quite subtle. So you have to think of it like that.

Adam: The credit for this goes to the actors, so their answers probably bear more weight than mine, but I'll just chime in and say that, as a fight choreographer, it is really important to plot your fights with telling a story, and allowing the actors to tell a story, as the central conceit. You can have the most athletically impressive fight in the world, but if it doesn't allow room for character and storytelling, then it's going to end up lacking.

4. The Air Spirit's death is more brutal than the demise of the other three Spirits. How did that choice happen?

Adam: I'm not sure I share that sentiment - I think each spirit goes down in its own particularly visceral fashion. That said, as New Yorkers, I think we've all had a run-in with that bug that JUST...WON'T...DIE no matter how many times you smack it with your shoe.

Adrian: I thought they were all brutal. Maybe the size differential made it seem more brutal. Or Becky's cuteness. Who wants to see Becky get killed in that cute little green bug spandex number? I had to access some dark places in order to execute that kill.

Mateo: Becky pissed Jeff off one too many times in rehearsals.

Becky: Jeff hates gingers.

Seriously though, I think the main reason why it seems like the bug got it worst was because there is a great story arc to the fight. It isn’t the minion who starts the fight in this one, it is the monkey. It’s the hero who tries to squash the bug without being provoked, which may add a layer of “vulnerability” to the character.

He did stomp on my head with relish, didn’t he? Bad monkey…

I still get teased for that little green outfit, by the way….

Fred: Hey, I got my neck snapped! I'm just not as cute.

5. Was doing this play as much fun as it looked?

Adrian: Depends on which body part you ask.

Adam: From a fight choreography perspective, it was a great and fascinating challenge. Qui and I were fortunate in that Jeff had a clear vision for the character he wanted to impart to each fight, and in having such a talented and game cast of actor/fighters to work with. From there, it was like opening the toybox, rummaging around in various styles - capoeira, gorilla-style kung fu, praying mantis kung fu, snake-style kung fu, and plain, old, brutal brawling - and throwing them into a melting pot to create something that had a unique voice in terms of physical violence. What's not to like about that?

Becky: God, yes! I love this show with its creativity and athleticism and absurdity! It's the kind of show that can appeal to a lot of different people. I feel so honored and privileged to have been a part of this project and to work with such wonderful people. Even Jeff. :)

Fred: Yes.

Even more so. If we, and I'm absolutely speaking for everyone else by saying this, could do a weekly run of this show, it would be absolutely thrilling. Not only is the show enormously fun, but it's compelling on every level as an actor. I haven't been as proud of anything theatrically than I have with "Craven" in a very long time.

Read the full story

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Divine Reckonings Artists Reveal #10:
Bill George

Monday, April 19, 2010 0 comments

What is Jacob's House?
What is ForePlay:Divine Reckonings?

Bill George
Playwright, ForePlay

Previous Flux Experience: I have no history with these guys other than the fact I've known a handful for a decade and a half, have been a teacher to a few and I am inspired by their passion, beauty, artistic purity, and sheer vulnerable humanity. (Ed. note: Bill has also hosted all four of Flux's retreats at the Little Pond Arts Retreat, for which all of us are deeply grateful)

Do you have a favorite Bible character?

Are you blessed?

If you were wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?

What would you do for more life?

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?
The light.

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?
Studied the Psalms, for one thing...through the ages and through it's manifestation in music.

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?
The Inexpressible, ultimately unknowable kind.

Anything else coming up for you that Flux readers should know about?
Gotta get this thing written!

Bill George: Bill studied with Paul Baker at the Dallas Theatre Centre, Paul Curtis in New York, founded People's Theatre Co. and later Touchstone Theatre in 1981. In 1996 he created Little Pond Arts Retreat in Nazareth, Pennsylvania with his wife Bridget--dedicated to exploring the art of transcendence.
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Divine Reckonings Artist Reveal #9:
Lynn Kenny

Sunday, April 18, 2010 0 comments

Lynn Kenny
Actor, ForePlay

Previous Flux Experience: Flux Sundays, Ballerina/Psychiatrist in Pretty Theft, and Popular Former Starbucks Barista on Steinway.

Do you have a favorite Bible Character?
Probably Esther because she was so unlikely to be who she was and then she was the bitch.

Are you blessed?

Thankfully, yes.

If you were wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?

I'd try to play dead and then get up and run really fast when he got hungry and went for a burger or something.

What would you do for more life?

I have no idea...I'm a really good cook-

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?

Vinyl records of Bill Cosby stand-up

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?

Flannel Boards, bad VHS videos of Adam and Eve and frustration because I couldn't pronounce any of the names or places.

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?

God and Jesus Christ.

Lynn Kenny (MFA Acting) has been seen in "Pretty Theft" with Flux, "Maddy" with Redd Tale and as a character actor at Ripley's Believe it or Not. Like most actors, she's done a few independent films, commercials, voice-overs, and the like. Lynn loves comedy improv and chocolate.

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Playwrights on Playwrights; or, Bring the Bloomsbury

David Cote's recently raised the excellent question of why playwrights don't review playwrights in a post for the Guardian. Then my colleague Rob Weinert-Kendt expanded the conversation over on the TCG blog, and J. Holtham added some quality cents at 99 Seats.

At around the same time, I was finishing a biography on my constant obsession Virginia Woolf, and was thinking of the Bloomsbury Group in relation to this question of artists reviewing artists. All of the pitfalls out lined in the three posts above were a huge part of the Bloomsbury group - their reviews of each others work, both public and private, were a source of pain and long simmering grudges for all involved.

They also were an essential part of each others processes, and a source of delight and mutual passion. Their connections went beyond reviewing each other, from informally sharing new work over tea to publishing each others work to writing their posthumous biographies (and of course, drinking and sleeping together). And I thought to myself, "Oh, so like Flux Sundays".

And so we are picking up the gauntlet thrown down by the posts above. Flux will be hosting a series of playwrights reviewing each others work, with some twists. Here's how it will work:

  • A playwright to review will be selected.
  • 3-6 playwrights, and or/other theatre artists, will read at least 5 plays from the selected playwright.
  • The readers will then review the playwright's body of work, contextualizing each play within the whole, looking at what makes that playwright's work unique.
  • While constructive criticism is welcome, we're interested in readers identifying what the playwright is doing and describing how, rather than telling the playwright what they should be doing.
  • These curated critical essays of the playwright's work will be posted on the blog, but we will also actively encourage and link to other readers' participation, i.e., all are welcome.

Over time, we hope to build a forum of critical thought that will illuminate the body of work of participating playwrights; to not only know each other better, but help each other become better; and to invite all readers to a deeper, more sustained relationship with the plays.

Who's up first? We're beginning with two playwrights beloved by the Flux community: Johnna Adams and Adam Szymkowicz.

I can't think of two better playwrights to begin with: Johnna, with her dizzyingly wide aesthetic range (From Rattlers to Lickspittles); and Adam, who has himself given back so much to the playwriting community with his series of interviews.

Want in? Here's how it works: if you'd like to be one of our critical essayists, please write me at gus@fluxtheatre.org, and give me a sense of why you'd be good fit. Let me know if you'd like to read Johnna's work, Adam's, or both. We're looking especially for playwrights to participate, but all are welcome. I'll then send you the plays to read.

And if you're a playwright who'd like to have your work reviewed in this way, please let me know. We'll be focusing first on playwrights already connected to the Flux community, but will hopefully expand as time goes on, perhaps linking it to the Homing Project (yes, that is not forgotten!)

So...are you in? Are you ready to bring the Bloomsbury? Read the full story

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Jacob's House Artists Reveal #3:
Kia Rogers

Saturday, April 17, 2010 1 comments

What is Jacob's House?
What is ForePlay: Divine Reckonings?

Kia Rogers
Lighting Design, Jacob's House

Previous Flux Experience: First timer!

Do you have a favorite Bible character?
I would have to say Jesus because he was a great teacher.

Are you blessed?
Yes, I am blessed. I know what I want out of this life, I see my path before me and there is a sense of peace in that. How I stay on that path, well that’s the challenge…

If you were wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?
I don’t know any wrestling moves, but I think I would just hold on tight…wait, if I’m wrestling an angel does that mean it’s the end of the world…that changes everything!

What would you do for more life?
Frankly, I wouldn’t…

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?
My dad has a plaster face of George C. Scott that was taken to make a mold for scars for the movie “Firestarter” that was filmed in my hometown.

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?
Ummm, none.

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?
I don’t believe in one supreme being…too many religions, they can’t all be wrong except for one…I believe in dark matter.

Anything else coming up for you that Flux readers should know about?
I’m training to run a half marathon! It goes along with my philosophy of life, when you want something just get out there and do it…running is the easiest thing to do, just put one foot in front of the other.

Kia RogersLighting Designer – Her designs have been seen at The SoHo Playhouse, Manhattan Theatre Source, Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre, The Bleecker Street Theatre, and Dixon Place. Regionally Kia has been a returning guest artist at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her website is: kiarogerslightingdesign.com.

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ForePlay: Divine Reckonings - Part Three

Thursday, April 15, 2010 0 comments

Thanks for everyone who made part two such fun! Our ForePlay series Divine Reckonings continues this Monday the 19th at the Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford St in Brooklyn, at 7:30PM. Will you be there? (And have you nabbed your $11 discount tix for opening weekend of Jacob's House with the code MANIFEST?)

Please note, Zack Robidas has stepped in as a pinch hitting playwright for Leila Buck, who had to drop out. Zack acted in the 1st round (and in Pretty Theft and 8 Little Antichrists), so we're psyched he's writing for us!

Divine Reckonings, Part 3
Monday, April 19th @ 7:30PM
Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford St, Brooklyn
I and Thou
Plays by Christine Evans, Michael John Garcés, Bill George, and Zack Robidas
Directed by Heather Cohn
Featuring David Crommett, Michael Davis, Tatiana Gomberg, Candice Holdorf, Lori Parquet, and Randolph Curtis Rand
I and Thou will focus on the stories of Isaac and Moses.
$5 Suggested Donation
Email heather@fluxtheatre.org for reservations

It's easy to get there!
The C train to Lafayette Avenue is just down the block (exit at South Oxford Street, church is halfway up the block on your right). Or take B, D, M, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4, or 5 train to Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street, walk north on Hanson place to South Oxford, turn left and the church will be on your right.

If you've never been to Irondale, check this space out!

Learn more about the whole ForePlay series here
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Waking To Dream

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 0 comments

"Here is a definition of the word beauty I like: the quality present in a thing that gives intense pleasure and deep satisfaction to the mind through the manifestation of a meaningful pattern or design."
- Her, Other Bodies

Why do we need to dream? In Jonah Lehrer's beautiful essay of the same name, dreams are much more than "neural babble, but are instead layered with significance and substance." The essay speculates that dreams serve three essential functions:
  • Strengthening important memories by replaying them and linking them to similar past experiences
  • Consolidating memories by deciding what events from the day to forget
  • Juxtaposing new memories with seemingly unlike older memories to see if unexpected patterns and connections emerge (hence, bizarro dreams)
This last potential function is inherently connected to creativity. Our capacity as artists to see unexpected patterns and connect unlike things through juxtaposition is at the heart of the creative process. The essay shares several studies that link sleep to enhanced creativity.

And as Jonah Lehrer will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming TCG 2010 National Conference (disclosure: my employer), I wondered if we could travel a little further down this hypothetical road and imagine how theatre connects to dreaming and memory.

It begins with the evolutionary hypothesis that pattern recognition is essential to survival. Our capacity to notice unexpected patterns allowed us to better predict future outcomes. Over time, that capacity to understand patterns became so deeply ingrained in our consciousness (perhaps even giving rise to consciousness) that this capacity became pleasurable. It became what we call beauty.

Our capacity for beauty, for pleasure in the manifestation of a meaningful pattern or design, is linked directly to our capacity to survive. With apologies to Oscar Wilde, all art may be useless, but our hunger and capacity for it is essential.

Back to Jonah Lehrer and dreaming. One thing may have stuck in your mind while reading the above - if dreaming is so important, why do we have to be unconscious while it happens? Lehrer speculates that the conscious mind cannot relinquish enough control to discover unexpected patterns and let go of useless memories.

So evolution told our consciousness to take a nap. The wild and bizarre juxtapositions of dreams are necessary for pattern recognition and memory maintenance; our consciousness would hold on to the wrong things (if it was willing to relinquish any memories at all) and see only predictable patterns.

It's a strange thing: evolution would rather have us sleeping and completely defenseless than have our conscious minds solely responsible for the patterns of our memory. Sleep is like a stern parent, sending the conscious mind to bed so the difficult work and hard choices of assembling the self can begin.

Is it any wonder then we choose to sit in the dark and watch the pattern of a play unfold before us? It is a waking dream, where the artist assumes the role of our unconscious, but allows us to stay up late, juxtaposing unexpected connections and revealing unseen patterns, expanding our capacity to predict what may happen, helping us to remember the right things, and let go of the rest.

"...in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream
remember so (forgetting seem)..."
-e.e. cummings
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Divine Reckonings Artists Reveal #8:
Crystal Skillman

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 0 comments

What is Jacob's House?
What is ForePlay: Divine Reckonings?

Crystal Skillman
Playwright, ForePlay

Previous Flux Experience:

I wrote the short play Geek, set at the San Diego Comic Con, for last year’s Poetic Larceny Series and I’m happy to announce it will be published in Poems & Plays 2010 this Spring! This fall I got to workshop The Sleeping World, my full length about four playwrights who come together to read their dead friend’s unfinished last play, at Flux Sundays. A scene from the play was featured this year in the awesome Have Another at Jimmy’s No. 43 this past January.

Do you have a favorite Bible character?

I gotta say the Devil always steals the show. Literally – have you seen Damn Yankees?

Are you blessed?

Not sure about that, but I have a pretty great gut instinct about things. Maybe that’s a blessing?

If you were wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?

I’d totally ninja kick the shit out of that angel until he/she was like “I respect you”. Hugs. Then drinking buddies for life!

What would you do for more life?

Go back in time. That’s the best way to do it. All I have to do is find Superman (the MOVIE Superman) and be like, “Look man – that thing when you turned the globe around that pissed off all the comic book fans cuz it was way too much power? Do that for me please!” Thanks Sup!

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?

No attic, but a kick-booty basement which was full of: my dad’s racing trophies, huge electronic speed-way racing set with glow-in-the dark cars and railings, and my name was written on the back wall in huge red letters from a bday party when I was like 5. There also was a place for our motorcycle helmets with our pet names, from when I was a kid. You can’t make this stuff up. My mom’s pet name is Pickle, mine was Peanut (?!) and my dad’s was less imaginative - just: Russ. Later in high school when I refused to go to any proms, we had alternative goth-like parties there. But peppy ones. We were happy Goths.

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?

Really I just know the Adam and Eve story well (from the musical The Apple Tree … where again the Devil steals the show – have you heard that song “Forbidden Fruit” the snake sings? Those Sheldon Harnick lyrics! Genius!)

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?

I believe in the power of comics so: Spiderman. (Sorry Sup L - love you!)

Anything else coming up for you that Flux readers should know about?

I guess I am blessed cuz The Vigil or the Guided Cradle, my play about torture between now and then, is being produced April 22nd – May 8th by Impetuous Theater Group in a rockin’ co-production w/ and at The Brick Theater. It’s directed by John Hurley (who directed my play Hack for the Vampire Cowboys Saloon, as well as Johnna Adams’ Lickspittles reading for Flux)! Hope you will come check it out! Tix/More info here: http://www.impetuoustheater.org/Home.html

And if you come the first weekend, I’ll totally put in a good word with Spiderman!

Bio: In addition to the above, Crystal Skillman is the author of the plays Birthday, Nobody, and The Telling Trilogy (Rising Phoenix Rep, Dir. Daniel Talbott). She’s been commissioned by Vampire Cowboys to write a new full length that will be produced by the company in an upcoming season.


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The All Time Great Heavyweight Champion Of The World

"If God starts paying some attention to you, run. And if you can’t run, hide. But if you can’t run or hide, fight. Now God keeps paying attention to you, Jacob, and you just keep running and hiding, why is that?"
-Messenger, Jacob's House

Of course, the exact number is uncertain. But when you add up all the Midianites and Benjamites, the number is well into the millions. And whether you are a person of the book or a fascinated unbeliever, it is quite a reckoning.

And whether you trust in the rightness of God's clear will, or see him inscrutable through a glass darkly, it is clear that standing against Him might not be the wisest move. And yet, Jacob meets a man in the road, and whether he is an angel or the incarnation itself, when he is done wrestling, he is renamed God-Clutcher.

"Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear the scar, I now know that thy right worship is defiance"
-Ahab, Moby Dick

If Jacob wrestles the blessing from the Angel, does that make His right worship defiance?

What kind of blessing would such a God give? How would it change you?

And what would it be like to clutch on to Him and not let go?

"Like the taste of a thousand wings flying, the touch of a thousand voices singing, the sound of a thousand eyes opening, the smell of a thousand hearts beating, the sight of Dad wrenched into the torn sky, like a moth against the light, he was this little darkness beating against the light,
and I knew that he was going to die..."

-Dinah, Jacob's House

These are some of the questions we're wrestling with in Jacob's House. So...Come and see Jacob match up against The All Time Great Heavyweight Champion Of The World!
We still have some $11 discount tickets for opening weekend here with the code MANIFEST.

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”
-Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
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Divine Reckonings Artists Reveal #7:
Erin Browne

Monday, April 12, 2010 1 comments

What is Jacob's House?
What is ForePlay: Divine Reckonings?
Erin Browne
Playwright, ForePlay
Previous Flux Experience:
Erin's play Narrator 1 was a Food:Soul, a scene from the play was read in Have Another, and she has participated in several ForePlays (The Imagination Compact, Poetic Larceny). Plays Narrator 1, Trying, Projects, Return, and others have been developed with the help of Flux Sundays and the Flux Retreat.

Do you have a favorite Bible character?
Mmmmm, there are so many! That's the exciting part, there is a seemingly endless number of interesting people who are mentioned briefly but have these whole immense stories.

Are you blessed?
Sooooo blessed.

If you were wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?
Would playing dead work on an angel? I think that would be my only chance - to fake an injury or some kind of trickery. Have a feeling angels can probably see through that though.

What would you do for more life?
Cut down on fried foods. That's what I'm doing now and trust me that's a huge sacrifice for me.

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?
My parents don't really have attics. My dad has a collection of broken cameras from the 40s - 70s in his basement. My mom who lives in the desert had a wooden sled and toboggan rotting in her garage until recently. Mementos of past lives.

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?
As the intro to the Jesus book.

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?
I don't. I wish I did. I am jealous of people who live with faith, and it's a positive influence in their life.

Anything else coming up for you the Flux readers should know about?
My play Trying is coming up April 15-18th. I'm super excited about it. Come check it out if you can (learn more on Facebook and buy tickets here).

Erin Browne's play Trying was awarded the BBC Worldservice International Radio Play Award and A Meth Play was awarded the International Playscript Award through NSDF. Trying will be produced at the Bushwick Starr in April. Read the full story

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What Force Facebook?

Our Facebook invite for Jacob's House was created this weekend - should you care to kindly signal your attendance there, do so by clicking here.

But as with our post last week on the ROI of postcards, I'm interested in looking at the costs and benefits of each aspect of our marketing/audience engagement.

While a Facebook invite doesn't cost anything other than the time to make and send it, it can suffer from and contribute to Facebook Fatigue. Additionally, the categories of Attending, Maybe Attending, Not Attending, and Awaiting Reply might be better described as In The Show/Maybe Attending, Probably Not Attending But Feel Guilty About It, I Live In Australia So Why Did I Get This Invite, and I Delete Every Email From You Oh Inbox Marauding Bastard; in that translated order.

What role do Facebook invites play in your decision making process? For me, I most often use them as signaling Yes on a show I've already decided to see. Additionally, I search for the Facebook invite when I'm looking to find info on the show quickly. Finally, when I see friends of mine going to see a show in my News Feed, it serves as a non-invasive reminder.

This is where I expect a Facebook invite does the most good - not as a first persuader, but as non-invasive reminder. To that end, for The Lesser Seductions of History, we asked silly questions about the 60's with a link to the invite. It was a way of engaging online in a fun, creative way that was connected to our full production, without that sweaty palmed desperation that sometimes accompanies reposted invites.

Did it make a difference in sales? That's hard to track. But the answers people came up with to those questions were a lot of fun, which may be reason enough to continue the practice with Jacob's House.

WNEP Founding Director Don Hall strikes at the heart of these questions with an informal poll he conducted in Chicago in his recent post, Vox Populi 1. The summary: Your Marketing Doesn't Matter. None of the random folks he interviewed at the gym and on the street listed Facebook or postcards as a reason they decided to see a play.

And on the other hand (or on a different finger of the same hand), Flux's Fanpage has 1,212 peeps. Jacob's House has 15 performances in a 62 seat house. At 930 total seats for the run, Flux already knows enough people to sell every single seat and them some. So the questions isn't just how do we reach those folks in Don Hall's poll who don't see theatre and don't care about postcards; the question is how do we convince those who do see theatre and care about Flux to take that next step, carve out a night of their (your) busy schedule, and see our show.

I saw Glee Club because I was long overdue to see a play of Matt Freeman's (and because I love the work of Matthew Trumbull and Steve Burns); I'll be seeing Erin Browne's Trying because Flux developed it (and I know how good it is); I'll be seeing The Tender Mercies because the director (Jessi Hill), one of the actors (Gregory Waller), and the set designer (James Hunting) are artists I've worked with and admired; I'm hoping to see The Aliens by Annie Baker because Circle Mirror Transformation was so good. Facebook didn't make any of that happen...but I did click "Attending" on 3 of those 4 Events...

What do you think? Is it Facebook fatigue or helpful reminder? Read the full story

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The Postcard Is Dead! Long Live The Postcard!

Friday, April 9, 2010 6 comments

(Postcard: Isaiah Tanenbaum)

The postcard for Jacob's House is out, and it's a beauty. Designed by resident graphic wizard Isaiah Tanenbaum, with brainstorming led by the Core Members, I'm very happy with how this slightly-more-rushed-than-usual postcard turned out.

Why? Because Isaiah's design:
  • Tweaks one of the greatest representations of man touching the divine
  • Is both playful and transgressive, like the play itself
  • Incarnates the play's exploration of Manifest Destiny through the American flag backdrop
  • Has a strong visual energy, with the text and imagery moving on crossing diagonals
But now the bigger question: should we even continue to make postcards?

Some time ago on the #2AMT Twitter conversation (if you're on Twitter and not following, you're missing the action), the ROI of postcards has come into questions. With so much happening online, are they necessary? How many tickets are actually sold through postcards? Or are they simply a tangible reminder of an ephemeral medium that we hold onto more from nostalgia than practicality? And that's not even factoring in environmental concerns. it's hard to look at that sad pile of unused postcards when the show is done.

This has been an ongoing debate within Flux for some time now, and we have resolved that debate temporarily by pushing ourselves to make postcards that matter, postcards that not only serve as a marketing tool, but as a means of talking about the play and clarifying our aesthetic approach.

The Pretty Theft postcard process led us to a series of polaroid style postcards (collect them all), and The Lesser Seductions of History postcard superimposed the characters over the haunting Zapruder film in a bookmark (bookmarks being useful even if you never see the show). In both cases, the debates over marketing imagery translated directly into aesthetic choices in the shows. I learned almost as much about rewriting Lesser Seductions from the marketing meetings as I did from the workshops.

But, you ask, couldn't that have happened through the conversation surrounding an online image or video? Yup, it sure could. So the question returns - are postcards worth the investment? if so, what tactics are you using to make them count? If not, what takes their place?

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Divine Reckonings Artists Reveal #6:
Catherine Porter

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 0 comments

What is Jacob's House?
What is ForePlay: Divine Reckonings?

Catherine Porter
Actor, ForePlay

Previous Flux Experience: Angel Eaters, Food:Soul of Volleygirls, and 1 Flux Sunday (we hope more soon!)

Do you have a favorite Bible character?
Simon Peter

Are you blessed?
In some ways, very much so (wonderful husband, living my dream, that kind of thing). I'm not super-lucky, though.

If you wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?
I'd pour crude oil on its wings (always seems to harm birds...)

What would you do for more life?
Lie, cheat, steal, perform sexual acts - depending on the specific conditions, of course.

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?
Hey, I'm from Missouri and Texas - we don't really have a lot of attics there. Mostly boring, ranch style homes...

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?
I'm against it. Well, okay, that's a bit strident. Another try: I was in a production of Ruth Margraff's Gat Him to His Place which is based on a really strange Old Testament story. In it, I got to sing, have an orgasm on horse back, and then be brutally attacked and killed. One of those standard O.T. happy endings...

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?
Kind of the progressive-socialist view of Jesus.

Anything else for you coming up that Flux readers should know about?
I'm in Richard Sheinmel's Post Modern Living at La Mama, running 4/16-5/2. Also, a Peculiar Works show in June, soon to be announced. (www.peculiarworks.org)

CATHERINE PORTER has appeared Off and Off-Off Broadway with such companies as En Garde Arts, Manhattan Punch Line, Flux Theatre Ensemble, Aisling Arts, Theatre Askew, MadShag Productions and TOSOS. She is Co-Artistic Director of the OBIE Award-winning Peculiar Works Project, with whom she has served as performer, producer, writer and director for 16+ years. Read the full story

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Flux Sunday, March 7th

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 0 comments

(What is Flux Sunday?)

So close to catching up with the Flux Sunday report! Due to the J.B. rights issue scramble, we had to cancel Flux Sunday on the 21st and 28th because I was writing (and then rewriting) Jacob's House.

But we returned with a bit of a good bang on the March 7th!

Playwrights: Rob Ackerman (Throwing Gumballs), Johnna Adams (The Anguisher), Katherine Burger (The Guest), Fengar Gael (The Gallerist), August Schulenburg (Denny and Lila)

Directors: N/A (all table reads)

Actors: David Crommett, Brian Pracht, Ryan Andes, Ingrid Nordstrom, Ken Glickfeld, Carissa Cordes, Matt Archambault, Kari Riely, Anthony Wills Jr., Jennifer Stuckert, Alisha Spielmann, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Jane Taylor, Kelly O'Donnell

Highlights included:
- Brian entering into the "Who Can Play Rob" arena with a great read in Throwing Gumballs
- A scene of compassion from Johnna's The Anguisher, with moving performances from Jane and Ken. The diner waitress doing her best to be a good Christian to the enigmatic and horribly scarred drifter is a very promising start to this play...
- Johnna then put on her acting cap for a virtuoso turn as Jabber, the conniving and linguistically gifted con artist side kick of Denny and Lila. I know whose voice I'll be hearing as I continue writing this play!
- But the major highlight of the day was Katherine Burger's The Guest. Because we were reading instead of staging, we were able to tackle the entire second act of this delirious menage a trois of friendship, regret, and desire. Actors took turns playing the three roles: the solid provider Dennis, his allegedly traditional wife Joan, and the object of their mutual desire, the charismatic disaster Amelia. My favorite scene featured Kelly as Joan, David as Dennis, and first timer Kari Riely as Amelia, in the dinner table reveal of just who is sleeping with who. The verbal energy of this scene verges on farce, but the emotional cost of the fall out is never diminished, and the unusual but inevitable denouement was very satisfying.

Only one more Flux Sunday to enter into the annals of history...thanks to everyone who made this one special. Any highlights I missed? Read the full story

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Divine Reckonings Artists Reveal #5:
David Crommett

Monday, April 5, 2010 2 comments

What is Jacob's House?
What is ForePlay: Divine Reckonings?
David Crommett
Actor, ForePlay
Previous Flux Experience:

First worked with Heather Cohn in '04 on a play she stage managed and Jerry Ruíz directed. Heather called me for Rue at the end of '05, and I was also at the first Flux retreat in the summer of '06. Performed in Life Is A Dream in '07. Have been with Flux Sundays since their inception. Have made close friends at Flux, like Kelly O'Donnell, and have also brought in a friend or two, like Ken Glickfeld. Most recent Flux appearance was in Food:Soul of Volley Girls in '09.

Do you have a favorite Bible character?

Are you blessed?
Many times over.

If you were wrestling an angel, what moves would you use?
Suggestive ones.

What would you do for more life?
Nothing; I love the life I have.

What's the weirdest thing in your parents' attic?
We didn't have an attic; we lived in the tropics. Psychically, that's another matter.

What is your prior experience with the Old Testament?
Many hours listening to readings as a child in church.

If you believe in a deity or deities, what kind do you believe in?
I do. If I have learned anything, it is that the Creator has a wicked sense of humor.

Anything else coming up for you that Flux readers should know about?
More work. New life. All cherished.

David Crommett's Bio: David Crommett was born in New York City and was raised in Puerto Rico. Works extensively as an actor, musician, broadcaster. Loves New York, loves being a dad to Amanda and Evan, loves acting. Happiness is feeling like a beginner. Success is work. Thank you Flux for being family.
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