Friday, October 29, 2010 7 comments

I’ve been fascinated lately by what seems a growing trend of deliberately bad acting in plays. Of course, it’s not really bad; on the contrary, it’s very highly crafted in the way only a truly gifted singer can sing spectacularly badly (proof, Miranda). But my curiosity is in what exactly is driving this particular aesthetic of unacting.

It takes various forms, from the farcically bad acting of Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s No Dice to the hyper-naturalistic office workers of ERS’ Gatz; from the aggressively comic overacting of That Pretty Pretty to the mercurial character-immolations of Young Jean Lee; from Richard Maxwell to Matthew Freeman’s New Naturalism; all very different but all discarding or exploding traditional acting values. Even the long running hit Our Town shared a similar distrust of traditional artifice with its stripped down, accentless aesthetic.

This unacting can accomplish many things: it can reveal absurdities in the way we perform ourselves, call attention to beauties within the banal usually excluded from performance, allow a pleasurable dissonance between the character in our imagination and the character performed before us, create room for the audience to make their own meaning, clear away surface interpretations to reveal the deep story of a play, and just be flat out funny.

What it can’t do, or at least it hasn’t done for me, is establish that visceral thread of empathy that removes the distance between the story and my self, and this primal rush remains what I love most about theatre. It’s hard for me to ever imagine relinquishing this joy for any of the pleasures above; that connection and catharsis come first, and then all the rest can follow.

But clearly, many do find that connection in this unacting, and my sincere question is, how? What am I missing? What are you seeing when you watch this good bad unacting?

Read the full story

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Flux Sunday, October 24th

Thursday, October 28, 2010 1 comments

Our second Sunday at Judson Memorial Church was also our first with audience members from their congregation - exciting! And they were certainly treated to a wide variety of um, entertainments, shall we say?

Playwrights: Katherine Burger (Ever Ever), Fengar Gael (The Spell Caster), Kristen Palmer (Untitled), Brian Pracht (Wendell Wants), August Schulenburg (Presents, Denny and Lila), Daren Taylor (Porn Makes Jesus Cry)

Directors: Ryan Andes, Matthew Archambault, Katherine Burger, Heather Cohn

Actors: Elise Link, Alisha Spielmann, Antoinette Broderick, Gretchen Poulos, Susan Ferrara, David Crommett, Mariam Habib, Amy Staats, Ken Glickfeld, Brent Rose, Jane Taylor

Highlights included:
-Susan gracefully making the tempo gear shift in her cold read of the sad end of my monologue Presents ( lovely to hear 5 different actresses take a crack at Keely), not to mention her chill/shiver inducing turn as Janet in Kristen's play dealing with a violent act long planned and suddenly done
-Elise's lovely moment as Lila reaching out to child Denny as Jabber remembers walking behind them when they were young, and hand in hand (and is it weird that watching Gatz I thought that Denny and Lila bore a strange resemblance to The Great Gatsby?)
-Brian Pracht is a merrier (so far) mood in his Wilderesque comedy of growing up, Wendell Wants
-Alisha rocking another one of Kristen's ladies as Emily in a funny/tense scene with Isaiah
-Jane as a love-struck middle-aged Wendy still in awe of Peter in Katherine's Ever Ever
-Matt Archambault's high stakes staging of Daren's Porn Makes Jesus Cry
-Heather's transformation into soul-sucking snake in The Spell Caster!

This was a Flux Sunday where we finished two plays, Denny and Lila and The Spell Caster; and began several new ones, and so it goes for as long as we can keep going.

What were your favorite highlights? Read the full story


A Congress for Theatre

Monday, October 25, 2010 5 comments

The conversation surrounding innovative not-for-profit board structure has been gathering momentum, including our own Heather Cohn’s participation in the GIA Conference that explored fiscal sponsorship as an alternative model to the tradition 501c3. This is an especially important conversation for Ensemble companies, where a horizontal power structure builds in a board’s checks and balances into the internal decision making process. However, a majority of grant organizations require a 501c3, so should Flux choose to grow beyond our current resource level, developing a board is something we may need to deal with. And given the horror stories about boards significantly changing the nature of artist-driven institutions, this is something we’re very cautious about.

In my recent post about The Wider Frame, I considered how the challenges facing theatre are almost always microcosms of larger societal challenges; and when theatre turns outward and imagines itself a means towards exploring those larger questions, it will find itself essential again. In applying that thinking to the questions surrounding current board structure, I imagined a different model, and wondered if there are examples out there already.

What if a theatre board were more like a congress?

I know, it’s hard to imagine wanting anything to be more like our current legislative branch. But a fundamental difference would be in reconsidering the constituencies of this hypothetical theatre congress, and their role in creating the legislation of a theatre’s programming.

In politics, constituency is defined through location. In this imaginary theatre congress, constituency is defined through territory of influence.

What do I mean by territory of influence?

Within any community, there are of course sub-communities organized around business, religion, education, culture, sports, etc. A theatre congress would identify ALL of those territories of influence – from the local church to the high school to the minor league sports team to the hospital – and seek a representative from those territories to serve on the congress.

Imagine a meeting where a representative from the local mosque sits next to a rep from the college who is challenging a point made by the rep from the sanitation union who is sitting next to a rep from the local paper who is seconding a motion from the rep of the skater community; and all of the representatives are advocating for a theatre season that celebrates the lives and explores the challenges of their constituencies.

How would this conversation drive programming? How would it shape outreach? Would it be all Babel, or would it lead to a theatre facing outward to its community, and a community turning towards the stage?

There are significant logistical problems to this model, varying from a lack of potential interest from certain constituencies to the financial stability a board is supposed to steward. But the congress model is not mutually exclusive to a traditional board, though I think if done right it could serve a similar purpose.

Regardless of whether it replaced a traditional board or supplemented it, a theatre congress might naturally move a company towards better serving their communities by ensuring every territory of local influence a place at the table. Cities of a larger size might have a hard time defining these territories, but both small and large companies would need to grow such a congress constituency by constituency.

Whether this congress assumed the full powers of a traditional board, or served more in an advisory role, seems to me a question with an answer unique to each organization, and to be explored very carefully, making sure the conversation between company and congress was meaningful enough to be more than simply symbolic.

Obviously, this idea is in its infancy, but I’m curious if any models approaching something like this exist. It seems to me that board development is driven primarily (perhaps by necessity) to those who have the resource capacity to be financial stewards; and representation of a community, when considered, is seen through the broad (but important) strokes of gender or race. I wonder if there are any organizations out there who track down all the local territories of influence and make sure as many as possible have a place at the table, regardless of whether they have financial resources, and even if they share some contradictory values. Do these examples exist? Could a theatre survive a table with so many seats?

Read the full story

In Direct Address

Friday, October 22, 2010 1 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Christina Shipp, Vince Nappo)
Charles Isherwood recently leveled criticism against the increase in use of direct address in plays, specifically singling out playwright Kristoffer Diaz, who responds smartly here. Playwright Josh Conkel issues his own rejoinder here. However, there is another essential element of direct address that Isherwood misses, an element central to my own work as playwright:

A character addresses the audience because they want something from the audience. It’s that simple.

Some examples from my own work: In Riding the Bull, GL talks to us because he wants to be forgiven. In Other Bodies, Terry tells us her story so that we will touch her. In Good Hope, Rebecca shares what happened to keep us from the unbelief that led her to lose those she loved.

And there’s the key: these characters talk to the audience because they cannot get what they want from the other characters in the play. In the above three instances, that’s because those other characters have died; and this is perhaps why I am more often drawn to use direct address in tragedy than comedy. An irrevocable loss has turned the characters away from the world of the play to face us down and try, however unsuccessfully, to get what they need most.

In practice, this can be complex, especially now when audiences seem primed to accept direct address as narration and not action. This leads them to trust direct address, when its proper use is far more subversive. We shouldn’t trust One in The Lesser Seductions of History anymore than we should trust Iago in Othello; and yet for better or worse, many looked to her for the play’s ‘message’. It was never the play’s message, it was always hers; and the action of the play often contradicts and complicates her words. She was talking to us for the same reason she spoke to the characters in the play; to make them do what she wanted.

This makes the audience essential, and every run of the play a unique living attempt for the character to succeed or fail.

(Photo: Jonathan Slaff. Pictured: Will Ditterline)

Direct address can of course do many other wonderful things: it can hold a dagger and the one half world in a single moment (Macbeth); it can reveal a mind reinventing itself (Hamlet) or at war with itself (Julius Caesar); it can make whole seasons pass in a second (Our Town); but in every case where direct address works, it does so because the character talking to us wants something from us…and we trust them at our own peril.

(Photo: Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Candice Holdorf)

Read the full story

, ,

NYTR Party and Lesser Seductions Reunion

Thursday, October 21, 2010 0 comments

(Photo: Crystal Skillman. Pictured: Cast and Playwright of The Lesser Seductions of History)

On Friday, November 15th, the entire cast of The Lesser Seductions of History reunited to read through scene 1962 as part of the New York Theater Review Launch Party. I felt so lucky to have all eleven of the original cast clear their considerably busy schedules to come together and celebrate the publication of the play.

To make more matters even more nostalgic, sound designer Asa Wember played his design as the scene was read; and from the first crack of Maris' bat to George playing Holst's The Planets under Lee's speech, the whole reading lifted into a strange and lovely territory. The familiar cadences matched to the music made the reading feel like some ghost of the original production that having gone to the ends of the earth, echoed back, returning the same only to find us changed. Somehow appropriate for that play...

And there was also Reggie Watts doing that thing he does so well; Tiffany Clementi, Matt Archambault, and Cotton Wright pinch-hitting as readers for Heidi Schreck's Creature; hearing again scene from Erin Browne's Trying; Trav SD's evocative essay on the grotesque, and much more.

A huge thank you to the cast, Asa, and Heather for making it happen; for everyone who showed up to journey with us down memory lane; to Crystal Skillman for the phone-snapped pics; and of course, to Jody Christopherson and Brook Stowe for making it happen.
(Photo: Crystal Skillman. pictured: cast of The Lesser Seductions of History)
Read the full story

, , ,

2010 Flux Raffle!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 0 comments

We hope that you are able to attend our 2010 Fundraiser for our upcoming fourth season “Don’t Look Away” to be held on Monday, Nov. 15th (event information here). If you can't join us, we will miss you, but you can still participate in our raffle! The money made from the raffle will go directly towards supporting our season. Drawing will take place at the event on November 15th. You DO NOT have to be there to win. We greatly appreciate all of your support.

Raffle ticket prices are as follows:

$3 gets you 1 ticket
$5 gets you 2 tickets
$10 gets you 5 ticket
$20 gets you 13 tickets (wow, that really increases your chances!)
and the ultimate deal: $40 gets you 30 tickets (insane!)

Back by popular demand, you can increase your chances of winning by CHOOSING which prizes you want to win! For example, if you buy 5 tickets, you can put 2 tickets into the running for City Acupuncture of New York, 2 tickets for Ryan Andes Jewelry and 1 ticket for paid background work on Law and Order SVU or a Jim Carrey film (winner of this prize gets to choose), or you could put all 5 into one prize - however you want to do it!

First purchase your raffle tickets HERE (there is no service charge) then email tiffany@fluxtheatre.org to identify which prizes you want to put in for.

Here Are The Prizes!

Be a Star for the Day.
Work as a background player and get paid! Winner gets to choose to be on Law and Order SVU or a Jim Carrey film!
(must be 18 years of age or older to win this prize)

City Acupuncture of New York Includes: Two Acupuncture Treatments (Two winners; each get two treatments) Check out their website Here

Ryan Andes Handmade Silver Charm(includes chain) This charm symbolizes “Awareness and Change”. Check out Ryan's online store Here

Ryan Andes Handmade Leather Bracelet. Your very own Fluxified Leather Bracelet. You may have seen Flux member Gus Schulenburg, sporting his. (Ryan will size the bracelet to the winner)

A personal tour of Google's New York City headquarters Flux member Kelly O'Donnell takes you on a tour of the NYC Googleplex. Learn about the little startup that grew into a search giant whose name has become a verb. Tour finishes with a lunch in one of their famous cafeterias. Yum!

2 tickets to Epic Theatre Ensemble's staged reading of Hannah & Martin by Kate Fodor, featuring Oscar-nominated David Strathairn ("Good Night and Good Luck") for Wednesday, Nov. 17th at 7:00pm.
Learn more about EPIC Here.

The Colbert Report Includes: 4 tickets to a live taping of the show on January 5, 2011. Everyone attending must have a photo I.D. and must be at least 18 years old. You need to be in line by 5:15pm.

Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant and Bar Includes: 2-for-1 entree deal for up to a party of 4 (ie 2 free entrees, entrance is usually $15-30 pp). Jekyll and Hyde offers the most unique dining experience in the world! Enjoy continuous live entertainment and spooky special effects.

NATURALS Banana & Coconut bath and body line. Includes: A gift basket containing full size bottles of body spray, lotion, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. Check out their website Here (Donated by Avon rep., Maryilyn Matarrese).

The Mystery Box Just what is inside this box? Shh... it is a secret but it is something really awesome and powerful. Buy some raffle tickets and you may find out.

August Wilson Century Cycle Box Set
a $200 value! A 10 volume, hardcover, slipcased edition. August Wilson’s epic dramatization of the African American experience and heritage in the twentieth century
Donated by Theatre Communications Group, check them out Here

the 2

Signed Hard Cover Copy of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play Ruined by Lynn Nottage.
Donated by Theatre Communications Group

Signed Plays From Flux's Season 4, “Don’t Look Away”, Playwrights Includes: The Greek Plays by Ellen McLaughlin; Dog Act by Liz Duffy Adams and Trying by Erin Browne.

Signed Plays from Flux’s Past Seasons
Includes: Pretty Theft by Adam Szymkowicz; Angel Eaters Trilogy by Johnna Adams and The Lesser Seductions of History by August Schulenburg.

Headshot Session with Flux Member Isaiah Tanenbaum ($100+ value) Includes: A two-hour on-location photoshoot featuring as many looks and poses as you like. The best shots will be edited (so they are ready to print), burned to a disk for you to keep, and hosted online for easy access. Check out more of Isaiah's work Here At left is a recent session with Friend of Flux Ingrid Nordstrom

Press Photography with Flux member Isaiah Tanenbaum ($100+ value). Let Isaiah help you promote your next show! Choose one of the following options: rehearsal room photos, special photo-shoot, tech/dress rehearsal, or performance (non-showcase code only). The best images will be edited, burned to a disk and hosted online for your convenience. Isaiah's photographs have been featured in The New York Times, Backstage, The Village Voice, and countless other blogs and theatre sites. At left is from Flux's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Captain Rapps Seasonings: The Freshest and Finest Super-Premium Micro Blended Seasonings. Captain Rapps Seasonings can be used on all types of meats, vegetables, Dips, and just about anything.... Not just fish! Includes FIVE different seasonings and a recipe card. Flux Member Tiffany Clementi, cooks with these spices on a weekly basis, yummo!
Check out his online store Here

Two Free Seasons with NYC Social Sports Club. Gift certificates are each redeemable for any 7-week season offered by NYC Social Sports Club. Sports include Kickball, Ultimate Frisbee, Inner Tube Water Polo, and more. All sports are casually competitive, and all games are followed by post-game parties.

Click HERE to purchase raffle tickets! Raffle drawing will take place on November 15th. You DO NOT have to be there to win!

New Raffle Prizes may be added before the event, so never fear if you've already purchased them, because you can just email Tiffany to switch your choices!

If you have any questions about a particular prize, contact Tiffany at tiffany@fluxtheatre.org

Read the full story

, , , , , , , , ,

Flux Sunday, October 17th

Flux Sunday has gone through several significant evolutions, and on October 17th, we took the next good-sized step forward. It was our first Flux Sunday hosted by Judson Memorial Church, and it was an auspicious beginning to that hopefully long-lived partnership.

It was our first day back on our feet staging things since leaving NYR Studios, and it was good to be moving again. The difference between a cold read and an audience engaging with an hour's worth of staging is all the difference in the world.

It was our first day with an audience member for the last hour - Jonny Goodman and Joe Powell joined us, and we hope to have more Judsonites engage with the work in the future.

It was the first day for the amazing Amy Staats of Hearts Like Fists fame, and one of the first days someone took advantage of our new guest policy (thank you, Mr. Szymkowicz; welcome, Mr. Rose).

AND...it was the first time we ever had a baby in the Flux Sunday house! Kira and Joe's beautiful daughter Dylan was exposed to some high levels of theatre, and we soaked in the cute. On a day when Flux took a big step forward in our mission to building a creative home, Dylan's presence seemed right.

Oh, and we worked plays, too. Here are the peeps and the highlights:

Playwright: Kira Blaskovich (Untitled), Katherine Burger (Legends of Batvia, Ever Ever), Zack Calhoon (Untitled), Brian Pracht (Unplugged In), August Schulenburg (Denny and Lila)

Actors: Ryan Andes, Amy Staats, Gretchen Poulos, Mariam Habib, Kari Swenson Riely, David Crommett, Anthony Wills Jr, Alisha Spielmann, Ken Glickfeld, Marnie Schulenburg, Tiffany Clementi, Brent Rose, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Nora Hummel

Directors: Kira, Katherine, Ken, Tiffany

Highlights included:
- Kira's debut as a playwright AND director with Flux (we've known her primarily as an actor); with her nuanced, deeply felt scene between two old lovers, feeling each other out; and a vital staging of the madcap tragic climax of Denny and Lila (we made it to the cliff, and are about to jump)
-Marnie and Tiffany playing a pair of bad news rich girls in Zack's new play; so hung over they can barely text, they still made the scene snap with laughs and a textured friendship - who knew the line "you're not fat" could have so many comic layers?
-Alisha's LEAH in Unplugged In was somehow both terrifyingly manic and movingly vulnerable; though after two straight shout outs for the actors playing LEAH, I'm beginning to suspect Brian's rewrite of her may have something to do with it, too
-Katherine's new play Ever Ever, about Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys some 40 years later, still trapped in their boyish Never Land. Its whimsical surface hides a white knuckled anxiety that was a joy to play.

If you were there for Flux and Judson's big Sunday...what did you walk away with? Read the full story

, ,

Thoughts On Casting

Monday, October 18, 2010 3 comments

After a long weekend of late nights, we're nearly done wading through the 1,000+ (and still incoming) headshots and resumes submitted for our upcoming auditions for our 4th Season:Don't Look Away. Heather, Kelly and I ended up splitting the huge e-stack (we looked over all submissions online for the first time) into thirds after communicating our unique needs of each three plays.

Some take-aways from reading all those resumes:

  • A black and white headshot is rarer than ever, but they're still out there.
  • There is a new craze for describing yourself through comparison to three movie stars, i.e. "I combine the offbeat charm of Nick Cage with the unsettling humor of Gene Wilder and the rebellious heat of a young Judd Nelson."
  • People continue to put the name of the space, instead of the name of the producing organization, which can make it trickier to parse their actual history.
  • It's great when people read the casting breakdown carefully and choose roles for themselves that make sense; it's especially cool when you can tell they've read the website/blog and make informed statements about the work we do. Its not always enough, but it does make a difference.
  • For the first time, I'm noticing a number of actors who have worked on shows I've written that I've never seen, which is both weird and cool.
  • We have around 120 slots available, meaning we're going be seeing 10-12% of those 1,000 people who took the time to submit. That really sucks, especially when a resume is not a reliable guide. We've taken steps to change the way Flux gets to know artists, primarily through out Flux Sunday workshops, but they simply can't handle that kind of volume. While it might not be our job to see every single interested actor, there has to be a better way.
We'll finish sorting though them tonight! Read the full story

, , ,

Mission Statement

Friday, October 15, 2010 0 comments

(Photo by Heather Cohn from the Flux Retreat)

Mission Statement: Flux Theatre Ensemble produces transformative theatre that explores and awakens the capacity for change. As an ensemble-artist driven company, we believe that long-term collaboration and rigorous creative development can unite artists and audiences to build a creative home in New York.

Believe it or not, that mission statement is the result of four years of battling over the meaning of every single word. That journey wasn't easy in part because of my feeling that a mission statement was somehow antithetical to the creation of art, like pinning butterflies to the wall; and our mutual fear in crafting one of the interchangeably generic mush statements that abound.

But gradually, others in Flux made compelling cases for how a mission could prove useful, and we lurched fitfully towards carving one out. At our annual retreat, we finally hammered it out. What follows is an unpacking of our mission statement, with an eye towards both its conceptual history and practical application.
(Photo: Heather Cohn. Pictured at some late night retreat gaming, Kelly O'Donnell, August Schulenburg and Isaiah Tanenbaum)

Flux Theatre Ensemble: That's us.

Produces: We used this word as opposed to creates because some of the work we do comes from outside the development process outlined in the second sentence; and our identity as artist-producers is important to us.

Transformative theatre: What on earth does this mean? We've long valued this expression without being able to quite define it. Our recently posted aesthetic values will give you a sense of what it means to us on the stage; we value the capacity for change in every element of production. This means characters who either enact great change in the world of the play or are themselves significantly transformed; themes which compound layers of meaning as the action builds; worlds that live on the edge of some fundamental shift; contrasting aesthetic styles in a single play that, juxtaposed, create some new way of playing; staging that celebrates the transformative power of the audience's imagination; and above all, a charged ambiguity of meaning that lives in the audience's body and mind long after the play ends.

That explores and awakens: The plays we do not only stake out new territory in the evolutions of the human spirit, but awaken the capacity for that evolution in our audience.

The capacity for change: The patterns of narrative that give human life meaning must constantly be challenged and expanded by the communal, creative act of art; doing so allows new, more vital narrative patterns to emerge, increasing our mutual capacity for life. That may sound lofty, but it is entirely practical; the plays we do must wrestle with some new way of seeing; they must create the possibility of some new pattern of meaning. It's important to note that doesn't mean a traditionally avant-garde style; we do not seek to take simple things and make them seem complex; rather we hope to take complex things and tell them as simply and directly as possible.
(Photo: Heather Cohn. Pictured at the retreat's closing circle - Ken Glickfeld, Jane Lincoln Taylor, Cat Adler-Josem)

As an ensemble-artist driven company: This sentence has a blood-soaked pedigree! The battle between driven and led, the long journey to hold many values in those three words, "ensemble-artist driven", could hold a stage or two in terms of drama. We are artist driven, and so all decisions come out of the forward propulsion of our ensemble's creative interests. All administrative and producing decisions are driven by that creative propulsion; we are not an institution that exists to perpetuate an institution. However, driven rather than led allows the possibility of one day taking on administrators who are not directly participating in the creative work, provided the balance always tilts towards the ensemble-artists' leadership.

We believe that long term collaboration: Flux is not into one night stands! We hope that every artistic and audience relationship will develop into a long term relationship, allowing for the fact this won't always be so. Not only do we believe that a higher quality of work is possible when artists commit to a long term collaboration, but we believe that holds true for the audience, as well. Theatre is not a product to be made by temporary workers and sold to strangers, but an ongoing communal process between artists and audience. To that end, we are establishing a relationship category, Friends of Flux (hereafter FOFs), that puts audience, donors, and artists on equal collaborative footing, and places value on the sustained commitment of time, talent and resources between Membership and this community. More details on this anon!

And rigorous creative development: A company is defined as much by what they do as what they say, and one thing Flux does a LOT of is creative development. Through our weekly workshop Flux Sundays, through our more in depth processes of Have Another and Food:Soul, through our communal theme-wrestling of ForePlay, through our annual retreat and through the independent development process that many of our full productions go through; Flux develops not only new plays but artists, and the relationship between artists, and the relationship between the work, artists, and audience. We are developing a creative community, and that community is developing a creative process, and that process leads to new work.
(Photo: Heather Cohn. Pictured: Retreaters engaging in some after hours creative development)

Can unite artists and audiences: As you can see from the past two definitions, redefining the relationship between our artists and audience is very important to Flux. Our audience drinks with us at Have Another, eats with us at Food:Soul; responds to the work in person and online; and in a new bit of programming, SpeakEasy (stay tuned for more info on that), engages with us directly in the governance of the Ensemble. The goal is to create a more sustained, meaningful relationship between these normally divided partners in making theatre, to help them feel responsible to and for each other.

To build a creative home: One of the defining challenges of the field is the feeling of homelessness of artists in their relationship to institutions; and for the institutions, losing the subscriber base that made their theatre a home. Creating this home for both artists and audience is the ultimate mission of Flux; believing a vibrant artistic home united in exploring our capacity for change will lead to both more empowered individuals and interconnected community.

In New York: Cause that's where we live.
(Photo: Heather Cohn. Pictured: Christina Shipp, Matthew Archambault, Marnie Schulenburg)

As we go forward here on the blog, I'll be trying more often to link the discourse here to the mission, core values, and aesthetic values as a means of clarifying their practical definition and sounding the Fluxy-ness of the things we do. Read the full story

, , , ,

NYTR Party Tomrorow

Thursday, October 14, 2010 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright)
Tomorrow night (10/15) is the big night! The whole entire cast (and some of the design team) of The Lesser Seductions of History are reuniting to celebrate the publication of the play in the New York Theater Review. The review will also feature Erin Browne's Trying (developed at Flux, and playwright of our upcoming production of Menders) and Heidi Schreck's Creature (featuring pinch-hitting performances from Matthew Archambault and Cotton Wright).

The event will run 6 to 8PM at New Georges' The Room at 520 8th Avenue, between 36th and 37th street, on the 3rd floor. Not only will there be readings from all of the plays and essays, but Reggie Watts will be doing the things only he can do. The event is FREE, but RSVP to thenytr@gmail.com. You can learn more about the event here.

We'll be reading a scene from the play, but to know which one, you'll just have to come. See you there tomorrow night!
(Photo: Tyler G. Hicks-Wright)
Read the full story

, , , , , , , , ,

Flux SATURDAY, October 9th

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 1 comments

(What is Flux Sunday?)

(Flux fire hydrant to the left discovered and captured through the power of photography in Brooklyn by Adam Szymkowicz)

Yup, on October 9th, we broke the fundamental laws of physics, and for the first time in three years, held a Flux Sunday on a SATURDAY. So far as I can tell, the universe did not (as many pundits feared it would) end, unless of course it did end and we live now in some eerily similar mirror universe.

Setting such lofty considerations aside, it went really well for a hastily assembled day. We had TONS of pages, and ran right up to the 7PM mark, but it felt quick, because the pages had some pop to them.

Playwrights: Johnna Adams, Fengar Gael, Kristen Palmer, Brian Pracht, August Schulenburg, Adam Szymkowicz

Actors: David Crommett, Ken Glickfeld, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Matt Archambault, Gretchen Poulos, Antoinette Broderick

Highlights included:

-A great Flux Sunday for Gretchen, who brought a casual loveliness to Adam's Josette (in the untitled French play), a subtly heightened feel to girl in Kristen's The Stray Dog, and a rough playfulness to the jade Cheat in Johnna's Pickpocks, Jades, and Swindlers, her second play in the style of Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens (brace yourselves - it looks to be a trilogy).

-A smoking scene from Brian Pracht's Unplugged In, courtesy of some tight rewrites from Brian, a focused performance as Chris from Matt A, and a hilarious turn from Travis as Zero. This scene was popping!

-The debut of Antoinette Broderick, who played a con-artist, tattoo artist, and 18th century swindler with aplomb.

What were your impressions of the day? What did you think of the stylistic new ground Adam struck in the love affair between Matt and Josette in that untitled French play? Did you notice that I inadvertently included a Dr X speech pattern in the Denny and Lila scene? How did the end of Kristen's The Stray Dog land with you? Aren't Doug and Cheryl romantic? Isn't that picture Adam took of the fire hydrant kind of cool? And could you believe it when Mayra bit the frickin' head of that snake???

And for the record, this was the last Flux Sunday (er, Saturday) before we embarked to a potential new home...but more on that anon. Read the full story

, , ,

Save the Date - Flux Family Feud

Flux is throwing a benefit party for our 4th Season: Don't Look Away on Monday night, November 15th, at the crazy beautiful North Cabana at the Maritime Hotel. As if the location and company weren't reason enough to enter 11/15 as booked in your google calendar or old-school-date-book; we're planning an unusual theme for the night:

Flux Family Feud.

That's right, a theatre-specific Family Feud style game, with teams made up of Indie theatre luminaries and theatre-specific questions. Survey says? Awesome.

So now here's the other way you can help - brainstorm some questions! We've come up with around 50 ourselves, but in the crowdsourced spirit of our viral age, we turn to you, dear reader, for more ideas.

Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Name something that would upset a stage manager
2. Name a common question asked an actor
3. Name something annoying an audience member may do during a performance
4. Name an actor’s biggest fear
5. Name a character in Shakespeare whose name starts with the letter ‘M’
6. Name something you would find backstage
7. Name something that drives you crazy about the Showcase Code
8. Name a rule of comedy
9. Name something to do on stage when carrying a spear
10. Name something you love about Indie theatre

Leave your brainstorming genius in the comments below!

What are the rules of Family Feud? || Watch a video of the game. Read the full story

Two Fates

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8 comments

A thought exercise in the form of a hypothetical question: if you had to choose between the following two fates for theatre, which would you choose?

Fate #1: It’s 2030. Communities have responded to the pressures of globalization by developing vital local identities through theatre. Everyone in the community participates in the daily process of theatre, taking turns making it and watching it. Theatre is woven into the rituals of life – there are plays for being born, plays for dying, plays for the changes of season, plays for marriage. There are no professionals because theatre is seen as a process between people, and not a cultural product. No one makes a living doing theatre, but everyone does theatre to live.

Fate #2: It’s 2030. A rising tide of global wealth has allowed government and corporate funding to greatly increase their support for the arts. A professional theatre is in every city and most towns, and middle class wages are paid to the artists who live and work there. A sizable portion of the population goes to the theatre at least once a month as an expression of civic pride and cultural savvy. While some amateurs dabble in plays, most leave theatre to the professionals, recognizing its true beauty is best reached by great artists. Theatre is a respected, middle-class, specialist profession that communities support for its civic value.

Of course, this question is somewhat slippery, as a truly vital amateur theatre may help lead to a truly vital professional theatre, and vice versa. But sometimes it feels like the efforts of our profession are geared entirely towards the latter fate, and often in unnecessary opposition of the former. And lately, I find some variation of the former fate feels more like home. How about you?

Read the full story

, , , , ,

Casting for Flux's 4th Season

Wednesday, October 6, 2010 0 comments

It's that time again! Flux is holding invited auditions for our 4th Season: Don't Look Away. Casting info for all 3 shows is below.

Flux Theatre Ensemble is casting for its production of Dog Act by Liz Duffy Adams, a post-apocalyptic comedy with music. First rehearsal, January 3. Production runs February 3-20
AEA Showcase (approval pending). Small stipend. Seeking Equity and Non-Equity Actors. Directed by Kelly O'Donnell.

Seeking: ROZETTA STONE - 30s, Female, actress of color. a performer and entrepreneur, a steadfast survivor, ability to play a musical instrument and comfort with light singing and dancing a plus; DOG - 20s to 30s, Male, any ethnicity, sensitive and vulnerable, a Dog by choice, not yet a man but no longer a boy, ability to play a musical instrument a plus; VERA SIMILITUDE - 30s-50s, Female, any ethnicity, Manipulative, resilient and power-hungry woman fighting for survival; JO-JO - 20s/30s, Female, any ethnicity, a semi-feral teenage girl; COKE & BUD - any age or ethnicity, Scavengers, savages who are underfed and vicious, must be both terrifying and comic.

Email submissions strongly preferred. Please send headshots and resumes to casting@fluxtheatre.org or Kelly O'Donnell, 76 9th avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10011.

Flux Theatre Ensemble is casting for its production of Ajax in Iraq, by Ellen McLaughlin, a tragedy overlapping the stories of Sophocles' Ajax and a female solider in the Iraq war. First rehearsal, April 29th. Production runs June 3rd-26th. Directed by August Schulenburg.
AEA Showcase (approval pending). Small stipend. Seeking Equity and Non-Equity Actors.

Seeking: A.J. - 20-early 30s, Female, any ethnicity, a soldier in Iraq, her natural power made dangerous by the betrayal of another officer; AJAX - 20-30's, Male, any ethnicity, a physically commanding Greek soldier made bitter when Athena takes his mind; CONNIE MANGUS - 20's to 30's, Female, African-American, A.J.'s closest friend, a smart soldier wrestling with grief and regret; ATHENA, any age, Female, any ethnicity, the capricious Goddess of War and Wisdom; ODYSSEUS/PISONI, 20's-40's, male, any ethnicity, in the Greek world, the trickster who takes the armor that should pass to AJAX, in the Iraq world, the wisecracking soldier who sticks up for A.J.; CHARLES, 20's-30's, Male, any ethnicity, a soldier in Iraq and friend of Pisoni's; SERGEANT/TEUCER, 30's, Male, any ethnicity, the superior officer who betrays A.J. and in the greek world, Ajax's brother; TECMESSA: 20's-30's, female, any ethnicity, Ajax's wife, a captive who retains her formal royalty; GERTRUDE BELL/REBO, 20's-30's, Female, any ethnicity, early 20th century British archeologist and administrator and in the Iraq world, a soldier; SICKLES, 20-30's, Female, any ethnicity, a soldier; LIEUTENANT/MINISTER: a solider and minister in Iraq. All roles but A.J., AJAX, and ATHENA play multiple roles. Experience with heightened language and physical theatre a plus. Actors of color strongly encouraged to submit.

Email submissions strongly preferred. Please send headshots and resumes to casting@fluxtheatre.org or Kelly O'Donnell, 76 9th avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10011.

Flux Theatre Ensemble is casting for its production of Menders by Erin Browne, a dark fairytale in which subversive storytelling is the key that breaks down the walls. Production scheduled for Winter 2011/12 – exact dates TBD. Small stipend. Seeking Equity and Non-Equity Actors of any ethnicity. Directed by Heather Cohn.

Seeking: COREY – 20’s, female, a “wall mender” or guard, ardent with a strong moral code; DREW – 30’s-40’s, male, also a wall mender & Corey’s teacher, a storyteller, subversive; TAM – 20’s-30’s, female, lives underground because she’s allergic to the sun; ASH – 20’s-30’s, female, a business woman turned subway guitarist by night; JEFF – late 20’s-40’s, male, a lonely farmer who falls in love with an angel; LILA – 20’s-30’s, female, otherworldly, slightly magical. For all roles, a familiarity with puppetry a plus.

Email submissions strongly preferred. Please send headshots and resumes to casting@fluxtheatre.org or Kelly O'Donnell, 76 9th avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10011.
Read the full story

, ,

Interview: Jonny Goodman

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 0 comments

(Pictured: Jonny Goodman of Bailout Theater and Judson Memorial Church)

Flux has now collaborated with Judson Memorial Church and Bailout Theater on Hearts Like Fists; Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens; and ForePlay-Divine Reckonings. Several Fluxers are contributing to Judson's next Bailout on the Living Wage. And these collaborations are, we hope, just the beginning.

To give you a sense of why this relationship makes sense, I interviewed one of Bailout's maestros, Jonny Goodman (his compatriot, Micah Bucey, is playing Joe's Pub with his band, The Gay Agenda, Monday, November 1st). Jonny talks not only about Bailout and Judson, but about his own work as an artist.

1. What is Bailout Theater, and how did it come about?

Bailout Theater is one of those things that would lose its magic if everybody could see its plate tectonics. In declining order of obviousness, it is a pop-avant garde open space for the arts; a gathering place and dinner both for its own homegrown community and that of the city at large; a highly personal point of connection for those who could use extra support in their lives that doesn't come from a food pantry or soup kitchen; and a tool for Judson to keep its ear to the ground in this city that we use as our "home office". It is all of those things in a swaying balance - and also much more that even those of us who work on it every week don't see now.

2. How did you get hooked up with Judson?

Despite my lifelong commitment to being a secularist Jew with a big chip on my shoulder about organized religion, I have a weird fascination with church marquees and Judson's is just the best. The first time I passed it, it had a quote from Calvin and Hobbes that said "It is hard to be religious when certain people are just never incinerated by bolts of lightning". I used to check it every week after that and, eventually, during a long-form essay-writing phase, I decided to attach myself to Judson as a voyeur. Not long after, I met the associate pastor for coffee and fell into a conversation about alternative community spaces, underground economies and Judson's potential as a venue for both. Conversations of that nature amongst a small group of Judsonites are actually what birthed Bailout Theater. Initially, I started working for Judson via a 9-month stint under its "Community Ministry" program (check out judson.org for more info, if you're curious). I have stuck around since, enjoying the delightfully weird ride! Come visit.

3. You're also a musician - do you rock, and if so, how hard?

For better or for worse, I don't rock at self-promotion and am self conscious about tooting my own horn (except for my literal horn, which I'm happy to toot). Talking about how hard you can rock an audience feels a little bit like kissing-and-telling to me, which I'm suddenly pretending to be above. Nonetheless, I like to think my band and I rock a decent roll! One time, the day of my current band's first show ever, I was recovering from laryngitis and still had no voice when we found out we were supposed to play for 4 hours instead of 45 minutes. We didn't have that much material, so I wrote 2 new songs, which we learned in addition to a few covers. It took probably 8 liters of water, but we played a pretty damn good first show to a happy audience of bar-folk for four whole hours... With a sick frontman and almost no rehearsal time, I guess I'm pretty proud of that as a benchmark in my personal rock book!

4. What is Judson's history with the arts?

Multi-pronged, exciting, beautiful, sometimes bizarre. For many years, the church's former associate pastor wrote musicals for the church, some of the songs from which are now used during services. One of Judson's very talented new community ministers is now reviving that tradition! For about 20 years, Judson housed the "Judson Poet's Theater", which was one of the first three off-off Broadway venues, along with Cafe Chino and La Mama. It also was home to the "Judson Dance Theater" and the Fluxus Art Movement, which formed the basis of what is now commonly called performance art. The company "Movement Research" continues to innovate post-modern dance in our space. In the 60s, the church famously offered sanctuary to the "Folk Rioters", who were harassed by police while protesting a short-lived city ordinance banning folk music in the parks. A few major pop concerts have come through over the years, including Alanis Morissette and the debut of the Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible". The CMJ Music Marathon also calls Judson "home" every October. More recently, Bailout Theater has grown into a venue for all kinds of arts and is re-energizing parts of the scene here. And of course, we're so excited to have Flux being a part of all this!

5. What is coming up on Judson's calendar that we should know about?

So much! This fall is a big one for us... check out http://www.bailout-theater.org/ for the details of our official Bailout Theater nights, which are every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, plus a host of special events on off-weeks. In addition to that, on October 29th and 30th, we'll be having a huge Judson Dance Theater retrospective with Yvonne Rainer, Aileen Passloff, Elaine Summers and many others to commemorate the opening of a very exciting exhibit opening about the Judson arts at the NYU Fales Library. Read more at http://judson.org/falesexhibition !!! In December, we have an extremely exciting show coming to Judson, which will be revealed soon, so keep your ears perked. You really, really, REALLY won't want to miss it (this secret is still fun, because eventually we will tell everyone). There will also be a lot going on with Flux Theatre, so if all you fans keep reading this blog and checking the Judson website, I'm sure we'll all be hangin' out soon! Read the full story

, , , , , , , , ,

Flux Sunday, October 3rd

Monday, October 4, 2010 0 comments

(What is Flux Sunday?)

Playwrights: Fengar Gael (The Spell Caster), Brian Pracht (The Misogynist, Unplugged In), August Schulenburg (Where It Comes and Where It Goes, Symbolic Gestures, Carrin Beginning)

Actors: Candice Holdorf, Richard Watson, Kari Swenson Riely, David Crommett, Gretchen Poulos, Anthony Wills Jr, Jason Howard, Ken Glickfeld, Kelly O'Donnell, Alisha Spielmann, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Heather Cohn, Matthew Archambault, Tiffany Clementi, Ryan Andes, Lynn Kenny

An actor heavy Flux Sunday made for three lucky playwrights and an upbeat three hours. We heard the next installment of The Spell Caster, Brian brought in a rewritten ending for The Misogynist and a rewritten beginning for Unplugged In, and I brought in two new shorts and the first (good) play I ever wrote, Carrin Beginning, nearly 12 years after its original production.

Highlights included:
-One of Tiffany's best Flux Sundays ever, with a feisty Maxine a-gabbin' in The Spell Caster; one of my favorite line readings ever as Libby in The Misogynist ("Um..YES!"); and a revelatory read of Leah in Unplugged In (had always seen this role very differently, but she brought a fascinating maturity-gap/power-dynamic to Leah's relationship with Chris).
-Kelly O'Donnell, Anthony Wills Jr, and Gretchen Poulos finding the perfect balance of comedy in heartbreak in my little Living Wage short, Symbolic Gestures.
-Ryan's sultry stage directions, which turned the sex-role-playing scene of The Misogynist up a few degrees
-Ken's brief but memorable turn as Scaramanga in Unplugged In
-Richard's unsettling/charming delivery of Turlough in Carrin Beginning

What were your thoughts? Did you like a happy ending Misogynist? And what do you think will happen in the power struggle between Mayra and Louisa in The Spell Caster? Read the full story

All Art Is Quite Useless

"All art is quite useless"
-Oscar Wilde, preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

"a play may be the hardest cognitive workout... The best way to prepare the mind for the 21st century might be to see a 16th-century play."
-Jonah Lehrer, keynote at the 2010 TCG National Conference

A Reconsideration Of The Preface To The Picture of Dorian Gray

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
Beauty is the revelation of a pattern of meaning from the mess of experience.
This hunger for pattern is primal.
If you hear a rattle in the grass, be ready for the snake.
This recognition of pattern was the difference between life and death.
Evolution hard wired a hunger for pattern in us from thousands of years of rattles in the grass.
The mind invented memory to separate the rattle from the snake.
Memory invented language to walk outside.
Language invented consciousness to lock the door behind it.
Consciousness invented story so the patterns could live after the pattern-maker died.
And the stories grew more complex, taking in more than a single rattle and bite, taking in the patterns of love, power, death, and life.
God is the rattle in the grass of death.
Beauty is the rattle in the grass of life.
And some stories proved useful, like a stone arrow; some stories became essential, like fire.
We set the rhythm of our choices to the pattern of these stories.
Some stories we need to hear over and over again, because their usefulness never alters, and these stories are called entertainment.
But patterns change, and new stories are called for, and because they are new, they prove difficult to tell; and these stories are called art.
There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book.
There are people who do violent things and call them necessity because their books are full of violent necessity.
There are people who do compassionate things and call them justice because their books are full of compassionate justice.
Sometimes a story that was necessary to survival becomes dangerous, but nostalgia perpetuates it.
Nostalgia is the momentum of memory mistaken for the present moment; art must free us of that.
Art is the evolution of the pattern of life.
All art is quite essential. Read the full story

, , , ,

Judson's Next Bailout Theater - Living Wage

Friday, October 1, 2010 0 comments

Our friends at Judson Memorial Church, hosts of our last Food:Soul Hearts Like Fists, have another Bailout Theater planned, and some Fluxers are contributing plays. Judson is partnering with Living Wage NYC to stage short plays inspired by their work.

Myself and Erin Browne (playwright of our upcoming production of Menders) are among those contributing scripts, and I reckon there may be a few more Flux folk involved before all is said and done. Given my recent post about widening theatre's frame, this seemed a great way to wrestle with some hard issues in a playful way.

See you on the 6th? Read the full story