Friday, September 28, 2007

Marshall Neilan

Come see me play a famous drunken movie director at West Adams Heritage Association's Living History Tour at Angelus Rosedale Cemetary. A link to details is here.

I'm playing Marshall Neilan, Mary Pickford's favorite director, who was apparently legendary with the ladies. I practiced my presentation last night with a high ball glass full of ice, to give me a little prop to work with.

I'm rocking a hot costume too; here's hoping for good pictures. I'm even shaving for it. We'll see if I keep things that way.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Memed again

I may not be highest on the theater blog food chain, but things make their way to me eventually. Cool playwright Johnna Adams tagged me on a meme that cool playwright Marisa Wegrzyn created.

List 5 things that certain people (who are not deserving of being your friend anyway) may consider to be "totally lame," but you are, despite the possible stigma, totally proud of. Own it. Tag 5 others:

1. I went to a Pat Benatar concert. In the year 2000.

2. I kinda like some of the songs on the new Hillary Duff album.

3. I have found myself unspeakably charmed by the movie Hitch. Several times.

4. I wear white socks with dark shoes. Often. I've also been known to sport dark socks with shorts.

5. One of my favorite shirts this summer has been this red plaid short sleeve button-down I bought from Target for about 10 dollars. I've already replaced one button and I've seen really large middle-aged men sporting the plus-size version while grocery shopping with their wives and bratty kids. I still love it and wear it without shame.

Okay, tagging mostly non-theater bloggers. Meg, P. Alan, Zacki, Libby, Chris Capp.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm reading a novel

again! It's been nice, as I always wish I would make more time to read for pleasure. JW and I were browsing at A Different Light in WeHo after dinner a couple of Fridays ago and I picked up the new Edmund White novel. I also picked up a new book by a certain lesbian writer in many mediums who just might've written a play I read, found interesting, but didn't really care for.

Okay, WHY I went with the latter rather than the former is beyond me. Actually, it's not, because as much as I would love to read a bit of historical gay fiction about Stephen Crane and a gay prostitute, I'm always going to seek out Edmund White in the bookstores, and I was afraid I would forget about this other book, which I had read about in LAWeekly a month or two ago. Sounded interesting, so I picked that one out instead.

In short, I HATE IT. It's so completely annoying that I want to throw it out the window. It's frustrating, too; usually when I make time to read for pleasure, I'm so selective and I go with a book I've been desperate to read and have heard nothing but good things about, so it ends up being a great experience. This book is the exact opposite and I can't stand it. Still, I am determined to finish, as there's actually just enough compelling about it to make it readable, and I'm kinda flying through the pages. It's just that all the while I'm reading it I feel like I've been put on trial for charges I don't understand, and it's a really boring trial, fully of really pushy, obnoxious people angling for the judge's attention, but nobody's listening to anybody and the judge and I both are falling asleep, and in the back of my head I feel like I'm supposed to pay attention to this, that this is supposed to MEAN SOMETHING, but I just can't bring myself to care because I have no idea what anyone's getting at, and I'm pronounced guilty, of course, but I don't really think I did anything, or if I did do something, it's the same kinda thing everyone else does, and then when I show up for sentencing, I'm given the death penalty, except that it's death by WHINING. Not by my whining, mind you, but by the whining of the most narcissistic, self-righteous, insecure, simplistic, empathy-free, reactionary writer who ever lived, one with an ego that is rivaled in size ONLY by the enormity of her persecution-complex. GOD.

Only forty pages to go. Let's hope I make it out alive.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rufus sings Judy

The first time I ever heard anything from Judy at Carnegie Hall was last summer, during a performance of Robert Chesley's play, Jerker, about two gay lovers in San Francisco. Chesley indicates in the script that an AIDS-stricken character's answering machine greeting begins with Judy's classic rendition of "San Francisco." It's a perfect detail -- a funny and rousing camp gesture that turns piercing and heartbreaking as the phone keeps going unanswered.

It wasn't until that fall that JW actually dug up his CDs and made me listen to the show in its entirety. I have to say I was pretty well hooked. I've never been a big queen for Judy. I have my other old Hollywood weaknesses (Audrey, Natalie, etc.), but I don't know if there was just something about the obviousness of Judy as gay icon that seemed distasteful, or if I had just never been exposed to this album. Having heard it, it seems impossible for just about anyone not to be won over by it; her voice is so huge she seems to be barely in control of it, and yet it still sounds joyous, nuanced, and mostly effortless.

Rufus Wainwright's voice is, of course, no match for hers. Still, I've always found his voice relentlessly charming, even moving at times. Things I would hate in, say, a tenor singing in my ear in the choir loft on Sunday (or more likely, MY singing in the choir loft on Sunday) -- the nasal drone, the occasional strain -- are made distinctive by him. I don't know if it's the combination of his sound with his material, or if it's just the sentimental attachment I have to this guy, or if it's that we have similar ranges and I can completely relate (hey, singing is HARD), but I love his oddball voice.

So I was rooting for him on Sunday night. And when he had pretty much wrecked his pipes by the final encore I was standing up and cheering. I was cheering for the first openly gay entertainer I really fell for, and one who guided me through some pretty tender times. I was cheering for a guy who is easily the most successful and relevant gay performer we have, a musician who has never capitulated in his gay identity or its centrality to his musical identity. I wasn't cheering for an empathetic, brassy female stand-in, as much as I often love those. Although the concert was clearly an earnest, humble display of admiration for Garland, and an acknowledgement of her influence, I also felt Rufus boldly claiming his territory as his own kind of gay icon. By extension he claimed our right to our own gay (male) icons as well. I don't think it was at all an accident that Martha Wainwright (who had no problem claiming "Stormy Weather" for her own, by the way) congratulated Rufus by telling her how "proud" she and her mother were of him. I was proud of him too. But I was also just plain proud. No wonder I was cheering!

All that said, ever since the show I've been listening not to Rufus' albums on repeat, but to Judy at Carnegie Hall. I even played "San Francisco" twice on my way to choir rehearsal tonight. Still, it was most definitely Rufus I went to see on Sunday, and I'll go on seeing him, singing along, and keeping all my ticket stubs for future reference and fond memories.

Oh, for a few good pictures and more along these same lines, check Ann Powers' smart review in today's LATimes here.

And for another take on Sunday night from my favorite (former) faghag, check here. It ain't pretty.

UPDATE: LAist just posted a nice bit about Rufus' show, with lots of fun pictures, mostly of him and Lorna Luft. There's even one of him in his Judy drag; check it all out here.

Rufus live

I'm a saver of ticket stubs, as you can see above. There is no organization to my piles and envelopes and zip-lock baggies of them, nor much rhyme or reason to my saving them. When I was looking for the above tickets, I also found movie stubs for 25th Hour and an Arkansas Razorbacks game I saw with my dad. I rarely bother to save programs, buy souvenirs, or take pictures, but for some reason the ticket stub is something that either I can't seem to or really want to shed.

Five of the six Rufus Wainwright appearances I've attended are represented up there. Brief descriptions of all six follow:

Instant Karma, Houston TX, April 8, 1999.

I believe Instant Karma is no longer in existence, but it was a tiny club on Richmond in Montrose, next to a funky Tex-Mex place where my friend Gia and I had dinner before making our way to the show. On our way out we passed Wainwright, who was sipping a Corona and holding court at an outdoor table with either his bandmates or his local hosts. I remember whispering to Gia, "Was that him? I think it was him!"

I had bought his debut CD and the tickets on the strength of a short feature in the Houston Chronicle, so I was brand new to my fandom, equal parts cagey and curious about his status as a baby gay icon. Still, I was already able to sing just about every song from memory from the heavy rotation I'd given it in my little Corolla.

His sister Martha opened the concert, and she impressed me really quickly when she smoothly silenced a couple of hecklers without even bothering to stop her song. When Rufus took the stage, he charged through most of the songs on his first album, including "Matinee Idol," which he introduced by saying in his flat, fey, affectless affect, "Uhm, this is a song about River Phoenix." He also previewed Poses' "California" and "Greek Song," the latter of which he introduced as a song about going to Greece, falling in love with a straight boy, and returning the states to mope in the Classics section of Barnes and Noble (a pretty concise synopsis of the song, if you ask me). He also jokingly lamented that his band was drunk. Lotsa laughs that night.

I'm sure I was giving Gia whiplash, probably queening out and singing along at one moment, then whispering about how nancy the audience was in the next. Regardless, we were both entranced by the sexy, slow "In Your Arms," and the country croon of "Sally Ann." A scarf-wearing fan who was even more drunk than Rufus' band screamed for the singer as he stood on a barstool while his companion held a belt loop in his pants to keep him upright.

After the show I spent the next year giving the debut CD to just about every close friend I had for one occasion or another.

M, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, February 19, 2002.

I'd been out of the closet and dating men for a whopping six months when I went to this show. Poses, Rufus' 2nd CD, was released in 2001, and it was my soundtrack for that summer. It was quite a summer for me, and definitely an apt soundtrack. I remember driving around with the windows down and singing giddily along with "One Man Guy." And then chickening out and skipping the track when I'd come to a stop at red lights. And it was on near constant repeat in the box office during my summer job, to no end of raised eyebrows, I'm sure. Heady times, those were.

Seems like I went with Trista to this show because her husband Matt was in rehearsals for Junemania, but he arrived after the rehearsal of his thesis play with one of the actors in his show. Or did he just drop Natalie off and go home because he didn't have a ticket? I can't recall. I remember it being a good show, although I think I wondered at one point (perhaps unfairly) if everyone onstage was high.

Opening for Aimee Mann, Royce Hall, UCLA, July 24, 2003.

Rufus played a simple set at this show, and I almost didn't go, but ended up tagging along with Matt and Trista and Todd. Was Rob with us? I don't think he was. I enjoyed the set, but I was in a panic because I had to dash off to LAX to catch a redeye to Pittsburgh for a reading of the gayest of my (full-length) gay plays, The Rendezvous. I cut it so close I got bumped off my flight because it was oversold, and I had to take a later redeye. At least I got a free ticket out of the deal, so thanks for that, Rufus.

Wiltern, Thursday, December 18, 2003.

Ugh, this was a rough time. I don't even want to tell you about it, so I'm not going to. It wasn't because Rufus was bad, though; I'm sure it was a fine show, which probably made it all the worse, but I'm still not going to tell you. I think Loudon and Martha came out to sing "One Man Guy" with him, and didn't Martha open? I think so. Seems like this was one of the glitzier of his shows, with a Wizard of Oz reference ("I'm Melting I'm Melting!" - or was that in the UCLA set? I'm not sure.) I was kind of a mess in those days, but two days later I would have my first date with JW. Things began to look up after that.

MISSING TICKET -- Opening for k.d. lang at the Hollywood Bowl. Saturday, July 31, 2004.

JW and I went to this one. I had put Want One, away for a while, having collapsed into tears on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway one too many times while listening to "Vibrate," Want," and "Dinner at Eight." That last detail's for Kevin, and also a bit of romantic, melancholic, revisionist history that I think the singer would appreciate, but never mind.

Anyway, after a while with JW, I got the CD back out to recontextualize and I talked him into sitting through the barefoot, loping k.d. so we could see Rufus together.

He seemed pretty nervous that night, but he pulled the set off with grace, good humor, and even a touch of modesty. I remember the highlight being his preview of "Gay Messiah" from Want Two, which would come out a few months later. JW remains a bit suspicious of RW to this day, I think, but surely feels that special bond that all true opera queens must, and so was won over and definitely on board for the Judy Garland show that he sang when he returned to the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday night.

More on that in a bit.

Apropos of something

I'd like to ask for a moratorium on the use of food adjectives like "milky," "buttery," or "creamy," to describe production elements in theater, film, or opera, be they scenic design or mezzo-soprano vocal technique. Critics take note.

Thank you.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I saw Durango

by Julia Cho at East West Players over the weekend. It's a nice show. I was reminded more than a little bit of Death of a Salesman at various points in the script, and there are much worse things to be reminded of during a play.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Daisy Bates

There was a nice profile of the great Arkansan on NPR this morning in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Central High Crisis. Here's a good quote:

"You really needed a woman to go and talk with families and to give the assurance that the students were going to have a touch point of comfort," [one of the first African-American graduates of Central High, Sybil Jordan] Hampton says. "But she also was a very beautiful woman and the national press and other people found it just wonderful to have this star-quality black woman."

Bates wore high heels and stylish dresses, and her friend Annie Abrams recalls her as one of the most glamorous, sophisticated black women in town.

Bates had no children of her own, but she was "hungry for children and children were attracted to her because she was a Lena Horne in our town."

It was unusual, in an era when black leaders were almost always men, for a black woman to take a leading role — especially in a drama that was playing out on the national stage.
Read the whole story or listen to Juan Williams' report here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I got memed

by Malachy. It only hurt for a minute, though.

Here's the meme, originated by Patrick at The Writing Life x3:

"Make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It's not really bragging, it's an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you'd like to see share their strengths."

Okay, here's my stab at it.

1. I'm good at rewriting, specifically in honing in on where a script stalls or feels inactive and injecting a charge into that. I'm unafraid to cut large sections of text, whole scenes, characters, or give major structural overhauls in order to make the play work.

2. I'm not afraid of dramatic fireworks. I embrace melodrama, and I love to make a mess onstage or instigate screaming matches between my characters. I'd rather write a play that's over the top than one that's safe and boring.

3. I love exploring the past by writing historical drama. I love the research and I neither get bogged down in it during pre-writing and outlining, nor do I get bogged down in an excess of historical detail during the writing.

4. I love laughs in odd places, and I always leave them in. I'm proud when I write moving scenes that contain action or dialogue that elicits surprising laughter from the audience. I find that it disarms the audience too, so that they become more open to what's poignant in the scene.

5. I am always mindful of clever writing at the expense of clarity, pacing, or engagement with the audience. I might write a joke that feels labored, or follow a tricky idea for a while in the writing process just to get it out, but if it's stalling the action or not working, it's gone. In short, I'd rather be clear than clever.

I'm tagging Ernessa T., Debra, Erik, and Clark.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Get well soon


Okay, that's that!

I've posted all the photos I'm gonna post. Time to move on, folks!

I'm apparently doing some Hollywood Cemetery Tour on September 29. I'm playing Mary Pickford's favorite director who wound up as a cab driver. I don't think I got a name. Maybe that's a little research project for this afternoon....

Hopefully I'll get my Jerome app done today. I'm hoping to send off to New Dramatists tomorrow, but I don't know if I'll crank that one out in time or not. And I just remembered the O'Neill's coming up too! And the BAPF, and I still haven't done SPFNYC, etc. It's all too much! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Last round of photos.

Goreti and Ed. "Tangible goals, Bart!"

More Goreti and Ed. "Sophie and me, we'd look pretty good in a sporty coupe, huh Ma?"

Bart's big scene. Ed was always so good here.

Shelby and Ed in the quiet finish. "It should be so simple, shouldn't it?"

It should.

More photos.

That's Shelby Janes again. My Sophie. I love that picture of her.

Goreti and Ed. "Ma, ya told me to!"

Here's Shelby with Joe Nicchi. "No, let it be a broken, twisted, mangled claw! How's that for a statement?"

Play photos, round one!

L to R - Sasha Harris, Todd Gallahan, and Shelby Janes

The lovely and talented Sasha!

That's Sasha with Ed Dyer and a boombox. "Do me a favor man, it's for a girl!"

Goreti da Silva and Ed. "Near there? No. Ma. Listen!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My LAist interview

I never did post about this, but I figure I might as well now. It's based on a phone interview with me, so if you've never spoken to me in person, this gives a pretty good sense of my tendency to ramble and digress. And this isn't even word-for-word!

The show's cancelled! Don't buy tickets! Just check out how awesome the set and actors look in the link here.

More to come, promise!

After an abbreviated run

my play, Walking Into Traffic, has been relegated to the history books. Or at least this production has. It was a good ride while it lasted...mostly, anyway. Thanks for all your interest and good wishes!

I have some photos of my hot actors to post, but that will probably come later.

I really am proud of this little show, "gratuitously eccentric characters" and all!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Last night at the Bowl

JW and I went to hear a concert performance of Boris Godunov. And we were surrounded by what JW referred to during intermission as "fugitives from the geriatric psych ward." This sounds cruel, and perhaps it is, but allow me to set the scene:

7:20: We arrive at our seats with our Bowl food, and we see a row of retirees behind us, all ruddy cheeked and giggly. I could feel the anxiety surging from JW at the sight of them. I tend to be more optimistic, so I didn't think much of it, but I knew JW was prepping for the worst.

7:45: We settle in and eat and listen to them gab and crack bad jokes. It's kind of amusing at this point, because hey, it's the Bowl, right? Let them have their fun. How often do these folks get out and have a good time?

8:05: The violinist makes his entrance and much of the amphitheater claps, including JW and me, as is customary. The gentleman behind me says, "What are they clapping for? Nothing's happened yet!"

8:07: Esa-Pekka Salonen makes his entrance to conduct the National Anthem. The gentleman behind me says, "Oh! I thought that other guy was the conductor!"

NOTE: At this point in the post I'm beginning to wonder if all my readers think I'm a snob. I'm seriously not. Up until the performance started, I was actually kind of charmed by the whole exchange. Granted, I was beginning to worry that the commentary was not going to stop once the program started, but I figured I'd worry about that when it was time to do so.

8:10: Okay, it's time to do so. These people WILL NOT STOP TALKING. I know it's the Bowl, I know it's not Disney Hall, but these people have scores of years on me and I know better so they should know better!

8:25: Did that subtitle just say "twelve-winged proboscis?" Wow. That sounds really intense. I wish I weren't being distracted by this guy's flat midwestern baritone as it makes wisecracks in my ear so I could really appreciate the significance of the "twelve-winged proboscis."

8:27: My stink-eye didn't work. Maybe my stink-eye isn't nasty enough. Am I too timid? I think people think I'm all passive and don't assert myself and make myself a pushover, but it's not true, I swear! I just don't have much interest in being all type-A and bowling over people because it just gets me worked up and it rarely accomplishes what I want anyway. More flies with honey, right? And also, don't I choose my battles? Isn't that best? Maybe I should tell this guy to SHUT THE HELL UP WITH THE SMART REMARKS SO I CAN FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE DEAD TSAREVICH AND YES! YES, THE WORD IS TSAR. IT IS SPELLED WITH A TS AND NOT A CZ SO COULD YOU PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP TALKING?

8:28: I tap JW on the leg and say, "Can we scoot down?" as we luckily have the majority of the bench to ourselves.

8:29: Safely perched in the middle of our row, I start to feel a little silly for getting so worked up. We should've just moved over at the first sign of talking. See how much nicer? There!


8:35: The woman who just joined me in shushing the noisily elderly is now RATTLING A PLASTIC BAG. IN MY EAR.


8:59: Wow, they looked like a bunch of scared toddlers with that stink-eye. I kinda feel sad now. They're probably just off the bus from the retirement home and haven't been to a public performance in ages. And they have to suffer through Boris Godunov? In Russian? With super-titles on the big screens they probably can't even read because of their night-blindness or whatever. That's so sad.


9:10: Kyle, you cannot make them stop talking. You cannot make them be anything more than what they are. You can only be you. You can only sit here and try to enjoy where you are right this very moment. Relax. Focus on your breathing.

So it took me until intermission to start trying to get Zen about it all, but things did get more pleasant after that. Of course the ladies started crowing about how peering at the screens made their necks hurt somewhere around THE CLIMAX. Still, I just smiled to myself and leaned forward and let the lady with the noisy plastic bag tell them they were rude. That was rich.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A new post

It has come to my attention that a couple of my diehard fans are concerned about my lack of substantive posts lately. Okay, make that JW. And my friend Henry. So here's a little bit of a hodge-podge that only partially concerns my new play, Walking Into Traffic, which runs Thursdays-Sundays at Unknown Theater.

Let's see...where to start?

I think I'm late to the party on this, but I'm head-over-heels crazy about Of Montreal, specifically their new album, Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer? I'm making JW see them with me at The Avalon on November 9. JW is being a good sport so far, but, in his usual fashion, he has taken to purposely misidentifying them. As "Montana."

I may also take JW to see P.J. Harvey at The Orpheum on October 15. He knows her name, but I think he's just agreeing to go in the hopes that Josh will be playing with her. I told him not to count on it, but I don't blame him for hoping.

This may shock you, but I'm somewhat disappointed in The New Pornographers' new album. I still love them, but maybe there's just not enough Dan Bajar on it this time around.

I enjoyed the first hour of Superbad, and Michael Cera, and how gay it is (although I have mixed feelings about its gayness, but I also find it kind of interesting), but it seems a little long to me. I think it's one of those movies that I wouldn't mind having around on DVD just so I could fast-forward to all the funny parts, like all of Fogel's scenes before the cops come in, or when Michael Cera sings.

Oh, and after all the hubub about Outfest's restoration of Parting Glances, I put it on my Netflix queue and watched it for the first time over the weekend. I want more gay movies like this one! And how good is Steve Buscemi? And maybe this is stating the obvious, but Kushner sure saw this one, huh?

I know there's not much about theater on here, but I haven't had time to see any in L.A. because of my own show. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things soon. I want to see E.M. Lewis' Heads. That's tops on the list. Oh, and Butterflies of Uganda at Greenway Court. And Do Do Love and The Idiot Box at Open Fist, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to get to those. You all should go and tell me how they are!

More to come, hopefully.

UPDATE: Oh, and my friend b has a blog that she only just got around to telling me about. Check it out here, but don't tell her where you saw it. I don't want her getting mad at me for posting the link.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Maybe I'm jaded

but, aside from finding Glen Hansard beyond dreamy, I don't really get Once.

Although I suppose you have to like the music in order to like the movie. Maybe that's my problem.