Thursday, November 29, 2012

I got an announcement

from Heyward Howkins about his new single. I'm always flattered and a little surprised when I get treated like press. (I'm not press.) I rarely if ever do anything with the requests, but he shares a first name with my 92-year-old great uncle in Magnolia, AR, so I couldn't resist.

You can download his new single, "Praline Country," here. Here's a video of him performing it.

These songs are nice; check them out. I like his beard, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In Sunday's Calendar section

we learn that plays are sometimes very short. And yet other times they're very very long.

I kid, but I actually do like this quote that ends the very very long article by Reed Johnson, from one of the actors in Gatz--
Kristen Sieh, who portrays several characters in "Gatz," says that for her as a performer, handling a marathon play is a straightforward time-management task of "keeping yourself ready to do good work." As for the audience, she suggests, don't sweat it. You've got plenty of time.

"Robert Wilson explores this a lot, like saying, 'Oh, you can just leave. You're allowed to go pee if you need to and come back,'" Sieh says, referring to the avant-garde director known for his time-devouring choreography.

"There's people who are like, 'Oh, a whole day?' I'm like, 'Well, what are you doing with your whole day otherwise?'"

Lest you think

my lack of posting an excerpt from L.A. Affairs over the weekend meant that the paper had taken a break from covering the love lives of the city's heterosexuals, not to worry. Not even Thanksgiving or my birthday could stop them.
As the clock closed in on midnight, I signaled to Lorne that I had to leave. We began walking up 4th Street to our car when a small dark Mazda RX-7 suddenly pulled up and stopped next to me. "Here," said a woman partially hidden behind a half-rolled-down window, "take this." She handed me a crumpled piece of paper and the car zoomed off.

I opened the folded paper to find a handwritten note: "You have been voted most intriguing man of the night. Call me," with a name and phone number added.
Read the rest here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I realized

some time after I wrote that post about the Angels in America articles in the LATimes that I ignored the meatiest one, which questions if the development and support of the play could've happened in today's industry and economy. I had pulled the first two articles off Twitter links and must've missed the third Tweet about that one. It's a compelling article with a positive approach, but its view of theater is institutional, and as a result, limited.

Isaac over at Parabasis didn't miss the article, and he wrote some good responses. My favorite, though, is from Mac Rogers, who gets at the myopic obsession with institutions that theater journalism has.
I knew THE HONEYCOMB TRILOGY [Mac's ambitious 3-play sci-fi epic] could likely only exist in indie theater, in this case as three Equity Showcase productions. Now, I'm very keenly aware - painfully so - that the indie theater and/or Equity Showcase model requires underwriting just as much as ANGELS IN AMERICA did back in the day. Not in the form of large grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, but instead in the form of a vast flotilla of extraordinary artists providing their time and talent for far less remuneration than they deserve. My company is proud that we pay a decent chunk above the required Equity minimum - it's certainly not a fortune, but it's a gesture to our performing, design, and stage management artists that their work is valuable to us - but it's only fair to say that THE HONEYCOMB TRILOGY is made possible in part by a donation of great talent and hundreds of hours taken out of the personal lives of several dozen artists.
I'm willing to cede that much. If there's one way that I could think of our productions as "less than" in any way, it's that. The first thing we at Gideon would do with more funding is properly remunerate our colleagues. THAT SAID:
IT HAPPENED. I wrote it, we produced it, the three plays appeared on a public stage, several hundred people saw them, they were reviewed in a number of high-profile outlets, they were discussed, praised, pilloried, critiqued... but they happened. These were real productions. Can epic shows happen today? THEY DO. We're making them happen any way we can.
This is all well-said, and it's one of the many reasons we kicked off Fell Swoop Playwrights -- to do it on our own terms, in our own way.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

More news from the Fell Swoop Kick-Off

We decided to earmark a portion of our donations to Hurricane Sandy, and on Thursday I made a $100 donation to Occupy Sandy. You can do the same here.

Food and Frailty in today's L.A. Affairs

 Pat Chatlin writes about her bad back and her drawing teacher, Ed. In the below passage, her match-making friend Wendy arranges Pat's first date with Ed on the fly--
"Ed, do you own a cleaver?" she asked as soon as she seated him at our table, "'Cause I'm giving a Chinese cooking party at my house Saturday night, and you're invited if you do!"

Checking her watch, she then announced: "Oooops, gotta go, husband's waiting. Pat will fill you in on the details."

What details?

Wendy will hear about this, I vowed to myself.

The big night arrived with a major adjustment. At Wendy's prompting, the location changed from her Newport Beach ocean-view canyon home to my 400-square-foot apartment over a garage in Laguna. To top it all off, one hour prior to the kick-off, I received one of those bad news phone calls.

"Sorry, my husband and I have just had a big argument. You're on your own," Wendy said.

"You can't do this to me. You're beef lo mein, the main course. I'm only won tons," I pleaded in a panic.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oh, and P.S.

Luke turned me into a gif!

Kicked off!

I've been updating social media all night and saving the personal blog for last, but let me just say that Fell Swoop Playwrights put on a great party last night.

We had over 40 people at the Red Rock Bar on the Sunset Strip for fun, drinks, music from Tasha's Itch, and readings from (almost) all of our playwrights.

Here are a few pictures from friend of Fell Swoop, Luke Gattuso. Check out a bigger sample of these pictures at the Fell Swoop blog here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tonight's the night!

We're kicking off Fell Swoop tonight at 8pm! Come celebrate with us tonight at Red Rock Bar & Cafe on Sunset. The address is 8782 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

And just a reminder -- we're donating a portion of all our donations to Occupy Sandy for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Come check us out and know you're supporting two good causes!

Here are the details for the event--

Help us celebrate Fell Swoop and help us get to the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival!

Come enjoy--

--Short readings from our member playwrights!

--Live music from Jeffrey Johnson and his band, Tasha's Itch!

$10 suggested donation, which includes drinks specials in the upstairs VIP bar.
Wednesday, November 14, starting at 8pm. (P.S. it's more a "doors open" than "curtain time." Join us when you can.)
If you can't make it, you can always buy us a virtual drink by offering a tax-deductible donation here.

I'm still reeling

from last night's concert performance of Wozzeck at Disney Hall, conducted by Essa-Pekka Salonen and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, along with members of the Piedmont Choirs and UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.

And several soloists, my favorites being Johan Reuter as Wozzeck and Hubert Francis as the Drum Major. They didn't hold back one bit. It was great.

The program notes have a lot of info about Buchner, but my favorite part is a quote from a letter to his fiancee, written in 1834--
I find in human nature a terrible uniformity, in human relationships an irrepressible force, shared by everyone and no-one. The individual just foam on the wave, greatness mere chance, the rule of genius a puppet-play, a laughable struggle with an iron law; to recognize this is the highest insight, to control it impossible....
I re-read Woyzeck recently as a bit of research for a script I've been working on, and experiencing the story onstage deepened my understanding of both it and my own play.  It's too bad they only did it one night. I'd go back and see it a second time if I could.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

L.A. Affairs on love and predestination

In today's L.A. Affairs, Tito Morales contemplates his romantic fate--
Soon we were standing in a long line outside a Westwood theater, waiting to see a movie about a guy named Indiana Jones. And our relationship, much like the narrative of that movie, began to hurtle forward with an exhilarating momentum that made me feel as much a passenger as a driver.

The first kiss occurred on the deck of a home perched on a bluff overlooking Malibu; the first picnic, at the fragrant Descanso Gardens; the first hike, along a winding, shadowy trail in Temescal Canyon.
 Then came the birthday trips to the Norton Simon, the secret wedding on Kauai, the antiquing in Ventura … was any of it, upon reflection, really within our control?
Read the rest here.

LATimes on Angels in America

The LATimes is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Angels in America with a couple of nice articles. Here's a quote from this one, exploring the social and political context--
A two-part, seven-hour performance was a real commitment from someone with AIDS, but in those early audiences were men leaning on canes and the arms of nurses, a few wheeling oxygen tanks, many stifling beepers that told them it was time to take their medication. They came with their friends, with their partners, with fellow sufferers, or they came alone. As former Times editor Richard Rouille said, recalling his own memory of the premiere: "We were going to see that play if it was the last thing we did." (He died four years later.)
And here's a nice passage that concludes this one, including quotes from Gordon Davidson and Kushner himself.
"You could feel the ripples in the audience," former Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson recalls. "For many people, it allowed them into this world that they wanted to know more about and didn't even know how to express that. And suddenly, there it was for them."

As social and political theater, says Kushner, "I have no idea whether or not `Angels' changed anything. Plays have enormous power, but it's an indirect power. Most of what I get is a lot of parents saying they have a gay child who read `Angels' and it meant a lot to him, or gay men and women who've said, `I read your play in high school and it helped me come out,' or `my parents saw it on television and until then I don't think they really understood me.' It's wonderful, and it means a lot to me."
My first experience of it was at the Arkansas Rep, if you can believe that, and I've had the pleasure of meeting two of the actors in that production, as well as the playwright himself, who signed a copy of A Bright Room Called Day for me and let me tell him how much that experience meant to me. 

Alex Ross

writes a long article about gay political history in the 11/12 issue of The New Yorker that manages to be thorough and personal at the same time. It's very sweet, and it makes me want to read the several books he mentions and quotes, especially David Halperin's How to Be Gay, which explores gay culture and camp. This is my favorite quote from Ross's article, about how certain young people seem to develop gay sensibilities well ahead of their sexual identities--
Of course, a love for Golden Age movies or interior design is not necessarily a telltale sign. Plenty of straight kids flee from the locker room to the Drama Club, and plenty of gay kids thrive at sports. Yet the anecdotal evidence for the early onset of gay taste is vast. In retrospect, my mania for Beethoven may have been a way of forestalling a reckoning with my sexuality: rather than commit myself, I disappeared into a fleshless realm. Halperin sees another dimension to this kind of engagement -- a willful resistance to the male-adolescent herd, a form of quasi-political dissidence. It's a heady idea to attribute political motives to gay children, but Halperin is on to something. The fanatical twelve-year-old aesthete displays something like cultural disobedience.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fell Swoop Kick-Off UPDATE!

We're getting excited about our Fell Swoop Playwrights party next Wednesday at Red Rock Bar & Cafe on Sunset. Our members are bringing some writing to share with the crowd; I've been working a little bit on a personal essay that I'll try to get through without blushing too much.

One new detail worth mentioning -- we've decided to donate a portion of all our donations to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. So come check us out and know you're supporting two good causes!

Here are the details for the event--
Help us celebrate Fell Swoop and help us get to the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival!

Come enjoy--

--Short readings from our member playwrights!

--Live music from Jeffrey Johnson and his band, Tasha's Itch!

$10 suggested donation, which includes drinks specials in the upstairs VIP bar.
Wednesday, November 14, starting at 8pm. (P.S. it's more a "doors open" than "curtain time." Join us when you can.)
If you can't make it, you can always buy us a virtual drink by offering a tax-deductible donation here.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Things I wish I'd blogged about #4: Thornton Wilder

 #1, #2 and #3 are here, here, and here.

I thought I was all caught up with all the things I wish I'd blogged about during the blog's dormant phase, but just the other day I was reminded of seeing the David Cromer Our Town at the Broad Stage back in January. Charles Isherwood's review of the new Thornton Wilder biography in the NYTimes was the refresher; it also reminded me of Secret Historian, the amazing Samuel Steward biography that offered insight into Wilder and the history of biographers' reactions to his sexuality.

Which is why a passage like this from Isherwood stood out to me--
Among the refreshing aspects of Penelope Niven’s new biography, “Thornton Wilder: A Life,” is its startling sexlessness, the paucity of the kind of dish that sometimes has seemed to drive the market in literary biography in recent decades.
I haven't read the biography but I want to, although I was concerned after reading the review that it contained some effort to de-emphasize his sexuality. This was a source of irritation for Steward as well, and he corresponded with an earlier biographer, Gilbert Harrison, about the matter. After Harrison requested an interview, Steward asked for assurances that "no posthumous purification is planned." I love that phrase, incidentally.

Steward didn't get what he wanted. Secret Historian notes that Harrison--
insinuated in a letter to Steward that if sexual acts between the two men really had occurred, they had probably occurred as the result of an aggressive homosexual seduction engineered by Steward.


"If one accepts the essentials of Steward's story," Harrison wrote, "the sexual act between them was so hurried and reticent, so barren of embrace, tenderness or passion that it might never have happened." Clearly, the desire that the sexual act "might never have happened" was Harrison's, for Wilder had instigated such sexual acts on twenty-six separate occasions over the course of seven years.
I bring this up because, where Wilder is concerned, sexlessness has been done already. Isherwood continues--
[S]etting aside the dubious testimony of a single man who claims to have gone to bed with Wilder, “Thornton Wilder: A Life” tells of a life lived without the sexual relationships and romantic attachments that we sometimes falsely assume to be the most momentous passages in an artist’s — or anyone’s — life.
Is he referring to Steward here? If so, his claims are hardly dubious. Either way, why doesn't Isherwood mention this "single man," whoever he is, by name? Why is Isherwood so committed to this theme? Yes Wilder was a great writer, but discounting the complexity of his sexuality does an injustice to him and his writing. Steward outed him some 40 years ago; there's no need to shove him back in the closet.

I found a more straightforward review of the biography in the Boston Globe, which suggests that the man Isherwood can't bear to name is Steward after all--
Unlike such other works as “The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder,” this biography does not skirt the question of Wilder’s sexuality, and Niven addresses the subject gingerly and respectfully. A minor literary figure and provocateur named Samuel Steward publicly “outed” the playwright after Wilder’s death, and Niven weighs the evidence, which she deems inconclusive. (Curiously, she does not liberally quote Wilder’s letters to Steward, which are stored in the Yale archives, yet have not been published.)
"Inconclusive." Well then. The "dubious" "provocateur" was also "minor." No wonder so "inconclusive." Thanks critics. That clears things right up.

A blog I just discovered, Band of Thebes, got its dander up about this too, and gets to the point.
Sex need not be the "most momentous passage" to be worthy of inclusion in a lengthy examination of his life.
All this just reminds me of studying gay writers in high school in Arkansas in the 90s. There was the one English teacher who wondered aloud about Truman Capote, "You know, I don't think he ever married." To this day I'm not sure if she was saying that as a pre-emptive strike against any touchy conversations, or if she actually had no idea what she was talking about.

Then there was the slightly more worldly Mrs. Bittle (one of my favorites), who, upon teaching The Glass Menagerie, at least had the confidence to introduce the issue, if only to warn anyone against discussing it further. She said "And yes, Tennessee Williams was gay, but I don't see what that has to do with talking about the play."

And of course, it has EVERYTHING to do with that play.

JW and I got tickled during one of the act breaks of the David Cromer Our Town at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica in January (the reason this is a "things I wish I'd blogged about" post). Simon Stimson, the alcoholic church organist, stood out to both of us, so much so that during the break I turned to JW and said, "Oh god the organist!" Without missing a beat, he replied "GAY!"

Who knows if that was on Wilder's mind or not, but we're apparently not the first to have speculated about it. I even found a really nice blog post from The Mouth of the Beast about Steward and Wilder that digs into this aspect of the play in greater detail.
There’s an aura of tragedy around [organist Simon] Stimson; townsfolk attend his choir rehearsals but speak about him in whispers, and finally the Stage Manager shows us to his grave, telling us that he died early of alcoholism. The character represents the dark side of small town living, the repression, the lack of opportunity, the smallness and the small mindedness. It’s clear that his alcoholism and frequent drunkenness is enough of a dark secret to scandalize the town, but again it’s hard for me not to read more into it.
The gay church organist is, within gay circles, a stock figure. He’s the person that is too bound by environment and family ties to move away, and has found the one place in that environment in which he can be most like himself. Wilder has a tremendous amount of compassion for this character, and I really see it as a reflection of himself, the Thornton Wilder that grew up in a small town, the Thornton Wilder that couldn’t get out.
All this said, I don't know that analyzing every aspect of Wilder's character and literature for evidence of his repressed sexuality is the right move. His brilliance and innovations deserve much more than that. But it's equally problematic (and seems ultimately to come from the kind of shame-based moralism that might've done in poor Simon Stimson) to describe a well-documented same sex relationship as "dubious" and call a biography's sexlessness "refreshing."

Saturday, November 03, 2012

In today's L.A. Affairs

we learn that checklists don't always make the man.
Initially, I was a fan only of Carlos' intellect.
Physically, he was too small and wiry to be my type. But over time, and perhaps in acknowledgment of how the far side of 30 can change a woman's perspective, I reconsidered his potential as a mate. Carlos seemed to embody most of the criteria on my mental checklist: bilingual (check), smart (check), not only smart but good at math (check), liberal politics (check) and confidence (based on his ability to battle the OC — double check).

Plus, he was a friend of a friend — all the more reason to trust him. We moved in the same circles. I had a handle on him.

Except I didn't.
Read the rest here.