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Show opening at Warwick

6 Mar

Trojan Barbie had a great opening night on Friday at Playbox. And we sold out of the Samuel French edition of the play in 10 minutes! The promenade staging really works well for this play–great choice Stewart! It was interesting to see what the pressure of an audience swirling around and through did to the world of the play. In a way, it made more sense of the collage, collision structure of the world—it felt like being in a camp where events piled on top of one another, and the audience having to move to see the next events felt very organic—that their energy was a part of what was going on. Playbox have some beautiful photos— I’ll post them when/ if I can get copies.

And I was so proud of the young performers! Continue reading

Frames and authors

26 Feb

I was inspired to write the following by Polly Carl’s post on the new play blog, HowlRound. (After putting this in on Howlround a “comment”, realized it was a large hefty rant of its own so I’m reposting here.) HowlRound is part of a new push to extend the conversation about building new work in the American theatre; check it out here.
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As Polly Carl points out, Benjamin was amazingly prescient in his prediction that every audience member would become a writer, re-wiring the traditional author/ audience relationship. I will return to this exciting idea later, but first, let’s look at how the not-for-profit theatre currently frames the audience/ author relationship.

The “frame” or “authorship” of the work of art in the age of regional theatre can be read through the physical stage, which in its architecture is a metonym of all the authorial relationships within which it’s embedded. It’s nestled within the building (product of a successful capital campaign running into the millions) which is nestled within a web of marketing, financial and programming relationships. And outside of this set of interlocking Russian dolls, the playwright and other freelance (labor for hire) artists wait anxiously.

If “authoring” means framing an experience through access to its means of production, then playwrights are less and less this “author.” The frame in many ways IS the story (McLuhan), and in the not-for-profit theatre, that frame is bought and sold by funders, boards and artistic directors, and put up in physical space. To then put a play in that space frames it as product, content, for a pre-ordered set of aesthetic rules which the theatre, not the playwright, has defined in both physical and metaphorical space. That frame may be congenial or poisonous to the play, but in either case, the play doesn’t have the wiggle room to define its own, and (as product) it isn’t supposed to. Continue reading

Trojan Barbie in Warwick

26 Feb

Very jetlagged on arriving in a rainy Warwick, UK– welcomed by Stewart and Mary, directors of the theatre, and got to see the lovely Dream Factory and the theatre where very soon, the seats will be gone and the space will be transformed into a raw, muddy holding pen for women at war! The young performers in Trojan Barbie are blogging about their rehearsal process, and you can read their responses to hurtling into a fictional war-zone here:

Everyone is very curious to see how this works–the staging idea is bold– a containment center with “promenade” audience, walking through the destroyed world of Troy along with the performers. There are hundreds if not thousands of broken dolls littering the space too. There’s something in this design concept that channels Anselm Kiefer for me–his huge, bleak installations that return again and again to Troy, filtered through the catastrophe of WW2. I remember seeing the huge rebar “wave” he created in MassMOCA and feeling I was in a landscape I knew intimately–the landscape of aftermath.

Reading of CAN’T COMPLAIN

7 Feb

All things Irish… I recently discovered (via my Aunt) that my great-grandmother Bessie Hallinan was a bounty migrant from Clare in Ireland to Australia and married a bigamist Norwegian sea-captain! I’ve been digging into my Irish roots because I have a new play with an Irish character that’s being read at the Irish Rep in New York this month.

So, if you happen to be in New York, please come to the reading of my newest play, CAN’T COMPLAIN, at the Irish Rep. Friday, February 18th, 3 p.m. The full Irish Rep reading details are here:

It’s a funny play about sad things, with a ripping role for an older actress, a midnight visit by the Devil, and a ghost story at the center. Here’s the synopsis:

In Can’t Complain, Rita hates being confined in a hospital, where her daughter Maureen has placed her for assessment after a small stroke. She plots her escape with the help of her elderly Irish room-mate Iris, her granddaughter Jansis, and her cat’s new best friend, the Devil. Rita battles her present situation–until a riotous party night with Iris and the Devil collapses her escape plan and brings her face to face with the remains of her past.

In print! Trojan Barbie

20 Jan

It was a thrill to see my play finally in book form (Samuel French). That stunning Cassandra on the cover is Nina Kassa.

Talkback: a Play About Talkbacks

11 Jan

Finally, a really good use for the verbatim research technique in theatre (OK, that’s 2 posts in a row from Flux, but this one is laugh-out-loud funny for any playwright who’s waded through the muddy swamp of development). By the very witty and talented Liz Duffy Adams: TalkBack: A Play About Talkbacks

The Tempest at Cutting Ball

13 Dec

If you’re in San Francisco, go and see Rob Melrose’s gorgeous, 3-actor production of The Tempest. It runs through Dec 19. I don’t often feel a sense of wonder in the theatre–though I live in hope– but by the end of this magically protean production (and play) I was transported. The production uses a spare set which echoes a swimming pool and a psychiatrist’s office to invoke all the dreams and storms of this play. The contemporary staging creates resonance between the four centuries-old dreamscape of the play’s text and modernist understandings of how magic and shape-shifting move across the mind, through projection, dream, desire and fantasy. And the three actors do a fantastic job of shape-shifting, which suits the modern view the play presents of character as multiple personae within the psyche.

The Cutting Ball is on Taylor St. in the Tenderloin, a rough part of town where the homeless live. I’ve spent a fair bit of time there (having done a show in that very theatre, a tiny black box) but after seeing The Tempest, noticed for the first time as I walked back up the street that the dirty asphalt of the sidewalk glittered full of green stars. (And no, Virginia, that wasn’t after a cocktail). It’s that kind of show.

Coincidentally, I came across this the same day– which evokes a similar dreamscape.

Cutting Ball does seriously smart, detailed, elegant, and thought-provoking work that’s also (to my eye) rivetingly sensuous and entertaining. Go see The Tempest, it’s gorgeous.

Trojan Barbie at Playbox in Warwick

29 Oct

I’m excited to be working on two projects this year that explore the dreaming of war in very different ways.

One is The Underpass (a ghost story for the digital war age)–We are in residence at Georgetown’s Department of Performing Arts with this project in November.

I’m also thrilled to be working with Playbox Theatre in Warwick, U.K., who have a truly expansive view of the role of theatre in the lives of young people. Their 2011-12 season ends with my play Trojan Barbie, and here is what their artistic director has to say about the season (scroll down for Trojan Barbie references):

The Image in Question: War- Media- Art

16 Oct

If you’re in Cambridge, MA in the next few weeks and have an interest in how video games and other contemporary representational modes are interfacing with the production of modern war, the exhibition at the Carpenter Center for Visual Art is a must. Its banner question is: “How can wars of the present and the experience of war be adequately represented?”
Participants: Peggy Ahwesh, Kota Ezawa, Harun Farocki, William E. Jones, Lamia Joreige, and Wael Shawky. Moderator: Antje Ehmann

My own work (as playwright and scholar) has revolved around this question for some years now, and I’m excited to see visual artists deal with the use of animation and video-game technology in the training and rehabilitation of soldiers. I’m currently working with collaborators Joseph Megel and Jared Mezzocchi on The Underpass, a multi-media performance work on this very subject, though from a different and fictionalized perspective.

It seems to me that the absence or erasure of bodies from the technology of warfare is a development whose consequences bear urgent consideration. It leaves a psychic and physical residue that requires accounting. Video game versions of warfare are realistic to a fault–and that “fault” or fault-line is the question of consequence. Actual death, injury and aftermath do not visit the player–and yet accumulate apace, here or elsewhere, as a consequence of actual war, whether pursued by virtual means (drone strikes, robot soldiers) or embodied ones (fighting in the trenches).

The opening of THE IMAGE IN QUESTION is on Thursday October 21st at 6 pm; see above link for details of other events and more information on the exhibition.

Interview with Lydia Diamond

7 Oct

Here’s a webcast of an event I moderated last Spring, featuring the fabulous playwright Lydia Diamond. It took place while her play Stick Fly was running at the Huntington in Boston. (Hint: she’s the glamorous one). It features Lydia reading from some of her plays, and an extended Q & A with the audience. The event was co-hosted by the Du Bois Institute and the English Department at Harvard.