Friday, April 17, 2009

It's been some time since the mania/ fun of WWSS5, but it's still pretty clear in my head. As a playwright, writing for these 21 hr (or is it 24) festivals is always very interesting, because you're up all night writing! Every time I've done it I always come up to a point where I just have no idea what I'm writing about or reading. And it's really late and no one is on AIM or facebook or anything and my roommates are asleep or out somewhere and the only thing I have to keep me company is my mind, which seems to be descending into madness. But out of that madness and exhaustion and fear and red bull and caffiene, a play is born. Sometimes it comes out easily, and sometimes you need a C-section to get it out.
Who Wears Short Shorts is so much fun to do because I think it embodies the true essence of the miracle that is theater. At 10:00pm on Friday night there was a bunch of nervous writers in a room. 21 hours later there was a fully developed piece of theater. If that's not the miracle of theater I don't know what is.
So if you didn't catch it this time, I encourage you to come out next time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Michael's Two Cents

Writing for WWSS5 proved to be no different in terms of challenge and ingenuity. As we rode home in the cab, this time I had my arms full of Thomas, disabling my chance to brainstorm. Though of course my mind was flying.

We were met with the parameters (mine being) children’s show writer being one occupation. Boxing Day being an event or theme to which the characters related, and finally the line:“Why are you being such a _____________. You're __________________, _____________________ and _______________________ - or so my therapist says.”

I had a good varied group of actors. Two who I knew well (Michael M. had done Christine’s Importance of Being Earnest, so I was well acquainted with his talents & Cara Picone had done Ragtime with me in Brooklyn Heights a few years ago – so I was even more so familiar with her personality, talents, and voice). I’d seen the other two (Dani & Blaine) audition before so I had a brief approximation of their skills as well.

Setting out to write I thought of several scenarios:

- Complete mental breakdown by the writer.
- Character stuck in a lodge during the ‘Boxing Day Blizzard’
- Concert to give back to the poor (the origin of boxing day)

I came up with the lessened version of scenario #1 as it seemed the best fit to my current mindset. I knew Dani had an aircast on so she became my bedridden, conflicted wife. I knew Cara could sing to the heavens so she was my miscreant #1. I knew Michael was a bit zany so he became miscreant #2. I’d seen Blaine audition, so he was my straight man. I think the casting was right on.

From there I just went for the humor. Sex, dick, fart jokes abound. Silliness. I’d randomly hum tunes and ask Christine what the song was and they’d make it into the show.

I sincerely hoped the cast was having fun and only when Christine got a text from Michael saying :

Michael McKeogh: I think so. Thanks for checking in. PS. Michael can kiss my ass.

And Cara: Cara Picone: I’m a little scandalized that I have to pleasure a walking cane in front of my parents.

I knew then they figured out the absurdity but still went for it completely.

Andy Travis (Director) added some great touches to the script and I think had a blast as well.

Watching show #1 is a bit premature. Its like the most stressful dress rehearsal. You pray for laughter, cohesion, and lightness. And it happens. Even after having acted in this once, I’m still awed in how great the actors do.

Show #2 is the icing on the cake. It grooves, it melds, it flows. They get the laughs, the audience is drunker, the fun of the piece shines through.

All in all a great experience, strong scripts, good time with old talent and new, and a lingering doubt that I might not wear this hat again.

Oh. And a special shout out from Nina Capone (director):

Nina Capone to Michael Weems on facebook (put on here at Nina's request): best line of the night: "Why can't you love me from the front?!" by Michael Weems.... hilarious...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Duncan's Wrap up

So this time around with the 21-hour plays was a little more difficult than last time. Or maybe it just seemed that way, since I had a lot more travel time, and therefore less actual writing time.
Zack, Emily and I got stuck briefly on the train back to Queens, so we all took the opportunity to start sketching out ideas.

Things written in my Moleskine from that brainstorming ride:
  1. Superheroine, Billionaire
  2. Plucky Reporter/Love Interest
  3. Butler - Maid? Secretary? (Upset)
  4. Villainess (attacks during interview.
  • Watchmen parody? The Comedienne? Reporter works for New Frontiersman?
  • Costumed Vigilantes. Silhouette- Ursula Zandt?
  • Spunky McAllister, Ace Reporter Quotidian Clarion. Spanish war correspondent? No-nonsense.
  • The Calumny
  • The Crimson Scarlet Vermillion
  • anti-lesbian? Christian supervillain The Knight Templar?
  • The Spanglish Fly
So I got home eventually and started writing. Each of the characters quickly developed their own voices. Ditched the Watchmen idea, but kept the last name Zandt as an homage to The Silhouette; and my tentative title was Watchwomen since I was sort-of deconstructing the idea of superheroes in a more comic way, though it quickly evolved into more of a Batman-style character, due to the Butler to Millionaire Superhero job I had to include. With a dash of Superman's glasses.
Dropped the idea of the Supervillain being specifically anti-lesbian, since I didn't think the play was really about that. Made up a Molybdenum Freeze Ray Gun, since I just like saying "Molybdenum". Molybdenum. Molybdenum.

Crimson, Scarlet, and Vermillion were all already taken by other heroes, so a quick jaunt to turned up "Russet" as another synonym for "Red".

Still didn't have a title other than Watchwomen, when Staples tried to kill me by opening 10 minutes late and THEN informing me that their copying center just wasn't doing anything that day. Really, Staples (776 8th Ave), this is not the first time. You know I love you, but if you keep pulling this crap, I shall be forced to take my business to your overpriced competitor, Kinkos, which saved my ass that morning (for a hefty printing charge).

After dropping the scripts off and chatting with Nina, my director (who thrilled me no end by being a fan of Christopher Durang), I told Christine that if she thought of a better title, she was welcome to use that. She wanted to call it The Spanglish Fly at first, but we both thought that would spoil the joke.
On the subway on the way to the auditions I was holding that afternoon for my show Ore, or Or, I was struck by the thought that The Dark Knight also was something of a superhero deconstruction. ..inspiration hit, and when I alighted from the train, I texted Christine and told her to call it Dark Night of the Russet Rascal.


Was very pleased with the work done by Nina and the actresses under her charge. They all nailed the style, and using the rubber gloves as The Spanglish Fly's wings was an inspired touch (a well-deserved win for Best Use of Prop; which, coincidentally, my show also won last time, with Chris Bell's alien vomit)

A lot of people liked it, and told me so. Some said it was their favorite of the evening.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Sooo, I get home from work today and my roommate turns on Jeopardy. Please tell me why they were talking about PANDA SEX on Jeopardy?! This woman was talking about how she has witnessed panda sex! Witnessed it! And that after the sex, the pandas fight each other, to which Alex Trebeck replied, "So they are exactly like us!"

PANDA SEX on Jeopardy. Who would have thought?!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

I lay in bed the night before the big day, trying to get some sleep. When Christine had asked me to participate in WWSS5, I had of course, being the girl who can't say a challenge that is... jumped at the idea. But now that the reality was staring me in the face all I could think was "what had I gotten myself into?" Would the writer saddle me with 8 million props? Would the actors be able to learn their lines in a matter of hours? Would I find a spot somewhere in the city on the forecast to be rainy day where we could rehearse? And, of course, the most daunting thought of all - would my alarm actually wake me up at 8:00 on a Saturday morning???? The horror of it all!

Despite all the odds, I did manage to haul myself out of bed at that ungodly hour and navigate the obnoxiously rerouted MTA to the Beckmann. Fending off the diabolically evil morning person it appeared my friend and fellow director Nina had proven to be, I waited for Christine to let us in. I sat in the Beckmann, listening to the chatter of the sleep deprived writers discuss their scripts. One in particular was mentioning alcohol induced delusions about animal impregnation. What had I gotten myself into????

Christine babbled rules that I probably should have been paying attention to if my brain was actually working at that hour, then the drawing for scripts began. I pulled a name out of a hat. My writer was named Oliver, and he had to write a show about ghost whisperers and Chinese New Year. I look up, and who should I see but the animal sex guy! Okay, I am a professional. I can handle this. We say hello, wander over to the spiral stair case and just jump into reading the script. Scientists trying to get pandas to mate. Clever. Page two, an obscure riff on The Muppet Movie. Okay, maybe I like this guy. I mean, sure the line makes no sense with what the character turns out to be, but who doesn't appreciate an old school Jim Henson shout out? End of the script. Possession and hot panda/human loving... okay... maybe I stayed out drinking too late night the before. I mean, I must be drunk because this script is making me laugh out loud. And hey! No props! And the writer has secured us rehearsal space all afternoon for free! Yup, never mind the whole bestiality angle, this guy is now officially my favorite person in the world.

So it's time to wrangle up my cast and head on out. (Please hot guy... please hot guy... damn! I could be the mother, or at any rate very older sister to the only guy in my cast. Sigh. Oh well, guess it's a day to be professional...) We've got a couple hours until our rehearsal space is technically available, and I truly believe my head will explode if I don't get caffeine into my system in the next ten seconds, so we head on over to Starbucks for a read through. After a quick delay in which I try to determine how many extra shots of vanilla I would need the barista to put in my mocha chino in order to make it an alcoholic beverage we get to work. The cast reads the script. They seem okay with it. The poor girl who gets raped (off stage, thank god) by the panda actually comments that this is not her first experience being molested by an animal in a show. Oh, and did I mention that the writer wants her to be in a bikini and straw hat? And that he wrote the part for her because she is a contortionist? Have I said "what was I thinking?" yet?

Next stop, rehearsal space! Following a train ride with a very aromatic homeless man we trek on over to the East Village rehearsal spot. We check in with the guy in charge, and he leads us down to the rehearsal space. This is a rather round about route through the theatre, down the back stairs, past the prop storage... you see, it seems that some vagrant junkies have been sneaking in through the front stairs, going down to the bathroom and shooting up. And really, how often do you want to have to clean up used syringes and blood splattered walls. (I swear to you, this is a real story, not an exaggeration. The guy was very non-chalant about it too, which filled me with such confidence in my safety!)The rehearsal went very well. One of my actors mentioned that the year before his director had them read through the script, run it once, and then said "you're on your own, I'm going to find costumes!" Boy were they in for a different experience today! By now I have managed to shake off the morning malaise that had been clouding my brain and get down to work. I obnoxiously threw blocking at them, and bless the poor things they took it all in like little sponges. I think it may have been the freezing temperature in the space we were using, but my actors got everything down amazingly fast. Three hours down and they were staged, off book (mostly) and raring to go.

By now we were all a little loopy. One of my fabulous actresses had arranged for us to borrow lab coats from the Bodies exhibit where she worked, so we had all moseyed down to the South Street Seaport. We inhaled Subway sandwiches, which apparently contain narcotics based on the way we were all acting. The lines were coming, though, and it was time to head back to the theatre for tech.

We got through almost all of the show in tech, and all my actors were audible from the back of the house, so I was content. Christine called all the shows into the theatre for one last pep talk/rule session and announced that our show had sent the most interesting text messages throughout the day. Whoo hoo! Go potential hepatitis/HIV!!! (Have I mentioned I'm highly competitive?) I bid a final adieu to my cast, told them to be fabulous, and headed into the theatre to watch the show.

I have to say, it was an impressive evening. The combination of creativity and depravity on the part of everyone involved filled me with a happy glow. Obviously, I had found a place where I would fit right in! Tamara did a wonderful job moving us from show to show. Anyone who can get that much mileage out of her fathers sex life is tops in my book! I ended up watching both sets, although I do admit that during the second go round of ours I tended to spend most of the time watching my Chinese descended actresses parents watch her playing a raging bigot who wanted to destroy the Chinese government. Now THAT's theatre!

Finally, two shows over it was time to award the prizes. Some of them were no brainers - Nina was so creative with the use of the rubber gloves (oh yeah, I forgot to mention those... oh well, some other time,) that to give the award for that to anyone else would have been criminal. But the 2 big prizes, best script and best show, were the last ones to go. Yes!!! My insane drunken hallucinating writer won best script! Obviously the audiences had eaten the same laced Subway sandwiches as we had! And then Best Show - us again!!! Not only was the audience stoned, they were apparently insane as well! But who cares! We win!!! Go Team Panda!!! Go Bestiality!!! Yay "fabulous" baby bib and autographed Hooters menu!!! I will cherish these prizes for the rest of my life, or at least until the next time I clean my apartment!!!

Now did someone say alcohol?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


In addition to continuously losing my phone on Saturday, I also broke the cover off the back. So I've been perpetually paranoid about the battery and chip coming off of it because I hadn't downloaded all of the dozens of emails and texts that I had received from you guys on Saturday.

Well I've finally finished. And I even changed the date and time on every post to reflect the time that I received it. You see, I DO care.

So thank you all for coming out to play in the shorts! And for those of you who shot me messages over the course of the day, thanks for entertaining me. We had a great time seeing you guys bringing the writers' late night ramblings to life.

All of you new people, welcome to the Phare Play Phamily! And for those of you who've been away for a while, but came back to play - it's good to see you again! Hopefully we'll see more of all of you.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't Pan-do What Pan-do Don't Pan-does

So now that the weekend is over and I'm back at my regular job of not writing racially/sexually offensive plays, I thought I'd post a quick blog on my experience with this year's festival.

After drawing Chinese New-Year as my holiday and Ghost Hunter as my profession, I had a number of initial ideas that I thought would work well, the first being a noir-style detective story about a woman murdered in (where else) Chinatown and a medium who had to contact her spirit to find out who the killer was (it would've been her sister who hired the detective in the first place. How's that for a twist?), the next being about astronauts hunting ghosts in outer space with specially made ghost-killing rockets that the Chinese made as a way to keep evil spirits from ruining their New-Years festivities (I have no idea why this was going to take place in outer space. I just thought it would be cool). Then I came up with the idea of starting the play off with having my actors lying on the ground looking up at clouds and saying what they looked like and one of them (probably the Asian one) said, "That cloud looks like Chinese New-Year!" Believe it or not I wrote over five pages of that before I realized that I'm a horrible, horrible writer. Oh, and the clouds were going to turn into ghosts and attack the actors in the dramatic finale. How was I going to pull that off on stage, you ask? Easy, ghosts are invisible. Duh! Then at some point in the evening inspiration struck me like a bunch of alcohol poured down my throat and I came up with the idea of having a panda rape one of my actresses off stage for shits and giggles (because nothing goes better with shits than giggles). I think that was actually the inspiration for the whole show and I worked backwards from there.

Needless to say I found the script to be a riot while I was throwing it together at 3:00 in the morning, but when I woke up and re-read it in a more lucid state of mind I realized that I had just unleashed unmitigated evil (and a very un-funny show) upon the world. Do I have time to go back to the cloud idea before I meet my director? No, no I do not.

Thankfully my director is a 24 hour lush (or at least that's what I assume since she actually thought the script was funny) and she even got an obscure reference to "The Muppet Movie" that made no sense what-so-ever in the show's context, so I knew my script was in good hands. Now if only the actors who were unlucky enough to get picked by me didn't mind making total asses out of themselves onstage or derogating their own nationality and ethnicity, I might have a decent show.

Fortunately all the above was true (especially about the director being a raging alcoholic. Rumor has it she's Irish) and they managed to turn my script from (and I am quoting myself during the award ceremony here) "crap into... good crap." And of course 'good crap' was meant to be a compliment when I said it, I'm just a worse public speaker than I am a writer.

I also have to say again how impressed I was with the level and amount of talent on display throughout the night. It was beyond what I'm used to seeing on Broadway stages. As I was watching the pieces I was constantly thinking to myself, "I hope I pick that actor next time," or "I'd love to see what that director can do with my next awful play." I told one of the actors in my show that I still think about him saying, "Dum-dum-dum-dum-Dumbledore," during the last Short-Shorts, and now I can't wait until April 24th so I can randomly say, "Oh, by the way, happy Arbor Day everyone," to everybody I run into.

Oh, did I say this blog was going to be quick? I meant, "so-long-that-nobody-will-bother-to-read-the-entire-thing."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nina Capone to Michael Weems on facebook (put on here at Nina's request): best line of the night: "Why can't you love me from the front?!" by Michael Weems.... hilarious...
Michael Weems: Last update. All done. Yay cast and everyone. Drinky drinky.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eddie Rodriguez: Tom: “I love it that your gloves are touching your boobies & then touching my face?”
Eddie Rodriguez: Tom: “Stand up, take them out & hit me right now”
Catherine Corbett: You know what I like?...cake farts! – pandamnation
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: So now it’s done. What just happened?
Kelly Barrett: Stay down til when?
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: I wonder what information is being pushed out of my head while I cram all these lines in
Kelly Barrett: I need a caped coat, a captains hat and maybe a whistle…
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: We need beds in the chill room. It’s time for my nap.
Christine Weems to Nina Capone: I suck at life. I thought I had. I didn’t. I suck.
Nina Capone: I just heard Christine say she told the audience the intermission was over, but she forgot to tell the actors. Its been a LONG day.
Adia Tucker: Is there an award for Best Kiss? If so then Melisa and I have that sewn up.
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: This preshow room is weird. Actors are weird. Panda sex, live paid studio audience, dancing and more panda sex. Oh big les
Brooklyn Scalzo: This festival is putting my cast through early menopause.
Nina Capone: My cast rocked! Thank you melisa, donella, emily & adia!
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: That went quick. Went well though! Now on to the next show!
Kelly Barrett: Omg, they stole my bit!!!!!!
Kate O'Phalen: Getting nervous!
Catherine Corbett: Gram-pa fell asleep… I’m afraid he may not wake up… Ever.
Catherine Corbett: Gram zaps his kids
Steve Unwin: Jesus, chip! How do you even know what cock tastes like?
Eddie Rodriguez: Boss Lady “You’re like 5 years old, how do you what being Eiffel Towered means?”
Whit Elliott: I just go thrown out of the show by the dirty Mexican!
Kelly Barrett: When in doubt, slap Graeme.
Brooklyn Scalzo: Dude, I think my show is illegal in the south.
Kate O'Phalen: There’s nothing more fun than bitch-slapping someone with a rubber glove.
Ben Klier: Random thought #2: I’m stoked about drinking fake booze onstage today. It’s only slightly less exciting as drinking real booze later, when the show is over.
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: I am drained of energy after so many hours of rehearsal. Time for coffee.
Kelly Barrett: Can you get high on Subway? I think my cast is (me too)
Kelly Barrett: What the hell does a panda sound like?????
Alexia Terrell: PANDA PANDA!!!
Kelly Barrett: Panda!
Catherine Corbett: Pan-duh!
Cara Picone: I’m a little scandalized that I have to pleasure a walking cane in front of my parents.
Eddie Rodriguez: We are having massive show wardrobe failure.
Andy Travis: Everything is cool. I THINK we’re having a good time :)
Kelly Barrett: We’re on a field trip!
Eddie Rodriguez: Boss Lady has now told me that I can’t speak unless Edgar is speaking
Andy Travis: All is well! We have been busy traveling, figuring out the story and rehearsing.
Michael McKeogh: I think so. Thanks for checking in. PS. Michael can kiss my ass.
Brooklyn Scalzo: I don’t know if I am going to kill Emily or if Emily is going to kill me… I’ve got some brave actors!
Christine to Andy Travis: Hey, Andy! Your cast is the only one I haven’t heard from at all yet. All going okay?
Christine to Michael McKeogh 3:35 pm: Haven’t heard a peep from anybody in your cast yet? All okay?
Kate O'Phalen: We’ll see how this goes!
Chris Bell: My boss didn’t sched anyone to work for me tonight! Life is trying to get in the way of our artistic endeavor but I won’t let it! I’ll see you all at tech regardless!!!
Brooklyn Scalzo: Was there a line that is required in the script?
Eddie Rodriguez: Boss lady now spilling cranberry juice on us. Mad I tell u
Brooklyn Scalzo: aghhhhhhhhhh
Eddie Rodriguez: Boss Lady: “Gloves, Boobs… What is going on?”
Nina Capone: Wow! The Duncan did an awesome job nailing each actress in casting! Dead on.
Ben Klier: Random thought #1: I could use the non-latex “latex” glove on all of my lines. I love prop jokes. It wouldn’t work, of course. But I’d be a happy actor.
Kelly Barrett: Ha ha! I got the good actors!
Nina Capone: We r all lesbian superheroes.
Jeff Kroh: Latex gloves! So many uses for latex gloves!
Eddie Rodriguez: Starting to worry that audience will become nauseated over the smell of dog food.
Alexia Terrell: p.s. the gloves in our show are used…and not on pandas.
Gillian Riley: When in doubt, put your butt in a corner.
Steve Unwin: Mark it. Director made a period joke.
Eddie: Director now wants us to call her Boss Lady. Tried to call her by her first name & she threw her notebook at me.
Steve Unwin: Yes, yes the dialogue is important and all, but the real question is how do we synthesize the dog food?
Kelly Barrett: New note to actor – sperm hands
Emily Evans: Can you reserve a ticket for the 9:30 show under Rachel Levinson while I imagine what it would feel like to have my man-panties in a twist.
Eddie Rodriguez: On lunch break. I’m by myself. I think I just lost everyone. Crap.
Chris Bell: What a great cast! So easy to work with… Now they better not fuck this up!.. or else! Ha ha
Alexia Terrell: I had no idea doing wwss would put me at risk for AIDS.
Brooklyn Scalzo: I know, they will all wear lingerie! Ta da!!!!
Kelly Barrett: First syringe and bloody wall story of the day!
Derrick Bryant Marshall: At least I don’t have to get a blowjob on stage this time. :) Yay!
Kelly Barrett: In the east village with a hat full of rubber gloves. All we need is a dildo and Graeme could make lots of friends!
Alexia Terrell: It smells like hot panda sex on our train. Oh wait, that’s just a homeless man.
Catherine Corbett: This is the 2nd play I’ve been in where I get raped by an animal!!
Eddie Rodriguez: She said she was “just joking” Don’t believe her.
Melisa Breiner-Sanders: What is a mollybdenum gun? Where have I heard of that before? Why isn’t it easily found on the internet?
Eddie Rodriguez: Now I know she is crazy. She tried to stab me with her pencil on the subway.
Nina Capone: Are u a lipstick lesbian?
Eddie Rodriguez: I think the director is a little crazy. She made us cross 8th ave in the middle of traffic.
Brooklyn Scalzo: Script is super long, looks like I’m going to have to trim…sorry Emily
Michael Weems: All done writing. Now at Hooters. Ha ha. Yum. Keeping my eyes on my sexy wife. Not the “waitresses”. Thomas can look though.
Kelly Barrett: Ah beastiality… Always a hit..
Whit Elliott: I’m being tortured by the mexican! I can see us fighting all day! Rival southerners!!
Duncan Pflaster: Call it Dark Night of the Russet Rascal.
Randa K. 10:51 am: Our first adventure. i forced the group to jwalk and we almost got hit by a cab!! might have trust issues now. Haha
Brooklyn Scalzo: Hurry up and let me read my script
Duncan Pflaster: Argh Staples is DEAD TO ME.
From Duncan Pflaster

Finished final draft, then realized my friend who speaks Spanish was online, so asked him to make sure my Spanish in the script was correct. (Two of my actresses had "fluent in Spanish" in their Special Skills) Glad I checked with him- he gave me much better phrasings. Final draft done! Now, shower, breakfast, and I'm on my way back into the city. Woooooooo

From Duncan Pflaster

Had dinner. Took a revivifying nap. Ready for another go at the draft. My gmail tells me it's raining. Perfect.

My cat is totally confused- He keeps thinking I'm coming out to feed him, when it's just to get coffee or water.

From Emily Ehlinger

am basically done and is exhilarated...! woohoo!

From Oliver Thrun

I'm putting bestiality into my play. But don't worry, it's tasteful. Even, dare I say, romantic?

From Duncan Pflaster

Finished first draft. Very silly and weird, but I like it. Going to eat some food, I am STARVING, then go back and look at it with a fresh eye.
From Bill Bria

All done. Printing out the copies now.

This is the part when I think that what I just wrote is mostly crap and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Or is any good. Or funny. But both times I have been proven wrong by wonderfully talented actors and directors so now I just have to hand this beast over and say a prayer.

YAAAAA sleepy okay. Time for beds.
From Michael Weems

Finished. Sleepy. Going to write author’s notes so actors only think I’m mildly insane. alarm will ring in 5 hours. it might not survive.
From Oliver Thrun

The working title of my piece is: Don't Pan-do What Pan-do Don't Pan-does (it's a Simpsons reference), but I'll probably end up calling it: Oliver's Awesome Play of Coolness Starring Oliver Thrun as The Guy Who Wrote It!

P.S. I wrote a play for Blake about a funeral in Marion a while ago and he never did it and I forgot about it until now and now the Sarah Palin references are too old and they won't be funny any more and he never even told me if I liked it. I mean if HE liked it. You can tell him from me that he's a funky-head! Get down with the funky-head! BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA!!!
From Oliver Thrun

My most 3 dimensional character is an animal and it doesn't even appear onstage. You know why? THAT'S why!
From Bill Bria

I can't stop laughing at my own stupid meta-joke that probably no one else will get. Which means it's going in the play!
From Zach Rothman-Hicks

Must... stay.... awake.

Email from Christine to Blake

I think I figured out something that would be good for the prop. What do you think of rubber gloves? We could probably find them at Duane Reade.

From: Bill Bria

This could be funny. With the right people. Hopefully it's the right people. I always feel this way at about this point, though, that what I have is really sub-par. I need to pull a rabbit out of my hat with these last 3 pages.

I really want to make a meta-reference so that the audience knows that I know that this concept has been done before...but then I think that maybe it's too on the nose. I might delete it. Okay fuck it, I'm deleting it.

(fun fact: it was a "Truman Show" reference)

From: Michael Weems

1:10 am.

Update. I’m getting super punchy and starting to space out.

Running out of pages (at a full 10 now). And need to close up the story.

Praying I get a director with a sense of humor.

I’ve eaten pizza, a pb&j sandwich, and 1 Dove chocolate.

40 year old virgin on tv. not the same on cable.

I sense an impending smack from the wife when she watches this tomorrow.

Lalalalalalala. Bed looks comfy.
From: Oliver Thrun

No! YOU'RE stupid!
From: Duncan Pflaster

Okay, 5 pages in and the play is VERY WEIRD. Though very much enjoying writing lines for Spunky Reporter Alice "Ace" McAllister.

It's 1am, and my hard drive is backing up. I'm going to get more coffee.
From: Emily Ehlinger

I am sleepy and frightened that this won't come together in time
From: Oliver Thrun

My roommate says I'm not supposed to mix rum and gin... FUCK HIM!


From: Bill Bria

I may have gotten too high concept for my own good. Just the concept mind you, the execution won't require anything technically crazy.

It's not funny yet. I hope it gets funny. 4 pages in.

I find myself not writing for the actors per se, but trying to make sure everyone gets a decent role/enough "stage time". Don't want to give out any small parts. That's the actor in me talking.

Friday, March 27, 2009

From: Michael Weems

10 minutes until midnight. Resisting urge to make coffee.

Thanks Wikipedia. Now know what Boxing Day is.

Oh. And I'm probably going to hell.

The Recap of the Writers' Meeting

Time: 11:58 PM

(Note, I wrote this whole blog already and ended up accidentally erasing. So here I go again!)

So starts the shorts.

We just got back from the big meeting with the writers. Everyone thankfully shows up and pretty much on time.

First things first, the seven writers draw their four actors out of a hat (actually it was out of the blue pouch I use to hold the box office).

Second thing, I announce the first theme to be incorporated. This is the one that came to me while I was doing sketch and then promptly forgot. It's Holidays. And not just any holidays. I went for the obscure ones. Just for grins.

Third thing is the second theme. This one came as a result of me living in abject fear at work of getting laid off and trying to figure out what the hell I would do as there are fewer legal jobs out there and I still wasn't licensed in New York. What with the bad economy and all, people are taking jobs that they wouldn't ordinarily take. Yep, that was the theme - random jobs.

And then the line. Okay, these mad lib lines are hard to come up with. It's tough to come up with something that is distinctive enough to be easily recognizable to an audience member, but still allows the writers some creativity. With some tweaking from Mr. Bradford - the therapist bit was his idea - we came up with this:

"Why are you being a ______________? You're ________________, ________________, and ___________________ - or so my therapist says."

And then parameters.

You had to incorporate both themes somehow.
You had to use the line.
Only 12 pages, but the show couldn't be longer than 15 minutes.
No internal sound or light cues - any sound effects would have to be onstage practicals or they'd have to bring in a CD player and speakers.
They had to have 6 copies of their script at 10 a.m. the next morning.

So here's what each writer left the theatre with:

1) Bill Bria
Holiday: Groundhog's Day
Job: Reality TV Show Host
Cast: Ben Klier, Andrew Lazaroff, Alisha Norris and Gillian Riley

2) Emily Ehlinger
Holiday: Sadie Hawkin's Day
Job: Mad Scientist
Cast: Micah Chartrand, Kate O'Phalen, Alicia St. Louis and Jere Williams

3) Duncan Pflaster
Holiday: Secretary's Day
Job: Butler to a Millionaire Superhero
Cast: Donella Alanwick, Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Emily Evans and Adia Tucker

4) Zach Rothman-Hicks
Holiday: Arbor Day
Job: Petfood Quality Control
Cast: Whitney Elliott, Jeff Kroh, Eddie Rodriguez and Steve Unwin

5) Oliver Thrun
Holiday: Chinese New Year
Job: Ghost Hunter
Cast: Catherine Corbett, Graeme Humphrey, Annie Pesch and Alexia Terrell

6) Michael Weems
Holiday: Boxing Day
Job: Children's Song Writer
Cast: Michael McKeogh, Blaine Pennington, Cara Picone and Dani Suder

7) Spencer Wolf
Holiday: Cinco de Mayo
Job: Judge at a Little Miss Pageant
Cast: Alec A. Head, Derrick Bryant Marshall, Elizabeth May and Lauren Meley

Okay, now that I've rewritten my blog, I have to go update the program so that it is as ready to go as I can make it before tomorrow.

- Christine Weems
From: Spencer Wolf

Thoughts/questions from a train ride home...

Basically, would any of the following come under the umbrella of inappropriate, tasteless, frowned upon, or generally preferred to be absent in the performance:
whores (references to and/or representations of), elegantly outrageous cursing, drug references or use (simulated, at least during the performance), or more whore references/representations - to the point of including it in the title.

Let me know...
From: Zach Rothman-Hicks

So, I got on the N train to get home, and suddenly the emergency brake went off and we were stuck in the tunnel for 15 minutes! I wondered what kind of play I would write if I were stuck inside the tunnel...
From: Duncan Pflaster

OMG, Zack, Emily, and I got stuck on a train to Queens- someone pulled the emergency brake, and we were stopped for like 10 minutes. Booo. Finally home now, with coffee, at 11:30.

So, I've got Butler to a Millionaire Superhero, Secretary's Day, and FOUR WOMEN. Looks like some hot lesbian superhero action coming up. Hope they don't end up like The Silhouette from Watchmen.

Can you be a butler if you're a girl? I guess buttling isn't exclusively male.



From: Bill Bria

Luigi Pirandello is also my best friend.


From: Bill Bria

I'm tired already. Uh-oh.

BUT. Wikipedia is my best friend.

My Day Today

Ah, game day.  I've been running around crazy making sure that everything box office-wise was ready for the opening of I, Undertow and Call Waiting this week.  So I managed to put off everything for the Shorts until today.

Well not everything.  I had been mulling around themes in my head for the past three weeks.  But usually Blake and I conjur these things up together.  Unfortunately, Blake has had his hands full with I, Undertow and then this week - he got ridiculously ill.  So there were a couple of emails exchanged but no fun sit down as we plotted and schemed against all of the participants together.

So today.

Around 10:30 a.m. - I see I miss a call from Erin Fehr - one of the actresses.  Weird.  Erin never calls me.  But she doesn't leave a message.  So I figure it's just been a mistake.  Maybe Erin butt-dialed me.

I plug away at my day and do a two hour meeting at another office a couple of blocks away.  As I'm walking back to my office, I see that I have missed another call from Erin.  I'm outside Grand Central Station in 5PM foot traffic as I try to listen to the message.  I can't hear everything because of the streetnoise, but from what I gather there has been a back injury and as much as she hates to do it, she has to pull out.

That saddens me.  I adore Erin.  She has been in every shorts shorts except for the first one.  Wait, was she in the third one...?  Not going to lie.  Had to think about this one for a second, but yes, she was in the one that won - And the Fish Can Dance.  The one where her boyfriend ended up in love with her brother.

Fortunately, I've got a standby list and the first person up who emailed me a hair too late was Whitney Elliott, someone else I adore who just had the misfortune of being too slow on the reply button.  I've got her number in my cell and I'm on the phone with her before I even reach my building.

Less than 10 minutes later, she has emailed me her headshot and resume and her bio. 

Crisis averted.  

Just know Erin, that you are with us in spirit and we all hope you feel better soon.

- Christine

The first post

(before we even leave the theatre)

Email from Michael Weems

Subject - Hmmmmm

What's Boxing Day?

Game Face

I, too am excited for tonight!

On Saturday afternoon, I'm having auditions for my next show, so I won't be getting a lot of sleep tomorrow. So today I'll be sleeping as much as possible during the day (unemployment hurrah), then going to see my friend's show Who Am I, then I'll be ready to START WRITING!

I'm less worried this time around, now that I've done it once. The first time I was nervous until we got our rules and assignments, then I was immediately inspired. Christine says she has an awesome theme this time, so I'm looking forward to it.


Oooh, I'd better get new batteries for my camera.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who's Excited?

I am!

I'm one of the actors and this will be my first time doing one of these in theatre form. I've done three 48-Hour Film Projects and one of those ended in a car going 100mph down a busy highway only to miss the 6pm deadline. I'm glad I won't be risking my life for this one :)

I'm pretty psyched because as an actor, my job is just to show up and play for a day. Yes there is memorizing lines and blocking and all that but it all just gets lumped into the "play" category for me so I guess that's why I do what I do.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm new, and an actor. I don't have any apprehensions yet, but I wrote some haikus I thought I'd share - I call them "Inwood Sonata"

tiny dog who barks
tenacity is key -yea?
you make me hate life

crazy bass thumping
Who gets crunk at 6 PM?
and plays "Yooz a Hoe"?

Spanish bakery
I want some flan why do you
laugh at my white ass?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I was at the Broadway Comedy Club last night and it hit me - a fabulous theme for the Short Shorts! I was so excited and I was just about to pull out my phone to email Blake about it - but then I did the show. And I got so caught up in being a nun and a bride and Asian that the damn thing fell right out of my head.

It may not have surpassed the movie/seven deadly sins theme of November, but it was going to be good. And of course, as much as I try to remember, not a thread of it will come to me.


Oh well, back to the drawing board...

- Christine Weems

Philly or Bust!

I'm not one of those writers who can talk about their process (or spell the word 'process' without checking the dictionary to see how many c's are in it), so I'll just share a funny anecdote from last year that I never told anybody:

I completely forgot that I had agreed to do this last year, which, for those who know me well, shouldn't come as any surprise since I have the memory of a goldfish that was just swallowed by a shark (Why is it so dark in here...? Oh, that's right...), so I made plans to go to Philadelphia for the weekend. I got my bus ticket and booked a hotel room and was planning out my trip when I suddenly remembered (or probably more accurately received an e-mail reminder from Christine) that I had to stay up all night writing a play. So I cancelled all my plans and begrudgingly went to the theater to find out what "The Man" wanted me to write about ("The Man" being Blake... and Christine).

Now, I'm also not one of those writers who likes to drink the devil's semen (or coffee, as it is commonly referred to as) so I prepared myself a big bowl of cereal and a six pack of Corona and said, "Screw thinking! I'm just going to write the first thing that comes out of my head and hope my actors can read it!" the whole time thinking about how I should be looking at a bell with a giant crack in it. "Ha! 'Crack...' like a butt. That's funny. Maybe I can work that into my show?" (And in case you're wondering, no, the crack joke didn't make it into the show. It was replaced with the much funnier 'poop' joke) That pretty much sums up my entire creative process right there.

So the next morning I gave my script to the director and tried to pretend that I knew what I had written. Then I called all my friends and said, "Hey, I forgot to tell you about this thing I'm doing tonight and if you don't come I'm not going to be your friend anymore," to which they replied, "Aren't you supposed to be in Philadelphia?" Jerks...

Then came the performance and my show was the last one to go up. All the other shows were clever and funny and it was sort of intimidating to see the plethora (Ha! 'Plethora...' that sounds like something that comes out of a vagina after it gives birth. Maybe...) of creative people who were involved in this project and all the time and care they put into it. I couldn't believe that these shows all came together in such a short amount of time. I could toil endlessly on a script and it would never be anywhere near as good as what everybody else presented at the show. Needless to say I was dreading seeing my half-assed script played out on stage and felt so sorry for giving my director and actors nothing to work with. Fortunately, like everyone else I had already seen that evening, they had what we in the biz call "talent," and they turned the notes I had scribbled out in between drunken matches of Super Smash Bros. into something that was actually watchable, and even, dare I say, entertaining.

So suddenly missing out on Philadelphia and trying to resurrect the remains of our founding fathers to become my legion of mindless undead ghost assassins (I did mention that was why I was going to Philly, right?) didn't bother me so much. In the end, this was a far more rewarding experience (because after everybody left I found buried treasure under the Roy Arias stage).

Wow! That was longer than I expected. But before I go, I just want to say that I can't wait to see you all on the 21st for what I imagine will be an even better event than last year! ... What? It's on the 28th? Fuck! I was going to go to the Alamo that weekend!

Who Writes Short Shorts?

Even though I've written for the shorts 4x now (and acted once), there's still those two moments that define every experience.

Emotion #1. Panic. That moment where I rather get into tunnel vision. I grab my wife (regardless of whether she's amidst conversation or not), hail a cab, and grab a pen and paper. It's usually a short drive from the theater to home, so I've got precious moments to plot, scribble, and create new curse words to describe my temporary contempt to the required parameters (our given line, theme, cast, etc.) A few times I've wisely pre set the coffee machine with a bit too much coffee and ready to spring into action with just the flick of the switch. Lap top starts up. Temporary work station created. And then that fleeting moment....."oh crap." My biggest moment of panic was last year as I acted like a petulant brat, whining about the prospects of writing about the '80s. In the end, it turned out to be one of my stronger 'WWSS' ventures, but there's always that moment where you wonder how, where, and what you'll pull out of the dark recesses of the mind.

The other moment is the sweet to the aforementioned bitter. That moment when you find yourself so immersed in your project that you become lost. There's a time or two where you laugh over something you've written. I don't even realize it until Christine asks me what's so funny. I'm brought back to earth but at the same time realize I did something good. It grows from there, often in leaps and bounds. Characters find their arc and have their conflict and resolution identified. The story has a through line and is funny (as possible within one's own humble opinion).

I guess you can't have one without the other. After all this occurs, I back up the file and get a few hours of sleep, only to see the cycle start again as the actors and directors enter into moment #1.

- Michael Weems

Who Wears Short Shorts memories

The first time I did Who Wears Short Shorts, in November 2007 I was absolutely terrified. After we were given our topics Blake looked at me and was like "Are you OK? You look kind of ill." I was like "Yeah," and slunk home. I started writing and it was a little slow at first, but the later it got the more right it felt. At 2 am I was like "Hey, this is like an all-nighter, only fun!" I ultimately finished the play and was pretty happy with it.
But later that day at the performance the jitters came flying back. Was my play funny, or did it just seem that way in my caffeine-induced state? People ultimately DID laugh, and my play won "Best use of line" so it worked out.
I love doing the Who Wears Short Shorts festivals because there's such an element of excitement throughout. You literally have no idea what is going to happen. There is no time to plan, you have to go with your gut and not look back! I have never felt so much excitement in the air as when I sat in the audience and watched the plays go up.
I can't wait to stay up all night writing and do it again!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)

Bill Bria, reporting for duty. The third time, as they say, is the charm. Could this be the Short Shorts a script of mine wins Best Show?

Maybe. But who cares when the process and the results are so much fun! Can't wait to get it on. And guys, I promise, NO space/time continuum scene changes. Probably. :)
Word, y'all. This will only be my 2nd time doing the Shorts, so I can really only say one important thing. I went into it a little panicky. Even though I'm a quick study, I'd never had to be THAT quick. But I found out that when it really comes down to it, and you are gonna have an audience and you'd better be on your game, you'd be surprised what you can do. Adrenaline is a great thing. Get ready to do line snaps over and over. Just breathe and have fun! You also have your fellow cast members so you can play off of each other if all else fails.

I might post some more if I think of anything. See you on the 28th!!!


2nd time for me!

Woo hoo, I'm excited to be a part of this round of the 21-hour play festival! Had a fun time last year; glad to be on board again!

The History

In May of 2007, Blake (Phare Play's Artistic Director) was directing a Southern adaptation of The Cherry Orchard at the Beckmann. Unfortunately, one of the actors would not be able to do a Saturday night show, but he was absolutely too fantastic in the part to even consider recasting him. So, we were left show-less for that night.

That was quickly remedied when we decided to try and do what I affectionately refer to as kamikazi theatre. Putting up a one act festival in a mere 21 hours.

We called it "Who Wears Short Shorts?" because at the time, we were doing quarterly nights of one acts that were all called Something Shorts - like Fall Shorts, Inside Carl's Shorts, etc. As you can tell, it has been consequently abbreviated down to WWSS.

The first time we attempted this - Blake masterminded most of it as I was on board as a director for our inaugural outing. We had five writers, five directors and only 19 actors. The theme was homecoming (a theme of "The Cherry Orchard"). The line was "What the hell is this piano doing here?" since we had a piano in the theatre that we couldn't really move out of there. The writers had no page limit and twelve hours to come back to us with something. The directors were each given a random prop that they drew out of a bag and that's what they had to run with. The winner for best show was "Don't Eat the Neighbors" by Jennifer Spragg directed by Vallen Pilgrim starring Angela Donovan, Emily Ehlinger, Emily Mostyn Brown, and Jasmine Spiess. We had eight people show up between the two shows - mainly because I think at the time, no one really knew what to expect.

Oh how things changed when we did it later. And we had to do it again because people had too much fun with it the first time.

The second time around, I had suggested superheroes as a theme. Of course, Blake blabbed it too early to the participants and so we had to alter it a little bit. The theme ended up being superhero sidekicks (fitting since the show we were doing at the time was "Carl the Second"). The line was "Someone give me some Vaseline and help me take off my rings, ‘cause I’m gonna beat this homey gee, til he can’t homey see!" (That line was all Blake's doing!). And we decided to make everyone use the same prop so Blake brought every one a roll of paper towels. We had still did five shows with 20 actors participating. Again, Jen Spragg took home Best in Show with "The Chip Hydeberger Show" directed by Chris Simon starring Emily Ehlinger, Jason Gaffney, Nick Santasier and Lizzie Schwarz.

When we did WWSS Cubed, we had so much interest that I was able to pull out of directing and help Blake plan. We upped it to six shows with 24 actors being a part of it. This time the theme was "Music Over Time". Each writer picked a decade and they had to somehow incorporate music from that time. The universal prop was a deck of playing cards. The line was done madlib style - "Our love is like a BLANK (insert an appliance of some kind here) - BLANK, BLANK and BLANK; but I’m okay with that." Kendall Rileigh won the show this time around with "The Fish Can Dance" - her ode to the music of the 90s, directed by Vallen Pilgrim and starring Mark Anderson, Robert Carroll, Erin Fehr and Pete Kilcommons. She also won best use of line for this gem spoken from Robert to Mark - "Our love is like a furnace: hot, steamy and closeted; but I’m okay with that." For more about this night - I did end up writing a blog entry about it which can be found here:

And our last outing - WWSS4: Four Your Shorts Only. We went with a movie theme. This time, we upped the stakes - seven shows, seven writers and directors and 28 performers. The line was still a madlib : "On a day like this, I want _____, ______, and ______; a spanking would be nice, too". To even make it more random, we had the writers draw their four actors out of a bowl (we used to plan it out in advance) as well as their genre (they each got a movie genre) and sin (yes, they each had to use one of the seven deadly sins). Then the directors drew the names of writers out of a bowl the next morning (again, it was something we had previously planned out) and the order the shows would run in was done in the same manner.

As many of you may know, it was crazy successful with a beyond sold out crowd the second show - people were actually sitting on the stage! The winner was Oliver Thrun's "Force the World to Die" directed by Chrissie Kahler and starring Branden Hayward, Natalie Neckyfarow, Klemen Novak and Steve Ringwald. Their theme was Spy Flick and their sin was Gluttony. I even hear that someone had taped one of the shows and it can be found on youtube...

Duncan Pflaster, one of the writers, wrote a great article about his experience which can be found here:

And that brings us to our yet to be titled and themed WWSS5. Oliver will be back to defend his title on March 28th! Hopefully you will come witness the insanity and fun!

Signed, Christine Weems
(former WWSS director and Executive Director of Phare Play)

The Blog

We're hoping to use this blog to give you - the reader - a behind the scenes look at the Short Shorts in action.

Leading up to March 28th, we're using this as an open forum for past and current participants to write about their experiences with the Short Shorts. As you can imagine, everyone always has crazy stories when you are trying to put up a show in only 21 hours.

Then once WWSS5 begins, posting will stop to the blog. What we are asking the writers to do is while they are writing, to email their thoughts, frustrations and experiences during the course of the evening. Then during the day, all of the participants will be asked to text their thoughts, experiences and comments while the process is going on. And within a week all of these will be subsequently loaded up in to the blog and labeled by show so you can read them all in chronological order or by particular show.

It's like Twitter or the constant updating of your facebook status, but for the public to see. It should give you a fun look at the insanity behind trying to mount a show in less than a day.

WWSS5 - The Basics

WWSS is Phare Play Productions' immensely successful 21 hour play festival. It's generally regarded as a great time had by everybody and I know that Blake and I, as producers, have loved using it as a fun way to get to know lots of new actors, writers and directors.

Here's how it works:

SEVEN CAFFEINATED WRITERS: Bill Bria, Emily Ehlinger, Duncan Pflaster, Ben Plopper, Zach Rothman-Hicks, Oliver Thrun and Michael Weems

Friday, March 27th: They meet at the Beckmann theatre in midtown at 10PM to get their themes, script guidelines and the headshots/resumes for the actors they have to write a play for. They go stock up on coffee/Red Bull and write all night and come back at 10 AM on Saturday morning with six copies of their completed scripts ready to go. There they meet up with -

SEVEN IMMENSELY CREATIVE DIRECTORS: Kelly Barrett, Chris Bell, Nina Capone, Paul Falcetta, Randa Karambelas, Brooklyn Scalzo and Andy Travis

Who also show up at 10:00 AM on Saturday, March 28th at the Beckmann theatre. They are then handed a script and given about 30 - 45 minutes to caucus with their writer. Then about 11:00AM, the writers go home to sleep and the directors meet up with their -

THIRTY BRAVE AND ENERGIZED ACTORS:Donella Alanwick, Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Micah Chartrand, Catherine Corbett, Chris Cramer, Emily Evans, Erin Fehr, Alec Head, Graeme Humphrey, Ben Klier, Jeff Kroh, Andrew Lazaroff, Derrick Marshall, Elizabeth May, Michael McKeogh, Lauren Meley, Alisha Norris, Kate O'Phalen, Blaine Pennington, Annie Pesch, Cara Picone, Gillian Riley, Eddie Rodriguez, Alicia St. Louis, Dani Suder, Alexia Terrell, Adia Tucker, Steve Unwin, Jere Williams and Danny Wiseman

Who then go out into the city with their directors and casts to rehearse for a good five hours or so. Just enough time for the actors to be fully blocked and off book.

Then there are two shows - one at 7PM and one at 9:30PM that very evening. There is also an audience vote for fun awards like Hottest Cast and Best Use of Prop. Come be a part of the fun!

It's at the Beckmann Theatre at 314 West 54th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.

Tickets are $15, but only $12 with a student ID or if you're a PP-er.