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?