Friday, October 17, 2014

Solo Performer Gardiner Comfort on the Elephant in Every Room...

Gardiner Comfort
"It's my story, but I also want to pay it forward for some young kid who is just starting his or her life with this confusing disorder."
- Gardiner Comfort
Writer / Actor

What is THE ELEPHANT IN EVERY ROOM I ENTER about?

The show is about a trip I took to Washington DC to attend the Tourette Syndrome Association National Conference, in April of 2014.  Being down there was completely mind blowing because I had never been around that many people with Tourette's, a disorder I was born with which has defined my entire life.  So we use the week down there as a literary anchor to tell the story, which includes all of these break out stories about my own life.  I tell stories about growing up feeling different, having a terribly hellish time, and also just random stuff that I remember. 

How has it been developed?


Kel Haney and I developed the story in the Mabou Mines Residency this Spring by simply talking for hours and hours.  She recorded me as I just went on and on, both about the week in DC and also about all the random nonsense that goes through my mind on a daily basis.  Then Nora Ives, our assistant director, transcribed every goddamned word!  We went back and I read that, which was pretty meta!  Then we recorded my reading the transcriptions, and Kel made all these edits based on what seemed to work and what didn't.  It has continued to be very malleable.  

How did you meet your director?

I met Kel through my wife, Colleen Werthmann, who happened to run into her.  They got to talking, and Colleen learned that Kel was directing solo artists and I happened to be looking for a director for my other solo show, YOU'RE NOT TOUGH, which Kel directed at Dixon Place last fall, and then again at HERE this summer.

How have you and Kel worked together to develop the piece?

I kind of touched on this above but to add, we've mostly gotten to know each other really well.  Frankly, she's gotten to know the bizarre way my mind works and has learned how to harness all of the wild (some might say genius!!!) ways in which unfiltered, manic thoughts come to me and just need to be expressed.  She's been sort of the conduit for the electricity going through my brain.

What have been some of the challenges on developing this piece?

Challenges have been many.  It's pretty damn hard to produce your own work, even with so much help from a whole slew of people working hard.  Also, it's not a typical play or solo show, where, as an actor, I have a character to hide behind.  I'm just playing myself, standing there telling a story that's true.  I'm interacting with the audience a little and just baring all.  So it's pretty demanding emotionally.  Not to mention physically.  I do quite a lot of dancing and running around screaming and yelling.  It's very hard.

What have been some of the unexpected surprises and rewards?

The other night I found myself so connected and in the moment during a point in the story when I talk about a young boy with TS whom I met at the conference, that I really teared up when I told about not knowing what would happen to him.  It was beautiful and I don't usually have that experience, especially in something like this when it's my story.  It was a gift.  Also, I've been really blown away by how many people have come and liked it.  We've had all types of press and the Tourette Syndrome Association has come out in full force and spread the word, so that's awesome.  That's the whole point.  It's my story, but I also want to pay it forward for some young kid who is just starting his or her life with this confusing disorder. 

How did you come to theater/performing and doing solo shows?

I started acting when I was in high school and got into it pretty quickly.  I studied Theater pretty aggressively in college and then in grad school and have a pretty eclectic resume.  Solo performing is something I've dabbled in since 10th grade, when I performed this monologue I wrote where I just listed things I hate.  From baby backpacks to Republicans.  It was a trip.  I was very influenced by solo artists I had the chance to see at places like PS 122:  Danny Hoch, Eric Bogosian, Sarah Jones, Nilaja Sun, and a lot of people in the Hip Hop Theater Festival.  It was a goal of mine to do my own.




Salty or sweet?

Sweet.  Always.  What the hell does that mean?

What's next?

Next is rest.  Hopefully in the interim before doing this show somewhere else.  We want to take it Off-Broadway, or on the road, or across the ocean, or into space.  Wherever there's boring theater, we'll be there.  Wherever a creative child practices accents in front of her mirror, we'll be there.  Wherever there's a slew of hilarious and brilliant characters waiting to be immortalized on stage, we'll be there.  I don't know.  We just want to keep moving, like sharks!

The Elephant in Every Room I Enter is created by Gardiner Comfort and Kel Haney and is presented at The Club at La MaMa in NYC thru October 19th on Fri-Sat at 10pm, Sunday at 6pm. To purchase your tickets, go here.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Time to get your WOF on!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Playwright Steve DiUbaldo's Boomer's Millennial Hero Story

 "Everything grows from the people."
- Steve DiUbaldo
Playwright

What is your play about?

Boomer’s Millennial Hero Story is about a down-home, piano-playing American Storyteller of the Boomer Generation who guides us through the "heroic" first twenty-five years of “Millennial” Montgomery Walter’s life.  From a childhood full of trophies and medical over-diagnosis and self-esteem building, to 9/11 to the market crash to Occupy Wall Street, this raucous vaudevillian journey takes a dark absurdist look at class, generational cause-and-affect, and American folklore in a world where ideas never truly die.   

What was its inspiration?

I moved to New York City in the throes of Occupy Wall Street.  I spent a lot of time going down there and reading about the movement from different perspectives.  It became a thirty page one-act, set in 2011, culminating in the movement.  Once I got this opportunity with TerraNOVA, I expanded the play to begin in 1986 and move through 2011.  I had begun reading a lot of literature about the generational divide between Boomers and Millennials, and found most of it to be rather funny.  I always felt there were blind spots in the assignment of blame and the blanketing of a group of people born around the same time.  From both sides, I found the points were often valid and short-sighted.  I also became fascinated by how we tell and digest stories, specifically American stories.  There’s a lot of satire about that, and a lot about money and race, along with lots of other zeitgeisty things that came up on New York City subways.    

What has its development been up to this point?

I wrote the first draft during my first year of the MFA program at NYU.  The play had golden toilets on stage and shit fell from the sky onto the poor people.  The metaphors were pretty on-the-nose and the play
Director Jenna Worsham
was pretty bad.  My friend in LA was looking to direct a one-act, read the play, and we agreed to really dig into the heart of what it was about.  So I developed that new draft with one of my favorite people in the world, Abby Pierce, who directed the play out there after rewrites, and we made big progress and got a lot of laughs.  A few months later, I submitted the one-act to TerraNOVA with a pitch to turn it into a full-length.  And they took me in and have helped me through the last 18 weeks of exploring and rewriting.  The reading is coming up on June 16th and Jenna Worsham, another favorite of mine, is directing.  And here we are!

How do you like to develop your work?

It truly depends on the play.  I love the daydream phase before you've started.  I love the solitary time of working through the first draft.  I’m not a “rush to share this with everyone” type of person.  Still, the great reward remains sharing it with actors and a director and working through it with a team.  If they are excited, I get really excited.  Actors are my favorite people and I want them to have a good time and tell me their thoughts.  Recently I’ve formed an annoying habit of putting extensive music into my plays, and am beginning the journey of collaborating with composers.  I find music to be the most rewarding and universal of forms for myself as a consumer, but that’s probably because it’s not the one I work in every day.  In terms of the writing, it always starts with character.  I've never written anything I liked that started with an idea and not with a character, or characters.  Everything grows from the people.

How do you like to work with your directors?

I feel like the best writer/director collaborations have an intimacy about them that allow both people to openly talk about the play stuff as easily as they talk about the life stuff. I like consistent face-to-face chats, and when those chats grow from being about art into being about life… that’s my favorite, and it always ends up enriching the play and the process.  Trust is crucial.  In the room, I try to be available as the writer but allow the director to execute the vision we’ve already been talking through.  I love directors with a dramaturgical eye who ask a lot of questions rather than offering a lot of answers.  And I’m always learning how to get better at communicating about the work, and I look for that in the directors I work with as well.  

Salty or sweet?

Salty.  I could eat Pistachios for days.

What is your writing schedule (if any) and where do you write?

DiUbaldo's Workspace
I usually write in the afternoons or at night, but dream of being one of those people who wake up really early to work.  I am nomadic writer.  I do the occasional coffee shop or bar, but I LOVE to write outside whenever I can - rooftops or patios or stoops or benches.  I’ve written outside all over Manhattan and Brooklyn.  The rest of the time, I write at the desk in my room.  Since that’s the only true consistent, that’s the picture you get!

What's next?

I am currently beginning the process of collaborating with a composer on a folk-blues album/score that will accompany my play, “Under The Water Tower.”  Next month, I’ll be going to North Carolina to hang out with my old AAU basketball team as research for a new play I’ve been working on about kids from varying socio-economic backgrounds who share a hotel room at a tournament while vying for division-1 college basketball scholarships, with the slimy backdrop of the NCAA recruiting world.  I am developing those with The Middle Voice – Rattlestick’s apprentice company – who RULE.   

Steve DiUbaldo's Boomer's Millennial Hero Story is directed by Jenna Worsham and is presented on Monday, June 16th, at 3pm at The Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce Street (west of 7th Avenue). Subways: 1 to Christopher Street, A/B/C/D/E/F to West 4th.  $10 suggested donation at the door.

Boomer's Millennial Hero Story is part of  terraNOVA Collective's Groundworks New Play Series which runs through June 23rd.  For more information, visit www.terraNOVAcollective.org

The 2014 Groundworks New Play Series features the 6 new plays developed through the 2014 Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and 2 new soloNOVA ARTS Workshops. This year’s playwrights work has been produced or developed with numerous prestigious theatres including The Public, Joe’s Pub, New York Theatre Workshop, The Old Vic, Roundabout Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Edward F. Albee Foundation, Sundance Theatre Lab and Lincoln Center.

ABOUT GROUNDWORKS: Every year, terraNOVA Collective presents the Groundworks New Play Series - a week of staged readings of work developed through our Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and new work being developed by solo performance artists associated with our collective. The purpose of the New Play Series is to give playwrights an opportunity to have their work seen and heard by a larger audience. Each playwright works with a director and professional actors over a 12-hour rehearsal period to give further life to their work.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Playwright Alexandra Collier on Her New Play The Crying Lettuce with terraNOVA Groundworks New Play Series

Playwright Alexandra Collier
"I am obsessed with travel, dislocation and foreign locations."
-Alexandra Collier
Playwright



What is your play about?

The Crying Lettuce is about Ivy, who is backpacking in Europe where she should be having the time of her life but she’s not. Until she meets Anna that is, an anarchic Russian chain smoking gypsy. What starts between traverses continents and decades in this memory-gone-bad play.
*No vegetables were harmed in the making of this play*

What was its inspiration?

Life. Always. Well sort of. I traveled to Copenhagen in my early 20s and I encountered a homeless chain-smoking woman in my dorm room. I was lonely and out-of-place in this foreign city and when I started to write this play, I imagined from there what would have happened if the two women became friends. (Which the homeless chain smoker and I did not. One of life's greatest regrets.) I am obsessed with travel, dislocation and foreign locations and all of those things are rolled into this play.

What has its development been up to this point?

I have been developing it since January with Groundbreakers - terraNova's playwrights group. Before that the play had been kicking around in a metaphoric drawer since I started writing it at a silent
Director Jessi D. Hill
retreat a few years back.

How do you like to develop your work?

In a fast and furious way. With actors in a room, ideally. Even more ideally with actors standing up in a room and a potential production in the offing (i.e. rehearsals). I like to do rewrites quickly and efficiently based on the actors reactions/reading of the text. That's honestly the best way to work, I think. Less precious. More fun.

How do you like to work with your directors?

I like directors who understand that I am not a plotty writer. Who are interested in the weird and theatrical rather than living room sitcom type plays. I think it's best when you feel safe enough with the director to be laughing and having fun in the room. Of course, it takes time to build up the best kinds of working relationships.

Collier's Workspace
Salty or sweet?

SWEET. Licorice, ideally.

What is your writing schedule (if any) and where do you write?

At the moment, I work full-time so I try to write for an hour before I go to work and I write on the weekends.

What's next?

I am working on another play - Underland (set in the Aussie desert) - we hope to have a production in 2015. I am currently scheming about my next installation piece to take place inside a museum. That's all I can say right now.

Alexandra Collier's The Crying Lettuce is directed by Jessi D. Hill and is presented on Tuesday, June 10th, at 3pm at The Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce Street (west of 7th Avenue). Subways: 1 to Christopher Street, A/B/C/D/E/F to West 4th.  $10 suggested donation at the door.

The Crying Lettuce is part of  terraNOVA Collective's Groundworks New Play Series which runs June 9th – 23rd.  For more information, visit www.terraNOVAcollective.org

The 2014 Groundworks New Play Series features the 6 new plays developed through the 2014 Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and 2 new soloNOVA ARTS Workshops. This year’s playwrights work has been produced or developed with numerous prestigious theatres including The Public, Joe’s Pub, New York Theatre Workshop, The Old Vic, Roundabout Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Edward F. Albee Foundation, Sundance Theatre Lab and Lincoln Center.

ABOUT GROUNDWORKS: Every year, terraNOVA Collective presents the Groundworks New Play Series - a week of staged readings of work developed through our Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and new work being developed by solo performance artists associated with our collective. The purpose of the New Play Series is to give playwrights an opportunity to have their work seen and heard by a larger audience. Each playwright works with a director and professional actors over a 12-hour rehearsal period to give further life to their work.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sex! Music! Technology! Playwright Lucas Kavner's Carnival Kids presented by Lesser America

 "The energy and talent and producing power that this little company has is pretty incredible."
-Lucas Kavner 
Playwright

What is Carnival Kids about?

I've been saying Carnival Kids is about an out-of-work former rock musician who moves in with his son and roommate in New York City and falls into a complicated money-making scheme, but that neglects to mention the other characters who populate the play. It's also about how much of ourselves we reveal to the people we love, and whether we're ever really able to shift and change or improve the guts of who we really are. Also sex! And music! And technology!

Jake Choi and Laura Ramadei
What was its inspiration?
I saw a guy doing laundry in my basement with his son and I came to realize that he had very likely moved into his son's apartment. I'd also recently done a show with a group of authentic, talented and charming Southern musicians and I wanted to write about the way they were in the world and how people responded to them. Then I sandwiched those together into a character piece about a bunch of weird people living in New York City.

Max Jenkins and Randall Newsome
What has its development been and how did you get involved with Lesser America?

We'd done a few readings before I got involved with Lesser America, in writing groups, and another with Naked Angels, but it wasn't until the Lesser Am's got involved that it really got cooking. I've known Stephen Brackett for a long time and he's a member of the company, so he passed it along to them. I must say the energy and talent and producing power that this little company has is pretty incredible. When they like something, they just do everything they can to put it up, with an amazing team of people behind them.

How do you like to collaborate with your directors?
Danelle Eliav and Randall Newsome
Pretty closely. I've never been one of those writers who is super precious with cutting or revising if
something isn't working. I respect their opinion and they're watching the thing every day, too, so I like to hear when they think something could be changed for the better.

What is your writing schedule and where do you typically write? 

I used to work as a reporter during the day, so I would have to write in spurts in the morning and during breaks and on weekends, but now I'm freeeeeee to write all day, which I usually don't do. BUT! I write at
Lucas Kavner's workspace
least 4-5 hours a day, and usually at my dining room table or at a coffee shop near my house, which is inside a Brownstone and feels like writing at someone else's nice house with coffee. I've had many desks throughout my life and can't seem to ever want to work on them, for reasons that elude me.

Salty or sweet?


Oh god, both. Both. Not a possible choice, by any means.

What's next?

Finishing up a play commission from E.S.T, then doing another tour of this Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical I've been working on for a long while. Also working on a bunch of TV/Film projects, currently in development with various places. I still perform improv with hello at the Peoples Improv Theater every Friday at 9:30 and I love doing that very much. The improv and theatre worlds should be more integrated, I think.

Lucas Kavner’s Carnival Kids is presented by Lesser America and directed by Stephen Brackett with Jake Choi, Danelle Eliav, Max Jenkins, Randall Newsome and Laura Ramadei,
at the TBG Theatre (312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue) June 5-28. Purchase tickets here.

Photo Credits: Danny Ghitis

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kate Benson and Caroline V. McGraw: Jamming on New Georges' Jam on Toast

 "...cultivating new collaborative relationships through 3-D play development and by including playwrights and directors as equal participants. "
- New Georges' Jam on Toast








 What is the name of your play and what is it about?

Kate Benson / Dir. Lee Sunday Evans
KATE BENSON: A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes is a Thanksgiving play with Sports Announcers. It is about intergenerational mechanics and also this strange/normal national ritual that occurs every November: football, family, food, gratitude, genocide, gluttony.

CAROLINE V. MCGRAW: My play is called the Vaults. It's about four young American tourists; when one of them disappears on a trip to Edinburgh, the remaining three have to deal with the aftermath and find him, uncovering a lot of unpleasant truths about themselves along the way.

Caroline V. McGraw / Dir. Portia Krieger
What was its inspiration?

KB: I wanted to write a play without stage directions, and I wanted to write a play about a family, and I wanted to turn the standard models of the American Family Play inside out: no couch--no furniture!, no props, no deep dark family secrets, no sitting down. Just: the trouble of doing something together, and doing that thing well, or as well as you can.

CM: About five years ago I took a ghost tour in Edinburgh, and was struck by how very theatrical it was. It was cheesy and silly, but also genuinely terrifying. I wanted to write a play with the structure of the Edinburgh vaults--labyrinthian, with lots of dead ends and secret passages and spooky corners that reveal something unexpected. I don't think there's enough genre-y theater, and I wanted to write characters grounded in reality that have to make sense of a strange place and supernatural mysteries.

KB's Workspace
What is your writing schedule and what is your workspace like?

KB: My writing schedule is: whenever I can. I like early mornings, I really like late nights, and I even more like coffee shops in the middle of the day.

CM's Workspace
CM:  I don't have a writing schedule, to be honest. It depends on the project I'm working on. Sometimes I'm writing for 4-5 hours every day over the course of a few weeks, other times I try to let my brain rest, which is another way of writing. I do a lot of work in coffee shops and on the run, but when I'm in my apartment, I work at my big wooden kitchen table. I have a bad habit of leaving my nail polish there and staring at my screen, mouthing words to myself, doing my nails.

How did you get involved in New Georges Jam on toast?

KB: I joined the Jam in its inaugural year, and Lee and I met and worked together on other Jam projects (maybe just one?), and I was just crazy about her and the way she thinks about theater; I sent her a bunch of plays, and she chose this one, and we proposed it for the festival, and (oh man!) what a great time it's been working with her, working with the cast, working with the designers, working with New Georges.

Kate Benson's Great Lakes: Featuring Mia Katigbak, Evan Thompson, Brooke Ishibashi, Nina Hellman, Heather Alicia Simms, Christian Felix, Jessica Almasy (photo: Jessica Osber)
CM:  I'm a member of the Jam, which is due to the director of the Vaults Portia Krieger, who encouraged me to apply when I was moving back to New York after grad school. We met each other because of The Vaults; a mutual dramaturg friend sent it to her before we had laid eyes on each other.

What's next?

KB: I am performing in Julia Jarcho's new play, Nomads, at the Incubator: we open right as Great Lakes closes; and then in the writing part: a play about debt, based on Melville's novel The Confidence Man, and then a commission from Clubbed Thumb for a play that, well, I don't wanna spoil the surprise.

CM: My live feminist pop extravaganza "...baby no more times," which I've co-written and developed with Jammer Mary Birnbaum and Melissa Lusk, goes up June 24 at Ars Nova ANT Fest, and then I'm off to Space on Ryder Farm for a residency in the late summer with director Laura Savia. Just working with cool ladies is really what's next!

New Georges Jam on Toast is now thru May 31st at Dixon Place. Tickets ($20 each; festival pass $50) will be available for advance purchase online at www.newgeorges.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

THE NEW GEORGES JAM is a working lab for early-career theatermakers, founded in 2010 under New Georges’ auspices by playwright Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and directors Jess Chayes and Portia Krieger. Makers of highly theatrical work, the Jam’s founders wanted to expand on traditional writers’ groups (which tend to focus on reading pages, not getting work on its feet) to cultivate new collaborative relationships through 3-D play development and by including playwrights and directors as equal participants. 

The festival will also feature works-in-progress and special presentations by Jam members Sofia Alvarez, Eliza Bent, Mary Birnbaum, Katherine Brook, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Meghan Finn, Morgan Gould, Dipika Guha, Mary Elizabeth Hamilton, Sarah Krohn, Anna Moench, Mia Rovegno and Pirronne Yousefzadeh.