Friday, April 26, 2013

The Myths We Live: Lynn Rosen's Goldor $ Mythyka: A Hero is Born

 "We're all trying to rewrite our stories so we can make people believe we're a version of ourselves that we're really not (or maybe we really are?)"
- Playwright Lynn Rosen

Goldor $ Mythyka is based on a true story about two seemingly innocent kids involved in fantasy role play that end up stealing $7.4 million from an armored car. How did you go about turning this news story into a play?

I happened upon this story one day on the internet. It captured my attention because it involved crime, a young couple very deeply in love, fantasy, and a desperation that so many people were and are feeling economically. (Hello, Bonnie and Clyde.) This one small story seemed to be a very American story. It spoke to the myth of the typical American outlaw, and the myth that in America "if you dream it you can be it", and that the streets should be "paved with gold."

It also spoke to the truths of America - the 99% vs the 1%. And I knew the fantasy role-playing element would lend it a theatricality that I always employ and enjoy. I read a few more articles about it, and even checked out the real guy's MySpace page before it was expunged. It was very Goth and poetic and, to my mind, represented the musings of his fantasy self, rather than his every day self. I took the basic facts of the story  - lovers in economic crisis, armored car, D&D fanatics - and then jettisoned the real story and made it my own.
Bobby Moreno, Garrett Neergaard and Jenny Seastone Stern

The story of these two kids and their heist is set against the backdrop of the Bernie Madoff scandal - what was interesting to you about these two highly publicized events?

I think one was connected to the other. The economic crisis, the housing crisis, the greed, the Wall Street shenanigans, the double standards for the Haves and the Have Nots - it trickles down to all of us, as we know. In my play, it definitely trickles down to my protagonists in a literal way, ie, the crisis causes their boss to fire them, thus adding to their fiscal and personal woes. But it also feeds into their pre-existing feelings of being left out, abandoned, unnecessary. They already feel this way in their personal life, but the larger economic crises intensifies those feelings.

One of the really compelling themes of the play is the idea of personal myth - that on some level we are all dealing with one (or a few) mythical versions of ourselves and our place in the world - can you expand on that?

In the play, the young couple is described as "meek, sweet, wouldn't hurt a fly", and this is true. But in their games of D&D - their escape from the world - they are powerful, sexy warriors. And when things get really bad for them, donning these alternate personas is what gives them the courage to rob the armored car and alter their reality. To some degree we all do this. We're all constantly shifting our identities in order to get through the day, the marriage, the job. We're all trying to rewrite our stories so we can make people believe we're a version of ourselves that we're really not (or maybe we really are?), so we can have the happy ending we all yearn for. Though, as my characters discover, it's very hard to fight the tide of reality.

What was the development process for the play? How did you and director Shana Gold collaborate?

New Georges thought we'd be a good match and they were right! As Shana and I like to say, "Best J Date ever."

We were paired up for the development of the first incarnation of GOLDOR $ MYTHYKA: A HERO IS BORN when we did a much shorter version of the play in The Germ Project, which New Georges produced in 2011.

After that we continued to collaborate on the play as I built it into a full length. I'd write a new draft, send it to Shana, get her notes, make changes, etc. Over the next couple years we were fortunate enough to have at least six readings and four short workshops of this play, thanks to New Georges. There's no way I could
Bubba Weiler
have developed it otherwise because it's very muscular and physical  - well, it's an adventure! - so we had to see it up on its feet to know what we really had. I was also lucky to have Jenny Seastone Stern and Garrett Neergaard as my heroes almost every step of the way. Getting their thoughts during this ongoing process was invaluable since they know the play so well.

Through all this Shana always had insightful and honest feedback for me, as did Susan Bernfield. She was willing to try anything I brought in and give my crazy ideas I had a chance. We were truly partners, depending on each other for insight, advice, and courage.

Most of all we make each other laugh, which I think is quite pivotal to a collaboration and to the rehearsal process. A fun rehearsal room means everyone is going to feel at ease, happy to be there, and willing to take chance.

You are doing a variety of projects including a web series called Darwin directed by Carrie Preston, and a new play being developed in the TerraNOVA Collective called In The Blue. How do you juggle multiple projects?

I also have two young kids! And other plays I'm developing and I've been commissioned by Women's Project to write the book of a musical. It's not easy, man. I definitely develop plays at a slower pace than most writers I know. This may be a function of the kind of plays I write and my process of writing as much
Rob Leo Roy and Kristin Griffith
as a result of my lifestyle. I kind of throw it all in there in a first draft and then rewrite and rewrite, relying on feedback and dramaturgy from collaborators, and cut and hone, until it feels right. But when I work, I am extremely focused, and I have to be very protective of my writing time. And I never go anywhere or see anyone or go shopping or anything. I don't think I've bought any new clothes in, like, a year and a half. I look great!

What is inspiring you right now?

I'm always intrigued by true stories and real people - usually working class people - who do extraordinary things to change their lives, for better or worse. I'm continuously inspired by "regular Joes" who struggle to live their lives with some sense of empowerment, dignity, and perhaps even with some magic or beauty.
What is your guilty pleasure? (or one of them?)

I am known to watch some reality shows on Bravo. They help me put my brain to sleep at night. I'm not proud of this.

Anything you'd like to add?

Goldor $ Mythyka: A Hero Is Born runs through Saturday, April 27th at The New Ohio! We have a stellar cast and amazing design. Check it out before it disappears into the ether.

Goldor $ Mythyka: A Hero is Born is produced by New Georges, to get tickets click here. The New Ohio is located at 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington in NYC.

Photo Credits: Jim Baldassare

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Greencard Wedding is a Creative Match Made in Heaven

"I get bored with things that are predictable. Mischief is where the magic happens!"
- Jody Christopherson

What is Greencard Wedding?

JODY: A band but also an experience. We play a set, tell stories about each other, there’s Frisian Wedding cake, there’s bubbles. We give the audience set list T-shirts and underwear to wear (that we actually play from during the show). There’s a wedding video camera we pass around. It’s a story about two people trying to do what they love together against impossible odds. We make everything ourselves because we have to and it’s fun. We have basically no budget- like most artists who get married. We knew Michael might have to leave America when his student Visa was up so we wanted to create something to keep us connected. So the name Greencard Wedding seemed to be a good band name for us.

MICHAEL: Greencard Wedding is an awesome Indie-Folk Rock band that uses English/Dutch and Beatboxing to make a set sound and look special. We are a 2 person band but there is a lot you can do with 2 people!

We try to invent ways to make a song more then just another song by another band, but we strive to make every one of our songs into small experiences so people remember. That also gives the show that we perform the chance to have an arc. Like a theatre piece. I think that's where our theatrical aspect comes in. I think Greencard Wedding more then a band is the fact that people are leaving the show feeling things are possible!

That’s a great feeling…And Boom!!!! A New York -> Amsterdam Skype Show is Born.

 How did you guys meet?

MICHAEL: We met in a church.. hehe.. right around the time that I found God… Nope that’s not true… it was in a church though. She was performing a show where she had to sing in a choir. 

JODY: I was singing in Alec Duffy/ Dave Malloy’s Murder in the Cathedral, in a Cathedral in Crown Heights, and Michael came to see it.

MICHAEL: It was beautiful. I didn’t understand the show much because I just arrived in the U.S. and my English wasn’t really spectacular. 

JODY: We met after the show and he laid down some beats for me.

Photo Credit Eaglepress (at Intar)
MICHAEL: And we went to have burgers with a group of friends at a place called Dutch Boy Burger which I thought was very funny. And after that a weird loft party (at least weird for a dude from the country side of Holland, little did I know heheh.) Where we started talking about theatre and plans and visions... 

JODY: We stayed out till 4am dancing. Yeah, we ended up at that epic loft party with fires in trash cans! It was really Bacchanalian. Some poor kid split his head open head-banging next to a speaker and sprayed blood, like everywhere...I think we went home after that.

MICHAEL: The next morning she called me to do a play/musical and the rest is history!

Are you in love?

MICHAEL: Hmmm…. Yes . . . with fried chicken.. but I’m on a diet now… so I guess that makes it a forbidden love!!!! Ooooooh how exciting!

JODY: People ask us that a lot. We write a lot of love songs and have a lot of fun together. To me, that’s the best type of feeling to give people, being loved. It’s exciting. I’m interested in making things that leave the audience with a feeling good, that anything is possible. So I always hope we can create something with high enough stakes that it makes people wonder that.

Photo Credit Eaglepress (at Intar)
What are your backgrounds?

JODY: I grew up in Nebraska around classic country and folk music. I played the cello for 4 years and the string bass for two. I’ve been singing in choirs and musicals and just on people's front porches since I was little.

MICHAEL: I’m from a small town called Sneek in the North of Holland. I have never been into musical instruments- really more into sports and beatboxing; we used to battle on the skate course. There were a lot of beatboxers in the town I was from, even the Dutch championship was held there. I did a big gig with an 80 piece orchestra and beatboxed on their CD. Beatboxing also got me through the auditions of the local theatre school in my town. When I was 19 I moved to Amsterdam to study acting, then to Den Bosch to study comedy, then to New York City to study Acting and Dance. And most important of all WORK! Now I’m back in Amsterdam again. BOOM!

Who is more of the troublemaker? 

JODY: I think we both love mischief and taking big risks. That’s probably why we work well together. It’s fun to put something unexpected and honest up. To say something in the moment that might not always be rehearsed but is true. I get bored with things that are predictable. Mischief is where the magic happens!

MICHAEL: I mean, I like to think that I am. Because that means you can be nicely irresponsible. But if I make a promise I’ll keep it…I mean hey, your laundry might turn out all pink or green but at least I’ve done the laundry right!!!

JODY: Just to clarify, Michael has never done my laundry. I had no idea he did his own . . .

Photo Credit Stephanie Ching (at Dixon Place)
How do you collaborate?

JODY: Right now we work over Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime and email. We rehearse at 6am NYC time or 12 midnight due to our day jobs. We kick around ideas, we transcribe our calls. We can’t really play music over Skype unless we just play from memory and stand really far away from our computers. Skype has this problem with two people talking at once; the sound cuts out. 

When we are together we improvise music. Sometimes Michael writes music and then we improvise words and harmonies or I write lyrics and melody and we improvise chords.

MICHAEL: I’m loving Jody’s answer so I totally agree.

What's going on in May?

MICHAEL: We play some amazing gigs at Dixon Place, Ella Lounge, Bar Matchless, and more. AND we workshop our new play, THE SKYPE SHOW that’s going to be done over Skype!!!!! Shit's so exciting! Can’t wait to be back in NYC!!

David Anzuelo
Photo Credit Eaglepress
JODY: We have a 60 minute theater piece with video, music and Skyping onstage, THE SKYPE SHOW, that’s going to be workshopped with director Pirronne Yousefzadeh and producer Aaron Simms. It’s the story of  us sitting down on Skype to make a show that will help Michael get his artist visa and discovering that we can’t make music over Skype, so we have to find a way to make a show we can perform. There’s a rock guru role for the amazing David Anzuelo in it that’s shot on video- “UNKA DAVE’S: Guitar for absolute fucking beginners." (I don’t really play an instrument anymore and so Michael got me a “learn to play guitar” DVD series when he left so it’s based, in part, on that).  It includes David’s awesome music.

We just built this sexy new website that speaks Dutch and English to tell people more about upcoming gigs and there are cake recipes, music and pictures:

What is your vision for the next year?

MICHAEL: We envision touring with the shows we make. We want to expand are audience and reach out to different countries. Love is a Universal thing right; we want the audience to leave feeling like love is possible- boundaries included. It would be awesome to tour in one of those old Volkswagen vans and just play venues and festivals along the road. We started building this in New York, and then throw it upon the World- sort of like that.

JODY: Yeah! Like that! I really hope that a venue in America or abroad will give us a shot to put up the show. We’ve sent out a load of applications. It costs next to nothing to mount. It would help us make a case to continue working together and to build our next two shows in this trilogy. I’d also like to go to Amsterdam. We were just offered a gig there in a coffee shop and our music has been played in a bar that was streaming us from Spotify. Also, I’m learning Dutch! Michael has only taught me naughty Dutch words so I have to expand my education.

Salty or sweet?

JODY: I like both together. 

MICHAEL: Salty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But this stupid diet I’m on prevents me from having it!!!!! Michael! Michael, it’s a choice! You can drop it whenever. Yeah but come on! Can’t I whine for a little bit? NO! Okay well then sweet (it’s easier to not eat!)

Anything else?

MICHAEL: Yeah! This is our brand new website: you can buy tickets to our shows and come enjoy us in person!!

JODY: Also there’s some fun footage on our indiegogo page that’s been shot by the audience.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Get Your Funny on with Parallel Exits' Comedy Academy HAPPENING NOW.

“The test of a real comedian is whether you laugh at him before he opens his mouth.”
George Jean Nathan

If you’re like me, you have no idea who George Jean Nathan is. But what he asserts above fits right in line with the assertions made by Joel Jeske and Mark Lonergan, the two skillful fools currently running Parallel Exit’s Comedy Academy. Divided into eight total workshops of three hours each, these men have broken down physical comedy into bite-size morsels, digestible for even the beginner idiot (as opposed to a more seasoned one). Regardless of where you may fall on the idiot scale, it is never too late or too soon for a touch up of the comedy variety.

Photo Credit: Jim Moore
The evening I attended the Comedy Academy, our particular area of focus was status. Other areas include emotional state as a source of character or making strong physical choices. Status is extremely useful as a tool. All comedy duos and trios contain individuals who are either smarter or more stupid than their compatriots. Think about the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges. One is clearly in charge, one is clearly not in charge, and one could go either way...  

In the exercises we were given, we explored how status can be fluid and change within a scene and when status might be fixed. How does this sense of being smarter or stupider inform our choices in posture, movement, facial expression, reactivity, and relationship to the audience? Jeske and Lonergan work with each student to point out moments of comic clarity. 

Most often, the biggest laughs were given for moments of physical nuance, expression or surprise. This is not a workshop for the very clever who would like to become more clever. This is a workshop for those who like to listen, to observe, and who are interested in creating worlds around them with their own physical imagination.  When done with integrity and with Parallel Exit’s influence, these worlds are most likely going to be pretty funny.

The evening concludes with a concise summary of the workshop’s talking points, which are also emailed to participants the following day. This lets the students really focus on what is unfolding before them rather than worrying about taking notes or remembering everything later. A nice touch.
Photo Credit: Peter Dressel
 If you are still wondering, George Jean Nathan was a literary critic in the first half of the 1900s. Another of his more memorable quotes is “I drink to make other people interesting.”

Lucky for me, the folks teaching and taking the Comedy Academy workshop I attended were plenty interesting without a necessary cocktail. If getting your comedy on is something you have always secretly wanted to try, or if you simply seek to refine an aspect of your technique underneath some kind, watchful eyes, it is a good bet you will get your money’s worth with the fine folks of Parallel Exit.
Remaining sessions, April 8-11, 7-10 pm
520 Eighth Avenue
$75 per class / $250 for 4 classes
Parallel Exit

Contributed by Guest Blogger Catherine Mueller.

Catherine Mueller is a Co-Artistic Director/performer with The Glass Contraption, a not-for-profit physical theater company whose original works have been developed and/or presented in partnership with The Orchard Project, Ars Nova, The Field, The Kitchen, The Public Theater, Jalopy Theater and The Grahamstown National Arts Festival (South Africa). Facedancing, TGC’s short film, was an official selection of the 2011 Maryland International Film Festival. She has written, developed and performed in multiple solo works, which have been presented at
Dixon Place, IRT, and many others. Past roles include Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (dir. Gregory Wolfe); Emilia in Othello (dir. Alex Correia); Platypus in 13 Ways of Looking as a Blackbird (dir. Dan Rigazzi).  Her work can also be seen in numerous national network commercials, voiceovers, and short films directed by Juan Reinoso. She has studied physical comedy, clown and its related forms since 1999 with many, many teachers, most notably Christopher Bayes, currently Head of Physical Acting at Yale School of Drama, with whom she apprenticed.

She currently leads residencies in physical theater/clown at universities, actor training programs, and community-based arts organizations throughout the land. She has been associated with the 52nd Street Project since 1999 as a performer, director, and mentor, as well as clown teacher for the past four Teen Ensembles preparing to perform Shakespeare. She was a participant in the 2011 Director’s Lab Chicago and is adjunct faculty in the Theater Department at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  Education: BA in Theater, Hofstra University; MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts candidate, Goddard College.