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