Sunday, March 28, 2010

In the Works: Intellectual Property

On Thursday March 25, we finally had out first reading of Intellectual Property. Reading for us were Chris Carfizzi, Margaret Champagne, Jill Gould, John Gregorio, Kate Erin Gibson, in addition to Playlab NYC alumni Todd Courson, John Pieza, and Bob Leeds. We were fortunate enough to have as our guests two of our contributors, Ted Wenskus and Alex Kozak. We were also lucky enough to be joined by Coffee Black Productions' Mike Bloom and Carrie Boehm. There is an inherent hit and miss quality to any anthology, and this was no exception. While some of the individual pieces are ready to go into production, the collection as a whole is not. A couple of the short plays would be well served by simply tightening the script, but others feel like their moments of topicality have come and gone. the strongest selections seem to be the ones that combine a classic story or play to popular culture. We had riffs on William Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Mamet, and Samuel Beckett.

Reflecting on the collection as a whole, perhaps the opportunity to produce the evening has passed. intellectual property seemed to me like the perfect second show for Playlab NYC. It was conceived to be a collection of funny new works that would move us from the outdoor venue of our first show (The Tempest) into a little 60 seat Off-Off-Broadway space. We actually accomplished exactly this sort of show with our second production, Perfectly Natural. I'm less sure these days how Intellectual Property contributes to Playlab NYC's continued growth.

I had hoped that this project might appeal to Coffee Black Productions, and that by being Playlab NYC's first co-production that it would help our growth by building bridges to another company, and letting us put a toe in Brooklyn. Coffee Black had been producing a variety of readings in coffee shops around Brooklyn. given their collections of monologues and their plans for a multiple author retelling of the story of Persephone this seemed like a good project for us to pool resources. Alas it does not appear that Mike or Carrie would be interested in the project.

If there is to be a future for Intellectual Property I need to use this casual reading to find some clarity. Rather than focusing on fan-fiction and mash-ups of two different pop culture phenomenon, I need to stick with pieces that marry pop culture to a specific playwright or theater style. I will need to let some of the less focused contributions go, and will need to seek out some new selections. Because I didn't think that enough of the submissions that resulted from our playbill ad back in 2008 hit the mark, we will need to try a new tactic. I would like to get in touch with some playwrights whose work Jennifer and I enjoyed at last year's New York International Fringe Festival and see if they would like to contribute. There are also a couple short plays that I had been avoiding because they were published and I wanted to focus on newer works.

Given the success of recent shows like The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski at the Kraine Theatre, I still think that there is an audience for this project. Playlab NYC will continue to develop Intellectual Property until the time comes that it is ready to hit the stage.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Dish"

On Sunday March 14, I went for the first time to a meeting of The Off-Off Broadway Community Dish.

I never see much point in reinventing the wheel so let me just quote Amanda Feldman on the the organizers of the meetings.

"The Community Dish is a group of Off-Off Broadway/Indie theatre artists who meet every other month to discuss issues that affect us. It's called "The Dish" because everyone contributes something to our potluck meal that we eat together when we meet up."

The reason I went was because back in January, Sean Williams had mentioned the group to me, saying that they were all a good group of people. So I went armed with some homemade coffee cake from my managing director (wife).

The topic of the evening was blogging. I didn't take notes but there were about six bloggers from the independent theater scene there, including: Sean Williams from Gideon Productions, James Comtois from Nosedive Productions, and playwrights Matthew Freeman and J. Holtham.

The most valuable thing I got out of the evening was hearing James Comtois talk about how Nosedive Productions had used comic creator Dave Sim's Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing as a tool to create their company.

In the week since The Community Dish discussion I have dipped into a couple of the speaker's blogs. Again the most valuable things seemed to be coming from James Comtois. In part to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Nosedive Productions, James had been tripping down memory lane in a series of entries titled Little Jimmy's Guide to Self-Producing.

James' blog really made me take a hard look at what is being accomplished with our Playground blog. I had originally intended that it would be a look inside how we produce our shows. the mistakes. The small victories. Perhaps to be a tool for others starting to produce theater independently, especially in New York, but also to be a record of Playlab NYC's history.

Very quickly though that intention fell by the wayside. It didn't seem like a place to openly discuss the troubles we were having as producers. If you want to build relationships with people and companies then you can't really discuss actors who cannot learn their lines because they are not being open about a learning disability, you can't really discuss the belief that a festival that cares is really extorting money from you. Even if you don't mind burning bridges with the actor or the festival, you don't want people to think you are airing your dirty laundry online. or maybe I don't want to air my dirty laundry.

Because of this trepidation on my part The Playground has become an easy to avoid chore and the entries read like poorly written press releases. I'm hoping to change that though. At lease let a little more personality creep into my writing.

I look forward to the next Community Dish.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Monologues That Go Bump in the Night!

Back in the early nineties when I was a young man out of college with a fancy directing degree I took a directing observership at the Cleveland Playhouse. It was there that Roger Danforth gave me a piece of advice that I have always remembered. “Go where you are invited. You are a young director and you need all the experience you can get.” Now because of an eight year detour into the world of theatrical agencies, I am a director who still has no experience. To that end when Mike Bloom at Coffee Black Productions asked me if I wanted to direct some of the monologues for their …. I said yes.

Coffee Black only came into being six months ago and in that time they have presented a number of readings of new plays. In addition they have been scheduling regular evenings of monologues.

Their most recent monologue night, Monologues that Go Bump in the Night, was originally scheduled for February 15 at The Tea Lounge. When the Tea Lounge decided to book another act for the same evening, they neglected to let anyone at Coffee Black know. So not only was the evening of fear rescheduled, it changed venue too!

If you are in Brooklyn, please come out to…

Written by:

Richard Ballon
Matthew Barbot
Diana Bedoya
Michael Bloom
Carrie Boehm
Danna Call
Lindsey Copeland
Topher Cusumano
Ethan Kanfer
Brendan McLoughlin
Maiken Wiese

Directed by:

Carrie Boehm
Kevin P. Hale
Bobbi Masters


Mamoudou Athie, Matt Barbot, Kay Capasso, Kristin Ciccone, Katie Dickinson, Aisling Quinn, Kate Shine, Kymberly Tuttle

There are two chances to check out the show!

8pm Monday March 8th

Freddy’s Bar & Backroom

485 Dean Street, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

By subway take the 2, 3 trains to Bergen Street; Freddy's is right around the corner. Or take practically any train in the city to Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street Stations; Walk East on Flatbush and take a left on Dean.


7:30pm Friday March 12th

Ozzie’s Coffee House

249 5th Avenue (between Carroll St & Garfield Pl) , Park Slope, Brooklyn

By subway take the D, M, N, R, W trains to Union Street; walk up Union Street to 5th Ave and take a right.