Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Vampyres (1997)


Seventeen years ago the world ended. And another began. The summer of 1994 stretched on until deep into November. I was playing games I would never play again, making foolish decisions which would define the rest of my life. I have few friends that pre-date that time.

One day in January, 1995 I came home from my shift at the pizza restaurant to find half of the house was empty. There was no longer a piano, a dresser, a bed. It was time to rebuild.

The music was dark, the house was cold. I boarded a train to New York on most frigid weekend of the year, to visit my new girlfriend. I had a PowerBook. I had destroyed my theater company, I had destroyed my marriage. I was full of hope, and I feared there would be no future. I started to write a play.


By late 1996, life was rich and decadent. Long nights of drink and smoke, producing crazy theater on Coventry, live music shows, late hours at new friends’ apartments. I got the green light fo The Vampyres in Dobama’s Night Kitchen. We had tapped professional musicians to write rock songs for the show. The production was the greatest attempt to incorporate a DNK show into the mainstage, our set melded perfectly with theirs, transforming the humble, mid-century home of Beast on the Moon into the dark and stylish coffee shop called The Night Kitchen.

Critics hate this play. The protagonist is a former actor who cowardly abandons his career in the arts to pursue on in medicine, but he can’t help but comment on everything, judging the girl he hasn’t seen since high school for wanting to be an artist (even though he still wants to bang her,) transparently hits on the teenage barista, and displays naked jealousy of the two musicians that frequent the place who may, or may not, be real vampires.

Maurice Adams, Brian Pedaci
In the end, this pathetic wanna-be gets literally and figuratively fucked up the ass.

Christine Howey called it a "misbegotten effort."

The Free Times called it, "more hollow than haunting."

Tony Brown said it was "juvenile" and "infantile blathering."

The original production in 1997 was too long by half. Cleveland Public Theatre produced an edited version in 2005, and I was very happy to have the chance to present it with the most of the flab cut from it, but it was still such a nasty piece of work and I was no longer in that place. I find it difficult to reconcile my disconnect with this work that I spent so much energy living in. It’s obvious who wrote it. But I cannot believe there was ever so much anger and hurt in me.


In spite of critical derision, or perhaps because of it, it was a very successful run. One of the best attended Night Kitchen shows I produced. Houses were full, there were small tables on the stage for audience members to sit at to give the impression that The Night Kitchen (the coffee house) actually had customers in it. Elizabeth (as Claire the barista) was onstage during preshow serving coffee and pocketed the tips.

Cool Cleveland called The Vampyres, "Sinister, sexy, perverse and hilarious."

Anastasia Pantsios said it had “an intensity that makes the waters in which it wades feel very deep and dangerous indeed.

Dobama Artistic Director Joyce Casey didn't actually want me to produce the piece. She was concerned that it glorified cutting and drug-use. When I moved on from Night Kitchen, DNK Artistic Director Dan Kilbane produced Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking.

Cutting bad. Screwdriver-sodomy good. Got it.

Happy Halloween

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