Monday, August 26, 2013

FringeNYC 2013 Overall Excellence Awards

Awesome news!

Winners of the FringeNYC 2013 Overall Excellence Awards were announced by festival Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy during a brief ceremony at The Cutting Room in New York late last night.

Our own Lisa Ortenzi received an Award for Overall Excellence in Directing for her work on Double Heart (The Courtship of Beatrice and Benedick)! This honor reflects well on the production as a whole, but most significantly on Lisa's strengths as a director and the entire Double Heart company is thrilled and excited at her achievement. Way to go, Lisa!

Awards were selected by an independent panel of over 40 theater professionals. 

Complete list of FringeNYC 2013 Overall Excellence Award Winners.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sleep No More (play)

My companions at Sleep No More, James and Emily, reported strange, performance-induced dreams the following night. I had no such dreams that night. In fact, it took two days to decompress following that event and to truly sort things out.

I do not normally reflect immediately upon emotionally-effecting events. I can say good-bye to someone I know I will never see again, and be sincere and even wistful, but never cry, not then. That comes later when I am suddenly surprised by a reminder of their being and the full weight of loss and sorrow crash upon me like a fool.

We saw the show on Friday. Our final performance in New York was last Saturday. We packed up and departed on Sunday. James slept for a couple hours in the early afternoon and I drove in silence, and that was when I had the chance to think. I thought about everything, the previous ten days -- the whole summer, really -- and all of it rolled together into one big thing.

This was a theater festival for the record books, if because this time I was not alone. Very little downtime, if I did not choose to act, then someone was choosing an action for me. I did not go from point A to point B without stopping at points C, D & F to meet one or another friend, colleague or family member. So many places, people and things.

And then there was the witch, or nurse, whatever she was. The one who chose me. Because that's part of the attraction, you know? That's what the people hope for, it's not about the one-on-one performance experience. You could get that in one of the open rooms just because no one else happens to be there at the time. When one of them chooses you ... well. That means there's something special about you, right? Even if you are wise enough to know that there isn't. You can't help it.

It was entirely by chance, because I knew these things happened, but it still took me entirely by surprise. It happened like this:

There is this corner room, with a platform elevation, all the walls floor to ceiling painted in black, I passed through it quickly once, but heading through again saw a nurse, a brunette, writing something on the wall. I went and stood next to her. She was writing  the same thing over and over again.
The Thane of Cawdor
The Thane of Cawdor
The Thane of Cawdor
That's when I assumed she must be a weird sister. (Patrick Stewart's recent TV version of Macbeth featured witches in the guise of nurses, too.) The music changed, she stiffened, and walked out of the room. I followed, as did many others, through the branch-maze, but then we encountered another witch, the red-haired one.

They stared at each other, but then she looked at me. Unconsciously, I had put my left hand over my heart. Was that what she noticed, that I was lost in it? That was when she offered her hand.

As I said, I won't describe what happened when she took me by the hand and led me into her little room ... except for this, because this was most troubling.

Near the end of our time together, in that little room, she again took my by the hand, and held me hard. Then she leaned back in her chair, holding me to the length of her entire arm, trembling and shaking me. She sighed piteously, and just I thought she was going to pull me off my seat, she yanked me close and whispered in my ear.

That done, she let me go, and showed me out the door, and as I took the last step turned to see her slowly close the door behind her, and to the last the light of her eyes were bent on me.

This final image has been blazed into my thoughts, as though it were a lost memory of something I had once experienced, some haunted, familiar recollection. It took an entire week before I finally realized where this had happened before.
He tooke me by the wrist, and held me hard,
Then goes he to the length of all his arme,
And with his other hand thus ore his brow,
He falls to such perusall of my face
As a would draw it, long stayd he so,
At last, a little shaking of mine arme,
And thrice his head thus wauing vp and downe,
He raisd a sigh so pittious and profound
As it did seeme to shatter all his bulke,
And end his beeing; that done, he lets me goe,
And with his head ouer his shoulder turn'd
Hee seem'd to find his way without his eyes,
For out adoores he went without theyr helps,
And to the last bended their light on me.
- HAMLET Act 2, Scene 1

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Ten)

Double Heart, final FringeNYC performance at the Connelly Theater.

Double Heart FringeNYC Company
Stage Manager Diana, David, Annie, Emily, James
Venue Director Kimille, Director Lisa

Setting costumes backstage.

Diana in the Connelly balcony.

James sets the curtains.

Annie onstage, moments before we open house.

Emily and James, minutes before curtain.

Connelly Theater detail.

After, Daniel and I went out for Indian food.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Nine)


Another bright, beautiful day in New York City. For reals, we got rain dumped upon us on the drive into Manhattan last Thursday. Tuesday morning was cold and rainy and I did my laundry ... and then the skies were bright and clear and stayed that way.

Also, it has been warm, but not hot. I mean, the weather has been ideal. This morning James and I headed out to pass out palm cards at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. It's Friday, so I assumed the line for this evening's performance of Love's Labour's Lost would be long, but I had no idea. I mean, there were at least a hundred people in line who couldn't possibly have gotten tickets.

But still, morning in the park. Good times.

James and I passed out at least four hundred cards. No kidding. We ordered five thousand cards for this trip, they came in 20 boxes of 250. We have one more show, and we are down to two boxes, that is some good distribution work for six people. James and I emptied the better part of two just on the trip this morning.

I am always delighted when people ask questions about the show, that's a good sign, where, exactly, and when and what, who wrote it? James says it's in verse and someone asks, what kind of verse and I poke him and say, "Do Messina." He fills the air with:
Messina! Fair Sicilian burgh, at last! 
From northern climes I’ve soldiered, twice enlisted 
To defend this federated kingdom, Italy.
But leaving Padua I’ve never yet encountered sun so bright, 
Air so fresh and salty from the sea, 
The sight and scent of citrus, hanging low. 
If I must rest and recreate abroad, 
Why then, Messina is the place for me!
There was applause and smiles all around, because that's what you get for having a good voice in Central Park.

Shakespeare & Co. FringeNYC literature display.

How do you get people to come to your FringeNYC show, when you are not a New York company, have no local following? We have spent cash on advertising, well-placed advertising, but not an absurd amount of advertising. Mostly online, at various sites.

We hired a p.r. firm to bundle our materials with the rest of the FringeNYC press releases, which may or may not stand out, with so many others vying for attention. But Robert Muller's production photographs are solid, attractive, just what a blog or paper or magazine wants to see. Colorful, with costumes, a set, from a performance, not posed, lively. Interesting.

For these efforts we had advance notice in The New York Times, and This is exactly what you want, what you need, to get noticed before the festival begins. And we met people on line at the Delacorte who said they'd seen it! In The Times!

And there are reviews, and those have been good. I get the impression that some people do not find my performances to their liking. They love our lovers, however -- and praise my writing, which is more important to me, anyway.

... and our attendance has ranged from 25 to 40. So, okay. Better than some. I was hoping for more. Asked prior to the Fringe, I said I wanted 50. Fifty per show. But what do I know from attendance, I have done solo shows at FringeNYC twice before, and each time I didn't come near what we have seen this year.

... and we're not done yet! One more show tomorrow. A Saturday at noon, not exactly when I'm out seeing theater, but pre-sale is as good or better than previous performances, so we have have a good showing. Or, you know. The same. Lots of friends are coming ... the question is whether people we met on line in Central Park will be joining them.

Today we all ventured back into the audience. Diana and her family went to see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. Annie and her NYC friends went to see a cabaret -- it was later I was surprised and delighted to find they were seeing the majestic Ute Lemper!

Annie, Diana, her aunt and I all went to see a FringeNYC production -- Jen Bosworth's Why Not Me this afternoon at Subculture. We had been hoping to see her entire routine since both her show nd ours were featured in three promo events last weekend. Frankly, it was worth the price of admission just listening to her accompanist, Briar Rabbit, play and sing.

By the way, that's just a brilliant idea, ask a talented, young guitarist to vamp while you perform your solo work. It's like beat poetry. Solid. So glad to meet her and see her, she tells great stories, tells them well, she's hilarious, sincere and just really cool.

Tonight, however, James, Emily and I went to see Sleep No More. An immersive theatrical experience, SNM tells a 1930s version of Macbeth in an abandoned hotel, audience members are free to wander the entire space, taking in hours of dialogue-free movement events on three different floors.

I have been interested in seeing this for some time. Developed by a British theater company called Punchdrunk, it was supposed to run two months and has already run two years. I was curious as to how the concept might fare in a long-running circumstance, when it has moved from hip-and-hard-to-get-in-to, to move of a "hey, this looks weird, and there's naked chicks in it, wanna check it?" kind of event.

Regardless, the masks help. The audience members all wear masks, rendering themselves mostly anonymous, cargo shorts notwithstanding. Once engaged, I was taken by the performances, but also anxious that I was missing something on a different floor or in a different room ... until I was singled out by one of the witches, taken by the hand, and led into her room for a one-on-one event.

No, I won't tell you what happened. Or I might, in person, but not here.

Yes, I am very glad I went, and not just for the special attention. Also very glad to share it with James and Emily, who were ecstatic about their experience. Sometimes you get just what you expect, and maybe a little bit more, and that can be a very good thing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Eight)

This is a long line of people.

Handing out cards to the folks waiting to see LLL in Central Park this morning, shortly before free tickets were distributed. It requires perfect timing, just before the tickets are handed out, people are alert and cherry and excited, no one is asleep anymore, arguments have been concluded, crossword puzzles are put away.

Lots of people were actually very chatty and wanted to know about this prequel to Much Ado we were advertising. They engage us in conversation. People are friendly, really, unless they just want to be let alone.

We were also taking pictures around Central Park and other locations, thank you photos for folks who had supported our Kickstarter campaign. We even took pictures in the New York subway, which is not, infact, a legal thing to do.

Don't do this.

There were and are a lot of friends and family around today, I had very close friends join me at the theater tonight, it seems Diana's entire extended family is here, even Emily's beau Benjamin made a special trip to NYC for the production. We escorted her to Washington Square where we found the ladies from the FringeNYC production KINEMATIK promoting and presenting their work by the fountain.

We received a very nice notice in Curtain Up:
"Universally well acted by the four person cast, and director Lisa Ortenzi strikes just the right tone ... an excellent production, and one of the better overall shows I've seen at the Fringe in a while."

You will notice stage manager Diana assisting in getting up the curtain this evening. That is because David failed to refresh our supply of programs in the wig box. We had pre-sale of 20,
and about that many in the box. Lisa tried to convince me not to worry about it, but I ran the three blocks to the apartment and back in about ten minutes. A half-mile, without feeling pain or getting winded. Because I am a runner. But it also meant that I started the show sweating.

We did have a house of 35. It was worth the effort to get the programs. One more show, Saturday at noon, and we are out. One and done. Tell your friends, you'll never get to see this ever again.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Seven)

Huh. Day seven? Okay, that's like, you know. A week. Last Thursday James and I met in front of PlayhouseSquare in Cleveland, promptly left town and haven't been back. We have been running on fumes ever since.

Last night I was up until about 2:30 AM finishing the last blog post, and woke to sunlight and car horns around seven. took a run, woke James and we headed to the Delacorte to hand out palm cards to folks waiting for Free Shakespeare in the Park. We handed out two hundred cards! Should have brought more, folks were very receptive and interested.


We also went to the Met, I gave James my nickel tour. We were invited to join Emily and her friends at the Natural History Museum, but by mid-afternoon I was entirely exhausted ... and frankly a little demoralized. Pre-sale for this evening's performance was 14. Ticket sales are supposed to go up, not down.

Tonight was our latest performance, 8:30 PM. We load out costumes and wigs an hour prior to performance, wait for the space to open at 30 minutes to curtain, set up in fifteen minutes and then open the house.

So by 5 PM, we were all back at the apartment ... waiting. The early evening was a little existential Naps were taken, coffee was made and enjoyed, programs were folded, YouTube videos were watched, and ... uh, yeah.

Once we hit the street, however, spirits brightened, paces quickened, and we were back in the zones. It's been three days since our most recent performance, we needed to get back into it.

And you know, I think tonight was the best show we've had so far! What a great audience, we had over twenty people walk-up, there were most people in the house tonight than on Sunday! And they were hot for the work, it was great fun.

 Two Boots.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Six)

Dobama’s Night Kitchen presented my wife’s play, Angst:84 at FringeNYC in 2001. Now that was an undertaking, the cast consisted of 14 actors, maybe half of them teenagers. With Director, ACR, stage manager and sound board operator our company came to eighteen.

I was the sound board op. I had nothing to do for ten days but run the show and other than that I ate sushi, and saw about sixteen other fringe shows.

One of our company members turned sixteen while here. That’s Leah. Her experiences that week solidified an interest in making NYC her home.

The last full day of Fringe (for us) the company saw some show, I can’t remember what it was, but then everyone wanted to get back or go party, but Leah wanted to see another show, and I offered to escort her.

Studio (2001)

We saw some “trailer trash” drama (they handed out PBR at the door) but that still wasn’t enough theatre, so we journeyed back to the Present Company Theatre -- where Angst:84 was also performing -- to see the Israeli docu-performance Studio.

A sculptor modeled clay for an hour while his model sat. Slides showed his studio in Tel Aviv, and recorded narration featured artist and model ruminating about the artist-model relationship.

One of the major themes of the work was on the importance of repetition. The familiarity of the subject to the artist in each subsequent work … well, it’s like theater, recreating the same performance over and over, and building, refining, developing deeper and deeper understand of the character, the subject, the work.

Leah (2003)
As we found our way back to the subway (that’s a story for a different time) my companion mused that she would like to someday have that kind of relationship with an artist.

“Well,” I said, somewhat paternally, “perhaps someday you will."

Leah and I also have a relationship in writing. She was the youngest member of The Gulf ensemble, and she was brilliant, she wrote some of the most poignant and humorous and intelligent pieces of the show, at fifteen.

But we did get together for events, and she learned that I fancy myself an artist. Somewhat. After a fashion. I mean, I draw. Every now and then. I mean, I used to.

A few years later she asked me once, and then twice, if I would like her to sit for me. After what I felt was an appropriate interval, I finally said yes.

However, I am not currently what anyone would think of as a serious visual artist. In fact, since Leah and I entered into an artist-model relationship, her effect on my work has manifest itself more in my writing than in illustration sketching.

 Emily as Xanthe in "On The Dark Side of Twilight" (2010)

She was the inspiration for the character of Xanthe in On the Dark Side of Twilight, and she figures memorably in And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years). In addition, she has been very supportive of my writing, sampling scenes from The Times as I created that however many years ago.

Meanwhile, Leah did move to New York, and she has made a good life for herself here. Like a lot of people in her tribe (and from Cleveland Heights) she lives a bo-ho lifestyle in Bed-Stuy, working as massotherapist and a doula, and also as a live model, a career in which she mas become muse to several highly talented and reputable artists, including (but not limited to) Daniel Maidman and Patricia Watwood.

Daniel Maidman, Blue Leah #2 (2011)

My own drawing practice revved up again for a few years (midlife crisis?) but then went stagnant, pretty much around the time I began writing plays in earnest.

Returning to New York for Fringe I made sure to connect with Leah, and she invited me to join her at Spring Street Studio, where she has been modeling for around five years, for an open life drawing session this evening.

Whoa. Spring Street? I know its a professional studio, and I know they invite amateurs for these sessions, but Daniel M. drops in there from time to time, guys like Fred Hatt … I mean, that’s crazy talk, right? A four-hour drawing session. I had to say yes.

Meanwhile, she had other business in Manhattan, and there was time for us to catch a FringeNYC show together. And only one fit our timeframe. And, what do you know, twelve years later (yes, her twenty-eighth birthday was yesterday, please don’t say it) we’re going to see a show about life modeling.

Human Fruit Bowl (2013)

Andrea Kuchwelska’s Human Fruit Bowl was, I believed, a memoir of working as a live model. The fact that I believed the performer in front of me was telling her own story is a credit to both actress and playwright, but they are different people, something I was surprised and even delighted to learn after the show when I met the latter.

At the beginning of the show I was a little oppressed by the idea that I was sitting next to a professional model, who would be modeling a just a couple hours (how meta) but soon abandoned that self-conscious line of thought as I was drawn in by familiar themes, issues I respond to, mainly: Why do people have to make up shit to explain the world around them?

To wit: Bonnard created five hundred of paintings of his wife in the bath, and later his mistress killed herself in the bath. Only she didn’t. And it wasn’t five hundred paintings. Shakespeare never made that joke about William the Conquerer, Washington didn’t chop down a cherry tree, and Obama didn’t send Bo on a separate jet on the taxpayers’ dime.

“People don’t know things,” says our naked protagonist, “they jusy think they know things.”

Pertaining to art, why must we crete sordid tales of artists’ lives to make the work exciting, isn’t it exciting on its own? Aren’t the true, meaningful relationships between artist and subject present in the work, without making up stories, can’t you just see it, right there?

Leah (2008)
These things should be true about writing, as well. In spite of the positive things she had to say, I was not impressed by the critic from Time Out New York who suggested Double Heart suffers “scars of months spent touring schools and nursing homes.” We didn’t tour schools and nursing homes for months, we performed at five schools and absolutely no nursing homes during four weeks of performance, so whatever point you are trying to make (because you then do not elaborate) you begin by being inaccurate, which is, to be generous, unhelpful.

Meanwhile, we proceeded to Spring Street. I have never participated in a session before. I have taken classes, but not life drawing classes, just self-motivated discovery. I found the experience liberating. No one judging my work -- especially not me. One-minute poses, then two-minute, five, ten, twenty and then forty. I didn’t think I could do it. Then I realized I could.

Repetition. Familiarity. Consistency. Time. Trust. Confidence. Friendship. Nothing worth having can be easily won.

Leah has occupied a very important place in my life, encouraging me and encouraging my work, and I love her for that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Five)

What to do on a day off? Sightseeing! Emily, Diana and I made the journey all the way past Washington Heights to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters.

This was my first journey to Ft. Tryon without my wife, which was a little bittersweet. It is a very special place to her, and I proposed to her there on her birthday in 1998, overlooking the Hudson River. But it was a great joy to share it with some new folks.

Emily also likes to take pictures of flowers.

The Cloisters continues to fascinate and inspire. It's not even very big, but even time I visit I am drawn to something new and different, something else to linger over. Emily found the herb garden fascinating. I never realized how many artifacts involve unicorns. Lots of unicorns.  

DID YOU KNOW ..? The unicorn was not, in fact, left off Noah's Ark, some Irishman made that up. They were hunted to extinction. Duh.

This is an actual pear tree.

The evening was spent with our company diverging once again, taking in a variety of performance the downtown area has to offer. We had celebrated our opening night (Saturday) by traveling as a team to see True False Theatre perform Slaughterhouse-Five in a new adaptation written by Daria Tavana. 

It's a book familiar to everyone like me, must have read it as a freshman in high school. Yes, the movie isn't very good, and I think in spite of cinema's ability to instantly take you from one place and time to another, theater in its way can be even better than that.

Tavana's script does a really good job of condensing Vonnegut's story to its essence, its point, and kept a lot of his absurd humor, which the company brought out in some surprising ways. For it to really fly, however, the transitions were far too long, with the large company moving camp beds around and ugly set pieces. I think convergence-continuum back home could do, should do this script. It's right in their wheel-well.

Friday's Variety Power Hour, featuring the company of Double Heart!

Tonight Annie and Diana ventured to see Gertrude Stein Saints, performed by students from Carnegie Mellon, while James and Emily went to see -- and perhaps, perform with -- the Upright Citizen Brigade (not a Fringe show) which is right next to where we are performing our show.

I went on my own to see Beast of Festive Skin, a one-woman absurdist vaudeville in Hell, featuring the astonishing Alexandra Tatarsky, who isn't actually Russian. The 32-seat venue was entirely packed, a dinky space pouring with sweat, red light, accordion and her. One hour of ridiculous physical comedy and word-play and I was a happy man.

Private note to the Bachelorette Party: I am so sorry, you should not have come to see our show.

Notes on Fringe (Day Four)


Whew. Okay, two down, three to go. And yet it feels as though the most hugest part of our work here is done. We got here. We were prepared. We set everything up professionally and in good time. We promoted the show. We performed the show. And then we did it again, with no issues. Just good, solid work. And now, two entire days -- two and a half entire days, really -- with no obligations whatsoever except to be in New York City.

What will happen?

We ride.

It is now a science. Most of what we need is stored in the theater, and bless the gods we have an apartment that is only three blocks away. We haul our costumes, which can be aired and Frebreezed in the safety of our apartment, down five flights and put them on a rack and wheel them to the Connelly.

As you can see, we even wear parts of them to save time and energy. This is New York. Nobody cares.

Hauling sets and props out of storage, getting the costumes on stage, and putting everything together in preparation for the house to open now takes less than ten minutes. So does tearing it down.

We had another great show today, with some 25 people in attendance. Not bad for an out-of-town company. We have already received a few very positive notices. Adam Bertocci, author of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski sent a message to his 16,000+ Facebook followers a message which included the statement, "I recommend it because the author actually knows what the hell he's talking about."

We also received our obligatory notice from, which said, "The strong, ingenuous work done by the two lead actors and the joy of exploring the romantic-history-that-might-have-been make the show well worth the hour of your time." 

This writer also pointed out that she was "puzzled" that a play set in Italy would have two characters with cockney accents, though the fact that the other six characters had American accents and that they all speak English didn't confuse her at all.

Magdalyn & Nathan (and Lisa)

Following today's matinee our dear friends Magdalyn and Nathan threw us a cast party at their Brooklyn apartment. It was a great treat to unwind, get caught up with old friends and just relax after what (to me) felt like six months of effort.

Former Great Lakes Theater actor-teachers!
Jeffrey, Magdalyn, David, Annie, Lisa & Nathan

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day Three)

First things first ... we opened! Very nice opening production, very happy. Relaxed, too. Our set-up takes, I kid you not, less than ten minutes. Whole thing. We have this part nailed. There were 42 people in attendance, which is the largest single audience I have ever performed before in New York City.

Following the show we had the opportunity to unwind a little with the dozen or so people who chose to remain for the talkback, which was also extremely pleasant.

Star alert: We were joined this afternoon by Adam Bertocci, screenwriter and the author of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, who introduced himself after the talkback. Pretty sweet. He told me he appreciated the hidden jokes in the script that only a Shakespeare enthusiastic like himself would get, which was pretty flattering.

Also, too: This one gentleman in the front row asked if I had intended the play to be feminist. Of course, I asked why he believed that it was and we had a very positive discussion about that. The tenor of the entire talkback was joyful and positive.

Another question: How is the FringeNYC run different from the tour? Good question. While I mentioned that it's more sweaty, I did not go into details, like how much more difficult it is to get my boots on and off with damp socks, or that my big hat is sliding down my head over my ears. But we did mention the beautiful space, and the fact that we have proper stage lighting!

And so, we have opened. Four more shows to go. Tell your friends!

Speaking of which, while Annie and I took a five mile run/walk through Lower Manhattan, Diana, James and Emily took a box of cards to the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park to pique the interest of those waiting for free tickets to see Love's Labour's Lost.

Later, I also walked to fifteen of 18 different FringeNYC sites to drop palm cards. Five mile run, two mile walk around the Lower East Side, and an hour-long performance. So I am very tired, and unlike the last several days, I am not waking up tomorrow morning for any reason whatsoever.

Notes on Fringe (Day Two)

Tech Rehearsal at the Connelly

Okay. So? Maybe instead of going to Central Park to hand out palm cards to people on line to see Love's Labour's Lost, the morning should have instead be spent sprucing up our things so the women of the company would have a place to be, drinking coffee and generally relaxing because we were up until 1:30 AM and had a big day ahead of us.

Anyway, that's what happened.

Company meeting!

The company came together at 12:30 for a meeting, hauled everything down five flights of stairs, and schlepped it (as they say in New York) to the Connelly Theatre, where we met up with lighting designer Cris and our most awesome Venue Director Kimille.

While I admit there was a lot of energy, rushing about and bolts stuck totally the wrong way into the set frame (thanks for pointing that out, James, we won't get that wrong again, sorry) we managed, in two hours, to set everything up, tear it down, set it up again, run the entire show, tear it down and put it away. Because that is what we do.

We open tomorrow. Deep breath. Awesome.

Emily rocks this hat much harder than I do.

After notes from Lisa and a somewhat leisurely dinner, we headed over the FringeCENTRAL for FringeTEASERS. FringeCENTRAL is the main office for the festival, always in a different place each year. This year it's a nice big room on 2nd Av, with a lot of couches and chairs for people to hang out, look over their guides, choose their shows and purchase tickets.

A dozen or so productions were invited to perform 5 minutes for whoever walked in -- and all the other artists performing this afternoon. Several of the artists from last night were in attendance who were also at  last night's gig at The Cutting Room. It was much more enjoyable to see them here, much more condusive, just projecting and not relying on microphones, everybody seemed really loose and comfortable, and the audience was so supportive!

Big crowd!

There was some majestic singing (Gertrude Stein Saints) and hilarious, funky, creepy, sexy, physical comedy (Beast of Festival Skin) and a freaky dance troupe who has got to tell me what their soundtrack is because it must become part of my running mix (Kinematik).

 The evening was defined by the Variety Power Hour, a late-night variety show, bacchanal, though this evening seemed a little low-key by VPH standards. This was not a surprise, as it was the first of FringeNYC '13. Tomorrow's crowd may be bigger, and will surely build as the festival continues.

However, it was a good crowd, a spirited crowd, and this time (unlike, say, last night) I took tim eot think through and actually rehearse what we were going to present or more to the point, how we were going to present it, using microphones. This show is podcast, and so I suggested we perform the post-dance dialogue as though it were a radio drama; no blocking (or not much) with people moving towards and away from the mic to suggest leaving the scene.

Emily and Annie at the C.O.W.

I will share when it goes up, we'll see how successful our efforts were. One thing went particularly weird was when I was instructed to create a Shakespearean sonnet based on anything I could find in the FringeNYC Program Guide. I composed a halting reinterpretation of the synopsis for Naked In Alaska. James liked it.

Afterwards we got pizza at Famous Original Ray's.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Notes on Fringe (Day One)

FringeNYC 2013 is now open.

James and I just got back into our cozy L.E.S. apartment after spending an evening at Opening Night ceremonies for FringeNYC at The Cutting Room. We met many other Fringe performers and took in scenes from over a dozen different shows. We even did The Privy Song shortly after midnight.

Jen Bosworth w/Briar Rabbit from Why Not Me

This early morning begins almost 36 hours ago, when stage manager Diana and I loaded Andrew's van with the set for Double Heart. The forecast called for rain, so we bagged and double-bagged everything, and tarped the larger pieces.

Oh yes we did.

I did not sleep well last night, and James reported the same thing. We met downtown at 6 AM and made it safely to Manhattan in time to check into our apartment by 3 PM, except that it started raining like hell once we emerged from the Holland Tunnel. Rest assured, all was successfully waterproofed, and the folks at the Connelly were kind enough to let us load in the larger pieces before Tech (tomorrow -- er, today) so we did not need to haul them up our five story walkup. Thank you, Kimille!

 That makes me sweat.

From that point on it was merely matter of meeting up with Director/ACR Lisa and her husband Patrick at FringeCENTRAL to receive our Participant Badges, and then we were free to wander downtown and get some dinner before walking thirty blocks to the Cutting Room.

After midnight, we got our Metrocards, and took a subway back. Tomorrow ... handing out cards, welcoming the women company members to the apartment, Tech Rehearsal and a few other public performances. Also, picking up a couple copies of the New York Times.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Venue Prep

Hot and able.

There are only FOUR days until Double Heart opens at the Connelly Theater in New York City!

Yesterday "Venue Prep" was held at each of the participating venues, where each production performing at that venue sent hands to prepare the space. Our company sent three, former Great Lakes Theater actor-teachers Nathan Gurr and Magdalyn Donnelly (pictured, a selfie taken today at the theater) and the most recent addition to our production company, Lighting Designer Cris Dopher.

I first met Cris at the 2009 Fringe when performing And Then You Die (How I Ran A Marathon in 26.2 Years) at the Robert Moss. An avid runner in addition to being a professional designer, Cris and I have stayed in touch and both are thrilled to finally have this opportunity to work together.

Cris has designed for shows off-Broadway, at Lincoln Center, and assisting on the original New York productions of Full Monty and Batboy. He lights extensively for dance and also spends a good part of the year conceiving and creating major retailers’ Christmas windows including lighLord and Taylor, Hudson Bay, Macy’s on State. The entire Double Heart company is so happy to have Cris lighting this production.

Cris's running blog: Live To Run - Run To Live

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Salem, MA

Driving home from our vacation in Maine, the family stopped in to see my wife’s colleague Kim in Salem, MA. They had met at Goddard College, and Kim even moved to Cleveland for all of 2012 to work as my wife’s associate before getting a plum job as a creative writing instructor much closer to her hometown of Boston.

We have been to Salem before but once, long before the kids were born, back in 1996. That was a brief excursion, arriving in the mid-afternoon and only just hitting a few tourist attractions before evening. Like most people, we were there for the witches, but didn’t really explore the town very much before bedding down after dinner and leaving early.

Today we had even less time available, as we wanted to make Utica by dinner, but this time had a guide. I knew there was some serious witch-inspired honky tonk to be seen, but I had no idea how much. Fun’s fun, but it is clear that Salem may be the second-worst American city to enjoy Halloween.

Sometimes I work a little too hard to provide context to my children … I am only trying to help. My own parents would take me historical places without really explaining their significance or what I was doing there. Places like like Canterbury Cathedral, Versailles, or my grandparents’ house.

Paranorman was a good jumping off point -- my daughter liked that move a lot, it just scared the boy, but when I told them Salem is basically the inspiration for the witch-attraction-based economy town in that movie, it made both the movie and where we were make a lot more sense.

This is not actually a picture of our house.

Kim explained the basics of the witch trial over lunch at Gulu-Gulu, and then we walked down the main promenade, taking in an amazing bookstore (see photo above) and Wyknott’s (Harry Potter-licensed) Wands. The girl was in Hogwarts heaven. If the man were not out of the Hermione model, she would have one in her truss right now.

Our last stop was at the Salem Witch Trial Memorial. Some other year, when the kids are older and have a bit more perspective we may take in the “witch dungeons” and wax museums. For me it was enough to rediscover one of the few spaces of quiet and respect in the midst of all the historical reenactors, and Nosferatu buskers.

Seventeen years ago we approached at twilight. Here in broad daylight it was still silent, there were few tothers around, but they did not speak. The boy and I went around, and he read all of the names, to himself. It is a troubling space, accusatory in its design. Others sat on the stones, two or three, but they all sat to one end, not in the middle, certainly not on the names.

And when you stand, on the path, these present figures in these emtpy seats, they look to you. You may not forget.

It were a fearsome man.