Friday, April 6, 2012

Forwards and Backwards

So, I am near completion of the script for Banned in Boston.

We had a reading of it the other night, and all seemed pleased, which is a relief! 

It is quite difficult, writing a script for non-actors, who will not have rehearsed and will probably be a bit looped as well.  Script in hand, mic in the other.  No props.  No more than 3 lines per person at a time, or thereabouts (any more, and they start to get lost). 

And it needs to be funny. 

The host, it turns out, will be super-handsome TV actor David Walton, Boston native and star of the new NBC show "Bent".   It will be exciting to meet him.  I can finally ask the burning question of what it's like to be an actor that actually gets paid something.  Last time I acted, I think I was actually paid in gummy worms.

Banned in Boston will go up on April 27th, for one night only.  School will end the following week, and I'll have some time off for a bit. 

I usually don't do much in the summer.  I haven't been able to find any regular summer work, besides my one-week stint at BoCo's Vocal Choral Intensive for High School students, which is always a crazy blur of fun.  So I usually need to be frugal in the summer.

The Groom, The Maid, The Bellhop & The Bride
This summer, however, The Hotel Nepenthe will arise from the ashes for 6 six shows, as part of the TCG Conference in June.  Same cast, director and designers, which is awesome!  ASP is co-pro-ing with the Huntington, and we'll perform at the Wimberly (with the audience onstage with us!).

Paula in "Miss Price"
After that, I will be working on a play I wrote over 10 years ago for Paula Plum to perform.  It's a solo show called Miss Price, which I will re-write for a reading at Gloucester Stage at the end of July.  Miss Price is about a lonely librarian who strikes an unlikely friendship with the title character: the unseen mysterious Miss Price, her replacement.  Very excited to revisit a play that I wrote so long ago.  My good friend Doug Lockwood is directing and Paula will reprise her role!

Cat Paternostro as The Siren in Necessary Monsters

Working on the rewrite of Necessary Monsters, as well.

Myself and Marissa Rae Roberts in "Uncle Vanya"
In the Fall, Apollinaire wants to remount Uncle Vanya, so I feel very lucky that I will get a chance to play Vanya again! I must admit, I sort of like having a beard.  I feel very professorial.  And young people give up their seat on the bus for me. 

the salt girl
After the Vanya remount, I have an interesting project in November: the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysts is holding a national symposium in Boston and they would like me to perform The Salt Girl  as part of their event, for one show only, at NINE in the morning (are people even awake then?) in the conference room of the new Fenway Health Building on Beacon Street with a panel discussion to follow.  I've met with them a few times to talk about it, and they are all quite nice.  A few of them had seen the play when I performed it at BPT a few years ago. 

Obviously, it would need to be more of a staged reading: it's impossible to remount the entire production for one show.  But the group is terribly supportive and really gung-ho.  They really love the play!  I had no idea that so many psychoanalysts would be so into The Salt Girl.  It really means a lot to me.  And makes me feel even crazier then I already do.  In a good way.

I'm really looking forward to re-visiting The Salt Girl, actually.  I had always hoped that it might have another life somewhere.  It's a fictional piece about a man named Quint who postpones his suicide to visit his estranged father on his death bed.  My own father died in a car accident in 2001.  It was a terrible time, and the play helped me find a perspective about what had happened.  But really that's the only true event in the play.  And even that feels like fiction.  Because memory is so fluid and warped (which, I guess, is what the play is about, among other things).  I was thinking about it recently, what with all the controversy surrounding Mike Daisey, and what is true or not when it's presented onstage.  For me, I always present everything as false.  Even the true stuff.  So no one is hurt.  In theory. 

I would like to make The Salt Girl a one-act, if possible.  The main response I've found with the piece (and I agree) is that it feels too long.  I always felt that it wants to be a one act, no intermission.  But we couldn't figure out how to make that happen at BPT.  And two hours seemed too long for an audience to sit thru (then again, I just saw The Andersen Project, and that was no problem.  I could have seen the whole thing again!).  So we had an intermission.  But an intermission disrupts the flow of the piece, and it's such a strange world, with it's own set of rules, that when you stop for a break, it's hard to get back into it.  I think.  So, I'm going to give it a try with this reading.  And hopefully it will find another home, somewhere, like Nepenthe.

So, everything is redux, redux, redux.

Nicky Sawyer as Irma & Joe Longthorne as The Chief of Police
School will start up as well in the Fall, of course.  I'm not directing anything this year.  But looking back, I could not be more proud of The Balcony.  It's an incredibly difficult text, and I thought the students did a remarkable job.  And the production was beautiful.  BoCo could not have been more supportive.  That I was lucky enough to work with all those incredible designers and technicians, well, really, amazing!  When I think that I directed it, it seems impossible.  It's like a trial by fire.  You feel like you can climb a mountain after that.  I would like to start directing more.  I really do like it.  And it's a creative challenge (and quite fun) to explore how you envision a world like the world in The Balcony.  I always saw a blown-up run way, and heard pop music.  It has photographers and crazy costumes, after all.  I thought it would be like Project Runway during a coup.  On acid. 

I tried reading the 900-page Genet by Edmund White but gave up about a third of the way thru and just skipped to the juicy parts concerning The Balcony.  That and the other research made me feel a little better about what I wanted to do, because I realized that no matter what I did, Genet would probably have hated it.  He hated every production of The Balcony.  He didn't even like the play itself after awhile, apparently: he felt it was a rehearsal for The Screens and The Blacks (which he considered much better plays). 

If you are contemplating directing The Balcony, here's some things I discovered, which you might find helpful (or not):

 1.  It is LONG!  It is almost ALWAYS cut.  (The last time the play was done professionally in Boston was at the ART, directed by Joanne Akalitis.  Akalitis's production was over 4 hours long!  She didn't cut a thing.  Tommy played one of the photographers, and since the photographers didn't appear until the last scene, his call time was 10pm - .  His CALL time was 10pm!  Now that's a long play!) 

So, you need to cut it, just like Winter's Tale

Personally I think plays should either be 90 minutes or 8 hours long. 

But WHAT you cut is another story.  The New York production that Jose Quintero directed cut all of Scene 6, which is the scene between Chantal and Roger, the revolutionary.  I didn't want to do that for a few reasons: first, it would have eliminated the role of Chantal completely, and limited the role of Roger drastically (and since it is a student production, I wanted as many people involved as possible, of course).  I also really felt that they were the heroes of the play.  It's Roger and Chantal that you are rooting for, in the end.  At least, for me.  Everyone else is sort of an asshole.  Except of course, maybe for Irma and Carmen.  But that's debatable.  I ended up keeping Scene 6, and I made the most cuts in Scenes 5, 7 and 9 (in the long tete a tete between Irma and Carmen, the Envoy scene and the long scene between the Chief of Police and the Three Functionaries, respectively).  Even cut, the play is long , that's just what it is  (our version was 3 hours, which is Shakespeare length).  But I also added a pre-show that dramatized Chantals' escape from the brothel with Roger (which is spoken about, but never seen).  Otherwise, you have NO idea who these people are.  Especially if you cut the passing mention of them in Scene 5.  Which I did.

2.  There are many versions of The Balcony.  Genet re-wrote this play over ELEVEN times.  He was never quite satisfied with it, apparently.  All these different re-writes are floating about.  I found three.  His life-long friend and translator, Bernard Frechman, did every version that I found, so there was no discrepancy in that regard.   But there are drastic differences in all of them.  Scene 6, for example, is very different in the earlier version (the "revised" version is the most common).  Chantal is accompanied by not just Roger, but a whole slew of revolutionaries, and the scene resembles - for me -  one of those scenes from an old French war film.  It's pretty inscrutable.  Another version (which I found, unbelievably, as part of the liner notes for a 6-album British recording of The Balcony in 1966- with Patrick Magee as The Bishop) has an ENTIRE additional scene between Carmen, The Bishop and Rosine, (the Bishop's "girl" or penitent) at the end of Scene 7 (rather than ending on The Envoy's line "I don't have time for your crap", Carmen and The Bishop enter, and he is dressed by Rosine for his role as the "real" Bishop onstage).  It is a FABULOUS scene NOWHERE to be found in any of the other versions, so I was really excited that I stumbled upon it!  Not sure why he would cut it.  Then again, Edward Albee cut the entire end of Act 2 scene between George and Honey in his 2004 re-write of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was like a knife in my heart.  I mean, WHAT?!  That scene is AWESOME!  But, oh well!  He's the playwright, after all! 

Another great thing about this lost Bishop/Rosine scene: it helps buy time for Irma to change into the Queen for her entrance in Scene 8.  Without it, she pretty much leaves at the end of Scene 7 and comes right back on stage as The Queen at the top of Scene 8, which is a quick change indeed!  Our transformation was pretty elaborate, so we needed that extra time.  There's also another version (in French only, I believe) that includes a "dream ballet" of blood, tears and sperm (played by the actors playing the Photographers).  I couldn't find this version, sadly.  But I found where it used to be, and just added my own ballet. 

To Leslie Gore's "Sunshine, Lollipops". 

Why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.