INDIE THEATER NOW
Wheels are turning, winds are changing, and something new is coming to a computer near you- Indie Theater Now. It's basically a digital library of plays, put together by the good folks at nytheatre.com, and it will launch with a collection of over a hundred plays from the past 15 years of the New York International Fringe Festival. And I have the great honor of being part of it.
That's right, you heard correctly.
Me, goon among goons and freak among freaks is going to be part of the latest, coolest, cutting edge thing in the world of theatrical publishing.
What plays of mine will be part of this, you ask?
Last Call, Muse of Fire, and Some Unfortunate Hour.
And I have decided to give a little background on each play. What the hell.
So, first off, let me tell you about Last Call, my first full length play and probably the reason I am still writing. Back in the late 1990's, as I wandered Manhattan, lost, young, brilliant, and stupid, I one day had this idea for a scene. It sort of just popped into my head. I was down at the old Expanded Arts theatre space on Ludlow, standing next to my old friend Joe Neisen, and suddenly I saw a bunch of old buddies sitting in a particular bar I used to frequent in Salinas, CA- and I had to write down what was going on, so I cancelled that nights plan of debauchery and headed home to write up whatever it was that I saw in my head.
It was weird, but I felt compelled. So, I wrote this scene where a bunch of dudes who are sort of stuck in a rut sit around in the bar they always go to, having the same conversations they have every night, when into the bar walks their old pal David, who long ago went off to New York. He has come home to wake everyone up after having an existential crisis and coming out of it with a new found sense of life.
I know, not very original, but hey, when the iron strikes, or whatever that metaphor is, etc.
So I had a scene, and I liked it. At this point, I hadn't really written a lot- I was an actor, and writing was cool, but not what I was trying to do with my life. Although whenever I had written things, people were always pretty responsive. In fact, a few years before writing that scene, Taft Miller, one of the coolest people I ever knew in my life, said to me as he lay dying in a hospital, "Keep writing". So, I had written something. Now what? I gave a copy of it to my friend Lisa Zambetti, who at the time was working with the Turnip Theatre group, and the next thing I knew, there was a staged reading of the scene- which had grown into a one act play. The reading was great, we all had a wonderful time, and as soon as it was over, I put the play into a drawer and got on with my pursuit of lunacy on the stages of New York.
Then life got complicated, and strange, and sad, and rough. I quit drinking. My girl friend got cancer. And then 9/11 happened. Things pretty much sucked. And to top it all off, we didn't have any insurance and suddenly had a lot of bills to pay. So I took a second job on top of waiting tables, answering phones on the trading floor of J.P. Morgan. I'd get up at 5 every morning, take the subway to work, and on the week-ends work dinners at Bryant Park Grill. The average work week was about sixty hours, and I remember I stopped dreaming for a while. I'd just lay down, go to sleep, wake up, go to work, and so on. It was, to borrow a phrase, the best of times, and the worst of times- I was tired and scared and going nuts, but also supported by friends and family so much that I felt like George Bailey at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life". Minus the angel.
So there I was, working hard, floating through it all, when my pal Jack Halpin tells me one day that I should take that play I was working on and submit it to the Fringe Festival. So I printed up the application at work, printed up what there was of the play, and sent it off. And forgot about it. This was in February, 2002. Then in April, I got a letter from the Fringe saying "good news, you're in!". Which was great, except for the fact that I had said on the application that the play was going to be two acts, and that in act two there was going to be a murder, and one of the characters would turn out to be gay. None of that was true, but I thought it sounded good for the application. Oops.
It was time to get busy, because it looked like I was going to have a play produced in New York. Now, one of the good things about my office job was that for the first hour, I would watch over the phone lines and sit in front of a computer, free to do whatever I wanted. So every morning for an hour, I wrote. And suddenly my little play with 5 characters, all male, became a play with 9 characters, and 3 of them were female. And I started to dream again. In fact, a lot of the play came out of dreams I had. First, I dreamt that one of the characters kept seeing the ghost of his old girl friend. And the guy who saw the ghost was kind of crazy, and slipping in and out of reality. And it all made sense.
Next, hope theatre, inc. - the theatre company formed by my brother and sister and me- held auditions, cast the show, and started rehearsing. And that's when it got really interesting, because I discovered that with some tweaks here and some edits there, plus a few new scenes the show was not terrible. In fact, it felt like something special was happening. It helped to have so many talented people working on it. My brother Jerry was directing, my sister producing, and the cast was: Jack Halpin, Christine Goodman, Vinnie Penna, Brett Christensen, R. Paul Hamilton, J.P. Nord, Matthew Rankin, Masha Sapron, and Sara Thigpen. It was the best feeling, working on that play. It felt like I could fly. We all did. I'd rewrite a scene, bring it in, and it would be better, and we'd all look at each other like we were all part of some wonderful, powerful secret.
Then one night, I arrived at rehearsal after working a dinner shift at the restaurant, and everyone was outside, and Jerry wasn't there. This was back before cell phones were everywhere, and news took a little bit of time to get to people, but it seemed that my father was in a coma, and not expected to live long, and Jerry cancelled rehearsal. So I got a ticket to Alaska, where my Dad was, and wondered what would happen next.
To be continued...