MUSE OF FIRE ASCENDS


So the letter of from the Fringe comes, and I take a deep breath, then open it.  It starts with "Congratulations".  I'm in.  Muse of Fire has been accepted into the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival.  Holy Shit.

I am one of those people who doesn't really know how to take success, on any level.  It never seems quite real, or what I thought it would feel like.  Never.  In my mind, there should be music playing, fist pumping, slow motion leaps in the air, and a sudden, clear understanding of the Universe, and my place in it.  But still, it does feel pretty damn good.  What am I saying?  It feels friggin' fabulous!  Time to call friends, family, acquaintances, and tell them that I have been chosen from over one thousand entrants to be in this summer's festival.

Now I really have to get to work on the script.  The story is going nicely- I have my two muses, Dion and Polly, going down to Earth, to the Theatre Dept. at San Jose State University, and they come upon the girl they need to turn into a great writer.  Everyone ends up in a production of "As You Like It", and valuable lessons area learned by one and all.  I've changed the girl's name to Emily (middle name of my college sweetheart), and the boy she's supposed to fall in love with to Mick (one of many nicknames I had in college).  I realize, as I plot along, that the world of the play is the world of live theatre, and all the insane, funny, noble, and magic things that come with it.  Things start coming fast and furious- characters materialize, full blown, with specific voices- references to pop culture, mythology, and the Dumbarton Bridge all seem to flow and make sense.  Script feeling strong, it's time to get the production itself going.  I have several things I know I want, certain actors for certain parts- but there are other parts I haven't a clue about- and on top of that, it is always a good thing to have an open audition- you never know who you might meet, and what might come from that meeting.   So we have auditions.  Lots of folks show up. I have it all clear in my head, except for the part of Emily.  It gets down to two actresses, both really awesome in different ways.  So I have them read with Brett Christensen, who is cast as Mick.  And Jackie Kamm kicks the part of Emily in the ass, lights up the stage, and I think makes Brett's brain explode.  It is one of the great, rare joys of theatre, to witness an audition that catches fire, that makes it clear to everyone in the room that these people, and no others, must play these parts.   The entire cast is as follows- Dion: Jack Halpin, Polly: Sara Thigpen, Carlos/Hal: R. Paul Hamilton, Emily: Jackie Kamm, Cassandra: Heather McAllister, Phil:  Jerry McAllister, Mick: Brett Christensen, Lenny: Vinnie Penna, Jessie:  Christine Goodman, and the show is stage managed by Matthew Rankin.  They are all super geniuses, and amazing artists, and if you even come across them in this life, hang on to them and figure out a way to work with them.

So the show is cast, and we start rehearsing.  My company, hope theatre inc., is producing the show.  We'd formed a few years before, to present the American premiere of Shakespeare's Edward III, once part of the apocrypha but now recognized by some in that strange realm known as Academia as at least partially written by old Will.  We stayed together to produced Last Call, and now here we are, with show number three.  I am directing my own play.  I think this will be fun- and it is, but also a great pain in the ass.   I keep adding stuff to the show- interpretive dances at a cast party, love affairs, and a new way to end the show.  Instead of having Emily just fall in love with Mick, she has to lose him- and I don't mean they break up.  I mean Mick has to die- that his death is what is supposed to spark Emily's greatness as an artist.  And when Dion and Polly learn this, they have to figure out what to do- make a great artist, or save a young man's life.  I add a scene where Mick and Dion drive to the beach.  Dion knows Mick is supposed to die, but can't say anything.  They talk about Billy the Kid and the song "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi.  It's one of my favorite scenes in the play.

Anyway.  The cast is good, the script is good, and then we find out we are going to be presenting our show at the Cherry Lane Theatre.  If you've never seen this place, let me tell you- it's beautiful, historic, and exactly what you think a theatre in Greenwich Village should look like, right down to the cobble-stone street in front.   This is a theatre that had O'Neill, Albee, and Shephard in it.  I mean the playwrights themselves.  This place is a dream come true.  And I get to premiere my play in it.  This is a dream come true.  This is one of the great moments of my life.

Opening night arrives.  It's a full house.  The play begins.  As usual, I feel like throwing up for most of the performance.  But people are laughing in the audience.  A lot.  And then they're crying.  And at the end of the show, there's a lot of applause.  I have to stay after the show, to clear all our stuff out so that the next  play from the Fringe can load in for their opening, which happens one hour later.  Jack Halpin, who plays Dion, and I haul ass, get everything put in its proper place, and walk outside.  The street seems to be completely full of people- and they all cheer for us.  I come up to an actress I know, Aida Lembo, and she's crying and laughing, and she she's me and says "you're beautiful".

The show sells out its run, even with the great blackout of 2003 happening in the middle of the festival.   Nytheatre.com gives is a rave review- God bless them. On the last night, my mom flies out from California to see the show, and ends up sitting next to a critic from The New Yorker magazine, who is there not to right a review, but to check up on a new writer.  Somehow, I am on their radar.  Not sure how I got there, but I like it.  And now, the script is available online as part of Indie Theater Now, the new digital library of plays that is like the iTunes for plays.

So, like I said, I don't take success well.  But I think I can get used to it.


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