Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Twit You Say?


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jon Hoche.

I was honored that IT Awards asked me to be their guest blogger this week.  I was honored and also terrified.  I am a pretty simple guy with simple thoughts.  Nothing too profound or awe inspiring comes from my noggin.  So I wasn't sure what I should write about that would be of any interest to the Independent Theater community.  What could I possibly offer to the thousands of talented producers, writers, and actors out there in NYC making Off-Off-Broadway the place where the new great American theatre is being created?  Then to make it completely official and public, the great people at the IT Awards posted this on their twitter feed.

@NYITAwards: Our guest blogger of the week is Jon Hoche

And then I thought to myself.  Twitter.  Has anyone talked about "Twitter" and how it can benefit Independent theaters?  This sparked my interest and here we have it.  Ladies and Gentlemen.  I give to you my blog of the week.

"What the hell is Twitter and why you as a Theater Company need to be on it."

So let's start at the beginning and give you a little background information.  Twitter is the fastest growing social network to date.  Users are able to create a user name and are allowed 140 characters to post "tweets".  Think of it like a giant bulletin board.  Ideas, Opinions, Links to websites and pictures can all be posted within these 140 characters.  (We'll get back to that) At the time this blog goes live, there are 19 million people on Twitter worldwide.  In the beginning the people who were using Twitter were celebrities and tech geeks.  However, now a days, small business owners are finding Twitter to be their best marketing tool AND IT'S FREE.  I came across this short video tutorial to help me out.

So why not use Twitter as another tool to help spread the word about Independent Theater?  More importantly YOUR independent theater!!  I follow numerous actors and theater companies that are already embracing Twitter.  They have used Twitter to do things like:

- Post auditions
- Countdown their upcoming show
- Post a link where people can buy tickets
- Link a review on someone's website
- Show production photos

They are reaching their fans, and the public at lightning speed and generating a fan base.

Now let's get to the nitty gritty shall we?  If you decided to embrace Twitter as a marketing tool, then EMBRACE it!!  So many times theater companies hear what I'm saying now about Twitter being a great tool and they'll agree, however not utilize it to the fullest.  They will do all the things I listed above, but why not take it one step further?  Your theater company has a certain mission statement, right?  They have a certain aesthetic, I'm sure.  So really create that persona on Twitter and not only make it informative to follow you, but FUN!

I think the best example of a theater company that is really taking Twitter by the reigns are the New York Neo-Futurists (@nyneofuturists).  Not only do they post all the types of information I listed above, but they go way beyond that.  They will post PSA's which will consist usually of a link to a news article or picture and their own witty commentary on it.  Also, they do TWITTERPLAYS, where they give their followers an assignments and their followers will have only 140 characters to respond.


 @ Nyneofuturists: TWITTERPLAY Assignment: write a 1-tweet play that has an INVISIBLE PERSON or OBJECT. #tp63

and here are some of the results:

Lights up on A sitting opp. empty chair. A: Thank you for meeting w/ me, Mr. Fingledoofer. We’re downsizing the Imaginary Friend Dept.

@ socialarts:
4 actors mingle on stage. An invisible elephant enters and stands among them. Actors become very uncomfortable. End.

@ JennaStern:
What shall we do today, hmm? The library? The Park? A movie? Just stay inside and watch the rain? Sweetie? Sweetheart?

So not only are the Neo-futurists reaching out and informing their audience via Twitter, they are also entertaining and creating something new and creative in a new platform.  I think we can all take a lesson from them.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Guest Blogger of the week: Jon Hoche


We would like to thank last week's guest blogger, John Patrick Bray for his interesting and engaging blogs.

This week's blogger is Jon Hoche.

Jon Hoche has been involved with the Off-Off-Broadway community since  2006 after graduating from Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He's worked closely with The American Globe Theatre, NY's longest running Classical Independent Theatre in productions of The Merchant of Venice, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and most recently Titus Andronicus. Also, Jon has been involved with the Vampire Cowboy Theatre Company in productions of Soul Samurai (in association with Ma-Yi Theatre) and The IT Award winning Fight Girl Battle World, as well as a recurring performer in their Saturday Night Saloon.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Your 2009-2010 OOB productions archived for Theatre World


Contributed by Executive Director, Shay Gines

Last year I had the honor of writing a season review for Off-Off-Broadway in Theatre World volume 65. It was the first time in their 65 years that they had included OOB and I am so excited to tell you that they have decided to continue this practice. This year I have been asked to collect the information for the 2009-2010 season for our community.

I need your help.
  1. Please complete the online forms documenting your company's season (see below)
  2. Please forward this information to your fellow OOB producers and ask them to do the same.

Theatre World is the oldest pictorial and statistical record of the American theatre, published annually as a hardcover book by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books (America's foremost publisher of theatre and cinema books) and has been continually published since 1945. It is the most comprehensive and definitive record of Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, AND NOW Off-Off-Broadway (which is where you come in), and is available for purchase at many fine online establishments, including, , or

I know as an OOB producer your time is valuable, but the annual Theatre World publications are one of the premiere archives for American Theatre and it is so important for our community to be represented. I ask you to take this time to provide the information requested, so that your company's production(s) will be recorded and referenced everywhere by theatre scholars, students, casting directors, producers, and other industry professionals daily. In addition, it will be a part of the permanent record of Off-Off-Broadway and placed in important research and reference libraries from The Library of Congress to most colleges and universities across the country.

So, what I need is your production information from the 2009-2010 season (shows that played between June 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010), for inclusion in Volume 66, including individual production information as well as benefits, readings, workshops, etc.

Please read the notes below carefully for submission guidelines and links to the online forms at the bottom of this email.


Our publisher is making every effort to release this volume by the November 2010, so we need to get your submissions as soon as possible. Since we are under a tight schedule, it is virtually impossible for our staff to research and compile all of the Off-Off-Broadway listings for this volume and we are relying on your help to make sure we include as many productions as possible.

Now for the links:

FULL PRODUCTIONS: Productions produced by your company from June 1, 2009 - May 31, 2010

FESTIVALS: If you presented a festival please complete this form

READINGS/WORKSHOPS: For readings and work shops presented by your company

PRESENTERS: For non-resident productions (productions by OTHER companies) that were presented at your venue

Thank you for your cooperation in helping us to maintain the most complete annual record of the American theatre!


Friday, May 21, 2010



Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, John Patrick Bray.

     Hello, all. Thank you for reading my blogs this week. I have had a number of responses on this site and via personal email. It means so much to me that the good folks at IT asked me to participate, and I appreciate your reading my thoughts, rants, and manifestos.  This last blog will be basically a list. I found myself inspired by a previous blog writer (Tim Errickson) who posted a blog titled Mailbag!, which was a series of questions and answers.

First OOB experience:
My play Cookies was produced during The Riant Theatre’s Summer 2002 Strawberry One-Act Festival. I had a few readings between 2000-2001, but this was my first production. I ended up participating with the SOAF a handful of times. On Top was a semi-finalist; A Play About a Guitar (retitled “Resonator Blues”) was also a semi-finalist; Goodnight Lovin’ Trail, my MFA thesis,was a finalist in 2004. So, I owe a debt to The Riant Theatre (Artistic Director Van Dirk Fisher), and director Dennis Wayne Gleason for believing in my work.

Mostly music. I go to a lot of concerts. In Louisiana, I’ve seen a number of Zydeco bands as well as Taj Mahal, Philip Glass, and Ani Difranco. In NY, I was able to catch David Johansen and the Harry Smiths a few times. I miss The Bottom Line.  My favorite song by DJ is “Heart of Gold” (available on his second post New York Dolls album and his first Buster Poindexter record), not to be confused with Neil Young’s song, which is also excellent. And of course I was also able to catch Tom Waits, The Pixies, David Byrne, Iggy and the Stooges, and Ani Difranco. I guess I’m an audiophile at heart.

Several people have asked how I balance work and family. I just do. If you want a career in theatre, academics, and academic theatre you need to find a balance. If you have a family on top of that, you just make it all work. It helps to have an awesome wife like Danielle and a great little boy like Danny.

Favorite OOB production:
Really hard to say.  The ones I’ve seen have been wonderful. There were also a handful I missed because I’m down here in Louisiana.  I’m really sorry to have missed As we Speak  and Trickster at the Gate. Tom Berger and Dan Horrigan are both terrific guys, and I feel a pang of guilt whenever I think of how I missed these productions.  I’m also sorry to say I missed a reading of Liner Notes directed by Marc Eardley featuring the excellent Jerry Zellers. The last one I worked on (and I was actually able to see) was Hound with Rachel Klein, and it was really fantastic. I’m looking forward to Liner Notes with the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

Read. Read plays, read scholarship, just read. And improvise! Life and writing rely heavily on improvisation. Try new things!

Don’t ignore critics, neither the ones who love you nor the ones who wish you’d go away. It’s important to be a part of the critic/artist conversation, no matter how painful.

Favorite current scholarship:
The American Play by Marc Robinson.
Postdramatic Theatre by Hans-Thies Lehmann.
Spalding Gray’s America by William Demastes.
Being Given by Jean Luc-Marion
Ethics and Infinity by Emmanuel Levinas

Current favorite plays:
The Sea Farer by Conor Macpherson
The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel
Self Defense or Death of Some Salesmen by Carson Kreitzer
Two Small Bodies by Neal Bell

Other Advice:
Listen to music. Eat bagels. (I was a bagel-baker at the New Paltz Bagel Café in New Paltz, NY for six and a half years. Great place, great people!  There’s a shout out for ya.) Read opinions that you agree with. Read opinions that you don’t agree with. Be responsible for who you are, and take responsibility for what you see, even if you believe it has nothing to do with you.  Oh, and listen to Ani Difranco.

Thanks, all for reading!  Keep believing in independent theatre.  I think we’re a part of a major cultural turn. Check out this article by Stephen Leigh Morris called “Why Theatre Matters.” See? We’re seriously onto something most excellent!



Thursday, May 20, 2010



Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, John Patrick Bray.

    Hello, all. Today’s blog will be a bit brief.  I was watching the election results from across the country, and there have been a number of upsets, and a number of surprise victories (and depending which side of the equation you find yourself on, the two may not be mutually exclusive).  One of the people who read and commented on my blog regarding Regional Theatre was Jason Loewith, the Executive Director of the National New Play Network. I asked him if he had considered the definition of an American playwright. Today, I would just like to pose the same question to everyone here.       

    When I was a little boy, I said the pledge of allegiance every day at school. Sometimes we sang “God Bless America” or “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” I never doubted my feelings of patriotism. As I grew older, I grew more skeptical due to the various administrations that I watched come and go, each bringing a hidden agenda that lead to war, greed, and corruption.  Now that I’m even older, an historian, and a parent, I find myself wanting to reclaim the word “American” and look being an American as something to be proud of.  In this regard, I want to include all of the Americas, not just the U.S. There are many of us who are entitled to the word, and at the risk of exposing my politics, there are many more who should be.

    My question to you is: what is it, in your opinion, to be an American? How does this play out in your art? How does the idea of being American play out in theatre you have seen or that you have been a part of?

    I have enjoyed writing these blogs. I look forward to wrapping it up tomorrow!

Best to you and yours,
John P. Bray


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Dramaturgy and the American Theatre


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, John Patrick Bray.

    In my first two blogs, I examined what I feel to be the quintessential American Theatre (Theatre of the U.S.).  In the first blog, I examined the Independent Theatre model, specifically, the Cite des Arts  in Lafayette, Louisiana, and how it escapes some of the totalizing of the commercial Regional theatre via the (unspoken) motto of “have theatre, bring show.”  In the second blog, I championed the plethora of independent theatres that create the Off-Off-Broadway community, focusing specifically on a few of the companies that I have the most familiarity with. In each blog, I have suggested that the NYC independent theatre is vibrant, and while it stands at the threshold of defining itself, I have cautioned that it needs to avoid some of the traps that previous models have fallen into. That is, models that have attempted to provide an outlet for regional artists have fallen victim to commercialism, often in the name of survival, resulting in the inability to serve the artists of the immediate community.  It is my hope that Off-Off-Broadway and independent theatres around the country will continue to provide a home for artists who are not necessarily “names,” and who do not fit the profile of the majority of successful regional artists.

    Many of my opinions about the commercial theatre vs. indie theatre come from my experiences as a playwright and as a dramaturge. There was a time when I thought, “Geez, am I crazy? Am I the only one who feels this way?”  But then two events occurred, practically simultaneously. The first was the publication of OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE NEW AMERICAN PLAY,  which I spoke about in my first blog. The second was a meeting with a dramaturge from a major regional company who spoke to a group of PhD students at LSU about the life of a dramaturge in new play development. During the course of the conversation, she told us that most playwrights do not know how to write a play anymore, and how dare they waste the dramaturge’s “precious time?”  As a result, she solicits scripts during an open submission period without reading the submitted scripts (?!?!?!), and feels that open submissions should be done away with all together. After all, dramaturges know playwrights, why not just ask them for scripts? By the by, this dramaturge has an MFA from an Ivy League institution. The playwright she asked?  Also an Ivy Leaguer. 

    Rather than fume over this, I think the best course of action is to consider the role of a dramaturge. You’ve heard the word before, right? Maybe you’ve been one.  Maybe you’ve been one and haven’t even known it (the magic of theatre!). So, what exactly does a dramaturge do? Or, better yet, what are they supposed to do?  For most of us, it’s kind of hard to exactly put our collective finger on it. What I have come to understand is that a dramaturge wears, primarily, one of three hats.

    The first: the dramaturge performs research alongside a director in order to heighten the historical-socioeconomic context of an established work.  The dramaturge may give a presentation to the cast and crew, or perform specific tasks in terms of historical research (so, if a dramaturge is working on a Restoration play, perhaps he or she will research the various ways to flirt with a fan).  While a director, I believe, should conduct a majority of their own historical research when approaching a work, as a means of creating a coherent concept, I believe the dramaturge may help fill in some of the historical gaps, and be a go-to person if and when questions arise which require additional research.

    The second hat is new play development; that is, a dramaturge sometimes doubles as a literary manager. So, the dramaturge solicits scripts which fit the vision of the company as dictated by the artistic director. If a company says they seek “diverse voices,” you need to read a little more closely. Each company has, for better or for worse, its own ideology; so, as a playwright (I try like hell to speak from experience here), I need to get the sense of which company might be interested in which work.  Once a work is accepted, it is up to the dramaturge to help the playwright develop his or her work. Again, this is tricky.  Playwrights are very protective of their work, and rightfully so, considering the reality of development hell (the dramaturge who sat in with us at LSU claims that “developmental hell is a myth”; um…playwrights, back me up here?).  So, it’s up to the dramaturge to get on the same proverbial page as the playwright and make sure that the playwright’s work is being served, while also making sure that the work stays within the margins of the company’s mission statement. This is often easier said than done. And if the dramaturge fails, they become the enemy to everyone (which could explain, but certainly not excuse, the behavior of the professional dramaturge who sat in with us).

    The third hat has to do with community outreach and audience building: talk-backs after productions, lectures at libraries and colleges, etc.  This is where the workshop readings come into play, which – as many playwrights such as Richard Nelson, James Ryan, Jeffrey Sweet, and Edward Albee have remarked – have more to do with satisfying grants for a company rather than serving the needs of a script.  I personally do not feel that the two need to be mutually exclusive, but over the years that has become more and more the case. Another problem with this model is that if a reading is lip-service to a playwright and lip-service to an audience who will hopefully come back and spend money, then in the end no one is being served, and everyone is getting a kind of subtextual “f*** you.”  This warrants further evaluation (even further than that provided in OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE). Certainly there has to be some way to make this model work?  Another topic for another time.

    So, the dramaturge has a host of responsibilities, depending on which production they are serving, or which theatre company they are hired to work with.  My favorite two personal examples were when I was the dramaturge for the “punk-rock” themed Antigone at LSU.  My wife and I spent a lot of time digging through our records and burning CDs.  The other example is when I was coordinator for “It’s Scary, Y’all! Horror Fest 2009” at LSU.  I produced four one-act plays (one was my own; the other three were written by LSU undergrads), directed and designed by students.  I let them stretch their imaginations. The result was fun, incredibly GOREY, and had Intro to Theatre students (our primary audience) saying things like, “Man, I never knew you could do that in the theatre!” That was probably the greatest thrill of all.

    Where is the problem with dramaturgy?  If a dramaturge is randomly assigned to a playwright or director, the dramaturge first has the task of explaining his or her role, followed by the never ending justification of their position. Also, the dramaturge can be a problem by soliciting scripts during an open submission process, not reading the scripts, approaching scripts with cynicism, or, okay I’m stepping in it, trying to sue the estate of a playwright claiming authorial credit on a work they helped develop.  If anything, that makes the dramaturge look even more like a nuisance. Bottom line, a bad experience with one dramaturge can poison the well for everyone else. I have heard directors say “I’m never working with playwright J. Smith again, he’s a real pain in the ass,” but I have never heard a director say “I am never working with any playwright ever again.”  On the other hand, I have heard directors swear off dramaturges after one poor experience.  Imagine if I had no awareness of the dramaturge position when I met up with the so-called professional at LSU?  I might have been tempted to do the same.

    Dramaturgy is both the most exciting and also the worst job in the American theatre. The successful dramaturge, in my opinion, resists burn-out and cynicism, approaches new works with an eye toward the uncanny, and is the silent bodyguard of the American theatre by trying to keep it fresh, alive, plural, and culturally important (which should really be a given; I think we spend too much time trying to justify theatre rather than treating its importance as a commonplace). My hope is that the dramaturge in the independent theatre, and in the academy, is aware of their great responsibility to the plurality of American theatre (again, here defined as Indie theatre of the U.S.), resisting the tendency to look at other models that may have worked for other plays. After all, if each play is different, why treat them all the same?

John Patrick Bray (ABD, MFA)


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Off-Off-Broadway and the American Theatre


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, John Patrick Bray.

    Okay, so in my first blog, I probably sounded really doom-and-gloom. Part of what I wanted to talk about in the first and the second blog was what we can learn from Regional Theatre, and Off-Off-Broadway’s place in American Theatre (and by “American Theatre,” I mean specifically the Theatre of the U.S.).  For me, Off-Off-Broadway IS American theatre.  Now, I’ve been reading a lot about the history of OOB, from Stephen Bottoms’ excellent PLAYING UNDERGROUND, David Crespy’s OFF-OFF BROADWAY EXPLOSION (which focuses primarily on early OOB playwrights), Leslie A. Wade’s SAM SHEPARD AND THE AMERICAN THEATRE,  to essays by Robert Brustein and David Savran.  I have to tell you folks that for many scholars OOB has been more or less written off. Oh, sure there’s THE FEMINIST SPECTATOR AS CRITIC by Jill Dolan, who champions the artists at the WOW Café during the early 1980’s; and there’s David Savran who has written several excellent pieces on the Wooster Group (I am going to keep saying “excellent;” please don’t imagine me using an “academic” voice – whatever that means! Picture instead that I’m channeling my inner Bill S. Preston, Esquire).  But if you read Robert Brustein’s “More Masterpieces,” or even a footnote in Wade’s book on Sam Shepard, there is the sense that outside of a few key companies, OOB imploded sometime during the early 1970’s and was never heard from again. HUH?!?! What happened? Where has the American theatre scholar turned to for inspiration? Are we in the academy just as much to blame for the canonization of commercial theatre as…well, the commercial theatre?!

    As a scholar, it is my hope to continue reinvestigating OOB, especially as it has come to be, for me, the quintessential American Theatre; and as a playwright, it is my hope to continue working OOB for the exact same reason.  Above all, it is my ambition to continue to merge theory and practice as a kind of living testament to my belief in the power of live, independent performance.    

    Off-Off-Broadway is presently at an incredible moment, in which it has the ability to define itself as a community (through the League of Independent Theatre, IT Awards, United Stages playbills, etc.), but without some of the aesthetic totalizing that we see in the commercial theatre model (which is why I went on my “grr-argh!” rant in blog numero uno).  I think about some of the groups that I’ve been involved with – including (re:)Directions Theatre, The Rising Sun Performance Company, At Hand Theatre, and Rachel Klein Productions – and each one has something completely different to offer to the American theatre. Granted, since I’m a playwright, these companies tend to focus on scripts rather than improvisation, dance, or performance art (outside of Klein, who is also a choreographer and a fine example of an American auteur). That they have in common. They also have me in common, for better or worse.  I’ll take just a moment to describe each of these companies, and leave my grandstanding to an academic journal one day down the line.

    The (re:)Directions Theatre Company’s productions include Marlowe’s Edward II, Bordertown, Figaro/Figaro, and Epicene (forthcoming as part of The Anything But Shakespeare Festival, which I believe to be the brainchild of Tom Berger; I may have that wrong).  This brief list highlights the company’s belief in classics and how the works of yesteryear can speak to the present (and of course I wrote an adaptation for them a couple of years back inspired by It Can’t Happen Here).  They have also been participating in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, a festival now in its second year, dedicated to promoting social awareness by asking each company to dedicate their production in some way to a larger cause (for example, my production in the festival last year had a guest speaker affiliated with RAINN; we also donated part of our proceeds to RAINN). This year, they’re producing my play Liner Notes  - there’s a plug for ya!   

    Speaking of social awareness, the At Hand Theatre Company has a “green” agenda.  Their production of my play Trickster at the Gate (directed by Dan Horrigan) relied on two dancers to represent a storm; props were mimed; and programs were available as a PDF online.  The result was incredibly strong, winning excellent reviews from The Huffington Post and Stage and Cinema. Their focus is entirely on new works, seeking (I believe) to encounter as many emerging/established playwrights as feasible, in the hopes of attracting diverse audiences, and without causing harm to the environment.  That’s one helluva mission statement!  Meanwhile, the work they produce does not follow one aesthetic; that is, despite their green agenda, they are not producing theatre in/as an empty space. Rather, they are able to produce diverse material while following their environmentally sound mission statement.  Somehow, the theatre gods smile on them, as the At Hand has been successful at creating “great reckonings in little rooms” (to borrow the title of Bert States’ book).

    The Rising Sun Performance Company stresses ensemble above individual members, so each produced piece is carefully considered in terms of how it meets the core company’s needs. Whether an original work such as DeCADEnce, their “Aspire to Inspire” series, or productions such as William Kern’s Hellcab, the RSPC seeks to produce work that truly serves the needs of the group, while maintaining a completely non-equity agenda. Akia, a woman of many hats, is at the helm of this group, and her ability to multi-task is astonishing.  The Rising Sun was my introduction to the world of OOB; if you haven’t seen one of their productions or festive cabarets, then now is the time to change that. That little empty space inside you, the one that makes you toss and turn at night and question why your life is lacking some kind of meaning, will be filled.

    Rachel Klein of Rachel Klein Productions is one of the most unique auteurs the OOB stage has to offer. A critic once compared her work to Tim Burton’s.  I completely understand the parallel:  when you watch a piece directed by Klein, you recognize her aesthetic. Each one of her works is, in some ways, haunted by her other works. This is true of Tim Burton, Guy Maddin, and Robert Wilson as well; each is an aesthete. There is absolutely no mistaking their work for anyone else’s, which is what makes their work so special, and in many ways, so hypnotic.  With Klein, though her focus is on a world of the macabre (achieved with music, movement, lighting, and above all, costumes and make-up), she has the ability to match her artistic nuances with each piece she directs, so that it does not obscure the meaning of the playwright’s work.  Speaking from experience, with Klein there is the spirit of director-writer collaboration in which each brings their unique vision to the table, and the marriage of the two is incredibly fruitful.

    There are a number of other companies that I could go on and on about whose work I have some familiarity with: The Vampire Cowboys, whose Beginner’s Guide to Deicide brought a post-modern blend of stage combat, puppetry, stage combat, media, stage combat, and inspired musical numbers (and did I mention stage combat?!); The Rabbit Hole Ensemble, a Brooklyn-based company which has produced a number of re-imaginings of classics, including Neal Bell’s Shadow of Himself (based on the oldest extant written work  – Gilgamesh), and a post-9/11/ post-Katrina  Candide; there really are too many companies to list here! 

    What I am suggesting, with these first two blogs, is that Off-Off-Broadway *is* American Theatre: a mix of singular people escaping totalizing definitions outside of the basics of location and theatre size, who still have the ability to work within the structure of a community.  As we continue to build our community through the IT, United Stages, the League of Independent Theatre, etc., it is my hope that we keep these differences, and resist the temptation to move towards a commercial aesthetic.  My wife told me of a museum educator who said to her that America is not a melting pot, it’s a salad bowl. We’re all mixed together, but we’re not blending; each distinct flavor contributes to a new whole. If you want to be a radish, be a radish!  In the world of OOB, you’ll fit right in. And isn’t that most excellent?


Monday, May 17, 2010

What can we learn from the Regional Theatre?


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, John Patrick Bray.

Regional or Indie? Or, what can we learn from the Regional Theatre?

Hello, all. My name is John Patrick Bray.  Yesterday, I became All But Dissertation (ABD) in Theatre Studies at Louisiana State University (I have an MFA in Playwriting from the New School during its Actor Studio Drama School days…).  I need to write/defend my dissertation, and then I’ll be yet another Dr. John from Louisiana (as opposed to another John Patrick that writes plays, some of which deal with faith, and….not faith). 

Really, I’m a Jersey boy. Born in Hackensack, and raised (mostly) just outside of New Paltz, NY. But the past four years in Louisiana have been incredibly informative.  I’m going to go for it and sound like a Hallmark Card: I have legitimately grown as a person, and as an artist. Also, I’ve grown a pair. (By Jove, what does that mean?) I’m going to bite the hand that doesn’t feed me.
While House Managing a show at Swine Palace at LSU (as part of my funding), I heard an audience member talking about her daughter who was in the show; she said “she’s going to New York, and is going to do a small Off-Off-Broadway thing; I mean it’s something, right? At least it’s a start.” I wish I had replied that I did not believe in ladders. Or, I wish I had given a brief history of Off-Off-Broadway, from Caffe Cino, the Judson Poets, La Mama, The Living Theatre, that entire rich origin, all the way up to the first IT Awards.  Or I could have slapped her upside the head with a program. Instead, I told her to enjoy the show, and left, eating my complimentary Snickers with anger, frustration, and a wish to be back in New York.  I sat down, and tried to organize my thoughts. What was it that pissed me off so much? Was it the disrespect to Off-Off-Broadway? The belief that one can move up the theatrical ladder, losing the first O in OOBR, followed by the second O in OBR in order to finally make it to the B? I realized, while being satisfied by the goodness that comes with chocolate, nougat, rich caramel and nuts, that I understood her thinking.  In fact, I didn’t want to smack her with a program. I wanted to smack the 23-year-old version of me.

When I first became involved in the NYC Indie theatre, like many who become involved, I falsely believed that a life in Indie Theatre would lead to a life in the so-called profession: that it would only be a matter of minutes before landing my big Off-Broadway gig, which would lead to a fruitful life in the Regional Theatre circuit. Now, by “fruitful,” I don’t mean “lucrative.” I never imagined that I’d be on the cover of Fortune magazine, linking arms with the likes of Tony Kushner and Paula Vogel, with the words “Playwrights Make it Rich! (And How!)” in bold, blue typeface across our mid-sections.   I did, however, imagine that the world of theatre worked  like the world of commerce. Each production was a rung in the ladder which would lead to the euphoria of credibility, the only thing a playwright really has these days, and productions, something that many playwrights lack. 

I am happy to say that I now understand that there is no ladder. And if there were, I’d chop the sucker up for firewood, and we’d have an old fashioned Pig Roast in New Iberia, along with a crawfish boil (a younger version of me might even snort the sawdust). That ladder would lead to a large sack of boredom, and possibly, the death of the theatrical stage-play. Indie theatre allows artists to take risks, to try something new, to move away from the circuit of development and “test audiences” (i.e., staged readings with actors in stools and music stands! Music stands as far as the eye can see) and the kind of screenwriting rhetoric that has infested the American theatre.  We in the Indie theatre may be below the radar of the larger American entertainment culture, but at least we’re producing by-hook-or-by-crook, and building audiences simply by consistently producing work.  However, what does the Indie theatre have to do with “credibility?”  How can we define success in the shadow of the Regional Circuit? Where can a playwright go to “establish” him/herself in the hopes of being recognized as “emerging” in the profession? (Hell, I’ve been “emerging” for over a decade). 

These days, it seems like in order to gain credibility, a playwright either needs an MFA from Brown or Yale, and from there, needs to be situated with the right regional theatre groups that present workshops/readings of plays, and not necessarily full productions.  The study in Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play by Todd London, Ben Pesner, and Zannie Giraud Voss situates this lack of production with regional theatre timidity due to the economics of risk,  while playwrights are losing touch with their would-be audiences by simply “not caring” to adhere to audience (really, producer) desire.  If you read the book, it’s filled with bad news for playwrights, and worse news for American theatre.  After all, if professional playwrights are stuck in development (hello again, Hollywood! I see you brought some music stands), then what’s the point of writing plays? What’s the point of American theatre?

I believe, as Americans, we have striven to do away with credibility. When systems get to overburdened, we reject them and start again. While I am not suggesting “burn professional theatre,” what I am saying is that rather than looking at models that supposedly work, we need to recognize that the Regional model was created in order to give more American writers access to professional theatre – specifically, those who were not based in New York City. Thus, regional.  But Regional theatre has collapsed on itself. Just look at the National New Play Network: if a play makes it at one regional space, it is all but guaranteed a slot at another. How is that democratic? How is that giving access to writers from, you know, the Region? How is that a model that works?

What the American theatre needs is another Little Theatre movement. Something that creates a community, and still maintains its independence from the larger machinery of commercial theatre. Take for example Cité des Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana. Cité des Arts is a theatre that seats about 77 people. It operates under a not-for-profit license, like most of the Regional theatres, however the productions are not professional. They are built by the community, and local college students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Alex Marshall, for example, has a company called Omni Artiste which presents at Cité.  As part of their mission statement, Omni Artiste produces works that are “dedicated to and propagated by the aspirations and culture of African Americans” ( They produce work by established writers such as August Wilson, and offer opportunities for aspiring local playwrights.  I have also produced/ had produced a few of my own plays at Cité, and have had a wonderful time with them.   Plus, since I’m all but advertising for Cité anyway, the rents are incredibly low and the atmosphere is incredibly friendly.  How do you produce at Cité? It’s easy: you sign up for a time, you produce your show, their on-site tech helps you with your lights and your set, and you strike your show. You pay the rent when the show closes out of your box office. Boom. Done. No development. No runarounds. No homogenizing of plays. Just a straightforward transaction. The website for Cité des Arts should have the banner “Have Theatre. Bring Shows.” 

I think what America needs is more of this “Have Theatre. Bring Shows” mentality. If the industry has dictated that the only way to consider yourself a success as a playwright is to have one of your works shepherded and homogenized by a never-ending series of readings, which, as Steven Dietz has argued, become less theatrical and more suited for radio audiences, then it is time for us to fail. And fail big. The biggest nightmare in a capitalist system is that of rock-bottom misery, and I think it is time to embrace that misery, and hold it close.

Off-Off-Broadway has been able to establish itself over the past fifty years, and has adapted with the times. While I salute OOBR (after all, this is my home) and the various amazing independent theatres that comprise this community, I ask you please, do not follow in the footsteps of other theatre organizations. Be independent. Be free. Fail big.

This summer, I’m moving back to my hometown in upstate, New York and will work on (and hopefully finish) my dissertation. I will miss Louisiana, and that Little Theatre, Cité. The simplicity of “just” producing is something that is being lost. It is my prayer that Off-Off Broadway will not follow the self-imploding model of regional theatre, and will continue, for better or for worse, producing shows that push the boundaries of theatricality, using our small stages (or any other space) and our tremendous imaginations.  At the end of the day, the Little (Indie) Theatre is too big for music stands, and too high for a ladder. Let’s keep it that way.

By John Patrick Bray (ABD, MFA)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Guest Blogger next week: John Patrick Bray


We would like to thank the fabulous Jillian Zeman for her great posts last week.  

This week's guest blogger is John Patrick Bray.

John Patrick Bray is a PhD in Theatre student at Louisiana State University, having earned his MFA in Playwriting from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. His full-length plays include Trickster at the Gate (written under a grant from the NEA; produced OOBR by the At Hand Theatre Co.), Hound (co-produced OOBR by Rachel Klein Productions, and his own company, HQ Rep. at last year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity), Liner Notes (forthcoming in this year’s PCTF, produced by the (re:)Directions Theatre Co)., and As We Speak (commissioned and produced by the (re:)Directions Theatre Co). He has also written two plays with Keith Dorwick, Dancing with the Virus and Down Low, under grants from the Acadiana Arts Council, dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southern Louisiana. His one-acts include “Goodnight Lovin’ Trail” and “On Top,” which are both published in The Best Plays from the Strawberry One-Act Festival anthologies; as well as “Southern Werewolf,”  “Lincoln and Lee,” and “AmeriKan Mine” (the latter was performed during the 29th Annual Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival).  John has been a Resident Writer with The Rising Sun Performance Company; and a guest artist with Epic Rep. Theatre at the Players Club, O’Neill Studios with Provincetown Playhouse; and has been a member of Actors Studio’s Playwrights/Directors Workshop. He is currently a finalist for a playwriting residency with the Hangar Theatre’s Lab Company in Ithaca, NY. John is an Associate Member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.,an Individual Member with the Theatre Communications Group, and he is an Equity Membership Candidate. As a scholar, his research interests include new play development and the American playwright, as well as the ethics of representation. He has delivered papers at regional and national conferences. Having lived in Louisiana for four years, he and his family are returning to New York this June. 


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do we see theatre anymore?

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jillian Zeman.

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, or if this is true for anyone else, but I really don’t go to theatre much anymore. Not because I don’t enjoy it, not because there isn’t anything I want to see… but time. My show is usually on the same schedule as everything else and unfortunately I can’t exactly put in for a personal day to take in a show.

Tonight was treat. I actually got to watch a show. And it wasn’t one I was training on; it was out of pure enjoyment and, well, time. My current show is in Raleigh, NC and right next door in Durham was the national tour of Wicked. I’ve never seen it before (yes, I know most of your jaws all dropped… a New Yorker of 7 years, working in theatre hasn’t seen Wicked?!)

The production was amazing, and there were moments where I was looking around going “how did they do that?” I’ve had those moments with OOB as well, most recently with

APAC’s production of The Pillowman directed by Tom Wojtunik. Now here’s the difference, this show had a budget of who knows how much, and OOB has a strict budget. I think what is most remarkable is that on the larger big-budget productions you have an idea of how they made something work, but didn’t know the specifics (and granted, I’m speaking of theatre people who know what to look for during those special effect moments). However, on the OOB productions the designers have to bring a level of creativity to make the magic happen on a much tighter budget. I love sitting in a theatre and analyzing how a special effect happened. It’s moments like this that I’m so proud to work in OOB. It may not have the budgets that the larger productions do, but we have just as much, if not more creativity and talent to put on display.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I can’t…. I have rehearsal.


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jillian Zeman.

This facebook group grabbed my attention immediately.  1. I thought it was hilarious.  2.  It describes my life perfectly.

I’ve always loved never having to be behind a desk.  That’s just not me.  I like to be up and around.  If I answered phones for a living and had to live behind a desk with a word document opened in front of me I would probably die a slow death. 

But sometimes I wonder.  What is it like going to work for 9am and being home by 6pm?  A weekend… two days off in a row?  What’s that like?  Usually my one day off a week consists of laundry, some food shopping, and maybe a nap. 

When I was first started working OOB, sometimes I was working numerous shows at a time.  A day off didn’t even exist.  This was one of the few times I ever dropped my laundry off at a wash-n-fold.  I had to schedule eating into my day.  Days out with friends were few and far between, if they existed at all.

However, despite the busy schedule, I loved every minute of it.  I loved jumping from one rehearsal to another (and maybe having to take a class in between).  And while I didn’t necessarily love not being able to go out with my friends, I made a lot of others. 

I take my hat off to those who are able to balance it all:  work, family, and theatre (because let’s face it, some of us can’t just rely on theatre to pay the bills!).  I sure haven’t mastered it yet, something always falls to the wayside and unfortunately it’s usually my personal life.  Thanksgiving is the one holiday my family celebrates, and I haven’t been there with them for three years.  I always miss it, and they miss me, but they understand the career I’ve chosen and they support me even if it means I can’t be home for the holidays. 

It comes down to support.  My family and friends support me and my career- I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a show they haven’t come to; and I support them in everything they do.  So, maybe I have rehearsal (or a performance) but they’re usually waiting for me at the bar afterwards.  


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My First OOB Job


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jillian Zeman.

 One of my very first jobs in NYC outside of college was OOB.  I didn’t know much about OOB at the time, I had only recently gotten involved in stage management and I was trying to get as much experience as I could.  My stage management professor in college told us on our first day that though she could tell us how to do everything, we wouldn’t learn or understand until we were actually doing it. 

The show was Folie A Deux written by playwright David Stallings, and it was the first production by MTWorks.  I’d gotten the job through a friend who was involved in the company and I was really excited to work on an original piece.  

I was very green.  In my head I’d built up what I expected the process to be.  You expect an official rehearsal room, to move into the theatre during tech, and you expect everyone to be as passionate about the project as you are.  The passion was there, but there were a lot of things I did not expect on this job.  For one, I did not expect to work as the lighting designer as well as the stage manager.  I also did not expect to be rehearsing in someone’s living room.  But as I’ve worked more and more in OOB theatre, I’ve learned that this is not far from the norm. 

OOB theatre, and, well, all theatre is about teamwork.  The cast and crew of Folie A Deux worked together to get the show up.  Everyone pitched in to pick up the slack of what needed to be done.  A friend of mine was in town during tech and I had him assisting me with light focus.  Whereas in the bigger, more commercial productions there are strict lines about what someone can and cannot do (due to union rules, of course), OOB theatre has everyone dipping into different areas to get the work done.  There’s no argument of “that’s not my job”.  Everyone wants the show to be what it can be, and they help to make it happen. 

One of the most memorable incidents of this production was getting kicked out of the theatre during tech because the space had been double booked.  I don’t even think we’d gotten through the first act of the show.  Thankfully, our director, Cristina Alicea, was organized and knew exactly what she wanted and she and I were able to finish lighting the show without the cast. 

The show went well, and we had some great audiences come see us.  As a stage manager there’s always a rush of pride when the audience gives a standing ovation.  You’ve seen the show start as reading in a living room, and now there are lights, sound, costumes, props, and talented actors doing their thing.

After this production, I became a member of MTWorks and remain one to this day.  Though I am not as active in the company now as I was when it first started, I still remain close to them and consider them my theatre family. 


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guest Blogger of the week: Jillian Zeman


We would like to thank Johnny Blaze Leavitt for his fun and insightful blogs last week. 

We are happy to announce that next week's guest blogger is Jillian Zeman.

Jillian Zeman has been stage managing in New York City and OOB for the past 5 years.  Some of her OOB credits include:  Folie A Deux (MTWorks), Ragtime (APAC), Oh Virgil! A Theatrical Portrait (Woodstock Fringe) and Dark Side of the Moon (Thirsty Turtle Productions).  She has stage managed three national tours with Two Beans Productions (Winnie the Pooh, James and the Giant Peach, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing) and is one of the stage managers on Nickelodeon presents "Storytime, Live!", currently touring across the country.  Jillian had the honor of being the first recipient of the "Outstanding Stage Manager" award presented by the IT Awards.  She holds a BA in Production and Stage Management and a minor in Management of the Arts from Marymount Manhattan College.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Other Liaison Hat


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Johnny Blaze Leavitt.

For my last guest-blog, I want to mention the OTHER liaison hat.  Yesterday I was talking about groups and organizations to help you with your productions.  The OTHER liaison hat is the one you wear when you are helping other production companies with their projects.

I know how all-consuming our own projects can be.  But don’t forget to look up and see what else is going on.  No, not to “see what the competition is up to” but to see what your peers are working on.  I LOVE going to shows and seeing other companies being thanked in the program!  “Mask & Daggar would like the thank Laff Snax productions for the use of their wheelchair,” etc.  NICE! 

It’s not just about filling seats and swelling coffers to make the next project bigger and better.  It’s also about forging strong ties and building a stronger OOB community.  Especially in these difficult economic times.  Let’s face it, cats and kittens, we all have the same goal: to produce the best shows we can.

Anyone want to share a story about one group helped out another?  C’mon!  It’s almost Mother’s Day!  Make her proud by showing her how you learned to share :) 

… ok, I was reaching a little with that last one.

How about this parting thought?

In the war to save the arts, we support the troupes!


Friday, May 7, 2010

OOB Resources


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Johnny Blaze Leavitt.

I’ve been talking a lot about the many hats an OOB producer wears for his/her company.  But one hat I’ve mentioned briefly needs a little more attention.


The OOB community has a LOT of organizations that are designed to help theatre companies.  Obviously, there’s the IT Awards and ART/NY.  But let’s not forget organizations like Fractured Atlas, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, United Stages, Materials for the Arts, Freecycles, Audience Extras, The Dramatists Guild of America, I could go on and on.

NYC has a vast array of helpful organizations ready, willing and able to help make your productions get better and better.  ALWAYS be on the lookout for helpful groups and always keep in contact with them.

But I don’t want to preach to the choir.  Rather, I invite folks to post a quick story about an organization that’s helped you and your projects.  Let’s sing some praises!

Sorry, I just watched “First Sunday” last night and have church humor on my mind :p


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Johnny Blaze Leavitt.

Ah, May 5th. 

Point of You has been around since the year 2000 and we’ve had some tremendous successes and a few moments of floundering.  That’s normal.  And May 5, 2005 taught us a very valuable lesson.

We were producing LoveSmacked, a showcase that was part of our I’m Just Saying series.  We had all hands on deck.  We had all of our ensemble members writing, directing, performing, designing.  We had guest artists galore from various other theatre companies!  We had a poster that was so popular, it went on to appear in the 40th Street Drama Bookshop window AND for years one was hanging on the wall behind the bar at the Produce’s Club.  We were firing on all cylinders!

But the one hat none of my amazing amalgamation of multitaskers wore?  A party hat. 

It was Cinco de Mayo and no one came.  No prepaid sales, no walk-in’s, nada.  So we threw our own party in the theatre :)

Note to self (the self that sets the seasonal calendar): don’t book a show on Cinco de Mayo unless a) it’s related to the holiday or b) you offer free alcohol for your audience!

Second Note to self: Add Party Hat to the hat collection.

Anybody else have a weird holiday show experience?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

OOB Producing: A play


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Johnny Blaze Leavitt.

Let me ask you, my fellow producers, how many of you have had conversations like the following?

Johnny: Are you ready?

Jeff: Let’s do this.

Johnny: As the Executive Director, I need you to approve the postcard image.  We’re way behind in getting them printed.  Get it done, man!

Jeff: You’re right.  Sorry.  I’ll move that up.  Now, as the Production Director, I need to scold you!  You still don’t know your lines for Act One.  We’re well past the point of calling for line and yet you’re still floundering.  Bad actor!  Shame on you!

Johnny: I can explain.  That’s the scene where the Queen makes her grand entrance.  As the show’s Costume Designer, I’ve been distracted by Melanie’s blocking.  The period garb she’ll be in won’t allow her to move about as easily as she’s moving now.  I’m brainstorming rehearsal costume ideas to help prepare her.

Jeff: Understandable.  Give a note to the Stage Manager.

Johnny: You mean Melanie?

Jeff: Yes.

Johnny: Now, I need to speak to the Sound Designer.

Jeff: Ok, I’m ready.  Shoot.

Johnny: The gun shot after intermission sounds pretty terrible.  Can’t you find a better sound file?

Jeff: It’s not the file, it’s the sound system.  Weren’t we supposed to have our own by now?

Johnny: That was dependent on funding.  Let me put on my Chief Grant Writer’s hat on and say we still don’t have it in the budget yet as we have not heard back about our latest grant application.

Jeff: Then can we just fire blanks?

Johnny: Check with the Props Master.

Jeff: That’s me.  I just approved myself.

Johnny: Well done.

Jeff: Anything else?

Johnny: The show still needs a better ending.

Jeff: Talk to the playwright.

Johnny: That would be me.  I’m still waiting on feedback from the Artistic Director. 

Jeff: Oh.  Right.  I’ll get right on that.

Johnny: Anything else?

Jeff: Summation?

Johnny: I’m mad at you for four items and owe you two apologies.  You’re mad at me for two items and owe me three apologies.

Jeff: Crap.  You won.  Want to go get a taco?

Johnny: Can’t.  Too much work to do.


Monday, May 3, 2010

More hats than a Brooklyn chapeau shop!


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Johnny Blaze Leavitt.

I’m so glad tax season is over!  Apart from the usual headaches and worries that we all go through this time of year, there’s one little tidbit that frustrates me to no end.

Occupation: Actor

Holy socks!  Is that ever a gross oversimplification!!!  My fellow Off-Off-Broadway producers know exactly what I’m talking about.  No one is “just an actor” anymore.  And once you decide to produce your own work, you’ll never be “just” any one thing ever again.

A show of hands from my fellow producers (if you have the time to spare).  How many hats do you wear now?  I’ve been a producer since the year 2000 and my hat collection just keeps growing!  I have more hats than a Brooklyn chapeau shop!  Playwright, Designer, Director, Marketing Strategist, Venue Hunter, Prop Hunter/Builder, Contract Negotiator, Dispute Settler, Promoter, Blogger, Stage Manager, Production Coordinator, Graphic Designer, Grant Application Writer, Fundraiser, Liaison, Officer in Charge of Morals, Chief Worry Wart and, oh yeah, Actor.

I can’t stress this enough to other producers: Get a Team!  I am extremely lucky that I don’t have to go it alone.  I have a team of seven who meet once a week (in our secret Bat Cave) to plot and plan.  I also have eleven more multi-talented artists in the ensemble willing to tow the line.

I also can’t stress this enough: Post-It notes!  Little reminders of what I have to do and when.  I have them all over my house!  Or I used to until I got married and my wife wanted a ‘grown-up’ house.  Oh yeah!  Add ‘Husband hat’ to that collection!  Ah, married life.  Luckily I married an actress.  Who is also a Fight Director.  And an Accent/Dialect coach.  And a Voice & Diction coach.  And a stand-up comedian.  And a Doula.  CRAP!  “Honey, we either need a bigger place or fewer hats!  Or more post-it notes!  … Yes, I’ll put my thoughts in my iPhone instead, dear.”

It’s like having a hamster in a wheel hopped up on caffeine 24/7 running around in my head but it’s one of the best jobs there is.

I’ll write more tomorrow but for now, I invite folks to share a quick ‘Day in the Life’ list of chores you do as a producer.  I know after this I have to go write two more scenes for my summer show, check in with my Artistic Director about his prep work for the fall show, go over the drafts for some press releases, talk to my Administrative Director about adding some links to our website, send some documents over to ART/NY, review a SWOTs analysis for my production team, and set up a photo shoot for our next postcard image.  CRAP!  And hunt for a good green screen kit on eBay! 

Um… any sellers out there?


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guest Blogger next week: Johnny Blaze Leavitt

We would like to thank  Jonathan Reuning for his engaging and thought provoking posts this last week.

Next week's guest blogger is Johnny Blaze Leavitt.

Johnny Blaze Leavitt is the Executive Director and one of the founding members of Point of You Productions.  While focusing much of his time ensuring the artists (both ensemble members and guests) are provided with every opportunity to explore their craft, Johnny is also diligent in his own areas of interest: performing and playwrighting.  He has recently been performing stand-up comedy around NYC (including Caroline’s on Broadway).