Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Photos of JAN KULTURA in Rehearsal With UptownWorks NYC

UptownWorks NYC posted photos from rehearsals for my play Jan Kultura, Substitute Teacher, Meets The Crowd which they will be presenting as part of the inaugural event in their Liberated One-Acts series of staged readings.

Plays by Michael Panes, Christian Cole-Howard, and Gabriel Straszun will also be featured that evening.

The reading will be held on Sunday, December 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Liberated Fitness NYC at 1005 Columbus Ave, New York, New York 10025.

The event is free but it is recommended that one email to reserve seats.

UptownWorks NYC is directed by Amanda Black and Daniela Hart.

Photos courtesy of UptownWorks NYC

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Staged Reading: JAN KULTURA, SUBSTITUTE TEACHER, MEETS THE CROWD Presented by UptownWorks NYC 12/13

My one-act play, Jan Kultura, Substitute Teacher, Meets The Crowd will be be receiving a staged reading directed by Daniela Hart as part of the inaugural event in UptownWorks NYC's Liberated One-Acts reading series on Sunday, December 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm.

I will be in attendance.

UptownWorks NYC is run by Amanda Black and Daniela Hart. This post will be updated as more information becomes available

The evening's bill will be:

Reindeer Afterlife by Michael Panes
What Do You Mean? by Gabriel Straszun
Jan Kultura, Substitute Teacher, Meets the Crowd by Ian Thal
The Arrangements by Christian Cole-Howard

The cast for Jan Kultura, Substitute Teacher, Meets The Crowd, will include Robert Vail, Kelly Wright, Olivia Stoker, and James Koroni.

Liberated One-Acts will be presented at Liberated Fitness NYC at 1005 Columbus Ave, New York, NY Admission is free, but it is recommended that one make a reservation at

The text of Jan Kultura, Substitute Teacher, Meets The Crowd is available on The New Play Exchange.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


My one-act play, The Second Annual Administration Building Takeover And Slumber Party, will be be receiving a staged reading as part of Arts Resources for the Tri-State's New Works festival in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm.

The reading will be directed by Stephen Vance and feature a cast of Michael Naglee, Joanna Murdock, Nora Ankrom, Dylan Clark and will be followed by a staged reading of Mike Murdock's Brighter Days. Tickets for the paired reading will be $10.

Arts Resources for the Tri-State is located at 900 8th Ave, Huntington, WV.

The text of The Second Annual Administration Building Takeover And Slumber Party is available on The New Play Exchange.

N.B.: Arts Resources for the Tri-State has created a Facebook page for the New Works 2015 festival.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ilan Stavans "The Oven": Performance and Panel Discussion At Charlestown Working Theater

Tonight, November 20, I will be moderating a panel discussion after a performance of Ilan Stavans' The Oven at Charlestown Working Theater. My panelists will be Stavans, who wrote and performs in the show, and director Matthew Glassman.

The Oven is an autobiographical piece about Stavans' experience of an ecstatic ritual as a guest of an indigenous religious group in the Columbian Amazon.

Stavans is a professor of Latin American and Latino cultures at Amherst College, and a prolific translator of English, Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew literature.

Matthew Glassman is an actor, director, and playwright affiliated with Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On The Arts Fuse: New Rep's Boston Premiere of Arthur Miller's BROKEN GLASS

On The Arts Fuse I review New Repertory Theatre's production of Broken Glass, a play by the major American playwright, Arthur Miller, that first premiered in 1994 had to wait until his centenary before it was ever presented in the Boston-area.

A major theme of the play is anti-Semitism: Both the violent anti-Semitism that erupted in Germany in November 1938, in a pogrom now known as Kristallnacht and the more polite form it takes in America. Most radical is Miller's treatment of the internalized anti-Semitism exemplified in the figure known as the "self-hating Jew":

Today’s dramas about identity politics are usually confident tales of empowerment. Miller goes in a far more radical direction: he creates a harrowing portrait of Jewish self-hatred. “Self-hating Jew” is a charge that has been leveled by and against Jews from a number of directions — religious and secular, the ideological left and right. Typically, this involves Jews adopting or excusing the attitudes, beliefs, rhetoric, and behaviors of anti-Semites – often with the benefit of increasing their status as individuals amongst anti-Semites.

Philip works as the head of the mortgage department at the Brooklyn Guarantee & Trust Company. (He brags he is the only Jew employed at a company owned and operated by what would later be known as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.) However, when Philip first meets Margaret Hyman (Eve Passeltiner), he is offended when she mistakenly addresses him as Goldberg; he even goes so far as to insist that he’s not Jewish, but Finnish. He will only affirm his Jewish identity when it confers special status: he is not just the only Jew at Brooklyn Guarantee, but the only one to set foot on the yacht owned by his boss, Stanton Case (Michael Kaye). Philip imagines that his son, an Army captain and West Point graduate, will someday become the first Jewish general in the U.S. Army (in truth, that title may belong to Civil War-era Brigadier General Frederick Knefler).

I also consider the historical contexts of the play: Its 1938 setting, the on-going atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia when it premiered in 1994, as well as the human rights crises faced by the world in 2015.

Read the entire review on The Arts Fuse!

Friday, August 28, 2015

On The Arts Fuse: Maiden Phoenix' THE WINTER'S TALE

On The Arts Fuse I review Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company's all-female outdoor production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale that closes on August 30:

While I do note that there are at points where the production is uneven (some of this reflects more on the difficulty in staging any of Shakespeare's "problem plays" than it does on the company), it has many aspects that make it worth seeing, including how director Sarah Gazdowicz makes use of the landscape of Somerville's Nathan Tufts Park:

Sarah Gazdowicz bridges the shift in genre by shifting the playing space during the intermission. The tragedy is staged at the peak of Nathan Tufts Park by the historic colonial-era Powder House that gives the neighboring square its name. The comedy transpires by the cyclopean-style masonry that separates the upper and lower parts of the park. The stone Powder House is a wonderful backdrop, but the steeply sloping foot path and the large stones that challenge the leg muscles of kids and adults make for a more inspired setting. Gazdowicz’s tableau work is far more intriguing in the latter two acts. Her actors are sometimes half-hidden in crevasses, perched on irregular ledges, or have to adapt their stance to the incline — particularly during the festivities that are part of the sheep sheering ceremony.

And I am particularly excited by Juliet Bowler's performance as the paranoid and later penitent King Leontes:

Juliet Bowler is a powerful Leontes. Her vocal precision heightens the paranoia of the King in his madness; his carefully constructed walls of words are impregnable to any voice of reason. But she also does a fine job of portraying Leontes’ grief when he finally realizes what he has done, as well as well as his inability to forgive himself, even in the end, when others have forgiven at least some of his sins.

Read the entire review on The Arts Fuse!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The New Play Exchange: Recommendations Received and What I Have Learnt

In my previous post, I described the New Play Exchange in terms of some of the problems in "the new play sector" that I believe it may help resolve, noting how playwrights simply upload their plays and allow them to be searched by those seeking new plays to develop or produce.

A key tool that makes it possible for directors, literary managers, and dramaturgs to search for new plays is metadata. Some of that metadata is simply information about the themes, genre, and cast breakdown of the play -- data attached by the playwright. But there is also data added by the playwright's colleagues; other registered members of the Exchange: Recommendations.

Yesterday, I shared recommendations I have given to other playwrights' work. Today I share some recommendations that I've received.

Playwright Claudia Haas wrote the following about my as-of-yet unproduced one act play, Jan Kultura, Substitute Teacher, Meets the Crowd:

This is one high-octane, verbally rich play. The barbs and creative reasoning (appropriate for the "creative economics" debated here) kept me riveted to the page with huge smiles and chuckles. All four characters have the smarts and are engaging and you cannot wait to hear what comes next. As the play draws to a close, you are left with, "Wait? Satire? Or is this a truth about our current economic climate?" Theatres, universities and high schools would all serve this play well. And leave everyone discussing the play.

Asher Wyndham, on the other hand, recommended four of my plays. Concerning my The Conversos of Venice, the full-length play that has received the greater share of my creative energies over the last several years, he writes:

A great play for community colleges and universities or theatres that want to produce a historical drama that is not written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. A captivating continuation of the Shylock story that is both comedic and tragic, with lines that capture the grandiose personality of each character. Great parts for actresses (esp. Gessica) and actors (esp. Shylock and the hilarious Capitano and Launcelot). The playwright's knowledge of the period, the alliterative power of the poetry, the rhetorical strategizing, the spectacle, the largeness of the world on the page and (hopefully) the stage is...breathtaking.

My one-act play, The Second Annual Administration Building Takeover And Slumber Party, had been slated to premiere this summer at a theater festival, but was cancelled after the the director and at least one actor pulled out, citing "scheduling conflicts". My colleagues have assured me that this isn't as unusual a circumstance as it should be. Nonetheless Wyndham was inspired to write:

Hey student actors! Are you disenchanted with academic administration? Then read this comedy, and perform it! This comedy is an intelligent, probing satire and criticism of administrative politics--- and it will certainly ruffle some feathers in administration. Honest, necessary political theatre just right for a daring group of actors. It's a lot of fun, with quick witty dialog. There's a pillow fight!!! The statement on student activism at the end of the play is powerful. There's no play like this.

Arlecchino Am Ravenous is arguably my most popular play. This one-act started life in 2008 as a structured, long-form improvised performance at the now defunct Willoughby & Baltic art space. I went on to perform it numerous times over the years. It was later performed by Jonathan Samson in Bangkok and presented as part of Laugh/Riot Performing Arts Company's short play festival, Rollercoaster. Arlecchino Am Ravenous also recently appeared in the literary magazine, Steel Toe Review which led to a project about which I hope to be able share news in the near future. Wyndham writes:

Arlecchino of Bergamo is an unforgettable, larger-than-life buffoon. From Heaven to Hell, from auto-cannibalism to clowning, the actor must showcase near madness, an animation and athleticism that is kind of like commedia del'arte to the power of 10. The playwright's logophilia -- the specificity, onomatopoeia and rhythm of Arlecchino's thought-process-in-action -- reminds me of wacky Mac Wellman.

The shortest play of the bunch is Two Cats Explain The Monstrous Moth Group which premiered last year as part of The Changing Scene Theatre Northwest's Summerplay festival. In Wyndham's words:

What's in Ian Thal's Kool-Aid? Whatever it is, I want to drink it. Cats & a bat in an attic -- Thal's images are wonderfully child-like. A perfect piece for puppeteers or costumers seeking a one-of-a-kind challenge. Fabulous, freaky, f-d up -- read it, perform it, direct it.

So What Have I Learnt?

A sample size of two playwrights, especially two who are bound by the rules of the NPX to only post positive recommendations, may be too small a group to arrive at any conclusions of my work, but there are a few things I can glean from them:

Both Haas and Wyndham suggest that at least three of my plays are ideal for a school environment -- particularly in a college and university theater setting (though I suspect that The Second Annual Administration Building Takeover And Slumber Party would be seen as "biting the hand that feeds you" if produced by a university theater department.) It's not something I've given a great deal of thought to, but both of them are more experienced than I am in the business, and if they consider that a potential market, then it's one I ought investigate.

There's also a lot of talk about my use of language: Haas describes one play as "verbally rich" ; Wyndham writes about my "logophilia", citing my "onomatopoeia and rhythm", "alliterative power of [my] poetry, [...]rhetorical strategizing". I take this to mean that it is evident to the reader that rather than setting out to be a dramatist from the beginning, I was a poet who chose to write plays out of a desire to work in long form.