Friday, March 28, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman by David Bar Katz

This is sad and beautiful at the same time.

From Philip Seymour Hoffman:

"I saw Phil almost everyday as he was preparing to play Willy Loman. I am both haunted and inspired by what he did to himself for that part. Phil and I once had an argument about who owns a play more, the playwirght or the actor in the leading role. He told me that after a few months it belongs to the actor. I didn't agree with him until seeing him throw himself into DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Reading and rereading it. Scouring through everything Kazan and Miller ever wrote about it. Asking how the children of Jewish immigrants spoke English. Researching what life was like for traveling salesmen of that time.

After he wrote DEATH OF SALESMAN, Arthur Miller walked away. I don't think Phil ever did. Miller went on to write other plays. But that was Phil's last stage role. He couldn't walk away from that play because he etched it into himself so powerfully that its drama and his own were forged together so that when Willy Loman bled, it was with Phil's blood.

He trudged to that theatre every night in dread. Like a prophesy, Phil couldn't escape the death that lay waiting for him in that theatre every night. He didn't want to go. Oh, how he didn't want to go. But every day, month after month, he walked onto the stage of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre so the audience could see the beauty and pain in how a man dies.

My heart broke over and over watching him in that play, but never more so than when I saw the look on his face when he had to stand up there for applause at the end. Phil's commitment to the truth of Loman's existence was more important to him than his own well-being. The fundamental quality of most men is self-preservation. But Phil wasn't most men, and he wasn't most artists. He was the acting equivalent of a perfect line of poetry.

I keep picturing his face lit up by the ball of flame he set off during that reading. His deep unstoppable laugh. And I remember what he told me about those perfect beautiful moments that happen only once in a theatre and then never, ever, ever happen again."

From the Desk of Gary Garrison-The Definition of "Writer"

From the Desk of Gary Garrison

The Definition of "Writer"

Sitting around a dinner table the other night, looking at a platter of cold, congealed, uneaten nachos (and believe me, they deserved to remain uneaten), I listened as one writer, who I don't know very well, talk about how frustrated she was that she didn't have more time to write. And yet, if I did my math right, she has more writing time in a week than I have in a month. I looked around the table: six other writers in all were doing their own personal mathematical equations . . . and sighing, shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, avoiding eye contact with each other and longing for a change of subject. I was snapped out of my own daze when someone asked, "When do you write, Gary?" I impulsively said, "August."

The whole energy of the table shifted. Someone laughed; someone blew a raspberry through their lips; someone dropped a piece of bread in their glass of water, but everyone was immediately making comparisons. Was I joking? Was I telling the truth? I continued, "I write in August. I rewrite the other eleven months of the year." The table shifted again. Was I joking? Was I telling the truth? A final offer: "It's all I can do. I work full time at the Guild, I teach at NYU, I travel around the country, I have a house that needs constant attention, I have really fun friends that I want to spend time with and a father who's 88 years old and needs me to care for him. It's what I can do. It's all I can do." Was I joking? Was I telling the truth?

The whole energy of the table shifted with an unspoken, "Well, at least I do more than that." But here's what I didn't say: I write every day when I ride the subway and study how a young man can't meet my gaze, but instead studies his fraying shoe lace. I write when I sit in a theatre and watch a beautifully rendered character a skilled playwright has constructed. I write when I make a convincing argument to my father that not eating Wonder Bread might lower his blood sugar. I write when I help dissect a failed relationship with a friend who's been left heart-broken and feels robbed of his youth. I write when I see the first sprigs of green shoot up from the dirt under a mound of half-melted snow. BUT, I sit in front of my computer in August.

There is no singular definition of "writer," there's only the intense desire to write plus the reality of my life. I get to choose whether to see it as addition or subtraction.

Gary Garrison
Executive Director of Creative Affairs


World Theatre Day Message 2014 by Brett Bailey


“Hell is—other people!”

“Hell is—other people!”


Jean Paul Sartre's existential classic...

No Exit

by Jean Paul Sartre

adapted from the French by Paul Bowles

directed by Linda Ames Key

February 25 – March 30, 2014

Running Time: Approx 100 minutes, no intermission.
Jean Paul Sartre's existential classic tells the story of three strangers crossing paths in the afterlife while awaiting their ultimate fate. Each with their own secrets to tell, each with their own lies to expose, the pressure-cooker spirals into a maelstrom of manipulation, mockery, and malice.

The Charlie Daniels Band - Long Haired Country Boy (Live)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

...the theatre world, in my opinion, is starting to turn its back on simple story telling.

As a playwright, sometimes director, and somebody who's been jockeying around the theatre world for many years, it appears, in New York City anyway, that the theatre world, presently, has gotten too caught up in this idea of creating work that's different or new or untested or experimental. It's not enough to just write a good play that people, human beings, can connect to. The play, whether it be the story or the structure or the presentation, has got to be experimental or has to have some gimmick or trick. This seems to be the norm today. And I get that true artists are trying to test boundaries, push limits, and discover something new about themselves and the world. I consider myself an artist and do try to get at some form of the truth with everything that I produce. But what happened to the days when a playwright could simply write a good story with complex characters that speaks to all of humanity without trying to do something different. Shouldn't that be good enough? I'm all for progress, and some of my work would be considered experimental, but the theatre world, in my opinion, is starting to turn its back on simple story telling. And that's too bad. Because a lot of good work is not being recognized because it doesn't incorporate a lot of smoke and mirrors. I can't help but think that somebody like Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill or even Sam Shepard, just to name a few, may not be recognized or produced today because their work is not considered edgy enough by today's standards. I see play submissions all the time that say we're not looking for the average kitchen sink drama or a story about a traditional dysfunctional family; we're look for the untested or something that pushes boundaries. What does that mean? Why do these advertisements discriminate against good drama, stories, and characters that we can all relate to and still learn from?

I was reading the latest AMERICAN THEATRE magazine this week, and I was very interested in one of the articles, and in that piece, Anna Shapiro is talking about her experience with directing a new Broadway production of OF MICE AND MEN, which I was in as Slim many years ago and remains to be one of my all time favorite plays for many reasons, and her comments on the play and themes really resonate with me and confirm the thoughts that I have expressed here:

"And she has some serious thoughts about the play's political implications. "I think it's a beautiful piece of work-and it's about things that are important to me right now," she allows. "It's a conversation about the American dream and what men are promised- certainly straight white men-and how that lie crushes them later in life. It's about how dangerous it is to let your dream live outside your body; about what friendship is, and the cruelty of a world where utility is all that matters. I don't think there's any time in the history of our country where those themes would be irrelevant.""

From AMERICAN THEATRE magazine/March 2014/Theatre Communications Group

The Anna Shapiro Workout
Sprinting steadily from Steppenwolf to Broadway and back again, the Tony-winning director isn't even out of breath
by Christopher Kompanek

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dave Matthews - Gravedigger

Actors Bring A Whole New Perspective.

I had the honor of seeing WAITING FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett with Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Billy Crudup, and Shuler Hensley in NYC this week, and it was truly amazing. I have read this play and studied it for quite some time, and I have seen another production of it in the past. I love the play and Beckett and how he captures the human condition. This play speaks to me. But I was really impressed by this production. And I don't know if it's because they did such a good job with it or my knowledge and experience has given me new insight, but this production gave me a new understanding of the material.

I've been working in and around the theatre for a long time now, and I know the process is about collaboration and that it's the actors who truly give life and action to the words written. But this production provided me, if I didn't already know it, with the perspective of how important good actors are to a production.

Here are a few lines from the play that I've always appreciated, but I have new emotions about them now as a result of the life that the actors gave to the text.

POZZO: Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more. On!


VLADIMIR: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? To-morrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of to-day? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot. Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave-digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. But habit is a great deadener. At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. I can't go on! What have I said?

BOY: Mister...Mister Albert...
VLADIMIR: Off we go again. Do you not recognize me?
BOY: No Sir.
VLADIMIR: It wasn't you came yesterday.
BOY: No Sir.
VLADIMIR: This is your first time.
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: You have a message from Mr. Godot.
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: He won't come this evening.
BOY: No Sir.
VLADIMIR: But he'll come to-morrow.
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: Without fail.
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: Did you meet anyone?
BOY: No Sir.
BOY: I didn't see anyone, Sir.
VLADIMIR: What does he do, Mr. Godot? Do you hear me?
BOY: Yes Sir.
BOY: He does nothing, Sir.
VLADIMIR: How is your brother?
BOY: He's sick, Sir.
VLADIMIR: Perhaps it was he came yesterday.
BOY: I don't know, Sir.
VLADIMIR: Has he a beard, Mr. Godot?
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: Fair or...or black?
BOY: I think it's white, Sir.
VLADIMIR: Christ have mercy on us!
BOY: What am I to tell Mr. Godot, Sir?

VLADIMIR: Tell him...tell him you saw me and that...that you saw me. You're sure you saw me, you won't come and tell me to-morrow that you never saw me!

A monologue that I created on this Saturday morning. Remember, there's no competition here. If this speaks to you, pass it on.

I've been thinking a few things over this week. Ideas and concerns that keep haunting me. Also, I've decided to pull a play out that I started a couple of years ago. I've decided to work on it again. I like the themes and the message that it conveys, and I think that it's time to give it some serious shape. I woke up on this Saturday morning with lines and a voice circling around in my head, and I couldn't let them go. I got up and started writing and created a monologue. Maybe this will open the play. Maybe this will be a type of prologue to the action. I'm not sure yet. Maybe I don't do anything with it. Maybe it will be left behind once the people hear it and start critiquing it without truly listening to it. I don't know. But I like it. It speaks volumes. At least to me. So why hide it? Why keep it? So hear it is. For you. Fellow human beings. On a Saturday morning.

Remember, there's no competition here. If this speaks to you, pass it on.

A young female voice is heard from the darkness.

I’m here. I’m here! Just like all the others. On this earth. But am I where I’m supposed to be? Is this where I belong? Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I exist to you? Truly? Or am I just blowing in the wind? What do I have to say or do to prove to you that I matter. That I’m equal. That I’m a human being just like you. We’re the same, you and me. All of us. So what it is that sets us apart? What is it that divides us? Separates us? Socially? What norms and behaviors have been created on this earth by human beings so that we turn our backs on each other? So that we practice cruel intentions? Who did this to us? Who created this? Or did we create it for ourselves? As a society. Forced to live under a foul social and economic order that creates inequality among the masses. One human being turning his or her back on another human being, turning his or her back on the face of humanity. We’ve created this competition among us. We now have this need and desire to get one over on the person standing next to us. But I’m one of God’s children, and so are you. That’s all there is. Truly. That’s where it all started. The human quality and existence created on this earth has corrupted us. We’ve lost perspective on what matters the most. So what’s the point? What’s the point of all of this? What’s the point of this life? Why should I even bother to ask these questions? How are we supposed to live? On this earth? With no clear guidance? Because the people, the human beings, have created a very difficult society and civilization to survive in. Many live in cruelty, angry, and opposition in order to get what they want. In order to survive. Selfishness and greed and corruption rules this land, they are the law of this land. And as a result, I no longer trust, my fellow human being. And you should be weary and careful of me. Because I don’t know what I’m capable of. And you have created this. You have created me. Honestly, I’m worried about the present state of affairs because I have no idea where all of this is leading to. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m looking around, and what I see saddens me. I feel as if I’m standing all alone here. I reach out to you, but you turn away, and I have no clear direction. Men have divided men. And I don’t understand. I don’t understand why we’re slowly destroying each other. Please help me. Please. I need your help. I can’t do this all alone.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

You gotta practice what you preach...

Can't get this out of my head. I teach about time periods and situations that play a part as to why a character is doing what he or she is doing or why they're in the situation that they're in. And I try to encourage sympathy and understanding. I ask that you don't judge these people but try to understand them. But then I walk out into the street and forget this. I'm ashamed. I've been walking the streets of NYC and riding the subway for a long time. And I know by now how to handle people asking for money and not to give money because you never know what they're going to do with it. But yesterday a disabled vet got on the train asking for money with a pretty good and compelling story. And I didn't do anything. I watched him hobble off of the train, and I felt sorry for him. I'm ashamed. That could have been me or anybody that I know. What difference does it make? He needed the money. You gotta practice what you preach...