SHARE

Share |

Thursday, December 31, 2009

B-Ironic

Okay. So I avoided top tens and looks back at the decade. I feel too new to blogging to start all that. Check back in 2020 for a round up.

Meanwhile, though, there is one thing that I must put to bed before the year ends.

Summer of 2009 I wrote scripts for 2 shows. One is the moving-forward-by-leaps-and-bounds Cafe Lysistrata.

The other is Byron in Hell -- a dramatic monologue for a young actor. The monologue revolves around the Romantic poet as he wiles away eternity. One thing that still upsets him is that his sexual memoir was burned by his publisher before it was ever printed, shortly after he died. Byron, of course, was the consummate bisexual and I had a lot of fun with that aspect when writing (and re-writing). I sent it to my literary agent in Hollywood and asked him to get it to Rupert Friend.

After reading it, the agent dumped me as a client. It must be quite powerful. Or maybe we really have entered neo-Victorian times -- for the stage, not cable tv. (Ironically, Friend is in the new Victoria and Albert biopic.)

Anyway, it was the strongest negative response I've ever had to a script -- and I've had some doozies. Maybe I did something right. I'll have to re-read it in the New Year.

Out with the old and in with the new. Happy MMX

The Homeless

My friend Farmer Frank was saying the other day that when the weather is as cold and nasty as we've been experiencing here in the PA countryside, he always is reminded that there are homeless folks out there. Then, today, I found this link on the Guardian theater blog:

Cardboard Citizens are a UK theater troupe of homeless people


Happy MMX. Let's all work toward a society where hunger, homelessness and rapacious inadequate healthcare are no longer the norm for far too many people.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

HAPPY MMX

A happy healthy productive MMX to all!

Regular blog posting will resume January 4.

I've been devoting my blogging time to reading every word of "Free For All" about Joe Papp, the man who invented diversity in American Theater, because he truly lived the life. I will write more in depth when I've finished reading.

Meanwhile, have a safe happy celebration.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy MMX

I'm putting away my soapbox for a few days. Merry Christmas and Happy MMX!
Thanks to Scott Walters for posting this video on his Theater Ideas blog.


Betrayal, in Obama's own words

Sunday, December 20, 2009

THE BIG LIE

The Big Lie being promoted by the White House these days goes like this: "Seven presidents tried and failed to pass health care reform. This is the closest we've ever come."

Okay. So what do these bozos call Medicare and Medicaid? Both of those programs are better than the corporate giveaway being promoted by Team Obama. Of course, M&M took leadership to get through Congress.

And what's the big rush to pass this? Is this like the Wall Street / AIG bail out? Remember the original meaning of TARP -- Troubled Asset Relief Program. Remember when Paulson was saying if this wasn't passed -- so he could buy back all the bad bets by his cronies -- there would be martial law. So, when he got the money, what happened? He decided to do something else with it. It really wasn't necessary to buy the bad bets at all.

Is this health care "reform" just another corporate bait and switch? Take a look at the Big Lie again and then answer.

GENERAL STRIKE!

Friday, December 18, 2009

GENERAL STRIKE JULY 6 and 7, 2010

I just started a new blog -- http://generalstrikeusa.blogspot.com/

Please check it out.

Please become part of the effort to take back this country, nonviolently.

Let's demand an end to bankrupting our country on behalf of the military industrial complex and Wall Street.

Let's demand real health care reform, not a gift to the insurance industry.

Let's demand full employment. Let's shut this country down for 2 days by adding to the Juky 4th weekend. Let's be free again!

Let's show the "powers that be" that we the people have power, too.

http://generalstrikeusa.blogspot.com/


Please check out the new blog. (Someone is sitting on the name GeneralStrike here on blogger, so I used GeneralStrikeUSA.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CLASS WARFARE AND CORRUPTION IN THE PENNSYLVANIA ARTS “COMMUNITY” AND BEYOND

Today I received a letter from the director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts stating that the grants for artists were to be discontinued this year. The members of the arts council, a bunch of rich bozos and wives of rich bozos who fancy themselves “cultural”, voted to end grants to artists. This is after artists – this includes playwrights – were assured in emails last summer that the budget cuts only meant that each discipline would now be eligible in a three-year application cycle, rather than a 2-year cycle as was previously in place. Artists were encouraged, courted even, to apply.

The costs of applying are worth noting. As a playwright, I had to submit 4 copies of a script, 4 CDs of the music that went with it, and ship them to Maryland where the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation administers the grants. Everything else was submitted electronically – application, resume, artists statement – and this process was touted as the new, up-to-date system that made the process easier for administrators and judging panels. So, it probably cost me about $40. You can bet the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation is getting paid for receiving the materials, which are, presumably going into the trash unless one included a self-addressed stamped envelope. (I did not. Who wants a script, or 4, back after those mutts have had their paws all over it?)

Now, let me make my position clear. Based on my personal experience and observations, I think Pennsylvania has no business underwriting any kind of arts. (I will explain why a little further on.) However, since the money was there, I applied. Why not? The script and music had already been favorably reviewed in a Manhattan production and that’s one of the things I do – apply for grants. I’ve even received a couple of small grants over the years. $1500 here, $500 there. It came in handy and was always a pleasant surprise. However, I’ve never received a dime in Pennsylvania. Interestingly enough, every project that was turned down in PA went on to some sort of success or acclaim elsewhere.

Ten years ago, when I first moved to my present abode from Miami, Florida, I was returning to the state after I got downsized out at the Miami Herald Sunday magazine. We moved to a different part of the state from where we’d lived previous to Miami. I was the new kid in town, so to speak, and it wasn’t all that long since one of my plays had been picked up and adapted as a General Motors Mark of Excellence production for television. I met a few people here, among them a woman who claimed to be a producer and casting agent. She asked if she could see a copy of the script for Avenue Z Afternoon, the play that I’d adapted for TV. The woman was also the secretary for the local arts council, which receives its funding from the state. ( I was unaware of this when I gave her the script.)

I forgot about the “submission” until, almost a year later, a neighbor congratulated me for getting a production grant. He’d read about it in the local daily, the Pocono Record, a rag I’ve since come to regard as about as corrupt as anyone can imagine an American newspaper to be. Apparently the grant was being administered by the Pocono Arts Council. I called the council office and inquired as to what was going on. I was told the grant had been awarded to the woman who had asked to read my script and I was told to contact her directly.

I did and she told me she’d forgotten to tell me. She said she wanted to get together with me and talk about the “reading”. I asked what portion of the grant money -- $1500, I’d learned -- was going to be apportioned to me. None of it, I was told. It was all for “production” – production of a staged reading that her husband, who I subsequently learned is a produce worker in a local supermarket, was going to direct. I have nothing against bad puns, unless they are being used in the course of ripping me off. I said she had no authorization to produce my play, to use it to raise money, to hire her husband as director. Her response was, and I remember it well because I heard it repeatedly from other bad actors in this story, “You just don’t understand how things work around here.”

The same words, almost verbatim, are what I was told by the director of Pocono Arts Council. Likewise, when I wrote a letter to the editor of the Pocono Record, the editorial page editor told me the same thing when she said that this wasn’t a matter for a letter. A reporter was then assigned to interview me about the goings on with my script, and after two weeks and no story appeared, I called and she told me the same thing. “You just don’t understand how things work around here.”

The Pocono Record was the big local cheerleader at roughly the same time for The Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts, one of the biggest arts rip offs I’ve ever heard of anywhere, which was engineered and executed by Tom Ridge, former PA governor and former Homeland Security Director under George Bush, and by his successor, current governor and uber fat cat in the Democratic party Ed Rendell. $30 million taxpayer dollars went into building this white elephant. In the course of building it more than 600 publicly owned pristine, wild acres were turned over to private developers, for a fraction of its actual worth. A landmark on the National Register of Historic Sites – the summer camp for the New York chapter of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union -- was obliterated. The Mountain Laurel Center's only known current use is to house the graduation ceremonies of a nearby high school, when it rains on graduation day.

I got a further eye-opener of how things worked locally when the Pocono Record became a de facto political party and got the husband of the editorial page editor elected to a million dollar judgeship (10 year post X $100,000 plus salary). Reporters and editors worked the polls on Election Day, and the slant against other candidates was blatant throughout the campaign. (I do have to say that he was the best candidate in the field, which says even more about Pennsylvania politics, I suppose.)

The Pennsylvania Arts Council should be disbanded and its funding cut off entirely. Instead, the political appointees – all friends and supporters of Rendell and his wife --- get to continue on in their bragging rights positions. They voted not only to de-fund artists, but to continue to fund the salaries of arts administrators at various arts institutions around the state. In other words, their pet projects where their children and the children of their friends run the show – who, after all, but the untalented scions of the rich can afford to get degrees in the field of arts admin.

Rendell is a pugnacious politician. You’ll often see Chris Matthews licking between the governor’s legs on the aptly named “Hardball.” Rendell is about as openly crooked as one can be in political office without getting indicted. Maybe, someday, he will be indicted. This year, for just one example, Rendell gave – as in a grant -- $37 million dollars to a department store chain owned by one of his big supporters. Gave, not loaned. On virtually the same day he cancelled the state governor’s school, a program that allows talented youth in the state to take a summer course on par with the expensive programs that the children of the rich take, at substantial cost, to beef up their resumes to get into college. Rendell, like most elected corporate lackeys at the state and national level in this country, is carrying out the policies of class warfare on behalf of corporations and the rich against the middle and lower classes.

In 2010, a revolution could begin in Pennsylvania. Electric companies in the state have been granted the right to raise rates by 40% per cent – yes, forty percent – in January. This is going to happen during the worst economic downturn in recent history. Old folks and the unemployed, already strapped, are going to really be pummeled by electric companies that were deregulated under Ridge. Where I live, while it is a place of great natural beauty, is suffering some of the highest numbers of foreclosures in the country already. Homelessness is rampant. Hungry children attend classes at local schools after spending their nights sleeping in cars. NOTHING is being done by government to help these people.

There is unmitigated class warfare being waged by corporations and the wealthy, against everyone else. I hope that when the revolution comes, it is nonviolent. Then, I will surely be part of it. Not because I am personally hurting but because it is the right thing to do. Nonviolent overthrow of the status quo, confiscation of the ill-gotten wealth of the upper class, and the establishment of a democratic socialist state must be the way of the future. The alternative, as it is being played out, is repression of the many for the benefit of the few.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

GET ME REWRITE!

5 hours of rewriting Cafe Lysistrata today.

Tonight rewriting a short story.

The woodstove is chuffing out the heat.

Time to play some music.

Happy Holidaze!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Got Blogged!



I got blogged twice today! I exist in the blogosphere! I'm serious. It's good to exist.

First Kevin Lee Allen blogged about meeting me at Ken Davenport's party last week. Kevin is a set designer and his blog is now in the blog role.

And Trav S.D. blogged his response to coming to see the Cafe Lysistrata reading last night, in his blog Travalanche, also in the blog role. Trav S.D needs no intro to the NY indie theater world.

Thanks, Kevin and Trav!

And a big thank you to everyone who turned out for last night's reading. Thanks for laughing in the right places! Thanks for the sustained applause. Thanks for being an audience. And thanks for being lots of new faces!

And a HUGE thank you to the cast and musicians!

Now I'm going to do some serious re-writing and get this show ready for the next phase, whatever that may be. Thanks again, everyone!

Happy Holidaze!

Monday, December 14, 2009

CAFE LYSISTRATA -- tonight @ 8 pm




Tonight at 8 pm we will have our second and final staged reading of my new musical comedy "Cafe Lysistrata" at Theaterlab, 137 West 14th Street in Manhattan. Plenty of seats still available.

5 singers, 3 musicians.

The entire presentation runs about 65 minutes.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

FULL CIRCLE?

Let’s begin with a premise – it is nigh impossible to work in musical theater and be a homophobe.

Now, with premise in place, let me recount an exchange I was part of the other night. I was at a party, speaking with an actor who is a woman. (Beginning this story would be slightly less convoluted if the word “actress” hadn’t been banished from the vocab of enlightened theater workers.) A young man named Cedric joined us mid-conversation. The actor’s day job is working in “social media marketing”. Her boss is a woman who designs websites in addition to serving the online interests of corporations. Cedric said, “You should start a website called benefactor.com. It could link young women in the arts with older men who want to underwrite their careers.”

The actor made a reference to the “sugar daddy” site. Cedric insisted this would be only for women in the arts. I said, “What about men?”

Cedric replied, “Gay men have no problem identifying their benefactors. Not in this part of town anyway.” (Meaning, I guess, the theater district.) The actor said, “Straight creative men are under-represented in that idea.”

Cedric laughed and said, “There are no straight creative men.”

“Oh, I’ve seen some,” replied the actor.

Cedric laughed. “You’ve seen some. That’s funny. Really, you do know there are none.” He was dead serious. I handed him a card announcing the reading of “Café Lysistrata” and said, “You’re talking to one, darling.” He took the card and we all said good night.

So, here’s my question. Have we come full circle? Is it completely acceptable for gay men to make disparaging remarks about straight men? How far does this prejudice go, especially in the theater? Is this why I've supported civil rights for everyone all my life? Is prejudice okay now, as long as it’s a minority being prejudiced against a perceived majority?

Comments?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Great Party

Yesterday evening I drove into the city to attend Ken Davenport's holiday social for producers and other followers of his blog The Producer's Perspective (of which I am one). It was upstairs at Hurley's saloon on West 48th Street, and it was a lot of fun. Great people -- some of them actually producers! -- finger food, booze, and general conviviality. Ken gave away a bunch of prizes, including theater tix, and a top prize of a Kindle. Thanks, Ken!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

QUESTIONS

If President Obama had no problem stiffing the King of Norway, and eschewing all the other attendant rigmarole that goes with the Nobel Peace Prize, why did he accept it? Does he, in his cloud of Ivy League lawyerly arrogance, think he has done anything but make a joke of the prize? Well, Kissinger did get it, so maybe that’s the whole idea – the prize is meant to be a joke? Or is the idea of peace on earth the big joke?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

After the Reading






Well, of the 2 dozen folks who showed up last night for the first reading of "Cafe Lysistrata" only one nodded off. Unfortunately,she is the creative development director for one of the producers I most admire these days. It's an advantage and a disadvantage playing with the musical ensemble. I got to see the entire audience but one enjoying themselves. Of course, I focused on the one. Oh well.

I'll get into more details next week after the second reading. One thing I will say now -- I skewered virtually every aspect of today's society, and went home and skewered my own shortcomings as a writer. Reminds me of Ben Jonson's poem "An Ode to Himself"

Where dost thou careless lie
Buried in ease and sloth?
Knowledge that sleeps, doth die
And this security,
It is the common moth
That eats on wits and arts, and that destroys them both.

Are all the Aonian springs
Dried up? lies Thespia waste?
Doth Clarius' harp want strings,
That not a nymph now sings;
Or droop they as disgraced,
To see their seats and bowers by chattering pies defaced?

If hence thy silence be,
As 'tis too just a cause,
Let this thought quicken thee:
Minds that are great and free
Should not on fortune pause;
'Tis crown enough to virtue still, her own applause.

What though the greedy fry
Be taken with false baits
Of worded balladry,
And think it poesy?
They die with their conceits,
And only piteous scorn upon their folly waits.

Then take in hand thy lyre;
Strike in thy proper strain;
With Japhet's line aspire
Sol's chariot, for new fire
To give the world again:
Who aided him, will thee, the issue of Jove's brain.

And, since our dainty age
Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
To that strumpet the stage;
But sing high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof.
—Ben Jonson

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cafe Lysistrata -- TONIGHT @ 8




We rehearsed all weekend, and we have a fine presentation for our purposes at this point.

Cafe Lysistrata -- reading tonight at 8pm, Theaterlab, 137 West 14th Street in Manhattan.

5 singers, 3 musicians, a bunch of cool new songs. Hope you can make it!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Like this Video!




I saw this on Matt Freeman's blog, and decided to use it as my post for the day, too. It's fun!



Remember, please! Monday December 7 is the first reading of Cafe Lysistrata, at Theaterlab, 137 West 14th Street in Manhattan 8pm.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

With Apologies to Whichever Anonymous Wrote "The Twelve Days of Christmas"





The first staged reading of Cafe Lyistrata is fast approaching, and 70% of the seats are already reserved! You can help fill the house. Reserve a seat on Face Book:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=179461638219&ref=mf

Or leave a comment on this page saying how many people and which date.

CAFE LYSISTRATA
2 staged readings of a new musical comedy by Uke Jackson
Monday December 7th and Monday December 14
8 pm
Theaterlab
137 West 14th Street (between 6th and 7th Aves)
Manhattan
Admission is FREE
Running time is 80 minutes.

Now, with apologies to whomever wrote the carol "12 Days of Christmas", and assurances that the songs in Cafe Lysistrata adhere to meter more than this silliness does, here is "12 Cafe Lysistrata Facts"

12 CAFE LYSISTRATA FACTS

12 new songs
11 bawdy jokes
10 political laughs
9 vampire bankers (skewered in song)
8 pm it starts
7 December (and December 14th)
6 porno stars (not really, but there is a song making fun of porno)
5 women sing
4 days to go (until the first reading; 11 days ‘til the 2nd reading)
3 musicians playing
2 chances to see Café Lysistrata
1 funny new musical comedy

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CRITICAL THOUGHTS

JUMPING SHIP

“Jumping ship” is an old maritime term used to describe the action of a crew member who stays behind, usually in a foreign port, when the ship that brought him there sails away. It developed into a catchall phrase used to describe the action of someone leaving a position, often when circumstances surrounding that person’s business or occupation became dire. In this sense, it seems to have merged with the phrase “rats deserting a sinking ship.”

Rocco Landesman is a former Broadway landlord and producer. Like pretty much anyone who made money on Broadway from the mid-to late 1970s until fairly recently, Rocco Landesman rode the coattails of the late great Gerald Schoenfeld. Broadway was in a pickle during the early 1970s. Mr. Schoenfeld, and to some lesser degree, his partner the late Bernard Jacobs, stepped into the breach and by whatever means necessary made Broadway a thriving community again.

Rocco Landesman is a former Wall Street guy who took over the Jujamcyn Theater organization. He had a background as a theater educator at the elite Yale School of Drama. He was listed as a producer on three big Broadway hits – “Angels in America”, “Big River” and “The Producers”. He was also the landlord for these productions. It is customary on Broadway to list the landlord as a producer, as well as large investors. I don’t know how involved Landesman was as a creative producer. I do know he often seemed more interested in the world of thoroughbred horse racing than theater. I suspect that Landesman was more interested in the business side of things, since Broadway under Schoenfeld’s guidance, was booming.

Four things happened and the combination led to Rocco Landesman jumping ship. The stock market crashed due to Wall Street bankers bleeding the country dry, Gerald Schoenfeld died, Broadway went into a (perceived?) slump, and Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Landesman lobbied for, and got himself appointed to, the position of the head of the National Endowment for the Arts. He jumped ship, in other words.

From Landesman’s acceptance speech when he was appointed, this phrase jumps out: "This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists."

Sorry, Mr Landesman. If you really think that one more rich gambler with Wall Street ties going to Washington D.C. makes me feel better because you compare the president to an ancient, brutal dictator, you got another think coming. By the way, in my anything but humble opinion, a writer's power ought to come from his words, not the office he holds.