Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's official, I'm an occasional muse

Since this is becoming a habit, I thought it fair to note I charge nothing for unintentionally inspiring other writers.

Last night in my writing group, Bill Fowkes told me he was reading a piece that I could have written, inspired by me. And in fact, it was. A recent rant on the perils of being a book designer turned into his very funny story "Dummy Copy, This is For Position Only." I was telling the members of River Writers that I place dummy copy into design proposals but then some editors actually start editing the fake text. I then tried placing "Greeked" copy, which is actually Roman, and an editor once got upset that it was gramatically screwed-up Roman...and corrected it. I just have had the worst time getting uber verbal clients to disregard the words and concentrate on the page layout, color treatments, heading hierarchy, and the other elements that make up a design. But when Bill's story gets grabbed by a lit journal, please do not assume that I am the protagonist of the story. I have never, to my knowledge, packed or used a loaded gun.

When I told my friend Joe Hayes that I'd like to write a multi-generational one act play using my own experiences as a starting point he got so excited for me that he gave me a great plot device, the mother, the grandmother, and the granddaughter are on a bus, talking. He even wrote some dialogue... A month went by. Another. Then, sheepishly, Joe said he couldn't get the idea out of his head and could he please write my play. And he did, it's called Slow Ride. I said sure, whenever I get around to writing that play, it wouldn't be the same as his. I'll have my characters walking in a park. Or riding in a hearse. Sitting under an umbrella on Coney Island. Or maybe just waiting endlessly in a waiting, someone has done that one.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Evil Trump tower kills one

Working a block away from towers that fall is never a comforting experience to New Yorkers, especially since 9/11. The boom, the sirens, the crowds staring... one of my coworkers burst into tears "I'm worried!" A small knot of us went to the sidewalk to see what was going on. Trumps' tower looked like a monster took a bite out of it. The Trump SoHo has been going up faster than a mushroom and apparently safety has plummeted as it nears it's full height. Today scaffolding gave way and two men and a whole lot of wet concrete fell. One man landed in a net. He's in the hospital. One man didn't. He's in the morgue.

The view from our building was disheartening. I turned to my boss and said, "you were right to never walk near it." We silently watched news helicopters, ambulances, and black unmarked vehicles pull onto our now blocked-off street. "If that crane fell, would it reach us?" I asked idly. "No, I don't think so," said Jason, "but it would crush that storage building." "Oh," said my boss, I have things in there." "Anything you need?" asked Jason. "Oh no, just family heirlooms, nothing I really need to go in there for."

But, as so often happens, when something is too horrible, you just have to laugh. From where we stood, a poster advertising the storage building appeared to reach over to the tower. The theme is that storage is so compelling you will put everything you own, including all your clothing, into their care. A naked woman, back to us, is contemplating her nicely emptied closet. Just beyond the edge of the ad, I could see the tattered netting and splintered wooden scaffolding. "Well, both buildings now have cracks in them," I say.

As I photograph the poster, a passerby tells me how shameful I am to photograph a tragedy and laugh about it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

See Céline in a black box shine

Last night I saw one of the best off-off Broadway productions I've ever seen. Adapting the life and novel of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, The Flying Machine theatre company and the prodigiously skilled and talented actor Richard Crawford, with writer/adaptor Jason Lindner and director Joshua Carlebach, have created a night of riveting, hilarious, disturbing, and unforgettable theatre. We saw Journey to the End of the Night in previews, go, go buy your tickets now.

Crawford plays Céline, the scabrously funny and misanthropic author and his bumbling and opportunistic younger alter-ego Bardamu from his eponymous novel. He also manages to morph his expressive features into an entire cast of characters with the flick of a hat brim or a squint of revulsion. The black box setting perfectly encases his claustrophobic world, his "salon." He hunches over a desk, riffles through old drafts and publications, and we meet an author whose ground-breaking nihilism, satire, and profanity is not what he wishes to be remembered for. Instead, the joke is on him, in one hysterically funny scene he offers up the worst bourgeois recipe for respectability, a ballet of cavorting Greek gods tainted by his lascivious trivializing. It is the rude, crude, outraged, anti-semitic, and dreadfully honest man himself that heats up the night.

The theatre, even some of the seats, sported artifacts from the 40s. Being previews, the seats were also filled with the creative team. I hope they heard me laugh, groan, and clap till my hands hurt.

I love what can happen in black box theatre. This just couldn't happen in the Winter Garden or Marriott.

Photo by Piotr Redlinski

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome to 2008

Here's the view from 54th, looking down 7th Avenue at Times Square. We had just exited the huge Ziegfeld theatre after a late showing of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. It was annoyingly difficult to get there, all the streets had pens filling with the silly hat and noise-maker crowds and manned blue barricades. We had to detour for many blocks and at each corner, we were let through, one by one, pleading with police officers that we needed to get to our movie.

Sweeney was bloody. Was good. Was visually stunning. But I rather wished the same vocal coach that turned the cast of Chicago into actors that can sing had been hired to teach Johnny and Helena how to sing and act at the same time. The theatre was perfect, all crimson and black and imposing. One forgets how good it is to see a movie in a space other than the living room. How it breathes better with an audience.

Our friend Len noticed the disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the making, but where does that leave the cockroaches? They were most certainly harmed in Sweeney and Enchanted. I am not suggesting a movement to save the roaches, maybe the motion picture industry folks need a new disclaimer, "no animals harmed... but uncute insects fair game."