Sunday, July 31, 2011

best cast ever



Well my MISTRESS ILSA cast gave me a bottle of wine and a beautiful bouquet of flowers - and then look - Mr. Fuzz decided to eat my flowers! Oh Mr. Fuzz!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mistress Ilsa explains it all...

Stephen Adly Guirgis gets a shout-out.

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 3

So we put out a call for directors for TAM LIN. We saw several but the reason I selected Edward Einhorn was because he had done some work with fairy tales. Sounds reasonable, right?

Unfortunately I didn't Google him thoroughly enough or I would have seen this article in the Village Voice Disobeying the Foreman. If I had, I would not have chosen Einhorn. The fatuous pretentiousness described in the article is an approach to theatre that I really hate.

But I didn't find out about it until the last week of rehearsals. When I mentioned it to Einhorn, he said that Richard Foreman was kidding around about the cease and desist letter. By that time I no longer accepted Einhorn's word for anything and so I emailed Foreman and asked him about the incident. He said that he asked Einhorn not to direct his plays anymore because Einhorn "always made a mess of the plays."

Einhorn suggested that we use black lights for the magic scenes of the show, and I thought that was a good idea. But then he began talking about projecting slides onto scrims to represent the realm of the Queen of the Faeries. Jonathan flat out didn't want to do it because of the hassle and expense of the slides and projector. It was also more tech than was necessary to tell the story. We went around and around and I convinced Jonathan to give it a chance.

I should have listened to Jonathan.

So we sucked up the expense of photography for the slides and the scrim, assuming that Einhorn knew what he was doing, since, as he was constantly reminding us, he had so very much experience in the theatre.

Serious problems with the scrim/projections and set design became apparent during tech rehearsal. Einhorn instructed the set designer to purchase a scrim, which he planned to use for virtually every scene in which the faeries were in, which is almost half the play. He also planned to have black lights on for every scene the faeries were in. It turned out that the black lights lit up the white scrim, causing it to glow, and making it opaque. The point of a scrim is to allow it to be transparent sometimes and opaque others. So basically the white scrim and the black lights could not be used together. And since the black lights were essential to the pivotal magic transformation scene in the play, the black lights had to stay, which meant the scrim had to go.

A rosebush is very important to the story of TAM LIN - whenever Janet summons Tam Lin, first accidentally and then on purpose when she goes to Carterhaugh, she picks a rose. The set designer gave us something that looked like a big green wave, made out of wood, and the roses that Janet picks were to be jammed in-between the wooden waves.
Not only did this look bad, it was dangerous. Einhorn had the actor playing Janet lean right over the wooden points to pick a rose.

Here is a video I made for the trial, although it was never used, to demonstrate the difference between Einhorn's staging and ours.



The set design included a table and chairs, which were only used in a couple
of scenes, but which took up a considerable amount of stage space. The table
was worse than useless, it was an obstacle to the stage fights. So we got rid of it.

When the article in the New York Times (Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer) came out in January 2006, Einhorn sent an email to the TAM LIN 2004 cast members - one of whom forwarded the email to me. One of the things that Einhorn said was:

"And if Nancy truly felt my staging was "incompetent," I doubt she would have then kept it in full."

Clearly I did not keep it in full. But apparently Einhorn doesn't have an eye for such details as a removed scrim, missing furniture and a completely different rosebush set-up.

Of course we only had one night before opening in which to make changes, and so we couldn't do all that we wanted to in the amount of time we had. But we certainly made changes throughout the production's brief run.

And I certainly hope he didn't mean I kept his staging for the 2005 production, which I directed myself from a new, edited version of the script and with a completely new set design. I would say he couldn't possibly be that delusional... but on the other hand, this is the kind of thing he felt he could get a copyright for.

My original script said:

(Dunbar shakes Aberdeen's hand.)

His script read:

D & A shake hands.

I had come to recognize just how obtuse and insensitive Einhorn was to my concerns well before we fired him.


From: Nancy G. McClernan
Sent: Monday, October 04, 2004 4:42 AM
To: 'Edward Einhorn
Subject: RE: Some communication problems

Hey Edward,

I’ll be happy to discuss this by phone. But since you began it by email…

You said:


"Perhaps you feel it is my job to discuss, in detail, every aspect of design before I discuss it with the designers. If you had told me that at the get-go, I would have backed out, because that takes so much extra time for me and delays teh process constantly. It's one thing to come to me early with aprticular concerns. It's another to feel like anything is up for grabs."


I never said I thought it was your job to discuss (with me) every aspect of the design. The problem is that you discussed NOTHING with me before talking to the designers. The first time it happened, with the costume design, I chalked it up to miscommunication – you thought we should talk BEFORE the design meeting, but I thought we were going to talk about it AT the design meeting.

But this weekend I found myself in the same EXACT situation with the mask design. By the time I got in on the design conversation – I had to invite myself by way of an email – I found out that Barry had already started designing.

So in spite of your comment that I am randomly redesigning, what actually happens is that you leave me out of ALL discussions and then I have to scramble to catch up. The fact that it happened twice makes me think there’s more to it than just miscommunications.

I’m aware that Carla blames me for the costume redesign situation – she was very bitchy to me on the phone yesterday. Even though she went ahead and created costumes based on designs that hadn’t been approved. And even though you also wanted the first Tam Lin costume redesigned, in spite of the fact that you apparently approved it – or at least saw the design before she created it.

We’re aware that the designers aren’t being paid much – we’re reminded constantly. And I think we’ve learned our lesson, to spend more on design people in the future. But right now Jonathan is bitching at me about every new expenditure, so this is not a good time to ask for more money for somebody – especially when that person signed a contract that does not specify a limit to the number of design variations, and when the costume redesigns require $400 in leather.

And of course we can’t be responsible for designers creating objects based on designs we haven’t even seen yet.

And FYI - I don’t actually love the new elven or Tam Lin costumes, but at least they won’t totally humilate the actors or make me queasy like the previous batch did. And that’s all I can hope for at this point.

Nancy


Einhorn also acted as though the big magic scene in TAM LIN was something amazing and original. But other than the use of black lights, most of the transformation of Tam Lin was similar in many ways 2003 production - the one I was so disappointed with.

As I testified on the witness stand:


DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MR. BUTTERFIELD::

Now, we have heard a lot of testimony about a shape-shifting scene; do you have that scene in the play in mind?

A. Yes.

Q. Was that scene in the production in 2003 --

A. Yes.

Q. -- of Tam Lin?
Can you briefly summarize that scene for the Court?

A. Yes.
It's a magical scene so it is difficult to do, especially off-off-Broadway.
It is a transformation scene, the queen of fairies is testing Janet, she has to pass
these tests in order to win Tam Lin away. I don't know why, I guess that's how it works in fairy land. So, the queen of fairies transforms Tam Lin while Janet is supposed to hang on to him, into a snake, a lion and an iron rod.

Q. How did you portray those changes in the 2003 production?

A. Well, we had a curtain in the back, a black curtain, and Tam Lin and Janet
were standing in front of the curtain and what we did was we had a puppet,
it was a snake puppet. It was basically two pieces, there was a snake head on one hand
and a snake tail on the other. So, we had something behind the curtain with this on
their hands and when the transition, the first transition was a snake, so a person was
behind the curtain and they reached around and they hugged the Janet
character while the guy playing Tam Lin sort of went behind. Then, an actor had a lion mask on, so Janet is facing the audience and there is the snake puppet. And then, when the transition happens, she turns around, the snake puppet goes away behind the curtain, an actor with a lion mask is now seen with Janet's back to the audience and the lion's face facing the audience.

Q. What happens next?

A. So, the next transition is an iron rod, and so we had a rod and somebody handed it through the curtain. So, the guy playing Tam Lin with the mask slides down behind Janet so you can't see him and somebody hands Janet a rod, and then she brandishes it and she is supposed to stand there holding it for a while as a test, and then she throws it into the well.

Q. This is all what happened in '03?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Can you please describe how that scene was portrayed in the '04 production?

A. Well, there are many similarities. There was the black curtain in the back.
The snake was different. We had this, like I said, sort of a puppet thing.
The snake in the 2004 version was a painting on Tam Lin's cape but he -- sort of the
same thing where Janet was back -- well, she was holding him from the side, actually,
with the snake and then he, somebody put a lion mask on him and then he turned around
and then she was holding him with the lion mask on. And then, again, somebody passed
her an iron rod and she brandished the iron rod and threw it into the well.


And so the primary reason that we even used Edward Einhorn was because I thought he had experience with this kind of stage tech work. What he ended up giving us was nothing special. The only reason his was a little better than the 2003 production was because of the black lights. And he certainly did not pioneer the use of blacklights.

So we were unhappy with what Edward Einhorn gave us and felt that the fastest way to fix everything was to have him out of the way. Especially since, as Judge Kaplan said during the trial, Einhorn was "sulking."

And so we fired him. And that's when David Einhorn, Edward's brother and an intellectual properties lawyer decided to get, um, "creative" with the law...

Friday, July 29, 2011

MISTRESS ILSA videos!

Well that is one advantage of doing a non-Equity show...

Mistress Trixie really wants to go to Disneyland...



Mistress Ilsa knows all about abominations



Tally ho!



The Snake is scary!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The IT Awards "Full of It" site's no-controversy policy and the betrayal of the founders of Off-Off Broadway

My comments on the NYIT awards were censored for one reason - because the people who control the NYIT Awards web site don't agree with my opinion that it is ridiculous to ask Edward Einhorn to opine on the subject of "independent theatre" because he has done his best to squelch independent theatre through his lawsuit against me, which, if he had won, would have established a director's copyright and destroyed the rights of American playwrights.

Now, the NYIT Awards has every right to control the message on their web site. But the offensive aspect is their trying to portray this incident as one where I "shit on their floor", falsely claiming that my comments were spam; hate-filled or abusive; or wildly off-topic.

Obviously it was not spam.

My pointing out that Edward Einhorn omitted the part of his resume where he filed a fraudulent derivative copyright on my play TAM LIN is neither "hate-filled" nor "abusive."

And it is absolutely on-topic, the topic being the career of Edward Einhorn and independent theatre. It makes the people who run NYIT uncomfortable for me to point to such a controversial topic.

And just to give you an idea of what the NYIT Awards saw fit to censor - at one point I simply posted a link to the article I wrote for the Dramatists Guild about the case. That is an example of what the NYIT Awards considers "shitting on the floor."

It should also be noted that nobody at NYIT actually posted comments under their own name, but rather hid behind the corporate brand "IT Foundation." Because that's what corporations and public relations firms and marketing companies do - control the message and avoid personal responsibility at all costs.

The NYIT Awards group wants to be able to censor comments based on controversy, but falsely claim that the real reason they censor is due to civility or relevance concerns.

And these are the people who claim they want to promote Off-Off Broadway.

I volunteered to write a review for the NYIT many years ago. I gave the production a mixed review - I thought the production values were quite good and clever, and some of the acting was good, but I said that the story itself lacked coherency. I was told that my review was too negative. So I withdrew it and that was the end. But that gives you an idea of the NYIT approach to art - you can't be too negative. They share that philosophy with the people who run the reviews for NYTheatre.com - I know people who have written reviews for NYTheatre.com who were told their reviews were too negative too.

I also know for a fact that at least one reviewer for NYTheatre.com was allowed to review a performance of friends of his - and not disclose the relationship. No surprise, it was a glowing review.

Also no surprise that one of the Alumni Staff/Board for NYIT Awards members is Nancy Kim, a reviewer for NYTheatre.com.

NYITAwards, which gives more awards than I can count, gave something called "The 2008 Stewardship Award for significant contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership" to New York Theatre Experience, represented by Martin Denton and Rochelle Denton - the people who run NYTheatre.com.

These organizations are not about artistic excellence. This is what is known as "boosterism" the quintessence of commercialism.

Exactly the opposite intention of the founders of Off-Off Broadway.

And there is absolutely nothing "independent" in their approach to controversy or anything deemed to be insufficiently positive, nor the corruption of the NYTheatre.com review process.

MISTRESS ILSA is back!



After a hiatus of 7 days MISTRESS ILSA is back for a performance at 6PM. The picture above is Alice Anne English as Mistress Ilsa whipping Doug Rossi as Reverend Hartford. Although really, he should be dressed as kinky Jesus here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned - part 2

So as I discussed in part 1 of this series, I was a big fan of the song Tam Lin. Not just the music but the lyrics, which told a very unusual fairy tale - instead of a brave knight rescuing a beautiful damsel, the brave damsel rescues the beautiful knight. This, I thought, would be a perfect subject for a play for the 21st century.

I thought this as early as 1993, soon after I decided to write plays, but it wasn't until 2001 that I wrote TAM LIN. As a huge fan of Shakespeare I was highly influenced by the Bard in the way I structured the play - five acts and with interwoven plots, a favorite technique of Shakepeare's comedies. Consider A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, which is the most obvious influence on Tam Lin, so much so that one review of the play was entitled "A Midautumn Nights' Scheme." In MIDSUMMER there are three plots - the quarrel between Oberon and Titania; the unrequited love of Helena for Demetrius; and the "rude mechanicals" and their plan to perform for the Duke's wedding. Shakespeare brings them all together by the end.

I attempted to do the same, although with four plots: Janet's plan to win Tam Lin; Margaret, Janet's lady-in-waiting and her plan to win Aberdeen, Janet's unwanted betrothed; the Elven Knight's plan to get rid of Tam Lin who, in spite of his mortal origins, has become the favorite of their beloved Queen of the Faeries; and finally Janet's father, Lord Dunbar and his plan to steal the Roxbrugh family lands. At the end all the stories come together and are resolved together.

I also threw in a bed trick, a staple of Elizabethan theater and used by Shakespeare in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. And as in ALL'S WELL this bed trick results in a pregnancy.

Critics may decry the absurdity of someone having sex with the wrong person by mistake, and as Cracked pointed out, it could get you serious jail time if you tried it today, but audiences love it, even now.

Admittedly TAM LIN is no MIDSUMMER, but it was my first full-length play. A COMEDY OF ERRORS is an early play by Shakespeare and that's no MIDSUMMER either. But you have to learn your trade as a playwright by seeing your work on stage, there's no way around it. And since I became a playwright at the age of 30, and well out of school, I couldn't count on a college production to learn the ropes.

Once I finished TAM LIN I sent it out to several theatre companies and it was picked up for a staged reading by the Deptford Players in 2002. Lorree True was the director.

But since the Deptford Players wasn't going to do a full production, Jonathan Flagg, my boyfriend at the time, suggested we do a low-key production ourselves. However, based on the staged reading I made some changes to the TAM LIN script, expanding the role of Lord Roxbrugh, TAM LIN's grandfather, and changing the gender to Lady Roxbrugh. This was actually a very good thing in many respects, not the least of which was because it gave a role to a female actor over 40. TAM LIN, like most plays, including those by Shakespeare, has a lopsided male:female ratio in favor of males, and even with a Lady instead of a Lord Roxbrugh, TAM LIN had six roles for males and four for females. But it was some improvement, anyway, and all the female roles are pretty juicy for a change.

So we produced TAM LIN in 2003 and it was an education in what not to do. But you have to learn somewhere.

We began Mergatroyd Productions for the purpose of producing this play and recruited Synge Maher to direct, which makes her the director of the world premiere - one more reason why it was absurd for Edward Einhorn to claim that we owed him money every time we produced the play.

We didn't pay Synge or any actors in this Equity Showcase production, which is a very common practice for Off-Off Broadway shows. But in the end neither Jonathan nor I felt comfortable with that, and we always paid the actors in every other production after, a convention that I have kept right to the present.

In my experience you don't get treated more respectfully when you're paying actors than when you're not. But whether I am treated with more respect or not doesn't matter, because it's the principal of the thing - the attempt to honor actors' professionalism to the best of your ability to pay. I've always paid everybody what I said and on time. Sometimes both Jonathan and I have paid bonuses.

Certainly I could get away with paying actors nothing, for that is the rule rather than the exception. Many Off-Off Broadway producers don't feel the need to pay actors and Edward Einhorn is one of them, at least at the time I knew him. As he wrote to Jonathan and I when he wanted us to take some of the money budgeted to pay actors and give it to himself instead:
Well, I think the theory behind it all is that the actors get the glory of having being on stage, which is why they are usually happy to work for free...


Now Edward Einhorn, as he admitted on his own blog, lives off an inheritance - how self-serving and self-absorbed to assume that since you don't have to work for a living, money is not a big concern for other people. I was once a single mother and lived for a time on Aid to Families with Dependent Children - aka "welfare." I understand how even small amounts of money can make a difference. And especially for anybody living in New York City.

Synge Maher is a good director and did what she could with one of my big mistakes, which was to cast a not-very-good actor in the lead role of Janet. And of course in hindsight I would have hired Synge for the 2004 production of TAM LIN and never had anything to do with Edward Einhorn. But I was disappointed with Synge's approach to the big magic scene at the end of TAM LIN in which Tam Lin must appear to turn into a snake, a lion and a burning rod of iron. It was a very minimalist approach and I wanted something bigger. And on paper, Edward Einhorn looked like the right candidate...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Off-Off Broadway vs.New York Innovative Theatre Awards

The people who began Off-Off Broadway were free spirits and bohemians, who rejected the restrictions of commercial theater.

I believe that the New York Innovative Theatre Awards is an attempt to do the exact opposite - turn Off-Off Broadway into another version of commercial theatre, complete with group-think, control by the in-crowd, and bullshit awards.

I'm sure if the gang at NYIT had met up with the early Off-Off Broadway pioneers and heard them going on about things like a playwright's right to produce their own play without a director "licensing" it to them - as Edward Einhorn tried to do to me - they would consider that "shitting on the floor" too - because if there's one thing NYIT can't stand it's people who are non-compliant and unmutual. People who express themselves with just a little too much passion make the corporate conformists at NYIT uncomfortable.

I knew NYIT was all about control and PR bullshit since the time, many years ago I wrote a review for them. More about that soon.

What Edward Einhorn did to my play TAM LIN and why all American authors should be concerned

The first in a series.

It's been over five years since the strange case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions. I'm only now getting around to writing this series, which I hope to turn into an article for some media outlet.

What Edward Einhorn did was outrageous - he registered an unauthorized derivative copyright for his unsubstantial "blocking and choreography" script based on my play TAM LIN and then a year later used that as grounds to sue me for producing my play.

The NYTimes ran an article about the case before we went to trial which addresses the theatre issues involved. I adore the title of the article because it recalls a stage direction from Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE: "Exit, pursued by a bear." The article is Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer.

But there's more to it - this isn't just about theatre because what Edward Einhorn did to me, anybody could do to any American author, because the US Copyright Office is in serious need of reform.

But in spite of the fact that I wrote an article for the Dramatists Guild about the case, I've never told the entire story and I think now is the time. For several reasons - for one, because the Dramatists Guild has been taking steps to get the Copyright Office to cancel the Einhorn registration; because a recent episode of This American Life demonstrated that the Patents Office is also in need of reform; and finally because the New York Innovative Theatre Awards saw fit to allow Edward Einhorn, the one single person who has done the most, in my opinion, to attempt to destroy American theater, to write a piece on "independent theatre" for its Full of It web site. The fact that the piece is much more about the career of Edward Einhorn than independent theatre doesn't negate the fact that he was asked to write about independent theatre.



Our story begins with the song "Tam Lin" a traditional Scottish folk song. I first heard the song in a folk-rock version by Fairport Convention which, believe it or not, used to get fairly frequent airplay on Philadelphia rock stations in the 1970s - especially around Halloween, since the big dramatic showdown of the play takes place on Halloween. There's a web site devoted to the song Tam Lin.

Here is a video of Fairport Convention performing the song - just the audio unfortunately. This is from their album Liege and Leaf. It's been years since I listened to this song - I forgot how compelling it is.



Lyrics:
I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there
None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she
She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two
When up there came young Tam Lin, says "Lady, pull no more"
"And why come you to Carterhaugh without command from me?"
"I'll come and go," young Janet said, "and ask no leave of thee"

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she
Well, up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild
"Oh, and alas, Janet," he said, "I think you go with child"
"Well, if that be so," Janet said, "myself shall bear the blame
There's not a knight in all your hall shall get the baby's name
For if my love were an earthly knight as he is an elfin grey
I'd not change my own true love for any knight you have"

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she
"Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin," she said, "why came you here to dwell?"
"The Queen of Faeries caught me when from my horse I fell

And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to Hell
I so fair and full of flesh and feared it be myself
But tonight is Hallowe'en and the faerie folk ride
Those that would their true love win at Miles Cross they must bide
First let past the horses black and then let past the brown
Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down
For I'll ride on the white steed, the nearest to the town
For I was an earthly knight, they give me that renown
Oh, they will turn me in your arms to a newt or a snake
But hold me tight and fear not, I am your baby's father
And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
But hold me tight and fear not and you will love your child
And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight
But cloak me in your mantle and keep me out of sight"

In the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring
She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win
Then up spoke the Faerie Queen, an angry queen was she
Woe betide her ill-fard face, an ill death may she die
"Oh, had I known, Tam Lin," she said, "what this night I did see
I'd have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree?

Monday, July 25, 2011

of course the entire MISTRESS ILSA cast are winners...

...but Doug Rossi just won the Best Featured Actor award of the Planet Connections Fest. Yay!

I love this guy

I've always had a thing for guys who can do impressions, so naturally I love this guy:



My favorite impression is Joseph Lieberman... excuse me, Droopy Dog. I blame Jon Stewart for that:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
John McCain: The Person He Is
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Patent Office is also broken

As people are starting to understand, the US Copyright Office is broken. I learned about this first-hand when Edward Einhorn sued me for producing my own play.

He was able to create a federal copyright lawsuit because he was allowed to get away with filing a prohibited unauthorized derivative copyright on my play TAM LIN because the Copyright Office does not demand proof of authorization.

Then even though a US federal court judge declared that Einhorn's copyright was not substantive enough, was filed fraudulently AND was unauthorized, the US Copyright Office has thus far not removed his copyright registration from its database. Here it is.

Now if Edward Einhorn can get away with this, anybody can get away with it. Because as far as I am aware, the Copyright Office still does not require proof of authorization.

And as this week's This American Life makes clear, the US Patent and Trademark Office is also broken - and is being used for shakedown scams.

Einhorn claimed that his lawsuit was all about his "getting paid for his work" but actually suing Mergatroyd Productions for producing TAM LIN in 2005 had nothing to do with Mergatroyd Productions hiring Edward Einhorn to direct TAM LIN in 2004.

Instead of negotiating with my ex-partner Jonathan Flagg over his director's work-for-hire payment for 2004 - or even going to small claims court since the disagreement was over a thousand dollars, he trumped up this copyright lawsuit. (The judge agreed with Jonathan that Einhorn did not deserve $1000 either and granted him $800. Jonathan was going to offer $500. A difference of $300.) Einhorn lives off of an inheritance, unlike Jonathan who has to work for every cent he gets.

From the transcript of Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions:

JUDGE KAPLAN: So this was a hold-up, straight and simple, right?

EINHORN: No. Of course not.

JUDGE KAPLAN: You went to your brother, the lawyer, who was representing you for nothing, to send a demand letter saying pay me $2000 or the show can't go on. That's the sum and substance of your case, isn't it?


And like I said, unless the Copyright Office is reformed, it could happen to any American writer. Soon American writers could be screwed the way American software companies are currently screwed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy WInehouse joins the 27 Club



27 Club - Winehouse was listed within 15 minutes of the news of her death.

Once again, Richard Dawkins is proven wrong

In his "The God Delusion" Dawkins said: "There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse."

Richard Dawkins, meet Anders Behring Breivik:
The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a man they identified as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian in connection with a bombing in central Oslo and a shooting attack on a nearby island that killed at least 92 people.

another JB variation

My play JULIA & BUDDY is so different from my play MISTRESS ILSA. The latter was so easy to write - I began rehearsals on literally the second draft of the script. I won't say it's perfect - after watching a performance I can see I need to reorganize some of the scenes, to make it easier for the actors if nothing else.

But JULIA & BUDDY has had about twenty re-writes in the past year, when I decided to take it from a short one-act to a long one-act... or a short full-length, it's in that weird limbo-state, time-wise. And it's because the story is so internalized. MISTRESS ILSA is all external, and therefore much easier to write about. But with J&B - I just have so many concepts I want to touch on, I spend my time reorganizing and pruning them over and over.

But I think I have something new and important to add to the mix - the work of Daniel M. Wegner, especially his The Illusion of Conscious Will as well as the neurological tests performed as early as the 1970s that demonstrate that our conscious minds in fact create narratives that interpret our unconscious will. This NYTimes article from 2007 discusses that and Wegner's work and gives a shout-out to Schopenhauer too.

And all this stuff reminds me of a book I read years ago Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Jaynes' idea that human brains evolved beyond bicamerality into consciousness jibes perfectly with the idea that our consciousness is a thin veneer over the depths of the subconscious - or as in the illustration in this post, which I took from the NYTimes article - a monkey trying to control a tiger. Jaynes suggests that prior to the breakdown of the bicameral mind humans didn't have what we think of now as consciousness but rather took their directions from hallucinated voices, thought of as gods. Jaynes suggests that schizophrenia has much in common with bicamerality.

Jaynes points to ancient literature - the Bible and the Odyssey in particular - as evidence that humans had inner lives very distinct from modern-day inner lives. Although some point to the Gilgamesh epic as counter-evidence for this. But it's possible that Jaynes is too dependent on literature and just got the time-frame wrong - bicamerality could have broken down earlier, but since there's no written record it's harder to pin down the time.

But it's Jaynes' theory on why bicamerality would break down that's the most useful, I believe. He suggests that during the age of bicamerality human societies were small and fairly isolated from one another. Everybody believed in the same gods because they all heard the same gods in their heads. But as societies grew larger and the inevitable clash over resources occurred there was also a clash of gods - different societies believed in different gods. And those humans who were best able to lie, and pretend to accept other culture's gods, were most likely to survive in these kinds of clashes.

And that's what our consciousness gives us - the ability to lie about what our will really wants.

Consider my cat, Mr. Fuzz. He absolutely cannot hide his feelings about things. If Miss Willow comes near me, wanting to be petted, he immediately gets angry and runs over to chase her away. He can't pretend it doesn't bother him. The same if he's hungry or afraid or wants to play with his mousies. He can't pretend he's not hungry or unafraid or doesn't care about mousie-time. His desires, his will is right on the surface.

Only human beings are able to hide our true desires. Usually we can't hide them from ourselves, but some people seem able to do so - for instance men with homosexual desires who have convinced themselves they are "cured" of homosexuality - until an irresistable man and/or situation comes along.

Animals could never be actors because acting is an elaborate extension of the human ability to lie. Could this be why so many actors I know have so little personal integrity - because they are trained in the art of lying?

I don't know for sure that acting indicates less personal integrity than most other occupations - this is just from my own personal experience. I think it's worth a scientific study.

Friday, July 22, 2011

the talented Alex Bam-Bunny

Carolyn Paine, who plays The Snake in MISTRESS ILSA has a friend who is a talented hair & makeup guy and I hired him to spruce up the ladies of MISTRESS ILSA before our opening night. Whatever else may have gone wrong, their hair and makeup was perfect!

Alex wrote about it on his blog here.

Carolyn calls him Bam-Bunny because he performed with her in a ballet version of Alice in Wonderland as the White Rabbit.

Carolyn and her troupe, including Alex (the cute blond guy at minute 1:05) can be seen in this video:



Many more videos on Carolyn's Youtube channel.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

show pix

Oh well, at least I got some fun pix... I would have gotten more but I didn't want to force the actors to stay in hot clothes longer than necessary...


A great bunch of troupers: Alice Anne English, Renee Cole, Doug Rossi, Carolyn Paine and Mike Durell.


Reverend Hartford prays for an extra-hard whipping.


Before the show


This lucky audience member was dragged on stage for a free whipping!

That's Bruce Barton - who almost had a heart attack when somebody said the name of The Scottish Play in the theatre after the show (if it was before the show we'd know what went wrong!) Bruce doesn't even like to hear the name said in the great outdoors. Which it will be when he performs in the Gorilla Rep show in the park coming up soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the magic of live thee-aye-tah

Well we had a pretty much perfect tech run-through of MISTRESS ILSA. Then we had the show...

The air conditioner in the Jewel Box theater died - it probably died a few hours before our show. It was 80 degrees in the theatre.

The actors dropped lines, which hurt but then they dropped an entire whipping scene.

The special follow lights we set up did not work the first time we needed them because someone in the show before us turned something off in the booth and the stage manager didn't realize it until it was too late. So instead of a whipping scene with raucous music and throbbing lights we had raucous music and... darkness.

So we should have had three whipping scenes where Mistress Trixie goes buck wild, with the strobe effect and music. Instead we had...

One whipping scene without lights.

One whipping scene completely missed.

One whipping scene with all the effects. But since we hadn't established the trope of the lights and music, it didn't make any sense.

And the big line where the Wall Street fat cat says: "not only are we too big to fail, we're too big to regulate!" was totally screwed up by the actor, who said "not only are we too big to regulate, we're too big to legislate." Which made no sense at all.

But really I can't blame the actors since they could hardly see where they were going, what with all the sweat dripping in their eyes. I'm just lucky we didn't lose anybody through heat stroke!

*sigh*

Chumbawumba I need you now!

Mistress Trixie will see you now



Wow we had a very productive rehearsal tonight - we went from not ready for an audience at all to 95% ready - today's tech/dress rehearsal will put us over the top. Luckily! Ah the thrill of the live thee-aye-tah!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Angels in New York

As a big fan of ANGELS IN AMERICA I have to stop and see the Bethesda fountain in the middle of the park. The fountain is an important part of the play - as you can see in this clip from the end of the HBO version.



And as I mentioned in my review of THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL'S GUIDE TO ETC. ETC. ETC:
The final scene of ANGELS gives you a perfect understanding of Tony Kushner's weakness as a dramatist, which, up until that last scene is kept perfectly in check. Prior is given a nice monologue but then the other characters bicker bicker bicker. That's what happens in HOMOGuide the most - bickering. And Kushner loves the bickering so much he gives loud overlapping bickering a full seven obnoxious unintelligible minutes.

I should have said that the bickering is mainly in the background in ANGELS which is why the scene works. But the HOMOGUIDE scene I'm referring to is basically all the bickering in the foreground and no Prior.

But I digress. My pilgrimage was to see the Bethesda fountain. It was almost too dark by the time I got there.



But in addition to this statue, which I'd seen before, I discovered something new. In the ANGELS clip posted above the four characters leave the park by walking through the underpass and up the stairs. But you can't see it - it's daylight - and you only notice it once the lights go on in the underpass - by "it" I mean the ornate tiled ceiling of the underpass. So since it was almost dark when I got there, I could see it.



Check it out - pretty!



And speaking of theatre, MISTRESS ILSA opens tomorrow!

Monday, July 18, 2011

what happened next...

So I left Belvedere Castle in Central Park because I had a pilgrimage to make. I headed south through the park and even though I was trying to get to where I was going before sunset I couldn't help but stop and check out a few things, like this Alice in Wonderland statue group:



Or this statue of Hans Christian Andersen reading a story to a duck.



Or this guy setting up his telescope to presumeably wait until dusk. Hey, is that Neil deGrasse Tyson???




Speaking of dusk... I had to hurry...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

silly actors



Doug, Mike and Queen Sarah Saturday posing together during today's MISTRESS ILSA rehearsal. MISTRESS ILSA opens this Wednesday.

the hair of evil



Every time I see a story about the Murdoch empire hacking scandal I feel happy thinking that this might hurt Fox News and all Murdoch's other right-wing media outlets. But every time I see a picture of his loyal henchwoman Rebekah Brooks I think - "dayam, that's what my hair would look like if I didn't use conditioner, blow-dryer, round brush, hot comb and gel every day!" Of course there's pretty much no defense from high humidity but I do what I can.

Extras

I saw a bit of this show Extras starring Ricky Gervais on the plane coming back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007. Gervais did stand-up in the castle across from my hotel when I was there, although I didn't catch his show. My daughter and I were off to see the Ladyboys of Bankok.

Anyway, I wasn't much amused by Extras - as with most other British sitcoms my reaction to the show was generally "why is that supposed to be funny?"

But I had to laugh at this clip a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page - Patrick Stewart could write scripts for a local "mock-buster" low-budget film company I've blogged about here before.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's time for the Shipping Forecast!

I think there might be squally showers. Good, occasionally poor.

castlehenge, etc.

So loyal readers, where did those stairs I mentioned yesterday lead to?


Belvedere Castle in the middle of Central Park.



As it happened it was a Shakespeare in the Park night, and I had always wondered if you could get a decent view of the show from the rock outcropping on the north side of the castle.



It is a pretty good view... of the backstage area.



I also saw Shakespeare's gardenhenge...



and castle foliage henge...



I thought about sticking around to see the show, but I had another theatre-related goal in the park...

This dog was hanging around with me while I was taking pictures - he actually kept bumping into me a little. But look how cute he is. Just because I love cats doesn't mean I can't also love dogs. Bye doggie!

Friday, July 15, 2011

more frolicing in the park

Well I still have great pix to post from my epic journey to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but that has been pre-empted due to my amazing journey this very evening through Central Park.

I had to go to the Upper West Side to buy crafts supplies (for MISTRESS ILSA props) and decided to walk from there to the 5th Avenue and 59th N/Q station by way of Central Park. There was so much to see!

The other day we celebrated Manhattanhenge so I decided to do my own henge pix in Central Park:

Pinehenge



Oakhenge



Stairhenge



But where were these stairs? Tune in tomorrow!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New profile pic - down in the subway

Here I am waiting on the R train - it feels like I spend half my life waiting for the subway.

My hair does not stick out in the back like that, usually - The Man makes us lug our laptops home every night so I'm wearing a backpack.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

nature/nurture

Well I've hit the big time - Katha Pollitt can't make it to see MISTRESS ILSA because she's out of the country for the summer, but she did say "hope your play is a big hit!" How cool is that? And maybe next time she will be able to attend.

I'm musing over my next Dawkins-related essay. I mentioned a few days ago that he said this:
“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”

I focused then on the ridiculous claim that because no Christians have recently been blowing up buildings it somehow mitigates the entire history of Christian violence. As my favorite anthropologist Marvin Harris noted:
...I shall refrain from following out the chain of worldly events that eventually led to the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. But this much should be said: When the Emperor Constantine took that momentous initiative, Christianity was no longer the cult of the peaceful messiah. Constantine's conversion took place in 311 AD as he led a small army across the Alps. Wearily approaching Rome he saw a vision of the cross standing above the sun, and on the cross he saw the words HOC SIGNO VINCES - "By this sign you will conquer." Jesus appeared to Constantine and directed him to emblazon his military standard with the cross. Under this strange new banner, Constantine's soldiers went on to win a decisive victory. They regained the empire and thereby guaranteed that the cross of the peaceful messiah would preside over the deaths of untold millions of Christian soldiers and their enemies down to the present day.


But what I find at least as interesting is Dawkins, a so-called "new atheist" decided to give so much credit to Christianity. What he really means is that the Enlightenment is a bulwark against religious fanaticism. Without the Enlightenment and all the socio-technological triumphs that allowed Enlightenment views to flourish, Christians would still be conducting crusades against Islam.

It's always a bad idea for an atheist to privilege one religion over another.

Anyway, some more BBG pix for you nature freaks...

Here is another Japanese threadleaf maple



I mentioned previously that the leaves and gnarly trunks make these trees so beautiful - here is a gnarly trunk.



Japanese gardens are always so beautiful because every detail is attended to - even the sidewalk is beautiful yet rustic.




Here is the view from the other side of the Japanese garden pond:



And detail



Another beautiful spot in the BBG is the fragrance garden. Unfortunately I didn't realize that visitors were encouraged to rub the plants in the garden to get the full fragrance effect - so I didn't actually smell that much. I accidentally threw my garden brochure away. I found another one in the Japanese garden, but it was written in Chinese so the only good it was for (to me, anyway) was the maps.



The fragrance garden is where the naked statue is.



Here's a view of the fountain around the statue - ooh, money!



Actual bona fide American do-re-mi.



It must be a wishing fountain.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mistress Trixie



Sorry nature fans - I was too busy dealing with my upcoming show MISTRESS ILSA to put up more BBG pix - I will soon!

Here is Mistress Trixie who is determined to get to Disneyland.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

back to nature

Well the Shrine of Inari was not new after all, I just missed it the other two times I visited the BBG. However, there was something new - the overlook. This is an elevated area at one end of the Rose Garden section of the BBG and it's a great idea.





Unfortunately I can't convey in a blog how great everything smelled in the BBG, but it was as excellent as the view on the overlook.

However, the best-smelling section of the garden was just outside the Japanese area - this small pine forest. Wow, you can't beat the smell of pine needles.



I didn't just see plants though, I saw animals like carp...





And ducks...






And lots and lots of people. But I avoided taking pictures of those, for the most part.

But what about naked statues? Tune in tomorrow nature fans.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ego boost/internalized narrative embarrassment of the week

I'm walking down the street in Astoria. 70-something Greek man walking slowly towards me stops and begins to say something.

ME

(Is he going to proposition me? Dear God how old do I look these days? Look Grampa, no-way no-how I don't care how old you think I am, I wouldn't get physical with you if you were the last guy on the planet. And just who the hell do you think you are? Don't you have a wife at home? And maybe if you people spent more time worrying about paying your taxes, and less on street hassling women young enough to be your daughter maybe Greece wouldn't be so financially screwed right now!)

OLD GREEK GUY

When I was young-a like you I walk as fast as you.

ME

OK!

(Walking faster to escape my own internal mortification.)

women are such losers

Never fear, nature fans, I will be posting more nature photos from my epic 4th of July visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden soon. I have lots of photos to review.

In the meantime let us wax nostalgic for those splendorous days before the dread "political correctness" became a plague upon the land.



In this New Yorker cartoon from 1961 we see four women at the golf course and all four have hit their balls into the sand trap. I've never played golf but I know enough about it to know that getting your ball in the sand trap is bad. However, even if I didn't know it, I would have guessed it because virtually the only time women are depicted in a New Yorker cartoon from this period playing golf - or really, any sport - is to demonstrate how incredibly incompetent they are.

Back in January I blogged about the mind-boggling bigotry of so many old tyme New Yorker cartoons. Although as I said, women were treated well compared to Mexican men who are portrayed as pathologically lazy. But still, the blatant hostility towards women whenever they dared to venture into something designated as a manly occupation (science, sports, thinking) and in a famously liberal publication is astounding - even 50 years on.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The mysterious shrine of Inari

So I walked up those mysterious steps and found...



The shrine of Inari.

Detail:


The nearby plaque explained that this was a Japanese shrine:
...dedicated to "INARI" the God of harvest and protector of plants... the shrine was reconstructed in 1960 by members of the botanic garden staff from architectural plans prepared in Japan. The woods used were white cedar, ash, redwood and cypress. The structure is held together chiefly by wooden pegs.

Well I guess it isn't new - it's been there for half a century.

I was hoping the plaque would explain what the deal was with the fox statues out front, but no such luck.



However, according to this web site the foxes are Inari's messengers. But so far I still can't find out why one fox has a paw resting on a sea shell...

Detail:


And the other one has a paw resting on... I don't know what. I didn't get a good photo of it but you can see somebody else's photo here. What IS that thing?

The best I can come up with so far is from Wikipedia:
These fox statues hold a symbolic item in their mouths or beneath a front paw — most often a jewel and a key, but a sheaf of rice, a scroll, or a fox cub are all common. Almost all Inari shrines, no matter how small, will feature at least a pair of these statues, usually flanking or on the altar or in front of the main sanctuary. The statues are rarely realistic; they are typically stylized, portraying a seated animal with its tail in the air looking forward. Despite these common characteristics, the statues are highly individual in nature; no two are quite the same.

So in other words, it could be anything. But probably not a fox cub.

Here's the view looking down on the rest of the Japanese garden from the shrine



It's really surprising how well hidden this shrine is.