Sunday, August 28, 2016

Six degrees of Tony Kushner


Actually, only two degrees. Danielle Skraastad, whom I saw in Kushner's THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL'S GUIDE TO CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM WITH A KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES (which I blogged about at the time) and whom I first discovered in an impressive adaptation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (also blogged about) has agreed to participate in a reading of my play NORMA JEANE AT THE PAYNE WHITNEY PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC the title of which, while long, especially for me (my titles tend to be minimalist (JANE EYRE, HUCK FINN, JULIA & BUDDY, TAM LIN, THE SLASH) has only half the number of words as the Kushner play's title.

I don't know if Danielle met Kushner (although I will ask her at the reading) but certainly she met Oscar Eustis the director. (Although I already have a connection to Eustis, because his babysitter directed the world premiere of my play THE SLASH because I have such a friggin noteworthy career.) So I hope she met Kushner personally.

The New Yorker's John Lahr (zero degrees of separation from the Cowardly Lion since he came right out of his weiner) gave Danielle a nice shout-out:
Kushner maintains that an audience’s collective I.Q. goes up about twenty-five points while watching a play, and this is certainly true of his plays. You lean into them as if into a good conversation, knowing that there will be meaty anecdote, irresistible humor, unexpected poetry, occasional longueurs, and some things that you just can’t—and you’re not even meant to—get. Take, for instance, Maeve (the droll Danielle Skraastad), the pregnant and manic lesbian lover of Gus’s daughter, Maria Teresa (the compelling Linda Emond), a.k.a. M.T., or “Empty,” who has been inseminated by Empty’s heterosexual younger brother, Vito, a.k.a. V. (Steven Pasquale), the most reactionary and therefore the most disappointing to Gus of his offspring. Maeve is a recent theology Ph.D., and her thesis adviser turns out to be Paul (the edgy K. Todd Freeman), the astringent black longtime partner of Gus’s older son, Pier Luigi (Stephen Spinella), a.k.a. “Pill.” When Maeve is first heard from, she’s talking shop to Gus’s sister, Clio (the subtle Brenda Wehle), a former nun and Maoist, who has been watching over Gus since his first attempt to slit his wrists, the previous year. “Maeve Ludens, Doctor of Theology, unemployed, not exactly a bull market out there for us apophatic theologians, with a, with, you know, pronounced kataphatic inclinations,” Maeve says, adding, “But I’m kataphatic by nature, I’m just a cockeyed kataphatist! So sue me!” Nobody, not even Clio, knows what the hell Maeve is talking about; her speech, however, plays as a hilarious piece of pretension.

Of course droll is not exactly what I'm going for with NORMA JEANE although there are a few moments that I think might get a laugh, and I know Danielle can get em if they're there. Besides the Kushner connection, I'm thrilled to get to work with such a talented and accomplished actor.

And some fun coincidences - Danielle has been in several Arthur Miller's plays - Miller makes a guest appearance in mine. Kushner's title makes a reference to Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures - Norma Jeane's beloved late guardian Ana Lower was a Christian Scientist, although I don't mention it explicitly, I just have Norma Jeane mention that illness was against Aunt Ana's religion. And there is a snippet from the Cherry Orchard in my play, while The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to yada yada yada explicitly mentions The Cherry Orchard. 

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