Playwriting

New York Part 2

Just back from my New York trip. That is some town! Craig and I wrung every single solitary last drop out of the trip. One day we walked for ten hours. I’m still tired! But every time we went out we stumbled over something interesting and unique. And that doesn’t even cover the shows.

Ah the shows, the shows. I saw one Broadway, one off-Broadway, two off, off, off, off Broadway and my reading of Flaky Lips at TADA! Youth Theatre. I am steeped in culture.

The Broadway show was the revival of Sweeney Todd, which could be my all-time favourite musical. We had the best seats in the house – front row centre of the mezzanine. I would see all shows from this vantage point. Close enough, yet far enough if that makes sense. (well, it does to me)

The show was utterly fantastic. We were worried because we had such high expectations and we really wanted it to be good and it would have been devastating if had merely mediocre.

Thankfully it was not. The production went so far as to renew my faith in the theatre (more on that in another post). It’s been almost a week and I’m still thinking about it. Just an awesome evening of theatre. I’m afraid it will close though if it doesn’t win some Tonys. The house was not full when we went last Thursday. And I can certainly see how it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The play alone is not your mainstream friendly happy musical (I mean, almost everyone dies!) and then add the interpretation on top of that…

I loved it though. It was the true meaning of “theatrical.”

The Off-Broadway show was Slava’s Snow Show. This was something that Craig had wanted to see when it came through Toronto and didn’t. We were able to get 50% off at TKTS so off we went. It was… very interesting. A Russian Clown show. Very dedicated and sincere – no mugging, which is good. Not all the bits were engaging, in fact the lead clown was much less interesting that the team of underlings, which is bad. The whole thing is a lead up to a huge “snow storm” in the theatre at the end, which was spectacular.

One thing I’ll say is that those who put the play together certainly had a sense of using the audience as theatre. At the end of Act one and during intermission and the end of the play there are moments when everything on stage stops and it’s the activity of the audience which becomes the show. I don’t know if it was successful to the play, but it was fascinating to watch.

The way off Broadway shows were interesting for a whole host of other reasons.

For the first show, which I won’t name because it was that bad, the action before the play started was more interesting than the show itself. The “theatre” was inside a restaurant and thus had no lobby, nowhere to stand and wait and the only way we knew where to go was a sign taped on the door. The “artistic director” for this “company” was doing a lot of pacing and a lot of muttering. The reason for this became clear when 8:00 came and went and the show didn’t start. At 8:05 one of the actors appeared, went into the bathroom and stayed there. For over 10 minutes. At 8:10 a guy ran in the restaurant, and ran into the theatre. We later learned that this was the technician.

Ok, it’s 8:25 and the doors open! There’s only fifteen of us so it doesn’t take long to get seated. And we do and we’re ready to go but the show doesn’t start. Because the technician has left. To get a beer.

And the play starts. And the main guy, the guy who had been in the bathroom all that time, just might be the worst actor I’ve ever seen. And we had been expecting a very specific, very certain style of play from the description but what we get is… weak tea. With lots of wandering. And bad accents. And then there’s a huge THUMP behind us – the technician has decided to leave the space again and tripped over something.

We would have stayed to see the whole thing, as it was so bizarre, but because it started so late we had to run off to get to our next show…

Which I will name, because it was such fun: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. The concept is that a group of actors (three guys and three girls) present 30 plays in 60 minutes. The stage is bare except for a clothesline with 30 pieces of paper attached, each with a number ranging 1-30. The group does not do the plays in order, no no, they have the audience call out numbers at random and that decides the order. At the end of 60 minutes they stop whether they’re done or not – this particular Friday they got through 27 1/2.

The plays ranged from monologues, to abstract, to poems, to images, to a wonderful Mamet version of the closet scene from Hamlet. They were political, personal and downright silly: in “Notee” two guys with Goatees played rock paper scissors and the guy who lost had to shave his goatee off on stage. They used each other, the audience and whatever was on hand.

As a playwright I think the concept is fast and fresh. I was sitting there thinking what I would do and what I would write about. I’ve even been thinking about contacting the original company in Chicago to see what their fee is to do a version in Toronto. We’ll see. I was very glad to have seen it.

And lastly… my reading! TADA! Youth Theatre chose 4 plays from the past 15 years of their staged reading series to highlight. Flaky Lips won in 2003 and I was so happy to be able to see it this time around. The girls who performed the play were wonderful – they only had 3 or 4 rehearsals and the text is pretty verbally difficult: lots of unison, rhythmic speaking. The reading gave me goosebumps. I had that feeling I sometimes get when I’m listening to my work and I’m wondering who wrote it because it sounds really good and why, that just couldn’t have been me.

All in all, a wonderful trip. Which I’m still exhausted from. Now if this was a food blog, I’d tell you about all the cool food we ate on the trip too… but lets just say that I’ll never look at a bagel the same way again!

About the author

Lindsay Price

1 Comment

  • Lindsay,
    There is a production that I saw in Ottawa called 52 Pick-up where in 52 scenes are performed at random, each one having it’s own title given there are 52 cards in the deck. The cards are thrown up in the air just like the game’s name “52 Pic-up.” It is about a couple’s relationship, from meeting to dating, to fighting to break ups to makeups and so on. Pubchlines happen before jokes are told, making up for fights that haven’t happened yet and so on. It’s incredible to think that the show truly does happen in random order. It’s magic, really it is. TJ Dawe and Rita Bozi co-wrote it. It’s wonderful. I’ve directed it as well.