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Reviews: Bitteroot Queen by Jove Belle, A Fun Read

Olly is leaving for another town; her wanderlust has struck again. Something is just not right. She can’t find the place that works for her so she’s hitting the road; she needs to keep looking. She’s been going from town to town for some time now, supporting herself with odd jobs; her dog, Rampart, is her only companion.

In another part of the country, Sam Marconi is leaving Las Vegas with her teenaged daughter, Beth, to seek a new life away from the city muck of Las Vegas. She’s taken all her savings and purchased the Bitteroot Queen, a lovely old hotel in the town of Bitteroot. She’s looking forward to her new life in a small friendly community.

You’ve probably guessed that Olly and Sam are going to meet up, but I won’t spoil it by telling you how.

Jove Belle has peopled her novel with realistic characters who I quickly grew to like. Olly’s sister was a bit of challenge, but I found things to like about her too. Even Olly’s dog, Rampart, is a real character and I found myself wishing I could lay my head in his thick fur.

Most impressive in this book is the relationship between Sam and her daughter. Beth is definitely a teenager, sometimes a real pain and other times endearing. Sam is also a very real mother of a teenager. She doubts herself and often thinks she’s been a bad mother; she regrets how she’s raised Beth in the past, by not always being available. As a single mother she has had to work hard to keep her little family going. The portraits of these two struggling with each other is done sensitively with empathy for both.

Bitteroot Queen is a well-written, well-drawn portrait of a slice of life that shows Sam and Olly as two lesbians comfortable with their identities. If you want a fun, relaxing read pick up Bitteroot Queen. You won’t be disappointed.

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Who Am I? Who Are You?: The Physical Self

Who you are is certainly influenced by your physical self.

Were you the best looking girl/guy in your class?

Or were you the one who envied her/him?  

Or maybe you didn’t care about her/him at all.

How might each one of these positions have influenced who you are today?

I met an attractive African American man with large muscles and I assumed he’d been the kid who’d gotten chosen for all the teams, but I was wrong.  He’d been the “skinny” kid in the class and he hated it. He got busy working out and changed his physical self into one that had muscles.

How have you changed your physical self to more closely match what feels right for who you are?

I’ve included part of a personal essay I wrote about my physical self.  Read it or don’t. Both is fine.  But I’d really like to hear how your physicality (however you interpret that) contributed to creating the Self you are now. If you didn’t get a chance to speak about your name last week and want to, feel free to do that this week.

Walking

The wind tears around the building. A few flakes are tossed into the street lamps lining the sidewalk and lighting my way through the dark. Not much traffic tonight. I grab for an edge, anything I can hang on to. A few people scurry by hurrying to get home and warm. Always hard getting help on bad weather days. My gloved hand scales the wall as I slide my body along the bricks of an old brownstone. If I can just make it to that diner across the street. My legs are useless clay logs; I mostly have arms now, and I could lose them too. A few people crouching down in winter coats run out of the Christopher Street IRT toward West Fourth and Grove. I envy the ease with which they move their bodies from point A to point B without thought. Snow drifts down onto the George Segal sculptures that reach out to touch each other in Sheridan Square Park. I aim first for that lamppost near the sidewalk. There I can take a break before starting the hardest part of the journey—crossing the street.

I hold my arms out for balance; take my first step away from the wall, less proficient than a toddler. I slide one foot next to the other and take another step and another. Suddenly my legs fold under me and I crash to the sidewalk. I pull myself up onto my hands and knees and crawl the rest of the way. There’s no shame left for me to feel when it goes this far. The cold icy wet soaks through the knees of my jeans.
“You okay?” A voice asks from above me, but I can’t respond. Not possible to concentrate on crawling and talking at the same time. I want to make it to the pole before I lose my arms, too.

“You have too much to drink?” the voice asks.

“You okay?” A voice asks from above me, but I can’t respond. Not possible to concentrate on crawling and talking at the same time. I want to make it to the pole before I lose my arms, too.

“You have too much to drink?” the voice asks.

That’s what they always think or that I’m on drugs. “No,” I say.

“You pregnant?” That’s the second thing they think. “No,” I say, leaning against the pole. Nothing left in me to pull myself up into a standing position.

“Could you help me?” I ask the man standing above me. Or the woman. Or the teenager. Whoever happened to be kind enough to stop that day. Or night.

The first time the “thing” happened I was ten. It was an ordinary school day. I was playing tag at the bus stop with the other kids. A bright fall morning. There was a woman cop who watched over us, but now that I think of it, she may have been a crossing guard. I was coming into “Home” my legs pushing me toward the big maple tree that was home base. I was almost there when my legs flew out from under me. My body rippled and slammed into the massive roots of the tree. Those were the days when girls had to wear dresses to school so my knees were banged up badly. I don’t remember if anyone gathered around me or if the lady cop said anything. I must have just gotten up and mounted the bus for school when it arrived. An uneventful moment—a kid skinning her knees.

That afternoon I told my mother about the strange thing that had happened. Strange not because I fell down. I was an active kid playing mostly with boys. It was the way I fell, the sensations that occurred in my legs. Or were they in my head? I fumbled for words to explain the “thing” that had happened, how my body was suddenly no longer a part of me. It must have been around that time that I began to consider my body as something undependable, quite apart from “me,” something where “me” was merely housed.  When I finished my feeble explanation, Mom scowled and walked away, saying nothing.

Mom turned away from me that day because she thought I was imitating her and she didn’t want to encourage me.  Only—I have no recollection of the “thing” happening to her prior to my own first time.

I don’t know how much time elapsed after the first incident, but once it got going it ripped through my life.  If I jumped rope my legs would give way and I’d be thrown to the ground.  If I played softball my legs would become useless before I reached first base.  It wasn’t long before the loss of my legs didn’t simply mean a momentary fall; my legs were gone for hours and sometimes this thing took my arms and slurred my speech.  I went quickly from being an active, friendly kid to a fearful, withdrawn one.

I became fearful of crossing streets since I’d fallen in the middle of oncoming traffic a few times.  I became fearful of walking with people in groups, especially, strangers who didn’t know about the “thing,” because they might suddenly dash across the road leaving me behind looking foolish or crushed under someone’s car tire.

One evening I was on our block playing kick ball and I fell.  Again.  My mother came out of the house and put her arms around me as I cried, “Why does this keep happening?  I can’t stand it.”

She said, “Don’t worry.  We’re going to get you help.”  And thus began the endless visits to doctors.

(A lot more happens in here)

I was in my mid-thirties and deep into my dissertation when my sister called.  She said her therapist, a psychiatric nurse, had been reading a scientific journal and came across an article about a strange disorder with symptoms similar to ours.  I made an appointment with a special neurologist.  He examined me and announced that I had something real, not something I was “psychologically” inducing in myself.  It was a genetic thing and this thing had a name.  Familial Episodic Ataxia.

 

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Who Am I? Who Are You?

 The Who am I? Question

The “Who Am I?” question is probably the most important question we can ever ask ourselves. We usually start asking it sometime in adolescence and I don’t know if we ever stop.  Or maybe that’s just my issue.  Let me know if that question is important to you in the comment section.

I once was asked: What is the main theme of your work, the theme that runs through all or much of it? At the time I answered. “I haven’t a clue. They’re all different.” But my friend, Kevin, had no difficulty answering this question for me. He said, “Your characters are always are always trying to find themselves; their searching for who they really are. When I mentally went through all my previous work I saw he was right. And it’s still true in my most recent work, Juliana, Volume 1: 1941-1944. Alice or Al, as she prefers to be called, is trying to define herself. This struggle continues int0 the next volume, Olympus Rising.

There are many things that make up this thing called SELF. We’ll discuss one each week.   However, I don’t want to do this alone.  I’d very much like you to participate.  Add comments about how a particular aspect has defined you.  Let me know if it would be okay to share what you say with the group.  If you don’t give me permission then it will just be between you and me, but I hope sharing will become the norm so we can look at our topic fully.

Your Name

The first part of the self we’ll begin with today is YOUR NAME. What part has your given name played in making you–you?  How has your sur name contributed to making you–you?

Charles Dickens told his children (I’m paraphrasing) that they had to be respectful of their last name because that was all they would ever have.  I guess he his was letting them know not to expect much from the will; the best he could do was give them a name that had value.

When we are born we are given a name.  Many are given this name before they are born.  My name has been a blessing and a curse throughout my life.  I’m frequently asked why I only use one name.  The Clyde Fitch Report once asked me that too.

From The Cyde Fitch Report:

Can you touch on the roots of your single-name identity?
I don’t know how long ago I started with that, but I’ve only used one name for quite some time. Edward Albee calls me “the playwright with one name.” I just don’t feel that any last name suits me. I guess I feel self-created and therefore I feel that “Vanda” describes me just fine and I don’t need anything more.

It gives me lots of trouble, though. I’m always amazed at how many uncreative, inflexible people there are in the theater. Once I wrote to a director who I’d never met. I may have been commenting on a book he wrote. I don’t think I was asking him to read my work, but he wrote back to say that he would never work with anyone who used only one name. I found that hysterically funny, but also sad. Computers won’t accept my one name approach to life, but I guess I expect more from a human being, especially one who purports to be in a field requiring imagination and flights of fancy. I never wrote back to him, but in truth, I would never work with him either. I couldn’t work with a rigid rule monger masquerading as a director. I wonder if Sapphire, the author of Push has these problems. Or Mo’nique. What about the British writer Saki? Madonna? Cher?

That brings me to the problems of being a one-name writer confronting the computer. A computer wants you to fill in all the little boxes; it won’t accept a form with the last name left out. I finally found a way around this dilemma. In the box where it says “Last Name” I now write “Neveruseit.” I’ve actually gone to writers’ conferences where the organizers have printed “Vanda Neveruseit” on my name-tag. They attempt some really strange pronunciations and want to know if it’s German. Or perhaps French.

___________________________________________________________________________

Lately, I find there are some promotional book sites which also freak out if an author doesn’t have a last name so I’ve compromised.  I’ve started putting “Writer” in that last name box.

How about you? How has your first, last or both names affected who you are?  I hope you’ll share that in the Comments section.  Let me know if I can share it with other blog readers. I won’t if you don’t give me permission.

This is a photo of a collection of Vanda orchids. I was named after “Vanda,” who lived in Australia where my father was stationed during WW2.  My mother loved the name and chose it.  “Vanda” I believed was named after the orchid.

My mother and father kept in touch with Vanda in Australia until my mother died.  My father may have kept up the correspondence once my mother was gone, but I’m not sure.

FYI: The Macy Thanksgiving floats are made of Vanda orchids.

 

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Who Am I, Who Are You?

Hi Folks, the blog in which we will discuss who we think we are from different angles will begin, hopefully next Tuesday May 2. It will if I’m not taken away by other work that demands my attention.

This coming week we will be discussing our names. So if you want to get a jump on the discussion leave a comment about how your name has formed you.

If you landed here by chance (do you believe in chance?) sign up for my blog so you can participate in this ‘who am I’ discussion. I’ll leave it to you to figure out why I’ve posted a picture of a bunch of orchids.  Some of your may know, but anyone who doesn’t: Do you want to take a guess?

I’ll leave it to you to figure out why I’ve posted a picture of an orchid.  Some of your probably know, but anyone who doesn’t–Would you like to take a guess?

I’m looking forward to meeting you and hearing your thoughts.

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Writers: I’ve Got To Spread the News About The Author Marketing Club

There are all sorts of services being sold to writers, some good and many not so good.  The Author Marketing Club (AMC) is an inexpensive service that truly helps writers. To become a Premium Member it costs only $149/year, but a free option is also available.  Today I’m going to focus on how AMC can get you reviews because when a writer just starts out reviews can be very difficult to get.

img_2012Author Marketing Club has solved this problem.  They have a thing call The Review Grabber and this thing really works.  I’m not going to go into specifics here about how it works, but on my first try I got 24 reviewer names.  I contacted all 24 and heard back with the promise of a review from 15.  This came through in a matter of a few days. If you’ve been trying to get reviews from other services then you know these odds are fantastic!  Now, I have 15 people who are either reading my book or who have put my book on their queue.  One of the reviews has already been posted.  I expect over the next month that more will come in.  You need to be aware that these people are busy and committed to what they do. They love books.  Getting your review is still going to take time, but at least you’ll moving toward your goal.  It beats the ten months I waited with a caring company to get three promises of a review in which one came through and two didn’t.

If the Review Grabber was all AMC offered it would be worth the price, but it offers so much more.   There are all sorts of educational videos and lots of help for making your book stand out.  One time I had trouble working one of the programs and the head of the club helped me over Skype. Now that’s service.  You need to check it out  http://www.authormarketingclub.com

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EDWARD

The three-dimensional models of theatrical masks showing human emotions

The first time I became aware of Edward Albee I was a new freshman in college; it was during Freshman orientation. I had only arrived at Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, West Virginia that morning. How I got from Huntingon Station, Long Island to West Virginia is its own story and there’s no need to tell it here.  I remember it being a cool August evening before the sunset. I was exhausted from all the orientation activities they had put us through. Many of my fellow classmates didn’t bother to trek down to the edge of the campus to Reynolds Hall where they had a small theater. But I was at college! Me! I’d made it to an actual college! I was going to be part of as many intellectual activities as I could. I sat close to the front on a red cushioned theater seat, a little rickety. The theater was not very full. The program announced that the cast was composed of students from the college. I waited.

The curtain was pulled open—yes, there was an actual curtain and behind it two young men who I would shortly come to know as my classmates. One sat on a bench, Peter, the other, Jerry, paced behind him. “I’ve been to the zoo,” Jerry, said to Peter. And so began Zoo Story, the play that changed my life. I had never before seen a play like that. It grabbed me by the throat in a way that only the best of theater can do. I instantly connected to it. In some unconscious way it was telling the story of my life. It would influence my thoughts and my own writing for many years to come. I suspect, Edward, and most of the other male playwrights of that time, had no idea that this powerful play could define a young woman’s early experience too.

Flash forward about thirty years. I was a playwright myself, a playwright who had been accepted as an Edward Albee Fellow. I won a place at the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center. But we all called it “The Barn”. It was in Montauk, NY and I was in residence for the whole month of September. There were five of us who’d been chosen to share the Barn that month: two visual artists and three playwrights. I was the only woman. All we had to do for the whole month was our work. That’s a little like going to heaven.

One of my favorite memories from that time was Edward driving in from town and delivering our mail in his Bermuda shorts. Another memory, not so good:  Edward loved animals so as long as we cleared it with our fellow housemates we could bring our pets. I brought my neurotic cat whom I loved to pieces. She bit Edward. She had no appreciation for networking. Another favorite memory was a few days before it was over, sitting around the picnic table with Edward for our barbecue. Edward’s partner, Jonathan, sat with us quietly. I’m sure he wasn’t feeling well—he’d struggled with cancer for a long time—but he managed to smile at Edward’s stories. Edward still held resentment toward his biological mother who had given him up at birth; he had been raised by adoptive parents. (Three Tall Women was based on his adoptive mother) How hard it is for all of us to get over those primary hurts. At least writers get to turn there’s into art. He gossiped a little about some of the playwrights we all know, telling us about the problems he saw  in their work. I won’t say here who they were. He also told us about a play he was working on that dealt with twins. He had suddenly become fascinated by the idea of twins he told us. This play became, Me, Myself and I, and was produced off Broadway a few years later.
When the barbecue was over I went inside the house to help with the dishes. Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do even though I was bad at it? Edward and some of the men were outside talking. I’m naturally reticent about talking to people, especially those I don’t know, but as I stood there wiping that dish I thought, “Vanda, this is your chance. Your chance to actually thank this great writer for his work. When will you ever get another chance like this? I put down the dish and ran outside into the dark that was only lit by the last embers of the barbecue and someone’s cigarette. I looked Edward right in his face–I’m sure I interrupted a conversation, but in that moment the rules no longer applied. I said everything that was in my heart at that moment. I have no idea what I said. No memory of my words at all. What I do remember is Edward looking at me and listening to every word. When I stopped he nodded and I went back into the house. Did he think I was out of my mind? I don’t know. Maybe. But I don’t think so. For that brief second there was some real connection between us, maybe the same connection as when I first saw Zoo Story. I may have made a fool of myself that night, but contrary to what usually happens, I never once regretted that moment or telling him whatever it was I told him.

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Rick Walter, Producing Director, Talks to Vanda Writes

11958133_1237301672962146_1669874282223467458_o-2Vanda: Today I’m pleased to welcome Rik Walter to Vanda Writes. Rik has been with The New York International Fringe for some time. But before we go into that let me give you a run down on his previous extensive theater credits.

Theater: Off-Broadway, Walnut Street, Orlando Shakes, Connecticut Rep, Two River (“Best Actor in a Comedy”), Ivoryton Playhouse, Premiere Stages and Chester Theatre (as Charles Dickens), and Luna Stage (as John Muir) among others. Television: Unforgettable, 30 Rock, all Law & Order’s, American Masters, and several soaps no longer on the air. A co-founder of The New York International Fringe Festival, and co-founder and Producing Director of UP Theater Company in his “upstate Manhattan” neighborhood of Inwood, where he has appeared many times on stage. Vero nil Verius. www.rikwalter.com

Vanda: This year you’re not acting in the Fringe, but you have a long history with this fringe festival. Give us a an idea of your previous Fringe adventures.

Rik: I came on as an Artistic Associate with The Present Company in ’95 with the production of Americana Absurdum by Brian Parks wherein I played a suicidal airline pilot…

Vanda: I wouldn’t want to be on that plane.

Rik: … a wolverine (yes, the North American land mammal), a vacuum cleaner (yes, an actual appliance)…

Vanda: I would have liked to see you play a vacuum cleaner. It sounds like one of those strange acting exercises you hear about.

Rik: …and Lt. William Calley (of My Lai Massacre fame). We wanted to take the play to the Edinburgh Fringe but couldn’t raise enough money, so, naturally, we decided to start our own fringe festival. And the rest, as they say, is history. After doing Americana in that first fringe in ’96, the following year I helped transform an old auto body garage into “The Theatorium” on Stanton and Ridge streets which became FringeNYC headquarters for several years, and hosted the first production of Urinetown, which went onto Broadway two years later.

Vanda: It must have been exciting to be involved with Urinetown.

Rik: I continued to work as a Venue Director for several years before the arrival of our kids took me away from the festival for 15 years. So thrilled to be back! And very proud to be a part, once again, of this amazing institution.

Vanda: And this year instead of acting, you’re an Operations Manager. What does and an Operations Manager do?

Rik: Well, I’m basically in charge of the early planning stages and daily oversight of all operational needs of one of the festival’s multi-venues, The Clemente Soto Velez, which houses 4 performance venues for the festival (hosting about 60 individual productions), as well as central ticketing, outdoor artist/audience lounge, and food/beverage vendors, for the duration of the 16-day festival.

Vanda: It’s beautiful over there, folks. You must make a point of seeing at least one show in this venue and leave time to sit the café they’ve set up. A New York experience!

Rik: I provide logistical support to all the venues to enhance audience experience, traffic flow and vending partner needs, and help to resolve or offer solutions to all problems and issues, as well as coordinate with all technical needs, scheduling and equipment rentals with our technical directors, and make sure all staff is properly trained and in compliance with standards of interacting with artists, audiences and volunteers. And generally just keep people happy. Oh! The glorious crunch of the creative and logistical colliding. A real rush. I will sleep in September.

Vanda: I completely know what you mean. You’re also the Producing Director of UP Theater Company. Could you tell us about that?

Rik: As Producing Director, I’m in charge of all aspects of the company’s theatrical production output and goals: creating budgets, approving spending; hiring all creative and production staff for our productions, and negotiating venue contracts. I end up managing most of our projects, which includes 4 readings, 1-2 workshops and 1-2 fully-produced new plays each season, in addition to the various other special projects throughout the season.

When people ask me how it all started I blame it on our daughters. None of us co-founders knew each other professionally. We had all met in Isham Park in the early ‘00s while our kids were playing, and slowly developed friendships and realized there was a lot of talent in the ‘hood and wanted to do something about it.

Vanda: That’s a fascinating and unusual way to start a theater company. Tell me, Rik if you could be cast in any part, in any play in the world what character would you play and why?

Rik: If I had to pick just one, I would say that I feel that I am so ready for Macbeth. I have some dark issues to work out.

Vanda: Let me know when you get the part. MacBeth’s one of my favorites.
Be sure to visit Rik’s website and learn more about his theater company. Thanks, Rik, it’s been great talking to you today.

www.rikwalter.com www.uptheater.org

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Andrea Alton at This Year’s Fringe

AndreaAltonHiRes1Monday August 15, 2015

Today I am excited to have Andrea Alton with me on www.vandawrites.com. Andrea’s play, A Microwaved Burrito Filled with E-coli, written with Allen Warnok, opens at The 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival on August 16. I’m always impressed with Andrea’s inventive titles.

Andrea recently won the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. As an actor/writer, her notable productions include, Big Girl, Little World, Carl & Shelly: Best Friends Forever, which she co-wrote with Allen Warnock, The F*cking World According To Molly, and last year’s production of Possum Creek. I loved the creative absurdity of Possum Creek.  There was something real about it, but also it was nuts.

Andrea is also the creator of Molly “Equality” Dykeman and has performed the character to sold-out houses at The Laurie Beechman Theatre and internationally. Andrea’s plays have been produced throughout the country with notable productions in New York, Washington DC, Florida, and Ireland. Andrea just returned from The Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival where she performed in Kathleen Warnock’s play, Julie Andrews Is The Devil.

Vanda: I recently heard that your play has been chosen as one of the top ten shows in the Fringe and that it will be published. Can you tell us a little about that?

Andrea: Well I don’t know how they pick the top 10 shows but I’m usually the underdog so I’ll take it. Martin Denton’s site Indie Theatre Now is publishing A Microwaved Burrito Filled With E. coli. Allen and I are very excited and thankful we were selected.

Vanda: How long have you been a playwright?

Andrea: I enjoyed writing as a teenager. Most of the stuff I wrote was a little quirky – not much has changed. I started writing plays in the late 90’s after I moved to New York. I had always loved writing but it wasn’t until I came to New York that I realized I could be a playwright.

Vanda: Do you still call yourself Molly Dykeman. Can you tell us a little about that?

Andrea: Yes. I love my character Molly “Equality” Dykeman and I’m so happy when I get to perform her or write for the character. The character came out of a sketch in 2005. She’s evolved a lot since then but she’s still the same old Molly. She loves her mullet, nachos. and the ladies.

Vanda:  What was the impetus for writing this new play that will be in the Fringe?

Andrea: Allen Warnock, my writing partner, and I had wanted to work on something together for awhile. I love writing with him and every time I share the stage with Allen I get a little giddy. It’s pure joy. We have two funny, quirky characters that we wanted to put together. We started talking and then everything started to unfold.

Vanda: You’re also a PR Representative. Can you tell us something about that?

Andrea: I love doing press for Indie Theatre. I’ve been doing pr for 5 years and I still get excited when review requests come in or a client is going to be featured in an article. Working in theatre is hard, it takes a lot of time, energy and money to get productions off the ground. If I do my job right, hopefully the production will get some recognition in the press and they’ll reach a wider audience.

Vanda: What’s next for you?

Andrea: When the Fringe is done, I’m going to spend a few days sleeping in and binging on Netflix.

After that, I have several plays I want to finish and a web series. But the thing I’m most excited about is going back to Oregon for a week. My parent’s 50th Anniversary party is in September so I’m looking forward to breathing fresh air and being around my crazy family.

Vanda: If you could cast any actor in the world in one of your plays who would it be and why?

I don’t want to pick just one. How about Mark Rylance, Helen Mirren, and Kevin Hart to make it interesting. And oh… Allen Warnock. He’s the funniest actor I know and wait, he’s in the Fringe show!

Be sure to see: A Microwaved Burrito Filled with E-coli (Running time 55 minutes)
Tickets: $18
Available at www.fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=M#AMicro

Performances: Venue #16, the Huron Club at The SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, New York NY 10013.
Subway: C/E to Spring Street, 1 to Houston.

Show dates:
Tuesday, August 16 @ 5:15 pm
Friday, August 19 @ 5:00 pm
Saturday, August 20 @ 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 24 @ 8:00 pm
Friday, August 26 @ 3:45 pmAndreaAllen_Postcard_MicrowavedBurrito

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The International New York Fringe Festival: Paul Adams

Monday, August 1, 2016

Paul no beardVanda: This year August 12-28, 2106 New York will host The 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival. Each year the festival presents close to 200 theater and dance companies as well as individual artists to the world. (FringeNYC.org/about us).

In 2006, my play Vile Affections was performed at The International Fringe Festival under the auspices of Emerging Artists Theater (EAT). The actors, director, writer, production crew and festival crew all worked really hard through the August heat to pull our show together. Putting a show up under the best of conditions is some kind of miracle, but putting one up at a fringe goes way beyond miracle.  Resources are limited. Sets need to be simple so they can be set up quickly right after someone has just taken down their show; and then when you’ve finished your show the set has to be taken  down again to make room for the next show.  We had seven minutes on either side.

Things always go wrong in theater, but when you’re working with limited resources whatever goes wrong is much worse.  During my show the air conditioning broke down the first night. The audience, a vital component of theater, hung in, sweating with all of us.  But isn’t that what theater is really about? Isn’t it more about a community of excited, dedicated people pulling it all together. Instead of  hugely expensive technology, $2000 tickets just to say you’ve been there–A theater which has no room for the middle class and the poor?

There’s always lots of variety at the Fringe so  you’re bound to find something you’ll like? Over the next few weeks I’m going to be interviewing people who are preparing to be in the Fringe. Then I’m going to try to get them back to talk to us about the good, bad, and ugly of the experience.

It is with great pleasure that today I welcome Paul Adams, Artistic Director of Emerging Artists Theater to www.vandawrites.com . Paul’s The Cleaning Guy, will be performed in the Fringe this year. Paul is play a New York based writer, director, actor and producer. He founded Emerging Artists Theatre Company in 1993 and has been its Artistic Director for the life of the company. He also has served on the New York Innovative Theatre Awards committee since its inception 10 years ago. And most importantly, Paul has been cleaning NYC apartments for 25 years!

The Cleaning Guy will have its World Premiere at the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival in August. This solo show is written and performed by Paul who has been developing the script for the last three years at Emerging Artists New Work Series. The comedy is based on his life as an apartment cleaner in New York City, since 1991.

I’ve seen The Cleaning Guy in development. It’s funny and its moving and you shouldn’t miss it.
For tickets: FRINGENYC.ORG

Vanda: How long have you been a playwright?

Paul: I have been a playwright for about 10 years but this piece is my first real piece of theatre. My other writing was two one acts plays they only got one performance each.

Vanda: You’re also the Artistic Director of Emerging Artists Theater. How do you manage to run a company, work your day job, write plays, act and not collapse?

Paul: It takes a lot of energy and focus to keep all the balls in the air. Working out a schedule where I can fit it all in is how it’s possible. It also helps that I am an early bird and am usually up by 5:30 every morning, even on weekends. ☺ The day job thing is harder as I clean apartments and can suddenly get a job at short notice and then have to rearrange my schedule to fit the money work in. But it also amazes me with how much I can get done in just a few hours while others are sleeping. And I don’t drink coffee or really get any kind of caffeine unless I have chocolate. Just naturally hyper.

Vanda: How do you, the artistic director, interact with you, the playwright?

Paul: The artistic director thinks ahead to production issues and deadlines, marketing, etc. The playwright and artistic director guy come together with the help of my director Melissa Attebery and composer Matt Casarino to take a close look at the text and how we feel it will land with an audience. And as I am also the solo performer, I also have to learn my lines☺ Which is what I am doing this weekend before we start intensive rehearsals this coming week.

Vanda: You said The Cleaning Guy is your first play, but you’ve written a couple one acts.  Explain.

Paul: Yes. I have written a couple of short one acts before this but this is definitely a 60 minute full play with five original songs. I don’t write music but I sang to the composer/arranger and he also came up with shared melodies for a couple of the songs. It was a real  collaboration. This play was developed in Emerging Artists New Work Series. The series allowed me to present where I was in my writing process before an audience and then to sit with them afterwards and have an interactive dialogue, where I could ask the specific questions I needed answers to in order to evolve the piece. Because of my hectic work schedule and because I was producing the New Work Series twice a year, it took a little over 2 years to develop.

Vanda: What was the inspiration for writing this play?

Paul: I have cleaned apartments for twenty-five years in New York City and have had some unbelievable situations that I have walked into and had to deal with. I started at one place and have ended up in a completely different place in that line of work. I wanted to take the audience on a journey that starts off as the humorous characters I worked for, but also gives them an intimate view of what it is to work for people and how the lines get blurred between employee and employer. The reaction from audiences has been amazing and it also leaves them thinking which I always want to do with my work.

Vanda: What’s next for you?    unnamed-1

Paul: I hope to submit it to other Fringe festivals around the country. I am also working on a TV series based on the play about a middle aged guy in New York City who cleans apartments. Wish me luck☺

Vanda: We do, Paul.  Be sure to let us know how it all goes.

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Special Guest Today: Robin Rice, Playwright With a play opening off Broadway soon.


Robin Rice

Robin Rice

It is with great pleasure that I welcome, Robin Rice, a friend and fellow playwright to VandaWrites. Robin and I have known each other for years as we’ve both grown as playwrights. For the past ten years, about, I think, we have both been members of The Oracles,  a group of truly gifted writers who give each other feedback about their latest work.

Robin has written 20 full-length plays and many more one-act and short plays. Her plays have been produced across the U.S. as well as in South Korea, South Africa, Mongolia, London, Scotland (Edinburgh Fringe) and Iran. Her plays often deal with the struggles of women, artists, and the environment.

Her latest play, Alice in Black and White, was first produced by The Looking for Lilith Theatre Company—I love that name—in Louisville, KY. It did so well there that they decided to bring it to New York, to the Off Broadway Theater 52 East 52 Theater.

It’s A  Must See Show. August 3-14. Tickets: $25.  212-753-5959 x101 or go directly to: http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=258

My Interview with Robin

Vanda: How long have you been a playwright?

Robin: I started writing plays, moved to NYC and got an M.F.A. in playwriting in the early 1990s. Playwriting wasn’t offered at Antioch, Williams, or any of the other colleges I attended previously and I had never met a playwright before then. The possibility never occurred to me!

Vanda: What was it about playwriting that called to you? Did any of the other forms of written expression have the same draw?

Robin: Previously I was a newspaper reporter, then a fine art printmaker. The processes of printmaking are crazy hard. Similarly, playwriting is much more difficult than any other kind of writing for me. I like challenges. Collaboration with directors, actors and designers who bring my work alive, putting it out there for audiences — these are frightening and thrilling gifts that other forms of artistic expression don’t offer. It’s rather like jumping into a cold pond and hoping that the swim to the other side is invigorating. You might drown, but you might see amazing sights on the journey. And of course there’s the challenge of being way past “retirement age” in this youthful arena.

Vanda: You’re getting ready for an off-Broadway production. That’s very exciting. Can you first tell us a little something about your play, Alice in Black and White. An intriguing title. What is it about?

Robin: Alice Austen, a real person, grew up during the Victorian Era. Her family was very proper, very upper middle-class. Women were expected to keep their mouths shut, get married, and see to house and home. Alice did none of these things. At the age of 10 she fell in love with photography. She refused to give up this “unladylike” passion for the rest of her life. She also refused to get married, choosing instead to share her love with another woman. Alice clung with a death grip to the life she wanted, but she almost lost everything. Today the Alice Austen House on Staten Island is designated as a New York City and National Landmark.

Vanda: What was the impetus for writing this play?

Robin: I had never heard of Alice. I was on a hike on Staten Island (yes, there is wilderness there!). Afterwards a friend wanted me to see the Alice Austen House. The house itself, sitting on the banks at the entryway to the Hudson River, captivated me. Alice’s photographs captivated me too. I wanted to know more about the little girl who sat under the linden tree here. She grew up to become the first woman-photojournalist. How did that happen?

Vanda: What’s next for you?

Robin: I’ll be working with the director and a large group of disadvantaged kids on my one-act semi-musical HONEY’S SMILE. This will be performed by Playhouse Creatures Camp at Dixon Place on August 20. Also I’m working on a full-length fantasia HARMONY’S AUDITION about a woman who is told she must choose between musicianship and motherhood. (The first reading is with Lafayette Salon on August 25 at Lucky Jack’s, NYC. You’re invited.) Then I’m off to Antioch College in Ohio for a program of my short plays with alumni and student actors in September. Next, I’ve been hired by a Mongolian NGO to teach playwriting there (using an interpreter — another challenge!) in October.

Vanda: Wow! You always have  many exciting projects going on all at the same time.  Tell me,  if you could cast any actor in the world in one of your plays who would it be and why?

Robin: Cherry Jones. Her acting is bed-rock honest and she is magnetic to the core. Plus she’s a lovely person.

Vanda: When that question was asked of me I said ‘Meryl Streep,’for similar reasons,  but I sure wouldn’t mind having the magnificent Cherry Jones, either in my play.

Thanks, Robin, for talking with us today. All the absolute best on your run.

Everyone be sure to go and see it. It’s going to be great.    http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=258

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