Beneath the Lonely Mountain

And that's it.

On Saturday night, Dragon's Breath gave its terrific fifth and final performance.  Afterwards, even as we were greeting our fans and family outside the theater, we were packing up our array of costumes and props and arranging for their return back to the various places they came from.

Sunday, after a shift at my day job, I headed back to the theater to participate in its venue strike.  Once its final Fringe performance had occurred, representatives from all the shows that took place there in this festival gathered to put the theater back the way we'd found it.  I removed the last of our scenic elements, brought a few lighting instruments from one part of the building to another, helped fold a curtain or two - and in no time at all, our playing space was gone, the room an empty shell waiting to be transformed into whatever comes next.

With that, all that remained was an end-of-festival party.  We celebrated our fellow shows and feted the Fringe production staff - one of whom took the opportunity to propose to another on stage before all of us.  (Never a dull moment.) 

And then it was done.  The 2014 New York International Fringe Festival - and with it, this show on which I've worked for a year and a half, and about which I've been pestering you for the past three months and change - is now officially concluded.

I could not be prouder of the production, or of the astonishing team of collaborators who agreed to join me on this draconic odyssey.  I am forever thankful to them, and to all of you who were able to come and witness what we created.

As of this writing, there are no immediate plans to revive Dragon's Breath.  That does not mean we've seen the last of the show, however.  If you're familiar with fantasy and myth - if, like Rocco McCafferty, you can quote The Hobbit chapter and verse - you know that dragons frequently sit atop their treasure mounds and sleep for long periods of time.  But they always awaken, ready to wreak greater havoc than ever before.

Good night, everybody.

One Day More

This whole Inexorable Passage of Time thing is aggravating as hell.

It's not so very long ago that the idea for Dragon's Breath came to me.  In fact, thanks to Google and the whole connection with Pope Francis (scroll down to the beginning of the blog if you don't know what I mean), I can pinpoint the exact date.  March 13, 2013.  Seventeen months and eight days ago.  That's nothing.  Elephants have longer gestation periods.  (Again, Google is your friend.)

And Dragon's Breath was officially welcomed as a participant in the New York International Fringe Festival on April 26th.  By my count, that's only one hundred seventeen days ago.  My refrigerator still has some of the same contents.

But now, not only is Dragon's Breath a reality, but we're rapidly reaching the point where I'll have to say that it WAS a reality.  The Fringe festival ends this weekend, and our final performance is Saturday at 7:00pm.  And while there's always a chance that some angel might swoop in and offer to produce a commercial run, or that it will be asked to extend in some other capacity, there's absolutely no guarantee of this.  So in all probability, this Saturday will mark the very last performance of Dragon's Breath.

Please come and see it if you can.

Come see what I've worked so hard on for this past year and a half.  Come enjoy the story and ponder some of its larger implications.  Come and experience the terrific staging and design work.  Most of all, come and see this extraordinary cast with which we've been blessed - a cast so good it actually keeps me up at nights.  Because I am so honored to have them speaking these words, and trusting me with their gifts, and I worry that if people don't come and see their wonderful work that I've let them down somehow.  And I don't want to let them down at all.

One last performance.  You can get tickets here.

Please come see it.  While there's still time.

When Roccos Collide

One of the elements of Dragon's Breath which has gotten the most attention has been the character which I play myself, Rocco McCafferty.  In a nod to all those angry voices in cyberspace who are mad at Stephanie Meyer for making vampires sparkly, Rocco is the angry Internet troll who bedevils the main character for all the ways she gets dragons 'wrong.'  He quotes James Joyce and J.R.R. Tolkien with equal authority, is poorly behaved, and has been described as a "vitriolic turbo-nerd," and yet most people who have seen the show have noted that such an over-the-top character still comes across as real.  Disturbingly so, they say.

And there's a reason for this.  Rocco's a friend of mine.

As I was first working out the story some months ago, I realized that my two leads, Justine and Laura, needed to be able to bond over a shared antagonist in order to drive the rest of the plot.  No sooner did I realize this than I thought of my friend - a fantasy-loving Internet critic who studies James Joyce.  And is named Rocco.

For a while, I wrestled with coming up for another name for the character, to spare any kind of embarrassment or hurt feelings.  I soon realized, however, that no man can improve upon what the good Lord has seen fit to create - a Joyce-quoting fantasy geek Internet critic named Rocco is just too perfect.  So I met up with my friend, described the play to him, and asked for his approval to borrow his first name and salient biographical information.  He cackled maniacally (as he is wont to do) and gave not only his blessing, but $25 to our IndieGogo campaign.

Even so, I had a slight degree of trepidation this past Saturday, when Rocco came to see Dragon's Breath himself.  It's one thing to approve of an idea in theory, and another to see it fully realized.  In all honesty, there's just as much of me in this particular "vitriolic turbo-nerd" (seriously, I just can't get enough of that phrase), and it's ultimately more of an unflattering self-portrait than anything else.  But would Rocco see that?  Would he be offended?

As it turns out, Rocco loved the show and its version of "Rocco."  He even made the rounds of the cast, who knew that there was a real-life analogue to the character they'd come to know and were awestruck in the presence of the genuine article.  He was happy to let the relation be known, since as a reviewer, he needs the name-recognition and notoriety (which, as it happens, is a recurrent motif in the play as well).  And as he told me, it was the first time in his life he felt like a celebrity.

And perhaps, that's what the Fringe is all about.  For a few short weeks in August, artists and writers from vastly different worlds get to rub shoulders with each other and see what they're all about.  Everyone's the star of their own story - but for these magical seventeen days, other people get to share our stories with us, and recognize that all of us are stars too.

(By the way, if you're looking for reviews of comics, games, and other fantasy literature and movies, you might be interested in checking out these.  Just sayin'.)


Spreading the Word

I've spent the bulk of the past few months working on and talking about our show's FringeNYC production, and for very good reason - having written and produced it, I'd like for people to come and enjoy it.  However, there are over two hundred shows in the festival along with us - and not only do many of those shows involve good friends of mine, but they've gone out of their way to support us as we've been putting our production together.  They've lent us aid and trumpeted our work to their fans; it seems only fair that I return the favor.

I've already mentioned how Ariel Estrada, our graphic designer, is performing in The Imbible and serving as the company representative for No Homo.  Our own company representative, Veronique Ory, is serving in the same capacity for a number of other shows.  One of these is Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions, written by and starring Erik Ransom.  Erik has been a stalwart supporter of our show even as he's been tirelessly working on his own; it was he who alerted me when our first rave review was posted online (which you can find here).

In addition, there's the other shows in our venue, Teatro La Tea.  To help facilitate our productions, we're sharing scenic elements with each other.  We're borrowing some chairs and a table from the good folks at Futebol, and we're loaning out our bar stools to the cast and crew of Bohemian Valentine, and in this manner we're able to keep our own costs down and free up backstage space for all the other shows.

And then there's my friend who's the lead actress in Little Mother, and my other friend who's a dancer in I'll Say She Is, and my other other friend who's music directing Fatty Fatty No Friends, and you should take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Fringe Festival and see all of them.

But be sure to see Dragon's Breath first.  That's just common sense.

Just to Clarify

We're open!

I'm still not sure what to say about our opening performance, other than to say that the audience sounded like they enjoyed it.  I have lots to say about how I feel, of course, but that would presuppose that Dragon's Breath is simply my show.  And it's not.  I'm sharing the stage with six extraordinary actors, supported by an amazing director and design team.  The show's their show as much as mine now.  At this point, it also belongs to the audiences who come, hopefully to laugh and to process the issues we try and sneak in.  I can't speak for the audiences, and all I'll say about my team is that I'm immensely proud of them, and hope they're proud of themselves too.

Here's what I will say.  In speaking to friends after the performance, we were talking about how frenzied this time of year is, with so many people to see in other Fringe shows, as well as all the other theater happening.  It becomes hard to support all of your colleagues to the degree that you'd like.

And that's a loaded word, "support."  The case can be made that being asked to "support" theater turns it into an unfelt obligation, something we do because somebody else tells us that it's good for us, rather than because it's enjoyable.  (A good recent version of this argument that's been making the rounds can be found here.)

So even if you're a friend of mine or a relation of one of our cast, or have been following this blog with either appreciation or morbid curiosity, don't feel that you should come to Dragon's Breath in order to support us.

Come because it's GOOD!  It's fun!  It has big laughs and amazing performances and FREAKIN' DRAGON CULTISTS ON STAGE!  Come because as much as we want to make you think, we want to entertain you as well - and we're pretty darn good at that!


Overture, Curtain, Lights

FringeNYC is here.

Tonight, there'll be an inaugural party and celebration at The Cutting Room to kick things off.  Tomorrow, the first shows of this year's festival will give their first performances.

And then, at 3:15 on Saturday, Dragon's Breath opens.

At this point, there's really nothing left to say about the show.  It's turned out better than I ever imagined (and I've got a vivid imagination).  It's a blast to perform.  Now all that remains is for it to find an audience.

This, hopefully, is where you come in.  So I wanted to be certain you had some crucial information in regards to being in the audience of a Fringe show:

- THERE'S NO LATE SEATING.  At all.  There's too many shows at each venue, operating on too precise a schedule.  If you're late, they won't seat you, and there'll be nothing I can do to intercede on your behalf.  So please get to the theatre early!

- THERE ARE NO CASH PURCHASES AT THE DOOR.  The Fringe is trying to move to a purely paperless system; you can scan a ticket you've already bought, and you can pay by credit card, but they won't be taking cash at the door.  They'd prefer you to buy tickets in advance, either on line or at the FringeCentral location.  This location is on Norfolk Street between Rivington and Delancey, is the only place where the Fringe DOES accept cash, and is conveniently right behind our theatre.  (That theatre again is La Tea Teatro, at 107 Suffolk Street.)

- COME AS EARLY AS YOU CAN!  It's crucial that we have people come to our first performances in order to start to build buzz and stand out from the two hundred other shows taking part in the festival.

Be sure to consult the Fringe website for further details about their policies.

And that's it.  I hope you make it down to our theatre and enjoy what we've created.  I'd say more about it, but I've got a show to do.

Getting Technical

The way FringeNYC works, a show is allotted twice its running time in order to have its technical rehearsal.  Half of that must involve a full run of the show, so that its running time can be confirmed (a glance at the Fringe's calendar of performances reveals why - with so many shows, a split-second schedule is required).  Another thirty minutes are needed to practice loading in and loading and loading out the show - again, in the time allotted.  For Dragon's Breath, this meant that after all was said and done, we faced the impossible task of building all our cues, working the scene transitions, and tracking our costumes and props in exactly one hour.

Which we did.

Seeing our cast and crew pull this off, as well as seeing the response to our Fringe teaser yesterday, has made me marvel anew at just how good this team we've assembled really is.  I'm not surprised, of course.  Mikaela has worked with our designers before, and they know exactly how to realize her vision.  I've had the honor of working with two of our cast members before - with Lorinda Lisitza in a production of Happy End, and with Christopher Michael McLamb in a production of The Cradle Will Rock - and I know what they're capable of.  (Both these productions were done by Theater Ten Ten*, which loved casting me in agitprop Marxist musicals.  But I digress.)

Even so, there's something going on with this cast and crew, both old friend and exciting new face alike, that is wonderful and completely unexplainable.  And so I'm not even going to try and explain it.  I simply ask that you come see our show to see it for yourself.

*While Theater Ten Ten is no longer in existence, the good folks who run it now produce NYIT-nominated work in Brooklyn Heights as Theatre 20/20.  Go see their stuff too!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

If you can't wait for the opening night of Dragon's Breath next Saturday (dear gods - WE OPEN NEXT SATURDAY) and you can't get enough of me talking about the show, you're in luck.  This Sunday, August 3rd, there are two promotional events happening for our show.

At 1:00, Dragon's Breath will be one of several shows presenting teaser excerpts at the FringeCENTRAL Pavillion.  This is a tent on Norfolk Street, between Rivington and Delancey, where you can get information about all the shows and purchase tickets.  There's also periodic public performances of excerpts from all the Fringe shows - just enough to whet your appetite.

At 7:00, the kind folks over at Judson Memorial Church were kind enough to help us put together a panel discussion for a number of the Fringe shows which share a skewed take on religious themes.  In addition to our own draconic take on religious extremism, there's Moses: The Author, which tells the irreverent tale of Moses dealing with his personal life as he puts the finishing touches on the Torah.  We're also glad to be sharing the panel with our good friend Erik Ransom and his magnum opus, Coming: A Rock Musical Of Biblical Proportions, which features his glam-rock take on Armageddon.  There's clearly been something in the air the past few years to have us all thinking along these same lines (see, for example, any item in the news at all), and it'll be fun to share our stories and bounce ideas off each other.  (That's the whole point of a theater festival, after all.)

Both these events are free to one and all!

Living Theatre

I've known Gia for several years, having waited in line with her in auditions many a time.  Gia is an Ivy League-educated neuroscientist who is also an advanced yoga instructor and trained Fosse dancer.  In the past few years, she did a stint with the Living Theatre as well.  (Those of you who follow theatre in New York should find nothing surprising about either of those sentences.)

While working there, she met Carlo, a long-time theatre practitioner (actor, director, composer) who'd been with the Living Theatre on and off since the seventies.  They worked together on two productions, Korach and the revival of Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism.  They proceeded to found their own space and company, the Alchemical Theatre Laboratory, which both creates experimental theater itself and provides quite beautiful rehearsal and performance spaces for outside artists.

Recently, they moved to a new location, which they've been renovating and refurbishing.  It's only in the past few weeks that they've been at a point where they could begin renting space again.  And as it turns out, Dragon's Breath has had the honor of inaugurating this new rehearsal space.  In New York City, these kinds of spaces are rare and treasured resources, so to have a new one of any kind good news - much less a space as welcoming, airy, and fun to work in as Alchemical.

Beyond that, it's nice to be able to help our friends make their dream a reality.  We're all trying to do this, after all.  And for Gia and Carlo, as with most of us in the theatre, these dreams aren't something that they put out of mind when they go home at the end of the day.  We're trying to live our dreams, in the hope that doing so will make a difference to others.  And indeed, given how joyous an environment it is in which to work, their dream is certainly making a difference to ours.


This week, the New York Innovative Theatre awards announced its 2014 nominees.  For those of you unfamiliar with the NYIT, it exists specifically to honor excellence in independent, off-off Broadway theater.  As you can imagine, this covers an extremely large number of productions, given the hundreds of tiny companies and independently financed shows that go up in New York in any given year.  And of all the leading actresses in all those productions, the five nominees for Outstanding Leading Actress in a play include the actress who played Lisa in Revolve Production's revival of Rebecca Gilman's The Glory of Living - Hannah Sloat, who plays the pivotal role of Laura in Dragon's Breath.

We're all delighted for Hannah.  We're not surprised, of course - we could tell how good Hannah was when she first auditioned for us.  And as rehearsals have progressed, it's clear that her Laura is going extraordinary - as is the work of the entire cast.

Nobody does this for the sole purpose of winning anything - we care more about the story than about some prize that might come from the telling.  A nomination like this is simply a means of announcing, "hey, this person is somebody to watch.  Pay attention to the next thing they do."

On that note, please be sure to follow the Tickets links here and get tickets to Dragon's Breath as soon as you can.  Because we're the next thing.

(Note: for more about the awards and a complete list of nominees, see here.)


The Man Behind The Curtain

On Friday, we submitted the draft for our program to the printing company used by FringeNYC.  (A whole two days ahead of schedule!) With that submission, along with our request for posters, our order for postcards, and a banner for websites and the Facebook pages of the members of our company, we are now officially done with our graphic design needs for this show.

I therefore think this is the perfect time to thank Ariel Estrada, the man who has designed all of these graphics - as well as the man who's put together the magnificent website you're currently visiting.  All of which he's done while running his own theatre company, Leviathan Lab, and while performing in another Fringe show (The Imbible) and serving as company manager for still another (No Homo). 

As you can see, he's a magnificent designer - visit if you need further convincing.  He's also a fine actor and a damn good man who's essentially done this as a favor to a fellow actor whom he met while performing in a reading of Henry VI Part 2 at one of New York's public libraries.  (For the record, I'm a damn good Humphrey Duke of Gloucester.)  I am truly blown away by what he's done for this production, and I hope to return this favor in kind as soon as I am able.

It won't be for at least another three weeks, though.  We kinda have a show to do.

Tickets Go On Sale Tomorrow

We've already had a number of inquiries about when tickets for the show will be available.  This is incredibly gratifying - if also a bit nerve-wracking, since we're still blocking the show.  I'm therefore happy to announce that tickets for Dragon's Breath, along with all the other shows taking part in this year's New York International Fringe Festival, will go on sale tomorrow - Friday, July 18th.  For the most part, those tickets are exclusively available through their website,

If you'd like to come to the show, please go to the Fringe website beforehand and check out their ticket-buying policies.  There are a number of changes being implemented this year - they won't be taking cash at the door, they'll be using an app which lets you scan electronic tickets using your smart phone, etc - and I'd hate for them to cause any kind of confusion that prevents people from seeing us.

I also strongly advise people to buy tickets as early as possible.  We only have five performances in the festival, and seating in the venue is limited.  It's likely that we'll sell out.  If you've been a loyal supporter of ours all this time (which you probably are if you're reading this), we don't want you to miss out.

See you at the show!


This Show Goes To Eleven

Twice each summer in Manhattan, the path of the setting sun aligns perfectly with the east-west street grid, filling the streets with a brilliant glow as the sun sets.  Given the similarity to the way the sun aligns with the standing stones of Stonehenge during the vernal and autumnal equinox, we refer to this phenomenon as Manhattanhenge.

Manhattanhenge most recently occurred last Friday.  Right as we were about to take our Equity-mandated ten minute break, our stage manager reminded us that this was the case, and that the sun was setting right at that particular moment.  In unison, we all cried out "Cool!" and rushed out to the street to see it, standing in a clump on the sidewalk to ooh and aah and snap pictures like particularly nerdy tourists.

It's the fact that we did this all in unison, all of us sharing the same enthusiasm without need of discussion or debate, that still warms my heart this Monday morning.  From the few rehearsals we've had so far, it's clear that this incident is indicative of how well-matched this company is in our sensibilities, our tastes, and our personalities.  We're connecting very well with each other and making a terrific amount of progress as a result.  It has me very excited for Dragon's Breath, and makes me wonder what else our group might be able to accomplish, further down the road.

Who knows?  Maybe we'll stage Saucy Jack next.

Hi, Mom!

On Tuesday, after weeks of waiting, preparation, and fundraising, we had our first rehearsal for Dragon's Breath.  I got to hear what this show sounds like with this particular cast.  I also finally got to interact with all of these actors in person, as opposed to simply corresponding with them through emails and Facebook.  And in the process, I discovered two remarkable things.

First and foremost is that we have something very special in this cast.  We knew they were talented individuals, of course - we cast them for a reason.  But the interaction among all of them as a group yielded amazing results as we read the script for the first time.  Characters were already well-developed, layers of meanings in the text were being explored that I didn't remember putting in the script, and everybody was feeding off each other in a playful, organic way. 

We also had a lot of fun getting to know each other, finding out how we've been spending the past month, where we're all from, and what our families are like.  And that's when I discovered the second remarkable thing.  Not only are the actors' parents and other familly members excited for this production (as are mine), but a number of them are fans of this blog.

In fact, they're reading it right now.

Honestly, there's a disconnect whenever I hear about anybody reading this blog.  It's intended to be read, to be sure, but usually I'm typing this up in my kitchen while trying to shoo my cat off the keyboard.  As with the production itself, I'm so wrapped up in what I do to create it that it's surprising (in the best possible way) when I hear that it's being heard and appreciated by strangers.

More than that, though, I'm truly humbled by the investment already made by these performers, and as it turns out, their families.  Their emotional support, and even their financial support (thanks for the IndieGogo contributions, folks!)  And I feel it's incumbent upon me to acknowledge it, for I'm drawing strength from it as well.

So hi, Phyllis and Mellie! And hi, everybody else!  And let me just say that I will do everything possible to honor and reward the efforts that your children are making on behalf of this production.

Because, as you've probably figured out, they're really freakin' good.

It Just Got Real

We've had two major developments over this Fourth of July weekend, which have brought us that much closer to making Dragon's Breath a reality.  First and foremost, I'm happy to report that our Fractured Atlas-sponsored IndieGogo campaign has met its fundraising goal!  My heartfelt thanks to everybody who helped out, be it by contributing, posting requests on our behalf, or simply referring people to this odd little website here.  Thanks to these efforts, we're now able to pay stipends to our actors and designers, pay for rehearsal space and program printing, and run the publicity campaign we'll need to stand out among the two hundred or so other shows in the festival.

And speaking of the festival - we now have official performance dates!  Dragon's Breath will be presented as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, which runs from August 8th thru August 24th.  We will be giving a total of five performances, on the following days and times:

Saturday, August 9, at 3:15pm
Monday, August 11, at 9:15pm
Friday, August 15, at 2:00pm
Saturday, August 16, at 4:45pm
Saturday, August 23, at 7:00pm

All performances to take place at Teatro LA TEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street.

It's daunting to consider just how real all of this is now.  This is no longer something I've been dreaming or idly fantasizing about - it's scheduled, it's cast, it's funded.  Beginning Tuesday, we will start rehearsing this.  It is going to happen.

Thanks, again, to everybody who's made that possible.

(Note: Now that we're about to start rehearsing and there will be more exciting things to discuss - not that me sitting around writing emails on behalf of show business isn't exciting - we'll be increasing the frequency of these blog posts to twice a week.  Expect a roughly Monday and Thursday schedule for the next few weeks, thru the run of the show.)

Mass Appeal

I'm fortunate enough to be friends with a number of my fellow FringeNYC artists this year.  I've performed in shows with the actor/producers behind For Now, Little Mother, and Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions.  My brilliant graphic designer, Ariel Estrada (the man who designed the website you're reading now), is both performing in The Imbible and serving as the company manager for No Homo.  And as I talk with them and follow along with their own adventures as they put together their shows, it's clear that all of us are taking the same journey here.  We're experiencing the same things, and we're all being driven crazy in the same ways by the same aggravating obstacles.

Namely, fundraising.

We're all artists, so none of us are rich.  Even the most adept of us are frustrated by the labyrinthine procedures needed to apply for grants - and since our shows are one-time events coming up within two months, most grants aren't open to us anyway.  That effectively leaves one source - crowdfunding.  And in practical terms, that means constantly pestering our friends for money.

I hate this.  My friends hate this.  How could we not?  It feels like we're badgering our friends.  (Frankly, we ARE badgering our friends.  At least I'm badgering mine, although they're too polite to mention it.)  And as we spend our days counting off which of our friends have donated and how many people we have left to whom we can reach out, it reduces our artistic lives to what feels like an incredibly neurotic, high-stakes popularity contest.

But at this point, there's no other alternative.  Producing Dragon's Breath is an expensive proposition, no matter how diligent we are about pinching pennies (and trust me, we're being diligent.)  We still have a lot of ground to cover.

So, misgivings aside, I'll go ahead and say it.  Please give us some money. This website links up with our IndieGogo campaign - please check it out and donate what you can if you can.  And if you can't, please tell others to check it out themselves - both the campaign, and the show in whose service we're doing all of this.  And while you're all at it, be sure to check out the other Fringe shows I've mentioned above.

Because here's the other thing about crowdfunding - it's not just me begging you for money.  It's an invitation to you to join our community.  I'm not sure if we're best described as a group of talented artists or a ragtag bunch of misfits, but we all have visions of shows that can actually make a difference to people, and we're putting everything we have on the line to try and make them reality.  We'd love for you to join us on our journey.

But hurry.  There's just three days left to go.

Lower East Side Story

As exciting as it was to hear that Dragon's Breath was accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival, there was still an element of unreality to it.  A theater festival can be such a vague concept, after all - in this case, spread out over two weeks and many different theaters south of 14th Street.  It wasn't possible to point to a specific place and know, that at such and such a specific time, this play would be performed.

Well, although the specific performance dates are still to be determined, it's now possible to point to that specific place.  I'm happy to announce that Dragon's Breath will be performing at Teatro La Tea, at 107 Suffolk Street.  As a performance space, Teatro La Tea is perfect for what I've written, and what Mikaela has envisioned.  But there is so much more to this venue than the details of the performance space.  It's one of four theaters contained within the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, which also houses rehearsal space and facilities for untold numbers of arts and other community groups.  It's an authentic bastion of downtown culture, holding out against the encroachment of gentrification, and it has served the arts community in New York for as long as I've been a part of it.  Every single artist I know has some magnificent story to tell in which CSV somehow plays a part.

And this being a blog, I shall now regale you with mine.

Some years ago, I was finishing up a long day of auditions by heading to a callback at CSV.  As I was walking there, I was surprised to bump into a co-worker from a job significantly far from the Lower East Side.  It turned out that his band was playing in a dive bar directly across the street from CSV, and he invited me to come see them play.  And since I was there anyway, I happily obliged.

My friend's band played, they were excellent, and the process of breaking down from one band to the other began.  The band set to follow my friend's was called Bravo Silva, which struck me as the greatest band name I'd ever heard.  It's a reference to Chekhov's The Seagull, you see - a story one of the characters tells about talent revealing itself in the most unlikely of places (not an inappropriate story for the Fringe).  My friend back from his set, I proceeded to complement him on his performance and explain the significance of the next band's name.  As I did so, I noticed a woman at the other end of the bar.  I remember being intrigued by how the glasses she was wearing somehow made her look like Meryl Streep.

I then realized she actually was Meryl Streep.

I turned back to my friend asked how we'd come to be sitting in a Lower East Side dive bar with Meryl Streep.  He explained that her son was a musician in Bravo Silva.  This made sense to me, since he had played a laborer in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Seagull in which Ms. Streep had appeared (along with Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  My curiosity satisfied, I proceeded to behave as nonchalantly as New Yorkers are supposed to behave when in the presence of celebrities (we have a code about these things).  However, once the band took the stage, there was a mass shifting of traffic within the bar, and in the rush of people, I found myself face to face with Meryl Streep.

It was obvious that I knew who she was, and it was obvious that she knew that I knew.  It was impossible not to say something, and nearly impossible to say anything that wouldn't be inappropriate or embarrassing.  So I asked the only question I could think to ask.

I asked if she had named the band.

And that is the story of how I made Meryl Streep laugh.  Quite heartily, in fact.

I hope that some day, some years hence, people will have their own magnificent stories to tell about 107 Suffolk Street, about CSV and Teatro La Tea, that involve Dragon's Breath, even if only tangentially.  It would be an honor to be a part of the ongoing legend.  (And Meryl - if by some remote chance you're reading this, please consider coming to see the show!  I'd like to think there's a couple more good laughs in the script.)

The Shape Of Things to Come

One of the things which we need in order to promote Dragon's Breath - and which FringeNYC requires all its shows to provide as soon as possible - is a production still from the show.  This is a photograph of some scene from the play, preferably as dynamic and visually striking as possible.  For those productions that have been previously staged elsewhere, coming up with a production still is a simple matter of going through archival photos of past production.   If, however, you're a world premiere like Dragon's Breath and have no past productions, you're operating at something of a disadvantage.  It's hard to have production photographs of a show that doesn't exist yet.

Not that we'd let a little thing like that stop us.

This past weekend, our leading actress Lorinda and I headed to our director's home for an improvised photoshoot.  We had costumes made up for a critical scene towards the end of the play, and we posed in front of a black muslin curtain in her neighbor's apartment (conveniently, he's an accomplished fashion photographer).  It was more of a party than anything else, an excuse for a bunch of friends to play dress-up, and drink and laugh over this script in which we believed.  And during a break in all of this, I glanced over at the image which had now been called up on our photographer's computer screen.

And there was my play.

The figures of this critical scene, which had hitherto simply been part of my cracked imagination, were now staring back at me.  I was looking at my play.  It wasn't just a potential notion that could happen if we figured out how best to realize the script.  It existed.

I'd had a similar sensation earlier in the week, as we'd finally ended our callbacks.  The last actors having been seen, Mikaela and I remained in our rented audition studio, laid out the headshots of our remaining candidates, and discussed.  And as we went over what we'd need them to do in the show, we slowly (and with a heavy heart) winnowed away the headshots.  And eventually, once the last one had been removed, what remained was the cast of Dragon's Breath.

Not a potential cast of the show, mind you.  It was the faces of the characters I'd dreamed up, made manifest, and staring up at me from the table.

Of course, the whole notion of trying to turn your dreams into reality is the essence of art.  But it's different in theatre, where the collaborative nature of it means that many things are out of your direct control.  Every person you collaborate with brings their own aesthetic, their personality, their skill and experience to the table.  The production you create together will always be a hybrid, and it's better for being so - but that means that the odds of what you imagine being the literal final product are small in the extreme.

Yet so far, that seems to be happening.  And I'd like to think that as I'm seeing these glimpses of the show to come - which you'll be able to see here on the website over the course of the next few days and weeks - they're matching what I saw in my mind because it never was just about what I saw.  That I've tapped into something tangible and meaningful, and my collaborators are on the same page as I am not because I'm forcing them to be, but because they see that meaning too.  At least I dare to hope that this is the case.

Dragons are real, after all.

This Is What It Sounds Like When Dragons Cry

We're nearing the end of the audition process for Dragon's Breath.  It's been wonderful having so many talented people come to us wanting to be a part of the show.  And it's been incredibly moving having such positive feedback from the auditioning actors.  The people we've called back to read for us have been complementary towards the script, and their enthusiasm has been clear in their performances.  And even as our EPAs were in progress, we were being discussed by actors on websites such as Audition Update, who proclaimed us a friendly pair of auditioners.

Of course, this kind of real-time discussion on social media has...consequences.  You see, when we were holding our EPAs, we had large chunks of time slots for which union performers had not signed up, and we were able to see many non-union performers (who often wait patiently for an entire day without ever being seen).  When the word got out that we were seeing everybody that we could, it opened the floodgates to all manner of folks who ordinarily NEVER attend such auditions, who had spied a chance for their work to be seen at last.  And some of these folks did indeed find themselves in the mix of people we've called back, and are considering for roles in our show.

And some of these folks did not.  Some of these folks were...different.

Towards the end of our auditioning day, a willowy young man in a purple T-shirt strolled into the center of the studio.  It would have been customary for him to perform a monologue at this point - something from a published play, or perhaps a film, which allowed him to perform a character in the two minutes he had with us. 

This is not what he did.

In somewhat halting, broken English, he improvised an odd psychodrama in which he was arguing with somebody over a cell phone - about what was never clear.  Periodically, he would be put on hold - as happens all the time in heated arguments - and when that happened, he would become enraptured by the on-hold music.  The willowy man in the purple T-shirt then proceeded to dance in the center of the room and sing along to a version of "Purple Rain" that existed only in his head.

At least I think it was dancing.

And then he did it again.  And again.  For two minutes.  Random, impossible-to-understand argument, made up off the top of the man's head, punctuated by moments of interpretive dance set to a cracked karaoke version of "Purple Rain."

We were fascinated.  We couldn't shake the feeling that we'd stumbled upon some sort of brilliant, Andy Kaufman-esque bit of anti-performance that would be hailed as genius in twenty years' time.  So we asked if he had any background in improv, sketch comedy, or the like.

He told us that he sometimes dressed up as the Donkey from Shrek for childrens' parties.

Now, it was clear at this point that this person was simply lost at sea.  Someone who had seen too many of the early-round-audition episodes from American Idol, and had become convinced the sideshow parades which that show traffics in were somehow the accepted performance norm.  And as auditioners, it was clear what our accepted role was at this point.  We were supposed to be upset that our time had been wasted.  And now we had a bonafide audition horror story - which the bloodsport of reality performance competition has trained us all to respond to with mocking laughter.

But I don't want to mock the Purple Man - for so we've come to call him.  I'm writing this to praise him.

Because life is short.  Most of us are too worn down by our worries and responsibilities to indulge even as mild a fantasy as the Dance of the Purple Man.  And even in the arts, supposedly a bastion of the weird and the eccentric, the demands of the business usually precludes anything truly strange from ever happening.  There are too many people judging us for something that gloriously insane to make it through the cracks.  And after years of being politely ignored by casting interns, even the weirdest get worn down by the sheer futility of it.  They get upset at the waste of time, too.  And life becomes more prosaic, day by day, as time marches steadily on.

But for two glorious minutes, one sunny afternoon in June, the Purple Man got to sway and dance to music only he could hear and make sounds he thought were singing, as all eyes in the room were upon him.

And sometimes, maybe that's enough.


I met Mikaela Kafka, director of my play Dragon's Breath, some years ago.  Her husband and I were fellow Nazis in a production of The Sound of Music at Paper Mill Playhouse; we had a great time working on the show, he introduced me to his wife, we all hit it off, I helped decorate their Christmas tree that year, and we've stayed in touch ever since.  And that's how we met.

Or so I thought.

One day, Mikaela mentioned that she had in fact met me some years prior, although I didn't remember it.  I was auditioning for a Fringe children's production, and she was one of the people on the other side of the audition table.  Evidently I was good, because she remembered me, but due to the vicissitudes of Fortune or the whims of the producers, I wasn't cast.

I don't even recall auditioning for this production, so it's not as if I've brooded over this rejection for years or anything.  But Mikaela made a point to tell me that she remembered the work I did, and recognized every time she'd pass me outside the Actor's Equity lounge.  I was a lowly non-union performer at the time, you see, and as such I'd have to wait outside the union hall on the off chance that there'd be a free moment to see me after all interested Equity actors had been seen for whatever production I might want to audition for.  And unbeknownst to me, she'd see me waiting outside as she'd enter the lounge, recall who I was, and shake her head at the unfairness of me still having to wait my turn, the good work she'd seen me do seeming to go for naught.

I mention this because this week, Mikaela and I will both be in the Actors' Equity audition center, on the other side of the table, watching people audition for Dragon's Breath.  There will be accomplished professionals; there will be young non-union performers who've waited hours with no guarantee of being seen.  There will be extremely talented actors, many of whom are personal friends of mine.

And with seven exceptions, they will not be cast. 

And it sucks.  And it's not fair.  Because good work is supposed to be rewarded.  And you're supposed to be able to help your friends, and you're supposed to be able to give extraordinary newcomers a shot.

And all I can say is this; it pays off in the long run.  Talent, diligence, good-humored professionalism - these are truly valued.  And at some point, although the form it takes may be completely unexpected and hard to even imagine, a reward for these will come.  And to anybody who comes to audition for us this week, even though the odds indicate that I likely won't be able to cast you, I tell you truly that I'm genuinely excited to see what you can do, and how these values manifest in you, and I look forward to seeing the ways in which you will one day be rewarded for them.

Because you'll be auditioning for Mikaela.  And that woman REMEMBERS stuff.