Saturday, November 25, 2006


Almost everyone has heard the famed quote, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," and those who are literate know it is spoken by Blanche DuBois, uttering the immortal line as she is carted off to the mental institution by a gentlemanly doctor in A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams' stage-and-screen classic about a clash of gentility-civility and brute-force directness.

When life is not easy, gentility--basic kindness--is often the first casualty in modern behavior. People jump to what they want, snapping and barking as if the necessity of the moment is of the utmost world importance . . . and I suppose it is, to them. But . . .

When was the last time someone improved a moment in your day just by smiling at you or cracking a joke or doing something quite small that for a moment made you happier, your life a bit easier? When was the last time someone expressed camaraderie, that yes it's all pretty annoying and depressing and yet somehow we're all in it together and that helps? When was the last time that someone, stranger or acquaintance, took a moment to connect with you, not wanting anything other than to connect for that moment, to share a moment's humanity? When was the last time you did the connecting?

Yes, I'm just back from another dental extraction, and yes, woozy no doubt from the anesthesia, and grateful to the excellent (and kind) dentist. And maybe I'll shudder when I read this later, a sentimental "Hallmark" kind of moment. But this is a thought that's been on my mind of late, even when not "under the influence" of various pain pills, etc.: that the way we treat each other in our daily lives IS how we live our lives. The moment extra we take to share kindness, humor, and goodwill costs us absolutely nothing, yet changes the entire quality of life, both for the recipient and the giver.

The holiday season has arrived--hope your Thanksgiving was as nice as mine--and the usual "peace on earth, goodwill to all men" spirit is being revved up at a time when, worldwide, we live in a world without peace and without much positive spirit. If in fact there are constants in the universe of mass and energy, then somewhere, somehow the balance feels off. Taking a moment to be kind, pleasant to someone--that slight extra effort-- is something that has to contribute to putting the world back on track, and it's not something that should only happen between Turkey Day and the day Santa sidles down the tight chimney space. The extra effort to give a giggle, a smile, a moment of genuine self (and selflessness) is worth it, improving at least two lives for a moment. And in this world, that is an accomplishment worth noting.


Meanwhile, one of the truly compassionate writer/actor/artists, Harvey Fierstein, is being represented by his great humanistic and comedic gem, TORCH SONG TRILOGY, in a rare New York revival at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn. No doubt it's been a while since you saw it, or perhaps you never did--here's your chance, produced and performed by this always excellent company. Seth Rudetsky, musical personality and radio host, plays Arnold in this engagement, and it should be a terrific time for all.

Torch Song Trilogy runs November 27 through December 10. Performances take place Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM. (Note early curtain time--it IS a trilogy, after all!) Further information can be found at Individual tickets for each performance are $18 for Adults and $14 for Children 12 and under and Senior Citizens. Individual tickets can be purchased at or by calling (212) 352-3101. The Gallery Players is located at 199 14th Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Take the F Train to 4th Avenue or the R Train to 9th Street. The "R" train is easily accessed at the Pacific/Atlantic subway station in Brooklyn which serves the B,D,Q,N,2,3,4 and 5 trains. By car, take the BQE to Hamilton Avenue, and Hamilton Avenue to 14th Street.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Playwrights are born and made.

(Yes, I know, it's usually one or the other.)

Frankly, something deep inside makes only the truly strangest of us want to be playwrights. We don't do it for the money, clearly. We do it because we have a need to share with others--and we want to get the voices in our head out there on the stage, live. (So maybe we can have some peace and quiet inside our heads for a little bit!) It's an admittedly odd thing to want to do, but if it's in your blood, then you pretty much need to do it.

And yet there are many folks who want to write but don't--not enough time to write, no quiet place to work, no actor friends to read for them, etc.--all the usual excuses for keeping their inner playwriting demons repressed. (And maybe this is a healthy, self-preserving action!) And yet . . .

Playwriting allows an unusual opportunity not only to put one's thoughts into words, but to create a living "dream world" that both artists and audiences can share, often dealing with topics and behavior that no other art form can or will bother to explore. It utilizes the imagination not only of the author and the actors, but the audience as well, and in an instant, one can go from a small dreary room with folding seats to a castle in Italy (without spending millions on a wedding, Mr. & Mrs. Cruise), or conjure up a dragon or fly to Mars or go back in time or, maybe, just deal with something seemingly innocent that happened at a bus stop that changed someone's life forever.

This is where the writers being "made" comes in. With a good, free-wheeling, fun playwriting class, one can let the writing beast out and see what makes him/her tick.

All of this is admittedly a shameless plug for the playwriting course I'm teaching down at the Henry Street Settlement Abrons Arts Center. It is the final week to sign up for the "winter session" of my Adult Playwriting class, which begins November 29th and meets on Wednesday nights from 7-9 pm. No experience is necessary, and the class welcomes both experienced writers and complete beginners. Ten classes are only $150. In addition to reading and critiquing members' work, we will discuss the creative process, writers block, play marketing and, well, life. Call 212-598-0400, ext. 224 to register, or go to the Henry Street Settlement Web Site.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Freelancing Without Fear

Not everyone is born for an artistic life.

Nor is everyone right for a thirty-five year, 9-5 office job, despite the security it may afford.

We are all born with different temperaments, goals and dreams. Artistic types, though often an asset in business situations, may find traditional office life stagnating, and the demands of a "regular job" may cost the very hours (and energy) needed to do their own creative work with its own rigorous demands. (It should be noted however that most people in America actually like and even depend on the structure of the 9-5 job, greatly discomforted by the idea of not knowing where their next meal is coming from!) If, like myself, you have gotten caught up in jobs that were almost right, but not quite--and then clung to them because you desperately needed the benefits, I am here to tell you there is finally hope--and a solution!

In case you haven't heard (or seen their clever ads on subway platforms, bus stops or on the web), there is now the Freelancers Union, a marvelous organization for those who cob together their living from various creative and productive endeavors. Not only do they have a web site where you can post resumes, swap job tips, list gigs for other free lancers, and meet interesting, creative people, but someone had the smarts to use the power of individuals as a group to get healthcare benefits at a reasonably affordable rate! If you are an independent worker who's earned $10,000 from various part-time jobs in the last six months or have worked at least 20 paid hours in each of the last 8 weeks, you may be eligible to join their health insurance plan. I highly advise a visit to their web site, either via, or else and check out how you can structure your life according to your dreams and desires, not just in order to achieve survival. (This is not paid advertising, by the way--this is just yours truly passing on valuable information to those trying to make ends meet and stay both sane and functional!)

Literary Salons Live

As mentioned in a previous "blogs," Brooklyn Reading Works at the Old Stone House in Park Slope is a wonderful way to meet writers and have the express pleasure of hearing authors read from their own works. Curated by Louise Crawford, herself a writer and blogger--click on the links for Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn--Brooklyn Reading Works provides an evening of two or three authors' readings, followed afterwards by a convivial meet-and-greet with light refreshments. (Okay, that may sound like Hyacinth Bucket on Keeping Up Appearances, but it really is charming and fun!) In this fast-paced, hustle-and-bustle city, it's a wonderfully civilized way to stop and smell the literary roses!

This coming Thursday, November 16th at 8 pm, the talented guest writers will be Elissa Schappell, Ilene Starger and Darcy Steinke. Elissa Schappell is the author of Use Me, which was nominated for a Pen/Hemingway award. She is co-editor with Jenny Offill of The Friend Who Got Away and the forthcoming Money Changes Everything. The co-founder of Tin House, Elissa also writes the Hot Type column in Vanity Fair. Ilene Starger, is a poet whose work has appeared in Bayou, Oyez Review, Georgetown Review, and numerous other magazines. She was a finalist for the 2005 Ann Stanford Prize. Darcy Steinke is the author of Suicide Blonde (chosen as a New York Times notable book of the year), Up from the Water, and Jesus Saves.

The Old Stone House is located in JJ Byrne Park on Fifth Avenue between 3rd and 4th Street in Park Slope. 8 p.m. $5.00 includes the afore-mentioned light refreshments. Books are sold at all readings.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Pretty sensational title, eh?

Yes, sensationalism still sells--ask the tabloids, or the paparazzi who mow down their prey in order to get the final photographs of their victims. The paparazzi are having TV specials about themselves and their "work" now, as if they were heroes trying to feed a populace starved for Brangelina photographs and Madona baby adoptees. (Hey, Mother Theresa and Princess Diana are dead, somone's got to fill the void!) We live in an age where celebrity sells itself in an endless, vicious cycle that doesn't even seem to need the public's participation to keep it going. And it's getting worse by the day.

For many years, the circus freakshow and the carnival sideshow were the chief purveyors of human oddities--dwarves, giants, hairy ladies, tattooed men, conjoined twins, fat ladies and human skeletons. In short, any type of extreme human body was placed on display for those who wished to gawk. Some of these poor souls were exploited, while others chose to exploit themselves for the ring of cold hard cash. (Rumor has it Col. Tom Thumb and P.T. Barnum were great friends.) Still, an ever more socially conscious society rejected such marginalization of our fellow human beings, considering such gawking and hawking to be impolite at best, disgraceful at worst.

And then, there's Entertainment Tonight, "the most-watched entertainment news program in the world," celebrating 25 years on the air. Once upon a time, it was fairly entertaining, or at least mildly amusing: celebrity interviews, promos for upcoming entertainment events, perhaps a touch of scandal now and then, but nothing too invasive. Ah, those were the good ole days!

Now, despite the continuing presence of Mary Hart (one of the original hosts), the show has devolved into one of the most disgusting, exploitive freak shows in entertainment history. On any given night, there will be countless promises to show us anorexic women, ugly women, pretty women dressed up undercover as ugly fat women, nasty divorces and countersuits, weddings that turn into divorces within months . . . and oh, yes, nightly bulletins on the plight of Anna Nicole Smith. (Okay, she lost a son just as she gave birth to a daughter, but this spacey woman has now had 20-to-30 times more exposure on this program--with absolutely nothing to say!--than any other REAL celebrity in the world. Even Andy Warhol would say her 15 minutes is UP!) This is not reportage, folks, it's morbid garbage picking! How many anorexia stories can one show do? Tonight, trying to top itself, ET showed us Tracey Gold of Growing Pains (an anorexia survivor herself) heading to Australia to interview anorexic twins! "Last year, they looked like skeletons--how will they look a year later? Not tonight, folks, though we said we'd show them! Come back tomorrow night! Step right up, under the big top, to see the freaks . . ." HONESTLY . . . ! Then, on the same program, in between stories on Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline's divorce and Anna Nicole's pain over the paternity dispute, they dressed attractive correspondent Vanessa Menillo up in a fat suit, braces and a frizzy fright wig a la Ugly Betty, so that tomorrow we can see her humiliation via hidden camera.

Okay, enough is enough! Yes, America's TV and movie stars are indeed our royalty, figureheads who supposedly share their glamour with us. But truly, ET is sinking ever and ever lower. Whereas they used to overdo the on-location swimsuit photoshoots for Sports Illustrated, they now are simply scavenging for death and dying without giving their subjects the least shred of dignity. (And what of the former anorexic newswoman they kept showing for months? Or Sara Evans' former nanny, also an anorexic whom they gave a lie-detector test to see if she'd slept with Sara's husband?)

It's enough to bring back those immortal words from the days of Joe McCarthy and the blacklist--"Have you no sense of decency, sir? Have you no shred of decency?" Have they no sense of decency at all?! Positive action is what I always encourage, and I hate to suggest a boycott, though much deserved. But aren't we all too intelligent to watch this level of total trash? Do something positive for yourself--stop watching.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


As promised, I am trying to keep anyone who reads this blog posted of good writing coming their way and where to find it.

This coming week, for four performances only, the very talented Edward Musto, who writes wonderfully dark, edgy and funny comedies (often mysteries--he's been nominated for an Edgar!), has an evening of theater entitled CAMERA-READY ART (Another evening of murder and the like). The bill is comprised of three darkly-funny and disturbing one-acts, described this way on TheaterMania:

"A camera is the only witness in Camera-Ready Art -- a trilogy of short thrillers. In Shutterbug, a photographer of the macabre tries to convince his listener that he isn't inhuman. In And Everything Nice, an ex-convict, just having served time on a bum rap, hooks up with a liberal man of means to help her go straight -- with deadly consequences. And in Wedding Album (Photographs Presented in Reverse-Chronological Order), photographs of a small, impromptu wedding between a diplomat and his secretary at a foreign embassy serve as a memento of one party's murderous compulsion."

Once again, in an effort to be straight-up, I can tell you that I already know these pieces--which is one of the reasons I can recommend them as an entertaining evening of writing! Ed's work is always compassionate but laced with an edge of acid, and he comes up with twists and turns that you just don't see coming--a delicious blend.

Directed by Daedra Kaehler, the cast features Debra Kay Anderson, Rozie Bacchi, Erin Cronican, Manish Dayal, Eric Dente, Robert Dioguardi, William Franke, and Barry Steely. Performances are Thursday, Friday & Saturday, Nov. 9, 10 & 11, at 8 pm, with a Sunday matinee on November 12 at 3 pm, at The Players Loft, 115 McDougal Street. (between Bleeker and West 3rd, just north of Minetta Lane - take the A/C/E or B/D/F to West 4th Street. Tickets are $18.00 through or call TheaterMania at (212) 352-3101.

Friday, November 03, 2006


One can't legitimately review a theater company where one's work has been produced--and Gallery Players in Brooklyn has done some of my one-acts, and friends of mine work there often. But on the other hand, this IS a blog, such that opinions clearly labeled as such are legit--and I am the proprietor of this blog, after all. So with disclaimer firmly set forth, I still recommend that you snap up the remaining seats for their current production of URINETOWN. (I'm told Saturday night is sold out, but for tomorrow night at 8 pm or Sunday at 3 pm, you may still have a chance.) Gallery Players left the gate as a community theater years ago and is now among NYC's premiere showcase companies, attracting top flight talent (and attentive audiences) to Park Slope and to it's cozy basement theater on 14th Street and 4th Avenue. The work is consistently excellent and if you've missed a Broadway or Off-Broadway hit (no matter how risky the subject), chances are you can catch it shortly thereafter at Gallery Players in a sharp, highly professional production--and for a fraction of the price you'd pay in Manhattan! URINETOWN was the show I'd always meant to get to but somehow never did during its Broadway run. (In brief, it's a Brechtian send-up about a metropolis with a water shortage that charges people to pee--and the corruption and rebellion that ensues.) Here, it's given a gifted production--beautifully cast, sharply directed, well designed and musically clean as a whistle. This Tony-winning show may not be high art, but it is certainly witty, savvy and musically sophisticated, and the GP production gets every drop of juice out of it (pun intended). You will come away highly entertained. For more information and/or reservations, go to or call 212-352-3101.