“It is hard to know any longer if women still exist, if they will always exist, if there should be women at all, what place they hold in this world, what place they should hold.” — Simone de Beauvoir

There are instructions for me:

  1. Please say you are here for the performance in Apartment 2C (guests of Barbara Grill and Brian Drolet). The house opens at 7:45. NO LATE SEATING.  
  2. Once the performance begins, late comers will not be allowed up to the performance space and will be turned away by the doorman.
  3. It is important that we keep all coats and bags out of the performance space. There will be a coat rack outside the apartment door before you enter, and a place for bags inside the apartment when you check in.

But my train is running late

And I remember the invite said “NO LATE SEATING.” I find a taxi outside the subway station. “I’m running behind. Can we find a street with less traffic?” We travel north on 8th Avenue and cross Central Park on 86th Street. I arrive on time.

The doorman tells me to take the elevator to the second floor. Outside the apartment door, I remember to take my jacket off and hang it on the coat rack. I claim my ticket from the man with the iPad at the front door. He tells me where to put my bag, on the table for bags inside the apartment.

“Is it okay if I use the bathroom?” A different man directs me to the bathroom in a hallway past the kitchen.

The house manager tells me I can sit in any of the chairs lining the perimeter of the living room in the apartment. There are approximately 20 other people in the room.

I open the notebook on my lap. I am ready to take notes for the review I am going to write.

The performance begins:

Seven female dancers enter and begin interacting with the furniture in the room. One sweeps the baseboard with her hand, one uses her finger to scratch a shelf in the bookcase, one drags a foot across the surface of the rug. Their actions are diligent and gain intensity over time. Scrubbing the floor in a wider motion, scratching with more pressure, sweeping with quicker and shorter movements. We watch them: limbs and bodies against the structure of the house. Hear their heavy breathing and groaning.

The dancers interact with the space that we share, sweeping the carpet underneath a chair someone is sitting on, crouching to brush away dust on the fireplace mantle behind someone’s back. I can feel the friction, the noise that their bodies are generating.

With their heads down, still maintaining a narrow focus on the task in front of them, they begin to yell:

“I really want to get in there!”

“I’ve been doing this all week”

“It’s tiring.”

“It’s too much.”

“I’m not going to be able to finish this.”

Their torsos start convulsing. Their energy is wild, frenetic.

The first act ends. Carrie Ahern, dancer and choreographer of Sex Status 2.0, walks to the center of the room and puts on a pair of glasses. She announces that there’s going to be a multiple choice audience Sex/Cleaning Survey. She will ask us to raise our hands and her assistant (another dancer) will record and collect the data. Ahearn tells us that all attendees will be sent an email after the performance with an overview and analysis of the survey results.

Beyond drawing out a relationship between sex and cleaning, the survey’s questions elicit responses from the audience, activating our individual memories and attitudes about domestic labor and sex. It is complicated to interrogate a person’s relationship with sex; it is even more complicated when the emotion of that relationship becomes a part of the performance.

sss01sss02Eventually all of the dancers will return to the room and their bodies will regain the outward focus of the room. In one section, they’ll approach audience members and ask for their consent to touch the dancers in a way they enjoy, to stroke the length of their body from their head all the way down the left side of their body, or to trace letters on their back. In another section, they will gaze at audience members, making extended eye contact while moving their bodies in different ways, at times both playful and provocative.

My inward focus remains on the survey. I recall that the movements of my body are always watched. Visibility makes me valuable. I work hard to be seen and this labor is pleasurable to others. My work never ends. One of my fears, which I prefer to leave unexamined, is now present at this dance performance on a Saturday evening in a private apartment on the Upper East Side. Someday I will not be seen as attractive to men. Will I be able to feel pleasure when I am no longer the subject of someone else’s pleasure?

Do you clean corners or do you avoid them?

It was getting late and it was going to take me a long time to get back to my apartment in Flatbush from Clinton Hill. My friend offered to let me stay over. But I had to work the next day and I was wearing a cropped sweatshirt.

“I can’t wear this to work.”


“Uhhhh, because it shows my stomach. I can pretty much wear anything to work, but I try to have all my skin covered. Everyone dresses pretty modestly. I guess I could go to H&M and buy something in the morning.”

“That seems pretty crazy.”

“It’s super close to my office and I could get something for cheap.”

“Ack, I have all of those shopping bags. I can’t go into work with those in the morning.”

Why would anyone care if you come into work with bags?!?”

Because I believe myself to be constantly watched. I have been taught that my credibility lies in my appearance.  More important than my performance at work is the appearance of my performance.

What do you prefer–sex with strangers or with someone you know well?

I danced with the guy for a couple of hours at a bar in Bushwick. Before I left to go home with my friends, he asked for my phone number.

I noticed that he wore a lot of streetwear in his Instagram photos. I already owned a cropped velour hoodie from Adidas. At the time, the matching track pants had seemed too expensive ($80.00). But I wanted to wear them when I went over to his house, so I went back and bought them. He told me that the pants looked good on me as I was getting dressed in the morning and I felt validated in my decision to spend so much money on them.

Do you seek or need validation for sex?

While we faced the barre, our ballet teacher Karen would walk by and touch the base of our spines. When she did this to me, it cued my butt to draw downwards and my stomach to draw upwards. She called this correction “tucking our tails” and it eliminated any protrusion of the butt or the belly. Although we faced the barre, this correction was always meant to be observed in the mirror at the front of the room, where we would watch our profiles as we performed warm up exercises, aware not of how we looked but of how we were seen.

The inspiration for Sex Status 2.0 is Carrie Ahearn’s reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Beauvoir says, “Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition. The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”

In a New York Times interview about her show, Ahearn spoke to Beauvoir’s ideas about housekeeping: “Pushing into the negative is work that’s never done — it will never be finished. In some ways, it becomes invisible almost the moment it’s finished.”

Women become invisible at almost the same exact moment they are seen. As soon as they become the object of someone else’s vision, they must be at work again, devising new ways of commanding attention. Like work that negates itself, recognition via being recognized is negative recognition.

Women’s bodies now exist outside the home and are in more positions of power. This has resulted in a greater level of visibility. Ahearn makes the point that in today’s political climate, it is imperative that women choose the ways in which they want to be seen.

Potion featuring Raife Baker, Liz Eckert, Sean Cronin, Noah Schultz, and Natalie Hegg Photo credit Carrie Leonard

In the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Spencer Tracy as the eponymous hero (villain), after the good (bad) doctor has quaffed his special personality enhancing potion, he looks in the mirror at his new face and asks, “can this be evil?”

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A woman dressed in a black silk robe that shows off her black-stockinged, gartered legs and bare thighs strides around a small stage outfitted like a fancy lady’s boudior. “His was first,” she says. “In my ass.”

Our interlocutor for the evening is The Woman (played with penetrating erotic intensity by Laura Campbell), a former ballet dancer whose “pelvic floor” has been wound up “like a corkscrew” after a lifetime of practice at the ballet barre. “Now it’s being unworked. His cock, my ass, unwinding. Divine.”

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Jonathan Sale & Charlotte Cohn in HANDLE WITH CARE �doug denoff

Christmas miracles are an end-of-December entertainment staple. Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life has been jerking tears since 1946, and similar fare is available from perennial animated specials to well-roasted theatrical holiday chestnuts. It’s not just about the winter solstice or snow, nor is it simply about the birth of Jesus. (As devout Christians will tell you, Christmas is a minor holiday – Easter is the real deal for miracles.) The Christmas miracle is about feeling miserable until some seemingly supernatural event makes you run out into the street and the snow shouting “I want to live!”

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Eileen Atkins as Maddy Rooney in Beckett's "All That Fall"

Eileen Atkins as Maddy Rooney in Beckett’s “All That Fall”

A phlegmatic, curmudgeonly old woman in a small Irish village some hundred years ago complains bitterly about the horribleness of life as she makes her way to the train station to meet her husband who is returning on the afternoon train. Along the way she meets other villagers: the dung monger, a buffoonish neighbor on a bicycle, a man in a motorcar with whom she had a flirtation ages ago, Miss Fitt whose name denotes her awkwardness, and the train station manager who has the unpleasant duty of telling her the train is delayed. Her husband arrives, not on time but soon enough, and together wife and husband walk slowly back to their house, stopping now and again to share a laugh and a cry.

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Some people will do anything for love.

Eileen stole a man’s wallet to pay for her ticket to London. Ali stole Eileen’s heart to repay his parents. Dov is a secret agent who poaches strangers’ secrets.

The English Bride, a new play by Lucile Lichtblau making its New York debut at 59E59 Theatre, is based on the true story of the “Hindawi affair,” a failed attempt to blow up an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv in 1986.  Nezar Hindawi, a Jordanian national, convinced his five-months-pregnant Irish girlfriend Anne-Marie Murphy to fly to Israel to meet his parents in preparation for their marriage. She didn’t know that he’d packed plastic explosive into the lining of her wedding dress.

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SimmonsElizabethPic (1)


As a first time producer, David’s RedHaired Death comes with many challenges. Only two characters are on stage the entire play, time is non-linear, not to mention the mysterious male ensemble that could have anywhere from 2-10 members.

I knew I had to find another woman to co-produce and co-star who was up to the challenge, someone who I could share this wonderful show with. I found her in Diana Beshara, who co-founded One Old Crow Productions, a New York Innovative Theatre Award nominated company. After seeing their first production, Cowboy Mouth, I knew David’s RedHaired Death, which I’d been wanting to work on for eight years, was a good fit.

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Metaphor is a dramatist’s stock-in-trade, and geography, memory and nostalgia are the fabric with which he weaves his magic. The Downtown Loop, a new play written by Ben Gassman, directed by Meghan Finn, with video design by Jared Mezzocchi, takes the driving metaphor (and the metaphor of driving) as far as it can go through the streets of Manhattan, where memory and loss appear around every corner.

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Elliot Leeds is on a plane to Osaka. As his body streaks through the stratosphere at nearly supersonic speed, he is rehearsing a speech via satellite video link to his wife Melanie, who is at home, her feet firmly planted on the ground, her mind on her “fertile window” which will open the day Elliot returns. Elliot is a tech billionaire. Melanie wants to start a family.

A month after Elliot and his plane are lost in the ocean on the way to Osaka — a fitting “tech FAIL” to introduce this tech fable — his best friend and business partner Ben pays Melanie a friendly visit. She is inconsolable. He is disconsolate. She is now a majority stockholder in Paradigm, the tech company Elliot and Ben founded, but she would trade it all — the billions of dollars, the super high-tech house Elliot built just before his death — to hear his voice again. Ben expresses his sympathy, but his overtures are spurned.

After Ben leaves, Melanie finds a package from a lawyer. Inside is a disk, and on the disk is a post-it note in Elliot’s handwriting. “Play me,” it says to her, and like Alice staring down the rabbit hole, she follows it to the unknown. We soon find out that Elliot had been planning the ultimate exit strategy for years. All his thoughts and feelings, all his gestures and expressions, have been saved on servers around the world, and when Melanie presses “play” their super high-tech house becomes inspired with its designer’s invisible spirit. Elliot becomes the ghost in the machine.

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Tiffany and Donal met in The Compass Rose, a bar in Martha’s Vinyard, ten years ago. It sounds like the kind of English style pub where you might expect to find an expat Irishman — or the guiding metaphor of a play. Tiffany is moving across the US to San Francisco to be with her fiancee, and her father tells her to take a companion on the road to keep her out of trouble. How Donal got the job is anybody’s guess. After all, he reeks of trouble.
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Susan Louise O'Connor and Andrew Schwartz packing for the big move

Susan Louise O’Connor and Andrew Schwartz packing for the big move

Jason got a teaching job in Columbus Ohio, and his Brooklyn pals are not taking the news well. He and his wife Michelle have packed up most of their stuff, and tonight the gang is coming over to Park Slope for a going-away fête among cardboard boxes and makeshift tables. Three couples, two singles and the hosts make up a party of ten. All of them are white, with the exception of Sanjeet (Imran Sheikh), a random addition to this group of old friends who met his date a few days ago on Match.com. The conversation is stilted and twee: regular folks trying too hard to pretend they’re starring in a Wes Anderson film. Rituals of greeting and farewell, stylized insults and pro forma self-deprecation politely hide the serious emotions, feelings of resentment, abandonment and failure, tearing at the guests’ well-heeled, well-bred, bourgeois façade.

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On Wednesday, August 14th, I had the pleasure of seeing Greencard Wedding’s The Skype Show or See You in August at the Fringe. The play is being presented at the White Box at 440 Studios, which feels less like a theater than a big beige institutional waiting room. I was pleased to find that director Aaron Simms utilized the room in a way that made it warm and welcoming and by the end of the show I had been transported from a Crown Height’s apartment to the white noise, static world of wifi-land where electronic transmissions yield emotion and the memories of these transactions linger in the air like a milky residue.

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Kathleen Goldpaugh, Clemmie Evans, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, Emily Meier & Amina Omagbemi (Photo by Jane Stein)

Kathleen Goldpaugh, Clemmie Evans, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, Emily Meier & Amina Omagbemi (Photo by Jane Stein)

Slain in the Spirit, a new play written and directed by Lisa Milinazzo, is based on the life of Andrea Yates, the Huston, Texas woman who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Molly (played with conviction by Emily Meier) is a driven, overachieving and lonely woman. In high school she was captain of the swim team, after college she studies to become a nurse, and when she’s ready for love and marriage she introduces and ingratiates herself to Danny (Josh Alscher) her next-door neighbor.

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Julie Voshell, Patrick Dooley, Bendan McDonough, Becca Ballenger, Rachel B. Joyce, and Adam Weppler (Photo: Hunter Canning)

Julie Voshell, Patrick Dooley, Bendan McDonough, Becca Ballenger, Rachel B. Joyce, and Adam Weppler (Photo: Hunter Canning)

Ask yourself a question and be honest. Why do you go to the theater? You can be entertained in a crowd at the movies. You can see live music and dancing at a club. You can get first rate dramas with name actors on your phone during your morning commute, if that’s what turns you on. On Broadway, you might shell out two hundred dollars to see a “name” actor in the flesh, but why spend twenty on a bunch of anonymous Millennials in a home grown production? You may visit one of New York City’s many “classical” theaters to see productions of historically important plays — if you’re a historian — but does anyone, anyone outside of the theater that is, think that plays are educational or politically influential?

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His Majesty the Devil, featuring Arnaud Ghillebaert Macintyre Dixon and Colin Pip Dixon

His Majesty the Devil, featuring Arnaud Ghillebaert, Macintyre Dixon and Colin Pip Dixon

The Father of Lies, Leviathan, Lucifer and The Old Enemy — these are names for the personification of evil in our Western, Judeo-Christian tradition. Lucifer (literally “light bearer,” a metaphor for “the morning star” that appears in Isaiah 14:12) refers to the demigod’s former status as the deity’s second in command before the elevation of Jesus. Leviathan is the “coiled serpent” of Isaiah 27 and Job 41: “Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering.” Advocate (in the sense of lawyer), accuser and prosecutor are translations of הַשָּׂטָן, the creature that appears in Job to tempt the eponymous hero to disavow his faith in God. This manifestation of Satan tempts the Young Man in Alexandra Devon’s play His Majesty, the Devil playing at 59E59 Theaters as part of their East to Edinburgh festival.

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Josh Evans as Eli and JD Taylor as Walter in Rubber Ducks and Sunsets (photo, Randy Morrison)

Josh Evans as Eli and JD Taylor as Walter in Rubber Ducks and Sunsets (photo, Randy Morrison)

Al is dead. His survivors — his boyfriend, his best girl friend, his best guy friend and his sister — are bereaved. They feel life without Al is no life at all. They grieve, and their grief is a sickness that longs for Al’s state of perfection, a perfection they can never achieve.
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"Final Defenders": Nicole Lee Aiossa, Melissa Delancey, Lindsey Carter, Rachel Grundy, Adam Files, Tom O'connor, Amy Overman, David Hicks (photo by justin plowman)

“Final Defenders”: Nicole Lee Aiossa, Melissa Delancey, Lindsey Carter, Rachel Grundy, Adam Files, Tom O’connor, Amy Overman, David Hicks (photo by justin plowman)

By Samuel McCarthy

Sitting inside the furnace-like Brick theatre in Brooklyn’s uber-hip Williamsburg neighborhood, you’re watching a Victorian child, an 80s airhead, a tough 50s chick and a 2013 social outcast battling for the fate of a galaxy (“not the universe,” we are reminded) against an evil space queen named for a Super Mario character. Suffice it to say, Final Defenders is no humdrum production. Performed as part of The Brick’s Game Play festival – showcasing a series of plays based on video game culture – Patrick Storck’s satire/slapstick/sly-winking comedy provides as much nostalgia as hilarity, although it has both in abundance.

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Anika Larsen and Eve Plumb as niece and aunt sharing a glass of prosecco

Anika Larsen and Eve Plumb as niece and aunt sharing a glass of prosecco

Can a house be evil? In Unbroken Circle the house where three generations of a poor, Texas family live appears to be the repository of and monument to an enduring evil. The house is in Galveston, and the time is 1970. Recently, the owner of the house died leaving a wife, sister-in-law, son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters behind. After his funeral, the survivors gather in the house to divide his possessions and honor his memory with as much duty as they can muster, which isn’t much because Grandpa Travis was an evil, evil man.

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The Fallen-78_web

“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” — Theodor Adorno

The Fallen by Yasmine Beverly Rana playing at the T. Schreiber Studio, directed by Terry Schreiber, starts as a bedroom-cum-courtroom drama. The lights come up on Sabine (Amanda Bena-Weber) and Andrej (Joshua Mark Sienkiewicz) in a hotel room in Trieste. The two are glowing post-coitally and ruminating on the wonderful strangeness of their random sexual encounter. Andrej admits there is something about Sabine that compelled him to talk to her when he saw her sitting at a table in his local cafe. “I remind you of home?” she says. Yes, that’s it — home. And where is home? The former Yugoslavia. Incipit the courtroom. Sabine (her name evokes the famous rape of early Roman lore) is also from there, though they were clearly on opposite sides of the conflict. Andrej is a Serb and Sabine saw what the Serb men did in Sarajevo. (Though it is implied that Sabine is a Bosnian Muslim, she doesn’t reveal her ethnic identity.) He protests his innocence; she denies his protests. He asks what she really wants; she says, “an apology.”

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Laura Piccoli as Desdamona

Laura Piccoli as Desdamona

“Why, how now, ho! from whence ariseth this? / Are we turn’d Turks, and to ourselves do that / Which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?”

Othello Act II, scene iii.

Daniel Spector’s version of Othello is compressed and concise, which is a blessing in the dog days of summer, in a black box theater that can’t run air conditioning and stage lights at the same time. Though the cuts to the script leave a couple of faint scars, the staging of what remains is coherent and convincing. The actors do their part too, reciting their lines with the modest truth, nor more, nor clipped, but so. Nothing ruins Shakespeare like languorous, rambling delivery that tries to get out of the poetry’s metrical straightjacket. And some clever stage and light design heighten the intimacy between the performers and the audience.

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Frankenstein Upstairs featuring Diana Oh and Kristen Vaughan Photo credit Deborah Alexander

It was a dark and stormy night . . . .  Actually, the meteorological disturbances weren’t that bad on opening night of Gideon Theater Ensemble’s new play Frankenstein Upstairs at The Secret Theater in Long Island City. Though it has been wet this month and not particularly hot (given global warming), it certainly has been no year without a summer. There was, however, a tempest raging in the minds and hearts of the cast and crew of Frankenstein Upstairs. Regular power in the theater was out due, I understand, to some faulty wiring in the basement. Even though this detracted not a jot from the production of the show, I think it would be hard to describe the bottomless pit of despair the Gideons must have felt being separated from the technology that creates and sustains modern theatrical illusion.

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Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius

Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius

People may become obsolete before they become dead. Lear “but usurped his life,” and Willie Loman opined “you end up worth more dead than alive.” This is the problem facing Jim Cornelius (played with seductive charm by Alan Cox), the eponymous hero of J. B. Priestley’s 1935 play, Cornelius, on now at 59E59 Theatre. He is the junior partner in the aluminum import firm of Briggs and Murrison, which is facing hard times. Mr. Cornelius must hold the company’s creditors at bay until Bob Murrison (Jamie Newall) returns from a tour of northern England in hopes of scaring up more business. If Mr. Murrison fails to find more revenue, the small office of six people will go under, and what was once a sustaining enterprise will expire.

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Jonathan Hopkins as Florian the Bloody Prophet

Jonathan Hopkins as Florian the Bloody Prophet

What do you get when you cross Sinophobic Occupy Wall St. with The Beverly Hillbillies and set it in the sunshine state? One hundred minutes of jokes that may or may not make you feel better about the end of our imperium Americanum. Occupation, a new play by Ken Ferrigni, imagines a not-too-distant world where the Chinese decide to cash in their US Treasury bonds. Because the US is broke, it offers to give our Chinese overlords creditors Florida. Did those imperial newcomers pay any attention to our failures in Afghanistan and Iraq? I guess not, because they took the deal! Now the Yellow Peril has to subjugate and civilize the dirty, addicted, and impoverished swamp dwellers in Alligator Alley. Talk about a quagmire!

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Elaine Bromka as Betty Ford (Photo by Ron Marotta)

Elaine Bromka as Betty Ford (Photo by Ron Marotta)

The three women portrayed by Elaine Bromka in Tea for Three — Claudia A. T. Johnson (a.k.a. “Lady Bird”), Thelma C. R. “Pat” Nixon, and Elizabeth A. B. W. “Betty” Ford became first ladies during the a turbulent period of profound historical significance. All of them started as “second ladies” while their husbands shed blood, sweat and tears in obscurity as Vice President. Likewise, all them became wives of presidents under a shadow of national tragedy. Ms. Johnson watched her predecessor, covered in her husband’s blood, stand in front of the television cameras saying defiantly that she wanted the world to see what it had done to a great man. Ms. Nixon became first lady twenty-two years after Richard Nixon lost the White House to Kennedy and Vietnam broke LBJ. And Ms. Ford, who became first lady when her predecessor’s husband was forced from office in disgrace, served as first lady for a mere 896 days.

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In the following guest post, Karen Hildebrand explains her experience writing a new play about sex, love and the cure for “happily ever after” (The Old In And Out, directed by Kat Georges, starring Holly Crane, Eloise Eonnet, Olivia Jampol and Rachel Ritacco) with her co-author Madeline Artenberg.

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Advance Guard featuring Ben Kaufman, Mari Yamamoto, and Alesandra Nahodil (Photo KL Thomas)

Advance Guard featuring Ben Kaufman, Mari Yamamoto, and Alesandra Nahodil (Photo KL Thomas)


The term avant-garde comes from the French vanguard, a military term describing the troops moving at the head of an army or the forefront of an action or movement. During battle you would literally, “advance your guard.” Then, sometime in the 1900s, the word avant-garde started to be used to describe new and experimental concepts, particularly those with relation to the arts.

Among other inspirations, it was this idea of avant-garde art having a militaristic or political agenda that fueled a lot of the themes and actions throughout our play. And thus, the title of our new show, ADVANCE GUARD by Ming Peiffer (me), says a lot about what we, at Spookfish Theatre Company, are trying to accomplish with our artwork and with this piece in particular.

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Honey Fist featuring Lori E. Parquet, Anna Rahn, Chinaza Uche, Matt Archambault, Isaiah Tanenbaum, and Nat Cassidy Photo credit Ken Glickfeld

A group of friends have gathered to drink beers and smoke buds under the powerlines in suburban Massachusetts in remembrance of their friend Justin, who died under mysterious circumstances at the end of high school. Now, thirteen years later, they have made their anniversary pilgrimage to a spot by a cliff in the shadow of electrical transmission towers, to party in remembrance of him.

But tonight will be different.

Joey (Nat Cassidy), a successful Hollywood writer with a famous singer girlfriend Gretyl Barnes (Lori E. Parquet) and the only member to make it out, has returned as with a proposition. Joey wants to know how Justin really died, and he’s willing to give a brand new Porsche to the one who can tell him. But Stu (Matt Archambault) doesn’t want Joey to learn their innermost stories about Justin. Stu says Joey is a sellout who used his friends’ lives to get rich in Hollywood, and Stu is sick of having his life appropriated without getting the spoils.

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AAAChem 118-X3

Science has brought us many wonderful things, not least of which is an impenetrable set of technical metaphors we can use to describe the mystery of human love. Who (other than a killjoy feminist) doesn’t like to hear a Neo-Darwinist tell you with a straight face that men are attracted to a woman’s red lipstick because it’s an atavistic memory of her nether lips? Really?

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Sam Troughton, Neil Stuke, Adam James, and Eleanor Matsuura in Mike Bartlett's "Bull"

Sam Troughton, Neil Stuke, Adam James, and Eleanor Matsuura in Mike Bartlett’s “Bull”

The stage of Mike Bartlett’s new play Bull (subtitled “The Bullfight Play”), included in the Brits Off-Broadway festival at 59E59 Theater, might mislead you into thinking you are at a boxing match rather than a bullfight. But that is just a geometric trompe l’oeil of Soutra Gilmour’s spare, industrial set design. Though the stage is square, like a boxing ring, tricked out with grey office carpet, a water cooler, and clear plastic file holders, the interaction between the players follows the tripartite form of a bullfight.

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Sans Merci featuring Alisha Spielman (photo credit Titus Winters)

Sans Merci featuring Alisha Spielman (photo credit Titus Winters)

As the audience finds their seats, a young woman reclines on a couch, listening to headphones.

And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dream’d

On the cold hill’s side.

Rain lashes the window. This silent, melancholy scene is interrupted by a rap on the door. The young woman rises from the couch and limps over to it. An older woman in a not-so-fashionable pastel colored poncho enters and introduces herself as Elizabeth, Tracy’s mother. Three years after her daughter’s rape and murder in the jungles of Colombia, Elizabeth has travelled from Chicago to L. A. to find out exactly what happened from the last person to hear her daughter’s voice.

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