Wednesday, August 30, 2006



Its twin lanes run down the center of California like the black streaks of two cigarettes being put out by a ruthless hand.

I jumped on it by following 80 across the Bay Bridge and taking 580 east. I hit the fork of the southbound funnel at Tracy and the needle on my speedometer quickly found areas above the 70 hashmark that it hadn't in months.

Trucks full of tomatoes and cars full of kids headed back to college sailed by.

Never having travelled south on it past Sacramento, I was amazed to find that it didn't cut through the dull farmland I'd been warned about, but rather, rolling golden hills edged by mountains on either side.

And then, near 7, I started climbing the Grapevine. Trucks took the right lanes and I passed them feeling like I was passing a line of Hannibal's elephants as they tried to get over the alps before the sack of Rome.

Yeah, it was cool.

And when I got to my good friend Aram's just outside of Pasedena, I hit the couch and slept the slept of the innocent.

I'm finally here. In LA.

Can you find the reason the Republican party will lose the next election in the photo at right?

Monday, August 28, 2006

A brief stop by the side of the road

On the way down to LA, I've stopped briefly in SF.

This was my home for many years. I fell in love here. I got married here. I got boozed up here. I got divorced here. I got sober here.

I first came into contact with real theatre here.

Leaving it in 2001 for Columbia and an MFA in playwriting was the right thing to do, but being here now, knowing there's no more NY for me, well, the temptation to do more than pause is strong.

It's such a manageable city, such a comfortable city, I could easily be deluded into thinking that I could just pick up my old theatre life here where I left it off.

Certainly, there's something appealing about a town that will let you produce work for peanuts so you can break even and enjoy yourself. Not that you can buy a house here for less than $500,000 or anything. Or find a place to rent for less than $1500.

Oh, no. That would be positively 1968.

Still, dipping into the old life has been fun. In fact, last night I went to a drop-in improv class at Voice One that was taught by my friend Brady. She and her husband David are very funny and while I sucked, it was great to laugh.

But the new also beckons, even here.

Today, I'm meeting with Mark Routhier at the Magic and a few others. They've been good to me over at the Magic, staging some readings of my plays and in general being encouraging. I'm handing Mark my latest, Beyond the Owing, about two people who are deeply in love and deeply in debt (that's not autobiographical - yeah, right). A lot of theatres around the country have asked to see it and while I'm not expecting anything to happen, you never know.

I'm also slumming it with a pit stop at an ad agency that's not interested in me, but is still willing to talk.

We'll see how all that goes.

But it's also good to pass through, stop. And not stay. Because it's not 1968. And it's not 1995, either.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Mini to the Max

Destination: LA

(in no particular order)

1 Spiral notebook
24 Bic ballpoints
1 Apple laptop
1 250 Gig hard drive (Porsche design)
1 DVC unit
1 AA coin/chip for year one
3 Polaroid sticky shots of H
1 Big Book
12 pairs of underwear
6 pairs of jeans
4 tennis shirts
4 long sleeve button down shirts
2 Sweatshirts
1 NY Yankee Cap
1 alphabet, hardly used
1 Tennis raquet
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 pair of cowboy boots
1 pair of Bass Weejun loafers
1 airmattress
1 Nano iPod
1 Thomas Guide of LA
3 maps of Southern Cali
1 set of towels
1 bottle of sun screen (spf 35)
1 copy of Shakespeare's sonnets
3 advertising portfolios and tv reels
1 copy Beyond the Owing (latest play)
1 draft of a to-be-named screenplay for Yes, Brothers Towing Company productions
1 bag of toiletries (toothbrush/paste, asprin, etc)
1 copy of Jon Steel's "Truth Lies and Advertising"
1 rolodex
1 HP printer
5 sticks of gum
58 cents
1 roll of black tape
1 Nokia 6230
Can you see the complete sonnets of Shakespeare in the picture at left?

ADDENDUM: 9.3.06

Mr Fancyshirt has commented that he didn't know what a "tennis shirt" was versus a "T-Shirt". I offer the picture below as a visual aide to the explanation in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What I saw at the OSF

In the couple of weeks that I've been in Ashland, I've seen a few shows.

Here are my shameless plugs for the ones I liked.

Inge had some tough competition when he was writing. Williams. Miller. A dead O'Neill. Albee a little later. But this play is beautiful and beautifully done at this year's festival. Done properly, it's got sentiment without becoming sentimental and the perverted professor who is contemplating a scummy rendezvous with the too young waitress of the play's diner is played dangerously well. And it's just completely devasting to watch the old cowboy go through the door into the barren winter landscape at the end of the play. All I can say is, Yes, please, more please, to this big mid-century play in a genre no one seems to write anymore.

I have to admit that, as a reader, I've always read this play with a little professor in the back of my mind who yelled: THIS IS A GREAT WITTY PLAY. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE IT OR GET IT YOU ARE A DULLARD. (Yes, he yelled in all caps, just like Dave Barry.) Well, I got it, but I never liked it. In fact, I always found it a little boring and too show-off smart for its own good. (Just like Wilde.) Worse, every movie, every theatre production, every everything I've ever seen of this play has been not only boring, but actually unfunny. So, when I sat down to see this show here I was ready to be bored in three acts again. Fortunately, I was suprised. Peter Amster has injected this comedy of the superficial crusty class with some physical comedy bits. And for the first time, I actually laughed as Wilde's ridiculous tale of coincidences and handbags came alive. (I may still, of course, be a DULLARD, but at least I finally enjoyed the play in some form.)


Beautiful day here in Ashland.

Got up early and went to an AA meeting. While I didn't love the speaker, it was still good to go. The topic ended up being honesty and it's always good to be reminded what a little liar I have in my head - the dark spaces I can get sucked into and hide in if I'm not careful.

Afterwards, we moved our last stuff out of the actor housing here and into storage. Borrowed a truck and drove all the way to Medford with the parking brake on before I realized there was something wrong. Still it was great to be behind the wheel of a truck again. I forget the kind of play the steering wheel gives you.

Came back home and H made a gluten free pasta dish (corn pasta). I couldn't tell it was gluten free, so it was a real success. There was some kissing after, and that's always good.

We finished the day with a midnight ride in our Mini Cooper. We love this car. It's the only thing of serious value we own besides our educations and a couple of rings.

Tomorrow we make final prep for roading south.

Bed awaits. Like I said, it was a good day.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Between LA and NY is Ashland and the OSF

My wife is finishing the season here as Gwendolyn in EARNEST. I'll be here another week, but just in the little time I've been here, there's been big news: Bill Rauch has been crowned King and successor to Libby Appel as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's next artistic director.

I think this will be good for the OSF and living playwrights - as Rauch has said he'd like to add at least one more new play to the season. Here's a bit of what he said in the interview posted on the OSF site.

What is your vision for OSF in the next five years?
As a language-based theater, the spoken word must continue to take priority at OSF. I want to continue and also expand the aesthetic diversity of our work, from nuanced traditional productions to bold reinterpretations of classics. The best work in world drama has come out of company settings: Shakespeare, Moliere and Lorca, to name just a handful. OSF’s acting company is our single greatest asset. As I nourish its continued artistic growth, the acting company will serve as inspiration for at least one more new play on average per season. Our education programs are crucial. I want audiences to have not only pre-show learning experiences, but also the rare opportunity to reflect on and debate issues of civic urgency that are raised by our work. I also want to launch a major cycle of new plays that explore United States history. As the company that has tackled the entire canon of Shakespeare’s history plays (almost three times!), we are in a unique position to create vibrant snapshots of our own country’s glorious and troubled history over the last 200-plus years.

Find more at:

Friday, August 18, 2006

Things About New York Theatre I'm Glad To Leave Far, Far Behind

Some of these things are NY centric. Some are the result of the defects in my character - which, somehow, the Big Apple really brought out.

1. Feeling like I'm not getting anywhere
On the subway. In the middle of the night. At the office. It could strike anywhere. For me, it happened most often while working my way through the throngs of Times Square. Ugh.

2. Being jealous
I'll admit it. Sometimes I was too self-centered to understand the choices certain theatres made. I'd go to a show and find myself hating it and then would come the ugly thought: "Why the hell did they do this show? I've written a better play than this and they rejected it." This did not forbode well for the conversation about the play with friends later.

3. Being too busy and tired to see friends shows
A crime again fellow playwrights, generous actors, faithful directors and risky producers. But the exhaustion of the daily grind in the city could be mighty and I was but one person.

4. Being too poor to see a show I wanted to see
I paid through the nose to see some shows. Which meant there were many others I didn't see. Then the blood stopped coming out of my nose.

5. Being told by people I knew that they were too busy to see my show
For some reason I wanted forgiveness when I missed their shows, why, oh, why couldn't I extend it to them when they missed mine.

6. Wondering if anyone would show up
Um, what's the deal in New York? There's millions of people there, but you still have to struggle to fill the 99 seat theatre. That's not right.

7. The cost of theatre production
I was told once that a 3 person show with no real set - on a 8 week Equity thing - would set me back about $28,000. Something is deeply, tragically wrong.

8. Finding rehearsal space
Do you know where I can find some? Please email me directly!

9. People who thought they could make a living in theatre
There are probably fewer than 50 writers who make money doing only theatre. Nationwide. Please stop feeling bitter about living in NY and not being one of them. Please.

10. Readings
You gotta do them. And you have to be grateful for them. And you know that they're probably never gonna get you anywhere.

11. Feeling like I'm not cool enough
Well, this one I truly have no matter where I go. But then New York prides itself on this kind of thing. Still, I hate wearing black. I really do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Things I'll Miss About New York Theatre

Things I'll miss about the New York theatre scene - as I knew it.

1. The Public Theatre Lobby
Is there a better place to hob-nob, people watch, hang-out or wait for a show to start in New York?

2. Clubbed Thumb
Always interesting. Even the things that didn't work were cool. And the audience was always full of people I wanted to work with. If I ever have a theatre company that creates an atmosphere half as cool, I'll be very very fortunate.

3. SPF - The Summer Play Festival
$10 for a show written by people who are interesting and excited. Then you see everyone who's anyone in that weird bar area on the second floor of Theatre Row. It was/is like an all you can eat buffet open for a month. Even when you hated a show, you'd be like, whatever, what's next?

4. The West Way Diner
All night chatter over greasy fries, cokes and cherry pie. I've spent hours here talking about what's wrong and right, tipping waitresses too much, watching cops drink gallons of joe and finally, wondering what the hell the cooks put in the gravy.

5. Meeting the Literary Departments
Sending a play to someone is great. Meeting them after they've read it is better. The help I got from people like Lisa Timmel, Eric Nightengale, Michael Kenyon, the Soho Think Tank's Robert Lyons, David Myers and others has been unbelievably great and generous and, well, you get the idea.

6. Knowing other writers are living nearby
Writing a play has a lonely part. It's nice to know that there are many other people - with talent - suffering nearby with the same problem. Maybe even in the apartment next door.

7. The theatre people in the Starbucks on 98th and B'way
It's like a ghetto up there. Really. You should go up there and see for yourself.

8. Occasionally a "star" will do a reading for you
For all the nattering about how celebrity culture is ruining everything, it's still something to have a bona-fide star sit down and read your play in front of people for you. They don't have to do it. But some still do. Thank you Billy Crudup and Estelle Parsons.

9. The most talented designers and tech people
Yep. The most talented.

10. Directors who love you
My favorites know who they are. And nowhere is it easier to meet more of them than in New York.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Ache Afterwords

Yesterday, we moved everything.

Today, we we're paying for everything.

Though, in truth, the retribution started last night when creaky joints made themselves known with every step.

Heather really had it bad. A foot that she broke many years ago (under Marcia Gay Harden's garage door) gave her sharp stabs on the stairs and she fidgeted all night in the bed.

Me, I had neck problems that made me look more like Lurch from the Addams Family than usual.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The plan was to hire two guys from Medford to drag our boxes to the Mini-Storage place. But they never called us back and so we had to do it ourselves.

Still, after a year and a half apart, and a month of taping up and shipping boxes alone in Manhattan, it was good to do a part of this moving thing together. And to be in pain for it together as well.

Someday, I'll have enough money to get someone else to pick up my boxes and take them to wherever I'm living.

Until then, it's all the Asprin I can afford.

PS. Any suggestions for straightening out a bad neck and back are much appreciated.

Here's a Youtube video of us in the not-so-long-ago bi-coastal days. Girl

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Door Of My Next Life

EDIT: This is the first entry of the blog in 2006. About a year later, I stopped posting and moved to San Francisco for work. In August 2010, I started blogging again.

It's just under 10 feet wide and 10 feet high. Behind it is everything my wife and I own. Two weeks ago, it was behind a very different door, a door that was in New York.

But we've decided to leave behind the life that was behind that New York door.

Why? Because after years of the actor and writer life in the Big Apple (14 for her, 5 for me), it's time to find out what life is like elsewhere, namely, LA.

Is it the right thing to do? Was Joan Didion right when she said New York is only for the rich and young? We only know that staying in the city that is home to the old world of ideas was the wrong thing to continue doing for us.

Not that we won't miss it. We will. We leave behind many friends. And Bodegas that are open all night. And a subway system that gets you everywhere for $2. And tall buildings that look great when the sun goes down and you think, maybe I could live at the top of one of them some day.

But the theatre life there didn't pay for us. Productions were scarce. Audience's scarcer. And we don't want to be living in a small apartment that costs too much not doing what we love - telling stories with words and action.

So, we're off.

And this door guarding all our stuff is in Ashland, Oregon where I'm hanging out for a few weeks while my wife finishes her contract doing THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

And then we're onto the other American city of dreams. And plastic surgery. And traffic.

Or something like that.