Monthly Archives: October 2011

Arena Stage Creates a New Play Map

I’ve been trying to get better about twitter and recently received a message that @NewPlayMap was following me on twitter.  I quickly started investigating the New Play Map and realized Arena Stage has started an extremely promising networking and career building resource for playwrights, directors, theater administrators, and theater practitioners alike…New Play Map poses the question, ” What if the new works sector of the US theater generated a map of itself, harnessed and shared its collective infrastructural knowledge, and then coalesced as a diverse community to design powerful information tools that all belonged to the commons?”  The result is The New Play Map, which as their site states, is a “pilot project of the American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage on behalf and in collaboration with the filed that seeks to develop opportunities that internet and communication tools have enabling collaborative, culturally transformative, and globally-scaled information resource knowledge  sharing – within and beyond the new works sector.”

I strongly urge all of you to check out the New Play Map, create a profile for yourself, and start listing whenever you have a reading, workshop, performance, or full production.  This is a great tool for us to not only share information about our work but also to learn about more institutions that are devoted to and inspiring new work.  I find the concept of the New Play Map exciting, promising, and necessary.  Take a few moments to check it out and engage in the expansive community committed to creating and sharing new work for the stage.

-Jeffrey James Keyes

 

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Erika Sheffer on Failing and Inspiration

As writers, we spend a tremendous amount of time failing. We fling our arms into the darkness trying to grab onto a solid form. Once we make contact, we feel around to see wether we are holding an arm, a face. Is this a human, an animal, a vegetable, or something entirely alien to this world? We continue to feel, to grope, to make sense of this blankness. We are naming something anew- Some strange thing that has never before existed until we had thought of figuring it out.
And it hurts. The process of finding hurts. It is full of anger, frustration, bitter tirades at oneself, at the world around us. Why can’t I see this thing? I know it is real because at certain moments, I can make out its form, before it pulls away, slipping into the black.
In the past, at these moments of total anguish, life has seemed most bleak. These are the times in which I’ve hit “stuckness” hard.
As I keep writing, as every writer must, I’m finding “stuckness” is coming to feel familiar. Ah, yes it’s you. Hello, good to be with you again. Now we will spend some time together, and before we part, you will kiss me sweetly. You will give me something special through this kiss, and fill my body with a moment of pure joy. “Stuckness,” for all her annoying qualities, making me smoke more, eat less, cry often, ignore the sweet husband who lays next to me every night. “Stuckness” is becoming a welcome addition to my work, because I know that she leaves behind something that is worth all of the anguish, the terror of sleepless nights. Her parting gift to me is always the same. Inspiration.

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I’m From Driftwood Recap by Jeffrey James Keyes

This past weekend I was fortunate to have participated in an amazing workshop, a stage adaptation of I’m From Driftwood, which I blogged about here.  Nathan Manske edited the texts, which Joe Basile, Luke Harlan, and I co-adapted for the stage.

When I climbed the four flights of steps at the Access Theater on Friday, October 14th, I didn’t know what to expect.  Am I in the right place?  Do we have time to make the necessary script changes, tech, and get a run in before the house opens?  Will there be an audience?  How will they respond?  My flurry of questions were quickly put to ease once I saw Luke and the cast: early and already digging into the material.  We had assembled a dream team of performers: Joe Basile, Philip Callen, Julia Christgau, Raquel Cion, Sanam Erfani, Eddie Gutierrez, Harrison Hill, and Lea Robinson.  I watched patiently as we worked through the technical moments of our piece and gave the necessary script notes before we ran the show.  I could hear the audience gathering in the lobby as the clock ticked away.  We ran the bow and final dance and quickly retreated to the dressing room for notes and the customary break a leg rigmarole.  I saw my boyfriend and a cluster of friends and didn’t know how to think let alone talk like a normal functioning human being so I just smiled and grunted something about how happy I was to see them.  When the lights dimmed, I cupped my hands over my sweaty temples and took a deep breath…the cast walked out and the audience eagerly leaned forward.

The response was extraordinary, I was quickly surrounded by an army of friends and strangers with a barrage of questions and ideas.  I’m always careful with how I take in feedback and criticism, it’s delicate with new work.  I’ve learned to take in what everyone says, but trust my instincts regarding suggesting any modifications or changes.  The next day Luke, Joe, and I were in close contact regarding several adjustments we negotiated over making.  We left things up to a vote between the three of us, and when we returned to the theater that evening, Luke went over the changes with the cast.  The adjustments were minimal but changed the ending tremendously.  The audience response was equally positive and the general consensus was “this is a piece that needs to be up on it’s feet.”  I fielded the brigade of “what’s next for I’m From Driftwood” questions with a blend of uncertainty and ease.  In hindsight, I feel completely spoiled.  The opportunity to work on rich, profound, and excessively live source material paired with a team of talented and inspiring artists reminded me of why I love working in theater.

I’m grateful to Nathan and his team for collecting and editing all of the stories in I’m From Driftwood, to Luke Harlan and Joe Basile for bringing me onboard, and Project Y for welcoming us into the New York New Playwright Festival.  For more information on Project Y, please visit their website here.

-Jeffrey James Keyes

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I’m From Driftwood in the New York New Playwright Festival by Jeffrey James Keyes

On May 23rd, director Luke Harlan told me he was beginning to work on a stage adaptation of the blog, I’m From Driftwood.  My immediate response was “I want in”.  I had read and watched video’s on the I’m From Driftwood website after GayCities ran an excerpt from Jason Brantley’s IFD story “I’m From New York, NY”.  If you haven’t checked out the site, you’re in for a treat.  After watching Gus Van Sant’s film, Milk, Nathan Manske was inspired.  He reflected on a photograph of Harvey Milk in a San Francisco Gay Pride march, holding up a sign that read, “I’m From Woodmere, N.Y.”, revealing how far people had come to attend the rally.  Nathan states, “it meant something more to me.  It mean that there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in every small town and every big city across America and the world…there are many LGBTQ stories from every corner of the Earth and the importance of each story is as unique as the stories themselves.”  Nathan started I’m From Driftwood in order to help LGBTQ people learn more about their community as well as for straight people to learn more about their neighbors, and for everyone to learn more about themselves through the power of storytelling and story sharing.

On September 18th, I met up with Luke and Joe Basille at Grey Dog Coffee in Chelsea and we began brainstorming about how to build a play from I’m From Driftwood.  Luke brought copies of Nathan’s fantastic 166-page book and we flipped through the 51 stories together.  We discussed story, style, characterization, and how we might be able to assemble a script that would effectively dramatize the text of Driftwood.  Over the next few weeks we collaborated and experimented with constructing a play from our favorite stories on the site.  We talked about recent works we’ve seen, actors who inspire us, everything and anything that might be relevant to the project at hand.

This Friday and Saturday, (October 14th at 8pm and October 15th at 9pm), I am proud to say we will present a workshop of the living, breathing text of our play through Project Y Theatre Company‘s New York New Playwright Festival.  Luke has assembled an incredible cast: Harrison Hill, Philip Callen, Julia Christgau, Sanam Erfani, Joe Basile, Eddie Gutierrez, Lea Robinson, and Raquel Cion.  Tickets are $15 in advance, available on the Project Y website, or $20 at the door.  The workshop will be performed at the Access Theater, 390 Broadway at White Street.

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I Am Coming Out….As an Out Loud and Proud NYC Playwright

In honor of National Coming Out Day….I am Officially Coming Out.  And not in the traditional sense of the phrase.  For today, I am Coming Out…..as a Playwright.  The other Coming Out for me  happened many, many moons ago.   And it did not happen all at once.  It was somewhat drawn out in the process.  In stages, if you will, during my last year and a half, or so, of college.   At first I thought I was bisexual.  That thought lasted for a whole hot minute.  And for those friends who know me rather well, I will wait for your laughter to subside so I can begin to share about the next stage of my process.  (Long Pause.)  Ok.  It wasn’t until my Junior Year on a trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras did I realize that yes, indeed, I was gay.  It was also around the same time I first saw a man in leather chaps.  And while that sight just off Bourbon Street took my breath away- along with it went any and all doubts- I did, in fact, like guys.  At that point, even though I could admit to it to myself, I still couldn’t say it.  “I date guys” was my standard and approved response.  Truth be told- I did more than just date them.  Truth be told.  But it was all I could muster.  It took a little while before I could finally and comfortably say, “I’m gay.”  But that day finally came.  First to friends, then family.

Ironically, I have found, the same process has applied with me and playwriting.  For many years (All through that other coming out process) I identified myself first and foremost as an actor who also wrote.  This eventually gave way to me stating I was a “theatre artist.”  This, I thought, allowed me to be more ambiguous and not be limited as to who I was or what I did.  Sound familiar?  I am nothing if but consistent.  It wasn’t until recently that I have felt confident enough in myself and my art and my writing to take that even bigger plunge and announce to the world, that I, Rob Rosiello, am indeed an out loud and proud playwright.  It is who I am.  It is what I do.  More importantly, it is what I love.  I don’t make a living at it.  Not yet.  But nothing happens overnight.

I have learned over time to strive for progress, not perfection.  A progression, if you will.  And in keeping with the spirit of the day, I will go one step further…  Not only am I Coming Out as a Playwright…I am Coming Out as a NYC Playwright.  A NY based writer of plays.  And just as I once clung to the title “Theatre Artist” in the hopes that I would not be limited or confined to just one area of theatre, the same thing applies for me as a NY Playwright.  I live in NYC.  It is where I work, it is where I write, where I draw my inspiration and where I dream.  But not exclusively.   I was born in Philly, have lived in Jersey, LA, Philly and Cape Cod.  I have also has my plays produced (or at least workshopped) in those cities as well.  My two most recent projects, DEAR DEBORAH and HAY DAYS have taken me outside Phiily and Los Angeles, respectively.  And with those projects I have been granted the amazing gift of working with some amazingly talented artists and artistic teams.  Not afraid to venture outside the confines of NY for my artistic pursuit and finally not afraid to say I am proud to call myself a NY based playwright.  And while many would argue the point, I do not spend the majority of my days lounging about in a leather kilt on the beaches of Cape Cod trying to write.  Don’t I wish!  But like the picture on this blog shows- all of that is part of who I am… The Philly born via Cape Cod gay NY Playwright.   There is a whole wide world out there for me to explore.  It may sound like I am cheating on NY with the rest of the country.  I like to think that I draw from everything and everyone everywhere for inspiration and strength.  The only confines that are set-  Are the ones I have made.  I work very hard every day to try and break through those confines…  To be a better person…  To be a better artist…  To be a better playwright.  So again, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Coming Out Day-  From a very out loud and proud NYC Playwright.

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