Monday, April 30, 2007

And....Scene

The double-bill of Trailers and Suburban Peepshow has now gone off to that Great Production in the Sky (Production #14 for Nosedive Productions). For some reason this run - which was four weeks - seemed to absolutely fly by. I had a whole lot of fun writing this show and seeing it get staged (actually, the entire cast and crew had a whole lot of fun doing this show). We all whooped it up on Saturday night (until Sunday afternoon), but of course the gang is now engaging in the obligatory post-show depression.

On the upside, this means I have more time to wrap up all the loose threads in the rough draft of the superhero play I've been writing since...Good Lord, September! Have I really been dragging my feet on this project for this long?

(Note to self: Christ, Comtois, enough is enough. Finish the fucker already!)

Thanks again to everyone involved in this production. To paraphrase the late, great Mr. Wesley Willis, you rocked the werewolf's ass.

In the "other random news" department, Martin Denton has asked Pete and I to join NYTheatre.com's summer reviewing squad. I'll be attending the orientation session this evening.

Well, wait. I'm finishing up writing the superhero play over the next couple of weeks and reviewing for Martin over the next couple months, just in time to prep for Blood Brothers in October and Christmas Carol in December.

So much for downtime after the show, I guess.

No time for post-show depression,

James "Dancin' Fool" Comtois

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Directing and Writing

Michael Criscuolo interviews Isaac Butler about the process of directing over writing and how, for good or for bad, the script is what's noticed much more than the direction. Very good stuff.

Click here for Part One.

Click here for Part Two.

Matt Johnston also writes about his job as a director here.

Mac Rogers actually describes his observations on how Pete and I work over at Nosedive over here. (Thanks, Mac! Wow, that was really nice of you. We promise not to write on you this time if you pass out at the cast party. Okay, no promises. But we'll really, really, try.)

Mac's description pretty much explains why I don't have a whole lot to contribute. With very rare, very singular exceptions, I write my play (and Pete offers one, maybe two, suggestions on the rough draft) and Pete directs the show (and I offer one, maybe two, suggestions on a scene here and there). I've never had any horror-story experiences like the ones Joshua James has had. It's apparently a bizarre relationship (and one that's not very common in the theatre world, I guess).

In looking at the reviews for Peepshow (and reviews for other shows Nosedive's done) I personally feel a twinge of pride and embarrassment at the numerous references to my name over the names of the cast, crew members and directors. Now, I'm not even remotely complaining that I'm getting praise (and even with bad reviews, I like the sense of accountability, i.e., if someone didn't like the show, it's me that screwed up) but at the same time, I didn't - and don't - want Nosedive Productions and/or Suburban Peepshow to be considered "The Jimmy Comtois Show."

Isaac suggests that reviewers can/should read the scripts in addition to seeing the production, to compare and contrast what's written versus what's seen. For Peepshow, we offered copies of the scripts to "Trailers" and Peepshow to reviewers for this reason.

(Tangentially, now that I think of it, I do wonder if that can be a cause for emphasizing the script. Ah, to hell with it. I won't worry about that. What good is abstract worrying?)

I think that one of the main reasons why directors sometimes only get one-word adjectives attributed to them in reviews (which I think is unfortunate) is because in some cases, if a director does his or her job well, they're invisible (yes, there are exceptions to this): the actors don't look like they've memorized blocking, they look like they're making their own moves. The transitions seem organic. There are choices being made but not "Choices" (i.e., it doesn't look tacked on). The overall look to and style of the show appears as if it was the only way that show could be done.

A really good director will make you see their production and think that that was the only way it could have been staged. This is not unlike film editors: if they're doing their job well, you often don't notice their work.

Or hell, not unlike some writers: if they're doing their job well, you forget that the actors are reciting lines they memorized from a script and think that they're saying their own words.

Anyway, I'm really just rambling and thinking out loud on a rainy Friday afternoon a few hours before my company has its second-to-last show for Suburban Peepshow. Give the above links a read, have a good weekend and I hope to see some of you tonight and tomorrow at the Red Room.

Physically beating Pete Boisvert every time he
dares make a suggestion about changing my work,

James "Evil Tyrant" Comtois

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Jack Valenti, 1921 - 2007


Jack Valenti, the Washington lobbyist who served as Hollywood's public face for nearly four decades, died Thursday afternoon from complications from a stroke at the age of 85, according to his longtime friend Warren Cowan.

Mr. Valenti was a long-time president of the Motion Picture Association of America and best known for creating the MPAA film ratings system.

In 1952, he co-founded "Weekley & Valenti", an advertising/political consulting agency, which was in charge of the press during the November 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson to Dallas.

Following the assassination of President Kennedy, Mr. Valenti was present in the famous photograph of Lyndon Johnson's swearing in aboard Air Force One, and rode with the new president to Washington. He then became the first "special assistant" to Johnson's White House. He lived in the White House for the first two months of Johnson's presidency.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Margaret Valenti, and their three children: John, Alexandra and Warner Bros. studio executive Courtenay Valenti.

Only seeing R- or NC-17-rated movies,

James "Myopic" Comtois

Photo: Jon Elswick / AP

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Theatre and Politics - Matthew Freeman: Journalism and Blogging

Matthew Freeman has written an excellent entry summing up the crucial differences between journalism and blogging with regard to the incident with Mike Daisey's play.

Ultimately, he explains, that the good and bad thing about blogging is that it's "fast to the trigger." The bloggers are the first to respond and possibly force the journalists to take note, but are not the ones to actually offer up the cold hard facts about the situation (i.e., apparently this incident was not based on the pre-meditated actions of a protesting Christian Right group with the intention of sabotage).

Give it a read.

Blogging first,

James "Asking Questions Later" Comtois

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Roger Ebert Attends His Overlooked Film Festival


I don't know how many people who read this page have been following this, but film critic Roger Ebert has been undergoing surgery to combat cancer of the salivary gland and therefore has been ostensibly MIA from his site and his TV show for several months. He's written a handful of essays and reviews in the past few months and has said he plans to return to work, but has also admitted that his recovery has been longer and harder than previously expected.

Recently he posted a photo of himself, which is quite jarring to see, simply because he's been out of the public eye for so long (I still had that image of him that’s posted on the upper-left-hand corner of www.rogerebert.com). It’s also jarring to discover that he’s currently unable to speak. Perhaps it’s so jarring because the few times he’s returned to write for his site he still retains his wit and style, so one automatically assumes that he's overall in fine shape (aside from the obligatory weight loss and bed-head one acquires while recovering from what was assumed to be successful surgery). In other words, when he’s returned to write reviews, he reads (and therefore, "sounds") like regular ole' Roger Ebert.

Or perhaps it’s because, as Mr. Ebert puts it, "We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same."

In an essay on his site, Mr. Ebert writes:

"I have received a lot of advice that I should not attend the Festival. I’m told that paparazzi will take unflattering pictures, people will be unkind, etc. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. As a journalist I can take it as well as dish it out.

"So let’s talk turkey. What will I look like? To paraphrase a line from "Raging Bull," I ain't a pretty boy no more. (Not that I ever was. The original appeal of Siskel & Ebert was that we didn’t look like we belonged on TV.)

"What happened was, cancer of the salivary gland spread to my right lower jaw. A segment of the mandible was removed. Two operations to replace the missing segment were unsuccessful, both leading to unanticipated bleeding.

"I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers. So what? I have been very sick, am getting better and this is how it looks. I still have my brain and my typing fingers.

"We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I’m not going to miss my Festival."


Having been a fan and admirer of Mr. Ebert’s reviews for years now, I admire his decision to attend his festival (and his attitude towards the paparazzi) and am wishing him the best and hoping he can recover as soon as possible.

Rooting for the guy,

James "Get Well, Roger!" Comtois

Photo: Dom Navolia/Chicago Sun-Times

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back To Blatant Plugging

Well, we're at the home stretch now, so this'll be the last "plug" post...

ONLY THREE MORE CHANCES TO SEE

SUBURBAN PEEPSHOW AND TRAILERS


"Not only is Suburban Peepshow a head-spinning cornucopia of pop culture references, but it's also a potent satire of modern suburban malaise, and even the theatre itself. ... If you're in the mood for something different, Suburban Peepshow is the way to go. By thumbing their noses at the status quo with fast, cheap, and sharp humor, Comtois and his colleagues at Nosedive Productions continue to demonstrate why they're a company to keep an eye on."

-NYTheatre.com

"...this production, when paired with Comtois's previous work, The Adventures of Nervous Boy, shows he has a fine ear for the dialogue and personal problems of his generation, and a dark sense of humor that is willing and able to exploit them."

-Offoffonline.com


The Red Room, 85 East 4th Street (west of 2nd Avenue)

April 5-28, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $18. Space is limited.

For tickets call 212-352-3101 or go here.

Jiggling each night,

James "Dancing Fool" Comtois

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Some Crazy Shit

"Free speech is like a Ferrari: What good is it if you don't use it or if you barely use it, only driving it in town, in stop-and-go traffic? It's useless until you can head out to the Arizona desert and push it past 150 mph. Short of libel, slander and impersonation, anything goes--that is, if you believe in the First Amendment."

-Ted Rall




UPDATE: Apparently it wasn't a Christian group. The school offers its side of the story here.



UPDATE #2: Mr. Daisey writes about speaking with the man who poured water on his outliine here.



Thursday night's performance of Mike Daisey's Invincible Summer at the A.R.T. in Cambridge, Mass. was disrupted when eighty seven members of a Christian group walked out of the show en masse, with one protester coming on stage pouring water on his original of the show outline.




Here's what Mr. Daisey writes:

"I am performing the show to a packed house, when suddenly the lights start coming up in the house as a flood of people start walking down the aisles - they looked like a flock of birds who'd been startled, the way they all moved so quickly, and at the same moment...it was shocking, to see them surging down the aisles. The show halted as they fled, and at this moment a member of their group strode up to the table, stood looking down on me and poured water all over the outline, drenching everything in a kind of anti-baptism."


All things considered, Mr. Daisey handles himself - and the protesters - quite well, moving on with the show for those that remained.

The Right always likes to complain about the secular humanists' and atheists' harassment and persecution of Christians. This would make a little more sense if said secular humanists and atheists were entering churches and staging disruptive walkouts en masse. (Although hey, maybe it's happened once or twice. Can anyone find an occurrence of this really happening? By all means let me know.)

You can read about the incident, as well as view YouTube footage, here.

Mildly appalled,

James "Crazy Christian" Comtois

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Friday, April 20, 2007

From the Lil' Sistois…

So in case you didn't notice the update on the "Nosedive Central" blogline, the Blonde Comtois, Becky, has started her own blog. Her recent post made me laugh and sigh. I didn’t see the play in question, but she fumed about it to me last night.

She writes:

“Aside from being a dismally bad show, what I found the hardest to swallow was information I found in the program. The number of people who are financially backing this company is astonishing. Several people had given them donations of or higher than $20,000. Hundreds of people have given them hundreds of dollars. To make this show?! And more shows like it?! How can this be? In the last year I have seen brilliant companies struggling with little resources, and trying desperately to grab some attention away from Broadway and Off-Broadway productions like this. I can’t imagine that this is what people want to see.”


I do understand her frustration, as I'm sure many of you theatre-makers out there do.

Don't you ever wonder when you see a big professionally-made piece of horse manure how on earth it got made and, more to the point, how on earth it got so many large donations? I mean, several people had to sign off on the idea at multiple levels and tiers (a smaller version of the Hollywood system, where you need several "green lights" from several departments before going ahead with the project). Also, when you look at the donors list, you can't help but think, "Whaaaaat?! Many people donated upwards of $20,000 for this?" (Again, I haven't seen the play she saw, but I've seen others that have given me the same reaction.)

Anyway, I do understand her frustration.

Wanting a grant,

James “Or Just a Sandwich” Comtois

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Very Late To The Game

A lot has been happening in the theatre world, with discussions about Rabbit Hole winning the Pulitzer, discussions about writing violence and the emergence of Theatre Forte, a super-neat concept/site. I've unfortunately been too swamped to chime in, which is a shame (because it's always so fun to muddy the waters with my incoherent two cents on any matters).

Even though I'm late in the game, there may be some overlap in my readership (i.e., some of you out there who read Jamespeak but don't read the other theatre blogs), so I will direct you to Mark "Mr. Excitement" Armstrong's blog for some required reading.

Mr. Nelson sums up (I think) several huge problems with the mentality of the theatre world/theatre industry. He explains one of the main reasons why I self-produce with my own company: staging my own work enables me to say exactly what I want to say, exactly the way I want to say it, while keeping those little developer/workshopper/"helper" demons at bay.

(And before you accuse me of selling out the folks at Nosedive Central, read Mr. Nelson's speech first. You'll know exactly what I'm talking about.)

I may go back to this subject in greater detail (read: rant for several thousand words on the subject). But for now, I just want you to go to the link. Read it. Then read it again.

Then tell everyone you know even remotely involved in theatre to read it. And read it again.

Tilting at windmills,

James "Fuck Workshops" Comtois

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quotes and Reviews

NYTheatre.com (a "Reviewers' Pick"):
"Not only is Suburban Peepshow a head-spinning cornucopia of pop culture references, but it's also a potent satire of modern suburban malaise, and even the theatre itself. ... If you're in the mood for something different, Suburban Peepshow is the way to go. By thumbing their noses at the status quo with fast, cheap, and sharp humor, Comtois and his colleagues at Nosedive Productions continue to demonstrate why they're a company to keep an eye on."

Offoffonline.com:
"...this production, when paired with Comtois's previous work, 'The Adventures of Nervous Boy,' shows he has a fine ear for the dialogue and personal problems of his generation, and a dark sense of humor that is willing and able to exploit them."

New Theatre Corps:
"With all the prancing around of dismembered carnival barkers, the violent sequins of ninja cross-dressers, the cutthroat economy of in-office gladiators, and romantic flings with self-titled characters ('Pool Guy' and 'New Girl'), Suburban Peepshow does succeed in making us laugh."

OOBR:
"How to describe 'Suburban Peepshow,' the latest play from Nosedive Productions? Theatrical is the word that instantly springs to mind. No fourth wall or naturalism from these actors, the audience is very much a part of the show, and they acknowledge that everything is an illusion. Outrageous is another good word. Ridiculous fits, as well. ... Those people who prefer their plays realistic and their plots comfortably traveling from Point A to Point B may not appreciate the shear gleeful absurdity of 'Suburban Peepshow.' However, if you like your theatre with an edge, this is a good show to experience."

Backstage:
"The characters in Suburban Peepshow, James Comtois' sketch comedy run amok, talk as if they live on the Honest Planet. Since comedy is largely about telling the truth, that makes Suburban Peepshow, for the most part, pretty funny. ... A distinctive comic identity is taking shape here."

Hunter's The WORD:
"The new theatre production by the makers of the critically acclaimed 'Adventures of Nervous Boy,' can be a jolting treat to anyone tired of the banal and the monotonous and looking for some wickedly weird evening fun."

And Time Out New York:
Welllll...okay, so they didn't like it so much. But they did say: "Scrappy, endearing energy is everywhere, from playwright James Comtois's entr'-acte boogie to pop-eyed exchanges such as, 'How'd he get in here?' 'Through the fourth wall.'"

NEW! ELJ All Arts Annex:
"Suburban Peepshow is an unapologetically unconventional commentary about the banality of modern society and popular entertainment. ... Once again, I recommend a Nosedive Productions presentation. This time, Suburban Peepshow and Trailers."

Seriously, folks. The theatre is tiny. Get your tickets here.

Blushing from the attention,

James "Bashful" Comtois

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Typical Conversation Between Fellow Blogger MattJ and Myself

Scene: A bar.

Time: Very late.

Music plays overhead. Although it's difficult to tell which song it is, it's definitely not "My Sharona."


MATTJ: (Hearing music.) Is this "My Sharona?"

ME: What?

MATTJ: This is "My Sharona," right?

ME: Uhhh...no.

MATTJ: Was the last song that played "My Sharona?"

ME: (???)

MATTJ: I DRINK SO MUCH!

ME: (Passes out.)

An enlightened conversationalist,

James "Elitist" Comtois

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Final Performances Of In Private and States of Exception Tonight

Tonight is the final concert reading of George Hunka's plays States of Exception and In Private at 8:00 p.m. at manhattan theatre source, 177 Macdougal Street. Admission is $15.

In In Private, a companion piece of sorts to his previously staged In Public, a man and a woman try to recreate and recapture a lost moment - and lost love - together through letter-writing correspondence.

In States of Exception, three estranged family members (two sisters and one brother) are confined to a penthouse apartment as riots from a civil war rage beneath them in the streets of a 21st century city. As the civilization beneath them completely falls apart, they're forced to take not-so-pleasant-but-absolutely-necessary strolls down Memory Lane.

As these plays are very much word plays, they work well being "heard" rather than "seen" (although I would like to see a fully realized production of both in the not-too-distant future).

More information can be found here. You can make reservations by calling (212) 501-4751.

Don't miss it.

Doing it in a graveyard,

James "Nothing But Class" Comtois

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Rock. On.

NYTheatre.com likes us! It's even on the site's "Reviewers' Picks" page ("reminding us why theatre still rocks").

"If you're in the mood for something different, Suburban Peepshow is the way to go. By thumbing their noses at the status quo with fast, cheap, and sharp humor, Comtois and his colleagues at Nosedive Productions continue to demonstrate why they're a company to keep an eye on."


Thanks, Michael!

Feelin' priddy good,

James "Double Duty" Comtois

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Peter Griffin, Sir Lancelot

We are now underway with our second weekend of our four-weekend run of Suburban Peepshow and "Trailers." Last night's show was a lot of fun and I'm very much looking forward to tonight. Seriously, folks, it's a small theatre, so don't wait until the last minute to come see it. Get your tickets here.

Last night, Subjective Theatre Company founder/artistic director Zachary Mannheimer came to the show and had a drink with us afterwards, saying to me: "So it looks as though you've finally written your Family Guy play for the stage."

Well yes, exactly so.

I've been having a tough time trying to accurately describe the show to people and have been falling flat: a straight plot summary won't help, as will mentioning the "style" or ideas. But that's a pretty accurate one-sentence description: Family Guy for the stage. (Sorry, Isaac, but you're still coming to see it.)

(Oddly enough, as soon as I wrote that last sentence, Zack Calhoon, who's in the show, posted a comment on my previous blog entry saying that his friend described the show as "Monty Python on anti-depressants." If you're really Family Guy-phobic, that description may suit you better.)

Well, I guess you're going to have to see it for yourself.

And in closing, happy birthday to both Marc and Kid Sister Becky!

Bringing the party favors,

James "Punch n' Pie" Comtois

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

OffOffOnline.com Weighs In...

...and they like us!

"...this production, when paired with Comtois's previous work, The Adventures of Nervous Boy, shows that he has a fine ear for the dialogue and personal problems of his generation, and a dark sense of humor that is willing and able to exploit them."


Woo-hoo!

Getting ready for the second weekend,

James "Buy Tickets Here" Comtois

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Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

"I'm embarrassed to have lived this long. It's in terrible taste. You know I had a fire several years ago, and it would have been so shapely if I'd died in the fire. But here I am, and of course I'm suing the cigarette company because on the package they promised to kill me, and here I am."

-Kurt Vonnegut


Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. died on April 11 in Manhattan as a result of brain injuries suffered from a fall several weeks ago. He was 84.

Mr. Vonnegut is best known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat's Cradle (1963) and Breakfast of Champions (1973).

While a prisoner of war during World War II, Mr. Vonnegut witnessed the aftermath of the February 13-15, 1945 bombing of Dresden, Germany, which destroyed much of the city. He was one of just seven American prisoners of war in Dresden to survive, in an underground meatpacking cellar known as Slaughterhouse Five (which was the source of inspiration for his novel of the same name).

His first short story, "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" appeared in 1950 in Collier's. His first novel was the dystopian science fiction novel Player Piano (1952), in which human workers have been largely replaced by machines.

In 1984 he attempted suicide and later wrote about this in several essays.

In A Man Without a Country, he wrote that "George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography." He did not regard the 2004 election with much optimism; speaking of Bush and John Kerry, he said that, "no matter which one wins, we will have a Skull and Bones President at a time when entire vertebrate species, because of how we have poisoned the topsoil, the waters and the atmosphere, are becoming, hey presto, nothing but skulls and bones."

He looked like this:

Mr. Vonnegut is survived by his wife, the photographer Jill Krementz, three children from his first marriage to Jane Marie Cox and four adopted children.

Sad but not surprised,

James "Kilgore Trout" Comtois

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Damn Fine Cup of Coffee

The second season of David Lynch and Mark Frost's groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks has finally been released on DVD, six years after the release of the first season.

About. Time.

And of course, now that the second season is now available, the first season is out of print. Go figure.

I recently spent some time watching most of the episodes (8 through 14 and 23 through 29) in the second season (the video rental place near my apartment apparently had the middle episodes checked out, which was kind of fine by me, since I don't remember those middle episodes - after wrapping up the Laura Palmer case and before really starting the Windom Earle arc - being that good) and reminding myself why I loved the show so much.

(David Foster Wallace talks at length about how much seeing Blue Velvet for the first time opened mental doors for him he didn't know existed. Twin Peaks did that for me in the 8th grade; when it had originally aired, I hadn't seen anything like it before. Or since, to be honest.)

Watching these episodes again for the first time in 10 years (I had first seen them when they had originally aired and again in college on very badly dubbed videotapes), I would agree with the sentiment that some of the cast members and critics assert that, for good or for bad, Twin Peaks was pretty instrumental in opening the doors for a number of disparate shows ranging from Lost (very long-running singular story arcs) to Desperate Housewives (suburban prettiness on the outside, ugliness behind closed doors) to The X-Files (duh). Hell, if you had to do one of those shitty "sound byte" descriptions, Desperate-Housewives-Meets-X-Files wouldn't be a too-far-off description.

I was also amazed at some of the stuff they got away with showing on a prime time network television show back in 1990/91. Some of the more violent scenes (like the protracted scene where Laura Palmer's killer beats his newest victim to death) you don't even see on network television nowadays (even though primetime fare - the CSI and Law & Order franchises, for example - has become much more accepting of ultra-violent material).

And let's not forget that final episode. Holy crap, that's some scary. Not to mention some chutzpah; the only other television series that I know of (aside from maybe the final, unaired episode of Action) ending on such a deliberately dark and unsatisfying note.

Yes, the show had some problems when they finally had to reveal Laura Palmer's killer (much earlier than Mr. Lynch and Mr. Frost had wanted) and yes, it probably couldn't have sustained that much interest for a third season (apparently only die-hard fans were watching the show by the end). But overall, the show still holds up and is worth a look for both former fans and the uninitiated.

Now if only they could release the original Pilot on DVD. Sigh...

The Little Man From Another Place,

James "Deputy Hawk" Comtois

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Dream of a Ridiculous Man

It is a shame that Matt Johnston and Matt Freeman's play, Dream of a Ridiculous Man has already gone to that Great Production in the Sky, since it truly was - is - a fine piece of work. One-man shows are always difficult, especially since they require so much energy from the performer and so much attention from the audience that it’s very easy to lose both at some point in the show. (Listening attentively to someone speak non-stop for longer than 10 minutes is not the easiest thing in the world.)

Dream of a Ridiculous Man, adapted from a story by Fyodor Dostoevsky, does not have this problem. It is quite engaging from beginning to end (it's also quite short; only about 45 minutes. However, I've seen ten-minute one-man shows that seemed to rival Strange Interlude in runtime). This has to do with all three parts and collaborators being very much in synch with one another: the direction (by Mr. Johnston), the adapted script (by Mr. Freeman) and the acting (by Karl Miller).

All of these elements, plus being a very simple and compelling story about corruption and redemption, make the show work.

Mr. Miller plays the ridiculous man in question, an unnamed narrator (very much like many of Dostoevsky’s characters: a self-loathing and alienated intellect) who decides to kill himself. Due to a weird incident between himself and a young girl, he has a dream that he describes to his audience that makes him question his suicidal tendencies.

Mr. Miller is a very charismatic and believable performer that earns the audiences’ sympathies almost immediately. Neither he - nor Mr. Johnston with his direction - indicates his actions, something endemic in many one-man shows that can drive you up the wall (i.e., the actor says he’s walking, then pantomimes walking in place). Despite Mr. Freeman admitting to taking liberties with the original story, it feels to be very faithful to the source material (I say "feels" because, although I haven’t read the original short story, I’m at least familiar enough with Dostoevsky’s work to recognize that this play was obviously adapted from a story by him: it definitely feels Dostoevskian).

I (strongly) suggested to MattJ after the show that he and Karl do what Wallace Shawn originally did with The Fever: perform it in people's apartments for small groups of 6-12 people. It would take (I think) only some minor tweaking in the direction and adaptation from the acting (i.e., walking around the living room for an hour or two before beginning) but the show lends itself quite well to such a "tour."

Plus, it would be free and allow the play to have some legs.

I do hope he considers this (and that Mr. Miller is up for it for at least a little while), because it truly is a fine work that deserves more than just a two-night run.

Totally ridiculous,

James "Daydreaming Jerk" Comtois

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Monday, April 09, 2007

United Stages on Plays and Playwrights 2007

United Stages interviews Martin Denton about Plays and Playwrights 2007.

Writing far too short an entry
to have a closing and nickname,

James "I'll Do One Anyway" Comtois

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Starting the Week

Last week is mercifully over and done with (with Nosedive Productions completing what may possibly have been its most difficult and grueling tech week ever) and our opening weekend for Suburban Peepshow is now a thing of the past.

As of this writing, we have two very nice reviews posted: one from A.J. Mell over at Backstage and one from Aaron Riccio at New Theatre Corps. A few more should be getting posted this week.

Over at Parabasis, Isaac has written an entry on class in theatre and its effects on self-producing. Very interesting stuff, although in terms of my input and thoughts, I honestly don't know where to begin. I suppose this is because I have either too little or too much to say on the subject. I also don't know how to answer his final question. (My initial thoughts are, yes, class does play a role in Nosedive making theatre, I just have no idea how exactly.) Maybe later in the week I'll devote 2,000 words to the subject (and of course not come anywhere near answering the question).

Tonight I plan on seeing this. You should, too. It runs only three nights.

Already swamped on Monday,

James "Busy Bee" Comtois

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Blog Reviewing



UPDATE: Here are links to Isaac's and MattJ's posts on the subject, which features the Time Out quote I obliquely refer to.



Well, our opening night for Suburban Peepshow is finally behind us and I for one am happy with the results and am looking forward to the rest of the run. This also means I can spend some time (since the reviews aren't yet out) to actually write about something other than the damn play (yes, even I get sick of my blatant plugging, but in all fairness, what else do you think is on my mind?).

There's been a weird discussion going on within the theatre blogosphere and Time Out New York about bloggers getting free tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows on the understanding that we write about said show. I don't presume to speak for any other blog or blogger (for obvious reasons that I will get into in a moment) but I figured I'd explain my policy for this page and getting the swag from plays.

First, for those of you who don't know how "bloggers nights" started, Isaac Butler saw Roundabout's production of Greg Kotis's play Pig Farm and thought it was really good and worth getting audiences. Charles Isherwood gave it a scathing review in the New York Times, which Isaac thought was unfair to a show that he thought deserved attention. So, through the management of Roundabout, he arranged for several New York bloggers (myself included) to see the show for free under the condition that we write about it on our blogs. We were not obligated - explicitly or implicitly - to write positive things. In fact, I had no contact with anyone from the production's publicity or management team. Isaac said we could write whatever we wanted about the show, only asking us to post by a certain date.

So we did. Some liked it, some didn't and some were in between.

Since then, other bloggers nights have been organized with varying degrees of success. The big overarching idea behind bloggers nights and blogger reviews is to offer an alternative critical outlet to plays beside the monolith of the Times. It wasn't (and isn't, I don't think) an attempt to overhaul or undermine the reviewing system: just another option for companies to get their work reviewed and discussed.

The subject of ethics in getting free tickets and writing about a show (or refusing to write about it) has now come up. (Most of this has come up in various comment threads in blogs and in private email threads so apologies for having no electronic links to reference. Just...trust me; it's come up.) There's been some flack about bloggers getting free tickets to see a show because that makes us part of the PR marketing machine or some such nonsense and questions of whether or not it's right to accept free tickets to a show if you don't blog about it.

Again, I'm only writing about my personal viewpoints on the matter and my policy. I don't presume to speak for any other blog or blogger, nor am I trying to convince any other blogger to change their attitudes. My blog is my own and I can do whatever the hell I want with it. Other bloggers can do whatever the hell they want with their blogs. It is, after all, their damn blog.

I like the idea of writing reviews. I don't think I'm particularly good at it, simply because it's a new series of skills I'm just now learning to develop. I flatter myself into believing that I'm starting to get good at it (and will continue to improve with experience and time). The ability to review a work honestly and fairly is a skill I don't mind having. Some bloggers have an aversion to it and find reviewing to be a conflict of interest. I don't. I have yet to be convinced that I'll be pegged not as a playwright but as a critic (or why that would be so awful) or that I'll hurt my playwriting career.

(One of the true perks of being a self-producing playwright is that you don't have to worry about being obsequious - or hell, even polite - to potential bosses/companies/producers to get your work produced. I'm not trying to get an "in" with any Off-Broadway house).

My policy for Jamespeak is very simple: if a company gives me free tickets to see their show, I will review it. Period.

For people who think that I'm somehow a tool of the PR machine who's being "bought" by that free ticket, I'm sorry, I don't know how else to put this, but you're a moron who doesn't know what he's talking about. Getting the ticket for free in no way shapes my opinion of the show: it only gets me to actually see it (if I'm expected to write about a show, pay the $70 to see it and not get paid, then guess what? I ain't seeing the show).

(It should be noted that most PR reps for theatre companies worth a damn are professional enough to keep schmoozing with the reviewer to a bare minimum. The ones I've been involved with have been polite and accommodating, but in no way have tried to act like my "buddy." They help me confirm my ticket, make sure I get a press packet, say hello, and leave me alone. That's how they often work and - more to the point - that's how they should work.)

As for giving bloggers free tickets to see my show (which I have offered for the opening weekend of Suburban Peepshow), I understand certain bloggers find reviewing to be a conflict of interest (especially since many of them know me quite well, which prevents the above parenthetical relationship between the press rep [me] and reviewer). Again, I have no interest or intention of making them believe otherwise (it's their blog). I obviously want them to write about my show and, more to the point, I want them to write positive things about it. However, I also want Katharine McPhee to dump her boyfriend, move to New York and fall in love with me.

I won't be disappointed or angry if neither scenario happens.

It is important for bloggers to consider ethics in reviewing and getting free tickets to do so. So far, I've seen no major stumbling blocks. Then again, this is a very new experiment. Since I can't-and won't-speak for anybody else, I'll just try to adhere to my policy of reviewing any show I'm specifically given free tickets to, because, hell, I'd like to write about stuff on this site besides plugs for my own damn show.

Anyway, those are my five cents on the subject. Feel free to comment or email me to give your five cents on the subject and have a good weekend, folks. I hope to see some of you this weekend at the Red Room.

Just part of the machine,

James "Useless PR Tool" Comtois

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Opening Tonight!


It begins...

Nosedive Productions

The lovably malicious folks who brought you The Adventures of Nervous-Boy


Presents

Suburban Peepshow

by James Comtois & directed by Pete Boisvert

-and-

Trailers

by Mac Rogers & directed by Patrick Shearer

The Red Room, 85 East 4th Street (west of 2nd Avenue)

April 5-28, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $18. Space is limited.

For tickets call 212-352-3101 or go here.

Photo: Leslie E. Hughes, Marc Landers and Zack Calhoon in Suburban Peeepshow. Photo by Ben VandenBoom.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Interview with David Cote from TONY

Adam Szymkowicz has pointed out that The Praxis Theatre Blog recently conducted/posted an interview with Time Out NY theatre editor David Cote, who talks about his theories on good criticism, Broadway vs. Off-off-Broadway, the problems with critics and the problems with indie/Off-off theatre. Some pretty good stuff.

Check it out here.

Trying to make good theatre,

James "Little Engine" Comtois

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Tired of mundane tasks and witless patter?

Has dinner with the family lost its luster?

Have your dishtowels gotten a little ragged?

Work in an oppressive institution that spells impending doom for your soul?

Are your co-workers running around willy-nilly spreading sickness and filth?

Is the new girl at the office giving you the eye?

Do you think your pool guy and therapist are trying to get in your pants?

Wish you could run off and join the carnival to escape your dreary life?

Have you ever admitted to yourself that Major League II just doesn't compare to the original?

We've got the show for you.

Suburban Peepshow

Sex. Violence. Adultery. Lavish Costumes.

Existential Dilemmas. Wee-Wee Jokes.

Trailers

Just like the movies. Only better.

Every Thursday through Saturday night in April at 8 p.m. at the Red Room.

Buy tickets here.

Spreading sickness and filth,

James "Willy-Nilly" Comtois

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