Tuesday, December 28, 2004


I’m now back from New Hampshire, where I spent my Christmas break. I hope everyone’s holiday treated them well (as it did me).

I have no idea if Pete’s back, or if anyone else is, for that matter, so this may not get posted until after the New Year. Ah, well.

Right now I’m working on a new play and thinking about trying to push Nosedive into doing some silly TV spots for public access. After shooting our video, we’re now on a big kick to fool around with a camera again.

Also, Nadine Friedman from Stone Soup Theatre Arts pointed out that she was a tad offended at my suggestion in a previous Jamespeak that no one from the Community Dish can’t be bothered to read these pages, considering she had read all of them. Sorry Nadine. Color my face red!

* * *

A few people (well, okay, two) got the impression that Nosedive would be wrapping up its play producing after play #13. After rereading the last Jamespeak, I can see how one could get that impression.

No. Kronos Unbound is intended to be the Final Play of Nosedive (in a sense), but that’s either going to be Play #20 or #21 (I like the idea of each group of seven plays to be an “act”). I’m not fully-prepared just yet to go into the details of the play, but let’s just say it will be treating all the previous plays like chapters/acts of one long novel/play, with Kronos Unbound being the final chapter/act that ties everything together.

Yes, in my head, there is a connection between Ruins and A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol, between “Jiffy Squid” and Allston.

Will this connection be made clear by the time Kronos is finished? I hope so. But we shall see. It could be one overlong, pretentious incoherent mess.

But then again, it wouldn’t be a Nosedive show if it wasn’t.

* * *

I’ve always been more interested in adopting a more humanist slant with my plays rather than a political one. I mean, I suppose some of the shows deal with “Big Ideas” or “Political Concepts” (or so I’ve been told, and that’s fine; if people see a political slant in my plays I won’t try to convince them otherwise), but in general, I’ve never been particularly interested in writing about these things per se. Considering how much we obsess about the personal habits and characteristics of people we don’t know (Bush, Cheney, Hollywood celebrities), I think at least some time should be spent on understanding ourselves and people we do know.

In other words, when I know more about the skeletons in Rumsfeld’s closet than I do about some of my closest friends, when we care more about Bush’s DUI than our brother’s, that’s a little fucked up.

Overall, I’m more interested in writing about how much more greedy, cruel, short-sighted and stupid my colleagues and I are than our political leaders; how much more kind, charitable and selfless we are than Nobel Prize winners. I’m more interested in exploring how we (all of us) are the chief architects for the way the United States is run.

I don’t like writing about Others.

“I can't blame anybody for anything I do.”
—Max Cherry, Jackie Brown

Admittedly, I like to blame other people for my lot in life when things are tough (“tough” being a very relative word for an upper-middle-class white heterosexual male living in New York City) from time to time. But when I get enough “moments of clarity” I realize that that’s a bit too simple.

I could always refrain from buying a $2 cup of coffee.

I could always turn off the TV.

I could always quit drinking.

I could always work harder at my job.

I could always be thankful for how lucky, coddled and pampered I am.

So, when I have no external (i.e., “Big,” “Political”) issues to complain about, why do I still feel that anxious dread?

Well, I suppose because I have to confront the demons in my personal, internal world.

If I’m not worrying about the war, I now have to worry about my awkward interaction with fellow OOB theatre-makers.

If I’m not worrying about the current presidential administration, I now have to wonder if my friend’s forgiven me for my hostile outburst at her last week.

I now have to consider whether or not another friend is mocking and manipulating me.

I now have to agonize over my drinking problem (and whether or not it’s a drinking problem if my drinking pales in comparison to my peers).

I now have to fret if I am indeed making a connection at all with audiences through these silly plays.

I now have to contemplate how much of a fool I made of myself in front of that theatre reviewer.

Yeah, these anxieties are where I get my ideas for my plays.

Which may of course be more information than you all needed.


Anyway, I’m working on some longer, more coherent entries (I swear), but for now I have to watch my mountain of DVDs I received for Christmas before drinking myself into oblivion on New Year’s.

Scaring away his readers,

James “I Kid, I Kid!” Comtois

December 28, 2004

Monday, December 13, 2004

Pre-, Post- and Pre-Production

Again, I’ll make this one brief and without much of a current through-line, since anyone who reads this and knows me knows that Nosedive Productions has a show up right now.

Still, that’s no excuse for me to avoid using this little piece of cyberspace now, is it?

* * *

Our first weekend of A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol has now come and gone.

And it feels GREAT!

For an 11 pm show, we’ve had a great turnout and great audience response. Many thanks to those Dish members (especially Stone Soup) for coming out on that opening night in such shitty weather to see the silliness Nosedive is putting on the stage.

The cast, crew and I had started to forget that this was (is) a funny show (rehearsing many, many times without anyone laughing will do that to you).

I can’t wait for this weekend. I’m almost in a festive holiday mood.

(Of course, that could just be the eggnog talking.)

* * *

I also wanted to just mention that it’s very weird to be having your mind on five or six plays at once, two or three of them unfinished. I’m worrying about this Christmas Carol show, two upcoming productions in 2005 (The Dying Goldfish and McTeague), the show I’m writing currently (still haven’t come up with a title I like), the germ of an idea of a follow-up play, and of course Kronos Unbound (theoretically the final play Nosedive Productions will produce). I guess this is why I never get around to looking for an agent or, more importantly, a handsome middle-aged British lady of affluence to finance my plays and my life.

And last night, Pete suggested to me that the follow-up show to McTeague (yes, we talk about follow-up shows to plays scheduled to go up in the Fall of 2005) be the “musical” (yes, musical) I’ve been contemplating.

Notice I’ve said “contemplating,” not “writing” or “working on.”

On one hand, he’s made a good point (after staging two full-length dramas ostensibly “back-to-back,” our next show needs to be small, light and fun). On the other hand…


I’m in the middle of writing something else (and I ain’t about to stop). I guess we’ll have to push that off for Nosedive Production #12 (instead of #11 as planned in my head).

Also, this does mean in fact that The Not-So-Bad Day of Manny McDudeGuy (yes, the tentative title of this contemplated “musical”) needs to be written and ready for reader eyes (readers being members of Nosedive) by summer 2005. Meaning, a rough draft of the new play I’m writing right now needs to be finished before then.

Well, as I write this and contemplate Nosedive’s upcoming schedule, I’ll just say (w/r/t Manny):

We’ll see, Pete. We’ll see.

* * *

At any rate, that’s way off in the semi-far future for our company. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen our version of A Christmas Carol, you should stop by. We’ve got eggnog, we’ve got fun.

And yeah, we’ve got some razza-frazzin’ Christmas cheer.

Having to buy more eggnog and booze,

James “Christmas Present” Comtois

December 13, 2004

Thursday, December 02, 2004

For Fun: Top Ten Plays

Often for fun, I like to make top 10 lists of the best movies I’ve seen during the year. Since I actually have not been seeing a lot of movies recently, I decided why not come up with a top 10 list of the best plays I’ve seen in 2004?

Yes, I know the year’s not over yet, but since I’m up to my eyeballs in our current show and still have Christmas shopping to do, it’s unlikely that I’ll be seeing that many more shows this year. I could be wrong, and if so, I’ll alter the list.

Bear in mind there were a number of shows I haven’t seen (and should have), and I’ve made no distinction between Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-off-Broadway or underground performance art pieces. Also, some may notice at least one entry is debatable as to whether or not it’s a “play” or “comedy routine.” I’ll just let you debate that one.

So, here’s my list:

10. The Fantasticks
(Gingerbread Players of St. Luke’s Church)
A community theatre production of a musical I had (admittedly) never seen before. Being in no mood to see this (explained in more detail in Jamespeak), I was very pleasantly surprised to see that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was reminded that theatre can be simple, unpretentious, fun and imaginative.

9. Religion and Violence in America
(Stages 5150, written by Randy Anderson, directed by Ben Branson)
I really like that a Stages 5150 show looks like a Stages 5150 show. Ben and Randy have their own unique look and style, and you can see their sticky little fingerprints all over their shows, which isn’t as common as you’d think in theatre.

8. Measure for Measure
(BLUNT Theatre Company, directed by Jamie Taylor)
This Shakespearean had always been my favorite comedy to read, and my least favorite to watch. Until this production. I gotta admit, that Taylor girl’s got some game.

7. Static
(by Chris Mollica, Brian Silliman and Dennis Hurley)
A collection of three one-acts by debut company Poor Artists Collective was fun and funny. I was right proud of these guys (since, after all, they’ve performed in Nosedive Productions) and am looking forward to seeing where they go with their new company.

6. The Distance From Here
(by Neil LaBute)
LaBute’s play about depressed and depressing blue-collar high school losers reminded me (a bit too much) of some of the people I knew peripherally growing up in Manchester, NH. Sure, it’s a very flawed play that kind of falls apart in the end, but I’m simply a fan of LaBute’s. Plus, this show reminded me that former “Sports Night” star Josh Charles needs more work.

5. Penguin / Swollen Head
(double-bill written & performed by Adam Wade and Rich Zeroth, respectively)
Two half hour confessional comedy performances made me laugh so hard my face hurt. Wade is one of those comedians/performers who wears his stage fright on his sleeve and tells painfully personal stories about high school anxieties, failures and aspirations to become a wrestler. Zeroth’s “Swollen Head” is his true story of how he fakes his own encephalitis and misses 129 consecutive days of school in the fifth-grade.

4. Post Oedipus
(by Steven Gridley, produced by Spring Theatreworks)
A play that grew on me after I left the theatre. Random lines and images still stick with me, and things I didn’t give much thought to at the time come creeping up to my consciousness. Very ambitious, dense and imaginative, and grounded in reality (even if Oedipus is working on a get-rich scheme to build gumball machines and his son Eteocles can’t stop diddlin’ himself).

3. The Fever
(by Wallace Shawn, performed by Bryan Brown)
Wallace Shawn's sad, frank, sometimes sweet and often brutal one-person show about liberal guilt wonderfully played by Bryan Brown at the UnConvention reminded me why Shawn is one of my favorite playwrights and why I wanted to write plays.

2. Titus Andronicus
(Gotham Shakespeare Company, directed by Abe Goldfarb)
A really visually stunning production of a…let’s face it…really lame Shakespearean tragedy; all the Romans in red (including their props) and the Goths in black. Rather than use stage blood, the production made the Romans bleed red rose petals and the Goths black cinders. Intense, vicious, funny (yes, funny) and stunning.

1. Bug
(by Tracy Letts)
For anyone who’s spoken to me in the past six months, this comes as no surprise. Just a wonderful visceral experience of watching a real slice-of-life drama slowly and steadily turn into a violent horrific science-fiction nightmare. As I always say, any play that has someone projectile vomiting blood is okay in my book. Plus, the sound and lighting design made the world the play was portraying extend past the stage walls. I was hooked; possibly one of the best plays I’ve seen since I’ve moved to New York (since Lightning Strikes Theatre Co.’s production of Clive Barker’s “Crazyface” in 1999)

Wearing his ignorance on his sleeve,

James “Der” Comtois

December 2, 2004


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.