Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, All That

I'm off for New Hampshire tomorrow and most likely won't be back on Jamespeak until 2007 begins. So until then, Happy Holidays, dear readers. Enjoy your time off.

Hoping for a pony,

James "Crazed Consumer" Comtois

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Scattershot 2006 Year-In-Review

Taking my cue from Matthew Freeman's latest blog entry (which in turn took its cue from Brian Olsen's), below are the first sentences of the first Jamespeak entries of each month in 2006.

Ah, the memories...


Our first remounting of a show has come and gone, and I for one am happy with the results.


I'm amidst the "dialogue" with playwright Mac Rogers and am awaiting his answers to my quite nosy questions, and we here at Nosedive Central are organizing the first reading for The Adventures of Nervous Boy (A Penny Dreadful), which will take place sometime next week, depending on everyone's schedules.


On Monday, March 1, The Raven, my favorite bar - the ostensible "Cheers" for Nosedive Productions - caught fire.


One of the things I want to get into today is talk about large casts versus small casts, and the weird conundrum that both provide.


Things are moving slowly and steadily in the right direction for The Adventures of Nervous Boy.


[Congratulations to Qui Nguyen...]...from Vampire Cowboys for the big article/spread in this week's Time Out New York!


"Okay, Okay, I know a lot of you people probably like to wait until the last minute."


I guess my main options for blogging today can be about either Mel Gibson or this story in the New York Times about Nielsen National Research Group (a corporate cousin of Nielsen's television-rating unit) and creating a new way to market Broadway shows.


I'm almost back to civilization.


Ken Urban's ambitious though somewhat slight I (Heart) Kant, which is presented by the Committee Theatre Company and playing for one more night at 440 Studios' Linhart Theater, is about four very different women in New Jersey trying to find happiness in very different ways.


Last night was our first rehearsal for "Captain Moonbeam and Lynchpin" for the Revamped: The Superhero Diaries show on November 19, which went very well.


Last night Nosedive had a production meeting to discuss future endeavors for the company, including (but not limited to): an upcoming fundraising holiday party, space-hunting for the next play, Suburban Peepshow and taking The Adventures of Nervous-Boy to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Not exactly nostalgic,

James "Bittersweet" Comtois

Monday, December 18, 2006

Is It '07 Yet?

Many thanks to everyone who came out to deepest darkest East Williamsburg on Saturday night to watch me hurt myself for the sake of a cheap laugh at Nosedive's Holiday Party and Sideshow, to Stone Soup for making the Jell-O shots and to Ben VandenBoom for making a very spiffy-looking rough cut DVD of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy and a damn fine batch of spiked eggnog.

And thanks, Steph, for the cookies.

I'm off to New Hampshire for the holiday season on Thursday and will be posting very little from then until the end of the year. I haven't yet decided if I'll be posting my "Top Ten" before or after New Year's; I have a few more plays to see in the city this week before I head back to New England (yes, I'm in the city for three more days and I have three or four plays I'm supposed to see in this time), but it's highly (and I do mean highly) unlikely I'll be seeing any plays between Christmas and New Year's (Do people even stage plays in that week? I'm sure some do, but what's up with that?), so the list of plays I've seen in 2006 will be locked up by Wednesday (the final tally, by the way, will be in the low 40s).

At any rate, right now the top five entries of said list are pretty much locked; the second five are a little more fluid and will require some judicious thought and polishing.

Looking back, 2006 was a pretty damn good year for Nosedive, most of said goodness attributable to our production of Nervous-Boy. This is unlike 2005, our tumultuous fifth anniversary season. We're definitely excited for what 2007 brings, although most of Nosedive's plans for the upcoming year are still very much up in the air (we're pushing off taking Nervous-Boy to Edinburgh until 2008, definitely staging Suburban Peepshow, possibly restaging Christmas Carol and/or possibly staging a new Blood Brothers Present and/or a collection of one-acts).

Even if 2007 turns out to be as chaotic and draining as 2005 was for us (which truth be told is unlikely, since although Nosedive Productions is known for making mistakes, I'm proud to report that we rarely - if ever - make the same mistakes), I'm still looking forward to it.

Resolving to never in 2007 drink
orange juice after brushing his teeth,

James "In Pain" Comtois

Friday, December 15, 2006

Standards of Decency

"The strange thing about Political Correctness is that it seems to have lots of opponents and no supporters. No one ever describes themselves as PC, and yet somehow the movement thrives."

-Roger Ebert

Last night a crew of us went to see the Blue Coyote Theater Group's Standards of Decency Project and we all had quite a fun time. The show consisted of nine one-acts that featured at least one of the following: nudity, violence or blasphemy. In the final tally, blasphemy turned out to be the big winner (featured in seven of the shows), with nudity coming in second (featured in four) and violence coming in last (only one).

Blue Coyote sent the following challenge to the nine playwrights:

"We're inviting you to join the evening by writing a ten-to-fifteen minute play that includes - in a manner that is fully warranted and justified (that is, that avoids mere gratuitousness or sensationalism), while also intended to offend conventional standards of decency - at least one of the following: 1) nudity, 2) violence, or 3) blasphemy. The literal onstage depiction of these transgressions is strongly encouraged, but not strictly required."

The stand-outs for me were David Johnston's "A Funeral Home In Brooklyn," Matthew Freeman's "What To Do With A Girl," Brian Dykstra's "Two Totally Naked Guys Standing Around Talking About Blasphemy Without Getting All That Violent About It" and Boo Killebrew's "True Love Waits." True, some of the plays were a bit "shmeh," but one of the fortunate things about an evening of one-acts is that if you run afoul of a stinker, you only have to endure it for about ten minutes before it's over.

In the end, none of the shows "crossed the line" for me, which is not surprising, considering I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to seeing on-stage nudity or violence or hearing blue language or anti-religious dialogue.

After the show, one of the organizers of the event said that he was a bit surprised that so far during the run no one in the audience seemed particularly offended at any of the shows, and thought that maybe it was very tough to offend people in theatre (unless, of course, someone literally defecated on the stage or bit off the head of a live chicken, in which case it would go from "crossing the line" to Crossing The Line [or even CROSSING. THE. LINE.]).

This is true. Though there are several people who have a problem with (say) on-stage nudity, there are very few of them who, as an audience member for a show that featured nudity, would scream, "I'm outta here!" and storm out of the theatre in a disruptive manner.

I'm guessing that the only way to really offend is to just end the ballgame altogether (with the previously-mentioned on-stage defecation).

(Now, I also realize that this collection of one-acts was not particularly offensive for New York audiences. In some parts of the country, this bill of goods would not be tolerated. What "flies" in downtown New York City could be shunned and picketed in parts of the Bible Belt.)

In the pre-production stage, the organizer I spoke to after the show said that there was some nervousness within Blue Coyote about how audiences would respond to the scripts being submitted (I would imagine some of them read much worse - worse as in "offensive," not "inept" - than they played).

My guess as to why audiences haven't been blatantly offended by any of the plays is simply because the evening of one-acts is very up-front with what it's offering. As an audience member, you can't exactly walk into a show featuring plays that feature nudity and get up in arms when you see a penis.

I had a similar experience with my own play, The Adventures of Nervous-Boy, a script that many found after reading it to be incredibly offensive: a misogynistic homicidal fantasy written by someone battling mental illness. This feeling of offense and disgust that was almost universal in its readership all but vanished during its staged production. (I'm sure that some audience members still found the play to be disgusting and gratuitously offensive, but they were quite mute on the subject.)

Matt Freeman was a bit apprehensive with his own play, but for the opposite reason, since although the reading of his script - which features a woman getting naked and being objectified - is a funny experience, it was possible that the humor could vanish once the audience is actually watching a real person disrobe and get poked and prodded at (it's one thing to read about a girl being told to take her top off and have a professor poke at her nipple with a pointer; it's another thing entirely to see real people act it out in front of you).

It turned out, by the way, that Nosedive vet Cat Johnson's and Matthew Trumbull's performances were too damn funny to cause the audience any discomfort.

Hey, you just never know.

This isn't necessarily the case with works in other media that transgress standards of decency. I'm a fan of R. Crumb's comics, but some of them, such as "Joe Blow," could be read in one way as a biting satire on modern American life and in another as hardcore pornography (seriously; some of his stuff's just flat-out porn). But there's a big difference between one medium (a comic being a work created by one and only one person being experienced in solitude) and another (a play being a work created by at least a writer, director, multiple actors and multiple designers being experienced with a group).

Also, it's legal to draw what Crumb depicts in "Joe Blow;" anyone attempting to depict his illustrations with live actors is likely to wind up in court.

I'm not saying any of this is good or bad, right or wrong. I'm just saying that, unlike with media such as comics or film, it may very well be impossible nowadays to genuinely offend audiences by transgressing trends in conventional plays without fully crossing over into an onstage carnival geek show or underground sex show (like the one mentioned in The 40 Year Old Virgin where a girl fucks a horse). Then it's like the turd in the punchbowl: after that, the party's just not fun anymore.

Anyway, The Standards of Decency Project runs until Sunday. If it's not already sold out, go check it out. It's playing at the Access Theater on 380 Broadway. You can get tickets here.

Always down for seeing Cat's bare breasts,

James "Classy Jackass" Comtois

Ps. Don't forget that tomorrow is Nosedive's holiday party and fundraiser! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Don't Forget: This Saturday

Take the L to Montrose. Use the exit near the middle of the train and exit using the stairs to your Right. Continue on down Montrose towards Humbolt Street. Turn right onto Manhattan Ave. We are on the right side of the street 2 blocks in.

$5 admission, $2 beers, $1 Jell-O shots.

Disturbingly festive,

James "Creepy Elf" Comtois

Winding Down the Week

This has turned out to be a busy week for me, from doing last-minute edits on the text of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy for Martin Denton's book (yes, we've determined that "Nervous-Boy" is hyphenated), seeing some shows (including The Standards of Decency Project and Dating Grim) and prepping for Nosedive's weekend holiday fundraising party.

Now is definitely not the time to get a head cold. But of course, that’s what's happening.


Of course, a week from now I'll be in New Hampshire doing absolutely nothing. Except for drinking copious amounts of spiked eggnog.

Yeah, that's a comforting thought.

Wanting a nap,

James "Ole Man" Comtois

Ps. It looks as though that next week will be the cap of going to see plays for the year, which means I'll soon have my annual "Top Ten" list ready very soon, for those who are interested/curious.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Giving & Getting

For those getting into the holiday spirit, you can check out Matthew Freeman's blog, which gives a list of theatre companies and organizations you can give donations to (I'm quite thankful he put Nosedive on that list).

So, in that vein, here are a few suggestions of some theatre companies in addition to Matt's where you can contribute before the end of the year (this isn't a comprehensive list, just a small handful of companies that came to mind while the folks at Nosedive Central and I were prepping for this weekend's fundraising party):

Boomerang Theatre Company. A great group of talented and ambitious guys and gals that put on good theatre and good theatre often.

CollaborationTown. Okay, yes, it's a bit of a silly name (I realize I write that while running a company called "Nosedive" and endorsing another company called "Vampire Cowboys"), but they also put on very good work and very good work often (I'm honestly impressed and amazed at how prolific they are). They're getting ready to stage their latest, 6969, in January.

Spring Theatreworks. A group that consistently puts on fun and challenging plays that's never quite gotten the attention it deserves.

Stone Soup Theatre Arts. Ah, yes. The girls at the other end of the lake at summer camp (sorry, Ben Trawick-Smith). There's a lot of cross-pollination between this group and Nosedive (i.e., several cross-over cast members) and right now, they're on a fundraising campaign to help finance their upcoming double-bill of one-acts, set to go up in April. Show them love.

Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company. Co-artistic director and resident Qui Nguyen may very well be the long-lost, older Asian twin brother I never had. It's no secret that I have a lot of affection for this company, its work and its members, and am very happy to see Vampire Cowboys becoming a staple in the New York Off-off scene.

There are definitely other group and companies out there (as well as such organizations like The American Red Cross and The Food Bank For New York City) that are also worthy of financial support and attention, so my apologies to those.

Trying not to be so miserly,

James "Penny-Pincher" Comtois

Friday, December 08, 2006

Encore performance of “Circo Pelear” Sunday, December 10

Hello, folks. For those of you who missed last month's Friday…er, Sunday Night Fight Club's "Circo Pelear" fight circus, we're having an encore performance on Sunday, December 10 at 8 p.m. at Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg.

It's a pretty fun show and features a short funny piece written by and featuring yours truly called "The Day It Snowed Tortillas," based on a story by New Mexican storyteller Joe Hayes.

And oh yeah, it's only $10 and there's free booze. (Or should I write FREE BOOZE?)

Below are the details.

Hope you can catch it this time 'round.

Your special ladyfriend,

James "Confused" Comtois

* * *

Alright! It's your last chance to see Friday Night Fight Club at Galapagos Art Space this Sunday, December 10th at 8pm. Come see Circo Pelear: A Spanish Fight Circus with some of your favorite characters back in the ring. There will be sexy ladies, live music, FREE BOOZE, wild clowns, dancing animals (or is it wild animals, dancing clowns? Whatever!), duelling transvestites, half-naked men, rebellious inanimates, and much, much more.

This month's show is starring the creative geniuses of Miss Allison, David Ellis, Amanda Ennis, Catherine Gasta, James Comtois, Evan J. Hamm, Nathan Lemoine, Steve Rockhold, Katherine Harte, Nathan Decoux, Daniel Granke, Jason Schumacher, Marius Hanford, Will Blomker, Melissa Ruchong, and Christi Waldon.

Don't miss it! This Sunday, December 10th at Galapagos Art Space, 70 N. 6th in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Doors open at 8pm and there will be FREE BOOZE until it runs out, so come early and grab a seat.

See you at the show!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Name is Rachel Corrie Is Closing

From The New York Times:

'Rachel Corrie' to Close


Published: December 6, 2006

After a year of controversy and debate, “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” is closing. The one-woman play was put together by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner from the writings of an American-born Palestinian-rights advocate who was killed in 2003 by an Israeli Army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. After its final performance on Dec. 17, “Rachel Corrie” will have played 9 previews and 71 regular performances at the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village.

The run of “Rachel Corrie” was tranquil compared with the uproar that preceded its arrival. The production was initially scheduled to move in March from the Royal Court Theater in London to the New York Theater Workshop. But when the workshop’s artistic director, James C. Nicola, decided to postpone the show, many in the theater community erupted in protest. In June, Dena Hammerstein and Pam Pariseau announced that they would produce it for a commercial run Off Broadway.

J.V. Bullshit

Over at Superfluities, George Hunka weighs in on the weirdness going on with people offering comments high on hysterics but low on reason in blogs deigning to be critical. Long story short: blogger Alison Croggon wrote about a play she recently saw and hated, the director of the piece wrote to her to ask she not allow readers to comment on her blog, then wrote to blogger Ben Ellis to say that the discussion of his show was hurting audience attendance. Another blogger, Ming-Zhu Hii, was critical of some theatre festival, and as a result of the onslaught of vitriol sent to via readers' comments (saying her irresponsible criticism has hurt the show), she deleted the post as well as disabled the ability for readers to comment.

I had mentioned once in a previous post a while ago that a friend of mine who writes reviews had on more than one occasion received venomous hate mail from the creators of works that received negative reviews from him.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I find that unthinkable. Absolutely unthinkable.

If you want to be taken remotely seriously, you need to learn to suck up whatever negative press you get and not throw a public fit. As George puts it, "public reception is fair game."

With regard to rancorous and histrionic comment-posting from those not involved in the criticized production, I understand that this is a by-product of the Internet and allowing illiterate dipshits to anonymously put in their two cents anywhere and everywhere (believing that all opinions, no matter how ill-informed or tangentially related to the subject being discussed at hand, are equally valuable). It sucks, but it is, of course, inevitable (like having hecklers in a comedy club).

The creator publicly weighing in on a discussion of his or her own work, on the other hand, is another kettle of fish.

One of the biggest problems with creators attacking (and I mean "attacking," not "disagreeing with") reviewers/bloggers who write negative criticism is that the creator almost always comes across as a...fine, I'll say it...whiny little bitch. With very rare, singular exceptions, the creators of the work being criticized should stand mute in the critical discussion and adopt a "Speak When Spoken To" policy. Otherwise, they (we) end up coming across as adolescent jackasses.

[Tangential note: Can someone review/comment on a show they've walked out on? Absolutely, provided they admit up front that they did (which Ms. Croggon did). Professional reviewers do it all the time. That a piece compelled an audience member to say, "I've had enough," is something worth commenting on.]

Yes, this vitriolic whining and false sense of entitlement within the theatre world against anyone who dares criticize a play drives me absolutely batshit. It's amateur hour; or, "J.V. Bullshit," as Nosedive alum Michael Gilpin would say. Those of us trying to prove that theatre — and in particular theatre at the self-produced Off-off-Broadway level — is a legitimate medium that should be given some degree of attention wind up back at square one. It's completely hypocritical to, as George puts it, "want attention, but only the right attention" and expect to be regarded with any modicum of professionalism.

Sigh. Who needs a drink?

Ending the year with hatred in his heart,

James "Cranky Bastard" Comtois

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Nosedive’s Holiday Party and Sideshow

Hello, cats and kittens. Little Jimmy Comtois from Nosedive Productions here, wanting to let you know that on Saturday, December 16, Nosedive is throwing a fundraising holiday party!

We are doing this for two reasons.

The first is to offer merriment and joy.

The second is to raise some funds for our upcoming winter/spring play, Suburban Peepshow.

In addition to serving food, booze and holiday merriment, we will be showing the newly cut DVD of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy (Woo-hoo!) as well as bizarre comedy geek show acts performed by the members of Nosedive (Uh...what...?).

Obviously, we need your help, and not just financial help. We’ve got quite a lot of booze and actually can’t drink it all ourselves (seriously, we’ve tried).

Below are the details.

Your personal Santa,

James “Biggest ‘Ho’” Comtois

* * *

WHAT: Nosedive’s Holiday Party and Sideshow

WHEN: Saturday, December 16 from 8 p.m. until dawn

WHERE: East Williamsburg: 162 Manhattan Ave. between Scholes and Meserole, 3rd Floor.

HOW: Take the L to Montrose. Use the exit near the middle of the train and exit using the stairs to your Right. Continue on down Montrose towards Humbolt Street. Turn right onto Manhattan Ave. We are on the right side of the street 2 blocks in.

HOW (MUCH): $5 cover, $2 beers and $1 Jell-O shots.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Meeting and Partying

Last night Nosedive had a production meeting to discuss future endeavors for the company, including (but not limited to): an upcoming fundraising holiday party, space-hunting for the next play, Suburban Peepshow and taking The Adventures of Nervous-Boy to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I found it to be a very good and productive meeting; Pete and I both left it feeling much (much, MUCH) better than when we entered it.

Regardless, we here at Nosedive Central have a lot of work in store for ourselves.

One of the items addressed at last night's meeting was our ticket price. For the past five years, we've held steady at $15 per ticket (not including service fees from TheaterMania's ticketing service). It looks as though that, despite the long fight to keep our ticket prices lower than the norm, starting with Peepshow, we will be raising our ticket price from $15 to $18.

It sucks, I know, but with rents for theatres and rehearsal studios going up and, it's one of those rules of the game. Nosedive needs to keep up with inflation to help mitigate our financial losses.

So, tickets for plays are now $18.

We had always known that it was going to be a matter of time before this happened and we've been trying to delay it for as long as possible, but the day has finally come.

I knew you'd understand.

I'll also briefly mention the holiday party: Nosedive plans to have a fundraising party on Saturday, December 16 in East Williamsburg/Bushwick (at the Casa del Kid Sister and Nosedive Resident Alien) to raise some dough for Peepshow. In addition to serving food, booze and holiday merriment, we will be showing the newly cut DVD of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy [insert triumphant fanfare here] as well as bizarre comedy geek show acts performed by the members of Nosedive [insert noises of confusion and apprehension here].

I will be offering more details on this site the closer the date arrives. It should be a fun night.

Okay, that's it for me this week. Have a good weekend, folks. Don't put anything in your mouth that I wouldn't.

A truly odd duck,

James "Quack-Happy" Comtois

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