The reading of Tony Pennino's play OF PRIVILEGE AND PROPERTY went splendidly last evening. I was honored to be a part of it.
As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, the play deals with the New York Slave Insurrection, a slave revolt in the British colony of New York in 1741.
Tony's play follows exactly what happened at that time.
Economic tensions were exacerbated by accusations that a series of fires that occurred were due to arson. Immediately after a slave was seen running from the scene, the slaves were accused of the crime. Of course, many people had already believed that the slaves were responsible for the fires, because of the economic tension that existed between them and the slaves; a tension exacerbated by the system of racism in place in the US by which whites are taught to feel universally superior to blacks. The slaves of New York were accused of being part of a conspiracy that they had planned, which was to burn down the city and kill all the white citizens and make themselves the rulers. There were trials that followed the fires. At the end of the trials, many slaves were dead or exiled. The accusations of the fires were a result of the tension that existed between the economic needs of the colony of New York and the whites' resentment for losing their jobs to the slaves.
Tony has managed to take this story, rife with dramatic and horrifying events, with the real life characters from that time and place...and...in the tradition of the great Paddy Chayefsky's NETWORK (one of the great films of all time, which pokes fun at the television industry) poke fun at the social mores of the time, mainly the subjects of class and race...but, more importantly, to show that we as a country haven't gotten any better regarding the differences between class and race as we continue into the 21st Century.
As someone who has been fortunate enough to be involved with a number of Tony's works, it gave me great joy to sit among the cast last evening and read this exquisite work, which I hope is given life.
I am delighted that the folks at Random Coconuts have asked me to participate in the second workshop of Chris Ulisse's hilarious comedy THE SHAKESPEAREAN MASSACRE, which brings some of Shakespeare's most famous characters together for the first time. Once again, I will be reading Chris' hysterical send up on OTHELLO'S Iago.
The informal reading will take place on Sunday, October 1st from 3:00-7:00. It is closed to the public. Maybe if there's a 3rd workshop of the play, then it will be open to the public.
Here's the cast and creative team of THE SHAKESPEAREAN MASSACRE
Chris Ulisse: Playwright
Kyle Baxter: MacBeth Dan Conrad: Romeo Timothy J. Cox: Iago David Thomas Crowe: The Lost Actor Kathryn Fucci: Lady MacBeth Krista Fuller: Desdemona Michael Jabin: Falstaff Amanda Romeo: Rosalind Elmer Santos: Stage Directions Paulette Ulisse: Ophelia Greg Vorob: Hamlet Paul White: Puck Jennifer Zigler: Juliet
Abi Varghese:Producing Artistic Director. Deloss Brown: Dramaturg. Lisa McGowan: Creative Consultant.
Set in 1860's England, A VERY MEMORABLE ENGAGEMENT, in the tradition of Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen and the films of Merchant Ivory, deals with marriage, arranged ones and centers around Elizabeth, who is promised to one man, yet loves another.
I play the role of Charles, a blowhard of sorts...the one promised to Elizabeth. It's a wonderful part.
The film is Kate Freers' thesis film at NYU It is set to have a large crew, including a make up and costume designer...so I'm excited to sit down with both designers and see what we can come up with for Charles' look.
It's going to shot in the first week of October at a gothic castle somewhere in the Hudson Valley. It should be nice for me, since I have only one short (but memorable) scene in the film...so I should only be needed for a half a day.
Thanks to Kate Freer for the chance to be a part of the fun.
I'm often asked, mostly by my mother, why I gravitate towards supporting roles, rather than go for the leads.
I once told my friend David Renwanz, that I'd rather play Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern than Hamlet.
He said, "Why? Every actor wants to play Hamlet."
To which I said, 'And memorize fifty thousand lines? No way!"
Give me a supporting role or a character role anytime. Those roles tend to jump out at me. Take Schmendiman in PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE for example. I read and it jumped out at me. Yes, it is what some actors would call a small part. What some actors call a small part, I see potential, because with supporting roles like Schmendiman you get to be free, to play. There's no pressure. You just go out there and have fun. The more I do this, the more I look for things that I'm going to have fun with.
I remember back in 2001 when I played Christy in PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD, it was awful. It's a really hard thing to do right...these leading roles...to get right, and it's not much fun for me. I was miserable during the whole experience. I didn't sleep. I focused on every aspect of the play and it's a huge responsibility.
Tough to have that on your shoulders.
With every lead I have ever played since (rare), that same level of discomfort has been there.
I'm proud to announce that Twelfth Night of the Living Dead will be performed in October of next year(2007). We have John Hurley back onboard, we have a design and production team, and we are currently tracking down a space for the show, which we hope to have settled by mid-October of this year.
With regards to casting, we will have an invited audition process in the late spring time frame next year. You will all be invited, and I will keep you posted on dates, times, etc.
It's a long way off...but it's still nice to know.
I had a great time meeting the cast of PICASSO last evening at the Beer Garden. I love that place!
After introductions from Larry, we had a quick read through of the script, which took exactly one hour.
It was a spirited read, with everyone jumping into their roles with energy and enthusiasm. Larry looked quite pleased.
After the reading, Larry, myself, Alex Pappas (reading Freddy), Jordan Kaplan (Einstein) and Rafi Silver (Picasso) hung out, drank and laughed. Rafi is a part of the Syracuse Mafia (which also includes MEASURE FOR MEASURE'S John Hurley, Joe Mathers, Erin Jerozal and of course, Alex) and is actually a dear friend of my YASHKA co-star Alison Bennett (also a part of the mafia), who by the way is still doing the show (It'll open with Alison and some new cast members on November 2nd).
I'm looking forward to working with Rafi, Jordan and the others, plus the four who couldn't attend last nights' festivities.
...was successfully filmed on Friday night. As always, I had a lot of fun working with Kyle, Janis and John.
Kyle sent a rough cut of the first minute of the film and it looks very good so far.
This film was an experiment and a challenging one at that, working with dialogue for the first time on camera...but I know that everyone involved will have something great to show for it when the editing is completed.
Here is the cast list for PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE, which includes my good friend and co-star of MEASURE FOUR MEASURE, Mr. Alex Pappas as well as Maurice Edwards, from the "White Catle" HAMLET.
Freddy - Alex Pappas Gaston - Maurice Edwards Germaine - Meryl Bezrutczyk Einstein - Jordan Kaplan Suzanne - Elizabeth Wirth Sagot - Jimmy T. Owens Picasso - Rafi Silver Schmendiman - Timothy J Cox Female Admirer/Countess - Holly Vanasse The Visitor - Jason Winfield
The auditions for PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE last night went quite well, I thought. I read for the role of SCHMENDIMAN...a character, best described as optimistic, who comes in the middle of the play to gloat to the bar patrons about his new invention. Ridiculous, off the wall...definately Steve Martin. As a matter of fact, I read that of all the roles, this is the role that he wrote for himself.
I had a fun time reading him. That's all you can, go in there and not be afraid to look like an ass. In the case of the character, the more asinine you come off, the better.
I got a good vibe from Larry Lesher, who created such a relaxing environment to audition in, which...let me tell you, is rare.
But...you never know...
The waiting is the hardest part during this process. A lot of people were at the callbacks...including my colleagues Timothy Flynn, Alex Pappas and Michael "Mac" McIntosh...so Larry has his hands full as far as casting decisions go.
I have been informed that, either way, I will hear something by the end of today.
My callback audition for ALL FALL DOWN was Friday night at the Beer Garden in Astoria. The sides I read didn't impress me that much, nor do I think I impressed the directors much. I haven't heard anything, so I guess it's not to be after all.
On Saturday, I had a chance to sit in on a few of the auditions for PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE. It was a very exciting process to be on the other side to see so many different approaches to a line of text. My friends Michael "Mac" McIntosh and Timothy Flynn auditioned and I was really delighted to see them at the top of their games. I had never actually seen Mac do anything before and was happy to be witness to his great talent. I also witnessed the audition of Maurice Edwards, who played Polonius (brilliantly) in an otherwise unmemorable production of Hamlet (The "White Castle" version...for those who know me very well).
I think Larry Lesher was very happy with how the day turned out. I know he had another set of auditions last evening, but I was unable to assist.
Thanks to Larry for the chance to sit in.
Now I have to get ready for my own audition tomorrow night.
Sadly, I will have to pass on the ANTIGONE audition that also takes place tomorrow night.
I was offered the role of Smokey, an assistant minor league baseball coach in HOME RUN HITTERS DRIVE CADILLACS, but sadly, I couldn't committ due to scheduling conflicts. Thanks again to Krista Fuller for the chance to auditon.
I received an unexpected phone call last night from Allison Smith of Theatre Recrudescence, regarding the company's premiere show ALL FALL DOWN, which I auditioned for last Thursday. They're having callbacks tonight (at the Beer Garden in Astoria of all places) and asked me to attend.
Speaking of Astoria, I will be moving back to the area at the end of this month. My current roommate's girlfriend is moving into the Brooklyn apartment and lord knows I wouldn't want to be a third wheel. It works out wonderfully, as I have missed Astoria very much and longed for time to return. I will be living with my good friend David Renwanz, who directed A SOLDIER'S DEATH and THE RAVEN FLIES NORTH. David and I also appeared in many plays and readings together at the 13th Street Repertory Company. Thanks, David!
The audition for HOME RUN HITTERS DRIVE CADILLACS, I thought went very well. I got a good vibe from director Krista Fuller. She may have a callback on Thursday or Friday.
Got another audition on the 12th for a production of ANTIGONE, presented by QED Productions (www.qedproductions.org). The audition will take place at the Emerging Artists Theatre at 311 West 43rd Street.