"oh what a tangled interweb we weave..."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Julia Grob

Theatre or theater?

I'm from NYC.  We don't go to the theatre.  

Strangest theater-related job?

The first part I was cast in at college was as a member of the "Graffiti Wall," a greek chorus-like ensemble, in a student written production about hip-hop and men who have sex with men on the DL.  We did all sorts of bizarre things including simulate gay male sex, on stage.  I'm neither male nor gay, and I was a virgin.  It was...interesting.  Needless to say, I did not invite my mom.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

Growing up I didn't watch a lot of TV and my mother, an early childhood educator, encouraged "dramatic play."  For as long as I remember I was putting on shows at home, alone, with friends, with music, with dance.  Its that early "dramatic play" that really encouraged me to be creative. I also think it’s why I struggle with the lack of creative control that the actor has. I'm much more interested in being involved in every aspect of the process, as opposed to serving as a vessel for the vision of others.  This is a current struggle of mine as I seek to define my career. 

Very first role on stage?

When I was seven, I lived in Chile and we used to do these elaborate dance shows for the whole community.  I was one of the lead dancers in the "queca" a traditional folk dance where men and women dance together holding a scarf, and the lambada, the sexy Brazilian dance that taught me how to move my hips.  I was also a Xuxa impersonator (Xuxa is a blond Brazilian singer/dancer who had a children's show in the late 1980s) and often cast my friends as the back up dancers for elaborate shows that I did at my "home stage." 

(If you don't know who Xuxa is, check her out, and imagine me at age 7, nuff said.  And yes, I made my own costumes.  

Tragic flaw?

I'm fiercely competitive and I hate authority and rules.  Flaw or asset?  You decide.  Oh, and I read celebrity gossip.  Definite flaw.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Blossom.  I love funky hats and funky ladies.  (Not the side-kick type.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Introduce Yourself, David Ruttura

Theatre or theater?

Without question: Theater. We're stateside dammit!

Strangest theater-related job?

Definitely this show I Associate Directed called BEN HUR LIVE, based on the novel, not the movie (there's no difference, but they couldn't get the rights to the movie). It was a touring arena show we staged in Europe. It had a cast of 350, plus 46 horses, 50 birds and a donkey. It was insane, under capitalized and promptly closed after a month on the road. It was a tremendous learning experience though, and I have a barrel of stories to share - too many and too long to include in a blog entry, but they involve several full company strikes, people getting trampled by horses, costumes being smuggled into Germany from Thailand, broken promises and broken dreams... 

What experience made you want to become a director?

I had a really intensive theater program in High School. We did 8 shows a year, 5 of which were completely student run, so I was able to try basically every aspect of putting on a show at one point or another. By senior year, I realized I wanted to have my hand in everything, so directing was a good fit. The program was run by a man named George Loizides. He's the real reason I became a director, and what I learned from him still influences me everyday.

Very first role on stage?

I was Skip Snip and Patrick Martin in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS in Junior High. They dressed me in a powder blue leisure suit with a bow tie, and actually removed every defining feature of my face with pounds of makeup. It really helped make me look like a drag queen, which must have been the intention of the mothers who decided that's how I should look. Maybe they were trying to cover up how bad my acting was... I bet it didn't work!

Tragic flaw? 

Don't you have to be dead to know if a flaw is tragic?

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Huey, Dewey and Lewie from Ducktales. All three combined... because that's how I roll.

Me vs. The Green-Eyed Monster

Confession time:  Sometimes, late at night, I google other youngish directors and compare myself to them, my accomplishments to theirs. 

This is not a good idea.

Because the googling is almost always followed by the “what do they have that I don’t” game.  Or the “I bet they only got that because…” game.

When you play those games, you never win.

And then it takes considerable effort and unspeakable amounts of chocolate to transform yourself back from a crazy green-eyed monster to a normal human being. 

(Or is that just me?)

Julia Cameron, on jealousy, from The Artist’s Way

Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want; frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what is rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it.  At its root, jealousy is a stingy emotion.  It doesn’t allow for the abundance and multiplicity of the universe.  Jealousy tells us there is room for only one—one poet, one painter, one whatever you dream of being. 

The truth, revealed by action in the direction of our dreams, is that there is room for all of us.  But jealousy produces tunnel vision.  It narrows our ability to see other options.  The biggest lie that jealousy tells us is that we have no choice but to be jealous.  Perversely, jealousy strips us of our will to act when action holds the key to our freedom (124).

The next time I get that green-eyed feeling, instead of reaching for a second (or, let’s be honest, fifth) chocolate chip cookie, I’m going to try reading and re-reading the above.

It’s probably healthier, for my spirit, and my waistline.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am hearing rumors that some of my fellow At Players have been accepted into the Old Vic Exchange! Whoever you are, congrats!! It's a great program, which sends US writers / directors / actors to London, and vice versa, to be immersed in eachother's respective theatre/theater scenes, and cities, generally. I've been fortunate enough to spend some time there recently, with some plays on at the Finborough Theater. Theatre? Theater. The first time I went, last Spring, I was by myself and confused. This time, I was escorted around by a local new friend. It was utterly delightlful, and other proper phrases. Why, we even staged a medival messenger scene in front of a Bush.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Laura Jacqmin

Theatre or theater?

Like I'm gonna tell anyone in public.
That's how they get you.

Strangest theatre or theater-related job?

When I was a freshman in college, I stage managed a production which used an out-of-town fancy NYC director. Apparently, part of my job description was to help him move his possessions (including weird personal items) into a fleabag hotel before tech week - all via the stairs. It's not something I'd ever like to repeat.

What experience made you want to become a writer?

When I was little, my parents exposed my sister and me to Prairie Home Companion and other radio shows. Then, we would plug a microphone into the cassette recorder and make our own radio shows. We would play all the parts, make all the music, do all the interviews... it's probably the most artistic control I've ever had on a project. Those shows are awful, but cherished.

Very first role on stage?

I think I was a fish in a second-grade production of Whatever That Thing In Our Cafeteria Was. You could get cast in a Real Part, or as a Bird, or as  a Fish. I think Fish was lowest on the ladder, talent-wise. Me = decidedly not an actor.

Tragic flaw? 

Tech makes me really nervous and weepy and pushy. Like have-to-go-take-a-walk-around-Crate-and-Barrel-for-forty-five-minutes nervous. Clutching at fake palm fronds and pretending to be seriously considering buying expensive chairs nervous. Luckily, I've always managed to stop myself from standing on my chair and shouting, "It's MY play! Do what I want!" (But only just barely.)

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

I know I'm going to sound like a complete alien, but I didn't really/wasn't really allowed to watch TV when I was in elementary school (thus, during the 80's). So I'm going to have to go with Tamira Goldstein of the under-appreciated 90's teen sitcom "Breaker High." She was weird and from Ohio (just like me!) but she got Ryan Gosling in the end (just like me!).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

what are your dreams, your aspirations?

There’s a person I know who whenever I call always says, “so tell me what’s going on…” followed by “what are your dreams, your aspirations?” The same line every time without fail. What are your dreams, your aspirations…? And every time he asks I avoid the question. I say things like, “oh I don’t know…” or “you always ask me that question…” And after a moment of awkwardness, of silence on my end usually, we move to on to other topics—his dreams and aspirations usually.

It’s always been difficult for me to be specific about what I want. An example: I struggle with Christmas lists. For years I refused to make them. And then when I was forced (by my mother), I would list practical things like socks or underwear, gift certificates.

I’m the same way with career goals. It’s much easier for me to say what I don’t want, where I don’t want to be… I present my dreams and aspirations backwards. Instead of saying, “In six months this play will be done,” I will say something like, “If I’m not done with this play in six months, please just shoot me.” They’re not quite the same thing.

I’m even worse when it comes to awards or competitions… I’m incapable of saying—I really want this.

I suppose it’s because the old saying is true, you can’t always get what you want. Or more accurately you DON’T always get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want, you have to deal with the One thing I WILL be very upfront about, I don’t’ deal well with disappointment.

Which is probably why—years ago—I stopped thinking about my life in terms of specific goals. I’ve relied instead on my solid work ethic and a set of nice, but unremarkable generalities. That way every acceptance is a pleasant surprise and every rejection is… well it doesn’t hurt quite so much.

I’ve had meals with several people who I respect tremendously in the last two weeks. All of them asked me the same question—what do you want? And when I tried to avoid the question, they called me on it. “If you don’t know what you want, how will you know when you get it” one asked. The other said, “you have to put yourself out there, you have to. The universe can only rock your world, if it knows how to get to your world. You have to send the universe directions.”


And so I’m working on it. On being more specific and open about what I want, about where I want to see myself and where I want to see my work. It’s really hard. But I’m making an effort. And the next time someone asks me, “what are your dreams, your aspirations” I’m going to try to have an answer.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Well hello, unique viewer! I write to you from my desk, where I am sitting and wearing some sort of 'slack' and 'sensible ruffled shirt.' I hate wearing business casual. It makes me feel like a little kid or a bad version or an adult or basically, not myself. Some people rock it and make it look so good, and you are like, I want that! And then you go to H&M and try and imitate but alas, you are still your same young, ruffled self. Hurumph.

Introduce Yourself, Federico Trigo

Theatre or theater?

Theater.  Theatre looks funny.

Strangest theater-related job?

Freshman year of High School I was cast as a girl in a supporting role.  A little awkward coming from a small city in Texas.

What experience made you want to become an actor?

It was working on my first show, The Girl In The Mirror, in Junior High.  I had never had so much fun doing anything before that show.  When I think about it, I mostly remember the smiles and laughs I shared with my friends.  From that show on I was hooked.

Very first role on stage?

My first role was in The Girl In The Mirror, as the love interest to the troubled teenage girl.  Heavy stuff for a Junior High play.

Tragic flaw?

I have a tendency to doubt myself but I've been working on it.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

I'd probably be Darlene's boyfriend from Roseanne but I would like to think of myself as David Banner.  He's smart and you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Sherri Barber

Theatre or theater?

Without a doubt "re.”  It adds a tad of sophistication and flavor even if we're seeing Chekhov in a jello-pudding pop filled bathtub.

Strangest theatre-related job?

Dog wrangler, pup was the highest paid performer on stage.

What experience made you want to become a director?

Seeing “Phantom of the Opera” with my family as a kid made me want to be in theatre.  Seeing “RENT” with the original cast on Broadway when I was 16 made me want to create it.

Very first role on stage?

A singing flower in “Alice in Wonderland."  Go ahead and laugh but without me there would be no Daisy (albeit made out of the finest paper plate one could muster) in Alice's garden.

Tragic flaw? 

Look something shiny!

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Mr. Miyagi — “The Karate Kid”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Carly Hugo

Theatre or theater?

Theater.  C'mon - Team USA, people!! 

Strangest theater-related job?

Can I say the strangest film job?  I had to hold a large fan up to a she-who-will-not-be-named famous actress while she filmed a love scene, because she thought she was going to start sweating.  It was uncomfortable - and heavy - and awkward.

What theater experience made you want to become a producer?

I've known since I was in high school that I wanted to produce - I love the idea that producers get to choose which project to bring to life and then proceed to assemble an all-star team to make it all happen.  Plus, I'm a dork and like math, so the money stuff always came easily to me.  The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices, where At Play was born, was actually my first (real) theater experience ever!  I didn't have any interest in theater... and then I met the At Play playas, and I was hooked.  How could I spend the most time as humanly possible with these people?!  Gotta produce theater, apparently.  And... here I am.  And I'm so damn happy.

Very first role on stage?

I was the Gingerbread Doll in the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker when I was 8 years old.  Out of all the dolls, the Gingerbread Doll was by far the very best, because two mice brought me up to the front of the stage and ripped my arm off and nibbled on it - and then everyone laughed!  No one laughed at the other dolls!  They just stood there!  I made people laugh!!  

Tragic flaw? 

I absolutely suck at sticking up for myself.  I hate confrontation more than I hate green peppers (which is a lot), and it makes it so I sometimes get the short end of the stick.  Blah.

If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

Unfortunately, I'd probably be Six from "Blossom."  I mean, I'd rather be Lisa Turtle from SBTB (which started in 1989, so it totally counts, thankyouverymuch)... but I talk WAY too fast.  Six it is. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm Feeling Nostalgic.

And that usually means going through old pictures, old songs, old emails, old memories.

And so I found myself remembering the first time the members of what is now *at play met.

June 2007: The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices-New York. The Workshops at the Vineyard Theater. We met each other, and Kevin Spacey in the same day. Talent overload!

In a few days span we engaged in workshops and panel discussions building our ensemble, and even went through a mock "24 hour plays" experience over the course of the afternoon.

Found this shot from the June 28th Steve Winter Workshop:

It's fun to think about how everyone has evolved artistically and personally, and matured in the last 3 years. (Except I - the one standing in the black tank top - still look like I'm 16, and I was 21 in the picture).

Johnny Cash said: "I have no illusions about who I am and how old I am—but that has nothing to do with it when I'm in that studio or on that stage and that thing is coming out of me. That fire is just as bright and hot as when I was 23. I and the song are one—and whatever I was meant to do with my music, I'm doing it."

Insert any kind of talent for music and there you have words to live by as a creative being. And it isn't just about sustaining our creativity and performance into old age - it can have the exact opposite connotations as well. No matter how old or YOUNG we feel, embrace your age and this time of your life. Because you will never write, perform, direct, or produce like you can right now. Who you are right now is powerful. And it will always be that way.

I wrote of our company, in preparation for our 24 Hour Plays Off-Broadway debut July 2, 2007:

"We're all full of anticipation and excitement to write, create, rehearse, panic, and succeed..."

That sentiment, in 2010, hasn't changed. And I kind of hope it doesn't.
Not kind of. Really.
I really hope it doesn't.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Introduce Yourself, Michael Lew

Theatre or theater?

I go for "-er" when it's the practice and "-re" when it's the building. As in "I see theater at the theatre." Or "At Play works in the theatre to stage fine theater." I'm not sure that's right. Let's ask William Safire...  Too soon?

Strangest theatre- or theater-related job? 

I did some assistant directing and then some directing for Gorilla Rep, which does Shakespeare for free in the parks. I'd use my skateboard as a dolly to haul huge Tupperwares full of lights to Washington Square Park, where we'd jack into the park power lines and run extension cords with lights all through the park. At one point, somebody stole my skateboard. There were also crazy homeless people who would jump in and participate in the show.  There was also one homeless guy who was always asleep on a park bench.  Whenever we went to the park - never fail - there he'd be asleep on the bench. We'd be screaming out Shakespeare and he'd keep napping, unperturbed. One of the actors named him Ben Brantley.

What experience made you want to become a writer?

I was a dramaturgy intern at La Jolla Playhouse on a production of David Grieg's "The Cosmonaut's Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union," directed by Neel Keller. The script was magical and the production really did it justice. Mark Wendland had this amazing set where a mechanical orb (containing the cosmonauts) rotated in midair like a gigantic old-timey orrery (those models of the Solar System where the planets revolve around the Sun).  I loved that production.  Then I directed the play during my senior year of undergrad and it was a totally different beast but still rather lovely in its own right. I thought about that. About the many possible lives a play can take on; the transience of these two productions versus the permanence of the words. That did it for me. 

Very first role on stage? 

One of the 3 Wise Men in a nativity pageant, when I was in preschool. My mom sewed the costume herself, and I think we still have it somewhere.  I brought the myrrh.  Oh you better believe I be bringin' the myrrh.

Tragic flaw?   


If you were a 1980s television show sidekick, who would you be?

I'm going to steal an answer that should rightfully be Josh Koenigsberg's and say Arvid Engen; Head of the Class

Sunday, March 7, 2010

i like auditions

I like auditions. I mean… yes they can be long and tedious and yes there are sometimes long stretches of less than stellar performances… Moments that make you question the quality of your material--moments that make you think, maybe it’s me?

BUT sometimes someone shows up and ROCKS the you know what out of the material. They just obliterate it, you know? Give new meaning to your words…

And those moments… As a playwright you live for those moments.

Those are the moments you smile about all the way through the first rehearsal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ah, How Cute

At Play Productions is our name

Though it’s quite funny how we became

Part of this fabulous and beautiful company

Literally it happened “kind of” suddenly.

At first we all auditioned for The 24 Hour Plays

Years ago in the 2007 days.

Placed together in workshops and then on stage

Really made us realize we were on the same page.

Old Vic New Voices in NY then decided to not repeat

Doing this process the next year – our group were in the hot seat.

Ultimately it all worked out in our favor

Coming together and deciding on future endeavors was a life saver!

The moment came when we had to figure out

In literally an hour what our name was and what we were all about

Only because they were printing programs for our debut that night!

Now it was crunch time and people started suggesting at the speed of light

Someone yelled “At Play Productions”…and…we all said…“all right”!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The dreamer needs her head examined.

I never dream about theater. Like never. Or anything normal frankly. My friends have nightmares about their exes or losing their jobs or all of their teeth falling out. I don’t dream about those things. I dream strange, creepy, sometimes mythical dreams. Dreams in which, for instance, my best friend’s dad is coming over to meet my mother and thinks it’ll be a great joke to pretend to eat my cat. Whole. And after putting her in his mouth and pretending to chew (bringing my mother to near hysterics “He’s eating her! He’s eating her!”) he laughingly spits her out, only to reveal that she is now, though unharmed, six inches long with brilliantly red fur and black little paws.

Yes. I really had this dream – and in the connecting dream, after pretending to eat my cat, Mr. Sherman (or Agent Sherman I should say, my superior officer in the CIA) and I flew a prop plane over the Grand Canyon and dive bombed in our search for some wayward teenagers setting off explosives. Clearly, something is loose in the ole noggin.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I had a good old “I can’t remember any of my lines and I’m about to go on stage” nightmare last night! And even though I woke up at 7am with anxious knots in my stomach, I drifted back off to sleep again, relieved to know that I’m capable of something resembling normal brain function.

A few hours later I awoke to the soothing sounds of a waterfall. In my kitchen. This unfortunately, was not a dream. For the past few hours water has been dripping out of cabinets, seeping out of electrical sockets, and verily cascading out of the light fixture in the ceiling. Wow, that makes me feel safe. Apparently there are real life consequences for not dreaming freaky.


Well, hello there! Now that I have your attention, I wanted to piggy back on the thing that Harrison was perceptively discussing below: this sudden awareness of aloneness, or of sadness, that comes and goes. Can someone even perceptively discuss? I don't know. But I think that Harrison did.

I too get a similiar random awareness, but it's different. It's happened for as long as I remember. Every now and then, for a few moments, I suddenly feel like I'm totally naked. I become really embarrassed and ashamed, I get flushed. It usually passes pretty quickly. I decided that it's a sensation passed down by Adam and / or Eve - like they are reaching out to me through time. Or, like I am actually feeling their nakedness, when they first felt it.

I know. Deep. I know. I know. Does this happen to anyone else, ever?
Oh! And to tie it into theater, I will say: having your play read aloud for the first time is like someone walking on you when you're putting your bathing suit on. Am I right, playwrights? AM I RIGHT?