It’s gonna be a big year. One way or another.
This year will see me, with the help of seven other amazing artists, take the reigns of The Welders. It will see the premiere of a site-specific walking tour, rehearsals for which begin in the next few weeks. It will see the Great Agent Hunt of 2016, which has already begun. It will include at least two new projects so nascent I can’t even hint at them yet. It will hopefully have 100% fewer car accidents.
It will also see me adding to this site on a regular basis. Or if not this site–if I decide to tear this site down like I’ve been considering–then somewhere else.
In the meantime, cheers to coming year, glorious and new.
This past weekend saw the final performance of THE LAST BURLESQUE.
We ended with one of the best shows and best audiences of the entire run. We’re all pretty proud of ourselves around here.
Now comes the inevitable post-show malaise.
But before that kicks in, I just want to say that there were a lot of people whose hard work and dedication got us to that closing performance. Firstly, there were Pinky Swear Productions’ leaders Allyson, Karen and Toni Rae who, three years and nine drafts ago, committed to developing and then producing LAST BURLESQUE. They were never anything but supportive and enthusiastic.
Even when it became the biggest, most complex show Pinky Swear has ever tackled.
Then there was Amber Jackson, who decided to sign on with a playwright she’d never worked with before on a play that was, when she first read it, still a few solid drafts away from completion. She directed this show to within an inch of its life.
She’s basically a creative mastermind.
But more fabulous.
With her help we recruited an amazing artistic team.
And a cast of fucking fierce actors.
We asked them to do some pretty brave things on stage.
Okay, but more…
We also asked them to perform some outside the box physical feats.
They tackled everything with glorious enthusiasm.
In the end everyone came together into one of the tightest, most incredible ensembles I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
That’s more like it.
The audience responded with unbridled enthusiasm.
And a little…
And sometimes flat out…
And there were plenty of feels all around.
But now it’s over.
Time to return to our real lives.
But we’ll have the memories of the fantastic work we did.
I will cherish the work we’ve done together. And at the first opportunity…
Reunion tour, bitches!
In the meantime…
But the ones I cherish the most will never see print.
Being told by Lisa Carr, who has seen hundreds of Fringe shows over the last ten years, that The Last Burlesque was the first she had ever felt compelled to give a standing ovation.
The woman who thanked me for writing the show’s three queer female protagonists so truthfully. Considering how many of my protagonists are queer women, I was especially gratified to hear this.
The SOLD OUT HOUSE for our last show in the Sprenger Theatre. 175 seats sold. If I’m not mistaken, the biggest audience for anything I’ve ever written and the biggest audience for anything Pinky Swear has ever produced, and was tied for the biggest house at the 2015 Capital Fringe.
Sitting in the front row of that audience was GiGi Holiday—burlesque performer and teacher, who gave our cast an early lesson on how to strut and bump and grind and twirl. After the show she told me how much she loved it and praised how accurately it gets burlesque culture and the internal life of performers. I’ve heard the same thing from a number of other burlesque artists, including Cherie Sweetbottom–one of my favorite burlesque performers and a mainstay on DC stages.
I think it’s these reactions I cherish most. With The Last Burlesque, I’m writing about a culture and community that I’m not now nor have I ever been a part of, though the issues facing live theatre artists do overlap deeply with burlesque and sideshow. To be told I managed to get it right by those with a stake in having their story told truthfully is worth a hundred Post reviews.
Two months of rehearsals paid off big last night with perhaps the best opening of a Fringe show I’ve ever been a part of. Countless hours of hard work from cast and crew were put boldly on display (along with a ton of talent and more than a little skin), and man the audience respond. I frequently refer to the audience as the final collaborator in the creative process. That has never been truer than with this show. What a difference having a good, game, giving audience makes.
Four more chances to see it at Fringe, then we move two blocks to the Trinidad Theatre for an extended run through mid-August. But considering how gorgeous that set looks right now at the Atlas, I wouldn’t wait.
Get your tickets HERE.
Around the end of January, NYC playwright and all-around artistic bad-ass Mariah MacCarthy sent out a Facebook message soliciting proposals for The Brick Theater’s FUCKFEST–a theatre festival about sex and sexuality. My first thought was: THAT IS AWESOME AND I WANT TO BE A PART OF IT (I mean, the name alone). My second thought was: I can’t produce a show in NYC. Certainly not during a summer when I’m in rehearsals for Pinky Swear’s THE LAST BURLESQUE and programming the Capital Fringe Preview and Cabaret. There was a short period of sadness followed by a third thought: If only there were a way for me to create something where all the production would happen in DC, but could still premiere in conjunction with FUCKFEST.
That was how PIECES OF STRANGE started–a collection of recorded monologues of strange, sometimes erotic, sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing stories. Think Neil Gaiman by way of Clive Barker by way of me. Twenty minutes after having the idea, I had the first draft of the first piece–“My Sweet Ann,” which is about sexual self-discovery and embracing your kinks even when no one else will. Soon I had six more monologues, each viewing issues of sex and relationships through a decidedly spec fic lens.
The Brick accepted the proposal and soon after I recruited six good, game, giving actors in Melissa Hmelnicky (who doubled as co-producer), Jon Hudson Odom, Allyson Harkey, Alina Collins-Maldonado, Gwen Grastorf, and Natalie Cutcher. I also roped in Karen Lange and Natalie Piergari, who are helping compose an original song that will get added to the album at a later date.
By March I’d finished revising the monologues, by April we’d started recording, and by the end of May all seven recordings were finalized. A podcast mic with a pop filter, a laptop, and Garageband was the extent of our tech. There were a few production hiccups, including an entire evening of recording that was lost due to the settings on Garageband changing after a software update. But otherwise, the process was surprisingly simple. Idea to completion in four months.
And now it’s online! The album became available for pre-order on Bandcamp yesterday, and will go on sale for real on June 9. If you preorder now, you’ll get “My Sweet Ann” to download immediately and access to the full album when it drops. On June 9, Melissa and I will be at the Brick for a Preview Cabaret kicking off FUCKFEST. So if you’re in Brooklyn, come on over for a little tease from the shows in the festival.
This isn’t my first adventure in audio drama, and it’s not the most elaborate. The record for that is still held by WALKING THE CITY OF SILENCE AND STONE, which to date is 7 of 9 episodes in. But it’s the first that’s been totally DIY. And probably not the last.
Melissa Marie Hmelnicky (of SISTERS OF ELLERY HOLLOW, WE TIRESIAS, and upcoming PIECES OF STRANGE and THE LAST BURLESQUE fame) is turning 30.
While working on the premiere of IN THE FOREST, SHE GREW FANGS in Fall 2013, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some really fantastic actresses, not all of whom were used to the fullest extent of their talents. I was inspired to write a play that gave them some roles they could really have fun with. That kernel of an idea spiraled and sprawled to become the bloody, hardscrabble family drama THE GANTRY GIRLS COME HOME. This week I got to announce that the play was a finalist for this year’s O’Neill. The script–a two-act drama about six sisters who return to their childhood home as their mother is dying and unearth some old secrets–is available on the O’Neill Finalist page and on the New Play Exchange.
We’re a third of the way through our season-long roll-out of WALKING THE CITY OF SILENCE AND STONE–the site-specific, walking podcast play I’ve developed with Forum Theatre. While each episode is designed to be best listened to in specific areas of the District, you can follow along and enjoy (hopefully) from anywhere.
We’re holding our first listening party this Saturday (January 10. We’ll start at 11:30 a.m. at the Silver Spring Black Box, Metro to the National Mall, then head to Dupont Circle. Then retire somewhere to talk about the experience. (and get back in time to see the Ravens/Patriots game). Everyone’s invited and the experience is free. I should have pictures up on Facebook and on this blog shortly after.
Each episode is also available for download for PWYW. Check them out here: http://www.forumtd.org/walking
Episode One dropped on November 10. It’s free and streaming on Forum’s site and can be downloaded for PWYW. Click HERE.