Friday, October 23, 2009

Fri, Oct 30 at 5:30 p.m: Discussion and Book Talk with Playwright LYNN NOTTAGE, author of this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning Play, RUINED

Time: Friday, October 30, 2009 5:30 p.m.
Location: The Drama Book Shop, 250 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
Title of Event: Signing with Lynn Nottage, author of this year's Pulitzer-winning Ruined

Playwright Lynn Nottage, author of this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Ruined will be in the shop to discuss and sign copies of her plays.

Ruined recently ended its run at Manhattan Theatre Club (where it began performances in January), in a world-premiere co-production with Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Kate Whoriskey, who directed the production and developed the play with Nottage in Africa, writes in the book's introduction: "All of us who spend our lives in theater know that it has an incredible capacity for illuminating the unseen, reshaping history, bringing out empathy and providing social commentary... Once in a great while a project seems to get enough of the elements right that it becomes a memorable piece of theater. Ruined is one of those pieces."

Lynn Nottage’s other plays include Intimate Apparel (New York Drama Critics’ Award for Best Play), which was the most widely produced play of 2005-06 theater season in America; Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award); Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers and POOF! She is recipient of numerous awards, including a 2007 MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship.

If you would like a signed copy of RUINED but are unable to attend the event, you may order a copy by calling the Drama Book Shop at 212 944-0595 (option 3)

by Lynn Nottage
Theatre Communications Group, 2009
Paper: $13.95

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Intermission Talk, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009

"After Miss Julie," "Bye, Bye Birdie,"

"The Lady With all the Answers,"

"Oleanna," "Memphis" and

"Wishful Drinking"

by Tony Vellela

Have you heard the one about the well-educated, seemingly secure taskmaster with the power to change the course of lives, who enters into an intense, sexually-poisoned relationship with a secretive, ambitious subordinate? Which 'one' is that - "Oleanna" or "After Miss Julie?"

"Oleanna," one of the twentieth century's most celebrated theatrical frauds, returns to haunt once again, after doing its duty to embellish playwright David Mamet's reputation as a man unafraid to tackle 'controversial ideas.' When it opened off-Broadway in 1992, the Playbill featured a face-front, seated, bespeckled man with a bull's-eye on his chest. He was meant to represent the college professor who at first meets with a young, female student when she claims to miss the meaning of his classes, and then, later, finds that she has charged him with attempted rape because he grabbed her arm to keep her from leaving without resolving her difficulties. The bull's-eye was the most honest element of this two-character seesaw with one side stuck up in the air, and the other stuck down in the dirt. Tortured aesthetes claim this charade asks provocative questions about gender politics, freedom of speech, the tone-deaf occupants of the Ivory Tower, and, oh - I don't know - why students have to buy their professors' textbooks. Even the addition of sleek, solid furniture, self-propelled ascending and descending window blinds, and the slasher red sofa as the only 'color' on the set, can't pretty up the ugliness of a writer pandering to an audience seeking meaning where only the pandering exists. Who's got the lipstick? Where's the pig?

"After Miss Julie," is a sorely wrong-headed self-indulgence by Patrick Marber, whose credit proclaims the play as 'A version of Strindberg's Miss Julie.' And what would the correct adjective be that should modify 'version?' In this dance of death, our Julie has been teleported from the kitchen in a Swedish country district manor house in the 1880s, to the kitchen of a large country estate outside London, in 1945. Marber has kept the basic relationship between Missy and her servant, here called John. They lust after each other once the obey-me rituals have exhausted themselves, even while the third character, kitchen servant Christine, watches her all-but-formalized engagement to John dissipate, bifurcate, immolate, enervate, evaporate and get the gate. As the bloodless Julie seems to seduce the willing manservant ['kiss my shoe,' she commands, then pulls it away twice before he grabs her foot], their separate agendas emerge - his, to move up and out of this estate, hers to be a reckless, wanton woman living on the edge, with him. Even though this play is 'a version' of a true classic, it deserves to be experienced on its own merits, few though they are. Here they are: [a] Jonny Lee Miller, as John, navigates his self-made powerless/powerful tightrope with acrid, virulent sensuality; [b] Marin Ireland, late of 'reasons to be pretty,' as Christine, lets us see the layer of emotion under the servant's veneer of deference, and [c] a smashing kitchen set, complete with copper pots on the walls, a butcher block and loads and loads of stuff on wooden shelves. Sienna Miller's Julie, in her dominatrix-act, owner's daughter mode, steps with the deliberative heel-to-toe of the most transparent B-movie sirens, from Mary Astor and Linda Darnell, to Janis Paige and Hillary Brooke - toughie broads with hearts of steel wool. When her emotions get the best of her, so to speak, she sputters and screeches. This [original] story pulls things out of the air, such as John's idea of them moving to New York to open a nightclub, or Julie's speech which proclaims that they could live 'on the Upper East Side. Or the Upper WEST Side.' This, in 1945 - when the UWS was not what it is, and not what she thinks it was. This would be a jokefest, a parody, were it not so sad that the Roundabout has bankrolled an entirely useless, and artistically sophomoric enterprise, even given the fun of ogling that kitchen.

Or - maybe you saw the one about the middle-aged cultural icon who makes it to the top, only to find that she's really at the apex of a roller coaster bathed in a very bright follow-spot? Which 'one' is that - "Wishful Drinking" or "The Lady with All the Answers?"

Carrie Fisher [the real person daughter of Hollywood royalty and terrific writer] and Ann Landers [the fictional persona of syndicated advice columnist Eppie Lederer] are the snazziest pair of Queens to hit the boards in quite a while. Fisher's "Wishful Drinking," at Studio 54, earns a place on that tiny, tiny list of great one-person, humor-laced, autobiographical confessionals that purport to let us listen to the shouts and whispers that have punctuated the life of a famous person. Billy Crystal did it. So did Stritch. And now, here comes Carrie, pulling us, with little resistance, by the nose, from her Tinseltown fractured fairy tale childhood when Mom Debbie Reynolds and Dad Eddie Fisher were still America's dream couple [the Angelina and Brad of their day, she points out], and down along the candy-colored pathway past the departure of Dad to the arms of Elizabeth Taylor, the starring role as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" trilogy, the tragi-comic marriages, mental problems, drug detours, sex-doll inspiration, and finally, to that place in her life we like to call 'Survivorland.' In two well-paced, rollicking acts, Fisher, clad in silk pajamas, robe and no shoes, prowls the stage like the abandoned daughter of Phyllis Diller and Rodney Dangerfield. And, boy, can she write ! This is not a one-liner festival. She knows how to regale a tale, embellish with relish, invoke a joke. Director Tony Taccone and scenic/lighting/projection designer Alexander V. Nichols provide generous, skillful and innovative support. The show opens with Carrie's rendition of "Happy Days Are Here Again." And one line from that song sums up what she's doing, in a magnificently witty, self-deprecating, and non-stop joyful style: "I'll tell the world about it now." And she surely does.

Ann Landers was another female phenomenon. For more than three decades in mid-20th century America, this plain-spoken but remarkably resourceful woman answered questions great and small, serious and silly, with 90 million readers downing her column with their morning coffee. David Rambo's charming play "The Lady With All the Answers," at the Cherry Lane, gives Judith Ivey a wide berth to roam among those decades of letters, set in the tasteful [if you like hotel lobby decor] living room/office of her Chicago high rise apartment. It's 1975, and she's trying to compose "the most important column of my career," wherein she reveals to readers that she and her happily married husband of 36 years are divorcing - he's fallen for a woman younger than their daughter. While the piece slides in and out of letter-reading, and anecdotes about Ann's A-list retinue of experts in all fields, it is Ivey's depiction of this mannered, near-libertarian matron, listening to light jazz on the stereo, and diving into a secret stash of chocolates, that fills out the evening in such a satisfying manner.

Visiting with Carrie and with Ann will be that much more satisfying if one admits to being alive when Beaver's brother Wally was still in junior high. But if not, you can still bask in the glow of two brilliant actors with the skills, talent, discipline and courage to carry a one-woman show without dropping a single beat, pick-me-ups in our time of humorless letdowns.

Finally, maybe what you were thinking of was the one about the pulsating, fast-moving, spirits-lifted musical? That's got to be "Memphis," 'cause it sure ain't "Bye, Bye Birdie."

"Memphis," it seems, is one of this season's wild cards, and it more than lives up to that designation. Set in the title city some time in the mid '50s, the simple storyline tracks a goofball [a '50s word] go-getter who follows the pounding beat, down the steps and into an underground nightclub in the segregated black part of town. Passion for the music sparks passion for the club's singer, and both of these passions put him in foreign, dangerous territory. While unexpected plot developments are as rare as the house losing at the blackjack table, it's the style of the thing that comes up aces.

Photo Credit: Jason Bell

The two leads make all kindsa music together. Chad Kimball is the white boy seduced by the rock-a-billy beat most white folks never heard before, and Montego Glover is the black singer who is seduced by the zeal, fervor and raw nerve of that guy, as he lands [connives] himself a DJ slot on the most traditional [read Perry Como] radio station in town. Glover pulls down walls with the power of her vocals, recalling Jennifer Holliday in the original "Dreamgirls," from which this production has borrowed more than a few power points for its presentation. Other unwitting sources include "Hairspray," and any 1940's picture where lovers from different sides of the tracks try to meet in the middle. Together, Kimball and Glover ramp up the voltage even higher, recalling other dynamic duet duos as diverse as Ashford and Simpson, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, and the Airplane's Grace Slick and Marty Balin. They deliver the goods.

And a surprising level of musical theatre virtuosity also infuses the four-star cast, with a special treat coming in Act Two, when Cass Morgan, as Kimball's Mama-who-objects-but-is-reconciled, gets a chance to show off her always-thrilling vocal chops. Even harder to accomplish these days is choreography that does not telegraph its moves after the first sixteen bars. Sergio Trujillo's dance routines force you to scan the stage to enjoy all the sub-sets going on, and, one suspects, co-orchestrator Daryl Waters ["Jelly's Last Jam," "Noise...Funk"], played some role in making "Memphis" the place to be for hot rock and roll, hotter musical numbers, and the hottest boy-girl match-up since ... who? Annie and Frank? Fanny and Nicky? Anna and the King?

Not hot is "Bye, Bye Birdie," the tepid tuner from 1960 currently hyper-ventilating at the Henry Miller's Theatre. Even in 1960, this gum drop of a show was dated, taking as it were the real-life drafting of Elvis Presley as the fictional story's inspiration. Despite a really catchy score, this show was less in need of reviving than the princess phone. Both John Stamos and especially Gina Gershon [this season's Stockard Award], could use a pair of GPS's to locate the right notes and keys [throw in a third for Bill Irwin, another achingly bad choice for the role of the beleaguered Dad]. As the lucky teen-ager chosen, as a marketing ploy, to receive hip-swiveling Conrad Birdie's last kiss before his hair is shaved off, Allie Trimm shines with a genuine small town sweetness [she was one of the best assets of last season's teen desecrator, "13"]. The real stand-out is former Nickelodeon star Nolan Gerard Funk, as the fresh-faced fleshpot Conrad. Funk sings with a testosterone-laced gusto, moves like an oscillating ocelot cub, and has one all-around heckuva good time up there. Not so, nearly everyone else in this wearisome production.

On Book

To re-acquaint yourself with August Strindberg's reckless harridan, pick up any collection of his great, classic plays, including "Miss Julie." There are paperbacks, hard cover versions, or single playscripts - leaf through to see that the translation is accessible without being so contemporary that the characters sound like they were living in, say, 1945.

Because 'Memphis" and "Bye, Bye Birdie" both use rock 'n' roll it various forms, you might like to trace the story of that music on the musical theatre stage. "The Theater Will Rock - A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig," by Elizabeth L. Woolman, gives a generally comprehensive overview of this exciting, and often tattered genre. She draws from a wide range of sources, and includes culturally important, but now nearly obscure shows such as "Dude" and "Your Own Thing."

And if you can find it, bask in "Playwrights, Lyricists, Composers on Theater," a collection of commentaries by dozens of theatre greats, edited by Otis L. Guernsey Jr. Okay, so it's more than three decades old. Believe me, it will be more engrossing that many revivals from thirty years ago.


TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre, "Character Studies." He has served as theatre journalist and critic for dozens of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Dramatics Magazine and Theatre Week. His play "Admissions," [Playscripts], won Best Play at the NYC International Fringe Festival. He teaches at HB Studio in the Village.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tues, Oct 20 at 6 pm: Free Discussing, Q&A and Book Signing with Sande Shurin, author of Star Power at the Drama Book Shop.

Time: Tuesday, October 20, 6.00 p.m.
Location: The Drama Book Shop, 250 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
Title of Event: Sande Shurin: Star Power. Free Discussing, Q&A and Book Signing.

Sande Shurin Presents "Star Power! Defining You Individual Signature"

Sande Shurin will be available prior to the discussion of her book, "Star Power!" at 6 p.m. to sign books and greet guests, At 6.30 p.m., she will present a brief discussion followed by an open question and answer session. Sande will then be available to talk with participants and sign books. "Star Power!" speaks to the issues challenging actors, including how to be authentic to one's self and to character simultaneously; and how to respond spontaneously and still fulfill a director's vision. Shurin developed Transformational Acting, a technique she teaches at her New York City studio and he satellite studio in Woodstock, N.Y.

Star Power: Defining Your Individual Signature
by Sande Shurin.
Morgan James Publishing, 2009.
Paper: $14.95

Thurs, Oct 22 at 6 PM: Ace Your Acting Audition: FREE Mini Workshop at The Drama Book Shop

Time: Thursday, October 22, 2009 6:00 p.m.
Location: The Drama Book Shop, 250 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
Title of Event: Ace Your Acting Audition: FREE MINI-WORKSHOP

Ace Your Acting Audition
Mini-Worksho, Q&A and Book Signing with Casting Director, Producer and Teacher Liz Ortiz-Macke

Join us for a mini-workshop, Q&A and book signing. Written by Casting Director, Producer and teacher Liz Ortiz-Mackes, "Ace Your Acting Audition" is a practical guide on learning and mastering the auditioning process. The book provides a series of simple yet effective steps actors can take to make every aspect of auditioning work to their advantage.

In her years of casting for theatre, film, TV, commercials, industrials and digital media – having seen many instances of the good, the bad and the ugly of auditioning – Liz has developed a thorough understanding of what directors, producers, writers and casting directors are after. In this book as she has done in her popular workshops for organizations such as the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the New York Film Academy, Liz demystifies auditioning with humor, great show biz stories and tell-it-like-it-is honesty. Now actors of all types, at every level can learn to recognize and avoid the pitfalls of self-sabotage, make strong original auditioning choices and handle pre and post audition anxiety constructively. Ace Your Acting Audition shows you how, plus much more.

Liz Ortiz-Mackes has worked behind the scenes in the entertainment field since 1990. As the owner of Casting Solutions in New York City, Liz is an avid supporter of diversity in casting, Having been a Sag and Equity franchised agent on both coasts, Director of Special Events at the Dramatists Guild and Director of Artists Files On-Line at the Non-Traditional Casting Project, she has always empathized with and admired actors for what they do and what they go through. Part of the special understanding and insight Liz brings to all she does is based on her experience as a theatre director, having directed in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and New Hampshire. In addition to casting, Liz enjoys giving workshops around the country and overseas and has also branched out into producing, where she is involved with several film and television projects in production and development.

by Liz Ortiz-Mackes
S.O.M.E. Productions, 2009.
Paper, $11.95

Sunday, Oct 25 at 11 AM: Acting Workshop with MARGIE HABER at The Drama Book Shop

Attention: New York Actors!

What do BRAD PITT. HALLE BERRY and VINCE VAUGHN all have in common? Margie Haber!

  • Do you give up your power in auditions?
  • Are you getting enough callbacks?
  • Are you booking?
  • Are you just starting out?

Author of How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart, Margie Haber gives an incredible 3- hour seminar in NYC which specializes in auditioning, teaching actors to “Express, not impress” and to “Stop Acting and Start Living the Life!”

Sunday, October 25th from 11 AM – 2 PM
The Drama Book Shop in NYC
250 W. 40th St.

$100.00 - call 310-854-0870 to enroll.

Tell your friends to use your name as a referral and get $25.00 off this event.

How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart
by Haber, Margie

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thurs, Oct 15 at 6.00 PM: Acting as a Business at The Drama Book Shop

Time: Thursday, October 15, 2009 6:00 p.m.
Location: The Drama Book Shop, 250 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
Title of Event: ACTING AS A BUSINESS with Brian O'Neill

Celebration of the new edition of "Acting as a Business"

Acting as a Business: Strategies for Success(Acting as a Business: Strategies for Success)
by O'Neil, Brian

Friday, October 02, 2009

POW! (Play Of The Week)

by Neil Wechsler

Four men. Four philosophies. One woman.

Thus begins an epic quest for lost love and a good meal, a quest involving fruits, fiddles and a two-legged Dachshund. Winner of the Yale Drama Series competition, Neil Wechsler's Grenadine chronicles four companions: Prismatic, Grove, Sconce and Pyx, all of whom have been inmates on a prison work farm. As they set out to find the mythic Grenadine, the woman who stole both Prismatic's heart and the men's freedom, these four fellows must rediscover life and what it means to be free. Standing in their way are pangs of hunger, strains of friendship and a swarm of bees.

While imprisoned, Prismatic has read only love poetry, Grove has read only science, Sconce only mythology and Pyx only religion. These literary genres inform the characters' mindsets and speech while creating a linguistic jungle gym worth exploring. Wechsler’s strong command of language and theatrical convention help create a world full of memorable and endearing characters.

Will Sconce find his place in a modern world? Can Pyx's faith overcome the swallowing swells of the sea? Can Grove ditch logic and open his heart? And will Prismatic ever find his lost love, Grenadine?

Wechsler answers these questions and more in a journey filled with witty wordplay and impossible staging that challenges the reader and the bounds of theatre. After the final scene has closed the reader is sure to recall the words of lovelorn Prismatic: "All we need now is for a fish to jump out of the stream and lie still for us while we poke it to death with our twigs."

Cast: 6M, 2W

Scenes/Monologues: Lots of group scenes for guys.

Recommended by: Ben.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thursday, Oct 8th: Fourteen Drama Book Shop Headshot Marathon

Date: Thursday October, 8 2009
Time: 10:00am – 7:00pm
Cost: $150.00 plus tax (total $163.25), per 1 hour session

The Headshot Marathon Returns--at a Reduced "Recession" Cost

Affordable, Quality Headshots by a Top New York Photographer--Satisfaction Guaranteed

In collaboration with Barry Burns Photography, working professionally in New York for more than 40 years, the Drama Book Shop is hosting a marathon day of digital shooting.

Cost: $150.00 (plus tax) for a one-hour session, for which you will receive an 8" x 10" print and a disc containing that shot. Additional prints and touch-ups are available at reasonable prices.

Make-up artist Satoko Ichinose will be available for an additional fee. Visit her website at

Please call The DRAMA BOOK SHOP at 212 944-0595, to schedule an appointment (Monday through Saturday, 11 to 7)