The dead clairvoyant was right when he predicted in an EVP session a month ago that I’d be going to Brooklyn. It’s now official: Boneyards will be getting a New York City premiere in February, 2015 at the deliciously notorious Morbid Anatomy Museum.
It’s a perfect venue for this show and I couldn’t be happier. 3 shows only; max seating 20 as always; tix $20. They aren’t onsale yet but you’ll be the first to know.
In the meantime mark your calendars for Fridays 2/20, 2/27 and 3/6 at 8pm and book yourself an Amtrak ticket.
Hear it…with the heart
I won’t hurt you
Free-associate amongst yourselves with those words and phrases as you read on. Let them percolate, let your mind fill in the blanks and make them make sense — make it into a narrative. Get the idea? One of my favorite elements of the spirit box is that it puts a modern spin on the Surrealists’ old exquisite corpse parlor game.
Unless of course the spirit voices are real. It’s times like this when I hit a wall and become confounded. Let me explain the flabbergasting sequence of events.
1. In mid-October my family and I squeezed in one last camping trip for the year at our beloved Pine Barrens, home to the Jersey Devil, Ong’s Hat and lots of sasquatch sightings. Seems like a perfect place for an EVP session and I finally got around to trying it on 10/18/14. My wife and young son were exploring in the woods behind our lean-to and I seized on the moment to turn back, dart around to the far side of the lean-to for a moment of solitude and quiet, and turn on the box and my video camera for a minute and half. Just inside the lean-to was a book I’d brought with me which I was eager to finish: Annie Jacobsen’s bestseller Area 51. It was indeed a good book. The video is below and I’ve already given you the transcript above. Mind you, I didn’t listen to it right away and forgot it was even on my camera.
2. Three weeks later in early November an exciting opportunity fell into my lap for a possible New York premiere of Boneyards at a perfect venue in Brooklyn (details to follow as soon as dates are confirmed; I’m still in the midst of firming this up).
3. Another week goes by, which brings me to this weekend. It’s now been a full month since I recorded the video. I sit down last night and upload all of my October pix from my camera onto my home computer. Amidst all the Halloween and camping photos, there sits the EVP video. I slow it down, add some noise reduction and give it a good, hard listen as is my usual procedure. Phrase by phrase I work my way through it, deleting the ones that are too hard to hear or understand. When I hit the word clairvoyant I’m intrigued. Remember that a clairvoyant is someone who can see into the future. Is it calling me a clairvoyant? Impossible. If I could predict the future, believe me, I’d know it. I can only guess that it’s calling itself clairvoyant and think little of it. I move along. When I get to the last word, Brooklyn, I nearly fall off my chair. Holy cow.
Was this clairvoyant spirit a month ago telling me that I’d soon be exploring the possibility of doing my show in Brooklyn? If I’d listened to it a month ago would I have even put it together in this same way? I’m not sure. I keep listening to that last word again and again trying to hear it … with the heart. See what you think, and stay tuned…
[photo via wikipedia]
The what? You heard me. I’m thrilled beyond recognition — thrilled to a crisp, in fact — to share the exciting news that I’m one of 24 writers selected out of 16,100 entries in the first ever Amtrak Writers Residency. Not without its fascination and controversies, the residency has been covered microscopically in the New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and HuffPo over the past 8 months. For my money, Boris Kachka wrote the best overview in New York Magazine. Basically, we each get to travel for a week or two in a private cabin on the Amtrak routes of our choosing during the next year as kind of a moving residency, as opposed to being isolated at a cabin in the woods or holed up at an artists colony like Yaddo where I have also stayed.
This unique residency program started because last year in a PEN interview, novelist Alexander Chee said that he did a lot of writing on trains and that he wished Amtrak had writers residencies. He was joking but Amtrak got wind of his remark, thanks to a grass roots Twitter campaign, and decided to heed his call and launch such a program for established writers.
One of the writing samples I submitted was my Washington Post story from last year about my crazy spiritual experience aboard a commuter train between New York City’s Penn Station and Philadelphia. However, my primary writing sample was an excerpt from my award-winning, yet unproduced (anyone?) screenplay Lords of Light, an historical drama about Nikola Tesla and his rivalry with Thomas Edison, written while I was a graduate student at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Speaking of this, I can’t help but proudly mention that (continue reading…)
There’s a little taphophile in all of us
After a highly successful world premiere in the 2013 Philly Fringe in September and an extended post-Fringe run in the fall, Jeffrey Stanley is back with Boneyards: The Wienering is back this summer 2014 and features a special guest appearance by acclaimed New York-based performance artist Michael Wiener.
Very limited seating
$10 tickets here
Shivtei Yeshyuron-Ezras Israel Synagogue
(doors open 45 minutes early to allow the audience time to wander the 3 floors of this 119-year-old storefront synagogue before descending to the cellar)
2015 S. 4th Street
2 blocks north of Snyder Avenue
7/8/14 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
P hiladelphia, PA – The ongoing seance-as-theatre experiment continues. After a highly successful run in the 2013 Philly Fringe and a post-Fringe extended run last fall, Jeffrey Stanley’s BONEYARDS is back from the dead to rock your underworld for 2 performances in late July. Come in from the heat and peacefully rest in a cool, dark, coal cellar. Same autobiographical, spooky show, same mouldering location, same real ghosts, but now featuring a visit from New York’s quirkiest experimental performance artist Michael Wiener who will be sharing the crypt with the show’s creator Jeffrey Stanley.
Back when the infamous Terri Schiavo case was running at full throttle with Jeb and George Bush and a lot of other men sticking their paws into her dead brain and playing politics with her corpse I wrote a short, satirical play about it called Lady in a Box which was performed at Chashama in Times Square and featured downtown performance artist Michael Weiner. After that I kept getting requests from people wanting to produce it in evenings of short works, including from my friends at Eastcheap Rep Theatre Ensemble. I then adapted it into an award-winning short screenplay, then a short film in 2006 which I directed starring Mississippi Masala‘s Sarita Choudhury (currently Mira Berenson on Homeland), John Lordan, Luke Rosen and Sean Hayden and which aired around the world.
Here we go again and again in 2014, this time with Mrs. Marlise Munoz in Texas and a 13-year-old girl in California who I won’t name here. May they rest in peace.
As the vultures, mostly men, pick and peck over their corpses — over ownership of these women and girls who can’t speak for themselves — I’m reminded of what inspired me to write Lady in a Box in the first place and make a little movie of it eight years ago. Enjoy the trailer–
The full 15-minute short is available here.
[photos via Dallas Morning News and wikipedia]
I’m pleased as punch to help spread the word that acclaimed British novelist and my former NYU dialogue writing student as well as my good friend, Lucie Whitehouse, will be reading from her latest novel Before We Met at Book Court in Brooklyn on 1/21. Be there or be decidedly square.
For all of you who enjoy paying for things with pounds (or have to) please enjoy a really inexpensive download of my award-winning 2006 short Lady in a Box in one more new location online. It features the likes of Luke Rosen and John Lordan along with Indian star Sarita Choudhury and featuring the ambient trance hit “Sweet Lassi Dub.” Check it out at MiShorts.
Wow, they’ve been reading my blog (If you know something, say something. Pass it on.) Seriously I’m glad the chorus of voices out there regarding coupling gun control legislation with mental health legislation has been heard by at least one state. Personally I don’t think it goes far enough — Missouri has even tougher laws regarding the severely mentally ill — but this is a terrific start.
NEW YORK TIMES, 1/15/13
By THOMAS KAPLAN and DANNY HAKIM
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers agreed on Monday to a broad package of changes to gun laws that would expand the state’s ban on assault weapons and would include new measures to keep guns away from people with mental illnesses… In an acknowledgment that many people [ahem] have suggested that part of the solution to gun violence is a better government response to mental illness, the legislation includes not only new restrictions on gun ownership, but also efforts to limit access to guns by the mentally ill.
The most significant new proposal would require mental health professionals to report to local mental health officials when they believe that patients are likely to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by a dangerous patient; therapists would not be sanctioned for a failure to report such patients if they acted “in good faith.”
“People who have mental health issues should not have guns,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters. “They could hurt themselves, they could hurt other people.”. . . The legislation would extend and expand Kendra’s Law, which empowers judges to order mentally ill patients to receive outpatient treatment.
And it would require gun owners to keep weapons inaccessible in homes where a resident has been involuntarily committed, convicted of a crime or is the subject of an order of protection . . . “I think today we are setting the mark for the rest of the country,” said Senator Malcolm A. Smith an independent Democrat from Queens. FULL STORY HERE >>
Aleim, from the Hebrew for, apparently, “horrifically bad reporting,” published a fluff piece on Serge Becker as part of his publicist’s ongoing campaign to change his image into that of humble nice-guy and community-minded father. Aleim, a struggling newcomer, is the only kind of publication where Becker’s publicist can get away with such tripe.
The article, written by Shirine Saad, has no comments section because most likely no New Yorkers can be found to say something nice about Becker and Aleim knows it. La Esquina as a drug-free Disneyland? That was particularly disturbing, Shirine, given that Becker is well-known for facilitating the illegal drug trade at his establishments. One of Becker’s partners, Cordell Lochin, was an international drug smuggler sent to prison by a federal court, and Becker committed perjury by stonewalling, attempting to publicly distance himself from Lochin, and giving what prosecutors described as “odd” testimony during the hearings. Becker, at the behest of co-owners James Gersten and Derek Sanders, instructed his staff to engage in a systematized pattern of assault and battery of its customers, including, ironically for Mexican-themed La Esquina, a Latino newspaper reporter. Becker is a thug, a criminal, and the worst kind of New Yorker, who then wonders why his neighbors don’t want him and his establishments darkening their doorsteps. He needs to meet the same fate as Peter Gatien: deportation.
I’m thrilled to have been a part of the incredible Mantua Theater Project this past weekend, sponsored by Drexel University and created by Drexel Theatre Program head Nick Anselmo. Nick modeled it on New York City’s 52nd Street Project where he used to work, based at my old stomping grounds The Ensemble Studio Theatre. He also previously replicated this phenomenal organization at a theatre in Trenton, NJ several years ago to work with economically disadvantaged kids there. Now he has replicated it for at-risk 4th through 8th graders in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood which borders Drexel’s campus.
Nick’s technique is based on Daniel Judah Sklar‘s book Playmaking: Children Writing and Performing Their Own Plays which was the foundation for the 52nd Street Project. This summer’s inaugural program at Drexel took place over the course of four weeks during which Nick taught the basics of playwriting to about a dozen kids.
After that, the students were paired with professional playwrights for a retreat weekend, working one-on-one to create short plays. That’s where I came in, helping an energetic 8-year-old girl realize her awesome creative vision with her Peter Panlike fantasy play Croc Galore which is 7 pages of poignancy and hilarity about two orphaned creatures helping each other survive in a jungle full of traps, danger and liars. Hers and the other students’ plays are now being handed off to professional directors and actors, and will culminate with a performance for these young writers’ friends, families and community members on Drexel’s main stage, the Mandell Theatre, in August. I plan to be there front row, center.
As Drexel’s website accurately puts it, “the process yields funny, creative, surprisingly truthful and often hilarious results. Along the way students develop self-esteem as they create something to be proud of.” Drexel students are also helping with various aspects of the program. Education, and Screenwriting & Playwriting students will be involved in the classes, and Theater students and alumni will help with the production.
For me, a similar lifesaving program didn’t come along until I was a teenager. That program was the Young Writers Workshop at UVa which I’m glad to see is still going strong. Thanks to a partial financial aid scholarship from the good old Vinton, VA Moose Lodge across the street from my high school (thanks to the efforts of my profoundly influential 10th grade English teacher and lifetime friend Rose Townsend) and a donation from my now-departed grandmother, Ethel Orelia, who had an 8th grade education and had been out picking tobacco at the age of 4, I was able to attend the 2-week UVa workshop two summers in a row. The experiences I had there — visiting a college campus for the first time, getting a taste of college life, meeting professional writers and other like-minded kids — set the course of the rest of my life. I had been raised in a cash-strapped single-parent home and wound up becoming the first person in my family to attend college, let alone grad school, moving to New York City at age 19 with a one-way ticket and a duffle bag, and went on to terrific success as a dramatist and university faculty, and it all started because a writing workshop presented itself to me out of the blue.
I hope that my thimbleful of work this weekend yields similar results for these kids someday. Not that they all need to become playwrights but that they see there’s a whole, wonderful world just outside the borders of their own neighborhood and that they’re just as entitled to participate in it and have a piece of it as anyone else.
Congratulations to Nick Anselmo and the Mantua Theater Project.