Jefe's House

Tag: august wilson

The Ghost of August Wilson

by on Mar.25, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

20150323_220621Amtrak Residency
Day 12
3/24/15

This morning while hurtling across western Pennsylvania I enjoyed my final Amtrak breakfast.  I sat next to a uniformed Amtrak police officer en route to a meeting at our final stop on the Capitol Limited, Washington, DC. From there I’ll take a two-hour ride  to Philadelphia on the Amtrak Acela Express and be home in time for dinner.

Across from us sat two elderly women from Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The officer had spent 26 years on the Chicago police force before retiring into a much less stressful “second career” working for Amtrak.

20150324_111119

Old round house; Martinsburg, WV station

After a few minutes of instinctively probing their names, destinations, life stories, I sprung it on them that I’m a (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Chicago Blues

by on Mar.23, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 10
3/22/15
20150321_173559Got up with the rooster crow — or in Amtrakspeak the ear-blasting 6am breakfast call — to see off the Warren-Powells who hopped off in Osceola, IA at 7:40am. I then wrote until an early lunchtime (the last meal aboard my beloved California Zephyr before it concluded its run in Chicago) during which I met a pair of retired micro-brewers, Wendy and Don Littlefield. The better half is completing her first novel, a murder mystery that I look forward to reading.  They also hipped me to Philly Inquirer food writer Craig LaBan, whom I should have known about as I’m now a Philadelphian, but I didn’t. Now I do. We also talked about our shared appreciation for August Wilson and the fact that they’ll be seeing Two Trains Running in Chicago soon. This was the second time on this trip that August Wilson came up.

20150322_112525

The train station in Galesburg, IL, historically an important railroad town, boasts and antique Pullman car…

I spent my final few hours aboard the Zephyr (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Deja Vu

by on Mar.22, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 9
3/21/15

20150321_075514

20150321_083007Haven’t I been here before? Woke up this morning shooting across Utah and worked on LITTLE ROCK for a couple of hours before finally succumbing to the call of hot breakfast and coffee wafting from the dining car. There I met a high school senior named Kira who’s interested in pursuing an acting or singing career, and also Jane, returning home from a yoga retreat.
20150321_084611In Glenwood Springs, CO the Warren-Powell family boarded my train on their way back home to Iowa and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon and part of the evening playing trivia with them and talking ghosts. (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Dang. Sadly No EVP.

by on Feb.05, 2012, under The Sixth Boro, The Truth Is In Here, Theatre

Please enjoy my 2nd Rep Radio interview. This one happened on 1/7/12 at midnight on the stage of Plays & Players, and it’s the aforementioned live ouija board session in lieu of a traditional interview, in hopes that interviewer Kristen Scatton and I could contact one of Plays & Players’ 3 resident ghosts, and we did with help from my frequent Philly ghost pal Mala.  Sadly the recording contains no voices from the dead, aka, electronic voice phenomena.  Why does it always work so well on Ghost Hunters?

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Philly Inquirer sez Joe Turner Rocks

by on Jan.26, 2012, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

A hoodoo man and a searcher: Damien Wallace (left) and Kash Goins, who meet at a boardinghouse. (DREW HOOD / Throwing Light Photography)

‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone’: A tale of searching, tinged with mysticism

By Toby Zinman, for The Inquirer

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a big, strong, juicy play, and Plays & Players’ production is just as big, strong, and juicy. Representing the second decade in August Wilson’s “Century Cycle,” Joe Turner takes place a hundred years ago in 1911, a suitable choice for Plays & Players Theater’s 100th anniversary. While the building may be old, the company is new; it’s led by Daniel Student, who is rapidly proving himself a young director of range and vision.

Joe Turner – brother of Pete Turner, a late-19th-century governor of Tennessee – arbitrarily seized black men off the streets and forced them into slave farm labor for periods of seven years. Herald Loomis (the excellent Kash Goins), the mysterious, half-destroyed visionary figure at the center of Joe Turner, has spent three years since being freed walking with his young daughter Zonia (Lauryn Jones), searching for the wife who vanished while he was captive. They arrive at a Pittsburgh boardinghouse – the perfect locale to represent the comings and goings of the Northern Migration – run by the practical Seth Holly (James Tolbert) and his comforting wife, Bertha (Cherie Jazmyn).

 The other residents are a hoodoo man named Bynam (the thrilling Damien Wallace), who can bind people with a song and spell; Jeremy, a hotshot country bumpkin (Jamal Douglas); Mattie, a sweet, often-betrayed woman (Candace Thomas); and Molly, beautiful and dangerous (Mle Chester). There is a boy (Brett Gray) next door, who befriends Zonia, and a traveling peddler (Bob Weick), the “people finder” who is the grandson of slave traders.
Their lives briefly intersect – as they would in a week-to-week boardinghouse – mingling romance and business and desperation and pain and storytelling. The play powerfully suggests significance far beyond the plot: In the vision Herald Loomis sees of bones walking on the water and of people “shaking hands and saying goodbye to each other and walking every whichaway down the road,” Wilson give us the Middle Passage, to slavery, to the diaspora, to freedom.

The play lays down a solid layer of mundane detail – lots of biscuit-eating and coffee-drinking and dishwashing – allowing the extraordinary to stand out, especially the terrific Juba scene: wild, African-derived dancing after Sunday night’s fried-chicken dinner. The interesting set designed by Lance Kniskern is, suitably, half realistic, half suggestive, allowing the mysticism to mingle with the commonplace.

Get your tickets here.

 

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Joe Turner’s In This Town

by on Jan.16, 2012, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Excited to report that August Wilson’s masterful Joe Turner’s Come and Gone opens on the mainstage of Plays & Players this Thursday, January 19th. The play is set in 1911, the same year Plays & Players was founded, which is part of the reason for its inclusion in our 100th anniversary season.  It’s also included because it’s a smart and powerful play, and because it’s part of our mission statement to bring greater diversity to Philadelphia’s theatre scene.

Wilson took the title from the old blues song Joe Turner, my favorite version of which is the one by Mississippi John Hurt:

They tell me Joe Turner’s in this town
They tell me Joe Turner’s in this town
He’s a man I hate, I don’t want him hangin’ around.

The song is about Joe Turney, aka Joe Turner, a real-life kidnapper of blacks during the Jim Crow South after the Civil War.  I quote liberally from usprisonculture.com:  “In the late 19th century, a man named Joe Turney became well-known in the South. He was the brother of Pete Turney who was the governor of Tennessee. Joe Turney had the responsibility of taking black prisoners from Memphis to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville. It is said that Joe would make a habit of distributing some of the prisoners to convict farms along the Mississippi River, where employers paid commissions to obtain laborers.

“According to Leon F. Litwack in his terrific book Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow:  ‘Most of the prisoners had been rounded up for minor infractions, often when police raided a craps game set up by an informer; after a perfunctory court appearance, the blacks were removed, usually the same day, and turned over to Turney. He was reputed to have handcuffed eighty prisoners to forty links of chain. When a man turned up missing that night in the community, the word quickly spread, ‘They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone.’ Family members were left to mourn the missing (p.270).

“Joe Turney was the embodiment of the convict leasing system. ”

Set in a boarding house in Pittsburgh’s predominantly black Hill district during the Great Migration, this is a play about the search for identity, family and home after centuries of slavery.  It is at times heartbreaking, hilarious, musical and entertaining. In 1911 as emancipated slaves move north in search of employment and a chance to start over, Seth and Bertha Holly’s boarding house offers a new place to call home. Their routines are shaken when an angry and lost man arrives looking for his wife whom he hasn’t seen for years after he was captured and put in a chain gang by Joe Turner.  They are all forced to confront their own demons and come together to help the lost stranger find his way.

Don’t miss it. Get your tickets here.

Plays & Players Presents:
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson
Directed by Daniel Student
Starring Kash Goins, Damien Wallace, James Tolbert, Cherie Jazmyn, Jamal Douglas, Candace Thomas, Mlé Chester, Bob Weick, Lauryn Jones, Brett Gray, and Erin Stewart

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Ghost Boy

by on Jan.08, 2012, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Photo by Iggy Rocketboy.

Last night my ongoing Ouija-as-theatre experiment continued for another round.   Kristen Scatton of Philadelphia’s Rep Radio, who had already interviewed me several months ago for my 2011 Philly Fringe show, BZ:ABOTD, interviewed me again, this time in the context of my being one of this year’s 3 PDC@Plays&Players playwrights-in-residence (along with playwrights Brian Grace-Duff and Jeremy Gable).

She didn’t want a repeat of my first interview in August so I suggested something different — how about meeting me at midnight on the mainstage of Play & Players on the set of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (which opens January 19th and which is not to be missed) to see if we can contact the ghost of the Small Boy who has been spotted on the stage over the years.  He’s one of 3 spirits said to haunt the hundred-year-old building.

My 1917 original William Fuld Ouija Board.

You can soon hear the full Rep Radio interview and the complete audio of our Ouija session so I won’t go into full detail here. In summary, MALA showed up again in her usual insistent way (MALAMALAMALAMALA) and confirmed that she indeed knew me and had last spoken to me upstairs in Quig’s Pub on 11/6/11.  I asked her if she was doing okay and she said NO.  I told her I wanted her to try and be happier in 2012 because she always seemed sad, and she said OK.

We asked Mala if she knew the Small Boy and whether he was hanging around onstage with us.  He was.  In fact he was standing directly to my right, upstage center, according to Mala. The Small Boy’s initials are AE and he talked about PLAYS and that he was in a play on that stage in 1945.  Does he enjoy living at Plays & Players? NO.  Why doesn’t he leave?  LALALALA (a frequent Ouija answer in my experience, which I interpret to mean la la la la I’m not listening/can’t discuss it).

Broadway and silent film star, early screenwriter and Plays & Players co-founder Maud Durbin Skinner is also said to haunt the building.

In the end, chronically lonely little girl Mala confirmed that she liked the Small Boy and thought he was nice, so I asked if she’d like to stay on at Plays & Players and be friends with him.  She said YES, so I felt good about finding her a much-needed playmate. Apparently in the process I’ve also brought another ghost into Plays & Players’ otherworldly fold. I hope Maud and Leon are okay with that and don’t get angry with me for crowding them out. It’s getting downright lousy with ghosts in there.

Proof of a spirit world, or proof of characters from mine and Kristen Scatton’s fevered imaginations conveyed via subconscious ideomotor impulses?  Take your pick. I’m equally fascinated by both phenomena.  For further reading I highly recommend James Merrill’s epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover.

See you all at Live Arts Scratch Night at the Live Arts Brewery on Thursday 1/12/12 at 7pm. It’s free, there’s cheap beer, and you can RSVP here.

[Maud Skinner photo via findagrave.com]

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Theatre History Needs You

by on Nov.19, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

I loved Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia from the moment I walked into the 1911 lobby of this former acting school turned theatre back in fall, 2008.  My first thought was, nice place but is there a ghost? Actors are highly superstitious people, and any good old theatre has a requisite benevolent ghost on staff.  I was delighted to learn that Plays & Players is blessed with not just 1 ghost but 3 ghosts.

I also love history; especially US history and especially film and theatre history, so I was naturally drawn to this historic institution first as a fan, then as a board member and now as one of its 3 current  playwrights-in-residence along with Jeremy Gable and Brian Grace-Duff.  Plays & Players has an illustrious history, including bringing the first works of Susan Glaspell (Trifles) and one Eugene O’Neill (Before Breakfast) to Philadelphia back in the 19-teens.  Bevan & Trzcinski’s Stalag 17, a comic drama set in a German POW camp,  premiered here in 1949 before moving to Broadway and then becoming a hit Hollywood film, and then becoming the inspiration for 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (yep).   Philly native Kevin Bacon also performed one of his earliest roles on this stage back in the 1970s.

Today another facet of Plays & Players that I love is its commitment to producing 1 world-premiere by a Philadelphia playwright every season along with the classics and modern classics you’d expect. This current season features the hit Pardon My Invasion by local playwright Joy Cutler (it got raves) coupled with upcoming hits by August Wilson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone) and Tom Stoppard (Travesties).

Where was I? Oh right, Plays & Players turns 100 years old this season.  We’ve gotten a matching grant of $10,000 from the Wyncote Foundation.  Matching grant means — you got it — we have to match it in order to get it. So we need to come up with $10K in a hurry.  Rather than pulling an NPR and demanding “any amount, even as little as $50″ like they do during their elitist pledge drives, which makes you want to permanently switch to the nearest corporate Top 40 station for your morning drive, we figure we’ll just ask 1000 people to each give us just 10 bucks, one time.  That’s why this fundraising campaign is called 10 for 100. That’s not $10 a year for 100 years or anything like that. We just want $10 from you.  Right now.

You can easily and quickly donate your $10 by going to this donation page.

Many thanks and Happy Thanksgiving,

Jeffrey Stanley

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...