Jefe's House

Tag: dan student

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.



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Superheroes at the Brooklyn Lyceum

by on Dec.02, 2011, under NYC, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

I speak from first-hand experience when I highly recommend Daniel Student’s Superheroes Who Are Super! show dropping into Brooklyn from Philly on 12/17-18. It’s hilarious, it’s smart, you’ll have a blast. Dan is also the artistic director of Plays & Players Theatre in Philly where I’m currently a playwright-in-residence, and he directed my Philly Fringe show Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead which got raves. If you make it to Superheroes be sure to say hi to Dan; he’s a gem and a real talent.

Superheroes Who Are Super!

at the Brooklyn Lyceum
Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 3pm and 6pm and 9pm (9pm is the PG-13 version; the rest are family-friendly)
Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 3pm and 6:00pm

Word for word staged readings of classic comic books with the best in low budget costumes and special effects

Tickets: $10

Starring Ray Fallon, Michael McElroy, Brendan Norton, Angela Smith, and Johnny Smith

Directed by Daniel Student


Marvel Team-Up #1 featuring Spider-Man and The Human Torch, “Have Yourself A Sandman Little Christmas” (1972)
Written by Roy Thomas

Spider-Man and The Human Torch team up to keep the Sandman from ruining Christmas but all he really wants to do is get home to his mama. Now if they could only find their own Christmas spirits and stop bickering with each other.

Marvel Holiday Special #3, “Revisionist History”
Written by Peter David

Doctor Leonard Samson tells the story of Hanukah. You know, the story that involves Captain America, The Hulk, and Wolverine. And robots. You know. THAT story of Hanukah.

Marvel Holiday Special #3, “The Big X-Mas Blackout”
Written by Richard Howell and Stan Lee

Electro wants to put the light out on the Rockefeller Center Tree. Oh and also all of New York City. Not if Spidey can help it.


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Ouija Log – 9/17/11

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

Jeffrey Stanley in Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead. Photos by Steve Kelly.

Egypt and Israel Dominate Talks

The closing night show was so overwhelming it’s taken me an extra day to calm down enough to write about the Ouija session with some clarity. After 7 evenings of supernatural dissatisfaction for me personally during the brief run of the show and having to close every evening using the nuclear option I was about ready to give up on the spirit world as being able to reach out directly to anyone.

Enter M.

M. was an eager audience member in the final show who joined in with audience volunteer  S. to person the Ouija board. They were escorted away and left alone for awhile as usual to try their hands at the board, reaching out to the netherworld in the Hell Room before I returned with the rest of the audience to rejoin them and see if they’d tuned into anything. Here is the main highlight that left us all haunted, especially M:

QUESTIONER (M) (to Jeff): I’m really freaked out right now. I have goose bumps and my hair’s standing on end.

JEFF:  That’s normal when you’ve brought someone into the room. Something’s here with us. Do you want to quit?

M: No. I’m just letting you know that I’m freaked. My hands are shaking, I’m afraid I’ll mess up with the planchette.

JEFF: Why don’t you stop? I can take your place.

The power of theatre commands demons up from Hell and Angels down from Zion.

M: No, I want to keep going.

JEFF (to Ouija board):  What’s your name?

SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs):  KHEF

JEFF: Khef?  I bet that turns out to be Arabic or Hindi (why I thought so).  I’ve seen a lot this week so let’s assume it’s a real language and not gibberish. Are you Khef?


JEFF: Oh.  Well, do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo?


M: Do you know anyone here?


M: Who?

SPIRIT: M—- (spelling out M’s name)

M: Oh wow. Do you want to tell me something?

Stanley seated before the everyouija.

At that the planchette shot down at breakneck speed to GOODBYE and refused to budge for anyone. Game over. We ended the session and all returned to the Blue Grotto and I wrapped up the show as usual, using the nuclear option — a personal disappointment for me but a fun way to end a show about Ouija boards.

Afterward M. stuck around as  I began to strike the set for the last time, eager to talk to me at length about her first mind-blowing experience on a Ouija board this evening. She needed to unburden herself; I’ve been there, I know what that’s like so I stopped my work and listened.  She was highly unsettled.  She explained to me that she’s Jewish and said that in the Jewish tradition it’s strictly forbidden to contact the dead.  I asked why she did it and — bless her heart — she said she did it to help me find the closure that I need. That was selfless of her but I hated that the experience had left her freaked out. In the end it’s only a show and not worth the trauma.

She said she has immediate ancestors who died tortuous deaths in the Holocaust and that she’d always been afraid to think about how they’d perished. Facing their cruel fate is her worst nightmare, and the thought of hearing directly from them about how they suffered has always been more than she could bear.

“Maybe it appeared to let you know they’re there, but went to Goodbye so quickly to avoid having to tell you what it knows you don’t want to hear, ” I suggested, “to spare you the pain.”

M: That’s exactly what it did. That’s what I’m telling you.

The Israel Stele

Then I get home and find out that KHEF isn’t Arabic, Hindi or even Urdu.   It’s  Egyptian.  It’s the name of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph that means “to be laid waste or destroyed.”  A reference to the Holocaust in our case?   And this hieroglyph appears on the Israel Stele of all things, so-called by archaeologists because it’s the only ancient Egyptian document mentioning Israel by name.  And if you don’t know, a stele is a monument to the dead… Yeah. You tell me.

Good luck, everyone, with your own nightmares and ghosts, and thank you for your support for Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead.

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Ouija Log – 9/16/11

by on Sep.17, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

A UFO inside the Blue Grotto contains...

WORST OUIJA CHAT EVER.  Very little action last night. I’m not even going to bother alerting my press list on this one, especially not SR at The Daily Pennsylvanian despite her colleagues’ apparent love for my show, for which we are grateful. The only highlight if you want to call it that was –

JEFF:  Do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo?


JEFF: What is it?


JEFF: Um, no. There is not a “habib” taped to the back of the photo (boy was I wrong; see below).  Is Habib your name?


...American culture en route to Mars.

Mind you I’m not touching the board during these conversations. It’s always being operated by two audience volunteers other than at a few brief times between chats when I get on the board to warm it up, if you will.  I know of course that Habib is an Arabic male name but I looked up its actual meaning and it’s “beloved” or “loved one” which in that case makes it similar to the 9/10 transcript when DAVID told us that HOME was taped to the back and it put a lump in my throat.

Had I known last night that a habib was a loved one and that the board was again speaking to me in Arabic I’d have been a little less dismissive.  This would mark the 4th time out of 7 sessions that a directly Islamic or at least South Asian presence has been on the board — there was also the 9/14 session when it kept telling us NAMAZ, NAMAZ (pray, pray in Arabic), then there was the South Asian 5-year-old girl named MALA on 9/15 and SHALEE on 9/8.

All fascinating but surprising because given our geographical locus I was expecting a lot of old Philadelphia Quakers with names like Rachel or  Zebulon or Nehemiah or at least some Johns or Williams or Marys.  Yes there was David but he died in 1976 and lives in LA so he doesn’t count.

Lesson learned: never make assumptions about the spirit world/human subconscious.

Only 1 show left and it’s tonight and it’s the final Paranormal Psaturday – the first three ticket holders to show me a convincing photograph or smartphone video clip of authentic-looking paranormal activity in their homes will be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. Full details and ticket info.

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Ouija Log – 9/15/11

by on Sep.15, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

During the final days of the festival BZ:ABOTD has made the Daily Pennsylvanian’s Must-See list, and that includes the curated Live Arts shows, which is extremely flattering.  You haven’t seen the show yet? Only 2 chances left, and remember tonight is Freemasonry Fridays – the first three ticket holders to discretely wear their Masonic rings or other authentic Masonic logo jewelry and show it to me in secret before the show will secretly be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate.  Don’t try to pull a fast one— I know my Masonic jewelry.

The planchette on the Ouija board was flying all over the place last night. I mean it would shoot off the edge of the board sometimes and the volunteers would have to put it back on and reposition their fingers before it took off again like a little sportscar making hairpin turns all across the alphabet.  Transcript highlights:

QUESTIONER:  How old are you?

SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): 5 AND A HALF

QUESTIONER: What’s your name?

SPIRIT: MALA (turns out it’s a Hindu name meaning garland of flowers)

QUESTIONER: When did you die?

(here it swept a broad ellipse around the board and then swooped into a sideways figure 8 pattern — the symbol for infinity — over and over again in the center of the board)

QUESTIONER: When were you born?

SPIRIT:   0…1

JEFF: Maybe she doesn’t know the year.  She’s only 5 years old.  Where are you now?

(infinity pattern in response)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: How did you die?


AUDIENCE MEMBER: How did she kill you?

(infinity pattern)

QUESTIONER: Do you resent her for it?


JEFF: Are you in the room with us?


JEFF: Where are you standing in relation to me?


JEFF: (indicating with hand) Right here?

(back to the infinity pattern)

QUESTIONER:  She’s everywhere in the room.

JEFF: Do you know anyone here?


JEFF: Do you live here at the CEC?


JEFF: Do you know any of the other spirits we’ve talked to throughout the run of the show who also say they live here?


JEFF: Do you know initials FRA?


JEFF: Tell FRA I said hi.  Do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo hanging in the other room?


JEFF: Okay, what is it?

SPIRIT:  MNMNMNMN (which I took to mean “mmmm…”, thinking; remember we’re dealing with a 5 year old)

JEFF: It’s okay if you don’t know.


JEFF: Okay, no worries.  Big hand for Mala.

Full details and ticket info.

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Ouija Log – 9/14/11

by on Sep.15, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

OH. No wonder we were confused. It was speaking Arabic (or Hindi or Urdu). I started out wanting to tell you how uneventful the Ouija session was last night. We had an erascible sort.  Lots of apparent gibberish and lots of NOs.  As one of the Ouija volunteers said, you could just see this angry old man shaking his cane at us saying,  “Get out of my yard!”  But in short it was telling us to stop trying to contact the dead and go pray.

The transcript ran about like this: can you tell us your name? NO.  Do you know you’re in a show? NO. Do you have any advice for Jeff? NO.   Do you know the other spirits we’ve contacted so far with this show? YES. Can we talk to one of them instead of you? NO.   Can you tell us where you are? NO. Do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo? NO.

And in between all of the negativity it just kept saying NAMAZ over and over.  As I said to the volunteers this was either gibberish or a foreign language so we may as well hang it up…

So then I get home and Google NAMAZ and find out it’s Arabic (also Hindi and Urdu) for “pray,”  as in Namaz-e-tawbah, a Muslim prayer meaning Prayer of Repentance.  I think it was trying to tell us something… Now I wish I could remember some of the other “gibberish” it was telling us because it probably meant something, too.

Powerful stuff but I was once again left unfulfilled because You Don’t Know Who didn’t bother making an appearance and I was again left with only the nuclear option. Only 3 shows left… Full details and ticket info here.

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Ouija Log – 9/10

by on Sep.11, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

BEST OUIJA SESSION EVER. Last night was intense. A packed house of enthusiastic Fringe goers provided no shortage of folks eager to get in on the act. I was also flattered and surprised that 2 of my former NYU Tisch students from 4 years previous made the trek, one driving all the way down to Philly from Cambridge, MA where he is now in a graduate Voodoo program at Harvard.  I met with them and their friend for a quick drink at a UPenn/Drexel hangout afterward not far from the Blue Grotto.

Suffice it to say, hands shot up when I asked for 3 volunteers and got them rolling on the Ouija board at the show’s climax.  The Ouija session was the most intense so far, with a unique and active personality at work. The session could have gone on much longer but alas we had to break it off and bring the show in for a landing.  Here’s the transcript. The questioner here is a split between myself and an outstanding audience volunteer named R.

QUESTIONER: What’s your name?

SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs):  DAVID

QUESTIONER:  When were you born?

SPIRIT: 1976

QUESTIONER:  Do you know you’re part of a show?


QUESTIONER (Jeff): It was R.’s idea.


QUESTIONER: We’re just seeking enlightenment tonight about our lives and about what happens where you are. Where are you now?


(A clever play on words? He’s with “the angels.”)

QUESTIONER:  Do you know anyone in the room tonight?




QUESTIONER (Jeff):  Cute answer. We do have a roomful of people here.  I hate to break this off but we need to sadly wrap this up and continue the show. Maybe a few will want to come back and chat with you more in a few minutes when we’re done.  Final question:  do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo hanging in the other room?


(Let me point out that this was a first.  For the past 3 nights in a row since the show opened the response to this question was NO. I was caught off guard by this seemingly miraculous answer and remained skeptical.)

QUESTIONER (Jeff): You do?  Okay, what is it?


(This actually put a lump in my throat and brought a tear to my eye. It gave me pause.  It was an astute, even clever answer.)

QUESTIONER (Jeff): (long pause) That’s extremely close. It’s not literally that but ‘home’ is a really special, poetic way of putting it. It is, underneath, correct.


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Ouija Log – 9/9

by on Sep.10, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

My Entrance to Hell at the Blue Grotto.

There was a lot of static on the lines last night. We couldn’t get much of anything from the Ouija board — and especially not That Person — despite switching volunteers. The most we got was MOWNLALN. And it went to the number 8 a lot. If this means anything to anyone let me know.

If you really want to squeeze out an interpretation we can say it was trying to spell MOWN LAWN which had happened an hour earlier upstairs at exactly 8:00pm. That’s precisely when it ended in order to not disturb my show. And for what it’s worth artist and Blue Grotto creator Randy Dalton had “mown” it.

So maybe the spirit was showing off that it indeed lives at the CEC the way FRA said s/he did in the first Ouija session on 9/7 (transcript) by saying “the lawn had been mown by 8.”  Maybe that was supposed to impress or frighten us but if so, it failed.  Well, let’s see you try and interpret a bunch of gibberish.

Post-crypt: One of the two Ouija volunteers has posted on Facebook that, “My lawn was just mown, and guess how many times I had to empty the bag? That’s right, 8. Coincidence? You be the judge.”

Post Post-crypt: Reminder that tonight is Paranormal Psaturday. The first three ticket holders to show me a convincing photograph or smartphone video clip of authentic-looking paranormal activity in their homes will be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate.  The other usual prizes will again be given out randomly, including a free inept dream interpretation session with me, and, if you believe your is haunted, a free in-home ouija board session. I am magnet for ghosts, angels and demons so if they’re there I’ll be able to chat them up. DISCLAIMER: please note that I am not an exorcist. Spirits may remain in your home and may become pissed. Objects may spontaneously catch fire and pets may become temporarily possessed. Tickets and full details.



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Ouija Log – 9/8/11

by on Sep.09, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Last night’s performance of Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead went well. The audience was small so I could bring the action to even closer proximity to them, making the show as intimate as possible.

A Facebook message from one of the Ouija volunteers today sez, “Another night, another great Fringe show. Beautiful Zion: Book of the Dead. Funny, emotional, brave, spooky – what more can you ask for?” And as for the entity we contacted on the Ouija board, “I’m curious to know what kind of being it was, if it wasn’t human…” (see below).

A message today from the 2nd Ouija volunteer sed, “Congrats on the success.  It was the most entertaining and compelling one man show we’ve seen in a very long time.  You created a real event, and it was such an experience. I’m going to cite it to my [undergrad theatre] students in class tomorrow morning. The Ouija board thing did freak me out a bit. ‘Shalee’ meant something to me, as hard as I’m trying not to apply overly convenient  interpretations.”

Shalee? Not human? What in Hell are they talking about?  Here’s their Ouija transcript:

QUESTIONER: What is your name?

(the planchette was moving extremely slowly; we tried switching in a new volunteer but there was still a lot of static on the lines; in the interest of time I began jokingly hurrying the spirit along — “okay, pick it up, we’ve got a show to do,” etc. –  and it seemed to respond by talking in shorthand)

SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): SHALEE

JEFF:  Okay, that’s definitely not who we’re looking for.

QUESTIONER (to Jeff): Sorry.

JEFF:  No worries.  Keep talking to Shalee.

QUESTIONER (to Shalee):  Unusual name. Are you human?

JEFF: It’s creeping toward NO, definitely not YES, so let’s take that as a NO or we’ll be here all night.

QUESTIONER:  What are you?

SPIRIT: DK (then it comes to a full stop)


JEFF:  Short for DON’T KNOW.

(the planchette starts moving pointedly toward YES)

JEFF: Okay, so Shalee doesn’t know whether he/she is human. We’d love to know more but we’ve gotta wrap this up. Perhaps we can speak with you more later. Last question: do you know what’s taped to back of the grave photo hanging in the Blue Grotto?


JEFF: Big round of applause for Shalee! You may return to your seats.

BTW a quick Google search this morning showed that Shalee as a girl’s name is a variant of the South Asian name Shaila (Hindi), and the meaning of Shalee is “river”.   However, I then received the above message from the Ouija volunteer saying the name had a personal resonance for him but he didn’t elaborate.  Perhaps that person will come forward with more info later.

This Ouija session overall  was very different than the previous evening’s but I still didn’t get what I came for, so I had to again end the show with the nuclear option.  Come tonight and find out what that means.   Full details and ticket info. And don’t forget it’s FREEMASONRY FRIDAY.  The first three ticket holders to discretely show Jeff their Masonic rings or other authentic Masonic logo jewelry in secret before the show will secretly be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. Don’t try to pull a fast one — I know my Masonic jewelry.

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Ouija Log – 9/7/11

by on Sep.08, 2011, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

My 1917 original William Fuld Ouija Board (pre-Parker Bros.) is an integral part of the show.

Last night’s premiere performance of Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead went extremely well but rather than give you a blow by blow of how I think I performed or how I worked the incredibly drunk and disorderly audience member right into the show’s primary theme by getting him drunker with a strong Svedka martini, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you what you really want to know:  did the 3 audience volunteers contact anyone cool on the Ouija Board in the Blue Grotto’s Entrance to Hell room at the show’s climax?

Here is a transcript of their session:

QUESTIONER: What is your name?

SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): FRA

QUESTIONER: Are those your initials?


JEFF:  Okay, that’s definitely not who we’re looking for but why don’t you chat with them anyway.

QUESTIONER: Do you know that you’re part of a show?


QUESTIONER: Any advice for Jeff for his show?


(note: there is music in my show, so I guess FRA wanted more of it;  or they wanted more jelly)

QUESTIONER: Do you live in the CEC building?


QUESTIONER: Are you human?


QUESTIONER:  What year did you die?

(no answer, the planchette just wandered; a common response for earthbound spirits who don’t realize yet that they’re dead–or don’t want to realize it)

QUESTIONER: Okay, then when were you born?

SPIRIT:  1873

QUESTIONER:  Any advice for us about how to live, how to die, or how to navigate the afterlife?


(?! no idea; we were stumped by this one; maybe FRA was putting its fingers in its ears and singing so that it couldn’t hear our question? maybe it was telling us just to sing our way through it (it did ask for “more jam” after all). Or maybe it was telling us to go to LA)

QUESTIONER: Are you in the room with us?


QUESTIONER:  Do you know what’s taped to back of Jeff’s relative’s grave photo hanging in the Blue Grotto?


Well, the Ouija session was fun but I still didn’t get what I came for, so I had to end the show with the nuclear option.  Come tonight and find out what that means.  Full details and ticket info.

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