Don’t miss my autobiographical stand-up tragedy Jeffrey Stanley’s BONEYARDS while it’s at the Art Church of West Philadelphia as part of the 2015 SoLow Fest.
Friday 6/19 @9pm
Saturday 6/27 @9pm
Sunday 6/28 @7pm
Don’t miss my stand-up tragedy Boneyards while it’s in NYC at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Friday 2/27 @8pm.
Last chance to book now.
Well put and well played, President Lincoln. But… I can only think of Susan Lori-Parks’ haunting The America Play and the countless thousands of anonymous “great men,” as Lincoln is called, who were actually born into slavery and who helped bring about its demise and died fighting and resisting the way Lincoln ultimately did with his pen, whose names we’ll never know (their births weren’t even recorded! Much less their deaths) and who keep getting excluded from their own historical narrative, as they are lost in “the Great Hole of History” as Parks puts it.
I am also faced with the uncomfortable fact that one of my direct ancestors, Singleton Shaon, an educated Virginian who volunteered to fight for the Confederacy even though he didn’t own slaves, died at Gettysburg in Pickett’s Charge (more properly Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble’s Charge) as a member of the 57th Virginia infantry on July 3, 1863 a little after 2pm.
Come wake the dead. BONEYARDS returns for 2 final shows this Saturday and Sunday 11/2 and 11/3 in Philadelphia. Times and tickets.
Meanwhile please enjoy my latest article in today’s Washington Post about my theatrical experiments in contacting the dead as performance art over the past two years. Thank you for your support and patronage, and Happy Halloween.
Supernatural Skeptics Don’t Know What They’re Missing
by Jeffrey Stanley
I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind.
I like Ouija boards. I’ve used them since I was a teenager. More recently I’ve messed around with electric spirit boxes, also known as Frank’s boxes after their inventor Frank Sumption. They’re radio receivers which allow you to listen to and record voices of the dead, also known as EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) or Raudive voices, after one of their early discoverers. Over the past two years I have frequently used Ouija boards and spirit boxes in my performance art, attempting to conjure up the dead as my co-stars before a live audience. At one of the universities where I teach playwriting and screenwriting part-time I am also the faculty adviser for a student-led paranormal investigation club. Friends and fans assume I am a true believer but the truth is that I am not. I am a healthy skeptic. And that’s depressing for me because it means that on some level I feel certain there’s nothing out there. I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind. CONT’D>>
And also out today from Drexel University a story about the PIG of which I’m the proud faculty adviser…
Drexel Paranormal Investigators Haunted by the Unknown
by Alissa Falcone
…It doesn’t hurt that the group’s faculty adviser also has an interest with the undead: By day, Jeffrey Stanley teaches classes in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s Screenwriting and Playwriting Department, but at night he transforms into undead residents of cemeteries from all over the world during “Boneyards,” his performance that imagines supernatural comic monologues.CONT’D at drexel.edu>>
Boneyards Reopens 10/17/13
Press Contact: email@example.com
10/14/13 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Philadelphia, PA –A real seance with real ghosts. But we don’t need to tell you that, you’ve already seen it. There are lots of Halloween events being promoted right now, especially of the big budget “haunted” house/prison/hayride/forest/valley variety with a cast of dozens of monsters/zombies/vampires/murder victims and we love those and patronize them as much as the next guy and gal every year, but why not consider something different for you or your friends eager to freak themselves out while also being profoundly moved on a spooky October night?
Transcripts and videos from previous shows are online for you and your colleagues’ perusal. We recommend you start here . You might also want to check out the first EVP recording made in the 118-year-old synagogue that is the show’s location when New York City playwright and Drexel University Performing Arts faculty Jeffrey Stanley held the world’s first ghost auditions. Stanley, who often writes about religion for the Washington Post, will be discussing seance as performance art in that publication later this month.
Performance dates are 10/17, 10/20, 11/2 and 11/3. Thanks for your consideration and for supporting independent theatre in Philly.
Press Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
10/7/13 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Philadelphia, PA – The ongoing seance-as-theatre experiment continues. After a successful run in the 2013 Philly Fringe BONEYARDS is back from the dead to rock your underworld just in time for Halloween. Same autobiographical, spooky show, same mouldering location, same real ghosts. 4 dates: 10/17, 10/20, 11/2 and 11/3. Tickets $10, seating is limited to 20.
The hilarious, eloquent and haunting follow-up to Stanley’s 2011 hit “Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead,” this true to life romp resurrects the cadaverous–from Philly’s Laurel Hill Cemetery to a British colonial graveyard in India to ancient Greek tomb worshippers. Paranormal activity guaranteed.
Times, tickets, photos, press, playbill, and real voices from the dead here.
About Your Destination
Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and beyond crowded South Philadelphia in the 1880s. They pushed south from the original “Jewish Quarter” near South Street, opening Jewish schools, hospitals and some 140 synagogues along the way. Hard to believe today, eh? In 1909 (continue reading…)
BONEYARDS is back from the dead to rock your underworld just in time for Halloween. Shiva3 is proud to announce the return of Jeffrey Stanley’s solo show BONEYARDS which was a hit in the 2013 Philly Fringe. The 80-minute show will again be performed in the dark, dank coal cellar of the century-old storefront Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras-Israel Synagogue, also known as “the little shul” (part of the June 2013 Hidden City Festival) at 2015 South 4th Street in South Philly near Snyder Avenue for 4 performances. Stanley’s solo show is a followup to his 2011 Fringe hit BEAUTIFUL ZION: A BOOK OF THE DEAD. Stanley is also a dramatic writing faculty at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and at Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. He is a religion blogger for the Washington Post.
About the Show
A funeral for the living. A coming-of-age embalming. A suicidal decapitation by coal train. A cross-dressing hillbilly named Doodlebug. This metatheatrical, taphophilic, true-to-life monologue resurrects and converses with the cadaverous– (continue reading…)
‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone’: A tale of searching, tinged with mysticism
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.
No shit, dingus. Pardon my French, but in Carrie Rickey’s 1/15/12 New York Times article “Perfectly Happy, Even Without Happy Endings,” Hollywood once again shows its complete ignorance of its own origins. Still a rebellious teenager, the US film industry would rather pretend theatre doesn’t exist and that Hollywood sprang forth from itself, rather than admit that it actually inherited plenty of brains and good looks from its nerdy parents.
Louis B. Mayer once supposedly said, “Theatre is a flea up an elephant’s ass,” the elephant of course being Hollywood. More accurately — and what I tell my screenwriting students every semester — is that theatre is a 3000-year-long dog and motion pictures are a hundred-year-long hair on that dog’s tail; that maybe one day film will evolve to the point that it bears no resemblance to theatre but that day is still a long way off, and that budding filmmakers and screenwriters would do well to spend a little of their time in school studying theatre. Unfortunately film schools around the country, including the esteemed institution where I teach and of which I’m a graduate, seem intent on doing everything they can to shield their students from the power of live performance, ignoring theatre as inferior, obsolete, old-fashioned, insisting that the only legitimate form of narrative storytelling is film, all the while stealing from theatre on a regular basis.
In Rickey’s article we meet the latest example of a smug Hollywood cannibal: highly successful Hollywood producer Lindsay Doran, who discusses all the time, energy and resources she spent trying to figure out what makes the great Hollywood films so memorable and emotionally potent. She analyzed a lot of movies, consulted with market researchers and pop psychologists and concluded that, gasp, positive movies do not necessarily have happy endings (Casablanca, To Kill a Mockingbird, Titanic, et al). Indeed, the most powerful films of all time, she concludes, mingle accomplishment with great loss. In other words, “the accomplishment the audience values most is resilience.”
So far, so good, except that all of this has been stolen from theatre (Casablanca in fact was based on an unproduced stage play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s) and it’s embarrassing that Ms. Doran doesn’t even realize it. She’s now running around Hollywood getting paid to give self-help seminars to producers as though she’s solved a great mystery; as though no one had thought of any of this before her; as though the poignant plots and character arcs of these great movies happened by accident. It’s bad enough that so many in the film industry still prefer to think the 3-act plot structure was invented by Hollywood during the 1940s studio era rather than being lifted directly from opera and traceable all the way back to ancient Greece. Now we’ve got Doran, casting herself as a great thinker and voice in the wilderness, realizing in her Hollywood vacuum that the best narratives are those in which people don’t necessarily get what they want but learn to survive anyway. Shocking. She could have saved herself a lot of time and energy by asking the nearest playwright.
A playwright might have advised her to simply spend an afternoon reading The Birth of Tragedy by Friederich Nietzsche (coincidentally mentioned in the same NYT issue in Alexander Star’s review of Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s book American Nietzsche, A History of an Icon and His Ideas) and Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet, or skipping both books and going straight to the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita or the writings of the Buddha.
You see, Ms. Doran, the primary purpose of drama has always been to show unhappy people going through suffering to try and stop their unhappiness, experiencing complete and utter despair along the way, and learning that they’ll never be happy (even if they do accomplish their main goal in the plot) but that life is worth living anyway. Why? Because like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, total happiness is impossible to achieve. Hollywood stole its narrow definition of “happiness” from 19th century stage melodramas which said all anyone needed to be happy was a good spouse, a good job, and entry into the middle class. In other words, achieving the American Dream will make one happy. As you have discovered through your own convoluted and costly means, movies (and plays) that endorse this belief are fun but forgettable.
The memorable and positive protagonist is one who comes out the other end of her or his desperate journey loving life and wanting to go on anyway despite confronting loss, regret and learning that they’ll never get everything they want. This is called gaining wisdom. As I hinted at above, this unfortunate fact of human existence is also summed up by every major religion: to live is to suffer.
Any good playwright can tell you that audiences tend to feel healed and redeemed by watching someone else go through this tough journey to wisdom because it makes viewers vicariously wiser and prepares them for their own journeys. This powerful approach to narrative storytelling is nearly universal in Western culture going back to ancient Greece. Next time you’re stumped by a great cinematic question please start by ignoring Hollywood market researchers and your favorite pop psychologists, and asking the nearest playwright. You’ll likely get your answers there.
“So where does Ms. Doran go from here?” Rickey’s article asks you in its conclusion. Hopefully to see a few plays.
By the way, Ms. Doran, I can show you some killer spec screenplays that I promise you’re going to love. Seriously. Have your people call my people.
[images via nytimes.com]
On Tuesday 1/24/12 @ 4:00pm as part of my PDC@Plays&Players residency in Philly we’ll be presenting a rehearsed reading of my unproduced play Virginia Dare. There’ll be a Q&A afterward and I’d dearly love your feedback on this work in development.
VIRGINIA DARE is a multidisciplinary, multicultural play; a 21st century Southern Gothic drama gone global. Set in a not-too-difficult-to-imagine near future in which the US has boots on the ground not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but Pakistan and even India, the play is a high stakes tale. An Appalachian brother and sister plot patricide against a backdrop of perpetual war and cosmic collisions. With a touch of magic realism and a
spike of Eastern religion, the plot focuses on two irreparably damaged working class siblings who are struggling to deal with memories of their violent childhood, a forgotten murder, an impending murder looming on the horizon, and even a trip to the afterlife. Startling images and verbal sparring send them both hurtling toward a dark decision.
WHAT: Reading of Virginia Dare featuring Pardon My Invasion actors Emily Gibson and Joe O’Brien, directed by Daniel Student
WHEN: Tuesday 1/24, 4pm-6pm.
WHERE: Plays & Players, 3rd floor Skinner Studio; 1714 Delancey Place (in Center City), Philadelphia, PA.
[images via todayontoday.com, wisdomlaughterhealing.com and dismalworld.com]