Archive for the ‘Staged Reading’ Category

Andrew Jackson ate my Homework: a Racial Farce

October 21st, 2011 No comments

Staged Reading at CPT

Had the staged reading of my play last night at CPT. It went very well and I truly appreciate the thought and artistry that Cassie Neumann put into the directing of the piece as she added the appropriate level of energy and “over-the-top”-ness to the piece.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Audience Feedback

There was an audience feedback session afterwards during which some things of interest were stated. I found it interesting that some people did not get the intentionally reflexive nature of the commentary on dominant cultural attitudes represented by certain “white” characters shooting off their mouths. I know that’s a rather convoluted thought, but it’s a long way of saying: “when a man says something stupid, it’s often more a reflection of him than the person/people he’s talking about”–hence the farce.

Writing it

The notion of the racial element appeared as an undercurrent in the piece, which is to say that I didn’t write it intentionally as a piece on race. So, when it came time for several people to point out that I only “picked” on certain races–or gender orientations–this is to say that I didn’t intend to pick on any race/orientation when I wrote it. As well, after I read and edited it several times, I resisted the temptation to “balance it” as I felt that I would be forcing the piece to be about race, which wasn’t my intent, and further, that by “balancing it” I would be making it fake. Another comment that I found interesting is that given the abrasive nature of the topics and language throughout, that at a certain point one audience member, or several, simply became numb to it. That they were de-sensitized, which is fascinating in and of itself.


Raymond offered some interesting thoughts in the post, post discussion, including that I increase the number of bus scenes and make the play about bus scenes, which I might do. I might actually make more than one play out of it, as I also like the mix of genres when the historical characters and musical pieces are mixed in–which makes it more farcical to my mind. I’ll have to go back and check my Brecht to see how to design the piece, wholly, to be more effective in it’s direction toward audience response and to examine or evolve a through-line.


The actors were great and I truly appreciate the time each put into the play as well, again, as Cassie, who did marvelously for a piece that received three rehearsals and then hit the stage.

Springboard — Again and Against — CPT

October 7th, 2011 2 comments

Went last night and saw the Springboard reading of Again and Against by Betty Shamieh. Being that it was a 2 character play that ran for 100 minutes, I would say that Shamieh did a good job holding attention and creating intriguing characters. It also is worth seeing for the mere fact that Beth Wood directs Raymond Bobgan and Chris Seibert. That said, **Spoiler Alert coming at you so don’t read on** the transition of Omar the Arab FBI agent from a “translator” bumbler to the “head of the department” mastermind at the end was a bit unbelievable, as were a host of traits he exhibited: anger, physical violence, language, and certain phrases (such as the use of “kid”—“don’t throw your life away, kid”), that I just didn’t buy.

I learned in discussion after the play that this play by Shamieh has been staged before, on the continent. That surprised me. The play felt unfinished and unfocused and as if it were searching for what it meant. It is a play in which truth is the actively sought-after goal and the “truth” of these characters is never clear. I thought this was a flaw in the play and a part of the reading/development process. After learning that this play has been staged before, it is likely that the inability to establish truth is intentional on Shamieh’s part. That is what I must conclude about the play. Almost like the inability to establish meaning in Waiting for Godot, there is a fundamental inability to find out what is true—for the audience, for the characters, and perhaps for the actors.

The play covers a lot of volatile turf from Arab American treatment to 9/11, to terrorism and the ideas of what that means—from both the “American” perspective and the perspective of others toward or about Americans. Sometimes the play got a bit preachy and journalistic, trying to report facts—for instance about the U.S. policy (unstated but enacted) of handing over terror suspects to Syria for “debriefment”. With Syria having more flexibility in its approaches to detainees than the U.S., which is “hamstrung” by a thing called the Constitution.

There is a great amount of humor in the play, which is important, again, as the thing would be depressing and possibly didactic if left un-interrupted or if the rhythm didn’t alter in the playing. There are some surprisingly strong moments, one of which comes from Omar the Arab FBI agent describing the murder by an Arab father of his daughter for disobeying him. That moment alone is worth seeing the piece and makes me think one very personal concern of Shamieh is the treatment of Arab women by Arab men. A sad fact of this play is that this amazing story from Omar is later “taken away” in a brief moment where Omar says that he made it up. That is part of the confusion of this play, and perhaps the disappointment. I understand that there is much to be gained by playing with the nature of truth and that this has been successfully done in other genres—think The Usual Suspects [Blu-ray] for instance. I just don’t know if it is effective here, as there is nothing for me to hang my hat on or walk away with except a strange vague suspicion about something. And the thought that maybe, maybe this was her point… but I can’t be sure.

The big draw for this reading was seeing Chris Seibert and Raymond Bobgan acting together. It was worth it. If you’re on the fence about Springboard or this piece in particular: go and see it. With Beth Wood directing and Raymond and Chris starring it is something to see and be a part of.

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