June 24, 2007

But she's not a girl... she's a fish!

Spent the first part of this past gorgeous weekend at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

Some friends and I planned to meet to catch the festivities, but as with all best-laid plans, we found ourselves finding one another through a subtle blend of cell-phone calls and spastic waving. While the parade marched on, we slowly worked our way to each other, observed the craziness, and enjoyed the amazing weather.

Afterward I hit the beach for the first time this year, and the first time at Coney Island in years. The water was freezing, but despite the cold and my previously published fear of fish, I figured that in honor of the mermaids I should dive in. After lazing about in the sun for a bit, we eventually split up as I headed home around 7:30. Fun day, well spent.

This year the parade had more of a purpose than in the past 24; it was a protest march, as the freaks and geeks of Coney Island are up in arms over several recent zoning decisions that severly impact their neighborhood. Having finished ruining Times Square and the Lower East Side, yet another greedy NYC developer has decided to destroy Coney Island by building overpriced condominiums despite all evidence to the general lack of interest in overpriced condominiums.

The marchers focused on saving Coney Island from the same mall-ification and fedder-izing that have done such damage to the characteristics of other, prized New York City neighborhoods. The process works the same way over and over again: a neighborhood is ignored and begins to go derelict, so hippies and artists take advantage of its cheap and illegal housing and move in bringing an arty and eclectic vibe. Before too long developers notice the vibe, buy up some property, and then tease the tragically un-hip to move in and enjoy the hipness vicariously.

Of course the first thing that the new residents do after moving in is complain about the people, noise, and grit that drew them there in the first place, leaving the original denizens priced out of their own neighborhood and hounded by the police. Meanwhile the developers are already looking for the next big thing thing to turn a quick buck.

This year's parade helped to mobilize the masses somewhat, joining hippies, artists, the Brooklyn Borough President, and the families and friends of Coney Island behind a common purpose. Though getting them their I suspect was the easy part; getting them to march down a street in an orderly and timely fashion is another story altogether. When the parade would stop for tens of minutes at a time, you couldn't help but wonder what the hold up was down the line - unless someone particularly interesting was directly in front of you, in which case you didn't care so much...

Even more challenging is to get the parade watchers to watch in a way that doesn't totally ruin the experience for everyone else. Showing complete disregard for those who got there early and found themselves a spot on the curb were hundreds of people who just walked down the street, and occasionaly stopped and stood in front of everyone else. I particularly enjoyed the people who lit up cigarettes to begin slowly killing the children whose view they had just obstructed.

Which of course got me ruminating on our culture, which seems to have moved to prefer packaged and prefabricated with production values over real, real-time, with spirit. With total disregard for spectators and parade-marchers alike, as if there was nothing more important than their videography, hundreds of photographers would literally stand in the middle of the parade route shouting like paparazzi. Intent on capturing the parade for those who weren't there, they relentlessly blocked the view of those who were. Looking to sell their work for later viewing to reproduce the experience, they made it very difficult for those who were actually having the experience.

Nothing really to do about that, just... you know, there it is.

June 14, 2007

From The Onion...

Having endured acting in a Merchant of Venice in which I was costumed in a red, white, and blue track suit...

And a Romeo and Juliet with Madonna, En Vogue and Run DMC on the soundtrack...

I particularly appreciate this piece from The Onion.
For those of you who have not spent time making or attending community and academic theater please take my word - they nailed it.

Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended
MORRISTOWN, NJ—In an innovative, tradition-defying rethinking of one of the greatest comedies in the English language, Morristown Community Players director Kevin Hiles announced Monday his bold intention to set his theater's production of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in 16th-century Venice...

Full Story Here

June 10, 2007

Their night

Loving this! Choreography and Best Musical as well...

These griefs and losses...

The Spring Awakening juggernaut continues to roll on, but the second Tony nomination I was hoping would convert to a win alas didn't transpire. Unfortunately Liev Schreiber didn't pick up Best Actor in a Play for Talk Radio this evening.

I'm a fan of Liev's work and of Liev, who was in a play with me back in 1989 -- yes, I know he's a Tony winner and multiple nominee, but he was in the Merchant of Venice with me; as was Jeff Donovan and Kate Wilson.

I've no expectation that Liev remembers me at all, or if so, it would be in a hazy sort of "well, sure, I know some short hairy Jew played Lancelot - was that you?" kind of way, but I remember him well. He was very talented even at age 22 prior to his work at Yale and RADA (he was a Hampshire College senior at the time) and he had a bawdy sense of humor and bold self-confidence of which I was in awe.

Should I ever happen to make it onto Jay Leno or Conan, I hope Liev can be there as well, because I have a heck of a funny story to tell about my dear Mr. Schreiber and some gastro-intestinal distress he experienced during one of our performances...

13 minutes later...

Steven just won again! Oh my ass, I'm gonna plotz...

Live Blogging the Tonys

Some of you may remember 12 years ago when I first moved to New York City I worked for a playwright named Steven Sater. At the time people would ask me "Is he famous? Has he written anything I'd know?" and my reply was always "Not yet, but he will..."

We're 23 minutes into the Tonys telecast, and Spring Awakening has already picked up two awards, including Best Book of a Musical.

I can't tell you how proud and honored I was to watch my old friend and boss accept the Tony for his efforts, and to have my prophecy of 12 years ago come to pass. Never have I met a gentler, more talented, more committed writer with greater love for his craft. To watch him achieve his dream is truly exhilarating.

Has it been a month?

Ya, indeed it has. I appreciate those of you who have checked in, either to assure yourselves that my silence hasn't been due to some ill news, and also those others who've merely complained that I was in danger of being removed from their favorites if I didn't get my fingers to typing.

All is indeed well. Quite an exciting and busy month, with an interesting blend of things I can't write about, and things which leave me very little time to write at all. A promising relationship began and came to an end, a major project at work is coming to fruition, friends visiting me, me visiting friends, a funeral, two conferences, drunken karaoke, two concerts, volleyball, softball, and the gym, and of course - the finale of Heroes!

Firstly and most significantly, a roller coaster few weeks with a particularly wonderful and equally challenging woman. We were just starting to get serious when I last wrote, and because she reads this blog (that's presumptuous of me - she read it, I don't know if she still reads...) it seemed to be both polite and wise that I not post about our relationship. I regret that I told her about the blog early on (or at all?) for essentially the reasons laid out in this article so I won't bother writing them up in my own words.

That wasn't what ultimately did us in, though it did set the stage for what turned out to be the dealbreaker. We found we had a fundamental difference in the way we interact with others in our lives; differences for which I just couldn't see us finding a compromise. There are many aspects of my character I would happily, or at least grudgingly adjust for the love of a good woman, and this is a hell of a good woman we're talking about, but at the end of the day, this thing about me she found infuriating and insulting wasn't just a minor thread, but the whole cloth from which I am cut.

I wouldn't be who I am if I changed this aspect of my life, even if I could change it, which I doubt. There are many of you who have heard something like this before from me and will no doubt think this is just Dan coming up with yet another reason to end a promising relationship. Not so... while it was ultimately my decision to end things, she initially brought it up after a particularly enraging night. We didn't agree on whether the relationship should end, but we both knew we had a hell of an issue between us to address.

I really liked (like) her, but looking ahead at our future, I knew it was buying happiness on credit to stay together - immediate gratification, but a hell of a bill to pay, with interest, looming in our future. I'd rather fail early and quickly then drag it out, as you all well know, so go ahead and let me have it. But before you do, I remind you of one of the core philosophies to which I subscribe:

"I do not expect, by acting thus, to escape criticism;
merely not to deserve it"
-Thomas Bracket Reed

As we were splitting, she said to me two things I've heard quite a few times before: that I don't yet truly want a monogamous relationship and that when we're alone she feels she has my complete attention, but when we're in public she felt like everyone else but her held my attention. Not entirely sure what to do about that... I mean, sure, intellectually I know, but how do you change that in practice? I keep failing to conform to what other people think a relationship with me should look like, and meanwhile I've never been able to have a relationship look the way I'd like it to look.

In other news, work is going well. Been a super busy month, with many long nights and weeks, as a challenging project nears a major milestone. We're about to go live with something we've been developing for several months now, and though the work truly just begins once we do cross the threshold from development into production, I'm none the less very proud of the work we've been doing.

This month we lost Rosie, my first cousin twice removed (my grandmother's first cousin's wife) after an illness. Rosie has been a presence in my life since it began, and though it's not much of an epitaph, I'll think of her every Rosh Hashanah as I fondly remember and greatly miss her legendary noodle kugel.

And just this past weekend a few close friends came to visit me and we had a killer night of Manhattan-romping. Being with them affirmed my choice about the recently ended relationship, as we all enjoyed a fun, flirty evening of innuendo, double-entendre, and frolicsome off-color banter. I like off-color banter. I like flirting with people, and being the guy who says the thing that makes people laugh -- or even better -- gasp audibly. I wouldn't be me without that behavior, and a woman who doesn't enjoy that about me, or at the very least tolerate it with grim resignation, will just never be happy with me as a partner.

Now I'm off to watch the Tonys -