George Jones died yesterday. I’ve been listening obsessively to his songs, re-living the brief time I spent with him, his concert (always torturous, uncomfortable and oddly cathartic affairs), the hours spent crawling into his voice.
Death was Jones’ constant theme, it’s what he sang about, lived, he was a man transparent in his pain and confusion and failure, especially his failure, so it’s odd that his body finally disintegrated and we’re left with memories and his voice. He was the greatest country music singer, one of the great blues singers – haunted by his own failure. Eugene O’Neill, four Pulitzers and a Nobel, the father of U.S. drama, died in a Boston hotel room haunted by his own failure, probably his greatest was that he couldn’t find the strength to kill himself. Jones, a testimony to how much abuse the body can withstand, lived to 81.
Both battled the great demon alcohol with dramatic flair and became dry drunks to survive. Gene retreated into the pain of the betrayal and cruelty of life, sequestered at Tao House to pen his final masterpieces, Jones accepted that his singing made people grateful for their pain, and they loved him for it, and he took to the stage, where he was most comfortable. Jones didn’t gloss it over. You look at him singing sometimes and you see an Apostle offering himself up for public torture and humiliation. Gene O’Neill is the Patron Saint of Suffering for playwrights. You look at his cragged face blatantly mocking: You think you’ve gone deep? You think you’ve suffered for your art? Ha!
The Work America plays. 1st play in the Series is PRNYC, based very loosely on my years in the NYC public relations business. The 2nd play, The Caregivers, is set in a Victorian hospice home on Puget Sound, in Washington State. It’s based, also very loosely, on experiences as a personal and professional caregiver. The 3rd play in the Series is The Contractors, set in the Bitterroot Mountains of north Idaho. It’s based on experiences as a forest fire fighter and timber inventory contractor.
All three are loosely based, meaning they are not naturalistic and not meant to convey an experience I had. Most work has a span of boring dead stretches, insider minutiae, jargony nonsense, predictable slights and behaviors – not the stuff of drama PRNYC and The Caregivers both transpire in a single setting; PRNYC in the dead of summer over a span of six hours in the midtown Manhattan PR agency, with a sweeping view of Central Park and Rockefeller Center; The Caregivers in the dead of winter, over several days, in a century-old Victorian on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound in Washington state.
Grappling with hallucinations, as Oliver Sacks examines in his new book Hallucinations, can be a nightmare. Hallucinations take many forms and have powerful effect and alter a perceived reality in a snap and suddenly there is committment to a new reality. Witness how quickly we are moved to another realm by a synapse barely discernible but deep and real, tangible, probably, if the brain could be scanned, and we are embedded in this new reality. The collisions of constantly shifting realities is what constitutes life but in a hospice house it is compressed, it’s a caldron of colliding realities, life and death and purgatory and heaven and hell, and hallucinations, all mixed together. The Caregiver attempts to control these forces, usually unsucessfully, especially when dementia and drugs are involved, as they often are. Who can say what is safe and fair and sane and compassionate when, as a Caregiver, you are pushed beyond what you think you can bear and by osmosis the plight of the dying becomes yours, by necessity, if you’re doing your job and survive. Others, most, turn away, simply don’t deal with it. Lester makes a committment to the dying in an attempt to purge his past sins and failures. He freely embraces various hallucinations, battles others. Within the confines of the hospice house, stretching his imagination, he flits in and out of various worlds. Is this what we all do to survive day by day? And if there is no accepted reality is life an endless series of colliding hallucinations, especially with the old and the dying? From the write-up in the Sacks book:
Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?
Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting “visits” from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body.
Act One of PRNYCv2 will presented to the Playwrights-Directors Unit of the Actors Studio next Monday, December 10. This is a closed session at the Greenway Court Theatre. App. 60 actors, playwrights and directors attend these sessions to critique works in progress. Act One of the full-length runs app. 50 minutes. Kelly Galindo directs, with an excellent cast including Eileen Grubba, Eddie Kehler, and Carmen Argenziano.
I was invited to join the Playwrights-Directors Unit earlier this month. Beside the Monday reading and critique sessions at Greenway, I get access to the formidable resources of the Actors Studio. I attended the Friday scene study sessions at The Studio, moderated by Martin Landau. Wonderful. Sort of a West Coast bookend to Austin Pendleton at H-B Studio in New York. Whereas, Austin might reminisce about Uta, Marty Landau invokes Kazan. I learn as much in Scene Study class as I do in play critiques and I’m always surprised that so few playwrights attend Scene Study classes. Al Pacino and Ellen Burstyn run the Actors Studio in New York.
Andrew Tribolini reads BILLY RILEY in PRNYC at the Odd Duck Studio, Seattle, Oct. 1, 2012
Legendary Seattle actor Andrew Tribolini, star of stage and screen, has agreed to step into the role of BILLY RILEY, for the premiere Seattle debut of PRNYC, Mon., Oct 1, 7 PM, at Odd Duck Studio, Seattle. See details and cast here.
The last time I saw Andrew on stage in Seattle was in Proof and Pterodactyl and I had to admit with the press review of the latter: “He’s so creepy he may not even be going for creepy.” Andrew is constantly working these days in film, stage, commercials, corporate videos, et al. Welcome Andrew.
Posted in plays, theatre
Unfortunately Alison Strickland had to drop out of the full length PRNYC reading at the Odd Duck Studio in Seattle, Monday, Oct. 1, but fortunately Carolyn Marie Monroe can step into the role of LULU RAMIREZ. Carolyn has performed at most Seattle theatres, including ACT, Balagan, Intiman, Seattle Rep. For the last two years, she has worked as an actor and teaching artist with Seattle Shakespeare’s educational tour, which brought Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth to high schools across the state, serving 14,000 students each year. See full cast bios here.
Posted in plays
The first staged reading of the full-length PRNYC will be at at the Odd Duck Studio, Monday October 1, 7:00 PM. Space limited. RSVP details to come. Cast as follows:
PETER RILEY – David Hogan
BILLY RILEY – Ben Andrews
WAN DERSHON – Roy Stanton
LULU RAMIREZ – Carolyn Marie Monroe
MYRON MANDELBAUM – Tony Doupé
MELODY/MELANIE STARK – Angela Di Marco
See full cast bios and background on PRNYC here.
“‘PRNYC by Mark Rose is a taut well-rehearsed script… easily rivaling the popular TV series ‘Mad Men’… A major triumph.”
‘PRNYC‘ by Mark Rose is a taut well-rehearsed script, loaded with authentic public relations jargon, easily rivaling the popular TV series ‘Mad Men’. Director’s casting and pacing is ideal for exploring complex office politics and personal relationships credibly and naturally. Well-placed desks and cross-stage scrim create efficient feng shui. The play traces the meteoric rise of ‘nice’ PETER RILEY (Michael Vicha) in a snake pit inhabited wonderfully by WAN DERSHON (Peter Wiant), single-mindedly by HEATHER INGALLS (Kelly McNees), commandingly by MYRON MANDELBAUM (Hewitt Brooks), and coincidentally by MELODY STARK (Colleen Dobbin). A major triumph.
Steve Treacy, Port Townsend Leader, 2/12/2012. Photo: (left to right) Michael Vicha, Kelly McNees, Peter Wiant. Courtesy Key City Public Theatre.
Posted in Reviews, theatre