We Can't Reach You, Hartford
An investigative history of the Hartford Circus Fire of July 6th, 1944. Nominated for a Fringe First at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In the twilight of his life, famed photographer Matthew Brady must choose between the life he has built and the legacy he wants to leave behind.
Tone Clusters
Renowned prose author Joyce Carol Oates explores honesty, perspective, and denial through one couple's harrowing attempt to save the person they love
Thursday, June 28, 2007
O Tempora!
The BBC preempts Blair's final Questions to the Prime Minister in order to show a promo for HBO's Rome.

(reg. required)
posted by stephen @ 1:15 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Dramaturgical Remainders
In the course of any dramaturgical investigation, you're going to have to do "a ton of research." And much of what a dramatug researches, much of the books they read, much of the information they retain, is never actually used in any production. It normally just sits in the dramaturg's brain, where it ocassionally comes in handy during triva night at the local bar. But today, looking through my notes for Daguerreotype, I thought it would be a shame to let so much knowledge go to waste. And so, some dramaturgical remainders from the writing of Daguerreotype:
  • Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died when the family dairy cow ate poisonous mushrooms and she drank the milk.
  • Gennaro Lombardi opened the first New York City pizzaria in 1895
  • An undamaged daguerreotype camera today is worth upwards of $800,000
  • Walt Whitman reviewed Leaves of Grass under a psuedonym. Needless to say, he liked it.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson was banned from Harvard College for 30 years for denying the divinity of Jesus. There is now a chair in the Harvard Divinity School named after him.
  • In 1863, Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert, fell off a train platform in Jersey City and would have been crushed to death by an oncoming train if he was not saved at the last minute by Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth's older brother.
  • Lt. Gen Richard S. Ewell, Stonewall Jackson's sucessor, was nicknamed "Baldy Dick"
posted by stephen @ 5:03 PM   0 comments
We've got Isto!
Chris White, of widespread YOUTUBE fame ( is set to perform at our July 15th Benefit at the Bowery Poetry Club!

Reminder: Tickets are $10 at the door and include 5 raffle tickets!

Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery
July 15th, 10-midnight
Featuring Bear Hands, Chris "Isto" White, a raffle chock full o' prizes, food, drink and general merriment.
posted by Elissa @ 3:07 PM   0 comments
Best Answer Ever?
If you were the author of a book, and could have any words of praise to feature in an ad for it, what would they be?

Hannah Arendt: “Destroys the philosophical basis of all previous human thought”

(ht to Papercuts,the greatest book-fetish blog in existence)
posted by stephen @ 12:47 PM   0 comments
Thank you!!
A huge huge thank you to everyone who took the time and energy to submit their scripts to our summer reading series. Thanks to all of you we recieved over 100 submissions!

A TASP committee will be reading all of the submissions and selecting five by the beginning of July.

Looking forward to updating everyone of the results!!

posted by Rachel @ 12:25 AM   0 comments
Monday, June 25, 2007
Radio Macbeth: the remix.
I read Stephen's posting and I couldn't help but add a few thoughts sparked both by my experience of the play and by the recent posting on Parabasis about the relative merits of viewpointing.
While my experience with Viewpoints and Suzuki is fairly limited (one director I worked with used them as training with a limited crossover into our blocking work), I can understand Isaac's suspicion of a system that seems somewhat rigid in its ability to be copied and taught in workshops. While it seems to be intended as a training tool to build ensemble and awareness (again, speaking from limited experience), it seems hard, as many who respond to Isaac note, to not look at the work of the SITI company and try to discern vestiges of this famous method in the world of the play. In the case of Death and the Ploughman, I recognized blocking that appeared almost like open viewpointing on the set (I had just taken a brief workshop with the SITI company, so I was primed to this kind of exploration). It didn't resonate with me, perhaps because, as an audience member, I never felt let in to the inner logic of this movement system. It didn't seem anchored to anything else in the play. However, Radio Macbeth was different. While I often think of viewpoints as mostly a physical training method, the SITI actors seemed to use the concepts of tempo, duration, rhythm, etc. to both vocalize and physicalize all matter of internal anguish. Observing this, instead of feeling like a system, felt bold. Playing with these simple elements, whatever we want to call them, helped the actors to express more deeply. Therefore, I would amend what Stephen has said about these incredibly powerful scenes. It was not only the words (they were not quite stripped), but the facility of the actors in using the available resources in their own bodies and voices (really isn't that the true objective of this training?)—the sinking slowly into a chair, the thin wail, a brilliantly sinister coffee spoon—that revitalized this oft- read play.
posted by Jess @ 1:11 AM   0 comments
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Radio Macbeth
In my ongoing quest to blog about every play with the word “radio” somewhere in its title (is Talk Radio still playing? I need a trifecta here), I went up to New Haven this weekend to see SITI Company perform Radio Macbeth at Yale Rep.
The play begins with a group of actors rehearsing a radio production of Macbeth on a rather bare stage. Bereft of any traditional staging elements, the actors make do with what they have: tables, folding chairs, and of course, several strategically placed radio microphones. There’s a lot of things that someone more knowledgeable than myself could say about this play, comments about Anne Bogart’s (in)famous viewpointing, the various merits of its soundscape (Radio Macbeth was co-directed by SITI’s sound designer, Darron L. West), or the wisdom of staging a work of Shakespeare that is comprehensible only to those audience members who enter the theater already familiar with the play. But what struck me more than anything else was how this non-traditional staging seemed to open up a play I thought I knew rather well.
In my slow march through the academy, I have, by my count, studied Macbeth no less than 3 times (not to mention how many times my samurai-obsessed best friend made me watch Throne of Blood). I am, needless to say, familiar with Macbeth. And yet, before Friday night, I don’t think I had realized the multitudes this play contained. The fury and nihilism of Macbeth’s “Out, out brief candle!” The subtle menace of the witches. The stoic feminism of Lady Macduff. The haunting juxtaposition of the doctor and gentlewoman’s clinical prose and Lady Macbeth’s lyrical descent into madness. But above all, the righteous self-pity of Macduff when he learns of his family’s murder.

But I must also feel it as a man,
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!

Never before, not in all of my readings of the play, not in any of the times I had heard these words spoken aloud, or seen them on film, had I understood their power. But watching Macduff advance, his Birnam wood nothing but a few folding chairs, with the words stripped naked, nothing but echoes into a microphone, I finally understood.
And that, I suppose, is why Shakespeare is a genius.
posted by stephen @ 1:19 AM   0 comments

with moves like this, how can Isherwood be wrong?

posted by stephen @ 1:19 AM   0 comments
Saturday, June 23, 2007
A New Hope
Is In the Heights and its star, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Wes alum & patron saint of TASP), part of a movement to finally make Broadway musicals that rock? (or merengue, as the case may be)

Charles Isherwood seems to think so.
posted by stephen @ 11:32 PM   0 comments
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Buy Now! Buy Quick!

Daguerreotype tickets are now on sale at!

$15 for adults, $12 for students

Lunchbox tickets will be available at the door 30 minutes prior to performances for $5.

Start your purchasing, ladies and gentleman, it's go time. Tickets should go pretty quickly considering it's a 56 seat theatre, so buy early if you don't want to miss your only chance to see Daguerreotype this summer.

posted by Elissa @ 7:57 PM   0 comments

Submissions for TASP's summer reading series at the Abingdon are due to me, rachel, by THIS SUNDAY JUNE 24TH.

We are asking for short (one-page or less) descriptions of the story and a five-page writing sample.

We look forward to hearing from you!

ALSO: If you're interested in acting or directing in the series, contact me as well.

posted by Rachel @ 12:50 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Al Smith's Radio, easily one of the best plays I saw at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe, has finally come to New York as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival. You can read the NYTimes review of the show here.

If you haven't already read it, be warned: it doesn't have many nice things to say. But the more I think about Radio's reception, the less surprised I am by it. What works well in Edinburgh won't always work well in New York. But there's more to it than that. Something that the reviewer alluded to, and also struck me when I saw Radio last summer, is how, despite its obesession with American culture, how quintessentially British the play was, how enamoured it was of its colonial overtones. Essentially, the entire monologue centers on middle-class America of the 1960’s, its obsession with being the center of the world and its tendency to plant flags throughout the world (and eventually, the solar system). And while a young progressive hyper-critical liberal like myself is willing to admit some guilt about current American imperialism, I’m not sure whether most Americans (especially middle-class Baby Boomer that most resemble the main character of Radio) carry this same sense of shame. Especially about American politics of the 60’s and early 70’s; this was after all, the era of LBJ’s Great Society and the Civil Rights Movement (two momentous struggles strangely absent from Radio’s narrative). And even if, with an eye on the growing opposition to the war in Iraq, there’s a growing national consensus about American imperialism, it can’t yet be expressed with the same post-colonial shame we see in Radio. Although an undeniable part of modern British identity, I’m not sure whether American has gotten to this stage yet. I suppose this is the difference between imperialism and post-colonialism; the American writer and the British writer.

There's clearly something unique about the American experience, some ineffable truth about ourselves that only an American can reveal. To be frank, I have no idea what that truth is exactly. But I think we ought to go looking for it, don't you?
posted by stephen @ 11:58 PM   1 comments
How best to reach?
Having just had a very fruitful discussion with resident set designer Nick, I would like to put forth my thoughts on documentary theater. I have been leery of this as a blog entry, as I was unable to make much of a heads or tails of it in a 60 page thesis. However, I have accrued some repeated questions and thoughts and themes that I'd like to share.

1. How important is factual accuracy? First of all, what is factual accuracy? History books have errors, our entire process is built around the fact that history is unreachable. All we have to offer is perspective, what sticks to our artistic team when a whole lot of research is thrown at us. I described it to Nick as a tug-of-war. On one side is the artistic product and on the other side is What We Know, even if what we know isn't true. Perhaps its literature, philosophy, an idea. The goal is for the rope to remain taut. These things pull against each other ceaselessly and if we successfully strive for truth and for excellence, perhaps the center will wobble, but not collapse.

2. What are we trying to create? For this, I go to Richard Schechner, who describes the Wooster Group's "Rumstick Road." Schechner describes the "subjunctive" mood that is created when modern avant garde techniques are paired with actual footage from Spalding Gray's family's past. In examining the definition of subjunctive, one sees the "hypothetical" mood, a mood that exists not in the past and not in the present, but in some combination of the two reaching towards each other.

3. How best to reach? My favorite systems of dealing with history and historical subject matter right now are that of Suzan-Lori Parks and Charles Mee. Both have manifestos so bulletproof that they are repeated and repeated and seem to rarely change. The American Story Project is still working towards this magical system that may or may not exist and that reconciles the frustrations of dealing with factual material. We use our literary sensibilities, we make associations, we try to imbue each production with the message that history is memory, perspective, literature, imagination, cycles (or maybe that it isn't all of these things) and that when we said "we can't reach you, hartford," we weren't really talking about any telephone operators. Most importantly, I want to investigate how the past can live again, how it can feel as present and as vital as anything. Today I saw an extraordinary panel called Liz Lerman on Art and Spirituality. In it, Lerman described being present for a Hawaiian chant in which the woman began "Invite your ancestors to come in." Lerman began by picturing her immediate and extended family. Again, the woman repeated "Invite your ancestors to come in" (I'm paraphrasing, but that was more or less the gist). Lerman felt she was out of ancestors, and began thinking of her dance ancestors (Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, etc...), but the woman kept repeating. Lerman pictured Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers. Finally, the woman finished her chant: "You are not alone. You never were." This story floored me, and this is what I believe that our investigation of history can achieve. The cyclical, the ghosts of our past, the forces that drive us into the future.

I'd like to end by asking of our readers how, as artists, do you reconcile history with performance and the issues this tension creates?
posted by Jess @ 10:07 PM   0 comments
Hey everyone,

Im pleased to announce our first two raffle prizes!

Baseball tix!
2 for Aug 3rd, Kansas City vs. Yankees
2 for August 10th, Marlins vs. Mets

The seats are awesome, too! Thank you ReedSmith, LLP, for the generous donation!
posted by Elissa @ 7:25 PM   0 comments
Saturday, June 16, 2007

July 15th - Summer Fundraiser Party Blast Extravaganza!!!! FEATURING: Bear Hands (the band, not actual bear hands), a raffle full of fun prizes, food, drink and much much more.
WHERE? At the Bowery Poetry Club.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW, but get excited because we certainly are!
posted by Elissa @ 4:17 PM   0 comments
Friday, June 15, 2007
The Dramaturg Presents (Part II)
Having just completed what is, by my count, my six rewrite of the Daguerreotype script, I think its safe to say that our little play is finally coming together. The designers are all starting to come up with some really great (and exciting) ideas, Jess’s rehearsals officially start in a matter of weeks, I recently returned a hefty load of books to the Morningside branch of the New York Public Library (thus ending dramaturgical research for the time being), the producers are beginning their thankless task of trying to organize everyone, and Edward is growing some pretty wicked facial hair.
It’s on.
We'll be posting an official description of the play soon, but until then, I think its high time we introduce you to the motley assortment of characters you’ll meet in our latest investigation into American history:

Matthew B. Brady, the daguerreotypist

Our hero and chief interest in Dageurreotype. What makes an artist? What makes a historian? And what makes a decent and good person? We find these questions to be at the heart of Mathew's final days. Mathew is pictured here in his younger "heartbreaker" era. In our play, he will be older and sadder. And have a beard (or whatever Edward is cultivating at the time). Because that's how we roll.

Juliette Brady, his wife

Pictured here with Mathew and the mysterious "Mrs. Haggerty" (not in the play), Juliette is the only character in this play not to have a beard. She is also Mathew's greatest love and perhaps, his greatest betrayal. Dying in bed while Mathew watches, she is a living reminder of time and mortality amid Mathew's immortal photographic history.

Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President

Mathew's favorite photographic subject and most beloved idol. Lincoln stands for everything Mathew seeks to preserve: dignity, courage, compassion, impressive facial hair. There's not much to say about Lincoln that you probably don't already know. He freed the slaves. And then (spoiler alert!) got shot. This play will include both bearded and unbearded versions of everyone's favorite Log Cabin Republican.

Alexander Gardner

Mathew's former protégé and chief rival. There was a falling out between the two of them. But why? And why, years later, is Mathew still haunted by what he and Gardner saw at Antietam? The answers to these questions are central to the play. Gardner's large beard, and the threat it posed to Mathew's masculinity, is merely subtext.
posted by stephen @ 7:12 PM   1 comments
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The back story back story
Dear readers,

It has recently come to my attention that we have never properly introduced ourselves here. This seems remiss.

When exactly was the American Story Project born?

In Spring of 1998, one Elissa Kozlov and I were in a production of the Wizard of Oz in Middle School. I thought that it was very nice that Elissa was so nice to me even though she was far more popular than I. Cut to: fall, 2003, Greg Malen and I ran a manual lightboard together our freshman year at Wesleyan University. He cued the board while I switched plugs in and out, as the board only had three circuits. Greg made me an easy-to-follow sheet that matched the plug switching to verbal and silent acting cues. Thus began a collaboration. One year later enter Edward Bauer waving a stick in the air and panting "My mother is a fish" while I run light cues in the corner. One year later - Steve has a dream about a circus fire he remembers hearing about. And so on and so on. The American Story Project is a fairly loose collection of collaborators, most of whom attend or have attended Wesleyan University (and one designer from Princeton). Most of us have worked together a whole lot in many different capacities. At this point, we have one artistic director (that's me), one managing director, a set of amazing designers, a dramaturg/playwright, an associate producer, a readings organizer and about 6 actors. But TASP is a growing and changing organism and its journey has just begun. There is room for so much to evolve. What do we start with? A huge passion for theater and each other. Anne Bogart writes, "the condition of a company is a constant crisis." We're ok with that.

What do we do?

TASP is now in the midst of developing its third production and second original production. Our first show in 2005 was Joyce Carol Oates' "Tone Clusters," a brilliant play about memory and perspective as a family is torn apart by a violent crime. "Tone Clusters" began as a production at Wesleyan and then ran for one week at the Edinburgh Festival, where it received much praise and an award for Best Psychological Drama from the Fringe Report. We really loved Edinburgh and the Bedlam Theater and wanted desperately to go back with an original piece. Unsatisfied with the submissions we received, we decided to try our hands at play development. The mission that emerged from this initial development conversation is very much a collision of viewpoints; It fused Elissa's love of documentary theater and my desire to create a play as a living, breathing, present world. This is how our mission began to create an alternative to documentary theater. We desired a piece of theater that fused rigorous historical, philosophical, and literary research with excellent design and in-depth character research, improvisation and action work in order to create a living, breathing portrait of history. A world that existed in the present, as lively and vital as anything, while reaching simultaneously towards the past; An investigation of who we are and where we came from. Once everyone had at it, we had "We Can't Reach You, Hartford." "Hartford," based on the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944, was workshopped at Wesleyan, ran in Edinburgh, where it was nominated for a Fringe First, and then became my directing thesis at Wesleyan this April. Hopefully, its life doesn't end there. It is a story well worth sharing. Currently, we are developing the next project in our historical storytelling mission: "Daguerreotype," a portrait of an aging Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, confined in an apartment with his plates, his memories, and his invalid wife. "Daguerreotype" will run August 2nd-11th at the Abingdon Theater in New York. More on that soon.

I hope that was a worthy tutorial. Please, do not hesitate to ask questions.
posted by Jess @ 8:57 PM   2 comments
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The American Summer Theater Experiment.

A Festival with TASTE.

Get it?
posted by Jess @ 10:49 PM   0 comments
Monday, June 04, 2007
Hello there faithful readers,

The American Story Project summer fest is well underway. We have assembled a phenomenal group of people to help us in our various undertakings, and I'd like to extend my most sincere gratitude to those who believe in us enough to dedicate their creativity, hard work, and time to our art.

That being said, we're in the midst of planning a summer fundraiser extravaganza! Keep your eyes open for information on how to attend/contribute/help out with what will surely be the party of the summer. If you're interested in providing entertainment or assistance at this event, please notify me,, asap.

We have established a facebook group to help address our growing community of supporters. Join it to get emails notifying you of upcomming events.

That's all for now. I'm off to LA for the month on Wednesday, but I'll keep posting as information becomes available.

posted by Elissa @ 6:01 PM   0 comments
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