I just wanted to share the love I have for the four ladies who have worked so incredibly hard onstage to bring Giulia to life in I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI. Top to bottom: Denise Summerford for Half Moon Theatre at the Culinary Institute of America (playing now!); Michelle Damato for Florida Repertory Theatre (playing now!); Maria Baratta for two runs at 7 Angels Theatre; and the originator, Antoinette LaVecchia for TheaterWorks, George Street Playhouse, Asolo Repertory Theatre, and Cincinnati Playhouse on the Park). You fill my bowl to overflowing!
Last weekend, I made my Boston debut as a playwright (aside from a few of the shows I have written with and for Varla Jean Merman). Zeigeist Stage did a private, one-night only reading of DAS REINHOLD - THE COCKRING CYCLE, Part 1. It was a mash-up of Mahler's "Das Reinghold" from "Der Ring des Nibelungens" with a filthy Boston leather bar. Artistic Director David Miller really let my freak flag fly in honor of his partner Reinhold Mahler's 80th birthday. Who knows if this show will ever see the light of day again, but you should definitely check out Zeitgeist Stage.
Thrilled to bits that my play I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI, based on the memoir by Giulia Melucci is currently rehearsing at two theatres for two brand new productions! The show will be mounted by the Half Moon Theatre at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. I'm particularly excited because the director will be Michael Schiralli, who has directed several of the comedy shows I have co-written for drag superstar Varla Jean Merman. The Half Moon Production will feature Drama Desk Award-winner Denise Summerford. She's a young mother, so I imagine juggling the demands of this one-woman show and a busy daughter will keep her hopping for the next two months.
Speaking of demanding, the Florida Repertory Theatre production is also rehearsing at the moment, in Fort Myers, Florida. The reason the show will be demanding is that the wonderful actress playing Giulia, Michelle Damato, is working for two Italian foodies (Director Michael Marrotta and Artistic Director Robert Cacioppo). No pressure there. Apparently, Michelle, who is a repertory cast member of the company, is already cranking out the dough and I'm sure will knock it out of the park.
The real Giulia and I will be traveling to Fort Meyers to attend previews and the October 9th opening. The next morning, we get on a plane to LaGuardia and drive to Hyde Park to attend the October 10th opening for Half Moon Theatre. If you haven't seen the show yet, I hope you catch it in one of the two locations!
In other SPAGHETTI news, our original (stage) Giulia, Antoinette LaVecchia is starring in the world premiere of Ken Ludwig's A COMEDY OF TENORS in Cleveland before it moves onto the McCarter Theatre. The show is a sequel to Ludwig's classic LEND ME A TENOR, which I had a chance to see as a 12-year-old usher at the American Stage Festival in Milford, NH, when it premiered under the title OPERA BUFFA. Antoinette is one of the most honest, funny actors I have seen onstage, so be sure to check out her work. So proud of her!
It seems lately I have been the advance team for Pope Francis' inaugural visit to the United States. I am on the train to NYC right now, the day that he arrives. Apparently much of the city is going to be chaos as a result of his appearance. Last weekend, I was in Washington, D.C. with my father, and you could see Pope hysteria building. The weekend before, I was in Philadelphia for the Philly Fringe Festival where, although the last stop on his tour, Pope-mania was already in full swing. I need his publicist.
The Philly Fringe was a great experience as we were workshopping my new play, BORN FAT - BASED ON THE LIFE, FAT & TRIUMPH OF ELIZABETH PETRUCCIONE. My dear friend Gina Giusto made her directorial debut with a streamlined production, and the real Elizabeth was on hand to superintend the proceedings with her BFF Sharon. April Woodall appeared in my first full-length play, GRAY MATTERS at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. She won Best Actress for the Festival for that show and was brilliant in this new play. I'm so delighted to work with her again, particularly as this show moves forward toward its January production premiere at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, under the direction of Steven Raider-Ginsburg.
BORN FAT received a terrific notice in Philadelphia Magazine, showing here. The critic even left the gallery where the show was playing, went out to the sidewalk, and Facebook posted that it was great. Social media is the best. Particularly gratifying was his comparison of Elizabeth to the characters found in O'Neill as the NY Times review for my play I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI started with a the line, "Well, it isn't LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT," before going on to giving a begrudgingly decent review for the show. We did get a stinker review for BORN FAT from a blogger. From what I understand, she and her friend plunked themselves down IN THE FRONT ROW, wrote notes during the entire performance and looked like they would rather have bamboo shoots driven under their nails than sit through my play. Nice for the actor. Oddly and coincidentally, the reviewer singles out the same line ("I hid food like it was Ann Frank's family") as terrible that the Philly Mag reviewer pulled in his good review. Just goes to show one woman's trash is another man's treasure. She is certainly entitled to her opinion and I'm particularly proud that on a scale of 1 to 10, my play rated an "8" on making her uncomfortable. Now she knows how it feels to be an actor with a critic in the front row taking notes throughout and looking like someone is shitting in her lap. Hopefully she will go see the Pope's performance and find it more to her liking.
Last week, I had an amazing time exploring Hannibal, MO, the boyhood home of Mark Twain. Although this is very much in keeping with my day job at The Mark Twain House & Museum, it is, of course, inspirational for me as a writer. I submitted a proposal for the 2015 Clemens Conference to do a brief lecture on Twain's efforts as a playwright and it seemed to go over well. In between, I attended other lectures, went spelunking around Mark Twain Cave, did a riverboat ride on the Mississippi, ate many foods that were fried and drizzled in white sausage gravy, and drank heavily.
THIS week, I am on a writing retreat at Quarry Farm, the Langdon Family's summer retreat in Elmira, NY where Sam Clemens did most of his best writing (although I do like to think he did his fair share in Hartford). The house (pictured above) is only open to Twain scholars working on Twain projects, so I proposed that I do a reworking of Twain's flop play COLONEL SELLERS AS A SCIENTIST, co-written with William Dean Howells, editor of the Atlantic and a dramatist in his own right. Yes, Mark Twain and W.D. Howells are my co-writers. My update will have a Steampunk/Zombie theme and is being called COLONEL SELLERS: REANIMATOR, on which I hope to collaborate with Steampunk legend Joey Marsocci, a.k.a. Dr. Grymm.
I am already about 30 pages into this play and I am only on Day #2 of the retreat. After COLONEL SELLERS, I will work on a commission for Asylum Hill Congregational Church, the Clemens Family's place of worship in Hartford, based on Twain's religious writings. This, of course, will all be accomplished if I do not tipple too much with the caretaker of Quarry Farm and don't find another bat flying around my temporary home!
Thanks to everyone who came out to support the first reading of HONEY LABREA - THE LONELY THETAN at the Unitarian Society of Hartford. I'm currently on vacation up in Vermont. Of course, writing is part of my vacation. I found out that a fun little piece I wrote for the Fall won't be happening (wah-wah), but I'm looking into a big competition and a potential residency, so hopefully that will take the sting out of things. Don't forget, VARLA JEAN MERMAN'S BIG BLACK HOLE starts performances soon at the PTown Art House Theatre.
This year, I am hitting a benchmark with Varla Jean Merman - our 12th show together. Yes, it has been a dirty dozen years writing for this comic genius. I was a fan of Varla's since the first time I saw her at Wigstock back in the 1990s. In 2003, she came to Hartford Stage to perform in THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP and we became friends. Jeffery Roberson (the amazingly talented performer/writer behind Varla) saw something in me as a writer and asked me to join him on this adventure. Our first show was GIRL WITH A PEARL NECKLACE. At times, the relationship has been boisterously funny, contentious, and an adventure. Some years, a lot of my material reaches the stage. Other years, not so much. Jeffrey/Varla has to be the one to go out on stage and face the crowd, so I defer to his judgement. Because of Jeffrey, my work has been seen in stages and bars all over the U.S., London, Mexico, Canada, on national television, and even the Sydney Opera House. How insane is that? I've even gotten to write commercials for FLEET Enemas.
I am thrilled to bits that I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI will be receiving a second helping of performances at Waterbury's SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE. The show had a great run about a month ago and it is returning due to popular demand for two weekends only, July 10 through July 19. I was very nervous as this was going to be the first production without my beloved Antoinette LaVecchia playing Giulia, but Maria Baratta, born and raised in Waterbury, not only stepped up, she cranked it out! She played to standing ovations and even got a 4-star review in the Waterbury Republican-American. If you missed it or would like to see it again, tickets are on sale now. I'll give you updates on two Fall productions that are upcoming, but for now, get ready for Waterbury!