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Monday I performed We Outran the Sun at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York. The following photographs were taken by my collaborator Michael Heck, during our short technical rehearsal that afternoon.   You can see the design changes and adjustments: the canvas placed on an easel, the use of an electronic piano and the subsequent idea of incorporating moving boxes, the projector placed on the floor instead of hung from the grid.  I was pleased with the performance, glad that a number of people who weren’t able to see the project this summer at Studio Tisch had the opportunity to experience the show.  I played a new encore, a song by the band Hem called “Half Acre,” about which I’ll probably write more at length later this week.  We staged the show on the set of the currently running production, Once Upon a Time in New Jersey (set design by Jen Price Fick and lighting design by Isabella Byrd).  All photography ©2010 by Micheal Heck.  Set design for We Outran the Sun by Damon Pelletier, lighting design by Kate Ashton.

(Using an electronic keyboard left no room for the monitor, hence the use of boxes)

(Rehearsing “Half Acre,” a song about home and Michigan by the band Hem)

(Adjusting projections in rehearsal, image of Michael Stuhlbarg on the canvas)

(Still somewhat amused that I created a project where I play the piano constantly)

(Note the canvas on an easel, and the projector on the floor, other slight changes)

(A sense of the set behind me, Damon walking across stage on the right)

(With designers and collaborators Kate Ashton and Damon Pelletier)

Tonight I perform We Outran the Sun again here in New York, at the Hudson Guild Theatre.  The premise of the Dark Night Series is that during the run of a play, a theater normally sits empty on Mondays (often referred to as a dark night).  The Prospect Theater Company started this series to utilize that extra day, allowing the theater to be lit even on a dark night, using these Mondays to showcase new work. Since their mainstage production is currently running at the Hudson Guild, we’ve had to adapt a number of technical and/or design ideas to the conditions of the space.  For instance, we’re unable to hang the canvas or the projector from the grid.  So the canvas for this performance will sit atop a wooden easel.  The piano we’ll be using is not acoustic, but rather electronic, which leaves us with less room for set dressing and no place to put the laptop/monitor.  After talking with Damon, we’ve decided to use moving boxes as sort of a makeshift table.  In some sense then, if the stage is my studio, it will seem that I’ve just started to unpack and then sat down at the piano to work. Which to a certain extent, is fairly similar to what my life is like (and thematically connects to the projections for Eva and Leo).

(Tennessee Williams in later years, photo © 1977 by Jane Brown)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m slowly working my way through the canon of Tennessee Williams, reading the rest of his work now that The Glass Menagerie has closed.  I recently picked an anthology of his later plays, and within its pages is a work called A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.  A minor play from a major playwright, it’s rarely produced.  In fact, I had never heard of it.  Though we now think of Tennessee Williams as among the greatest of American playwrights, toward the end of his career he had certainly fallen out with the critics.  He continued to write, in fact he was always writing, but his new plays had greater difficulty finding their way to Broadway.  To be quite honest,  A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur seems much more like a William Inge play.  Like the plays of his contemporary and friend, it deals with small personal despair, as opposed to the broader emotional canvas Williams normally used.  Set in a St. Louis apartment in the 1930s, it would seem to evoke The Glass Menagerie, but instead uses a school teacher as its central character, bringing to mind the women of Inge’s Picnic.

(Artwork by Dave Beck, from the original photograph by Michael Heck © 2010)

Why do I bring up this play?  Well, believe it or not, the first New York performance of Creve Coeur opened on January 10, 1979 and played – wait for it – at the Hudson Guild Theatre, the same venue where tonight I’ll perform We Outran the Sun.  That is one of the remarkable things about New York theater, the history you feel inside of certain buildings, where the echoes of playwrights and actors of the past are still faintly audible.  Creve Coeur is a lake in St. Louis, and in the 1930s was also home to an amusement park – the destination for one of the woman in this play who, in another nod to William Inge, is going on a picnic.  A fitting title for a play about despair and determination, Creve Coeur roughly translates to “broken heart,” meaning the play is about “a lovely day for a broken heart.”

I think today, perhaps, is a lovely day to outrun the sun.

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