Blog

Posted: September 2019

Sometimes things take a different direction than expected.

When Dori, who produced and directed Havenbrook, asked me to write again for her annual play festival, it was a no brainer.
She did such a wonderful job with my play (as did the Actors Gil Cuevas and Paul Douglas) and made the process extremely easy and enjoyable. After all, who doesn't like a night about Love.

This time though, the evening's theme would be much different. Centering around Alzheimers and Dementia, the task would be much different as well as hit closer to home.

My Dad suffered from Dementia, and while I no longer lived with him to see its effects on a daily basis, I noticed differences over time: changing behavior, concentration loss, difficulty with everyday tasks. When that wine bottle fell on my foot and spilled all over the floor because it was "closed" with aluminum foil, I knew it was him.

Keeping this in mind, I went back to my desk to see what story needed to be told. A few days later Memory Tracers was born.
And while my approach was a little different this time, it gave me something that feels more personal. An adapted remembrance of a specific moment with my Dad who, while fully aware he was losing his mind, fought the best he could to keep it, before this disease could no longer affect him.

While the project ended up outside of Dori's festival, I'm glad to say it's found a new home with the Emerging Artists Theatre, as part of their New Work Series. It's a place to premiere and discuss work via post-show talk-backs.

I hope you'll be able to join us.

Stuart

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Memory Tracers
Presented via
The Emerging Artists Theatre New Work Series

Wednesday, October 2nd
7pm


TADA! Theater
15 West 28th St, 2nd floor
(Between Broadway and 5th Avenue)

Click here for Tickets

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Posted: August 2019

There's a beauty in randomness -
A wonder in experiencing things as they develop organically.
And while I knew I would write something before the 9:30am deadline
that Saturday, I had no idea what it would be, or who would inspire it.
It all came down to who entered that room,
and whose names were picked randomly out of a hat.

On Friday, I entered the Barrow Group Theatre as a Writer
for their Fast Play Festival. Looking around the room of eventual Actors, Directors and other Scribes, I was excited because none of us knew
who was going to work with whom or what was going to happen.
I have participated in over 40 similar "spontaneous combustions,"
and know that no matter how much you try to plan or prepare,
it always turns out different than expected. Every single time.

After a little intro and some theatre games, the conductor hat came out,
full of scraps with names on them. Within minutes, Cailin was my director and Ekow, Sunny and Ashley were my Actors. Within an hour, they would all head off into the night, leaving me to my own world of impressions and imagination – all focused on figuring out the answer to the following question:
how do you write for a Ghanaian, a Transgender Woman and
a Mother returning to Acting after raising her kids?

A few hours later "The Welcome Committee" was born:
A story about a Ghanaian diplomat visiting his American co-worker at home,
to make him feel more welcome in this country. Then her neighbor arrives.

The next morning the Actors showed up and, let me tell you,
it felt good that they understood my words from the get go.
You never know how folks will respond to your work and it’s
suspenseful to find out if certain things that need to happen will actually work.
Could I make a well-meaning but not so PC character fit in this world?
Could I sensitively write a transgender narrative?
Does this specific middle-finger-snap handshake they do in Ghana
actually exist, or is it just another lie of the internet?

After double-checking with everyone and getting the green light,
not to mention Ekow smiling and showing us how this handshake was properly done, I knew we were in good hands, literally, figuratively and collaboratively.

The rest of the festival went well - all I had to do was get out of the way and let Cailin take the reins. It was exciting to know that in a few hours I’d see how she’d flesh things out as well as how the actors would play my words.
My work was done, for now.

After the curtain speech, the lights reset and it was finally time to see everything come together, not just for me but the others as well. There were now seven new pieces, created in less than a weekend from scratch.

It went well.
Folks laughed, the Actors looked like they were having fun and
Seth, the Artistic Director, even congratulated me by saying “Good, strong writing.” I’m just glad it all worked out and now I have a piece I can submit to other theatres for future presentations.

It’s good to see what can be accomplished in such a short amount of time. Strangers becoming friends with a common goal: to play. It was nothing I could plan for, but that’s the point. You never know what you’re going to get,
but that’s the beauty of it. You work with what you’ve got and go from there.
And if you’re lucky, you meet great people along the way.

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If you're in the mood for some Hip Hop Improv,

I'll be performing this Tuesday (8/27) night as part of the Freestyle Love Supreme Academy.

Information and Tickets are
HERE.

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Posted: July 2019

I am Thousands of miles away and somehow, I feel right at home.

There's a certain pleasure in traveling, in experiencing people and places you normally wouldn't. And when curiosity takes you wandering through the countrysides of
Slovenia, Serbia & Bulgaria, there's something refreshing about swimming within languages and cultures you don't understand.

At a quick glance, it's nice to see how everyone goes about their day.
Couples coupling, workers on a coffee break, Families shopping.
All the things we fleetingly pass by in our everyday life. But, on vacation and in a new environment, it all takes on a different hue. And on this trip, thanks to my friend Marija, things were about to get personal in the best possible way.

A few weeks before heading... 'Back to the Balkans, she thought of family and places I could connect with in her native land. Before I knew it, I'm hanging out with Uros and his buddies on the Slovenian shore of Koper. A few nights later, I'm grabbing drinks with Bojana on a rooftop overlooking Ljubljana. A wonderful way spending time with locals doing "local" things. Just like here, with different food, drinks and scenery.
A perfect way to tap into the vibe of a place, in a personal way.

And it wasn't just connecting with her family that made the trip worthwhile.
Random encounters with fellow travelers added it's own flavor.
Whether eating lunch with Leah amongst ducks on the shore of Lake Bled, finding a hostel in Belgrade with an American/Swiss couple, or joining forces with Andrea en route to the Exit music festival, there were plenty of folks along the way, collectively on a ride going somewhere new, somewhere different.


Travel puts me in a special mental space - one where I listen more and place more attention on where I am and who I'm with. And in those moments where I can't read the signs or speak the language, there's something comforting in knowing that no matter how things differ on the outside (I.e. Statues, Architecture and Points of Interest),
we're all just the same on the inside.

I've been back a week now, working my way through jet lag, sunburn and neglected feet. And as I walk through the streets of my city, I see plenty of signs in languages
I cannot read and overhear conversations I do not understand.
I'm only a few miles from my apartment and somehow, I still feel right at home.

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Posted: June 2019

He steps out on stage and his bandmates follow.
Collectively they settle into their own areas, ready their instruments.
Drum sticks tap and the music begins.

A few songs later,
as the lead singer moves back and forth to his own rhythm, something finally becomes clear to me: Ben, like everyone else in "Death Cab for Cutie,"
are dancing to their own beat. All individual, yet all together.

In some way shape or form, We've all heard Shakespeare's wise words before:

"To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."


And even though I've heard it plenty of times in plenty of ways, on that night
last week it reminds me of a "song" exercise in an acting class a few years ago.

One of my favorite teachers, Mercedes, stands in front of everyone to demonstrate.
Quietly she settles in and finds her pulse with her fingers wrapped around her wrist.
She listens, breathing with it as it breathes her. Then, when she feels she's got the rhythm she starts tapping the floor so that it can be heard outside of herself.
The key, she mentions, is then to perform your piece with your heartbeat,
a personal narrative belonging only to you.

I've tried that exercise several times, and there's something to it.
Taking a moment to be with yourself, around others.
Allowing yourself to express yourself in honor of your own rhythm.

Back in the present,
I look to the stage and can only imagine, after years of study, writing and finding their own voices, this is how Ben and his bandmates fulfill the promise of themselves, collectively.

I think about what makes an Artist successful and worth watching all the time.
Why do I love storytellers like Viggo Mortensen, Emma Thompson or Michael Fassbinder? Beyond the characters they portray they're always somehow... themselves, within the "structure" of the greater story (which may actually just be them, "As If" in a certain circumstance). And somehow, when they go to all those visceral, vulnerable places
I'm somehow, gladly, right there with them.

So, as I sit and watch this concert, with the group whose name's meaning eludes me.
(It doesn't matter - their music inspires me) And while I follow along to their music and lyrics I simultaneously remember Mercedes, Viggo, Emma and many more folks who are simply who they are, doing work that reveals themselves and their voices and visions creatively. And delightfully. Allowing me to find my way and do the same in my own time.

It's a wonderful thing to bear witness to, and ultimately share in,
as the audience and I experience their art collectively.

Whose Art moves you?

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Posted: May 2019

Sometimes a Hand(y)man knows best 

Suddenly I find myself in a room full of lunatics and yet, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

I hadn’t been to the TriBeCa Film Festival in a while but, when you have a good reason to go, you go.  And when the reason is to see a new documentary about Wynn Handman, it’s not even a thought.  He’s one of my favorite Acting teachers and, at almost 97 years old, he’s still teaching (take that Energizer Bunny!).

When I started acting professionally, I knew I needed to find the best teachers possible and Wynn’s name came up constantly.  And while it took me 10 years and 3 auditions to find out why, the timing was right. 


For over 2 years, he challenged me with assignments and introduced me to many new voices, of both works he knew and writers whose plays he developed via his American Place Theater (Co-founded in 1962 with Sidney Lanier & Michael Tolan). 

And now, thanks to the efforts of Billy Lyons, his assistant and director, "It Takes a Lunatic" does a wonderful job of bringing out Wynn’s insight, spirit
and stories to life.

It felt so good to be in that room. 

Surrounded by former colleagues, collaborators and celebrities, so many wonderful memories from class came back: Wynn's singing and reciting poetry from Memory, prepping in the hallway, hanging out with current classmates and meeting new ones along the way.  It was a wonderful place to learn and simply do the work.

Whether you worked with Wynn 50 years ago or even today, there's a lineage and a legacy of which we're all a part.  And if you haven't, you're still able to enjoy the benefits of those he championed:  Sam Shepard, John Leguizamo, and Sylvia Plath -  just to name a few.

Just like then in that Studio, and now in this Auditorium, it is, was and always will be so much more - a space to meet, engage with art and ultimately share in the work.

So call me a Lunatic - I'm surrounded by Wynners and, in this moment, all is right in the world. 

CBS NY Interview
Daily Mail Article

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