News: I’m directing NAFTA comedy “Quit the Road, Jack” by Jerry Polner

QtRJHeader

In March 2015, I will be directing Jerry Polner’s new comedy Quit the Road, Jack. It’s a comedy about NAFTA! But it’s actually about a divorced and miserable couple of burnt-out ex-musicians whose 16-year-old son runs away from home. Somehow, the son gets involved in the immigrant worker rights movement. He sends cryptic notes back to his parents, telling them what losers they are and giving them just enough information to make them think they can find him. Mom and Dad can’t stomach each other, but neither trusts the other one to find Jack, and so they’re forced to travel across North America together in search of their son.

For more about my directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

News: I’m directing a new R&B musical

DSC_0292

I’m directing the new musical Me & Caesar Lee by Pat Holley, set in the world of 1980s R&B. A 43 year old former pop diva hopes to make a comeback by writing songs for a teen age singing group. Infatuated with the group and deeply infatuated with their 22 year old manager, she journeys through the resulting heartaches and betrayals, leading her to confront the haunting legacy of her mother’s suicide and her own desire to live. The cast includes Robyn Payne (The Lion King, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Kismet @ Encores!), Two-time Tony nominee Ernestine Jackson (Raisin, Guys & Dolls), Raun Ruffin (The Civil War, Randy Newman’s Faust), up-and-coming R&B singer Amanda Holley, Nick Mara (“America’s Best Dance Crew”), Joshua Scarlett and Sadat Waddy. For tickets, click here.

For more about Jonathan Warman’s directing,  see jonathanwarman.com.

Interview: J. Stephen Brantley

pirira

Playwright/actor J. Stephen Brantley (pictured above, right) set his gay-themed play Pirira  during the July 20, 2011 riots in the African nation of Malawi. As that country erupts in riots, American aid workers Jack and Ericka take shelter in the storage room of a struggling NGO. Half a world away, Malawian student Gilbert and his gay co-worker Chad begin another day in the back room of a Manhattan florist. By the day’s end, they discover their lives are inextricably linked across continents, language, and time. I asked Brantley to provide some insight into this intriguing work.

What is Pirira about?

Pirira tracks two seemingly unrelated stories, separated by 7000 miles, simultaneously. It’s about the unexpected ways in which our lives are connected with, and our identities are tied to, people who may be very different from us. One of these stories is about American NGO workers in Malawi during the 2011 demonstrations. The other features a Malawian student in the states working in a wholesale florist’s with a gay New Yorker. Audiences see both unfold at once, in the same space, in real time.

You also act in Pirira. What’s that been like for you?
Really challenging. I’ve acted in my own work many times, and I’m writing a one-man thing for myself at the moment. But Pirira is different. Maybe because of the complex musical architecture of the piece, maybe because it all feels so personal…Jack is not an easy role to act anyway, but I find it nearly impossible to do so when I’m in my playwright head at all. It’s never been like that for me, but some nights it’s like going to battle with myself.
I know you’ve been thinking about writing plays about Africa for a long time. Is this the final result, or is this a subject you might continue to pursue in other plays?
Pirira is probably not my only Malawi play. I packed a lot into this one, but there is much more I want to say about that place and the people there. My big dream is to write something there, on African soil, and maybe work with some Malawian performers in putting it up.
You have long been concerned about the situation of gays in Africa. How can our readers help or get involved?
It’s tricky. Change comes slowly to Africa, and rarely at the demands of progressive-minded Americans. And yet, I know for sure that LGBT people in Malawi, in Uganda, and in the rest of the continent need and want our support. I’m a huge fan of Frank Mugisha and Sexual Minorities Uganda. Sign up for and share updates from the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission. And in Malawi, and organization called CEDEP is one of the few NGOs championing LGBT rights. Their office was smashed up a few weeks ago, and they could certainly use our support. Educate yourself. Sign the online petitions. Just cultivating an awareness that LGBT rights is a global issue, and a matter of life and death in much of the world, will get us closer to true equality and human dignity for all.
For tickets, click here.

News: I’m directing a reading of “The Happy Hooker”, Broadway-bound musical

HHposter

 

I’m directing a reading of the Broadway-bound new musical The Happy Hooker, which will be presented October 7 at The Cutting Room in Manhattan.

First published in 1971, Xaviera Hollander’s memoir The Happy Hooker: My Own Story (co-written with Robin Moore and Yvonne Dunleavy) has now sold over 20 million copies.

Producer Cindy Sibilsky presents the invitation-only reading of The Happy Hooker: The Musical, which features music by Warren Wills (The Penelopiad for the RSC) and a book and lyrics by Richard Hansom (Plan 9 From Outer Space). Xaviera Hollander herself serves as co-author and creative consultant for the musical.

Featuring musical direction and arrangements by rock legend Mike Garson, David Bowie’s pianist since 1972, the reading will also feature Matilda‘s Betsy Struxness in the title role of Xaviera Hollander, as well the talents of Christopher Tierney (Spiderman, Movin’ Out, Dirty Dancing), Richard Blake (Matilda, Wicked, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer), Jason Mills, Michael Zegarzki, Abe Goldfarb, Elyssa Brette Mactas, Gabrielle Ruiz, MaryAnne Piccolo, Andromeda Turre, Kimilee Bryant and Sal Manzo. Josh Parkin-Ring is the stage manager.

A frank and informative account of Xaviera’s years as the most influential madam in New York, The Happy Hooker has been hailed as the most important book of its era on the subject of sex. Its delightfully explicit accounts of the swinger scenes of the late 1960s and early 1970s introduced its readership to jaw-dropping stories of lesbianism, bondage, fetishism and more, with a mix of shrewd observation and uninhibited appetite.

For more information, see happyhookerthemusical.com.

For more about my directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Ronald Tavel’s “Kitchenette” – directed by me – is TOMORROW!

Kitchenette

I am directing – for one night only, TOMORROW, Sunday, March 24 7pm –  Kitchenette by Ronald Tavel, one of the first “ridiculous theater” plays ever! Adapted from Tavel’s scenario for the Andy Warhol film “Kitchen”, Kitchenette hilariously spoofs the making of an avant-garde movie. Tickets available here.

The cast:

Charles SchickCharles Schick (Filmmaker) recently acted in and co-directed Tennessee Williams’s In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel with Regina Bartkoff at 292 Theatre/Gallery in NYC where their paintings and drawings are currently on display. Even more recently (last week) he appeared as the Khoregos opposite Everett Quinton in a staged reading of Charles Ludlam’s Medea directed by Jonathan Warman at the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. Other recent credits include The Strangest Kind of Romance and Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws, both part of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival.

Wayne HenryWayne Henry (Mikie) is thrilled to be working with Jonathan Warman again. Under Jonathan’s direction, Wayne has most notably toured Provincetown, Mississippi & Tennessee in Tennessee Williams’s The Strangest Kind of Romance. Last year, Wayne appeared as Leonard in Theater 292’s critically acclaimed In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel with Regina Bartkoff and Charles Schick, and his play JAWS: the Musical was remounted to great reviews at The Broadway Comedy Club. His original short films are available at YouTube.com/HenryAndStein.

Tatiana GombergTatiana Gomberg (Jo) is thrilled to be working with these awesome people on this zany piece! She has performed Off and Off-Off Broadway as well as regionally and internationally. Her work in The Night of Nosferatu garnered her an NYIT award nomination for Best Featured Actress and her portrayal of a drone pilot in Hummingbirds earned her a Best Actress Nomination through the Planet Connections Awards. She also played leads in two seasons of classics at Theatre 1010 and toured the United States with TheatreworksUSA. tatianagomberg.com.

Nicholas GorhamNicholas Gorham (Joe) is a graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has been performing in New York since the early part of the Century. After crossing the Canadian border, Nicholas had an awakening that theatre could exist without limitations and began to create his own work in the downtown Performance Art scene. Credits include The Goddess Ianna in Justin Bond Re:Galli Blonde (A Sissy Fix), Big Art Group’s Fleshtone and Nicholas Gorham: “One Drop Passing” at La MaMa, E.T.C. In 2011, Nicholas founded The Spectrum, a queer performance, rehearsal and art space in Brooklyn.

Regina BartkoffRegina Bartkoff (Mikey) recently appeared as the Nurse opposite Everett Quinton in a staged reading of Charles Ludlam’s Medea directed by Jonathan Warman at the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. She acted and co-directed with Charles Schick in In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel by Tennessee Williams at 292 Theatre. She played the role of Bea in Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws in the 2011 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival and at La MaMa. Regina has played lead roles in Anna Christie, Savage in Limbo and Medea at 292 Theatre.

face 2Jonathan Warman (Director) New York Theatre: New York premiere of Tennessee Williams’s Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws (La MaMa ETC, featuring Mink Stole and Everett Quinton), Andru’s Head (new musical, featuring Brooke Elliott (Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”), NeoNeo Theatre), American Fabulous (NeoNeo Theatre). International: Dreams Reoccurring (Clubul CFR, Iasi, Romania; Nu Festival, Timisoara, Romania), Break (Dublin Gay Theatre Festival). Regional: Heads (Omaha Magic Theatre), The Strangest Kind of Romance (Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival; Omnova Theater, Columbus, Mississippi; Theatre Sewanee, Tennessee). Notable assistant credits: Stage Directors & Choreographers Society 50th Anniversary Gala (Assistant to SDC Board President Karen Azenberg), Three Sisters (La MaMa ETC, dir. Richard Schechner). Proud member of SDC. He has served as Artistic Director of NeoNeo Theatre Company. For more info, see jonathanwarman.com.

News: I’m directing two “Ridiculous” masterpieces in March

Press Art

March 2013 is going to be one “ridiculous” month for me. Ridiculous Theatre that is! First off I’m thrilled to be reunited with the incomparable Everett Quinton, who will be playing the title role in a staged reading of Medea by Charles Ludlam that I am directing for the amazing Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, on Monday, March 18 at 8 pm. Everett (alternating with Black-Eyed Susan) created the role when he took over leadership of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company after Ludlam’s passing in 1987. Tickets available here.

Then I am going to fully stage – for one night only, Sunday, March 24 7pm –  Kitchenette by Ronald Tavel, one of the first “ridiculous theater” plays ever! Adapted from Tavel’s scenario for the Andy Warhol film “Kitchen”, Kitchenette hilariously spoofs the making of an avant-garde movie. Tickets available here.

I’m directing a reading of “The Passion of Ed Wood” a new musical

EdInAngora

I’m directing a reading of the new musical The Passion of Ed Wood, presented by Musical Mondays (on Thursday) Theatre Lab, on Thursday January 10, 2013 at 6pm at the Jerry Orbach Theater in the Snapple Theater Center. The Passion of Ed Wood has a book and lyrics by Justin Warner and music by Rob Kendt. Musical director is Jody Schum.

In The Passion of Ed Wood, the infamous 1950s Z-movie director, labeled the “worst director of all time,” gets a chance to redeem himself by presenting his incredible life story, narrated by his idol Orson Welles.

The cast will feature Lance Rubin as Ed Wood, Drew Eshelman as Bela Lugosi and Raymond Bokhour as Orson Welles, as well as Dewey Caddell, Sydney Harris, Megan Stern and Jeff Ward.

For tickets, click here.

For more about my directing work, click here.

I am directing “Hard Sparkle: The Short Plays of J. Stephen Brantley”

This October I will direct Hard Sparkle: The Short Plays of J. Stephen Brantley. Performances are for two nights only October 29 & 30 at The Duplex.

I have collaborated with J. Stephen more frequently than any other playwright. He is the most singular American playwrighting talent I’ve come across in any context, one of the most distinctive voices in the country. I am honored – astonished almost – to have worked with him as often as I have. He has rich reserves of humanity and compassion, and wry humor. His writing – which vibrates with rock and roll energy and yet possesses sweetness and aching psychological subtlety – is highly stimulating and challenging. He is very inspired by the voice of individual actors, and rehearsal (which he loves) especially fires his deeply theatrical imagination. I am thrilled to be pulling together some of his best work for this special, two-night-only showcase.

The plays are:

Nevertheless – After nearly stabbing her husband at the breakfast table, Iris walked out of her Park Avenue apartment bound for Nashville, Tennessee. Returning to the dingy barroom where she misspent her twenties, she hopes to recapture some of the excitement of a bygone era. What Iris finds is Trevor, a washed-up-before-he-started country crooner, the hard truth, and a new start.

Hard Sparkle – Actress Anne Eaton-Hart has taken to her bed. Swindled of millions and having lost an Emmy to Susan Lucci, Anne is convinced she’s dying. While her devoted accountant Eddie does his level best to lift her spirits, nothing less than divine intervention will resurrect the self-obsessed star.

Break – During the late hours of a summer night on the coast of Eastern Long Island, a displaced Englishman and the drug addict who breaks into his home confront their differences and, more importantly, discover their secret similarities.

Hard Sparkle runs October 29 & 30 at 7pm. The Duplex is located at 61 Christopher Street at Seventh Avenue. Tickets are $12 plus a 2 drink minimum. To purchase tickets, call (212) 255-5438 or visit www.theduplex.com.

For more about my  directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Interview: Scott Wittman on “Jukebox Jackie”, 54 Below and “Smash”

Scott Wittman is a busy man. In addition to writing lyrics every week for Smash‘s show-within-a-show Bombshell (and serving as an executive producer for the NBC hit), and working as Creative Consultant for the much-anticipated new cabaret space 54 Below, he has conceived and directed Jukebox Jackie, currently playing at LaMaMa ETC. Jukebox Jackie: Snatches of Jackie Curtis is a collage of scenes, poetry, music and dance culled from the works of Jackie Curtis, who performed as both a man and a woman throughout his career in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, stating, “I’m not a boy, not a girl. I’m just me, Jackie.”

The man who said, “I’m just me, Jackie” was, in fact, a fixture during those radical years in New York’s clubs and theatres, including La MaMa, where Curtis was much-loved by La MaMa’s late founder and artistic director Ellen Stewart. Curtis pioneered the glam rock style of the 1970s, performing in drag in lipstick, glitter, bright red hair, trashed dresses and torn stockings. David Bowie was an early fan. Curtis went on to become one of the stars of Andy Warhol’s inner circle. Curtis began writing his own plays with casts starring fellow Warhol “superstars” Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn, also at La MaMa. He wrote and often starred in such plays as Glamour, Glory and Gold (Robert DeNiro’s first stage appearance in 1967), Amerika Cleopatra with a cast featuring Harvey Fierstein and Femme Fatale with Patti Smith, Jayne County and Penny Arcade.

I sat down with Scott in a sunlit La MaMa rehearsal space to catch up on all of his fabulous pursuits.

Did you have a personal connection to Jackie Curtis?

I think that when I first came to New York and I saw Jackie – I didn’t know Jackie – but I saw some plays that Jackie was in, which made me want to be part of that. Jackie really influenced my aesthetic when I first came to New York, and was always in my head. What I’ve hoped to do with this is show Jackie as a writer. Jackie was part and parcel as a cast member in the plays he wrote – but when you take a step away and take a look at the vast amount of paper, of writing that he did, it’s really fascinating.

What’s really fascinating about Jackie is the variety of styles: from absurdist comedies where he would pull character names out of racing forms, to very structured pieces like one called Glamour, Glory and Gold – we do some scenes from that one – with a beginning middle and end and a clearly defined story, to the large number of poems he wrote, which I wasn’t aware of. We do one of those poems intact, called “B-Girls”, a really beautiful, evocative poem all about the denizens of Slugger Ann’s, which was at 12th Street and Second Avenue [Later gay bar Dick’s and currently the 13th Street Ale House]. Jackie’s grandmother was the bartender, and Jackie lived upstairs.

So what’s the format of Jukebox Jackie?

We’re trying to do for Jackie what Mamma Mia did for Abba. [Laughs.] All the people in the show are “fractions” of Jackie, because Jackie was many people, male, female and in between. There are four characters who speak from Jackie’s mind. All of the written material is by Jackie, every word, every journal entry. There’s a book called Superstar in a Housedress by Craig Highberger and that’s really been a touchstone. I gathered from other sources. I started to stumble on these songs that Jackie did in a cabaret act, which Jackie wrote lyrics for and someone else wrote the music, in one case Peter Allen. In our show there’s a song that Jackie only wrote the lyrics to, that I had Lance Horne write the music to. I also wanted to have songs that were in the soundtrack of my life at the time.

Jackie described New York as being like Brigadoon with steam coming out of a manhole cover, and that to me describes the creative period when I first moved here. It was kind of a magical time in New York. The scene we dive into in Jukebox Jackie has a lot of foul language and blow jobs and drugs, but there’s also a certain innocence to it which is so different from now. [To give you a taste of that era, here’s a YouTube video of 1970 SoHo loft party that Curtis attended]

Our cast, Justin Vivian Bond, Bridget Everett, Cole Escola, and Steel Burkhardt – to me, if Jackie were alive now these are the people he would be using in his shows. Justin is a singular interpreter of material, just like Jackie. It’s not a literal imitation, instead we’re really trying to evoke a time musically and creatively. This whole cast is fabulous storytellers. Bridget reminds me of Bridget Polk, Cole Escola is very much like Taylor Mead, Steel is very much like Joe Dellasandro, they all somehow preserve an element of those times.

What kind of shadow does Warhol cast on Jukbox Jackie?

There’s an element of that – The Factory was like MGM and Warhol was like Louis B. Mayer to Jackie and his other “superstars”, and we do pay some tribute to that, Cole embodies that a little bit. I also try to make it clear that it wasn’t a scary place like it has sometimes been portrayed. I’m sure I’ve gone the other direction and romanticized it a bit, you know the way Joan Crawford would say “I love Louis B. Mayer now.” Some of the music is the Velvet Underground, which also came out of the Factory, which adds another current to it.

Tell me about 54 Below, the new cabaret below Studio 54, how did that come about?

The guys who are doing that were producers on Hairspray, which was such a blessed experience. A few years ago Richard Frankel came to me and said we want to open this club, and we want you to be a sort of curator or “fairy godfather.” So I said I’d love to do that; when I came to New York it was the renaissance of cabaret – you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting one. For me, I would spend most of my nights in Reno Sweeney’s on 13th Street, where you see Edie Beale, Peter Allen, Barbara Cook – a really broad, eclectic booking policy. So with 54 Below’s director of programming Phil Bond, we’re trying to make that same thing happen with 54 Below. Justin Bond will be performing there, Jackie Hoffman – where else in three nights could you see Jackie, Justin and Patti LuPone. That to me feels right, it seems fun. It’s not like Feinstein’s it’s not like the Carlyle or Joe’s Pub. I think there’s a place for it. I remember being able to go to many cabarets, there was Freddy’s and the Grand Finale and Brothers and Sisters.

And this little television side project, Smash. What’s that whole experience been like for you?

Marc Shaiman and I love songwriting so that’s been great, being able to write and have a wide audience appreciate it. Writing new material every week, and then there’s six million people listening to your songs, which would never happen on Broadway. My proudest achievement, though Marc and I didn’t have much to do with the cover songs, was getting Anjelica Houston to sing “The September Song” in episode 14, that was my absolute favorite moment.

You even had a brief cameo in that scene, didn’t you, and Marc was the piano player…

I wanted to be there for her, it was a big moment, for her to sing, she had never sung in her life – and she did so beautifully, there’s nothing she can’t do.

So, with doing that for a year, and Catch Me if You Can in all of its incarnations around the world, there’s a lot of people telling me to “do this, do that, cut this, move that, stop here, no that part doesn’t work” and working on Jukebox Jackie has been a real tonic for me. I’ve wanted to come home and Ellen Stewart had asked me a few years ago, and it’s nice to be in an atmosphere with just a few people – some I’ve known a short time, some I’ve known a long time – that’s more relaxed. I also think Jackie needs to be recognized as the wonderful writer he was – I really hope by the end of the evening you’ll have a really good sense of the person and the work, the music and the time. It’s been fun – Jackie collaged life and I’ve re-collaged Jackie.

For tickets, click here.

I’m directing “Love in the Time of Chlamydia” in the Frigid Festival

I am pleased to announce that I will direct Nicole Pandolfo’s one-woman show, Love In The Time Of Chlamydia as part of the Frigid Festival from February 23 through March 4, 2012. It tells of one woman’s search for love in a world full of absent dads, dirtbag boyfriends, and premature ejaculators. “Once in the hot tub, we take the leftover vicodin Amber has from getting her wisdom teeth removed, wash it down with some Mad Dog 20/20, and pass a joint…” Nicole Pandolfo’s paean to the perils of sex and booze takes her from suburban Jersey basements to Manhattan barrooms, and from morning-after despair to chemically induced ecstasy on a funny, poignant, empowering journey of self-discovery. Love In The Time Of Chlamydia boldly goes there: awkward adolescence, flying bodily fluids, underage drinking – way underage. Aided by projections (and beer), this wickedly funny one-woman bender takes on frat boys, revenge fucking, venereal disease and Valentine’s Day with the comic insight of someone who knows…better.

For tickets, click here.

For more about my directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.