Saturday, April 17, 2004


It’s Friday, the day before our first Tech rehearsal, and here I am, at the Sharp theater. It’s roughly 10:45 AM, and I’ve just zipped up on the F train to go help build my set, which, while it’ll hopefully appear simple, is actually a complicated and gigantic undertaking. We’re understaffed, I have the day off, so that’s why I am here.

Our jobs today:

Gromit all the fabric for the surround. In other words, take the fabric that will form the U-shape around the set, and punch little holes in it that form these metal-ringed things called gromits and get it ready to hang from the ceiling of the theater

Put roofs on the three set areas. The set is basically three apartments. The apartments (reading left to right) decrease in size, and each has a ceiling exactly the same size as its floor. So thus we get a 12’ X 12’ X 12’ apartment, a 9’ X 9’ X 9’ apartment and a 6’ X 6’ X 6’ apartment. In honor the characters, the first one is called Axel’s, the second on Lis and Pis’, the third one Viktor’s. Anyway, they all need roofs. Only one of them has one (the 6’ one) the other ones need their roofs put in. Did I mention that they only really have one wall apiece and thus the roofs need to be tied to the ceiling using a complex array of different aircraft cables?

Assemble the furniture which has arrived from Ikea

Hang and focus the lighting instruments

By the end of the day, only one of these jobs will be done. Thankfully, it’s the second one. The fabric turns out to be a complete disaster, much of which is my fault.

For those of you who have never built a set or hung lights or been around tech people in general, well, there’s kind of a bizarre culture that’s arisen. First of all, everyone working tech becomes possessed of a sense of humor that would get you fired from most non-carnival-related gigs. So, for example, when you’re up a two-sided ladder with a girl and she says “okay, you go down first and then me” everyone in the theater will burst out laughing and make jokes about your skills at cunnilingus versus hers at fellatio. For some odd reason I can’t put my finger on, this isn’t sexual harassment, it just kind of comes with the territory. Or maybe it is sexual harassment and no one’s figured it out yet, I don’t really know.

The other thing in building is that everything becomes your bitch. That IKEA table you just assembled? “I just built that bitch” that person who just helped you might tell you that you are their bitch now. Certainly anything difficult becomes “a bitch” to do.

The third thing is the ever-present music. I’ve brought my iPOD today, and we’re listening to various mixes. Yesterday, someone brought inn Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, or was it Godspeed You Black Emperor! I can never remember, anyway, it was pretty good. Today, I’ve got my iPOD playing every Morphine song known to man. This brings back memories of high school and making out to Mark Sandman singing “I can tell you taste like the sky/ Cause you look like rain”. Looking over at the build crew, I can tell that some of them have made out to this song at some point in their lives as well.

The fabric catastrophe strikes roughly 5 hours after I’ve been sitting there gromiting. My partner comes to help me gromit. I buy an extra gromiting set so we can do it together. Gromiting is tedious, blistering work. You take a special tool and punch a hole in the fabric using a hammer, said tool, and a block of wood. Then you use this other tool to attach a metal ring to the whole using said tool, a hammer, and a specially designed metal base. Anyway, we’re gromiting away like zen masters of gromiting. Gromiting becomes increasingly fun to say and we’re sitting there, shooting the proverbial breeze, and finally they are ready for us to hang the bitches on the set.

Only it turns out that, unbeknownst to us, we’d gromited the wrong side of the fabric. That’s right, people, bitches that we are, we gromited the side that’s supposed to hang down. If they hung the fabric by the gromits we’d attached, the fabric would hang three feet off the ground instead of hang all the way down.

Also, at this point, it’s three PM, we’re supposed to give the space over to the lights people so they can focus the lights. Also, they need the set built (which includes the now-improperly-gromited surround) to be able to focus. Also, one of the ceilings isn’t done and nothing is pained.

Oh, and then Shelly realizes that the apartments are all in the wrong places by about 6” to a foot each. Crap.

I pull the light designer aside. She is a fabulous woman, Shelly Sabel, dressed like a rock star, and often calm under pressure. “So… um, Shelly. Should we cancel tech tomorrow and just, you know, build and focus?”

Please say no, please say no, please say no, please say it’s salvageable, please don’t let’s cancel anything just yet please find a solution, Shelly, please…

“I don’t know. Honestly. We’re really behind.”


So then we confab for awhile. Shelly figures out a solution for the apartments (moving one of them 6” accomplishes a lot, as it turns out) and we find a solution for the mis-gromited panels (overlab the gromited areas, and regromit on the correct side) and we decide not to cancel tech and get back to work.

My partner goes home, she is exhausted, and we have a dog to walk. I said I was going to leave the theater at 5:00PM, but we’re short staffed, and it looks like I’m staying until nine. Which I do, gromiting gromiting gromiting and then, finally, it’s time to hang the ceiling for Axel’s (enormous) apartment space.

You might find this hard to believe, but the way we put the ceiling up there is to have two guys on ladders in the back of the ceiling, and two ropes in the front. Then we have people on the ropes, which are thrown over pipes, hoisting this goddamn thing up until it’s high enough to stick a big 2 X 4 under, and then we shimmy it into place.

It takes roughly half an hour to get it into the right place. I’m on one of the ropes, two very little women are on one of the others. Something smells horrible. Really really horrible. I realize, eventually, that it’s me. We hoist. We hoist. Up, mateys! Pull, mateys! The ceiling is rising. When it gets about seven feet off the ground (it has to get roughly 11’ up, remember) the guys run to the ladders to get a grip on it. Then we pull with all of our might and they lift with all of theirs and Yasmine, our wonderful producer, runs and gets a 2X4 and pops it into place.

Now the guys on ladders get hammers and other things to bang the (enormous!) ceiling into place. For the next hour they are tying something called aircraft cable onto the ceiling using something called a circus knot. Someone suggests we put some festive calliope driven circus music on the system. I mention that I happen to have several variations of that. No one seems to bite. I go back to gromiting.

This was all a little over 12 hours ago. Today, we start tech. I’ll have more on that later. I promise.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Show Announcement

Hey everyone,

A few people have written me to ask for details about when and where FYB is, how to buy tickets, etc. so I just figured I'd post the propaganda e-mail I've been sending out like a demon this past week. Here it is!

First You’re Born



Winner of Denmark’s prestigious Reumert award for best play.


Directed by ISAAC BUTLER



April 21- May 8, 2004

 The Playwrights Horizons' PETER JAY SHARP THEATER
416 West 42'nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenue)

 HOW to get TIX:

All seats $15

For tickets call (212) 279-4200 or visit


As the third production of its 2003-2004 season, Studio 42 and In Medias Res will present the American premiere of FIRST YOU’RE BORN, a play by Line Knutzon (winner of Denmark’sReumert Award, the country’s highest writing honor).  Directed by Isaac Butler (Studio 42’s redbird), FIRST YOU’RE BORN will begin a three-week run on April 21, 2004 at Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theater (416 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues) which will conclude on Saturday, May 8.  FIRST YOU’RE BORNis produced by Yasmine Falk for Studio 42 and In Media Res.  Tickets are $15 for regular performances.

 The cast of will feature Geoffrey Arend (Super Troopers; Comedy Central’s Porn ‘n’ Chicken), Hanna Cheek (The Pumpkin Pie Show), Rob Grace (Calabi-Yau; The Bakkhai; Hamlet), Bradford Louryk (Klytaemnestra’s Unmentionables; redbird; Hamlet), Alexa Scott-Flaherty (redbird; Hamlet; LAByrinth Theater Company member), and Phoebe Ventouras (Sarah Silverman’s Jesus is Magic; redbird; Hamlet).

Meet Lis (Ventouras) and Tis (Goethals), twin sisters who’ve never been away from home.  Meet pessimistic Axel (Arend) – who fears he is slowly disappearing – and his lonely roommate Tudeberg (Louryk), who obsessively keeps house.  Meet Viktor (Grace), who suffers from a constant migraine, and meet Bimsy (Scott Flaherty), who just can’t seem to unpack her bags.
Just wait until they meet each other.

 From Line Knutzon, Denmark’s most critically acclaimed contemporary playwright, comes First You’re Born– a stylized, irreverent romantic comedy about loneliness and isolation – in which six awkward and impulsive innocents search for love with hilarious (and potentially hazardous) results.

I hope you can make it!



Lifting Up The Curtain: Christ It's Busy

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted about First You’re Born.

How’s it going, I feel you all (all six of you) screaming into your computer monitors?

Well, pretty good, actually. We enter the process known as Tech Week this weekend, which is when you get into the theater itself, and try to get the timing and look and feel of all the lighting and sound cues (and props and set pieces) exactly right. It’s a long, tedious process, but at the same time, I actually kind of find it fun. Tech week is one of the few times where my instant-gratification receptors get any kind of satisfaction. Theater is a process, and sometimes it’s difficult to know whether what you did is right or wrong, or if the show is going to be any good. With Tech Week, it’s pretty clear whether or not a light cue works. Very rarely do you find yourself going “um. Yeah. Well, we’re going to have to sleep on that and come up with something smart on Thursday” or whatever, which is a common occurrence in rehearsal.

And rehearsal is what we’re smack dab it the middle of. Half the cast is sick. Everyone’s running out of money. The set is forty eight hours behind schedule in terms of building. We just hired the costume designer like ten days ago. Everyone’s exhausted. I won’t see my partner today until midnight at the earliest. I don’t understand it, but for some reason this has had little effect on rehearsals lately. Sure, everyone’s a little tired, and I have to keep the energy in the room up, but people understand that hard work is what the play requires.

Before a play goes into Tech, it really turns into fine-toothed-comb time. What are the moments in the play that we’ve neglected? What do the actors still have questions about? What parts of the play work fine, are going well, but feel stale and over rehearsed? What staging that I’ve done looks god-awful and forced? When do people not know what they’re doing? Is the combat safe? (there’s one scene of pretty extensive combat that includes chasing someone with an over-sized kitchen knife). Basically it’s a lot of nitty-gritty and getting in there and getting as specific as possible.

In light of this, we are slowly making our way through the play from start to finish, to get as clear a sense of the arc as possible. Each scene can take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour to get through (the scenes themselves are three to six pages long and in a big font, the play is an hour and fifteen minutes). This kind of work feels tedious, and isn’t particularly invigorating, but is what the play needs right now. The play needs some attention to detail and some new shit thrown into the mix so that we can be as prepared as possible in time for tech.

I know I haven’t been writing on Parabasis much lately, and, actually, that’s been kind of sad. I’m going to try to keep it to a post a day, except for this weekend, when I will be ensconced at Playwright’s Horizons from 10AM-10PM on Saturday and from 12PM-12AM on Sunday. But I’ll write about tech week on Monday!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Brief Other Articles to Check Out

Hellaciously busy, people, so here's some reading:

In the New York Times we learn that our government has decided to reward ethnic clensing so long as an ally does it.

Slate.Com is really starting to get it's teeth back. Which is good, because it counteracts the dramatic fall off in quality over at (really, other than their TV column "I Like To Watch" it's almost like... why bother paying?) I'm finding Slate as addictively readable as I did when my friend Dan was first like, "hey, they've got all these great writers! And today's papers!".
This article by ballotbox's suddenly-prone-to-outrage William Saletan is a beautiful takedown of Bush lost, as Louis Lapham put it, "in the sea of self" during his last press conference.

And here we have a fun little article on how the GOP taxes Democrats. Very odd little conspiracy theory.

Fareed Zakaria has a great article on the postwar occupation of Iraq, how it's gone wrong (specifically) and maybe some ideas of what to do about it. I don't always agree with him, but he's a good writer, and smart, and passionate, and intellectually curious.

Over at Everythings Ruined, JP does some brilliant comedy bits about Bush's press conference.

That's it for now, gotta run.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Picking Up Some DaBrooks Slack

Everythings Ruined has yet to post its obligatory response to a David Brooks op-ed, so I thought I’d chime in.

David Brooks pulls a classic Thomas Friedman in this one—he boils down a complex series of arguments into two essentialist positions and then applies them to a debate, thus distorting everyone’s position.

In this case, he creates two new worldviews: The Schultzes and the Weinbergians. The Schultzes (named after George Schultz) are those that argue for aggressiveness in the face of uncertainty, the Weibergians are those arguing for caution in the face of uncertainty. Brooks clearly shares the Schultzian worldview (after all, he spends three graphs on it, and only one sentence spelling out the Weinbergian position) but, in the interest of fairness he writes that both “were clear and mature. Both understood there is no perfect answer to terror and both understood the downsides of their respective positions”.

He then contrasts this clear maturity with our current crop of administration critics:

“If you follow the 9/11 commission, you find yourself in a crowd of Shultzians. The critics savage the Clinton and Bush administrations for not moving aggressively enough against terror. Al Qaeda facilities should have been dismantled before 9/11, the critics say.

Then you look at the debate over Iraq and suddenly you see the same second-guessers posing as Weinbergerians. The U.S. should have been more cautious. We should have had concrete evidence about W.M.D.'s before invading Iraq.

Step back and you see millions of people who will pick up any stick they can to beat the administration. “

Can you spot the rhetorical bait-and-switch? People on the 9/11 Commission supporting harsher action vis-à-vis Al Qaeda pre-9/11 are largely people like Bob Kerrey, fervent war supporters and hawks. Furthermore, there was no uncertainty about Al Qaeda, they had attacked us before both at home and abroad, we had some details floating about in the ether about a specific plot using hijacking on American soil, etc. etc. and so forth. What we didn’t know is what the specific details of the 9/11 plot were. In other words, the uncertainty was only about the very specific details, we knew Al Qaeda was a threat to the United States, we’d known it for years.

What we didn’t know about Iraq was whether or not it was a threat. What we did know was that its ties to Al Qaeda were tenuous and none of the intelligence about its WMD programs was confirmable. This is why all us doves supported inspections. We didn’t know whether or not Iraq was a threat, and attacking a country that doesn’t pose a threat isn’t being strong in the face of uncertainty, it’s being foolish. If the inspections were allowed to continue, we would’ve seen that Saddam didn’t have anything and that war was unnecessary in this case.

I agree with DaBrooks that the world is uncertain and vague and that every now and then you just have to make a decision and live with consequences. When those consequences are thousands of lives lost, however, there is an obligation to the human race and to the country you govern to resolve as much of that ambiguity as possible. The Bush administration did not try to resolve the ambiguity; they tried to eliminate it with a campaign of half-truths, conspiracy theories, and flight of fancy fed to them by a group of exiles who had publicly stated that they were using the United States to do their dirty work for them.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

And none of them be missed no none of them be missed

Terry Teachout writes “James Tatarecently posted a list of "the last twenty books of fiction or literary essays I have read." I enjoy reading this kind of list, in much the same way that I like looking at other people’s bookshelves. When the listkeepers in question also happen to be famous, of course, the results are interesting for a different reason. Justice Holmes, for example, kept a written record of every book he read as an adult, and I find it both amusing and illuminating to know that he read (among many other things) both Swann's Way and Rex Stout. Yet I take equal pleasure in knowing what my fellow bloggers are reading, looking at, or listening to, not only because I’m interested in them as personalities but also because such knowledge can lift me out of my own preoccupations and preconceptions.”

Well, okay, Terry, I’ll make a list for you, although keep in mind that whilst doing a show, I tend to not read or see many movies or other plays or anything like that. Anyway, here we go:

Plays recently seen:
The Curvature of the Earth
King Lear
A Thought About Raya
Aunt Dan and Lemon

Music I’m Listening To:
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, “The Tyranny Of Distance”
The Decemberists, “Her Majesty the Decemberists”
(The Real) Tuesday Weld “I Lucifer”
Pullman, “Turnstyles and Junkpiles”
Bob Dylan, “Blonde on Blonde”

Web Animation I’m Watching Too Much Of:
Strindberg and Helium
Homestar Runner

Books I’ve Read Recently:
(re-read) A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
Timon of Athens
Midnight’s Children

Last Movie I Watched on TV:
O, Brother, Where Art Thou?

Last Movie I Saw in a Theater:
I hate to admit it, but… Starsky and Hutch