We had a quiet milestone earlier this week, and I was happy to get to share it with the people who were there. We presented a semi-staged reading of our holiday (play? radio play? screenplay?) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Kraine Theatre with the stars Glen Heroy, Noah Diamond, Matt Roper, Melody Jane, Kathy Biehl, Zero Boy, Jennifer Harder, Bob Greenberg, Jonathan Smith, Robert Pinnock and Bill Weeden. (And the likeness and taxi horn of Seth Shelden)
The idea to take this old script of mine out of mothballs emerged when I realized, when working with Glen Heroy on W.C. Fields for President, that playing Santa Claus at Christmastime was also a major part of Glen’s life and career. You see, my script (begun decades earlier) had W.C. Fields as Santa Claus at its center! Furthermore, the script also features the Marx Brothers as characters; having recently worked with inspired Marx Brothers impressionists on I’ll Say Say She Is added fuel to the flame, as did recently working on Jack London’s The Iron Heel (my script has several Yukon touches, as well as some nods to communist agit-prop). The script also borrows from March of the Wooden Soldiers — and I realized I knew two professional Laurel and Hardy impersonators. It all pointed to doing a presentation of this script.
And there are other reasons. I feel like I am a bend in the road of sorts, as perhaps we all are. I hit a major birthday milestone recently, I married the love of my life, both parents have now passed away, my kids are grown, it’s winter solstice, a new year approaches and THE WORLD SEEMS POISED TO DESCEND INTO A NEW DARK AGES. All this adds up to my feeling I have reached the end of a rather long chapter of my own self-definition. And perhaps no one but me will quite notice the difference. I am calling Wednesday’s presentation “my last (self-produced, downtown) show”. Meaning the end of this mental construct, always more an idea than a reality, of myself as indie theatre company. Probably as far as most people were concerned, that had already ended a long time ago. April, 2015 was my last previous such presentation.
I’m not going anywhere, precisely — not retiring, just changing how I do things. Venues, partners, working methods, where and how I concentrate my efforts, all that sort of thing. Lately, I have been paid to act, for example. I hope to do a lot more of that. I like writing best of all, so I hope to do much, much more of that. I have interest by agents and publishers in three books, an off-Broadway company is planning a reading of one of my plays, and I am talking to an independent producer about writing his screenplay. And 2017 is full of centennial show biz milestones which I hope to observe in one way or another (talks, variety shows, blogs). I have an idea for a podcast; and a solo show I’m working on. And a thread through all of this is the political situation: how to reflect it, fight it, comment on it. (More on some of these plans to come in our New Year’s Message). But I’m setting my sights higher as to platforms and to mechanisms. And I can’t wear all the hats any more. Self-producing and directing in particular make me miserable; total independence comes at the cost of tooth-grinding and agida.
So this vehicle Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, with its recapitulation of many elements of my past, was kind of a perfect kiss-off. It was a reworking of one of the first scripts I ever wrote (suggested obviously by the eponymous movie, which happens to be a favorite of mine). And I was deliriously happy to have by my side Robert Pinnock, who has been with me through much of my folly, almost from the beginning. And it was perfect to have it at the Kraine Theatre, which was part of the indie theatre community BEFORE there was an indie theatre community, when it was quite a nascent thing in the 1980s.
At any rate, I promised pictures in the title, and all I have given is words! Here come the pictures, taken by myself, cast members, and audience members, whom I hope will forgive my pilfering of their online postings:
BEFORE THE SHOW:
Stage manager Sarah Lahue, Matt Roper, Noah Diamond
Heroy and Jennifer Harder
Robert Pinnock, Trav S.D., Bill Weeden
Pinnock and Kathy Biehl
Greenberg and Melody Jane
Harder and Biehl
The three ladies of the show: Biehl, Melody Jane, Jennifer Harder
Seth Shelden by proxy
Heroy, Diamond, Roper
Trav S.D. and Pinnock, as (I guess) Galileo’s idea of martians
Smith and Greenberg
Melody Jane as Princess Peewee
Trav shakes his evil fist
Biehl sings “Silver and Gold”
Weeden rocks the UFO, courtesy Noah Diamond, designer
Harder plays “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
NOW ON TO THE NEXT THING.