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The True Story of “The Tempest”

Posted in Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, My Family History, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2017 by travsd
"Wreck of the Sea Venture" by Bermuda artist Christopher Grimes

“Wreck of the Sea Venture” by Bermuda artist Christopher Grimes

Tonight St. Anne’s Warehouse opens its new all-female production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest by The Donmar Warehouse. Not only that, but it’s Friday the 13th. A suitable time, I adjudge, to spill a few words on the true story on which most scholars believe Shakespeare based his play, one that is particularly interesting in that it is a rare instance of a Shakespearean reference to America.

In 1609 the London Company launched its Third Supply to the struggling Jamestown Colony, for once acceding to the colonists’ requests to send substantial resources. The company sent 5-600 people on a fleet of seven ships, plus two smaller towed vessels. The flagship was the state-of-the-art, 300-ton Sea Venture. On July 24, 1609, when close to the Americas, the fleet encountered a hurricane. The Sea Venture was separated from the fleet, and took on a disastrous amount of water. The next day, land was sighted, and Admiral Sir George Somers beached the ship, saving the 150 people aboard. It turned out to be the island of Bermuda, where Somers and his people were to be stranded for the next nine months. Unlike the island in Shakespeare’s play, Bermuda at the time had no indigenous population, no Caliban for the colonists to lord it over. And between the ship’s stores and the natural resources of the island, there was no threat of starvation. One might be tempted to call the ordeal an extended holiday, but for the fact that there was much work to be done in converting the remains of the Sea Venture into two new, smaller vessels, called Patience and Deliverance which were to carry the survivors to Jamestown in May, 1610. Among the passengers were two of my ancestors Samuel Jordan and Stephen Hopkins, the latter of whom also had the distinction of also being one of the Mayflower passengers a decade later. Now that is a remarkable life. Two of the other survivors, Silvester Jourdaine (possibly Samuel’s cousin, but unconfirmed) and William Strachey, published their account of the adventure as soon as they returned to England in 1610, one of whose avid readers, most scholars believe, was Shakespeare. Everything about this is modern, relatively speaking: a corporation outfits the journey, the ship was a technological marvel for its day, and then the public gets to read about it. As an inadvertent result of the accident, English colonization of Bermuda commenced almost immediately (1612).

Obviously, as he usually did, Shakespeare drew from multiple sources for The Tempest, but accounts of the wreck of the Sea Venture appear to be among them.

Art Startup at Theater for the New City

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, Indie Theatre, ME with tags , , , on December 29, 2016 by travsd
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L-R, Michael-David Gordon, Brianna Bartenieff, Crystal Field

See this week’s Chelsea Now for my article on Theater for the New City’s community meeting this week in response to NYC’s announced Cultural Plan. 

It was interesting — I didn’t mention this in my article (it’s more objective than that) but as a private citizen I felt that only a couple of people at the meeting seemed to have any sense of the tidal wave of awfulness headed our way. One of them who clearly did was artistic director Crystal Field, who’s seen a thing or two in her day, not just as a New Yorker, but as a child of Europeans. People with family in Europe the 20s, 30s and 40s all seem to get it. Most people (especially younger ones) all seem to still have their head up their butts or to be in serious denial, and seem to be picturing what’ll be happening six months or six years from now as a PRECEDENTED inconvenience, the kind of stuff we’ve always dealt with. Sure, the concerns most of the people were expressing were legitimate, in the sense that all concerns are legitimate, but my instinct is that most of them are going to be moot. We cannot plan for tomorrow as we have always planned. Much of what you are taking for granted may not be here, including entire government agencies, including a safe or “neutral” or non-hostile environment for self-expression. People seem to lack the imagination to apply what has-historically-proven-to-be-possible to our formerly-fortunate slice of the earth. Where so much is so unknown, I think it is a good idea to plan for it being worse beyond your wildest dreams. If it’s not, that will be a wonderful surprise. If it is, perhaps it won’t be as terrible. Anyway, call me a Jeremiah, call me a Cassandra, but most of all call me a TAXI, because I WANNA GET OUTTA HERE!!! My Chelsea Now piece is here. 

A Cultural Plan for New York City

Posted in Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , on December 28, 2016 by travsd

Just learned about this last night at a special meeting at Theater for the New City. Given what will be happening at the federal level, such plans may be essentially moot, but it is good to know about

NOCD-NY

The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and Hester Street Collaborative have launched the development of New York City’s first-ever comprehensive cultural plan. NOCD-NY is excited to be a partner in this process. Through intensive public input and an in-depth evaluation of the city’s cultural assets, the plan will become a roadmap for supporting the entire creative community and expanding opportunities for residents to access and participate in the city’s rich cultural life. For the plan to be successful, we need to hear from you! Visit  createnyc.org to learn how to participate in the process.

photo: etccdb (West Indian Day)

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Tomorrow Night: Glen Heroy in “I, Santa”

Posted in Christmas, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , on December 27, 2016 by travsd

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“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in Pictures

Posted in Christmas, Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows with tags , on December 23, 2016 by travsd

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:

Glen Heroy

Glen Heroy

 

Stage manager Sarah Lahue, Matt Roper, Noah Diamond

Stage manager Sarah Lahue, Matt Roper, Noah Diamond

 

Zero Boy

Zero Boy

 

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith

 

Bob Greenberg

Bob Greenberg

 

 

Heroy and Jennifer Harder

Heroy and Jennifer Harder

 

Robert Pinnock, Trav S.D., Bill Weeden

Robert Pinnock, Trav S.D., Bill Weeden

 

Pinnock and Kathy Biehl

Pinnock and Kathy Biehl

 

Greenberg and Melody Jane

Greenberg and Melody Jane

 

Harder and Biehl

Harder and Biehl

 

The three ladies of the show: Biehl, Melody Jane, Jennifer Harder

The three ladies of the show: Biehl, Melody Jane, Jennifer Harder

THE SHOW:

 

Seth Shelden by proxy

Seth Shelden by proxy

 

Heroy, Diamond, Roper

Heroy, Diamond, Roper

 

Trav S.D. and Pinnock, as (I guess) Galileo's idea of martians

Trav S.D. and Pinnock, as (I guess) Galileo’s idea of martians

 

Smith and Greenberg

Smith and Greenberg

 

Zero Boy

Zero Boy

 

Melody Jane as Princess Peewee

Melody Jane as Princess Peewee

 

Trav shakes his evil fist

Trav shakes his evil fist

 

Biehl sings "Silver and Gold"

Biehl sings “Silver and Gold”

 

Weeden rocks the UFO, courtesy Noah Diamond, designer

Weeden rocks the UFO, courtesy Noah Diamond, designer

 

Harder plays "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

Harder plays “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

 

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NOW ON TO THE NEXT THING.

This Week: An All Star Cast in Trav S.D.’s “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”

Posted in Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows, PLUGS with tags , , , on December 18, 2016 by travsd
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Art: Carolyn Stewart

Wednesday, December 21, 7pm  at the Kraine Theatre: $10

GLEN HEROY is SANTA CLAUS by way of W.C. FIELDS!
NOAH DIAMOND & MATT ROPER as MARX BROTHERS!
JENNIFER HARDER does MAE WEST as KLONDIKE KATE!
BOB GREENBERG & JONATHAN SMITH: Laurel & Hardy (Elves)!
MELODY JANE as a the beauitful PRINCESS PEE WEE!
KATHY BIEHL as MRS. CLAUS!
TRAV S.D. as MING THE MERCILESS!
ROBERT PINNOCK as CRISWELL!
BILL WEEDEN as the Toymaker
ZERO BOY on sound effects and narration!
SARAH LAHUE your stage manager!

And many, many more TBA in this holiday reading of Trav S.D.’s mash-up up of the kitchy Grade Z Christmas classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, along with LAUREL AND HARDY’s Babes in Toyland a.k.a March of the Wooden Soldiers, Rankin-Bass specials, and tales of JACK LONDON! Can Elves and Bogeymen truly band together to thwart the hostile take-over of Earth by an Orange Faced Oligarch from Outer Space? Beats me, you sure won’t find out in this play! Plus music and variety TBD! Please come help us seriously cut loose and exorcise this terrible year. More intoxicating than a cup of cocoa with a shot of Peppermint Schnapps!

NINE REASONS TO SEE IT

1. All things remaining the same, it will probably be my last self-produced show

2. It may well be the last chance to see the cast of “I’ll Say She Is” in their characters before they become big Broadway or off-Broadway stars and tickets to see them will cost ten times as much

3. It’s your last chance to see Glen Heroy as WC Fields

4. It will be one of the last shows you’ll see before darkness descends on the world

5. The show is kind of about that

6. It’s also really funny

7. There will be free refreshments

8. It only costs $10

9. It’s festive. Help us celebrate the holidays before the world ends. We want to see you.

It’s all happening at the Kraine Theatre, East 4th Street, Tickets $10: Get ’em here. http://www.horsetrade.info/event/48070db58307933947565e68ff47c64f

Two Exciting Talks This Coming Week — Plus More!

Posted in Christmas, Comedians, Comedy, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows, W.C. Fields with tags , on December 8, 2016 by travsd

Here’s what’s coming up the next few days in Fields Fest — and beyond!

 

"Sally of the Sawdust" (1925)

“Sally of the Sawdust” (1925)

Saturday, December 10, 1:30pm: “W.C. Fields in Astoria: The Paramount Silents”

Many people know that W.C. Fields had one of the most distinctive speaking voices of the classic comedy era. What they may not realize is that prior to the advent of talking pictures, Fields was a SILENT comedy star. From 1924 through 1928 he appeared in ten Paramount features filmed at that studio’s Astoria Queens facility. In this illustrated talk author and lecturer Trav S.D. takes you up close to this lesser known stretch of the Great Man’s career, and shows how much of Fields’ silent work presaged his better known talkies. At Greater Astoria Historical Society, Queens: www.astorialic.org

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Monday, December 12, 7pm: “W.C. Fields: From Dime Museums to the Jazz Age” an illustrated talk by Trav S.D., sponsored by Zelda Magazine 

A look at screen comedian W.C. Fields’ growth from humble sideshow and dime museum juggler to sketch comedian and one of the biggest stars of sophisticated Broadway revues like the Ziegfeld Follies, George White’ Sandals and Earl Carrol’s Vanities. Along the way meet the glittering stars he shared the limelight with like Louise Brooks, Fanny Brice, Will Rogers and Eddie Cantor. Admission: $8. Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn NY

santa-martian

Art by Carolyn Stewart

Wednesday, December 21, 7:00 pm: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians! 

Glen Heroy is Santa Claus by way of W.C. Fields! Noah Diamond and Matt Roper as the funny members of the Marx Brothers who talk! Melody Jane as a beautiful martian princess! Trav S.D. as an evil martian Emperor! Zero Boy on sound effects and narration! And many, many more TBA in this holiday reading of Trav S.D.’s mash-up up of the kitchy Grade Z Christmas classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, along with Laurel and Hardy’s Babes in Toyland a.k.a March of the Wooden Soldiers, Rankin-Bass specials, and the socialistic writings of Bertolt Brecht and Jack London! Can Elves and Bogeyman truly band together to thwart the hostile take-over of Earth by an Orange Faced Oligarch from Outer Space? Beats me, you sure won’t find out in this play! Plus music and variety TBD! Please come help us seriously cut loose and exorcise this terrible year. More intoxicating than a cup of cocoa with a shot of Peppermint Schnapps! It’s all happening at the Kraine Theatre, East 4th Street, Tickets $10: Get ’em here.

 

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Thursday, December 29, 7:00: The Man on the Flying Trapeze

A screening of W.C. Field’s often overlooked 1935 Paramount classic The Man on the Flying Trapeze at Metrograph. Celebrity guest speaker TBA.

 

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