Friday, January 26, 2007

Stolen Chair Noircast

After last Friday's show we (Cameron, Kiran, Alexia, and I) had a great time chatting with Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards, film noir and harboiled fiction buffs who podcast two regular series on their site, Our chat, available for download here, is the first podcast they're releasing under both their mystery writers interview series ("Behind the Black Mask") and their classic film noir analysis series ("Out of the Past").

...and here's what they had to say about the show:

"It is no surprise that the bare-bones style of film noir adapts well to the stage; Kill Me Like You Mean It nonetheless manages to astonish. It is an artful mash-up that demonstrates how dark is the heart of absurdist theatre, and how absurd are the conventions of noir. A brilliant installment in The Stolen Chair Theatre Company's CineTheatre Tetralogy, and a must-see for movie and theatre buffs."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ionesco Interview #2: Amy Wagner

What initially drew you and Phoenix Rep to Ionesco and to THE LESSON in particular?

AMY WAGNER:Our company was looking to build a repertory within our season and we had already decided that the other half of the rep would be Jean Anouilh’s Antigone. We wanted to create an evening of comical one-acts that would compliment that tragedy, and immediately thought of The Lesson. It seemed a perfect way to celebrate the versatility of French drama in the twentieth century. We were all familiar with The Lesson, but we did not want to pair it with the pieces that normally accompany it like The Chairs or The Bald Soprano. We didn’t even plan that the second piece would be another Ionesco play, but after some digging, we came across The Painting, a wonderfully funny play that is rarely performed, so then we built an evening of Ionesco. We consider The Lesson a classic piece of drama from an extremely important and influential period of absurdist writing. What draws me to it is its humor. It is a very funny play. Humor is very democratic, but here it isn’t situational or employed for the sake of a narrative. Ionesco’s humor becomes a method of delivering something much less easier to process. The play isn’t about being funny, and it isn’t about a message. This is what appeals to me.

As a director, how do you approach Ionesco's unique comic voice?

AMY WAGNER: I think that Ionesco intends his characters to be “types” and often clowns. Certainly, he’s saying something about people in general. The Painting goes even further. Ionesco subtitles it a Guignol and writes pages describing the clownish characterization he envisions for each role. Our production, directed by Kevin Confoy, also created a more circus atmosphere at certain points. There were even big shoes, fat suits, and confetti. For The Lesson, I found myself making cuts mostly to preserve humor and to spin us toward the ending with the right pacing. I also added a more sexual overtone, which was often blatant and sometimes buffoonish, both for the Professor and the Student. I even added a Groucho Marx impression. I actually like some of the more clownish moments in Ionesco’s plays for their ability to surprise us and send us in a new, unexpected direction.

Did you learn anything about Ionesco’s style by producing these two one-acts together?

AMY WAGNER: They seemed wildly different animals. Somehow, The Painting made The Lesson seem more “normal”. The Painting was a far broader and more outrageous piece, as far as the characterization and what happens are concerned. However, the language of The Lesson is more absurd and indulged. There were also some commonalities between these two early works. We began to notice how many of the same phrases cropped up in both plays, and also how the dynamics of authority shift back and forth for the characters in both, and of course, the violence. I think that by producing the plays to be performed together lets us explore the range of elements important to Ionesco’s style. Although The Lesson is a classic piece on its own, I think that The Painting provides us with a larger portrait (please excuse the pun) of the absurdist master’s skills and informs our understanding of the kind of theatre he was trying to create.

Which elements of Ionesco's particular brand of absurdism continue to be relevant today?

AMY WAGNER: The clutter of language seems particularly relevant, mostly because our culture is so cluttered with sound-bytes and nonsensical snippets of language delivering information. Look at email and instant messaging. We employ certain abbreviations and acronyms that become words themselves. When I was teaching high school, my students would actually turn in papers with @ symbols. Everything is short-hand, but that’s compensated by the fact that there’s just so much of it. We’re plugged in all the time, constantly streaming. That’s absurd. How can we possibly think we’re defining our own meaning in our lives when we live like that? This is what Ionesco was warning us. But then, maybe we’re not interested in dealing with the same existentialist issues that Ionesco and his contemporaries explored. Maybe we’ve moved onto something else. Perhaps today, the issue is not that there is no meaning, but rather that everything has meaning. How do we cope with that? Maybe finding our own meaning for is not about rejecting those meanings that are outside of us, but rather by selecting which meanings we want for ourselves. That’s our exercise of freedom in this information age. We’re not authors of our lives; we’re editors.

What is your favorite Ionesco play? Why?

AMY WAGNER: I’ve always liked The Lesson. I like that it challenges the subject of knowledge itself. The notion that education and just the process of transmitting learning becomes a method of subjugation and conformity is fascinating to me. I’ve been both a student and a teacher and I consider myself someone who loves learning. Ionesco warns that in learning we are accepting what we are told and simply aping back what has already been determined for us as knowledge; it is decided for us. A similar case is made in The Painting about art. Certainly, societies have made up the knowledge that they want taught in order to suit political aims. History textbooks are a prime example, but the fact that even basic mathematics and philology are challenged in this play really crystallizes the idea. We cannot just accept what we are told is fundamental. We have to make our own meaning. Of course, what I got from the play when I first read it as a kid was that it was just an anti-Nazi play, but I see it has more to do with any society of conformity, not just that brand of fascism. I also like that the play poses its challenges without providing a solution or an alternative. We are left only with the notion that the consequences of this dangerous conformity, including violent destruction, will continue to play out. The cycle will repeat and that the same results should always be expected.

Though once a scathing critique of both theatre and society, absurdism has been fully co-opted by both. How can indie theatre artists continue to be true to the spirit that originally informed this work?

Well, to be true to Ionesco’s type of absurdism means that you must be funny. However, the co-opting I think you may be talking about is simply the use of absurdism to be funny-for funny’s-sake. I think that Ionesco’s Absurdist Theatre, or I guess as he preferred, Theatre of Derision, was about mocking the world around us. For example, he sported excessive clichés and idioms to mock their usage. Most of today’s “absurdist” works, and I’m thinking more of television and film, choose to mock individuals; mean or disgusting things happen to “real” people, and none of us as the audience are actually implicated. Our own lives never come into question, because what we’re watching is meant as an entertainment for escape from ourselves. There’s also that particular genre of weird-for-weird’s-sake, which I think has its place too, but if we’re talking about what the major dramatists of absurdism were aiming at, then I don’t think it was simply about exploring nonsense, but also about burning questions regarding human existence. To me, the key to being true to the spirit of classic aburdist theatre is to continue to require audiences to question their lives and the world around them. It’s an awful lot to ask from audiences, and many will flinch or reject it. Many will just simply not like it. But an indie artist will present it nonetheless, because he thinks it is important.

What's coming up next for you and Phoenix Theatre Ensemble?

Rest. But not for long. Actually, the Phoenix is producing two more shows this season: On the Verge by Eric Overmyer, and Maud, or The Madness, a one-man play by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Those will open in April and May, respectively. We are currently developing a new play that is being written for us by our Playwright-in-Residence Glyn Maxwell, which will be presented next season. Later this month, we will also host a memorial event for Eve Adamson, our friend and artistic mentor, who passed away in the fall. The Memorial will be on January 29.

KILL ME is's "Pick of the Week"

Check it out:

This is Stolen Chair's second production to top's list, the first being 2005's The Man Who Laughs, Part 1 of the CineTheatre Tetralogy.

(I know, I know, even I'm getting sick of all this incessant plugging...pretty soon it will be back to business as usual; for now, I'll post another Ionesco interview so I can turn over the blog to someone who actually has something to say. We'll also be having our quarterly company meeting next Sunday--yes, the morning after we close--so the blog will transition to about 84.9% soul-stirring artistic ramblings and about 15.1% hacky promotional gobbledygook.)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Le Pigblog

One of Stolen Chair's favorite companies, Philadelphia's Pig Iron Theatre Company, recently launched a blog, giving a very in-depth look at their fascinating collaborative development process.

Pig Iron's three artistic directors were all Swarthmore alums, so when baby Stolen Chair was still a gawky undergraduate there, the company's work was influential in opening our eyes to the possibilities of live performance. By experimenting with some of their techniques of collective creation (which, in turn, draw inspiration from the Open Theater, Lecoq and Theatre du Soleil), Stolen Chair has been able to develop our own unique approaches to collaboration*.

So, check out the blog and go see their work whenever it hits your home city.

*Since we started writing on the blog 3/4 of the way through the development process for Kill Me Like You Mean It, we've only touched a bit on the final stages of the rehearsal process, but haven't really discussed how we develop work from the ground up. We'll be starting something new in about a month and it's going to be great to have the blog as, well, a web log of our thoughts as we move through the rollercoaster of ecstasy and agony that I ride whenever our creative family welcomes a new theatrical life into this world (mixing metaphors like it's my job!).

It's official

All 12 performances for KILL ME were 100% sold-out. If you're trying to get in for closing weekend, email me and I'll be able to give you a sense of how likely that is...

Ian W. Hill's KILL ME Review

Posted on here on his blog ( earlier today...

Here's the full text:
First, I saw Stolen Chair Theatre Company's Kill Me Like You Mean It at The Red Room last night, and it was excellent. It's a combination of film noir and Ionesco-style absurdism done with incredible sensitivity to tone and rhythm.

I came for the noir - director Jon Stancato did an email interview with me on the company's blog as part of a series of interviews with people who've done noir on stage - but I was made rapt by the absurdism. Lovely script by Kiran Rikhye (created in collaboration with the company).

The company is altogether very good (must repeat: beautiful tone and rhythm), but Cameron J. Oro is a wonder as American Private Investigator Ben Farrell; pitch-perfect, doing immense amounts with an accurate-to-the-style deadpan.

It plays four more times, tonight and next weekend, and it's selling out. If you're interested, tickets are available through Get em quick.

I met with Jon for coffee before the show and had a nice talk about noir for the stage, and the problems of people assuming parody where none was intended (and the discomfort of getting excellent reviews that entirely miss the point of the show), as well as stories about the grade school we turned out to share in common (where he teaches now). Any problems with the show? Sure, but nothing that probably matters to anyone other than another director (I'm hard, as I always say, on scene changes). Good show. Wish I'd seen Stolen Chair's earlier work, but I'll get to the rest from here on.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Comparing chocolate brownies and asparagus...

The posting's title is courtesy of Stolen Chair's Managing Director Aviva Meyer, who was trying to solicit critical feedback from her mother that did not frame Kill Me... in relation to the other four Stolen Chair pieces she had seen.

For those who are new to Stolen Chair's work: buying a ticket to a Stolen Chair show is a little bit like hitting a piñata. There's something tasty awaiting you, but you have no idea what is in until you put the blindfold on and start swinging...

Here's what I mean: Even if you only go back to 2005, Stolen Chair audiences have stepped into a commedia dell'arte-inspired masked farce in rhyming couplets, a live silent film, an Elizabethan blank-verse gender-bent farce performed in the style of Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and an absurdist live film noir. Throughout these projects, the writing, directing, design, and performance styles shared very little except some continuity in the creative team itself, a rigorous research and development process, a commitment to create the most visually ravishing work that a minuscule budget can buy, and a dedication to theatrical ventriloquism, throwing our voices into the diverse film and theatre styles we've stolen.

What's tricky is that I've still got some people telling me that Portrait of Dora as Young Man (2002) was Stolen Chair's best work, and each play since then has amassed its fair share of diehard fans. There is, as the saying goes, no accounting for taste, and it seems to us that people tend to have strong preferences when it comes to theatrical style: one member of our audience might wish we'd return to a commedia-based show, while another might wonder why we didn't stick to Elizabethan-style verse. It becomes, therefore, nigh impossible to get any feedback about the company's evolution that isn't tied to individual stylistic preferences or production values.

Now, faithful blog readers, if you wouldn't mind participating in an experiment, I turn to those among you who have seen more than one Stolen Chair show to comment below and let us know what you've come to expect from us and how we've developed over the years., assuming of course, that you believe we've grown over the years :).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A live silent for the stage...on film?

Martin Denton invited Stolen Chair to prepare a reading of The Man Who Laughs for the upcoming Playing with Canons reading/booksigning event on January 23. Problem is, the production was a live silent film for the stage, and the performance text itself amounts to 90 minutes worth of stage directions, silently mouthed text, and projected intertitles. While this isn't to say Kiran's script doesn't make a fascinating read (because it does, so go buy your copy now!!!), it does pose some challenges when one is staging a reading of the text. Further complications arose when we searched through the text and could not find a single scene that was not somehow dependent on a set piece, costume piece, or musical cue.

So, depending on your point of view, we settled on what is either an example of brilliant outside-the-box thinking or a total cop-out: we're screening 2 scenes from the DVD. I really do think that is the best way for the audience to get a glimpse at the way the productions 4 texts (stage directions, mouthed text, intertitles, and music) all interact...

Are we cowards or pioneers? You decide. Come to the event and let us know :).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"[A] stroke of genius"

A short excerpt from Martin Denton's rave review of Kill Me Like You Mean It, just posted here on

"...[A]stonishing authenticity...a stroke of genius...Playwright Kiran Rikhye, director Jon Stancato, and their collaborators dazzle with their range and, smart parody...brilliantly plotted and generally hilarious."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ionesco Interview #1: Edward Einhorn

Untitled Theater Company #61 describes itself as a modern theatre of the absurd. How did this mission evolve for you as an artist and for the company in general?

EDWARD: My brother (who runs the company with me) began reading me Ionesco as a very small child. He’s nine years older, so I was introduced to the theater of the absurd as a seven-year old. Obviously, it has always been very important to our aesthetic as a result. I gravitated towards choosing plays from that genre from the beginning, and I gradually realized that everything we did owed something to theater of the absurd.

However, having said all that, I think that we will be changing our official mission a bit to a Theater of Ideas. I think it encompasses the Theater of the Absurd, but I find that people are having an increasingly hard time knowing what Theater of the Absurd is; or rather, sometimes people believe they know, but what they believe is not what we do. Calling ourselves a Theater of Ideas gets rid of some of that baggage. But it won’t truly change our programming—it will still be as indebted to Theater of the Absurd.

Stolen Chair was still in Philadelphia when the Ionesco Festival was happening in 2001. According to your website, the events of 9-11 happened 5 days into the festival. Aside from the logistical difficulties this must have created, how do you think it shaped audience reactions to the festival?

EDWARD: To an extent, Theater of the Absurd is shaped by tragedy. Ionesco was shaped by World War II. Havel was shaped by the oppression of the Communist regime. One doesn’t need to have tragic world events surrounding you to understand Theater of the Absurd—but it certainly does serve to highlight the meaning of absurdism. Life is full of tragedies, sometimes many and severe, sometimes less so. We survive through them, only to die in the end. And it’s funny. The worse it is, the more the need to laugh at it. Theater of the Absurd fills that need. And certainly, New York was a city in need of laughter after 9/11, the kind of laughter that still acknowledged the tragedy, but laughter nonetheless.

The Village Voice wrote, at the time, that "Dizzying ambition is what animates every aspect of this sprawling festival, which generously provides New Yorkers in the grip of a dark time an opportunity to encounter an unfailingly inventive playwright's response to his own traumatic age." I think New Yorkers were able to understand absurdism in a whole new way after 9/11, a perspective that I still see to an extent currently.

Did you learn anything about Ionesco’s style by producing his entire oeuvre?

EDWARD: Definitely. I knew a lot about Ionesco coming into the festival, but reading the plays and seeing them all on their feet are two very different things. Sometimes I felt like I was watching one, long play. Ionesco varies between a punchy comic absurdism more common in his early plays and a surrealist almost lyrical form of absurdism more common in his later ones. But seeing them all together I could see how even in his earlier plays there is a underlying hint of the wistful, lost and tragic feelings of the later plays, while the later plays suffered unless the productions found the moments of the sudden, unexpectedly ridiculous.

Which elements of Ionesco's particular brand of absurdism continue to be relevant today?

EDWARD: All of it. Of course, you’re asking a prejudiced party, but I think the basic themes of Ionesco’s plays are eternally relevant. One of the difficulties Ionesco tackled was the basic failings of language and the difficulties of communication, a theme that only gets compounded over time. When his characters can’t find meaning in language, they look for it in ideology or, in his later plays, in their own selves. Always, the search is a doomed one. But it is a search that human beings will continue to go through, throughout time, and that essential theme is something that never ceases to be relevant.

What is your favorite Ionesco play? Why?

EDWARD: The Bald Soprano. He wrote a nearly perfect play, if there is any such thing as perfection in playwriting, but it followed none of the rules of theater. It is an object unto itself, and the fact that it works is almost a miracle. It changed theater, but even Ionesco could never write anything else quite like it.

Though once a scathing critique of both theatre and society, absurdism has been fully co-opted by both. How can indie theatre artists continue to be true to the spirit that originally informed this work?

EDWARD: Theater that is truthful can never be co-opted. Absurdism is just a style, a way of getting to that truth, but saying something truthful, especially if no one else is saying it, is always dangerous. But being truthful doesn’t just mean repeating the truths found in old works of absurdism, it is finding new things to say, things that need to be said now.

You just wrapped the enormous Havel Festival. Who's on the short list for your next featured playwright?

We may not do a playwright next—it may be a novelist or writer whose works we will adapt for the stage. There are a few I have in mind whose style would really fit the style of our theater. But I’m not saying who yet.

For more information on Edward Einhorn's work, please visit the homepage of Untitled Theater Company #61.

Mr. John Clancy praises KILL ME...

Warm words from one of my favorite directors and playwrights, John Clancy, Obie award-winner and co-founder of FringeNYC:

"Brilliant, beautiful writing, smart, inventive directing and every performance spot-on. Shows what you can do when you spend serious time on the work."

Find out what others are saying at

Noir Interview #7: Sheryl Kaller

Do you have a favorite film which for your most clearly defines the film noir style?

SHERYL: CASABLANCA. Not a film noir in the classic sense, but definitely containing many noir-ish elements, particularly in the lighting, compositions, and performances.

What does film noir have to offer the theatre artist?

SHERYL: Noirs are known for their complex narratives, and their acerbic, witty dialogue. In terms of design, the noir style invites all kinds of extravagance with costumes, lighting, and mood effects.

Why do you think the past few years have been so noir-saturated in film, television, and theater?

SHERYL: Film noir is a style that adapts across different genres – even sci-fi. Noirs are very romantic and visually beautiful. People in noirs are tough, smart, and sexy, and the locations are usually exotic and seductive. The noir sensibility is instantly recognizable and distinctly American. The thematic elements are particularly appropriate during an era of corruption and fallen innocence.

Your publicist tells me that ADRIFT IN MACAO was very much a collaboration between you and [the authors, Peter Melnick and] Christopher Durang. Tell us a bit about the piece and the nature of this collaboration.

SHERYL: ADRIFT IN MACAO began as a 40 minute reading at the York Theatre. Peter and Chris had written a one-act version that we later expanded for a workshop production at New York Stage and Film. Then a year and a half ago we did a full production of the play at Philadelphia Theatre Company where it won a few Barrymore Awards. Peter, Chris, and I work together very collaboratively, sharing different ideas back and forth. We’ve made some changes to the play and now where moving it to Primary Stages in New York.

What particular elements of noir were you trying to parody?

SHERYL: Chris Durang’s script provided all the necessary parody. He’s obviously having a great deal of fun recreating the stereotyped performances of 1950’s movies – particularly how women, men, and ethnic characters were portrayed. We also found it very amusing that characters in a dark, moody thriller would suddenly break into song and dance.

How did you prepare to direct a noir parody?

SHERYL: I watched a lot of movies! Mostly, I studied the lighting and shades of black and white.

Has the production changed at all since its Philly run?

SHERYL: We learned a great deal from the Philly run. It’s changed by about one-quarter. Much of the staging is being adjusted and there are a couple of new songs.

ADRIFT IN MACAO begins previews on January 23, 2007 at 59E59. Find out more and buy tickets here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

1st Reader Review on

"...A must see play!!!"

Read the rest of jps529b's review here.

Post your own reader review by clicking here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A rave from United Stages

"...[A] clever, high-styling treat. ...[A] fast-paced rollercoaster ride filled with just the right fantastical ingredients to make this absurd play hilarious...The Stolen Chair Theatre is earning a well deserved following."
Read Stanley Hall's full review here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

1st review's in...

"[I]ntriguing...[Kiran] Rikhye, with director Jon Stancato, reveals the parallels between the two seemingly incongruous genres. The script is awash in clipped, often repetitive dialogue that sounds simultaneously like something out of a classic noir B-movie and an absurdist classic. Stancato, in order to replicate the steep camera angles of noir films, sometimes has the actors posture or sit in ways that evoke absurdist performance styles...It’s a tribute to Rikhye’s mystery writing that ultimately we become fascinated by this whodunit...Under Stancato’s shrewd direction, the actors ably perform in noir and absurdist a play that generally amuses even as it challenges perceptions..."
-Andy Propst, Backstage (Read more here)

Noir Interview #6: Brooks Reeves

How did your interest in film noir originally get sparked?

BROOKS REEVES: I've always been a big fan of mysteries. When I was a kid I always loved reading Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers type stuff. You know, a dead body in the library, eight red herrings and a cleverly concealed murderer. It wasn't until, my late teenage years that I discovered the old pulp detective fiction, primarily the novels of Dashiel Hammit and the short stories of Raymond Chandler, the first of whom I pioneered the movement, and the second of whom perfected it. These stories were a complete rethinking of the mystery genre and they fascinated me to the core. They were written with a sense of wit and style that completely bowled me over.

So, what is film noir? How do you define it?

BROOKS REEVES: Well, it's my understanding that technically film noir refers to film. But when I think of it, I generally think back to the literature that our classical noir films were based on. For some people film noir is the black and white picture, with the venetian blinds and the smokey office, but for me three things clearly define it in my eyes: Attitude, Language, and Structure.

First, the attitude of a film noir is all cynicism all the time. Every character is corrupted and sinful, and that's even before we get to know their dirty secrets. The anti-hero makes questionable ethical decisions, and even though the mystery is always solved, evil usually triumphs in the end.

Second, I think that the particular use of language defines the genre. Nowhere else, but in an Oscar Wilde play do characters speak almost entirely in epigrams. If the material wasn't so dark, you'd almost believe you were reading (or watching) a comedy. Take this line from The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler: “From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

However for me, the way film noir structurally distinguishes itself from the usual mystery is the most intriguing aspect. Most mysteries start from a single point: a crime. Then the narrative branches out, as the detective goes after a variety of different clues and suspects. But the film noir often works in the exact opposite way. In the beginning, our protagonist is quickly introduced to a variety of seemingly unrelated events and characters, and then throughout the course of the narrative they are slowly brought closer together until they are all connected in one single explanation. This is not always true, but especially with detective fiction, this structure is employed some of the best examples of the work. That's often why people have a hard time getting into film noirs because they're so confusing at the beginning. Nothing is explained until the very bitter end.

Do you have a favorite film which for you most clearly defines the movement/style/sub-genre?

BROOKS REEVES: The Big Lebowski. The film, while lacking many of the characteristic stylistic cues of film noir, is as clear representative of how these types of stories work. If you don't think it's film noir, watch it again. Genius.

What do you think, generally speaking, film noir has to offer the theatre artist?

BROOKS REEVES: I'm not sure. I mean it's a very easily recognized model both for story and style. The audience comes into it with a lot of preconceived notions, which can be very helpful. People already know what kind of guy the detective in the fedora is supposed to be. They're already familiar with the femme fetale. It makes establishing your characters very easy. You can then also play with the audiences expectations, though with Film Noir it's more difficult, because mysteries by definition are always trying to trick your preconceived notions anyway.

But I know for me, writing this play was very freeing and forced me to think of theater in a very different way. I've always been very impressed with contained plays, dramatic stories that establish themselves and play out at one time, in one location. But of course the conventions of film noir are very cinematic. I would never have normally written a play with a forty-two characters or one set in so many different locations, but then theater is all about suspending disbelief, and I think in the end the whole experience served to broaden my range as a playwright and expand what I now know theater is capable of.

Why do you think the past few years have been so noir-saturated in film, television, and theatre?

BROOKS REEVES: I'm not sure, exactly. For one, the genre is honestly really really cool. It's replete with sex, violence, and a general level of “bad-assity” that you can't really find in a lot of other forms. But I also think that we've reached this strange point culturally where we've become compelled to reference and rereference past movements. It's everwhere from all of the remakes and sequels that come out of hollywood to every damn episode of the Family Guy. It's sort of the snake eating its own tail, kind of thing. Not that I should say anything about it, because honestly, this play is nothing more than reference after reference after reference. In that respect, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about it now.

Tell us a bit about The City That Cried Wolf and how you created it. What were you trying to achieve/explore? Can we expect to see the production remounted at some point in the future?

BROOKS REEVES: I wrote this play in college. I had already slotted it to be performed the next year by our college theatre, despite the fact I hadn't written it yet. All I really wanted to do was write a comedy, and preferably a comedy that would allow actors to play multiple parts. I had earlier written a short story retelling Winnie the Pooh as a film noir tale (let's just say that Christopher Robin comes to a very nasty end.) and so I decided to go with a similar slant.

My very first draft was very silly, very tongue in cheek. I had half heartedly added a small subplot involving Bo Peep, as a wolf, purely as a method of melding the Little Red Riding story with Chinatown. I had a first reading at the Lost Nation Theater in Vermont and everyone loved it. As far as I was concerned I was finished.

Ha. Ha.

I went back and showed it to my good friend, and director of that production, Ben Kahn who promptly gave back pages and pages of notes. One of the strongest suggestions he made was how interesting the throw-away subplot had been about the wolves. (at that point the play was titled “Black Sheep”, because believe it or not, the entire plot focused around ovines) It had never occurred to me to try to make the play anything other than a silly silly parody. But it really hit me, that I could make this play smarter, more interesting, and more satisfying if I wove it as an allegory.

So I completely rewrote it. And then completely rewrote it again. And again. And again. And when I say completely rewrote, I mean everything changed. There was a point when the Big Bad Wolf was a secondary villian, a foil to Mother Goose. There was a whole meta-fictional plot involving the very story book that made up the world. I wrote a very funny scene involving an ugly step sister and an un-P.C. tour guide leading three blind mice through city hall. Unfortunately none of these made it into the final draft.

Writing this play was itself an education. I feel almost ashamed to call myself the playwright, when so many different people helped me throughout the process. People, like my friend Ben, who helped my make drastic changes, and others like dramaturg Byam Stevens who helped me tinker. I have been unbelievably blessed by this project.

BROOKS REEVES: Are there any other film styles you are eager to explore in your own work?

I can't say so. Not right now. I think working on any kind of film genre, transferred to the theater would have a similar ring. They all call for expansiveness. They all call for more characters than you would usually use in a play. But there are other “styles” that I am very interested in bringing to the stage. Right now, I'm working with a friend on a script based on 1940's era radio formats. And I also think it helps to look back even further to observe theatrical styles from other cultures and parts of history.

But I can't say that I'm anxious to begin working on another type of parody piece. This play has been wonderful to work with, but I'd rather broaden my range even further.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Packed in like sardines...

Opening weekend houses were at 100% fire-code capacity....and all of these tickets disappeared online and by phone long before the box-office opened each night. SO, if you want to come check out one of the remaining 9 performances, make sure to buy online or call SmartTix at 212-868-4444.

Stolen Chair in the New York Times!!!

...okay, that's not entirely true, but you can make it possible for regular New York Times online readers to find out more about Stolen Chair and Kill Me Like You Mean It.

There are two ways to help:
  1. Rate the production.
  2. Review the production. You can write a few words or a short monograph sharing your thoughts on Stolen Chair and Kill Me...Since we consider all of our works "in-progress" no matter what stage of development they are at, our audience members' feedback is invaluable as we revisit and revise the piece in coming months.
As you can see here, only a couple off-off-Broadway shows have Reader Reviews online, so your reviews and ratings really have the potential to reach the "undecided" theatregoer and expose them to Stolen Chair.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Now hear this!

I was interviewed today on WBAI's "Al Lewis Lives" by the very kind Karen Lewis.

Check out the recording here...

And don't forget to vote!!!

If you've seen the show, go immediately to the New York Innovative Theatre Awards website and cast your vote...we're up for nominations in nearly every category, and audience feedback is a critical part of the calculations.

Norman Marshall, Man of the Hour

I just want to publicly thank Norman Marshall for helping make arrangements for tomorrow's WBAI interview. Check out Trumpet of Freedom, his one-man drama about abolitionist John Brown at Thanks again, Norman.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Some kind words...

"At the Red Room Theatre, just a few blocks away, is a new play from the excellent Stolen Chair Theater Company. It's the second in their series of theatre pieces inspired by classic film genres; this one, called Kill Me Like You Mean It, mixes film noir with the absurdist comedy of Eugene Ionesco. We got a preview of it when we recorded an nytheatrecast episode about the show: on this program, you'll hear a scene from the play, performed by actors Cameron J. Oro and Alexia Vernon. (It's fantastic!)"
-Martin Denton,

Opening night update...

So, tonight was our last rehearsal and I can't wait to see this baby in front of the nice packed houses we have lined up for the weekend (speaking of which, have you bought your tickets yet? Saturday is sold out your tickets now!!!).

Our "press offices" also got some great news in the past couple of days:
  • This Saturday from 12:04 to 12:15pm, I (Jon Stancato) will be on New York's progressive radio WBAI on "Al Lewis Lives!" I will be interviewed by Karen Lewis, "the widow of 'Grandpa' Al Lewis, an outspoken television and film personality and former Green Party candidate for governor of New York State. Karen carries on her husband's tradition of passionate discussion on the role of human rights and civil liberties in the modern world."
  • On January 19th, we'll be recording a podcast for Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards, proprietors of Clute and Edwards record "Out of the Past," close readings of film noir classics, as well as "Behind the Black Mask," featuring writers of hard-boiled, pulp, and mystery fiction.
  • Plans are in the works for a March feature on Stolen Chair and Kill Me Like You Mean It in Swarthmore College's Alumni bulletin. Five years ago this month, buzzed on wine and post-rehearsal glee, we founded Stolen Chair in a Swarthmore College dorm room, and it will be great to have opportunity to reach out to the entire Swarthmore alumni community.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Noir Interview #5: Isaac Rathbone

How did your interest in film noir originally get sparked?

ISAAC RATHBONE: I studied film at Hofstra University and took a course entirely devoted to film noir. Our professor was incredibly passionate about the subject and we watched and studied so many films. After watching Double Indemnity on the first day of class, I’ve been hooked ever since.

So, what is film noir? How do you define it?

ISAAC RATHBONE: Film Noir is a genre, specific to American films of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. For those of you Parisians and French Canadians there is no need to explain the title, but for the rest of the world film noir essentially means “black” or “dark” film, and it is that. The subject matter is very dark. The actual look of the picture uses a lot of shadows and low light. The filmmakers of most noir films were highly influenced by the film and theatre of German Expressionism. This style of art also invokes the darkness of human society, along with the isolationism of the protagonist.

I sometimes like to use this recipe:

Add one cup of German Expressionism, two cups of American Gangster films of the 1930’s, a tablespoon of whiskey, and a pack of Lucky Strikes. Mix all ingredients and have it cook and settle during the horrors and persecutions of Nazi Germany. Serve in low light.

Do you have a favorite film which for you most clearly defines the movement/style/sub-genre?

ISAAC RATHBONE: Most academics would say that Double Indemnity is the quintessential Noir film. I am not an academic.

Detour is my favorite film, which also defines the Noir movement. It has the down-on-his-luck protagonist, the femme fatal, murder, and an “existentialism on steroids” mood.

What do you think, generally speaking, film noir has to offer the theatre artist?

ISAAC RATHBONE: Like any great plays, Film Noir has great language and characters. Actors and directors study Shakespeare for these same elements, but film noir has some of the most down-trodden protagonists, incredible villains, and powerful women, not to mention some of the greatest lines ever written.

Why do you think the past few years have been so noir-saturated in film, television, and theatre?

ISAAC RATHBONE: People like to say [the words] Film Noir. It’s French name makes people feel like they’re scholars. If the French had called Westerns, “Film L’ouest,” I’d be writing about John Wayne right now.

In some respects, the mood also resembles the pessimism and paranoia of living in the post-9/11 world. We feel we are constantly being pursued by an unknown force, whether that comes for terrorism or the wire taping of our own government.

But it also makes for some great entertainment.

I really loved the noir elements in your Fringe NYC offering Breakfast for Dinner. What’s the origin of the piece and how would you like to see it develop further now that it has grown from a one-act to a full-length?

ISAAC RATHBONE: Thank you. Breakfast For Dinner was a reaction to the dangers of the Internet. While covering topics of illusions of personality I wanted to use elements of the noir style in one of the police characters. The hard-boiled detective was generic façade he could hide behind.

There have been many suggestions that I take it another step and make it a screenplay. I think it may go in that direction.

Any other upcoming work to plug?

Nothing in performance at the moment. My upcoming projects include a full-length play regarding a spiritual journey through a trailer park and a project about Walt Disney.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 is back


It is.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Y2K for 2007?

So...our website is down. And all of our company email addresses. This is no good at all.

If you're trying to buy tickets, go to

If you're trying to reserve press comps, just email me.