One of the Workshop’s most prolific and widely produced playwrights, Rich Orloff knows how to take an audience on an incredible emotional ride. Be it a “rip-roaringly funny” and “wildly imaginative” comedy (New York Times), or more dramatic “theater with a brain and theater with a heart” (Los Angeles Times), Rich’s writing will always engage. His impressive body of work includes more than fifteen full-length plays and over 80 one-act and short plays. These plays have enjoyed more than 1,800 productions, entertaining audiences at every level – from professional theaters to high schools, colleges and community-theater – both here in the U.S., and abroad.
The Workshop Theater is excited to debut Rich Orloff’s newest piece, IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND. The 3-Day concert read, directed by Richard Kent Green, will be September 27, 28 and 29 at 7 PM in the Jewel Box Theater. And … this solo piece will be performed by the playwright, himself! We got a chance to talk to Rich, to find out more.
WS: So what’s the inspiration behind IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND?
RO: The inspiration is the experience itself. For the last few years, I’ve been involved in underground therapy using MDMA (a.k.a. Ecstasy) and psilocybin mushrooms, inspired by cutting-edge experiments designed to help people heal from deep emotional wounds. It’s been an extraordinary adventure, and although there have been articles and books about the subject, they’re usually from the point of view of researchers and academics. I wanted to convey what it was like to go through the experience.
WS: What would you like audiences to take away after seeing IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND?
RO: My goal for IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND is that it captures what psychedelic-assisted therapy is like (or at least one person’s experience of it) in a way that’s honest, vivid and compelling. I tested the piece in several readings in my apartment last spring, attended by a variety of people, including many who had also engaged in psychedelic-assisted therapy. Of the many compliments I got, the one I appreciate the most is that the piece felt authentic.
I was also pleased that people with no personal experience with MDMA or psychedelics were moved by the piece, as I hope it will connect with anyone who carries around trauma (which is almost everyone!). I want the piece to be entertaining, of course, but for many it also seems to be healing.
WS: Did you know from the start you would be cast as the actor? Is this the first time you performed one of your pieces?
RO: Given the nature of the piece, yes I knew I wanted to be the one presenting the piece. Ironically, when I began as a writer, I wrote an autobiographical monologue called MY NICARAGUAN HOLIDAY, about an adventure I had in Nicaragua (with, among others, the monologist Spalding Gray!). But at the time I felt I needed to choose between developing as a playwright and developing as a monologist. I chose the former. So IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND actually returns me to that fork in the road, with me choosing the path not taken.
WS: You are working with company artist Richard Kent Green, who is directing you. How does the collaboration affect the piece?
RO: Fourteen years ago, Richard acted in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, my first produced play on the Workshop’s Mainstage, and two years ago, ago, he acted in CHATTING WITH THE TEA PARTY, my most recently produced play in New York. Over the years I’ve directed him in countless readings of my work at the Workshop, and we’ve developed quite a trust in each other. He attended one of the early test readings of IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND last spring, and it was clear he really got what I wanted the piece to be. It’s been a joy to get his perspective and input; I’ve had a lot of questions as a writer and even more as a performer, and I feel supported by Richard without being indulged.
WS: What’s your favorite thing about writing?
RO: That I’m constantly surprised. On my best days as a writer, I go deeper than my rational thinking and tap into thoughts and ideas that I didn’t know I had. Characters say things that I would never say and make jokes that I would never think of. That’s kinda cool.
WS: How does writing compare to acting?
RO: As a writer, I get to sit in the back row of the theater, listen to one of my plays (and to the audience’s response to it), reflect in anonymity, and blame the actor if I don’t like how a role is performed. Now that I’m the actor, I don’t have that luxury!
Of course, I assure that there are still many times as I’ve developed IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND when a moment hasn’t worked as well as I hoped and I blame the actor – me! But since I’m busy acting, I don’t get to dwell on it. Acting isn’t just about getting a moment right; it’s also about constantly letting go so you can be present in the next moment. I love the challenge of performing IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND, and it’s only deepened my appreciation of what actors do.
Waterford Museum-Showboat Barge in Red Hook, Brooklyn was the venue for Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, presented by Brave New World Repertory Theatre as an AEA Showcase from May 31st-June 24th
Directed by ALEX DMITRIEV, Produced by CLAIRE BECKMAN
This reviewer has witnessed several renditions of this particular masterpiece by one of America’s towering giants of 20th Century theater. And when I say towering, I can just as well mean it literally, since on two occasions I had the privilege of encountering Mr. Miller on the streets of New York, who at 6 feet 4 inches, certainly had the physical height, as well as warmth, equal to the depths of his best writings. This play, I have always assessed is deservedly among those of his canon so considered, be it “Death Of A Salesman”, “The Crucible”, “All My Sons”, and “The Price”. I conversed with the director of this production at intermission, and shared bewilderment of the partially held censure that this piece, originally penned as a one-act in 1955, and was subsequently developed into a full length play a year later, is at times considered to be somewhat below the standards of the above mentioned items of Miller’s oeuvre. Nonsense!
Few of his plays have been so often revived on Broadway, Off B’way, London’s West End, National Theater, Regionally across America, throughout Europe, adapted in film by no less a director than Sidney Lumet, and adapted as an opera by not one but TWO composers: Renzo Rossellini (director,Roberto’s brother) and American William Bolcom who directly collaborated with Miller’s libretto for a premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1999. Various revivals have garnered succeeding awards such as numerous Tonys,, Oliviers, Drama Desks, Obies, Jeffs, and undoubtedly every other possible accolade this work can generate when it’s rendering is first rate. Happily, in the case of Alex Dmitriev’s staging on this Brooklyn Barge with the Statue of Liberty clearly in sight at this site-specific presentation, I suggest that a New York Innovative Theater Award also be so considered.
The fact that this presentation was produced by Claire Beckman to be “immersive theater” is already well documented recently in the highly informative interview by Laurie Graff for New York Splash Magazine with Beckman, who also did an excellent portrayal of Beatrice, and director, Dmitriev. Their particular teamed history with this play, and choice of the intensely intimate and appropriate venue certainly lent well to the stimulation of the evening. But, all the perfect settings in the universe cannot insure a successfully satisfying theater experience if the players along with the staging, projection, subtlety, pacing, and sense of ensemble unity is lacking in any way.
Last Friday night, ALL the proper elements were in perfect place and kept the capacity house (barge) utterly rapt to every utterance, movement, shift, and inexorable progress of Eddie Carbone (richly rendered in nuance and passion by Rich O’Brien), toward his tragic demise in Miller’s most spare echoing of Greek Tragedy in what in 1955 was a contemporary Brooklyn setting. Maggie Horan’s Catherine, the niece of Beckman’s Beatrice and O’Brien’s Eddie by marriage and object of Eddie’s suppressed forbidden desires, was fetching, sweet, intelligent, curious, and thoroughly convincing in her involvement of this sorrowful tale that was all too credible when Miller first heard its origin from the Sicilian born attorney who, as the character Alfieri (ably portrayed by Joe Gioco), narrates the story directly to the audience in the classic Greek tradition. Brothers Marco and Rudolpho, ( Ram Kanneganti and Jacob Dabby respectively), as the cousins to Beatrice who have emmigrated illegally from Sicily to find work with Longshoreman, Eddie on the Brooklyn docks and secretly live with them , were highly admirable in their contributions and enhanced the overall verisimilitude making the inevitable conclusion to this fated drama completely believable. Kudos also to Diana Duecker’s Lighting, Leegrid Stevens Sound and Brittani Beresford Costume Designs: ALL providing the period as well as the perfect ambiance of this waterfront vessel’s immersive setting.
Though this production is now history and added to the celebrated history of this work, be on the lookout for this company’s next offering:”A MUSLIM IN THE MIDST” by Anand Rao come this November at The Actors Fund Arts Center in Downtown Brooklyn to be directed by Ms. Beckman.: “O, brave new world, that has such people in’t!”
More information – bravenewworldrep website
Photo credit: Doug Barron
Quality Time June 22, 23 and 24 at 7pm
Written by Ben Alexander, directed by Katrin Hilbe
Out of the blue, a guy shows up in the middle of the night at his old school chum’s apartment to whisk him off for that road trip of adventure and enchantment that they planned when they were kids–so goes the insane plot of “The Road Trip,” Herb’s most ridiculous play yet. Herb is sure that Curtis, artistic director of Avenue C Rep, will agree to produce it once he hears it read, and the actors have shown up for the reading even though Curtis told him no. But there’s an even bigger problem now: where’s Herb? Quality Time is an ode to that staple of small theatre, the artistic director/company pain-in-the-@$$ relationship.
Starring this stellar cast:
Talkback Thursday night.
The spirit of Bob Manus hovers over this play, so I very much hope you’ll be there.
Sheen Center Staged Reading of “The December Man”
The talented Kathy Gail is set to direct a staged reading of the New York Premiere of “The December Man” by Canadian playwright Colleen Murphy. The play was the winner of the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for drama.
“The December Man” follows the tale of Jean Fournier, a young man coping with grief and regret after fleeing the massacre at L’École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989. This searing drama on courage, heroism and despair explores the long private shadow that public violence casts.
The reading takes place at the beautiful BlackBox Theater of the Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street @ 7pm.
Reservations are required, but the reading is free and open to the public. Click here: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10290125