Sunday, November 21, 2010

Operation Golden State: Victory

"A harrowing glimpse into a soul completely transformed by the violence and spirit of war"

or just a guy trying to relax on the beach?

James here.

Big thanks to Paola Hornbuckle at San Diego Theater Scene who gave the above quote in her review of I am the Machine Gunner.  You can check out the entire review here.

I'm finally back in NYC after spending a little post-show down-time in Los Angeles with my brother.   Back to chilly mornings and colder evenings in the winter of the city that never sleeps.  We all had to say "goodbye" to Carlsbad's frolicking dolphins and sounds of surf.  One of New York City's many facets is its ability to put things in perspective but if I said "We didn't know how good we had it" that would be a huge lie.  

We knew how good we had it.  We enjoyed every minute of it.  Big thanks again to Kristianne Kurner and the whole crew at New Village Arts who made our stay so comfortable.  I only wish we could have made it a longer stay.

And I wasn't the only one.

"the excellent I am the Machine Gunner . . . closed all too soon."
That was a quote from Marty Jones Westlin, a critic for the website "Words are not enough".  You can read the full review here.  Our review is just under the heading "Picture It".

All in all, Generous Company has made a terrific run of I am the Machine Gunner.  And though we aren't exactly sure where we'll be running next, we know that this isn't the end.  There are plenty of rumors swirling around, a lot places being discussed, and as soon as it solidifies, I'll be sure to post it here. 

Hope to see you soon, onstage or off.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Operation Golden State: Opening

James here

Sunday morning.  We’ve got two shows behind us and have our sights set squarely on sending I am the Machine Gunner out of Carlsbad with a bang.  It certainly started out that way.

I apologize for not updating the blog sooner, but when you’re blowing away the audience each night before returning to your spacious beachfront apartment to watch dolphins frolic in the sunset, blogging slips a bit down on the hierarchy of needs.  

I know, I know.  Life gets ridiculous sometimes, but I’m not complaining. 

Well, I do have to walk downstairs to get to the Jacuzzi, but whatever.

The show has been going fantastic.  The opening night at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad may have been our best show to date.  We had a good sized house and they were with me from the opening shot.  There are times in the show when I almost beg the audience to directly interact with me but the people of Carlsbad needed no extra prompting.  They sighed in agreement, grunted in assent, even shouted out the answers to some of the questions I asked.  


To those brave souls who broke theatrical protocol and helped me move the show along, I salute you.

And to the guy whose cell phone went off at precisely the wrong moment, you are lucky I didn’t jump into the audience and strangle you.

But thanks for coming back to see it again on the second night.  You rock.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Operation Golden State: Raising the Red Flag

James here.

We’re about to head into the theater for our second day of load in.  At some point today, we’re expecting a truck to drop off some major elements for the show, including the background flats and the Black Widow.  We hope for a productive day, but a lot depends on that delivery truck.

And who knows what government watch lists we might have been put on in the last few years that might hold up our shipment.  I’m pretty sure that when you start getting the hardcover Cabela’s catalogue (as we do now) and you’re not a gun retailer, you start to raise a couple red flags here and there.

Which leads me to this quick story.

Jamie and Rebecca flew out of Baltimore two days ago, with not only their own personal items, but a large portion of the show in tow as well.  Now, maybe it was the few errant bullet casings that they found in Jamie’s backpack (the casings are starting to get everywhere, between the sofa cushions, in the heating vents, the dryer – they’re like cat hair), or maybe it was checking things like this. . .

Photo:  What could the TSA possibly have a problem with?

Who can tell for sure?  But it was more than a few detection wands, cotton swabs and rubber gloves before they let the two of them on the plane.
But they made it.
In one piece, with all the gear in tow. 
Hopefully the truck manages to deliver with less scrutiny.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Operation Golden State: Beachhead

James here.

Writing this at 0800 hours my first morning in Carlsbad, California.  Jamie, Rebecca and I arrived last night and set up HQ at an apartment 5 minutes away from the New Village Arts Theater; the third leg of “I am the Machine Gunner”s westerly advance.

Sometimes in life, you can find yourself in a rough spot.  A thorny patch.  A less-than-desirable situation. 

This is not one of those times.
This video shows the view from our 4th story apartment’s balcony. 

Yeah.  Its a little difficult to see with the video's resolution, but those are dolphins breaching the surface.   

Welcome to Southern California.

There is nothing quite like the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach.  Something about it sings directly to the soul, lulling you into a sense of security.  The people in this town probably don’t even hear it anymore.  They’ve taken it for granted.  They’ve grown complacent.

Come November 12th, they’re not going to know what hit ‘em.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Operation Я.A.U.E.: Victory

James here.

Home again, Home again,

Jiggety, jig.

Some things just make you feel like dancing.  A homecoming after a few weeks on the road is one of them.  Another is our review in Timeout Chicago, which heralded I am the Machine Gunner as:

"a darkly fascinating meditation on the allure and reality of extreme violence"

Nice.  You can read the entire review here.

I can't tell you how vindicating it feels to see such praise for this show.  I think that we all felt that the show got stronger on this leg of the journey, and Timeout Chicago's review definitely reaffirms this.  There can be no doubt that we are gathering steam as we head towards California. I only hope the good people of Carlsbad can handle it when we roll in with Operation Golden State.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Operation Я.A.U.E.: The Pressure Spike

James here.

Waking up on the morning after the Chicagoland premiere feeling refreshed and re-energized.  Nothing gives me quite such sweet dreams as raising the blood pressure of 80 people all at the same time.    

I think it’s fair to say that the audience didn’t know what hit them.  Although this first Chicago audience was a quieter bunch than many of the houses we played to in Baltimore, they were still no less engaged with the play.  In fact, they may have been even more receptive to Klavdiev’s work.  

From the very first workshop production to now I’ve developed a pretty special contract with the audience, shooting holes in the Fourth Wall, talking to them directly, even earnestly asking for them to respond to the questions that I ask.  “Almost too real for comfort” is what the Baltimore Sun said.  I don’t know about that, but if the audience feels a little uncomfortable watching this piece, I’m ok with that.  Dave and I talked many times about ways that we can safely “assault the audience”.  This piece is not made for a passive audience.  We want to put you on point.  Dave puts it quite brilliantly in the curtain speech for the show when he says, “lean forward, get ready and enjoy the show.”   


This isn’t “sit back and relax” kind of theater.

And looking out at the audience last night I could tell that even though they seemed quiet, they were hanging onto the piece.  And so I adjusted.  The play ran longer than ever last night, clocking in at just over fifty-one minutes.  I guess I figured if they were listening so intently, I might as well take my time as I put the screws to them.  A fifty-one minute spike to the blood pressure.  I guess the Chicagoans who saw the show last night will just have to take it a little easier on the knockwurst this Oktoberfest.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Operation Я.A.U.E.: On your mark . . .

James here.

Photo above:  The marquis above The Raue Center.  With the missing "E" on "Premiere" it now looks like we'll have a special visitor, the Premier of Chicago.

Resting on a day off from the theater in Crystal Lake, IL; the second stop on the westward advance of I am the Machine Gunner.  I arrived two days ago after shooting a television commercial in Spain and have been pushing through the fog of jet lag to get this show back on its feet.  Luckily Dutch, Jamie and Rebecca all arrived a couple of days before me to load the chamber and oil up the works for a smooth run in Chicagoland.

Rebecca and I spent most of today postering Crystal Lake and nearby Woodstock with flyers and postcards, trying to get the word out a bit more before we fire off this weekend.  We shook down more of the same types of joints we postered in Baltimore:  bars, coffee shops, tattoo parlours, etc.  With only two performances, its important we reach out to our audience any way we can.

Operation  Я.A.U.E. drops tomorrow and things look good.  The Raue Center has a beautiful space which we’ve converted a bit to meet our needs.  Instead of playing along the theater’s traditional proscenium, we’re bringing the audience up onto the stage, and by rotating the stage 90⁰, we’ve gotten the intimate black box space we need.

We’re on our mark, set, and ready to go.  Now we’re just waiting for the opening pistol shot to get this thing moving.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Operation Charm City: Victory

James here.

Taking the bus back to New York City after putting Operation Charm City to bed for good last night.  With the rubber rolling along and Baltimore fading in the rear-view, I can finally breathe enough to reflect on what could only be called an incredible victory for Generous Company and I am the Machine Gunner.  We garnered rave reviews from the local press, we had numerous repeat ticket buyers, and we pleased the crew at the Baltimore Theatre Project who promised that we could return “any time we want”.  A victory on almost every front.

It is with somewhat of a heavy heart that I leave Baltimore this time.  “Charm City” has undeniably been the headquarters of I am the Machine Gunner and ground zero for a truly explosive creative collaboration.  Between the production’s American premiere and the previous workshop in Towson, Baltimore has left an indelible impression at the heart of this production. I can’t thank Towson Company enough for helping us spread the word on this incredible project.  Your support, comments, criticisms, questions and heartfelt belief in I am the Machine Gunner helped us all take this project to another plane.  We salute you.

Photo above:  Baltimore, "The Greatest City in America"

For me it’s back to NYC for a few weeks before hitting the road with Rebecca Eastman and Jamie Johnson for Operation Я.A.U.E., slamming Crystal Lake, IL this Oct. 9th and 10th.  If you happen to live in the Chicago area, consider yourself under orders to come out to see the show.  You will not forget it.



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Operation Charm City: The Irony Curtain

James here.


Working on a Russian play for the last few years we’ve all become used to a certain level of it in our art.  So when the gallery space within the Theatre Project that also serves as the lobby for I am the Machine Gunner opened up an exhibit called Made of Happy we all took it in with a certain wry smile.  The floral paintings and whimsical watercolors were about as far from the heated devastation we cook up every night as you could get.

Or so we thought. . .

Enter a four letter word that starts with "F" and ends with "K".

Not that.  I'm talking irony here.


By a strange and happy coincidence (yes, another one) one of Dutch’s old high school friends was just beginning a Jet Blue tour with his folk band and needed a place to play on the same night that Generous Company was holding its “Coming Out Party”.  Good music is good music, and we snapped at the chance to have a live band during our post show party.  Add on the 4 gallons of gumbo that Dutch (a Louisiana Native) made for the party, and you had one hell of a blast.

Just not the kind of blast we were used to.  We couldn’t help laughing to ourselves as we coined the phrase “First its machine gun, machine gun, machine gun - then its hippies and gumbo”.

 Photo above:  Emma Hill and Brian Daste play in front of "Made of Happy"

But people, if you get a chance, you’ve got to check these guys out.  Emma Hill and Brian Daste are two members of Emma Hill and her Gentlemen Callers and they are terrific.  It was unfortunately a little too noisy in the lobby/gallery to hear them well (theater people are loud), but we were treated to a special session at the house’s afterparty and we were all blown away.  Not only talented musicians, but good people too.  I am going to do my damndest to see them when I return to NYC.

If you are in NYC and can make it, they are playing at Googie's Lounge at 154 Ludlow street this coming Tuesday the 14th at 9:30.  They are extremely talented and are trying to promote Emma’s new album.  If you like folk music, you won't be let down by these two ultra-talented performers.

It was a great way to wind down from another intense night onstage.  With 90 people in the house, it was by far our largest audience yet.  Guests from all around the country and lots of old friends attended the show and party afterwords.  Hopefully, they embraced the irony as well as we did. 

Machine Guns, criminal tattoos, burning alive, hippies, gumbo, and Made of Happy. 

Strange bedfellows maybe,
Good times definitely.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Operation Charm City: Blot out the "Sun"

James here.

"Machine Gunner hits target at Theatre Project"

Not my words. 

That was the headline for our review in the weekend arts section of the Baltimore Sun.  Now let’s hope that raises some eyebrows and gets some more people through the front door.

With those two glowing reviews (see the previous post for the WYPR clip), things have started off with a bang in the second week.  Dave returned from a quick trip to Moscow at Lubimovka, a Russian playwrights festival, and has come back to a tighter and more dynamic show.

During his trip to Moscow, Dave also acquired a copy of “Contemporary Dramaturgy” a periodical journal of modern Russian playwrights.  Particularly of interest was his essay on I am the Machine Gunner’s playwright, Yury Klavdiev.  I’ve included a photo of the essay below.  Although it’s written in Cyrillic, you may be able to discern one word of English.

Photos:  Dave M. White's essay on Klavdiev "Atom Smashing Playwright" 

Yeah.  I guess “badass” needs no translation.

Maybe that’s why people love this show.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Operation Charm City: Crashing the Air Waves

James here.

"a loud and frightening effect. . . that looks and sounds as dangerous as almost anything I've ever seen onstage"

Yeah.  That's what I'm talkin' bout.

Thanks to J. Wynn Rousuck, the theater critic of WYPR who gave us that little bit of praise for our show.  Actually, her review  gave quite a lot of praise for both our production of "I am the Machine Gunner" and for Klavdiev himself.  She referred to Klavdiev's language (translated by our good friend and collaborator John Freedman) as "graphic, gruesome. . . (with) a muscular poetic quality" and called him "a powerful writer with a dark gift for depicting violent struggles."

The review does contain a few minor spoilers, however, so if you want to guarantee a fresh experience, you might want to hold off on listening until after you've seen the show.  And fresh is the order of the night according to Rousuck:

"Fresh and startling, I am the Machine Gunner is an excellent way to launch the new season at the Theatre Project".

Thanks WYPR, for helping spread the word on something we believe so strongly in.

Now lets hope it gets more people in those seats and takes this thing out of Baltimore with the BANG it deserves!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Operation Charm City: Razing Hell

James here.

Its open.

We rained down hell upon the unsuspecting on Sept. 2nd and with 4 successively hardcore shows, I can finally look back at the first week and take a breath.

According to the song “Jet Airliner” by the Steve Miller Band, “you’ve got to get through hell before you get to heaven”.  While some might argue (and I might be one of them) that the Steve Miller Band is weak sauce at best, that line rung incredibly true in the days leading up to our opening.  It took (literally) blood, sweat and tears from all of us.

But oh, the view looks soo good from the other side.

The response has been overwhelming.  Those who sat in the audience for the first time got rocked in ways they never saw coming.  There was more than one new face who bought a ticket for the next night, ponying up cash for a second dose of Klavdiev.  Those who were lucky enough to see the show in its prior workshops agreed that it has come leaps and bounds from its previous incarnations.  Everything has gotten better, cleaner, and more precise.

From the acting moments that Dave and I have tweaked onstage to Rebecca’s foray into Punk Rock and Criminality;
from Iaeden Hovorka’s heart stopping sound design to the newspaper/propaganda-postered flats;
from Jamie Johnson’s intense lighting to the sweet lethality of the Black Widow. . .

Ah, the Black Widow.  If only I could reveal her secrets to you.  Re-imagined and reconstructed by Dutch Vandercook, she is a finely tuned engine of spectacular devastation – the aria in our symphony of unending destruction.  To say more would be to reveal too much, but I will just say that if my performance can’t get to you in our show, the Widow certainly will.

 Photo Above:  The Black Widow.  What man dares to learn her secrets?

We’ve got one more week in Baltimore before our October shows in Crystal Lake, IL.  Four more shots to raze hell in "Charm City"


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Twas the night before. . .

James here.

Photo:  Writing in my journal, backstage at the Theatre Project
Its late at night on the eve of Operation:  Charm City, our code name for the premiere of "I am the Machine Gunner".  We've all been pushing some late nights, banding together to get everything set, and after a solid dress/technical rehearsal we're ready to unload the show on Baltimore.  Keep your eyes peeled for reports in the coming daze. 

In the meantime, you can check out the newspaper interview and photo that dropped today in Baltimore's City paper.  We made the front of the Arts & Entertainment section, along with being listed at the top of the "Baltimore Weekly Highlights".  Hopefully, that combination is brave enough to sell some tickets.

I'm off to get some rack time now, its late and we've all been hard at it. I'll leave you with another candid shot taken during a break in the long day.

Photo:  A candid moment with the Machine Gunner

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seven Days and counting. . .

James here.

Just returned from another Baltimore Blitz.  I've spent so much time recently in the back and forth they should give me a brass plaque on the bus armrest.

We've got one week to go before the premiere and all pistons are firing now.

The production crew has almost all gathered and we spent a good couple of hours together, revisiting the piece and synchronizing our ideas for the task at hand.  Dutch Vandercook and Jamie Johnson (Lighting) have been working together on other projects during the summer months and seemed glad to put Machine Gunner back on the front burner.  Although we've been in constant contact over the last few months, its nice to have them with us physically as we turn up the heat on this baby.  With our stage manager Cat Hagner back with us as well, I think we're all feeling the familiar joy of running the Machine Gun.

 Photo:  Mario Iati's poster design surrounded by a halo of spent casings.
Rebecca and I papered a few more districts of Baltimore with the poster.

Dave and I spent a good chunk of time rehearsing and polishing, taking a break for a City Paper photo shoot with photographer Jefferson Steele.  The shoot happened relatively last minute, as I arrived in Baltimore on his deadline, and the photo (accompanying the interview conducted last week) is set to run in next week's issue.  Despite it being a last minute affair, I think the end product is going to turn out very well.  When he heard what our show was about Jefferson took us under a bridge in Baltimore, where he could fire a couple of shots in front of a large swath of graffiti.  I'll be sure to post a link as soon as it drops.

One week to go before the green light on Operation: Charm City.

Its sure to be a fast and furious seven days that, for me, can't come soon enough.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Distressing Days

James here.

I’m freshly back from another trip to Baltimore, having spent a few days getting things ready for Operation: Charm City, the premiere of I am the Machine Gunner.  Since I am currently in a show in New York my time in Baltimore is limited, making it all the more important that we have a clear game plan when we get together.

We spent two days going full throttle on the show and knocked out a variety of tasks: rehearsing new beats, purchasing new costume pieces, publicity runs, videoconferencing with Dutch, and an interview with the Baltimore City Paper, among other things.  I’m not sure when the City Paper interview will be published, but I’ll be sure to post a link in the blog when it comes out.

Another big task that we accomplished was testing the new tattoo ink that we’ll be using in the show.  We had to make sure that I wouldn’t have any adverse skin reactions to the ink, as well as making sure that it would be durable enough to last the whole show without running.  I’ve put up a video montage that shows the application and some of the tests we subjected the ink to.  As always, we had a good time working on it.

Photo: Rebecca uses a razor to distress the jea
Besides heading up the tattoo trials, Rebecca also spent a good chunk of time distressing the jeans that I wear in the show.  We felt like I looked too "clean" in the workshop performances, so she went to work with razor blades, dyes, and safety pins to rough me up a bit.  Thankfully, she let me take the jeans off before attacking them.

It was a fast and furious couple of days.  We pushed it every moment and in the end we accomplished even more than we set out to do.  If the rest of my trips to Baltimore can be this productive, we are going to be more than ready for Sept. 2.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Strategy Session

James here.

With just over a month to go before our opening, direktor Dave White visited NYC for a strategy session.  We discussed how we can take the show to the next level and get it ready for what has been codenamed Operation: Charm City, the English language premiere  of I am the Machine Gunner at The Baltimore Theatre Project.

Among the topics discussed were possible changes to many of the design elements:  distressing the costume, different tattoo options, changes to the lighting scheme, and new flats to hang on the set.  During Operation: Towson we made use of two long vertical hanging flats that featured Soviet era propaganda posters partially hidden by modern day Russian newspapers.  Although we all agreed that the flats were a good idea (both visually and thematically), there was definitely room to improve on their design.  We'll look to use the same idea but incorporate some new posters and balance them a little more visually.

Both Dave and I have a number of different posters we bought on our trip to Moscow, but we'll wait until the entire creative crew is together before making the final judgement. I've taken a photo of many of them together and pasted it below.

Photo above:  New poster options we are entertaining for the flats.  The flats are one of many elements we are looking to execute more cleanly for the opening.
After talking with Dave again and refocusing on the show, it has once again ignited my passion for this project.  If you are anywhere near Baltimore on Labor Day weekend or the week thereafter, I urge you to come out and see what will be an unforgettable night of theater.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Victory Day!

James here.

Taking the bus back from Baltimore and the New Russian Drama Conference.

As has happened so many times throughout the process of I am the Machine Gunner we found ourselves staring at a happy coincidence.  By an unintentional stroke of luck in scheduling, it happened that the Conference ended on May 9th – the Russian holiday that marks the end of WWII and the defeat of Fascist Germany.

Photo:  This photo of the Red Army raising the Soviet flag over the German Reichstag is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

It is not as if our group needed a reason to celebrate (our late nights at the hotel bar with Slava and Yury were proof of that already) but Victory Day provided one nonetheless. The playwrights had been kept busy with conference business over the past few days and since they had not had much opportunity to see the United States, we decided to take them to Washington D.C. to take in the sights of our nation's capitol.

Joining us for the trip was Graham Schmidt, a former Russian studies major who now runs the Breaking String Theater Company in Austin, Texas. Meeting Graham at the conference was a boon for all of us. Not only did he instantly fit in with our crew, he was able to act as translator for us during our trip to D.C.  I'm sure its not easy to keep your comedic timing when translating jokes from Russian to English (and vice versa) but he did remarkably well. In Graham, Generous Company has not only made a viable professional contact, but a genuine friend as well.

Photo:  Flanked by the Russians inside the WWII Memorial on May 9th - Victory Day for the Russians.

Standing within the ring of the World War II memorial seemed eerily appropriate given the day and the content of our show. We all took some time to talk about our grandfathers and their roles in the conflict. Klavdiev told a particularly hard story about his wife’s grandfather, a Russian submariner who had to remain motionless and quiet for a week on the ocean’s floor while German battleships and patrol boats listened overhead with depth charges at the ready. The only men allowed to move during this time were the sub’s cook and medic, who crawled slowly around the floor administering shots of glucose to the paralyzed men.

After hitting the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial we retired to a local bar to toast our grandfathers and mothers (it was also Mother’s Day here in the States) and enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. Between beers, chicken wings, and more than a few laughs we laid a foundation not for just artistic collaboration, but for friendship as well.


Photo (l to r):  Dave White, Rebecca Eastman, Vyacheslav Durnenkov, Yury Klavdiev and Graham Schmidt.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Russian Drama Conference

James here.

Writing this on the final morning of the New Russian Drama Conference.  Arranged by our good friend and CITD frontman Phillip Arnoult, the conference has been a success for the Russian playwrights, who have watched productions of their plays and gotten introduced to a select gathering of American theater artists.

Photo:  The man who brought us all together; Phillip Arnoult introduces playwright Yury Klavdiev (background).

Perhaps the biggest highlight over the 2 1/2 days of the conference was the production of Klavdiev's play, "Martial Arts".  Artfully staged by Yury Urnov, "Martial Arts" tells the story of a young boy who inherits a few kilos of heroin from his parents after they are brutally murdered by gangsters.  I'll admit that the first time I read the script I became skeptical of how it could ever be produced, but Yury Urnov and his crew more than pulled it off.  Using casting elements and a set design that bent the visual perspective of the audience, Urnov's direction showcased the complexity of Klavdiev's work by presenting a fully realized and skewed version of reality that was equal parts hilarious and horror driven.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Klavdiev during the show and he seemed very pleased with what he saw.

He was not alone in this feeling.  As the lights went down on the final act the audience erupted into cheers and fast paced, rhythmic applause.  I'm not going out on too far a limb to say that "Martial Arts" was a highlight for most people at the conference and it underscored yet again a fact that Dave and I have known for years now:

American audiences are ready for Yury Klavdiev.

Dave helped hammer that message home as a member of the post show panel.  He worked with Yury Urnov as a translator on "Martial Arts" and had some interesting things to say about Klavdiev's style. 

The conference has afforded us a unique opportunity to reach out to people and spread the word about Klavdiev and "I am the Machine Gunner" and for that we are incredibly grateful.  It seems to be one more sign that this is a project worth fighting for. . .

I can't wait to immerse myself in it once again in September.


Friday, May 7, 2010

The Russians have landed

James here.

Back in Baltimore.
the front grille of the '62 Valiant that rusts in peace across the street where I stay in Baltimore. This car has been as much a symbol of my return trips to "Charm City" as anything else.

This time for the New Russian Drama Conference. A three day event that has gathered together theater artists from all over Russia and the United States; most notably for us -Yury “Strike” Klavdiev, the writer of “I am the Machine Gunner”.

I had met Klavdiev once before when Dave and I attended the Golden Mask Theater Festival in Moscow in April of 2009. We used that time to ask questions about the show and get to know the man behind the words. It was a 3 hour conversation that I felt got cut too short by our Moscow itinerary.
I’ve no doubt that the conference will have the man running around like crazy for the next couple of days, but I’m also doubtless that we’ll be able to get in some quality face time.
This is Klavdiev’s first trip to the United States. He flew into New York with Vyacheslav Durnenkov, another Russian playwright whose work has been seen recently at the Moscow Art Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. The first official stop on their visit was a Q&A at the Martin Segal Center (CUNY) in Manhattan. They were helped by our good friend and collaborator John Freedman, who acted as translator for the two playwrights as they fielded questions from the audience. Klavdiev also talked briefly about his experience writing the piece, which you can watch in the video below.  You may need to turn your volume up in order to hear it all.

During this seminar, I also read a 15 minute excerpt from “I am the Machine Gunner”, giving those gathered a taste of Klavdiev's words and doing my best to leave them wanting more. I think it worked, as people seemed anxious to know when they would get a chance to see the actual show in its entirety.

You may be wondering the same thing.
The American Premiere of “I am the Machine Gunner” will be taking place at the Theatre Project in Baltimore during the first two weekends in September. That’s Labor Day weekend and the weekend following – September 2-5 and 9-12. We also have additional shows lining up in the Chicago area and Southern California, but I’ll drop those details in a later post.

At the moment we’re on the brink of the New Russian Drama Conference. Three days of plays, talks, and networking. A time for theater professionals from Russia and the United States to mingle: hopefully coming to a better understanding of each other.

Sixty years ago this meeting would’ve gotten us all blacklisted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Freedman Bites the Bullet

David White, director, talks with John Freedman about the Towson workshop production of Yury Strike Klavdiev's I AM THE MACHINE GUNNER.

Read the full article: Yury Klavdiyev, an 'Atom-Smashing' Playwright

Freedman Takes Aim

John Freedman, translator of Yury Klavdiev's I AM THE MACHINE GUNNER writes about a weekend of Russian theatre at Towson University. Generous Company's workshop of MACHINE GUNNER was proud to be a part of this incredible weekend of conversations, workshops, readings and productions. Read John's article: Russian Drama, a Birthday, a Parade and 100 Surprises at Towson University

James Knight and John Freedman in Moscow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Operation: Towson, Victory

James here.

Operation: Towson is safely in the rear view mirror and we are all feeling that sweetly mingled sensation that victory brings: a mixture of excitement, deep satisfaction, and relief.

We did it again. Bigger, Badder, and Better.

We had three performances, playing to nearly full capacity each show. Had an ugly snowstorm not descended upon the Chesapeake and given the east coast its first taste of winter, I've no doubt we would've filled every seat on Saturday night as well. Even with very little advertising on our part tickets were selling, thanks in part to some tremendous word of mouth. On Saturday night we had only sold about 60% of the house for Sunday's show. By 11:00 am the next day we were completely sold out. To all of you who gave us your support by spreading the word, we salute you.

Immediately evident from the first performance was how much the show has grown since last June. I don't think that there is anyone involved with "Machine Gunner" since Wordbridge who wouldn't agree that it is smoother, more poignant, and more emotionally gripping than before.

Having three performances also gave us a chance to change things up from show to show. Most of these changes were relatively minor: using different lighting effects and trying new sound cues, changes in blocking, etc. Other changes were more dramatic. The "Bullet Points" veil of secrecy is always in effect here, but suffice to say that if you saw the show on Friday, you saw a different ending than those in the audience on Saturday and Sunday.

What direction will the shows ending eventually take? Even amongst ourselves we find disparate opinions. Only time will tell.

But I know one thing for certain.

I'm ready to find out.