Posts Tagged ‘ drama ’

Echoes of Ireland at Ritz in Newburgh, NY March 21-23

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Hi Everyone,

My play Echoes of Ireland will be shown the weekend of March 21-23 at the historic Ritz theater in Newburgh, NY.  For my local readers, the show will feature Ron Morehead, Cat Barney and Dana Lockhart.  All the necessary information is below.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop in and say hi.

Best,

Brian

A Family Saga Resonates Through Generations

in Brian C. Petti’s

Echoes of Ireland

March 21-23 at the Lobby at the Ritz Theater107 Broadway Newburgh

Fresh from it’s production in County Cork, Ireland!

The sweep of the Irish experience from County Cork to New York City is on display in Echoes of Ireland, a drama about family ties, the immigrant life and the Irish-American experience. Written and directed by Ellenville, NY resident Brian C. Petti,Echoes will hold performances on Friday, March 21 at 7:30, Saturday, March 22 at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 23 at 2pm at the Lobby at the Ritz Theater107 Broadway Newburgh. Echoes of Ireland was recently produced in County Cork by the Skibbereen Theatre Society where it garnered rave reviews such as:

“Powerful …every emotion came to the fore during this story of pride and determination in the face of adversity.” Cllr Karen Coakley, Mayor of Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland.

Tickets are $15, and may be purchased at www.artful.ly/store/events/2624. There is limited seating, so reservations are strongly suggested. The play is being presented by Safe Harbors of the Hudson and Hatmaker’s Attic Productions, through an agreement with Eldridge Plays & Musicals.

Echoes of Ireland is a series of inter-related monologues that follows the saga of a single Irish family from County Cork in 1860 to 2001 New York City. Beginning five years after the end of the potato famine in Ireland, Echoes follows the Cunyngham clan through their journey across the ocean to the ports of Manhattan, through the lowly existence of immigrant life in the States, to the assimilation and rebirth of their family as American citizens who never forget from whence they came. The journey is part tragedy, part comedy, part history lesson and all undeniably human. 

Show times are:

Friday, March 21 at 7:30

Saturday, March 22 at 7:30pm

Sunday, March 23 at 2pm

Echoes of Ireland features notable local actors Ron Morehead (Cairo, NY), Cat Barney (Kingston, NY) and Dana Lockhart (Middletown, NY). Additional information can be found at: pettiplays.wikispaces.com and http://www.ritztheaternewburgh.org/.

Brian C. Petti has had his plays produced Off-Off Broadway (Masquerade, The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein, Banshee) and regionally (Next Year in Jerusalem, The Measure of a Man, On the Expectation of White Christmases,) by such companies as Ten Grand Productions, The American Theater of Actors, Inc. and The Fresh Fruit Festival. Masquerade was staged at Cherry Lane Theater in NYC and Next Year in Jerusalem was the winner of the Humboldt State University National Play Contest in California, where it received a student production. Published plays include The Measure of a Man by JAC Publishing and Promotions, Banshee by Next Stage Press and Echoes of Ireland by Eldridge Plays & Musicals.

Safe Harbors of the Hudson is a nonprofit organization committed to transforming lives and building communities through housing and the arts in the city of Newburgh, New York. The Cornerstone Residence is a unique facility that offers support services and jobs training on-site provided by Independent Living, an advocacy and service organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for persons with disabilities. The Cornerstone Residence consists of apartments and artist lofts, with a mixed tenancy of single adults, including the formerly homeless, veterans, those living with a mental health diagnosis, artists and other adults in need of affordable housing. The building offers many amenities and programs including a fitness center, library, computer lab, classes and a GED program. Many of these amenities and programs are available to the public. The Cornerstone also houses several multi-use spaces that may be rented for special events of all kinds.

Future projects include the renovation of three commercial spaces and the restoration of the historic Ritz Theater. As the only remaining historic theater in the City of Newburgh, the Ritz will provide a venue for live performances, educational programs for our youth, employment opportunities for our community, and create an active cultural and tourist destination.

Founded by brothers Edward and William Gibbons-Brown, Hatmaker’s Attic Productions is putting the “community” back in community theatre. They’re working to build a positive and safe creative environment where all are welcome.

The play will be produced in cooperation with Eldridge Plays & Musicals. Eldridge, a leading play publisher since 1906, offers hundreds of full-length plays, one-acts, melodramas, holiday and religious plays, children’s theatre plays and musicals of all kinds.

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The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein in Newburgh, NY

My play will be re-staged in Newburgh for a one-night showing.  If you’re anywhere near Newburgh, stop by and see us this Friday.

Best,

Brian

After completing a successful and acclaimed run at The Fresh Fruit Festival in NYC, Hudson Valley playwright Brian C. Petti’s original play will come to Newburgh for one night only with an all-local cast. THE LOVE SONG OF SIDNEY J. STEIN, which concerns a former male prostitute attempting to guide a troubled young streetwalker, is a powerful and touching comedy/drama about trust, honesty, and second chances. The play will be staged at The Ritz for one night only, at 7:30PM on Friday, August 23rd.
The original piece is being revived in Newburgh as part of the historic Ritz Theater’s centennial year, in collaboration with Hatmaker’s Attic Productions, Inc., a local nonprofit theater company partnering with Safe Harbors of the Hudson on several projects throughout 2013 and beyond. This production is an exciting addition to the Ritz calendar this year, and a powerful glimpse into subjects such as street life, prostitution, and trust, and struggles of homosexuality. Reviews of the NYC production said: “…Petti has delivered these actors a complicated and multilayered script… a touching and sometimes terrifying glimpse into places loneliness abides just waiting for the dayspring of dawn of renewal and hope.” Additional information: pettiplays.wikispaces.com/The+Love+Song+of+Sidney+J.+Stein.

Safe Harbors of the Hudson, which owns and operates The Ritz Theater, The Cornerstone Residence, and the Ann Street Gallery, is a nonprofit committed to transforming lives and building communities through housing and the arts. The Ritz Theater’s mission is to create a vibrant professional performing arts venue in the city of Newburgh that revitalizes the local economy, enriches the education of youth, and enhances community pride. For more information please visitwww.RitzTheaterNewburgh.org

Hatmaker’s Attic Productions is honored to be a part of Safe Harbors of the Hudson Ritz Theater’s ongoing efforts to restore The Ritz. Founded last year by brothers Edward and William Gibbons-Brown, Hatmaker’s Attic is committed to creating positive environments where anybody can find a home in Art. This joint production will be the sixth project for Hatmaker’s Attic, and the third of five scheduled this year at The Ritz. Please visit Facebook.com/HatmakersAttic for more information on upcoming events.

With humor and pathos, THE LOVE SONG OF SIDNEY J. STEIN explores the struggle to truly connect with another human being. Audiences will not want to miss this very special evening at The Ritz.

The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein will play at The Ritz Theater (107 Broadway, Newburgh, NY).

ONE NIGHT ONLY: Friday, August 23rd — 7:30PM

Tickets are $15.00 ($10/students) and can be pre-ordered online atwww.artful.ly/store/events/1607

The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein, Opening Friday in NY

My play “The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein” will have its premier showing this Friday in NY and play through the weekend.  If you’re in the area, please come check it out!

The Fresh Fruit Festival presents Brian C. Petti’s The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein, a gay relationship play for the new millennium, at the The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street on the Lower East Side (bet. Aves. A & B, F train to Second Ave.) A former male prostitute tries to guide a troubled young streetwalker in this comedy/drama about trust, honesty, and second chances. Show times are: Friday, July 12th at 9pm, Saturday, July 13th at 4:30pm, Sunday, July 14th at 7pm. Tickets may be purchased for $18.00 online at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/527. Runtime approx. 80 minutes. 
 

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How to Produce an Off-Broadway Show for $1.50

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Click on the flyer for more info on the show.

I ain’t got NO money, honey. I mean zip. At this very moment, I have a car with no brakes and a suspended license I can’t afford to pay off. As many of you know I am on permanent disability, which, if you read Facebook, means that I’m luxuriating in mountains of free cash while smoking crack and talking on my brand new I-Phone. Yeah, not so much.

What the HELL am I doing producing an Off-Broadway show?

The short answer: as much as I can without spending a dime.

Way back when when I first started playwrighting, I wrote a play called Everything’s Coming Up Roses that took place on an AIDS ward. I had written a couple of monologues for an Art for AIDS benefit and one of the members asked me to find a play to produce to fill a two-hour slot. I looked at a bunch of AIDS plays, but couldn’t find one I liked. So, being young and stupid, I decided I’d write one.

Against all odds it ended up being pretty good. It was a long one act with strong characters and believe it or not it was funny. I remember being up in the balcony running lights in the Poughkeepsie theater where we debuted the show. I held my breath at the first laugh line. I was both shocked and thrilled when the audience responded. It was a heady experience.

Not that comedy was the point—the play took place in an AIDS ward, after all. But at the center of the ensemble play was a flamboyant character named Sidney J. Stein, who provided many of the one-liners, sang inappropriate showtunes and filled the stage with life. Or it was the actor, Jimmy Pillmeier, imbuing the character with his boundless energy. Script, actor, actor, script. When it works you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.

There have been five incarnations of Roses, and Jimmy played Sidney in each one, from Poughkeepsie to the Village to Brooklyn. My first full-length play was a prequel to Roses called Before the Parade Passes By, which focused on Sidney’s troubled family at his abusive father’s funeral. Jimmy was in the show we debuted at Bard, and then again when it had a limited run in New York. In short, Jimmy has been Sidney on stage whenever there’s been a Sidney to be seen.

jimmy

Needless to say, after my first two plays dealt very specifically with AIDS and gay characters, I gained a bit of a local reputation as “Orange County’s Foremost Gay Playwright” (that’s Orange County, NY—in California I wouldn’t have been in the top 20). The fact that I was actually straight seemed not to matter much, which I chose to take as a compliment. If the plays had sucked, the gays would have dropped me like last Spring’s fashions!

Since that time I have written a range of characters, from my own Irish uncle to a German boxer to a Polish Holocaust survivor to my wife’s grandmother. It is a particular freedom playwrighters enjoy, to be able to create characters who are often very different from themselves. As long as the characters are true, not false. False will be ferreted out before the end of the first scene, if it takes that long.

Which is all an effort to explain how I came back to the beginning by writing a new play called The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein. I will soon be embarking on a one-man PR blitzkrieg in an attempt to make everyone in the metro New York area (and everyone else I know) aware that this play will be going on in New York this July. Which is not the point of this blog, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. They say you have to put a message in front of potential “customers” 20 times before it has the desired effect of having them notice it. One down, 19 to go!

The idea of seeing where Sidney might be at this stage of his life was immensely appealing to me. He never really went away as far as I was concerned, but it had been quite a while since anyone else had heard from him. He has changed in some ways, like we all do as we mature and age. He works at a halfway house now, trying to help the new generation of runaways and hustlers who always seem to repopulate themselves. He is still himself—still snide, still funny—but more than himself at the same time. And somehow he’s alive, as many folks who are HIV positive have recently found themselves.

And as luck would have it, Jimmy returned from his theater job in Maine around the same time! Kismet!

So when I saw that there was going to be a “Fresh Fruit Festival” in New York featuring LGBT-centric plays, I knew Sidney, Jimmy and me had a date with destiny. I entered the play for consideration, letting Jim know of the possibility, and waited. I can’t say I had no plan about what I would do if the play was accepted—I have done the self-producing merry-go-round before—but I can safely say it wasn’t completely thought out. Of course we got in, and I beat the bushes looking for a producer. No dice. So…I borrowed the refundable deposit from my Dad and we’re embarking on the $1.50 version of Sidney.

What does this mean? OK, first of all I can’t hire a publicist, which means I have to make up my own press release and send it out to the oh, two thousand media outlets in and around Manhattan. Request reviews, follow up with pictures, pursue contacts. I started that this week, and I will probably keep doing it until we open. Good thing I don’t have a job, although the Cadillac shopping does slow me down some.

It also means niceties like costumes and set pieces are probably going to be necessarily expendable. Neither will a stage manager nor a light/sound tech be affordable. It’ll be me, me and me, and my two cast members, and however many of our friends or strangers we can convince to come.

And you know what? So what. There’s no helicopter landing, or chandelier falling from the roof in act two. There’s no multi-media, no light show, no puppets. It’s a two-person character-driven play that we would do with flashlights if we had to. Because it is important to us and we need to show it. I’d like it to become a huge, runaway success that warrants a twenty-thousand dollar budget, or a two-hundred thousand dollar budget, with a lighting director and a costume mistress and a paid producer. Hell I’d take 200 bucks to defray travel costs. But no multiple of twenty is going to make the show itself any better. The right actors, with the right script. You should be able to stage it at the bottom of a well.

So this is how you produce an Off-Broadway play for $1.50, if you’re ever in the mood. Write a script you have the passion to get out no matter what. Cast talented people, preferable ones you’ve worked with before so you know what they are capable of. Rehearse the hell out of it. In your living-room. Send a LOT of persistent emails. Bother everyone you know to come see it. Carpool down to New York. Find out where the “lights up” switch is on the board and tell the actors to project. Try to enjoy every second, because the opportunity does not come around as often as you’d like it to.

Or you can find a producer, but what fun would that be?

Memorial Day Special–“White Christmases”

This is a monologue from the play “On the Expectation of White Christmases”.  I’d like to dedicate it to my late father-in-law Eugene Nelligar on this Memorial Day.  The character below is in his former mother-in-law’s kitchen speaking to his ex-wife after not showing up for Christmas like he promised his daughter.

Jack

Three years. On the road to redemption at age 49. After all those years of…you know, not looking at myself in the mirror and all. You get no respect for such a thing in a bar, no. It’s a desperate…corner. And all they want… (he sips tea) …is more like themselves, you know? But I’m going to be stronger, or whatever. “I don’t do that stuff no more, I got…a family I got to…work up to, you see.” And guys trying to buy you a drink just to…watch to see if…”No, I just serve them,” “But you wouldn’t insult me by refusing, now!” “No insult intended.” Like they knew somehow, like they could sense the thirst in me. Not an inch, I’d give. Wrote the girl a birthday card—you know this part. Thought I might. Earn something, you know? I don’t know. Got to where I could almost look in that mirror. Lived like a monk: came home, slept, got the paper, did the crossword, ate, went to work again. For days, months.

 

Then this guy comes in a few nights ago. I’d never seen him before. You see a lot of new faces when Christmas starts in the air. He’s quiet like some are, but different. Haunted-like. I start talking to him, trying to be a good soul and I find out he was…from the same place, see, from the same…he was in the Pacific, our ships…could’ve shook each other’s…and there he was, in town for some funeral or some such. And we get to talking about things, the equipment and all. Because the people, you know, aren’t what you have in common, it’s the…layout you recognize. And the terms nobody else knows. When you do talk people, it’s by function: “Oh yeah, so and so, he did this and that.” And you’re speaking the same language.

 

So we talk. And it’s not…(sips)…that it was a wonderful time in our lives, it’s just…you laugh because you were both there and you were both young. Like high school or something. So we did. And we took turns, see, telling stories about things we haven’t seen in…whatever, using words we haven’t spoken since then. The terms. And then the stories start to go another way. And we’re not laughing anymore. And even before I realize it, I’m telling him about something I never said out loud. About that third straight day when…(sips)…the planes wouldn’t stop coming. Hours. My hands numb from the vibration of the rounds. And them not. Stopping. Just…swooping in. And me praying for a bullet to sneak through before… They were trained for that, to come in low and… How could I, how could any… It was a commitment I couldn’t match, see, because I wanted to live. I wanted to live. All there was was this little hole, this little window. You didn’t even see the result, you just… Listened. Like reading every third word of a book. No context. No way to explain for yourself. For three days. So. The third day.

 

There was this youngfella whose job it was to reload and he…was falling behind. Green. So I just stopped. I watched from the little window. Everything became quiet. Almost peaceful. A cinema with no sound. Soundless fury. I don’t know how long I was like that. Then the youngfella finishes his loading and yells “Go!” Except I didn’t really hear him, I just knew that’s what he was supposed to say. And he’s staring at me and I’m just studying his face. Barely a whisker on him after three days. A real kid. And the face starts screaming, but I’m not hearing. Just sitting on a fresh round, watching. Then the youngfella looks scared, more scared then he’d been through the whole thing. And he runs off. And I’m glad because I get to watch through the little window again, look at all the…colors. And such. I don’t know how long I was like that either.

 

I feel my shirt being pulled and there’s my Petty Officer barking something or other and he turns me, like. So I’m facing him. And he looks at me hard. Feel it at the back of my head. Then I’m being led away, down to a lower deck. And I’m thinking they’re taking me to the brig. I guess I’d started thinking a little by then. But it was the sick bay, and I remember thinking, “What am I doing here? There’s nothing wrong with me.” But I couldn’t…you know…(sips)…tell anyone. Because all I could do is watch.

 

Next thing I remember was at the VA hospital back in the states. And there’re guys there…missing parts of their… And every time I see them, I’m… I don’t belong here, I’m not… I’m able bodied. Except now it’s been weeks since I’ve spoken a word. And I feel like I’m being irresponsible. Me. Who raised my brothers and sisters while my mother was off… You know that story. And I kept telling the doctor I wanted to go back. At least I thought I told him. My lips wouldn’t work with my mind, see.

 

And the fella at the bar, he…(sips)…was a good guy, he… Shook my hand and all and went off to his funeral, but… There was a difference now, you see. Because he stayed and fought, and I… It was probably all in my mind. Either way. I felt it. And the vultures at the bar had overheard and they were all… They had their ammo, you see. All, “You never told us that before” and “Tell us again about such and such and this and that” and “Let’s drink to the war hero”. And me, you know…feeling it all, and I… “Sure, why not? That one I’ll take you up on.”

 

And already you’re slipping.

Masquerade Sneak Peek

"Masquerade" by Erte.

Masquerade was written as a sort-of follow up to my first play Everything’s Coming Up Roses, which took place on an AIDS ward.  I was walking down a street in the Villiage after we did a performance of “Roses” at the Duplex Cabaret and my friend Jimmy’s friend was talking to us about the current AIDS situation, which is much less dire, but a lot less careful.  We first produced this in New Windsor, NY with a terrific cast that included Joe Gayton, Matt Meinsen, Jill Carroll and Joel Flowers.  It was subsequently done for a three week run at Cherry Lane Theatre by Ten Grand Productions, where it won two Independent Theater awards.  I just lent it to a friend to read so it was on my mind.  Masquerade isn’t published (unfortunate, but the material is a bit raw) so if you’re intersted in seeing the script just send me an email.

The setting is a costume party thrown by a longtime gay couple in NYC.  Have a great weekend everyone!  

Masquerade

by Brian C. Petti

PO Box 361

East Durham, NY 12423

bcpkid AT gmail.com

Copyright © 2006 by Brian C. Petti

Scene 2

The clock blinks 8:00. Lights rise to Hersh fully dressed in his Shakespeare costume, pressing the intercom button near the front door. He says, “Come on up, I ‘II leave the door open, ” then leaves the door slightly ajar. Seconds later SETH appears at the door. He is 50 and balding, dressed impeccably in white with royal blue accessories, including a handkerchief and a blue band around his fedora ala a refined Southern gentleman. He speaks with a slightly “Northernized” Southern drawl.

Seth

The party may commence.

Hersh

Come on in, Seth.

Seth

I noticed the front door was slightly askew. Forgive my forward nature, but I simply can not resist an open orifice.

Hersh

Are we going to be listening to this all night?

Seth

Whatever do you mean? Oh please don’t be impertinent; I just couldn’t bear your being an ape to my butterfly.

Hersh

I’ll take that as a yes.

Seth

I brought some liquid refreshments. Heaven knows when the Southern wind blows warm across the horizon and the heat licks its paws and breathes its hot breath on one’s willing eyelids, one feels the overwhelming desire to indulge one’s self in base and wanton…

Hersh

Michelob?

Seth

(breaking the act momentarily) It was on sale. Am I the first arrival? I’m forever showing up at places early. I was a premature baby, you know. I could not contain my constant yearning to leave the womb. I haven’t been back since.

Hersh

I just buzzed in Rudy and his boyfriend. They’re right behind you.

Seth

I wonder what the flavor of the week is.

Mario

Whatever it is, it’s coming in drag.

Seth

Oh dear Lord, must we baby-sit another one?

Mario

(entering) As I live and breath, is that the Tennessee Williams?

Hersh

Don’t indulge him.

Seth

Indeed it is. Darling, I just adore how you’ve decorated this apartment since I saw it last. It makes me feel safe and yet unguarded, all at the same time.

Hersh

Are you sure you’re not Blanche Dubois?

Seth

Oh, go write a Yiddish sonnet.

Hersh

There’s the Seth we know and love. (knock at the door)

Hersh

(getting the door) That’s Rudy, he just buzzed. What’s his boyfriend’s name again?

Mario

I don’t know. Maybe we can get away with calling him “Margaret” all night.

RODOLFO enters with a flourish, dressed in black with a cape. He is 28 and of Spanish descent.

Seth

Oh look, the conquistadors have landed!

Rodolfo

Senors and senoras, I am Miquel de Cervantes, creator of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and Ezmeralda and inspiration for the smash Broadway hit Man of La Mancha—at your service, (low bow)

Seth

Charmed, I’m sure.

Rodolfo

And this (as MARGARET enters shyly) is my companion for the evening…Margaret.

Margaret is 22, but is dressed as an 11-year-old girl, complete with a sweater, skirt and blond wig.

Margaret

Hi. I’m almost twelve years old.

Seth

If your mother could see you now, Rodolfo, not only a sodomite but a pedophile.

Rodolfo

We just came from my mother’s. I wanted to make sure she saw us in our costumes.

Mario

I swear you just do that to bother her.

Rodolfo

The woman still lights a candle every Sunday for my reformation. I just like to remind her that no miracles have occurred as of yet.

Hersh

The only miracle is that you and Margie didn’t get beat up on your way over.

Rodolfo

(brandishing sword) I had my buckler. Who would dare attack us?

Margaret

My hero. (they share a long kiss)

Hersh

I think they might faint.

Seth

I think I might vomit. (pause) They look like two puffer fish.

Mario

Okay you two love birds, break it up and give me your jackets. (they do)

Margaret

(to Seth) I just met him last week, but I think I might like him. He’s so different from ail the other boys.

Seth

Yes, he has been for quite some time.

Margaret

Have you known him long?

Seth

Honey, I’ve known him long, short and everywhere in between.

Rodolfo

Seth, stop putting the moves on my girl.

Seth

Is that what he is? I thought a bomb went off at a middle-school girl’s locker room.

Margaret

That wasn’t very nice…(transforming momentarily) you bitter, old, jealous queen. Oh, and did I mention old?

Seth

You’d better not again if you’d like to live to see twelve.

Hersh

I think I’m going to like her.

Mario

Hands off the jail bait, sweetheart.

Rodolfo

So when’s Doug coming? We’ve got some celebrating to do.

Hersh

Celebrating?

Mario

Not until nine, Rodolfo. Don’t get him started.

Rodolfo

Started on what?

Mario

He thinks we should be taking everything more seriously.

Hersh

I can speak for myself.

Mario

Go ahead then.

Hersh

I think…we should be taking everything more seriously.

Mario

Well said.

Rodolfo

What do you mean, that Douggie’s positive? Hersh, you’ve been out of the loop too long, it’s almost preferable these days.

Hersh

Preferable?

Rodolfo

All right, maybe not preferable, but a helluva lot of people would rather catch it early than constantly worry about it.

Hersh

I must be out of the loop, because I just don’t understand that.

Rodolfo

Think about it. The gay Garden of Eden, before the fall. Barebacking without a conscience, like in the good old days.

Mario

You better get this talk out of your systems before me little sister shows up.

Hersh

But how can you do that if you’re carrying?

Rodolfo

With other carriers. Read the Village Voice sometime, the ads are all over the place.

Hersh

Don’t you think it’s time to develop a conscience? I mean, otherwise what did we learn from all this?

Mario

Hey, I thought this was a disease, not a moral lesson.

Hersh

Life is a moral lesson.

Rodolfo

Are you passing judgment on me, Hersh?

Seth

I declare, this is no parlor talk befitting a lady. Why don’t you fine gentlemen retire to the cigar room and continue you discussion over a brandy, out of earshot of us gentle souls trying to enjoy ourselves.

Hersh

All right, I’ll shut up. Rodolfo, I’ve lost a lot of friends, you know I didn’t mean…

Rodolfo

It’s all right Hersh, no offense taken.

Margaret

That’s better. Isn’t life wonderful when we’re all friends? When I’m talking to God I often ask Him to let me make new friends, and now here we are, all together. I knew He would listen, (to Seth) Do you wear a bra yet?

Seth

Honey, drag is for fags who haven’t accepted themselves for the woman they are.

Margaret

Oh, I wish I were a woman. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about making friends or cup sizes or boys…don’t you think my boyfriend is handsome? Oh come on, you know you do.

Seth

You’re not quite as ignorant as you might seem at first glance. You’re still ignorant, but less so.

Margaret

I’m glad you think so. Can we be friends now?

Seth

I’ll take it under consideration.

ANGELA, Mario’s sister, enters. She is in her mid-thirties and dressed tastefully, but with no discernible costume.

Angela

Where are my boys?!

Mario

Bubalaben! (they greet her)

Seth

(looking on) Well, if it isn’t Snow White and the Seven Fags. Leave it to you to milk an entrance.

Angela

Okay Seth, get your ass over here.

Seth

Oh no.

Angela

Come on, everyone’s given me a hug except you.

Seth

Do I have to?

Angela

Yes. (he gives her a cursory pat on the back hug) A real one. (he complies)

Seth

Ew, I felt her tits.

Mario

I never thought I’d have to tell you this, but keep your hands off my sister’s breasts.

Angela

He just wishes he had them.

Margaret

I know I do. Hi, I’m Margaret.

Angela

Thatcher?

Margaret

No, Margaret from Judy Blume.

Angela

Oh, I get it. Don’t worry sweetheart, it takes time. You’ll develop soon enough.

Margaret

God, I hope so. I’ve been praying and praying for them.

Angela

They’re no picnic, believe me.

Seth

More like a full-course meal.

Angela

You better pipe down or I’ll let the girls loose on you again. Okay, let me see if I can pick all you guys out. (looking at Mario) Bea Arthur?

Mario

Dante Aligheri, nice try.

Angela

(looking at Seth) You’ve got to be Truman Capote.

Seth

Tennessee Williams. I’m more self loathing.

Angela

(looking at Rodolfo) Let’s see…Zorro, the gay blade?

Rodolfo

Nope.

Angela

Ricky Ricardo if he’d had your mother.

Rodolfo

Warmer.

Angela

I give up.

Margaret

He’s Miguel de Cervantes.

Angela

Gee, how could I have missed it?

Mario

Hersh’s turn.

Angela

(considering)…a member of the Israeli ballet?

Hersh

No. I’m Shakespeare.

Angela

You look more like Shakesburg.

Hersh

I married into a one-joke family.

Mario

Who are you supposed to be, sweetheart.

Angela

Some choice I had. Every famous woman writer was either insane or a dyke or both.

Hersh

What about one of the Brontes?

Angela

They all died young and slept in the same bed well into their twenties.

Seth

Emily Dickinson: “Because I could not stop for death—He kindly stopped for me.”

Angela

Cloistered herself in her room after the age of thirty and died a spinster.

Rodolfo

Virginia Woolf.

Angela

Married a man she didn’t have sex with for thirty years, then offed herself.

Margaret

Jackie Collins.

Angela

She makes people wish they had offed themselves.

Mario

So who are you?

Angela

Dorothy Parker. She tried to off herself too and she was hopelessly in love with a fag, but at least she was straight, (putting on 40 ‘s style hat) Look, I bought a hat.

Mario

It looks stunning, sweetheart.

Angela

(slowly) Seth?

Seth

(same way) What?

Angela

Tell me I look wonderful in my hat.

Seth

Doesn’t it bother you that I’m only nice because you force me?

Angela

Not in the least. Tell me.

Seth

(sing-songy) You look wonderful in your hat.

Angela

Thank you. I will not be fulfilled until every last queen adores me.

Seth

Hag.

Angela

I am not a hag. Hags convince themselves they can convert you all, then ambush you when you’re drunk.

Seth

Dear Lord, what a nightmare.

Angela

Believe me, you’re all the last people I’d be interested in having sex with.

Seth

Believe us, the feeling is quite mutual.

Mario

That’s right, Angela, you’re only interested in striking Mediterranean men who treat you like crap before they dump you.

Seth

(looking at Rodolfo) Who isn’t?

Hersh

Lay off her.

Mario

What am I doing? I’m just pointing out the fact that here we are on a Friday night and my only sister is once again surrounded by…

Angela

My good friends.

Mario

Look, there’s this gorgeous pre-med student who just took the apartment above us. I tried to get him to come meet you tonight, but he kept thinking I was hitting on him. Later on maybe we can go up together and just say “hi”…

Hersh

Why don’t you just have her carry a sign that says “I’m the desperate sister.”

Angela

Mario, you’re my brother and I love you dearly, but if you try to set me up with one of those vapid, Germanic blondes again I will be forced to kill you.

Rodolfo

What’s wrong with vapid, Germanic blondes? They make a good lay.

Mario

My sister doesn’t want a “good lay.”

Rodolfo

What does she want, a bad lay?

Angela

Hello! Aunties! I’m right here, I can decide for myself what kind of lay I want.

Seth

Apparently the “gay lay.” Hey, that would make a good name for a cocktail.

Margaret

(to Angela) What’s it like?

Angela

What’s what like?

Margaret

You know, that word you said. I knew this girl last year who said she got to second base, but I didn’t understand what that meant and I didn’t really believe her anyway.

Seth

My child, sexual relation is a violation a woman seldom overcomes, a brutal act of moral violence that seeks to subdue and eradicate her essence of pristine feminine purity.

Margaret

Is it really like that?

Angela

It’s exactly like that. And I love it.

Margaret

Really? Angela, I know we’ve just met and everything, but…will you be my friend.

Angela

Margaret, I would love to be your friend.

Seth

Another fag bites the dust.

Margaret

Oh, are the two of you best friends already? I wouldn’t want to intrude. I know, ail three of us can be best friends.

Seth

Goody goody for us.

Angela

Seth, you know I’ll always have a special place in my heart for you. C’mon and give me another hug.

Seth

Darling, I need a few more beers before I can feel your tits again without becoming ill.

Margaret

Angela, if I go to the bathroom, will you save my seat?

Angela

Of course I will, Margaret. (Margaret exits and Seth climbs immediately into her seat)

Seth

So tell us, Rodolfo, where did you find such an enchanting creature? The local YWCA?

Rodolfo

A friend of a friend.

Seth

Did he pass her a note in Algebra class?

Hersh

She is a bit young.

Angela

Don’t listen to them, I think she’s precious.

Rodolfo

Who do you want me to chase after, old guys like you all?

Seth

I have aged like a fine wine.

Rodolfo

Yeah, you start out bitter, but you go down so well.

Mario

Do I need to remind you there’s a lady present?

Seth

Thank you Mario, you wouldn’t believe what this vulgarity is doing to my fraying nerves.

Mario

I meant my sister.

Seth

Oh. I thought you said “a lady.”

Mario

Don’t mess with my family Seth, I may not look butch but I could beat you silly in a slap fight.

Angela

I could beat him silly in a slap fight.

Seth

Dear me, if this is the base behavior engendered by a healthy supply of testosterone. I simply want no part. My dear Momma always warned me about associating with I-talians.

Rodolfo

She also warned you about associating with those ”queer types,” and look how well you did that.

Seth

Sweetheart, I had no choice. I have two brothers and a sister and there’s not a straight weed in the garden. My dear Momma bore nothing but fruit.

Rodolfo

(raising his beer) A toast. To mother-made fags everywhere.

Seth

Here here.

Mario

Ever since Freud mothers have gotten a bad rap. My mother didn’t make me a fag—she was crazy, sure, but in an endearing way.

Angela

(touching Mario’s hand) Yeah, she was.

Mario

And she never had a problem with me and Hersh. In fact, all my gay friends loved her.

Seth

That’s probably why fags flutter around your sister like moths around a bug-zapper.

Mario

I adored that woman. When I was growing up, I wanted to be her.

Hersh

Mario, you are her.

Mario

(pleased) Thank you. (kisses him) Is there any wonder I love this man?

Seth

Well lucky for you to have had June Cleaver for a mother. My mother, unfortunately, is an experience one counts oneself grateful to have survived. I swear the old prune will live until she’s 100 out of pure obstinacy.

Mario

Oh, she can’t be that bad.

Rodolfo

I’ve met his mother. Try to imagine Patton in a sun dress with baggy panty-hose and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. And with a Southern drawl.

Hersh

(to Rodolfo) Speaking of guys in a dress, is your better half contemplating a time-share in the bathroom?

Margaret

(getting Angela’s attention) Psst! Angela!

Angela

(going to Margaret) What is it, Margaret?

Margaret

Oh, I just don’t know what to do…

Angela

What? What’s wrong?

Margaret

I think…1 think I just had…my first monthly.

Angela

You’re kidding.

Margaret

I don’t know for sure. When 1 first found out about them I asked God how 1 would know, and he told me I would realize it when it happened. And now it’s really happened. 1 think. Oh, tell me what it’s like…

Angela

Okay, well..do you feel bloated?

Margaret

I think so.

Angela

Do you crave salt?

Margaret

I could eat a bag of potato chips, if I didn’t think my face would break out.

Rodolfo

Everything alright, Margaret?

Margaret

Fine, we’re just talking girl-talk.

Seth

Which one’s the girl?

Margaret

What else?

Angela

Okay, do you feel slightly paranoid, as if everyone else in the room is keenly aware of your menstrual cycle?

Margaret

Yes! Oh, I wish you were my sister.

Angela

Here’s the important one: do you feel your belief in a rational God slipping away as you ponder forty some-odd years of mood swings, unreasonable weight-gain, maxi-pads, pap-smears, birth control, bad jokes by teenage boys who grow up to be teenage men, avoidance of white clothing and douching?

Margaret

Well, I still believe in God. Does that mean I don’t have it?

Angela

Margaret, I would like to welcome you to the strange and wonderful world of womanhood. Congratulations.

Margaret

You mean…I’m a woman now?

Angela

Ready or not.

Margaret

(looking heavenward) Thank you God, I knew you were listening!

Angela goes back to the group

Hersh

What’s up with the girl scout?

Angela

(matter-of-factly) Oh, she just got her period.

Seth

You mean she used proper punctuation at the end of a sentence.

Angela

I think this one calls for an exclamation point.

Hersh

So, little Margaret’s all grown up now.

Angela

Let’s be gentle—this can be traumatic.

Hersh

Yes, I’m sure it would be…were she biologically a woman.

Seth

Must we explicate this particular topic in the public arena? Discussion of the bearded flytrap and its many infinitely disgusting attributes is a matter best left to lesbians, Maxin-Gail commercials and Congress.

Angela

I swear, half of you avoid it like the plague and the other half wish you had one.

Seth

Perish the thought.

Hersh

They’re not so bad.

Rodolfo

Oh, that’s right…you were engaged, weren’t you?

Seth

Dear Lord, you almost married one.

Margaret

(wandering back, to Angela) Do you have an extra pad I can borrow.

Mario

(entering) Time to eat everybody! (all turn away, disgusted)

BLACKOUT

Sneak Peek–Bert Williams is nobody

Caricature of vaudevillian Bert Williams by Al Frueh

nobody has had a star-crossed history.  I worked on it for about a year, then had a staged reading of it down in Beacon with Passing the Torch Through the Arts that went very well.  I liked the cast, we had a space lined up in Kingston and we had just started the PR campaign…and I got sick.  So nobody was put on the shelf, where it has remained since.  I’m still sending it out, hoping it catches on with an African-American theater.  Bert Williams was a vaudeville performer, and the first crossover dark-skinned star in America. “Nobody” was his signature song. His story is as sad as it is triumphant, and I hope to get to tell it sometime soon. 

Bert Williams is nobody

by Brian C. Petti

PO Box 361

East Durham, NY 12423

(518) 239-6267

bcpkid AT gmail.com

Copyright 2009 © by Brian C. Petti

 ACT I

scene 1

The stage is bare, with the exception of a small chair and vanity table down left. A white gloved hand appears from the stage right wings. It timidly draws the curtain back a few inches, revealing the face of BERT WILLIAMS. He is in blackface in the minstrel tradition of the late 1800s, although he has coffee-colored skin himself. He appears as he did in his act: downtrodden, unsure, awkward—a poor soul. He slowly and with trepidation reveals himself to the audience and shuffles to center stage. Although he is a large man, he is wearing a suit with tails that is much too large for him, with a tie that is much too long and oversized shoes. The outfit is worn threadbare. After a moment of sizing up the audience and seemingly gathering his courage, WILLIAMS reaches deep into his jacket pocket and comes out with a small notebook. He makes a show of flipping through the pages, looking nervously at the audience from time to time to make them believe he is about to read and then flipping some more. Finally he finds what he has been looking for and begins to speak/sing…

NOBODY

Williams
When life seems full of clouds an’ rain

and I am filled with naught but pain,

who soothes my thumpin’ bumpin’ brain?

 (Looking at his notebook with surprise) Nobody . . . 

When winter comes with snow an’ sleet,

and me with hunger and cold feet,

who says “Ah, here’s two bits, go an’ eat!”

Nobody . . .

I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,

I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!

And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime, 

I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!

When I try hard an’ scheme an’ plan,

to look as good as I can,

who says “Ah, look at that handsome man!”

Nobody . . .

When all day long things go amiss,

and I go home to find some bliss,

who hands to me a glowin’ kiss?

Nobody . . .

I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,

I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!

And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime, 

I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!

 Nobody, no time!

WILLIAMS puts the notebook away and straightens his posture. His face and bearing change and in the space of a moment he is no longer the character from his act—not timid but proud, not downtrodden but sad, not stumbling but eloquent. He addresses himself directly to the audience in a slight West Indian accent.

 After I had achieved some degree of notoriety in my profession, I found myself being asked a particular question: did I wish I had been born a white man. My answer was always an emphatic “No”. How do I know what I would have been were I born white? I could have been a miner, burrowing away in coal dust, never knowing a bright, sunny day or a moment of good health for $8 a day. I could’ve been a streetcar

Williams (con’t)
conductor, on my feet from morning to night, traveling the same path I traveled the day before for $12 a week. Many a white man is less fortunate or less equipped than I am. Yet the question was asked to a man of some fortune, a man of some achievement. A man who starred in the Ziegfeld Follies.

To them I was none of those things. I was a man of color. Now, I have never found anything inherently dishonorable about being a Negro. But I have found it to be…inconvenient. In America.

Act I

scene 2

 A vaudevillian style scene-indicating sign is illuminated downstage left. It reads: “Williams Meets Walker, San Francisco, 1893”. Each subsequent scene in the play will have a similar sign.

 Market Street in San Francisco outside a minstrel theater. GEORGE WALKER, a lean, dark-skinned man of twenty, leans against the wall. Even in repose there is a sense of energy surrounding him, as if at any moment he were about to perform. He is brash, fast-talking and exuding confidence. WALKER is dressed as well as a poor performer can be—his appearance is always of utmost importance to him.

 WILLIAMS wanders into the scene stage right, looking from his notebook to the surrounding theater facades. He is considerably less well-dressed than WALKER, a pattern that will continue as their fortunes improve. WILLIAMS is nineteen, but holds himself with a maturity and regalness that belies his age and position. He speaks with a slight West Indian accent, in contrast to WALKER’S Kansas vernacular.

 Williams

 Excuse me, I was told I might find a man named Lester at this theater.

Walker

Let me see that…(looking at the notebook) Yeah, I know that hack. What you barking up his tree for?

Williams

I was told he could sing and dance.

Walker

Were you now? And who told you, a blind, deaf man?

Williams

Listen son; is the man here or not?

Walker 

Who you calling “son”? How old are you? 

Williams

Nineteen.

Walker

 Ha! I’m twenty. And no, “son,” he ain’t here. If he was you’d see a lot more cats around. Dey respond to his voice when dey in heat.

Williams 

Thank you and good day.

WILLIAMS turns to go back where he came from, but WALKER stops him.

Walker

 Hold on, hold on big fella. You don’t talk like no Negro I ever heard. No “yassurs,” no “y’alls”. Where you from anyway?

Williams

Antigua.

Walker

I’m from Kansas myself. Danced all the way from Lawrence to San Francisco and I ain’t gonna stop ‘till Broad-way! Antigua, huh? Where’s that, in the Carolinas?

Williams

The West Indies.
Walker

What language do they speak there?

Williams

English. (about to turn away again) Cheers.
Walker

You ain’t no big talker, are you?

Williams

I talk when I have something to say—you should try it some time.

Walker

Oho, the big man got jokes. You should save some of those for your act.

Williams

How do you know I’m in an act?

Walker

You’re at a theater looking for a man who can sing and dance. What for, to go play water polo?

Williams

Excuse me.

WILLIAMS turns to leave again, but WALKER steps in his path. 

Walker 

Whoa now, you just gonna up and leave without finding what you came here for?

Williams 

(pointing at his notebook) You know where this man is?

Walker
 Would you forget about that talentless Bon Bon? You came here for a man who could sing, and that’s me. And you came here for a man who could dance, and that is definitely me. You got the wrong name, but you found what you were looking for. George Walker.

WALKER takes off his cap and extends his hand with a flourish. WILLIAMS considers, then grudgingly takes his hand.

 Williams

 Bert Williams.

Walker

You can call me George.

Williams

You can call me Bert Williams. Who do you work with?

Walker

Oh, I’ve been around this block. There ain’t a darkey revue or minstrel act I haven’t been in at one time or another.

Williams

So why are you looking for a job?

Walker

I wasn’t looking for a job, Bert Williams. A job done found me!

Williams

All right, bud. I’m going to walk into this theater right here and I’m going to ask the producer to tell me everything he knows about Mr. George Walker. What kind of tale is he going to tell me, do you suppose? 

Walker 

I’ll tell you exactly what he’s gonna say. He’s gonna tell you George Walker is the best dancer this stage has ever seen. He’s gonna say that man has more talent in his little finger than the rest of his chorus combined.

WILLIAMS moves to enter the theater, but is stopped by WALKER saying…

Then he’s gonna tell you not to take me on if you know what’s good for you.

Williams

How come?

Walker

(with fierce sincerity) ‘Cause I get what’s mine. ‘Cause whatever they convince themselves I’m worth, I tell them to double it if they want to keep me. ‘Cause I got plans, Bert Williams, plans to make a name for myself. Plans to share my light with the world. And no producer man in no podunk, broke-down theater in no San Francisco is going to stop me. That’s why.

Williams

(beat) You can call me Bert.

WALKER straightens WILLIAMS’ tie.

Walker

I think I like “Bert Williams” better.

BLACKOUT

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