Saturday, April 25, 2009

Alligators in the sewers

I'm a bad person. I missed this morning's blog entry. So please forgive the no longer accurate tenses of Seamus Sullivan's report from the field. Seamus Sullivan wrote NEW YORK WHITE, an adaptation of the "alligators in the sewers" myth.

I'm sitting outside the theatre and listening to the late show of MYTH APPROPRIATION: URBAN LEGENDS play behind the door. It's a terrific night of theatre and the coming together of 40 artists to create something like this reminds me of why I love this job.

Check out the blog on Monday for some pictures of the event itself. Until then, enjoy Seamus' blog entry...

Since Jenn and the cast will blow your collective minds tonight with the actual play, I thought I'd give you a preview by writing about how the script for "New York White" came to be. It begins with a severly underappreciated man in early 20th century septic history.

One of the first things that stuck out for me about our assigned urban legend, the one about alligators in the sewers, was that the sewers in question are always in New York City. I had to wonder- what was it about New York's sewers in particular that made them so alligator-worthy?

At least part of the answer turned up in the the form of one Teddy May, who served as New York City's Superintendent of Sewers in the 1930s. His firsthand (and probably embellished) account of fighting alligators in the sewers in Robert Daley's 1959 book The World Beneath the City is one reason the gators are so pervasive among urban legends. May told a number of apocryphal stories about the sewers in which he discovered murder weapons amid the sludge and testified against the owners in court, or recovered a $25,000 ring lost by Ulysses S. Grant's daughter. His appearance was better suited to tall tales than real life; in pictures he droops like a cartoon basset hound, and one eye, fused half-shut by a steam line mishap, is permanently winking. In The World Beneath the City, he doles out malapropisms like candy:

'Linoleum, to Teddy was "rineoleum," and he sometimes spoke also of "sympathy" orchestras, "horowitzers," and of two men "getting between ya."' And so on. My skills as a researcher are modest, but I have yet to locate a scrap of information on Mr. May, verbal or pictoral, that is not completely hilarious.

Imagine, now, that you are a playwright on deadline and it is three in the morning. You are half-blind from looking up sewer statistics that refuse to arrange themselves into a coherent play. You can imagine how the sudden arrival of this toothless hero in waders might, for someone in your position, evoke all the glory and fanfare of a redeeming angel's descent from the clouds. The outlines of a play begin to emerge.

Where did such a ready-made character come from, and what quirk of destiny saddled him with the mundane but daunting duty of handling the waste of one of the world's most populous cities? What is it about cities that incubates the likes of May and his gators? I thought about cities and the people who keep them running, and about why we have urban legends as opposed to the regular kind. And I began to write.

See you tonight!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mikey likes it...

Is there an urban legend more iconic than the Poprocks and Coke myth? Today's news from the front comes from Bryn Tucker an actor in COKE HABIT, Shaun Raviv's adaptation of the story that may or may not have ended our good friend Mikey.

Only one more day to buy tickets for MYTH APPROPRIATION: URBAN LEGENDS...


COkE HaBiT: Another Awesomely Senseless Pop Rocks Play

At first it sounds like a new concoction of death created by some New York street junkie but it's also an urban legend. You know that whole thing when you drink a soda followed by Pop Rocks and then you explode?! Needless to say working on our myth has been pretty sweet!

When we read the script for the first time, our director gave us some real life Pop Rocks. It was hilarious when someone had something positive or profound to say about the work and all you heard was "crackle crackle pop crackle". We also found that Michael had the same name as the kid from the old school LIFE Cereal commercial. Allegedly, he chugged an unspeakable amount of Coke and Pop Rocks and exploded. Of course, he's now an attorney in New York City according to I'm not even sure if that's a creditable source....

Now, thanks to the Internet, there's a whole new world of senseless pop rocks and coke destruction out there to explore, not to mention the whole Mentos and Diet Coke madness! The more things change...Peace Out!

-Pop Rocks Crew

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Safe Words

Today's blog entry is written by Ed Xavier, an actor in LICKED, Gwydion Suilebhan's adaptation of the urban legend, "the lick."

Be warned... It is a dirty little play.

So much so that this blog entry will probably show up in some pretty crazy web searches today. A touching tale of a dominatrix and her sex slaves, LICKED will be sure to shock and awe. To that end, I have posted a cute picture of a different kind of man-dog:

Because after you see this show... you will never think of dogs the same way again...

Don't miss MYTH-APPROPRIATION: URBAN LEGENDS, this saturday at 6pm, 8pm and 11pm. Get your tickets here.


The basement office area of The Atlas doesn't resemble a dungeon. The walls are brightly colored, the climate control works reasonably well, and there is no sign of the requisite devices of torture and submission that one might typically expect in the lair of a professional dominatrix (unless director Colin Hovde didn't give us the full tour). However, this was where the cast of "Licked" met for table work and rehearsal last night.

The play is inspired by an urban legend in which a woman climbs into bed with her faithful dog asleep at the side of her bed. During the night, she is awoken by the sound of a dripping from the bathroom. Fearing the presence of an intruder, she reaches down alongside the bed where her hand is met with a reassuring lick. Comforted by the dog's presence, and reasoning that he would have left to investigate had anything been amiss, she falls back to sleep. A while later, the woman is again awoken by the dripping noise. Reach, lick, reassure, fall asleep again. The third time this happens (everything happens in threes in these stories, but that's a topic for another day), the woman chooses to investigate. She goes to the bathroom where she finds her dog eviscerated and hanging in the shower, blood dripping into the tub. On the mirror, written in the dog's blood are the words, "Humans can lick, too."

The moral implications of this story are unclear to me. What is the listener supposed to learn by this cautionary tale? Would her dog be alive if she let him sleep in the bed with her? Did she forget to lock her door? And how is she ever going to get all of that blood out of the tub? This legend brought to you by the makers of Comet and other fine household cleaning products.

Gwydion Suilebhan has taken this legend and used it as a jumping off point to explore the theme of betrayal. As the woman of the legend is betrayed by her own false sense of security and control of her environment, so is the heroine of "Licked." The play takes place in the home of The Mistress (Jessica Hansen) on the evening before she names her favorite: her long-time faithful servant (Nick Greek) or her sexy, new boy-toy (Adam Segallar). Of course, I'm biased. As her faithful Man-Dog, I'm pretty sure that no matter which one is named as favorite, I have a special place in her heart that neither of those guys can take away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More goats.

I'm really only supposed to give each group one blog entry a day but these pictures from the cast rehearsing THE VOLGA GOATMAN are just too much fun to pass up...

And director Akiva Fox telling an actor what he thinks...

Beware the Goatman of PG County...

Last night was the "first read" of MYTH APPROPRIATION: URBAN LEGENDS. All six plays were read and what a terrific collection of weird and wonderful stories they were!

Included here today is a first person account of the process so far from Jacob Yeh, an actor in THE VOLGA GOATMAN, Ben Kingsland's adaptation of the Prince George's County local legend... "The Goatman"

Don't wait folks! Tickets are selling out!
Get your tickets to MYTH APPROPRIATION: URBAN LEGENDS by clicking here.


Sunday night: excitement and that little bit of nervous energy you get when you are about to meet a whole bunch of new people for the first time and you want to make a good impression. I am doing this, right? I mean, there’s no way that I can screw this up now, like say by, oh I don’t know, FORGET TO BRING A HEADSHOT! Hmm, seems I’m not the only one. How are we going to decide how the groups are formed? Do we have to audition again once the playwrights know what their myth is? Before we get to that: quick, think of some urban legends that are significant to you because that’s the “ice-breaker.” Hmmmm. The one about waking up in a bathtub of ice? I mean I like that one but that’s all I got. Should I share the one about trying to kill (ok not kill but at least make her have a bad tummy ache) my sister with Coke and poprocks? Or will people get freaked out by me? Oh whatever, laugh a little, people. Sheesh, like you’ve never thought you wanted to inflict bodily harm on a sibling. Ok moving on since dwelling on this topic any longer just makes me look creepier. Oh, so THAT’S how we choose groups. Nice and random. Seems like a neat group of people, all very intelligent and enthusiastic, all willing to share ideas and bring props. Wonder who the mystery absentee actress in our group is? Wonder how Ben (the chosen playwright for our “electrical tape” group) will end up writing a story about the Goat-man. BTW, for the record, both Ben and I are native Marylanders (go Mont. Co.!) and have NEVER heard about the goat man, so yeah…not sure what that means or what my point is.

Monday: got the script (nice, Ben) and think it’s quite good: intelligent, funny, ironic, and it’ll be a hoot to do. Thanks for writing my character as a Uigher, Ben. For some reason, that seemed really thoughtful. Accepting, I guess. Yeah, embracing what each actor naturally brings, like Adrienne and her Russian background. Plus, as an added bonus I get to see some midriff. Nice first read-through. Man, will need to brush up on some Russian dialect. Where’s that copy of “Eastern Promises”? Hmmm. Maybe my character has a little of the Russianness of Viggo’s crime-lord and the smoothness of the late Ricardo Montahlban? Let’s go look up some Goat-man pictures to see if that provides any inspiration. Yikes. For some reason, pictures of people with horns and various cloven-hooved goat hind-quarters creep me out more than the sci-fi/fantasy D&D-style images. Maybe because the former is somebody real who thought it might be a good idea to dress up as Satan? Or maybe just knew way too many people who enjoyed “Magic” so I’m inured to the latter?

Tuesday: get to hear the other plays for the very first time, so that should be fun. What’s with the theme of anthropomorphized animals? So far we got a serenading dog, a soliloquizing rat (totally stole my Ricardo Montalban theme, btw), pot-smoking alligators and of course, the goatman. And how exactly are they going to do the stunt with the “stink finger” and manage to get it so that there is enough “ink” to write on the wall? Nice to be able relax, enjoy the other plays and just be entertained. Hearing how funny and well-received the other plays were, there was a brief moment of panic. I like it, but is our play (actually, Ben’s play) as funny and will the audience like it as much? That moment melted away as soon as Adrienne brought down the house with her Russian song of welcome, complete with half-assed gestures. Nice. Bravo to all the playwrights. Nice jobs on short notice. Impressive.
That’s all I got. Looking forward to rehearsing with everyone and getting to know these people that I’ll be spending immense amounts of time with this week only. Hope people enjoy the shows; it’s been a blast so far.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rats make good pets

Today's entry is from Matt Ripa, director of NIGHTMARE OF MR NIBBLES, Steve Spotswoods adaptation of the "Mexican Pet" urban legend...

Anticipation. One of the things that I love about this process is this first day. I could not wait to see what Steve came up with for this myth. To be quite honest, last night was the first time I had ever heard of the Mexican Dog/Rat Myth. Basically, a woman travels to Mexico and finds a stray dog on the side of the road. She takes pity on the dog and feeds it. She ends up smuggling the dog back to the US and upon her return the dog needs to go to the vet. The vet informs her that the creature is in fact not a dog, but a large Mexican Sewer Rat. Other versions have the dog/rat feasting on the woman's children. I was very curious to see how Steve would turn what I saw as a ridiculous story into something dramatic and compelling. He did, and it is hilarious...but, you will have to wait until Saturday night to see why.

Urban Myths seem to always play upon a fear that most people have. In this case, the myth of the Mexican Rat seems to be play onto that fear of the "other." During our first session together, we were asked to share a personal story about an urban myth. Immediate fear surged through my body. One because I do not like to talk in big groups of people. Two, because I thought I had no real connection to urban myths or legends. Growing up I knew that stepping on crack would not in fact break my mother's back. I had no problem eating pop rocks and coke together. Later in the evening, as I thought about this some more, I realized that scary movies in their basic premise are Urban Legends. They are stories that play upon our fears. I might not have ever believed that Bloody Mary would jump out of the mirror and kill me, but I definitely been scared shitless by stories around a campfire or at a sleepover. And then I remembered my story:

During high school I worked as the properties manager in the theatre. When I started as a freshmen I was told that there was a ghost in the theatre that would always appear during a show over the headset. You could hear this sequence: Brahm's lullaby, a baby crying, footsteps, baby stops crying, Brahm's lullaby, louder baby crying, louder footsteps, baby screaming, silence. Anyone who told me the story swore up and down that they themselves had heard it and it was terrifying. Of course there were stories about a baby being murdered where the school was built. This story changed everytime I heard it. Now, to be honest, I had been on that headset more times than I can remember, and I never once heard it. But, I had heard the story told and retold so many times, that I came to believe that I had. Or I could hear it in my head. As I moved through school and other techies joined the mix, I would then be one of the people who would pass this story along. Possibly it is tradition. Or even an initiation rite. Or just simply nothing more than a story.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hooks, ghosts and the brady bunch

Last night was the first night of MYTHappropriation and it was pretty damn exciting to see so much talent in one room.

For those of you new to the world of MYTH, Myth-Appropriation: URBAN LEGENDS is the fourth edition of Rorschach's extreme new play development project, where a group of writers, directors, designers and actors spend 6 days bringing 6 fully realized new plays to life for one night only. The plays are all adaptations of a related group of myths. Previous Myth-Appropriation projects focused on Grimms Fairytales, Creation Myths and the pagan origins of St Nicholas.
All this week we will be getting reports from the field as a different group of artists from MYTHap guest blog here. Hold on to your hats kids and don't forget to come see the event itself on SATURDAY APRIL 25!

Get your tickets here.

Director of NO NOOKY, NO HOOKY
(Jackie Lawton's adaptaion of the urban Legend, "The Hook"):
Day One of Myth-App is here, at last. The traditional Meet-and-Great-and-Get-Your-Group-and-Myth was tonight. This Myth-App is all about URBAN MYTHS/LEGENDS. You know, those stories that live on in late-night sleep-overs, Boy Scout camps and constant e-mail forwards.

Our amazing group will be tackling THE HOOK. Ah, the eternal tale of young love in a car seat interrupted by a homicidal maniac. Who hasn’t been there, eh? Our story will be crafted by the illustrious Jacqueline Lawton (who I worked with on MYTH-APP #1), so it’s in good hands! Or, is it……..HAND?!???

I asked the actors to tell us about Urban Legends they once believed:

Megan Dominy:
SO...I was always a whiz at sneakily moving the Oiuji board when I was a child--I left nothing to chance. While playing with my brother and his friends, I convinced them that a ghost was haunting Dean, who had taken over his room.

The kicker is someone told me a year ago that trying to contact spirits in anyway, including the Ouija board, is a veritable way to incite demons. I never realized this was a risk as a child, and now I think I would be hesitant to partake in any "ouijing."

Melissa-Leigh Douglass:

Ya know, even the Brady Bunch got involved with the urban legend scene. In episodes #s 72, 73 and 74, the Brady Family takes a trip to Hawaii. And those bad Brady boys found themselves in a mess, when one discovers a Hawaiian Tabu at an ancient burial site. The cursed madness ensues...for three whole episodes.

Thank goodness those Brady boys survived, because what would the Brady Bunch be without Greg, Peter and Bobbie? They'd be left with a cute girl with pigtails, an annoying girl with frizzy hair, and Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Kristen Egermeier-Hampton:

I suppose my urban legend either shows the fact that ghosts are real, or debunks the myth that I am sane...take your pick. When I was around 8 years old one evening, my childhood friend Donald and I were playing in my parent's living room while my mom was on the other side of the wall in the kitchen. We both looked to the dividing wall and to our surprise was the figure
of a man in a trench coat, a brim hat, and brace yourselves, raising a knife up as if to strike. He stayed in the striking positing until, after fear, we ran to get my mom. I still look for the creep every time I visit home, he has yet to grace me with his daunting presence.

Annie Grier:

As kids my brother and I loved to toss grapes into our mouths. In an attempt to thwart this dangerous activity or maybe just to save a little cash on wasted grapes, my mother would recount the terrifying tale of grape tossing gone wrong. It all happened at a party where a doctor was demonstrating his crowd pleasing trick of grape tossing. As the crowd became more impressed with his skill he tossed the grapes higher and higher catching every single one. The grapes flew, the adults laughed and the children watched in awe, until one grape thrown high came down with such force that in lodged in the doctor's esophagus. The doctor stopped, his face turned red, someone screamed, "He's choking. Quick do the Heimlich!" The grape was dislodged and the doctor lived. He left the party deeply ashamed by his poor judgment as a medical professional and as he drove off through the dark and lonely night he vowed never to toss a grape, cherry or small tomato again. And that is why no matter what your older brother says, you do not toss grapes into your mouth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Saturday April 25, 2009
at 6pm, 8pm and 11pm (3 shows) in the
Tickets go on sale Friday!

I know a guy whose cousin’s best friend’s uncle...

Isn’t that how the story goes? Somewhere on the American landscape between folk tales and truth lays the Urban Legend. Hook-handed killers, drug-crazed babysitters and Southern fried rats, all of these stories are as much a part of the American zeitgeist as Abraham Lincoln, baseball and The Doors. Rorschach promises you an evening of tiny terrors, the unsubstantiated and the just plain bizarre. And we swear every word is true!

Myth-Appropriation: URBAN LEGENDS is the fourth edition of Rorschach's extreme new play development project, Myth-Appropriation, where a group of writers, directors, designers and actors join forces to bring 6 fully realized new plays to life for one night only. Previous Myth-Appropriation projects focused on Grimms Fairytales, Creation Myths and the pagan origins of St Nicholas.
As in past editions, DC’s brightest and most promising theatre artists from on and off stage will lend their talents to creating these short plays that will explore the magic and myths that continue to influence American and World culture through storytelling.

WRITTEN BY Ben Kingsland, Jacqueline E. Lawton, Shaun Raviv, Stephen Spotswood, Gwydion Suilebhan, Seamus Sullivan
DIRECTED BY Michael Dove, Akiva Fox, Colin Hovde, Jenn John, Suzen Mason, Matt Ripa DESIGNED BY Sam Kitchel, Denise Umland, Justine Light
FEATURING JJ Area, Christopher Buchanan, Elizabeth Darby, Chris Dinolfo, Megan Dominy, Melissa-Leigh Douglass, Kristen Egermeier, Michael Feldsher, Heather Gaither-Greek, Nick Greek, Annie Grier, Heather Haney, Jessica Hansen, Allyson Harkey, Laura C. Harris, Rachel Manteuffel, Adrienne Nelson, Francisco Reinoso, Jessica Lynn Rodriguez, Sandra Sampayo, Adam Jonas Segaller, Brynn Tucker, Edwin Xavier, Jacob Yeh
PRODUCED BY Randy Baker, Jenny McConnell Frederick WITH Kyle Jean Fisher (Stage Manager) and Elissa Goetschius(Dramaturg)