Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blue Cards

It's been a while since I played James Lipton.

Whenever we had guest artists at the Laguna Playhouse, I was called upon to engage in an onstage conversation with them for an audience of donors. (On a lark, I taped my notes onto blue index cards a la From the Actors Studio.)

With some artists, it was a true conversation. Like David Rambo (author of The Ice Breaker) or Bernard Farrell (perennial Playhouse favorite from Ireland).

With others, I often joked, it was like "press the button" and they became the Energizer bunny, with nary a chance to fit a word in edgewise. Richard Dresser (whom I introduced to the Playhouse when I directed Gun-Shy) was like a stand-up comic who, once he had the floor, never relinquished it.

When I had Israeli playwright Shmuel Hasfari here last March, we had an especially large and engaged audience. Self-conscious about his facility with English (as a native Hebrew speaker), he paused far more frequently to find just the right word--and then came out with something especially erudite. Oh, yes, I had plenty of opportunity to ask questions and make comments, but they rather paled in comparison to Hasfari's insightful remarks.

Well, the Stein and Hasari show will reprise in Tel Aviv in November.

I was first invited by the Israeli Drama Institute to attend their IsraDrama conference when I visited Israel last December. By late spring, they had settled upon dates, and in the summer, a tentative schedule arrived. It then occurred to me that Hasfari and I ought to speak at the conference about the experience of bringing an Israeli play to a U.S. theatre and audience.

No good deed goes unpunished (one of my favorite phrases), and we've been asked to have another on stage conversation for dozens of theatre producers and directors from throughout the English-speaking world.

I'm looking forward to it, and though it will be in English, I'm brushing up my Hebrew so I can at least ask "where is the men's room?"

And I'm bringing blue index cards.

Until next time...


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