Wednesday, November 26, 2008


So last night we picked up where we left off scene wise and worked through the rest of the play. Then we took a break and ran the whole show. Wanted to plant the whole picture in everyone's heads before we left for our three day break. I feel like we're right where we need to be. Honestly, though, that's not always the most comfortable place to be. The play will come into sharp focus suddenly and then two minutes later its just not there any more. Which is right where we need to be right now. And what rehearsals are all about. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And really, this is what I like about making theater--the live-ness of it--that you work on this medium with other people--it's not you and your words or you and your footage. But but like I said, it's not always the most comfortable place to be. Also, it might be wise to bring some in some Clif bars or something to munch on. Interestingly, the further we get into the piece the more I'm discovering how complex it is under the surface which is, of course, what gives it it's depth. Chris is seeing that too.
My brain is starting to turn into a hunk of fudge though (and I suspect I'm alone in this experience) so I'm glad we're getting a breather. Friday I'm going to record all the internal sound cues. Saturday we load the set in and start putting it up. Cast will meet again at 7.
Our good friend Ed Bodey did some pig tale images. Check them out.
I love them both. The first one is...strangely inspiring....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pig Progress

Last night was our first night in the theater.
Wings Theater on Christopher Street has long been a home for ground breaking off off broadway theater--particularly gay theater. Incredibly, this is the first time TOSOS has partnered with Wings though I've been fortunate enough to work there as an actor and a writer.
So we were on the stage for the first time last night. We spent hour working through the first couple scenes, since they are the most complicated and fitting them onto the space. We did some really great intense work and once again, I'm impressed by these actors' concentration and stamina. I'm also excited to discover that my staging works! Fits the stage like a glove. Then we went back, connected the first five scenes together and began working through the rest of the play. We got into the second half of the play but had to stop. We'll pick up there tonight, continue to work through. Then we'll run it one more time before leaving it alone for three days.

We got our cards last night and they look great! Very slick and glossy. United Stages does good work. Am coordinating w/ Ray on loading the set in and setting it up this saturday and am hoping to pow-wow with Ahmed the lighting designer at how best to use the upcoming week.

It's around this time when a split personality would come in very handy, if one of me could continue to work with the actors, one of me could work with each designer and one of me could work with the staff, I'd be a happy man (instead of just a tired one). But I have to remind myself that it's always like this. I'm lucky to have a terrific staff (and cast of course) to keep things in perspective.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time flies when your working your a** off.

Where does the time go?
We met three times last week and had our last 2 rehearsals at Hunter College -- where PIG TALE was born.
On Tuesday we worked the 1st 1/2 of the play. Wednesday took some time to just do Kyle's monolouges and picked up the last 1/2 of the play of Thursday. Friday we had off. Then Saturday we picked up at noon with where we left off on the work through on Thursday. Then we worked through again until 5. Sunday we did our first off book run. Broke and cleaned up some smaller sections of scenes.
Tonite we're in the theater, expanding what we've done onto the actual stage. We'll be running and doing scene work tomorrow. Then we're off for Thanksgiving.
The publicity machine has been hard at work this whole time. Tracy has got our press releases together. Barry has compiled our press photos. Matt is going to come back in and take some action shots next week. The cards will be in our hot little hands today.
I'm excited to get to the theater b/c it's the final development stage. But it also means the opening is just around the corner. Which hardly seems possible. But there it is! I think everyone's looking forward to the Thanksgiving break for a little breather. (except for Jen who's working on the Macy's parade and doesn't really get a breather). After that, though, it's going to be all systems go!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Page to stage and pig moves

Still making the transition off book. They're doing a great job. It's a very physical show particularly for Jesse and Patrick. Apart from physically becoming the pig, Jesse only has lines made up of words in the first and last scenes. All other responses are pig sounds (some of which are scripted in) and physical movements. We discovered from the reading you have be incredibly specific about what you're saying and how you "say" it, otherwise there's a real danger of becoming general and ultimately meaningless. Patrick has the opposite challenge. He has the bulk of the lines but his scene partner is a pig--essentially non verbal. It's definitely not a monologue but it must be a real challenge to get off book for something when your cues aren't lines. So we have been concentrating mainly on blocking--connecting words (and non-words) with actions to set them into memory.
We're also working on physicalizing the pig--or acting like a pig, if you will. I never really noticed how uniquely pigs are put together. They have short little legs which don't appear to bend much when they walk. Effectively, they trot and are very agile. They don't really have necks (at least not the way we do) which restricts their side to side movement. As far as noises, they squeal when threatened, snort when they're rooting and can even bark when being agressive. This is a lot to chose from. The key is being specific. Also, since Dave is a person and a pig when is he what?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


After our read thru, we started in blocking. Next to the first read thru, the first blocking rehearsal is my least favorite rehearsal day. I always want to look like everything's done, everything's under control--but realistically I know that what I lay out in the first blocking rehearsal is going to change substantially. You have to have something on paper. And, you want to be clever enough to save yourself time in the process by getting enough working moves out there from the start. So it's a challenge.
I've always found as an actor, it's easier for me to remember my lines if I've been put somewhere on stage. (I have a lot more trouble if the director makes me "find my own blocking"). And as a director, I don't think we can really get to the acting work until the lines are learned. So the first blocking (for me, anyway) also works as a tool to help the actors get the text into their heads. The sooner they learn the lines, the sooner they know their characters and the easier it to find blocking that feels (or at least looks) organic.

This particular play and venue have their own particular challenges as well:
The most logical place for a pig is the floor, right? Since the audience is only on a slight rake, however, if the pig's on the floor the whole time, he's going to large unviewable from the third row and back.
So, how do we get him up on the couch?
How do we get him up on the bed?
How do we get him up on the table?
And how does a pig handle props--like cellphones, dvd's and sketch pads? They didn't really cover this at the School the Arts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Set Design

We're really fortunate to have Ray Klausen doing the set for PIG TALE! Here's excerpt from his bio:

Ray Klausen (scenic designer) has designed over 350 productions for theatre and television in England, Monte Carlo, Germany, Mexico, Australia and Canada. Broadway: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Liza’s at the Palace, On Golden Pond, Brooklyn The Musical, Big River, Comedy Tonight, Waiting in the Wings, and Bea Arthur On Broadway. Off-Broadway: Pete ‘n’ Keely and My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy. Other NYC productions; My Favorite Broadway (Carnegie Hall/City Center) and My Fair Lady (Avery Fisher Hall) . Regional theater: Mark Taper Forum (5 shows), St Louis Rep (3), The Kennedy Center (6), Prince Music Theatre (2), and Reprise! In Los Angeles (3). Television credits include sets for Diana Ross, Martha Graham, Michael Jackson, Liza Minneli, Ann-Margret, Elton John, Princess Grace, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, and yes, even Elvis. He is the recipient of 3 Emmy Awards and 11 nominations as well as the Hoffman Eminent Scholar Chair from Florida State University. He is a graduate of the Yale school of Drama. Website:

Okay, that's an excerpt. There's more and it's pretty awesome. Totally check out the website.

Here's a picture of the model Ray made of the set:

The above is JOHNNY's small east village apartment. Entrance to the hallway is upstage right. Below that is a small portable wooden shelf unit. The large unit is a TV set on a milk crate. There's a low sofa in front of the door. Up center is a curtained off sleeping alcove. Window at the far back. Stage left near the bedroom opening is a small work area, chair and small table. Farthest off is a kitchen area w/ a pegboard over a sink and a small refrigerator.
This particular theater has two small side stages which are going to be used of other scenes: couple of outdoor scenes, KYLE's apartment etc.
Early last month a show Ray designed off broadway closed and he offered us use of the wall units. Miraculously, they fit perfectly into our space. They used to look like a well appointment upper west side psychologist's office, but they will like a less than pristine east side cubby hole. Parts of the floor will be covered by sheets of linoleum and throw rugs. Some of the furnishings are coming from my apartment and some from the theater. Ray's got some extra touches for the walls which I can't wait to see. It's all really exciting.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Up to the read thru

The first reading of the full length script of PIG TALE was in the Robert Chesley/Jane Chambers Playwright Project for TOSOS on June 22, 2008. Chesley/Chambers is our monthly play reading series where we read a play for an audience and then all go out to dinner afterwards. It's a great casual way to hear plays (which I think is more effective than reading them b/c they're written to ne heard) and for us to get together as a company and catch up/ network etc. Many of the plays we've read at CH/CH move on to full production if not by us by other companies. That's not the intent of the Project but it's an added bonus.
The reading of this draft of PIG TALE was a big success. We had a terrific turn out. Not only did the play really come across but Wings Theater had representatives in the audience which facilitated talks on partnering for a production. Ray Klausen, who's doing our set, was in attendance and Chris' mentor and friend of TOSOS, Tina Howe was there.
(in the pic above, we're all eating cupcakes b/c it was also my birthday, l to r. Moe Betran, me, Jamie Heinlein who read stage directions, back row l to r, Kevin Held, Chris, Steven Fales and Jessie May.)

Once it was agreed that PIG TALE was actually going to happend, (gulp!) we set about putting a cast together. We had a terrific cast for the reading, but they weren't all avialable for a December/January run. Company member Kevin Held currently lives in Los Angeles and our new friend Steven Fales is also in LA about to open his new one-man show MISSIONARY POSITION. Jesse May had read from PIG TALE several times when it was in development at Hunter. He's so great in the role of Dave (who becomes the pig) we needed to cast him right away. Moe Bertran (who I've been lucky enough to work with before) came aboard for the reading and was absolutely terrific. We thought it'd be wise to sign him up too. This left two roles open: KYLE, JOHNNY's stoner, sex-fiend best bud who happens to have a Masters in Compartive Folk Lore and JOHNNY...the lead!
We had an all day EPA and another day of appointments and call backs. We saw so many talented actors and were made absolutely miserable be the limitless casting combinations. I'm always amazed at how many amazing actors there are in this city. And we were only looking to cast two roles! If were looking for all 4 parts we probably would still be around that table matching headshots to headshots and banging our heads against the wall.

In the end, we wound up casting Patrick Porter as JOHNNY and Tim Dietrichs as KYLE. They are both really great!!!!

Chris had been working on the script in the interim and on November 8th we had our first readthru at Hunter College. In photo on the right that's (l to r) Tim as Kyle, Jesse as Dave, Patrick as J0hnny and Moe as Mama.

On the left is (l to r) Chris, Tracy Calhoun (our press rep) and me--sweating and looking to my chair for support. 1st read thru always make me nervous--as you can tell from my shirt--b/c you don't really know everyone and you want everything to be perfect. We started a little late. Traffic in the city was murder and the trains were very screwed up. It's never rained in New York City before so the MTA was completely at a loss! Actually, this kind of relaxed everyone and we got a solid read thru done, everyone met everyone else and we were able to get some photos taken and get ready for our blocking rehearsals. More later...

Friday, November 14, 2008

A pig is born

Once upon a time… I was reading the paper and ran across a short piece about a woman in suburban Pennsylvania (I believe) who ran afoul of local authorities when it was discovered that she was keeping a pot-bellied pig as a pet. Given the choice of getting rid of her beloved porcine companion or moving to another town, the woman had made the decision to uproot her life and transplant herself somewhere with less stringent zoning regulations. It occurred to me that I knew people who wouldn’t do that for a lover. I wasn’t sure I would do it for a lover. Around the same time I saw an ad for a gay circuit party which featured an image of a very hot guy wearing a fetish-y pig mask. These two ideas collided in my head and somehow became this play. I wanted to write about fear of commitment from a gay point of view, and I’ve also been fascinated by the frequent use of pig metaphors in describing a certain point of view on gay sex. The two seemed linked to me somehow, and this play is the beginning of a dialogue with myself in which I hope to come to terms with what could be described as my own relationship phobia.

I’m so grateful for the support I’ve gotten from many quarters along the way. Tina Howe has been an enthusiastic mentor and has really allowed me to see the possibilities in my own script. Mark Finley is a consummate director and it’s exciting to watch him put the pieces together. I of course wouldn’t be in production now were it not for the support of the TOSOS crew, particularly Doric Wilson and Kathleen Warnock, my two biggest cheerleaders.

Anyhooo… that’s it for now.

Author, Author

A few words about our playwright:

I met Chris Weikel a few years back when I was the litarary manager of a small LGBT producing a one act festival. Chris submitted a play to us called SPEAKING PARTS. We didn't end up doing the play but I loved it. At around the same time I joined a larger OOB company of which I'm still a member called Emerging Artists Theatre. Chris was also a member at that time and was at the first meeting of the Company that I attended. I introduced myself and told him that I loved his play and that someday I hoped to work on it. Years later this ended up happening when TOSOS produced SPEAKING PARTS as act 3 of MOVIE LOVER.

Our first collaboration as playwright/director was with Chris' GARETH AND LYNETTE for Emerging Artists. It's a update/modernization/Xena-Hercules, the TV series-ization of Tennyson's epic poem. It went over like gangbusters. The following year we did PENNY PENNIWORTH--Chris' satire of all things Dickens for Emerging Artists which was also a big success. TOSOS produced both G&L and PENNY as it's own evening called TALES TOLD and PENNY has gone on to have it's own life. It has been published by United Stages , produced regionally and TOSOS produced it as part of the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival where it become a "Must See". Chris has since expanded the script and we're currently looking for a new home for the new improved Penny.

Since then Chris has been awarded the Robert Chesley Award for Emerging Playwrights from the Publishing Triangle, the Irv Zarhower Award and is currently a Dramatists Guild Fellow.

PIG TALE started in Tina Howe's class at Hunter College. The original title was PIG BOTTOM. As the play grew, the old title was scrapped for the new one. We did the first full reading of the script at TOSOS as part of this years Chesley Chambers series. So we're very excited about being able to part of the next stage in the play's life. Also, kind of cool that the new script's first read thru is at Hunter College in the same room the first scenes were ever read in.

I'm going to look for some more pic from the Chesley/Chambers reading and I'll let Chris fill in some of the play's history. More later!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Once upon a time....

...there was an artistic director of a small but mighty theater company who finally got around to starting a production blog.

Hi, there! I'm Mark Finley and I'm the artistic director of TOSOS . We're currently in production with Chris Weikels' PIG TALE and we're really excited about it. This blog will serve as our on-line production journal, so thanks checking in and I'll do my best to keep you up to date. I'm hoping for posts with many of the people involved for other POV's though naturally as director mine is the most important. Ahem.

So, what's PIG TALE about? It's about these two guys who are casually dating and one night after (really during) sex one of them turns into a pig--literally. Does this mean it's over? That's the short version. It's very very funny. But on another level it's about relationships, what it takes to build them--to let someone else into your life. It winds up being very moving.

More later! Just wanted to get the ball rolling!!!