Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Pretty Filthy Podcast, Part II

Back in the world of adult entertainment, we have another episode crafted from our interviews with professionals in the San Fernando Valley and Las Vegas. This performance was recorded at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. This week features Sam Shelton as a female performer, Steven Weber as male talent Jack Lawrence, and Michael Friedman singing his song "These Girls," which is from an interview with an agent.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Revolution Will Not be Televised

This last semester, our fabulous Associate Artists Emily Ackerman and Michael Friedman were teaching artists in the drama class at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. The students spent their semester conducting their own investigation with Emily and Michael's guidance. They focused on the topic of the sixties, and they interviewed local Brooklynites about what it was like back then and asked particular questions about some of the major events of the decade. They worked with a social studies class at the school to research the history that they were examining, and crafted a play from the interview material that they collected.

We've got video clips of the performance! Students at the school painted the art work that you see on stage, plus there is a video at the beginning that features some of the interviewees, auditions, and other behind-the-scenes glimpses. We couldn't be prouder of all the great work these students did last semester!

Check out the monologue, drumming, and dancing in this clip!

This clip focuses on the Civil Rights Movement. These students did not shy away from heavy or difficult material. Don't miss the monologue at the end of the clip - it's an amazing story about racism in the sixties that the students did a great job with!

Here's a clip with their interviews about Vietnam.

Plus, they cover music in the sixties, the space race, and more!
For all of the videos, visit our YouTube channel HERE, and congratulations again to this incredible group of high schoolers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Atlantic Yards Podcast - Part II

We're back in Brooklyn this week with our investigation into Atlantic Yards, which is the largest development project in Brooklyn's history where the new Nets basketball stadium is currently being built, and the subject of our show In the Footprint, which will be at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia in a few weeks! In this episode, Billy Eugene Jones plays a homeowner who lived in the footprint talking about the process of negotiating with Forest City Ratner (the developer). Marsha Stephanie Blake plays City Council Member Letitia James who opposes Atlantic Yards. Sam Breslin Wright plays Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, and Billy Eugene Jones returns to sing "The Circle Song" by Michael Friedman. Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This Week's Podcast: Crime, Part I

Our weekly podcast series continues with its the performance of an interview conducted for Crime, USA: a new play exploring issues related to crime in America. This project is helmed by our Associate Artist and R&D Group member Alix Lambert. In her investigation for this project, she has interviewed lawyers, FBI agents, criminals, gang members, pawn shop owners, and more. This episode features actor Frank Harts as Antonio, a former gang member, talking about about the first time he got in a fight, the first time he carried a gun, his experiences as a gang member, and his life outside the gang. The material was recorded in our cabaret at Joe's Pub last year.

This episode contains some language and content that may not be appropriate for children under the age of 18.


Monday, December 12, 2011

This Week In Occupy

Last month's removal of occupiers from Zuccotti Park left a lot of people wondering what's next for the Occupy movement - is it true what protesters' signs claim, that "you can't evict an idea," or was the symbolic home a central part of Occupy's efficacy? As the Movement continues to change and its dynamics shift, The Civilians' artists are out documenting the process, as told by its participants, at Occupy GAs and events around New York City.

From an interview one artist conducted with a retiree visiting the GA from Florida, on what he thinks about the future of the movement:  

"Yeah, it's difficult to know, because I mean the movement could fail! The movement could sputter out and - and - and, at least in a lot of places. And every, you know, a lot of us are gonna hedge our bets. I mean, I, like I said, I'm a semi-retired person. I just am lucky enough to have a period in my life where I have a lot of time and I don't have to, you know I only spend a little bit of it making money. And so I spend half of my time as a union organizer for the faculty union in Florida, right? That's what I've been doing for the last two or three years. So I'm takin' time away from THAT for THIS....Anyway, um, so yeah, I guess - I guess what I want on an ind-just on a personal level is to have the movement become VIABLE enough that I,'s still worth me taking time away from other important things as well, you know? (Laughs) And that's really, uh, that's uh, a tall order. That's a tall order. You know, it's, um, and you know, it's the, uh... we don't really know where this is going. And its...sometimes it just, it makes me crazy - and I'm sure there's a lot of very smart and very able people who have walked AWAY from it, and we gotta figure out how to get a lot of those people back."

And here's a conversation with an actor who helped co-ordinate Occupy Broadway, on her performing at the event (click here if you missed the post about The Civilians' performance at Occupy Broadway!):

"I did some, uh, dramatic karaoke. (Laughs) So, it's this awesome idea, and I was so glad to see it -  because I had this idea - like, okay, joking with my friends -  like saying song lyrics, like you know, (dramatic voice) "At first I was afraid. I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live without you by  my side." So you know, that kind of thing - I used to joke with friends with that. And so tonight I was like, "Oh my God! Dramatic karaoke! I gotta do that." So, I did, um, a Rage Against the Machine song, um, "Bulls on Parade" - I don't - I wasn't too familiar with the song, "Come wit it now, come wit it now, come wit it now," and then there's this, um, I wish I could remember it, but, um, it ends with "bulls on parade." Which is so funny you know - bears, bulls wall street, you know? So, yeah there was a line in there about, um, about libraries and how they you know - about being reduced to rubble and the books being burned, which is you know very relevant to what happened with the raid."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Simple Gifts

In September, Steve Cosson and a team of artists were in Colombia conducting research and interviews about the beauty pageant that happens every year in the national women's prison in Bogotá. They spent about three weeks talking to the women in the prison, including the participants in the pageant (one woman is selected to compete from each cell block), the women watching, past winners, the prison staff, and more. They learned a lot about both the pageant and day-to-day life for the inmates. One of the pretty striking aspects of the daily routine at the prison is that the women don't have easy access to some things that are pretty important to daily life, like toilet paper. There are two ways that the women can get toilet paper and other similar items: if they have money, they can purchase them from the prison store, but more often, the women will have a family member or friend who will visit once a week and bring them what they need. So those who don't have family nearby are left to figure out how to get this stuff on their own.

So Steve and the team went to the Bogotá version of Costco, where they raised some eyebrows by buying around 560 feminine napkins, hundreds of rolls of toilet paper and bars of soap, and lots of laundry soap and bocadillo (a Colombian guava candy).

They put divided up all the stuff into bags (each including two rolls of toilet paper and seven feminine napkins, plus the soaps and candy), and divided the bags by cell block for distribution.

As you might recall from earlier posts, it's not that easy to get into the prison. Each bag had to be individually checked by security before the team was allowed to proceed to the Education Building to distribute everything. Each interviewee and international inmate received a bag. To claim their bag, they got a piece of paper from the prison staff with their name on it. When their name was called by the prison staff, they were allowed to enter the courtyard, walk to Steve who was stationed in the center, hand Steve their slip, he would hand them their bag, and they would then proceed to exit the courtyard and return to the Education Building. The Japanese inmate, who didn't speak much Spanish, seemed pretty confused about the whole thing.

Check out the skyline in the background! 

And be sure to take a look at our photos posted this week on Flickr HERE of the pageant! Here's a few to whet the appetite - they're really incredible!

Check out the detail on this sequin work; it's  incredible!

Costumes are made from recycled materials.

From the folk dancing competition

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Part III

This week's podcast episode closes out our three-part series about Occupy Wall Street. This episode features Emily Ackerman as Michele Kelley, an experienced activist; Billy Eugene Jones and Jordan Mahome as Omar Omes and Michael Curtis, two teamsters; and a group of young protesters played by Matt Dellapina, Kelly McCreary, Dan Domingues, and Matt Stadelmann. Michael Friedman then leads the cast in a sing-along of "Dump the Bosses Off Your Back" by John Brill, written in 1911.

Our artists are still out conducting interviews, so we hope to have more news about this project for you soon. Stay tuned for next Wednesday's episode from another of our exciting investigations!

Check out the project in:
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Wall Street Journal
And check out the photos on Flickr from the live show!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Occupy Broadway

Our artists, including Michael Friedman, Matt Dellapina, and Quincy Tyler Bernstine, along with Greg Hildreth and Celia Keenan-Bolger, performed yesterday at the very beginning of Occupy Broadway, which is "a 24-hour performance occupation" a few blocks north of Time Square. It's still going on, so if you're around, be sure to check out all of the great stuff packed into the remaining hours!

Here are some photos of Matt Dellapina singing to the crowd:

And here is the finale of The Civilians' performance: Michael Friedman leading the crowd in a sing-along of "Dump the Bosses Off Your Back," a song of discontent and protest from 1911. The lyrics below so you can sing along at home!

Are you poor, forlorn and hungry?
Are there lots of things you lack?
Is your life made up of misery?
Then dump the bosses off your back.

Are your clothes all patched and tattered?
Are you living in a shack?
Would you have your troubles scattered?
Then dump the bosses off your back.

Are you almost split asunder?
Loaded like a long-eared jack?
Boob - why don't you buck like thunder,
And dump the bosses off your back?

All the agonies you suffer
You can end with one good whack;
Stiffen up, you orn'ry duffer
And dump the bosses off your back.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: The Podcast, Part II

We are so pleased to bring you Part II of our Occupy Wall Street podcasts. This material is from interviews our artists conducted last month at Zuccotti Park with the demonstrators about why they are protesting and what it was like in the Park during the first few weeks of this historic movement. This episode features Greg McFadden as Richard O’Mara, a member of the Tea Party; Emily Rossell as Maddy Enlow, a young woman; Dan Domingues and Colleen Werthmann as Chris Carter and Lily Johnston, who are on OWS’s medical team; and Michael Friedman singing his song, "The Signs." He composed the music and wrote the lyrics from signs that he saw and a few things he overheard in the Park.

Check out the project in:
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Wall Street Journal
And check out the photos on Flickr from the live show!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet the R&D: The Illusive Truth, or Peter Sellers is a Funny Man

Today's post is from Jon Kern, one of the playwrights in our R&D Group. The writers in the group are contributing posts that will give insight into their processes: what they're thinking about, what material they're working with, how their research is informing their writing. For more info about the R&D Group, Jon, or his project, please click here, and without further ado, here's Jon's post!

The nature of beginning a new play is that you start to see it everywhere. The nature of me when reworking an older play is that I look for any chance to distract myself. So when I was researching a scene for Tapefaces: Legend of a Kung Fu Master – Season1 DVD [click this for a disturbing photo], I hopped away from clips of Dick Cavett to land on an interview between Peter Sellers and Michael Parkinson from 1974. Toward the end of the interview, between an Inspector Clouseau blooper reel and some goofy non-sequitur about a bad British performer, was a moment of personal reflection.

At around the 2:40 mark, Parkinson asks Sellers, “You’ve had fairly sort of turbulent, mixed-up, uh, private life throughout—throughout your career, haven’t you? Are you kind of happier now then you’ve been at other points in your career?” And Sellers obliges by talking about his failed marriages, holding himself accountable without revealing too much detail, any pointed analysis lost in an ellipsis and a wave of his hand. In this moment, the actor stops looking to the audience, and the impression is given that he’s searching himself for a square view of his past. And I was captivated imagining this as honest.

The project I’m working is a look at how people deal with compulsive behavior, particularly internet addiction. What I’m really curious to explore though is how people become honest with themselves. I don’t think honesty comes naturally. I don’t know when human beings first realized they can construct their own identities, but I expect that as soon as groups had leaders, some clown in that group figured out how to impersonate a leader. Without breaking out my old sociology syllabi, it’s taken as a pretty evident fact now that we create our identities as much if not more often as we be ourselves. Even the idea of acting natural is a frequently performed posture.

Understanding the constructed quality of self-presentation doesn’t stop us for searching for something unconstructed. I’m pretty obsessed wondering if there is something in humanity that is like what Georg Simmel called “an unknowable core.” Compulsive behavior I imagine forces a reckoning with at least the uncontrolled aspect of personality. This in turn leads people to be very honest about their faults, their past, while perhaps never truly putting that past behind them.

Peter Sellers himself represents this question. He represents in a fairly generic “Behind the Music” kind of way. A drug addict. A self-destructive personal life. An early death. A diagnosis – heart attack – related to his addiction. An actor. An actor whose best performance likely came in a movie where he played a man with no personality [Being There].

The Parkinson interview is a part of Sellers legend as a man with no self. Sellers initially refused to go on in front of audience and camera. He apparently was gripped with stage fright. When told he must by Parkison because everything for the interview was already ready, Sellers replied, “I can’t do me!” Parkison, in what sounds like a showbiz-y pro thing to say, retorted, ““Look – I don’t care WHO you come on as – just so long as you COME ON.”

So Sellers came on as an antic WWII German soldier. Watch Part I of the interview. He’s the one shouting in the heavy coat and helmet.

Then Sellers does his striptease out of that character only to step into another amusing bit as a crappy magician. When he finally sits down, it’s supposedly as Peter Sellers.  But this “Peter Sellers” is still mostly a prepared routine. At the end of Part I [beginning at the 8:10 mark], he launches into “an old actor’s story” voicing the old actor – Warrington Minge - who is trying to cash a check. When he comes to the mention of the check, Sellers unbuttons his left breast pocket and pulls out a slip of paper the size of a check. He had walked on stage with his props prepared. This, like so much else in the interview, is just another set piece.

Only when I concentrated on writing this blog post, really looking at what I had selected for inspiration, did I start to doubt that the moment I first saw held any honesty. Sellers answers Parkinson’s question about his happiness with an immediate “Yes.” He performs the role of the penitent ex-husband, confessing that his relationship troubles are “maybe—probably due to the fact I’m impossible to live with.” Is this a reckoning with himself or just the proper line to play the part?

There’s a moment in the first part of the interview [the 4:00 mark] when Parkinson asks about Seller’s father. Just the mention of the word “father” causes Sellers to take his only real sustained silence. Perhaps that expression at 4:02 is the most penetrating insight to be gained from this interview.

Ultimately, understanding our motives may come down to fairly prosaic tropes. My interest in the play I’m working on is less why people behave compulsively but what does a person do once she learns why she behaves compulsively. Certainly, in the case of internet addiction, the source of the compulsion is difficult to avoid and still remain in this century. [Google “hermit” and you can find suggestions on where to go to be alone.]

In my obsession with “an unknowable core” I have told myself, when I’ve remembered my own thoughts, that our labors to overcome a lack of understanding of ourselves only serve as proof that this core must exist. That lack equals the existence of the inviolate unknowable. We struggle with our ignorance as a way to learn about ourselves and what we really come to know is the struggle.

I want to learn how in knowing that struggle at least, we can gather pieces to form an impression of who we are. And when we look at this jigsawed portrait, we can tell ourselves, much as Sellers tries to convince before launching into a captivating apocryphal joke about a musician friend, “This is . . . probably true—probably based on fact.”

UNRELATED ADDENDUM: Over the weekend, I went to a wedding in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where Moravian College is located and where the heart of the U.S. steel industry used to be located. Walking to the chapel, I passed by an Occupy Bethlehem encampment, a handful of tents cluster in a small patch of grass by the Bethlehem Area Public Library. Unfortunately, I was running late to the wedding. It makes me wonder, Internet: what is the most obscure town where the Occupy movement has set up camp?

Post by Jon Kern

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: The Podcast, Part I

Hot off the presses, this is our first episode for Let Me Ascertain You: The Podcast Series about Occupy Wall Street! Last month, our artists were down at Zuccotti Park conducting interviews with the demonstrators about the first few weeks of this historic movement and their reasons for protesting. This episode features Matt Stadelmann as Robert Grote who was on the Brooklyn Bridge during the mass arrests; Matt Dellapina as Buddy Bolton, an out-of-work creative director for children's television; Alix Lambert at Charlotte Souza, a college-aged protester; Jordan Mahome as Preach of Occupy the Hood; and Kelly McCreary singing "I Have Not Slept" by Michael Friedman.

Check out the project in:
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Wall Street Journal

And check out the photos on Flickr from the live show!


Friday, November 18, 2011

OWS Project: Notes From The Field

It's been a big week for the Occupy Wall Street movement and The Civilians artists have been out in the parks and squares interviewing people on the front lines.

Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning occupiers were evicted from Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night. Here's a snippet from an interview by one of our artists with a protester who was in the park when it happened:

"Uh, this morning they came in at one o’clock, they surrounded us with light trucks, big, uh, high beam light trucks, and, um, announced that they we constituted a fire hazard and public safety issues. Uh, they surrounded the camp, maybe a hundred and twenty we’re estimating and, uh, very cordially, uh, for about two and a half hours had media--mediators explain to us the situation and what our options were. During the course of that time we all rallied around our kitchen, which is the center in the heart of our - of our camp and, uh, several of our members, six of them, used u-locks to chain themselves together around the neck, so that they could not be moved without hurting them. Um, and then, as they advanced, they, uh, they tore down tents and tossed everything aside, a sanitation team came in and collected all of our belongings safely and put them in dump truck pressing devices. After about, uh, two and a half hours, around three thirty five, they, uh, they started arresting people. "

On Thursday, protesters responded en masse around the city (and the country) for the National Day of Action ending up at Foley Square. Signs and chants reflected the message "you can't evict an idea." One 75 year old woman at the march, who made note of the fact that she also marched with Dr. King, said:

"I think it's time now to fight back and kick the rich in the butt, you know what I'm saying? Kick them back- and this is a good showing. If they do this all over this country, for the next 6 weeks to 6 months, it's going to make a change, I guarantee you - they're going to come out like they did in '67 after the riots in Newark and put some kind of programs in place, only this time they're going to create some jobs, you hear me?"

And her friend said about being out at Foley Square:

"I'm the only one in my family, [and] my mother, the rest of them are so apolitical. I don't know what planet they're on, but they don't know they benefitted, everybody has benefitted in this country from what other people have done in the streets, historically."

As Occupy movement changes nationally and in NYC, The Civilians will be out there documenting, so keep an eye on the blog for more notes from the field as our project and the movement evolves!

If you missed the OWS cabaret at Joe's Pub, click here to watch it or read the article in the NYTimes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Pretty Filthy Episode

A team of Civilians' artists conducted interviews with performers, directors, agents, producers, and more in Las Vegas and the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. This episode's song and monologues are crafted from these interviews, featuring several adult entertainment stars discussing the do's, don'ts, and won'ts of shaping a career, how they got into the business, and more. Mia Barron plays Katie Graham, Emily Swallow plays another female performer, Paul Provenza and Bess Wohl play one of porn's on and off-screen leading couples, and finally Emily Swallow sings "Beautiful" by Michael Friedman. These interviews are the inspiration for our new fictional musical Pretty Filthy, book by Bess Wohl, music by Michael Friedman. The material in this podcast was recorded in a live performance at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre.

This episode contains sexually explicit material and is not appropriate for children under the age of 18.


Monday, November 14, 2011


As Literary Associate at The Civilians one of the fun things I get to do is check out shows going on that are connected to investigative theater. Because The Civilians is an institute for investigative theater, we like to support shows that fall on the spectrum of investigative by highlighting them here on the blog. Whether a show is directly investigative or the idea for it came from investigative source material, we’re interested!

Last month, I had the chance to see SOUTHERN COMFORT, with book by Dan Collins, music by Julianne Wick Davis, and directed by Tom Caruso, which played at CAP 21 October 5th through November 6th. This musical is based on a documentary of the same name, which tells the story of a “chosen family” of transgender individuals living in rural Georgia. The story is touching and the folk-bluegrass score is upbeat and moving. You can visit the website here.

What’s interesting about this piece from an investigative theater standpoint is that it’s based on a documentary, without actually being a piece of documentary theater. There aren’t that many musicals based on documentaries to begin with, but in the few I can think of – for example, GREY GARDENS – the theatrical version does not maintain a sense of interviewer/interviewee. In SOUTHERN COMFORT, however, characters respond to imagined interview questions as a function of storytelling. This element in particular contributes to the feeling that this musical is a hybrid of traditional musical theater and something more investigative. It’s always cool to see elements of investigative theater working their way into more mainstream forms, especially in a piece as unique and exciting as SOUTHERN COMFORT.

Though the show is no longer running at CAP 21, keep an eye out for future incarnations. And, stay tuned to The Civilians blog for more spotlights from the Literary Corner on shows related to investigative theater!

Post by EllaRose Chary

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let Me Ascertain You: Podcast Series Launch!

Welcome to the very first episode Let Me Ascertain You: The Civilians Podcast Series!

Let Me Ascertain You is a weekly podcast series drawn from the company’s ongoing live cabaret series of the same title and including the best material from a decade of creative investigation. The episodes cover topics such as Occupy Wall Street, Atlantic Yards, the adult entertainment industry, Evangelical Christianity, and more.

Our first episode features performances of interviews about Atlantic Yards with Brooklynites about the controversy over the largest development project in Brooklyn's history. The site where the new Brooklyn Nets (formerly the New Jersey Nets) stadium is being built has been the source of extended and heated conflict, resulting in the enactment of eminent domain in New York State. This episode features the performance of interviews with Atlantic Yards bloggers, local business owners, residents, and activists, examining how the fate of Brooklyn and New York City is decided and what can be learned from this ongoing saga of politics, money, and the places we call home. The material was collected for the company's play In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.

A lot of the performance is from our Let Me Ascertain You: Atlantic Yards cabaret last fall. It also includes a segment with Colleen Werthmann talking about what it was like to conduct interviews for In the Footprint. She talks specifically about the time that she spent with activist Patti Hagan (a prominent character in the play), and what Colleen has to say is really inspiring!

Featuring: Aysan Celik as a blogger, Colleen Werthmann as activist Patti Hagan, White People written by Michael Friedman and performed by Marsha Stephanie Blake, A scene at Levels Barbershop performed by Billy Eugene Jones and Marsha Stephanie Blake, and The Four Brooklyns written and performed by Michael Friedman


Mr. Burns - Workshop at Playwrights Horizons

A few years ago, a group of actors along with playwright Anne Washburn and Steve Cosson got together for a kind of a workshop - not a traditional one, in that they weren't working with an early draft of a script. There was no script yet, so the actors were working together on exercises as led by Anne and Steve. In one of the week's activities, Anne asked the actors to try to retell the "Cape Fear" episode of The Simpsons. This sparked what has become her new play, MR. BURNS. The play had a traditional workshop last week at Playwrights Horizons, which culminated in a reading. Per the program notes:

"The recollection of the Simpsons episode in the first act is largely verbatim, arranged from material collected in sessions with the actors Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Maria Dizzia, Gibson Frazier, Matthew Maher, Jennifer R. Morris, Sam Breslin Wright, and Colleen Werthmann. Special thanks to Matt Maher for his superior recall."

The cast was:
Matthew Maher as Matt
Gibson Frazier as Gibson
Jennifer R. Morris as Jennifer
Colleen Werthmann as Colleen
Quincy Tyler Bernstine as Quincy
Sam Breslin Wright as Sam
Rebecca Hart as Maria

You'll probably notice that five of the original actors returned for the reading. It's worth noting that they aren't actually playing themselves, but rather fictionalized characters originally inspired by work that they did in the original workshop (and Rebecca as a fictionalized character originally inspired by Maria Dizzia's participation in the workshop). Michael Friedman has written the score, full of references to some of the really iconic pop songs of our time. For more, check out the wonderful feature in Seattle's publication, The Stranger, which was written about a workshop that we did in July of this year.

Photos by Sam Breslin Wright. For more, check out his flickr HERE!

Here's the view from the rehearsal room.

Writer's Assistant Josh Luxenberg and Playright Anne Washburn in the back
left, Director Steve Cosson and AD Jay Stull

Colleen Werthmann, Jennifer R. Morris, Josh Luxenberg, Rebecca Hart,
Gibson Frazier, Michael Friedman, and Matthew Maher

Jennifer R. Morris, Matthew Maher, and Rebecca Hart

Working on the stage where the reading was held

Friday, November 4, 2011


Our cabaret LET ME ASCERTAIN YOU: CRIME, USA last year featured interviews about crime conducted in Florida and New York, plus some songs by the band Scrapomatic (photos of the evening are HERE , plus the audio from the performance will be included in our podcast series launching very soon!). The creative force behind that evening was our Associate Artist and R&D Group member Alix Lambert, who is continuing her fascinating work with the topic. She is currently in Hartford, CT conducting interviews, and she was also able to spend some time at Occupy Hartford. The following is direct from Alix, chronicling the first few days of her current investigation!

Post by Alix Lambert, Photos by Alix Lambert and Michael Premo

I am developing a play with the support of Real Art Ways and The Civilians about crime in Hartford, Connecticut, aptly titled: CRIME, USA, HARTFORD. Michael Premo and Jordan Mahome have agreed to come with me to Hartford for a week to conduct the initial interviews that the play will be based on. Meghan Maguire Dahn (Development Manager for Real Art Ways) has graciously offered to drive us from Brooklyn to Hartford, which saves us a Megabus ride.

Monday morning Dahn and I pick up Premo and Mahome, who both live within convenient proximity to my house, and we head toward Hartford. Dahn has been referring to Hartford as Treecapolyse after the horrendous storm the previous day which brought down many trees and left large parts of the city without power.

Here are Premo (L) and Mahome (R) sleeping in the car on the way.

We arrive to a city in chaos. Traffic lights are out, power is spotty (literally and metaphorically) and everything is generally upside down. We settle into our hotel and go by Real Art Ways to say hello to Will K. Wilkins (the director of Real Art Ways) and John O’Donnell (visual arts coordinator), who have been helping line up interviews and taking care of logistics for our stay. The play will be presented at Real Art Ways in March and I want to take a look at both the visual arts space and the theater space that I will be using. Mahome has contacted an old friend in Hartford who is without power but has agreed to talk with us. He is a school-teacher and we are interested in talking with his students as well, but school is closed for days due to the storm. In the evening we have an amazing and insightful conversation with Mahome’s friends that lasts over two hours.

On Tuesday we decide to drive over to the offices of the Hartford Courant (newspaper) and see if any journalists want to speak with us. The person at the front desk dismisses us by giving us a phone number and sending us away. We have noticed that across the street from the Courant is where Occupy Hartford is set up: a sprinkling of tents and a sad snow-man. We cross the street to see what’s going on over there. 

We are greeted by Luke, who tells us he is recently out of a psych ward, and after living in the woods for a month in Ithaca NY, ended up in Hartford in a shelter, but the bedbugs were too much for him so now he’s living at Occupy Hartford. He shows us his tent. Premo speaks to an older gentlemen who talks about his friendships with Elvis and Robert Kennedy, while Mahome and I talk to a nurse who has some compelling stories about kids coming to her with lumps under their skin that turn out to be bullets that were never removed from their bodies. Luke tells us that his favorite thing to do is ride really fast on his bicycle while high on heroine, and I buy an Occupy Hartford pin for 2 dollars. Today we are heading to the Boxing gym, and tomorrow to the tattoo parlor, both promising to be brimming with Hartford crime stories.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Watch the Occupy Wall Street Cabaret!

The Civilians' Let Me Ascertain You: Occupy Wall Street Cabaret was last Friday, and it went great! We couldn't be prouder of our fantastic artists for pulling together to create such a wonderful show (and so quickly - interviews began just a few weeks ago)!

We got a great write-up from The Faster Times, who said that "The 80-minute show was the most moving work of theater I have seen all season." Read the whole article here!

We are so happy to announce that the entire show is available! Watch the videos posted here, or check out a snapshot from an interview posted below!

Watch live streaming video from joespub at

Watch live streaming video from joespub at

Watch live streaming video from joespub at

Fate is a 19 year old in youthful, punkish clothing. She tells us what brings her to OWS and what it's like living there:

“I came out here with my boyfriend and my friends? But um…all I really love about this is …we’re making a point. We’re standing up for what we believe in and at the end of the day, you know, we still have our heads up…we still have hope. Hopefully none of these freaking PIGS (gestures to police) mess it up.
Well, being here my day is…is peaceful. Yeah, it is hard to sleep …early...but you know, everyone’s like, “Yeah come on,” everyone’s like rowdy, like “Yeah protestors” and it’s like, you gotta be up. We clean up, we put the blankets back so other people can use them. We eat. Uh. Our spots change all the time. There are people that are coming in from different states and different countries, so we have to make a little bit more room for them. And. That’s basically like…it’s like guests, coming into our home. This is our home. And we’re trying to make it look suitable…to people.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TALES FROM MY PARENTS' DIVORCE Apprentice Show: Cake on Passover?!

Tales from My Parents' Divorce is going strong at ArtsEmerson! The show is getting some fantastic feedback. Check out this awesome video of audience responses, plus a few snippets from the show! For tickets to the remaining shows, click HERE!

Plus, here's another clip from the Apprentice Show made this summer by apprentices at Williamstown Theater Festival when the show was there. The apprentices conducted their own interviews about home and holidays: this one is about what can happen when a cake comes into the house on Passover - probably not what you'd expect!


With The Civilians' Let Me Ascertain You: Occupy Wall Street cabaret at Joe's Pub only a few days away, we're giving you a sneak preview of some of the interviews featured in the show. To hear more from this story and many others, come to the cabaret!

The cabaret is on October 28 at 7:30PM at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan). To purchase tickets, click HERE!

Omar is a Teamster from New York who came out for the rally on October 5th. 

It feels good that we’re seeing other people with the same plight. We’re all here to support each other and it makes it feel good that everybody’s willing to speak up and say something against corporate America, you know what I’m saying? Because pretty soon if it wasn’t for the union what would it be like? It would be like Thailand where you have an 8-year-old,you know, doing the job of his father or mother instead of going to school, you see what I’m saying?  If we don’t speak up, nobody’s going to listen. Politicians won’t listen. It’s like when you vote, if people don’t vote, nothing happens, nothing changes, it’s just going to be the same old good old boys controlling the reins, you know? Hopefully this protest we have going here, will – will affect, um, the politicians to make some changes, you know, let – let the big guys pay some of the tax bill for bailing out the banks and Wall Street , you know? Why should it always be the middle and lower class paying for everything? You know, they stay with the money in their pockets and we lose ours, you know, that’s just not fair. It’s not fair.

Miss the snapshots from earlier in the week? Click here to check out some of the other preview posts!

Be sure to check out our features about the interview process and the role of art in the movement in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal!

And if you can't make the cabaret on Friday, it'll be streaming live online! HERE is the link that will allow you to watch the performance at 7:30PM EST!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The latest installment of our quarterly cabaret series Let Me Ascertain You is getting closer! For this one, The Civilians have been out doing interviews at Occupy Wall Street. Here on the blog we've been posting some sneak peak preview material from interviews the artists have been doing. To hear the rest of this story, and many more come to the cabaret at Joe's Pub on October 28th! More info and tickets HERE!

Maddy is a young woman with dyed candy apple red hair. We caught up with her while she was painting a coffee-house art style painting in Zuccotti Park.


“But, yeah I feel like these people are my family. We share - my mother thinks I'm crazy when I talk about my political views, and when I'm here everyone's like, 'Yeah, that makes perfect sense, yeah,' and that's great to feel like people, that I'm not crazy. And school, I go to like a small Catholic school, I proposed the idea of not using money in society and some girl freaked out and went 'But I need to pay my bills.' She failed to recognize that if we lived in a society without money there wouldn't be bills, but I don't know, maybe I'm not crazy, I'm just smarter than her, I don't know.”

Be sure to check out our features about the interview process and the role of art in the movement in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal!

And if you can't make the cabaret on Friday, it'll be streaming live online! HERE is the link that will allow you to watch the performance at 7:30PM EST! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In anticipation of our upcoming cabaret, Let Me Ascertain You:Occupy Wall Street, we're posting some sneak peak previews of material from interviews used for the cabaret. This is an excerpt from an interview with Wezel, a farmer in his 70s with some interesting thoughts on the situation. To get the rest of his story and many others, come to the cabaret at Joe's Pub on October 28th! More info and tickets HERE!

“I’ve got a sixth grade education. You’re talkin’ to the wrong man. We need to reform our judicial system, our penal system - the whole medical thing is a disaster.  My wife and I, we’re in our sixties and seventies, ah, we’re fucked. No, we can’t, how could we, you know? We live on a thousand dollars a month, we couldn’t afford insurance.  So I get social security, my wife is 63, so we’re still waiting, and she lost her job. Her school closed down. She’s an art teacher. They completely shut the school down, she lost her insurance, and then she had a heart attack. So, so we have-  we don’t owe any money to anybody in the world except the hospital, about 50,000 dollars.  Well, when you live on a thousand dollars a month, that’s a lot of money for us.  And, uh, we thought Obama was gonna fix it-but…
A little bit at a time.  We go an’ dive dumpsters, an’ grow most of our own food, but it puttin’ us in a bind - but we still love it. We love (smiling) our country livin’, an’ we have a good life. We-look at our children, ya know? An’ our - one of our daughters is- is pretty well - doing a big thing in North Carolina. She’s had meetings with the police chief and the county commissioners, so we can occupy a park there. She also has a vegan restaurant, so she is feeding everybody, hundreds of people a day.  So yeah it’s- it’s a- life’s good."  

For more information about the investigative method and occupy wall street, check out our feature in the Washington Post HERE and the Wall Street Journal HERE!

Plus, we're working on bringing some of our interviewees to the theater! A donation of $15 buys one ticket for a protester. Click HERE

Friday, October 21, 2011


Last week, we introduced you to some of the people interviewed by Civilians' Artists at the Occupy Wall Street Protest. This week, as Let Me Ascertain You: Occupy Wall Street draws nearer, we're going to give you a sneak peak at some of the characters who you'll find at Joe's Pub on the 28th, here on the blog!

The cabaret is on October 28 at 7:30PM at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan). To purchase tickets, click HERE!

Michele is a longtime New York activist who has been going to the protest since day 3. She was arrested in the Brooklyn Bridge march. Here's a preview from her interview:

“I just decided, you know, the Brooklyn Bridge is a big monument; everybody across the country is going to know what the Brooklyn Bridge is. And, I didn’t want to get arrested, like I promised my partner I wasn’t going to get arrested. From the beginning, the second I went down to Wall Street, “Oh, don’t worry I’ve been doing this forever, I don’t want – I’m tired of getting arrested,” but I’m telling you, the energy at that moment - and people started saying, “Let’s take the bridge,” and then people started singing and dancing, you know? That chant that says you know, “Go up, go down there is revolution in this town”, and we literally just like started dancing out on the bridge and it was just – it was impossible to not do it, you know? And it just- it just- it was like, okay, maybe this is going to get the media’s attention, because up until that point there really hadn’t been anything except, I think it was the Daily News that had the cover of that woman’s cleavage, you know, with the police holding the woman down, you know? That unfortunate photo. Um, so anyways, uh, you know, we went out onto the bridge and I just accepted it and I was like okay, we’re going to get arrested and – and this – I hope it’s worth it, and, uh, and it was.” 

Stay tuned to the blog for more interview excerpts coming next week!

And to check out our awesome feature in The Washington Post, click HERE! The reporter, Peter Marks, talked to Steve and to our Associate Artist Greg McFadden about the creative process, investigative theater, and conducting interviews for our Occupy Wall Street cabaret. He even spent some time with Greg out at Zuccotti Park while he talked to some of the protesters! Check it out!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TALES FROM MY PARENTS' DIVORCE Actors Working with Students

Get ready! TALES FROM MY PARENTS' DIVORCE is heading up to Boston for a run at ArtsEmerson next week. Jenny Morris and Robbie Collier Sublett (actors in and writers of the play) are there now leading a workshop for some students at Emerson College, who will be creating their own piece from interviews that they are conducting. Check out this great article in the Emerson's newspaper The Berkeley Beacon HERE to find out more about what the students are up to! And for tickets to the show at ArtsEmerson, click HERE!

While the show was up at Williamstown for its very successful run, Jenny and Robbie led a workshop for the apprentices. They conducted some of their own interviews about family and the holidays, and they made a lovely piece about it that they performed as a coda to The Civilians' show (which is what the Emerson students will be doing, too). Here's a clip featuring a hilarious song (that I think one could call Michael Friedman-esque at points)! Congrats to these talented youngsters!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unity Within Diversity - R&D Group 2011-12!

Post by Annah Feinberg, R&D Group Coordinator 

What excites me most about this year’s crop of investigative theater projects being cultivated in the Civilians’ R&D writers group are the threads that link the wide range of projects together. During our first meeting of the year this past Monday, topics of conversation ranged between Stalin’s love of tractor musicals, Radical Faeries in Tennessee, historic accuracy, the Landmark Forum, suicide girls, nail polish, crime, Internet addiction, Occupy Wall Street, high school prom, and many more. While these all seem to come from vastly different corners of our contemporary consciousness, they are all strung together by projects that are questioning social perception of sanity and what has changed or is changing in our world that has lead or is leading to these changes in sociological awareness.

The R&D group is an incubator for the bouncing of ideas among investigative theater artist; it is a collective creative exploration of investigation. The artists range from first time playwrights who are well versed in Civilians methodology to seasoned playwrights in search of a new way of working and connecting to the world around them. By creating a conversation around these new projects, we hope to spark conversation within the projects; ideas of the artists in the group will inform and fertilize the projects of the other artists in the group.

I’m thrilled to find the unity within the diversity of projects being created this year, both artistically and tactically. Perhaps one writer will discover a new avenue for research and investigation that will open up a creative door for another. Perhaps one writer’s discoveries about the Landmark Forum will influence another’s project about the American Rehabilitation System, which will influence another’s project about Internet addition, and so on. The potential artistic links in this year’s group seem infinite, and I cannot wait to watch them connect.

In Monday’s meeting, Civilians Artistic Director Steve Cosson said something that really stuck with me: He remarked that partaking in the investigative process, and unlocking an underexplored corner of society “makes the world bigger”. I hope that’s what we will do this year in the R&D group—make the world bigger, one meeting at a time. 

For more info about the artists (pictured above) or their projects, click HERE!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kevin Kline, Liev Schreiber, José Rivera y Otros Apoyan A Grupos de Teatro Amenazados en Bogotá

Esta mañana envíamos la siguiente carta a los periódicos y a los medios de comunicación en Estados Unidos. Se trata de las amenazas de muerte contra compañías de teatro en Bogotá. Para más información, haga click ACA para el artículo de Steve Cosson sobre las amenazas y la respuesta, y qué puede usted hacer para ayudar.

Lo que usted puede hacer:
Por favor, escriba a cualquiera de los siguientes contactos para hacerles saber que usted está preocupado por la seguridad del teatro y los grupos artísticos en Bogotá. Dígale al gobierno colombiano y a la policía que haga todo lo posible para proteger a los grupos e investigar la amenaza.

Volmar Antonio Perez
Defensoria del pueblo
Calle 55 No 10- 32
Bogota, Colombia

Hernan Jaime Ulloa
Programa presidencial de derechos humanos
presidencia de la república
carrera 7 No 6 – 54
Bogota, Colombia

Mariella Barragán
Secretaria de Gobierno Bogota

For this post in English, please click here!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Civilians Occupy Wall Street

Over the past few weeks, Civilians' artists have been downtown talking to the 99% about the current demonstrations, our government, the economy, and the future. The company's next cabaret evening in its Let Me Ascertain You series will take this interview material and reveal the thought-provoking and unexpected, the infuriating and hilarious, the communal and the personal stories of the large and ongoing display of discontent that is Occupy Wall Street. Don't miss this one-night-only performance of monologues and songs by Michael Friedman crafted from interviews in The Civilians' unique style, giving voice to the people and examining the current exercise of democracy that will leave its mark our nation's history.

The cabaret is on October 28 at 7:30PM at Joe's Pub (425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan). To purchase tickets, click HERE!

Here are some excerpts from the interviews we've done so far:

"We, the 99%, that’s who, you know everyone who isn’t putting in these policies and – and benefitting from them... the federal reserve for instance [is a] privatized bank which we’re not allowed, uh, even to audit, you know, our government, yet they print our money. But they have no resources and they’re not federal, they’re privatized, and we have to borrow that money from them on loan when section – Article 1, Section 8 of The Constitution, uh, prohibits anyone else from coining money except for Congress, so, you know in that way the wealth would stay with the nation, but what happens is the wealth gets siphoned out of the nation and all the resources get siphoned out of the relation and a few bankers are – are pocketing that money." 

"I hitchhiked here all the way from California to get out here for this protest...Um, so what you do, is a lot of people use a cardboard sign, uh white cardboard if you can get it, because it stands out more, but my friend got me a wonderful gift years ago, which was a white, a white – like a dry erase board so that way I could express myself at any given moment or if I wanted to take a new route, I could change it or I could just like write funny shit on there and try to get a laugh out of people . Um, and I – I used that, I have a backpacking backpack that I loaded up with all of my gear, and I carried with me a lawn gnome on the back, which is an unnecessary 10 pounds, but my friend gave it to me and was like take this with you on your journey this time and we named him “Gnome Chomsky” and currently he’s sleeping over there on my bed..."

"I said I would've been arrested, I would've done it just just to a say wait a second this is what democracy's supposed to be about you know we're supposed to do this, that's what brought this country together, you know, and then you got people, that's what I'm saying, the news people really disappoint.  I even heard O'Reilly, I haven't heard O'Reilly say What are we going to do about these people, you know, I thought O'Reilly at least was going to say Hey, this is what America is all about, but he's a punk, he keeps talking telling everybody how tough he is, you know?  I'm Bill O'Reilly and I'm a I'm a tough guy. No he's not.  He's a sissy. He ran away from Vietnam, too. Tell him that if you ever see him."

Donate $15 to send one demonstrator to the show
Please click the link below to make a donation of $15 or more and we’ll invite actively protesting members of the 99% to witness their stories being told. 


Kevin Kline, Liev Schreiber, José Rivera, and Others Support Threatened Bogotá Theater Groups

We released the following letter to the national media this morning in regards to the death threats issued against theater companies in Bogotá. For more information, please click HERE for Steve Cosson's post about the threats and the response, and what you can do to help.

What you can do:
Please help by writing any or all of the contacts below to let them know that you are concerned for the safety of the theater and artistic groups in Bogotá and that you urge the Colombian government and police to do everything it can to protect the  groups and to investigate the threat. 

Volmar Antonio Perez
Defensoria del pueblo
Calle 55 No 10- 32
Bogota, Colombia

Hernan Jaime Ulloa
Programa presidencial de derechos humanos
presidencia de la república
carrera 7 No 6 – 54
Bogota, Colombia

Mariella Barragán
Secretaria de Gobierno Bogota

Para esta entrada en español, por favor haga clic ACA.