Sunday, December 11, 2011

Take Two Challenge

Take Two is seeking submissive types for 2012! Yes, for the first time ever, we have held off from programming the entire event to open it up to YOU, dear reader. This year, with the February Take Two falling on Valentine's Day, we thought we'd put a little edge on the greeting card holiday with a play and film on the theme LOVE ACROSS BORDERS. We're looking for sharp, insightful plays and films on anything that might creatively address this idea - got a play or film that revolves around an arranged marriage? miscegenation laws? a pre-Stonewall gay romance? colliding courtship customs? Put your play in front of our exciting panel of theater and film professionals, win $100 and see your work presented on February 14th!


Films and plays must address the theme "Love Across Borders."

Deadline for submission is December 21, 2011.

Films must be 30 minutes or less.

Plays must be 40-120 pages.

Click here to SUBMIT NOW!

More info:

Our panelists:

Nancy Robillard - Director credits include productions on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional and summer theatre.

Mike S. Ryan - Award-winning independent film producer whose works include Kelly Reichardt's MEEK'S CUTOFF, Todd Solondz's LIFE DURING WARTIME, and Clark Gregg's CHOKE.

Karin Shook Caparoso - Co-founder of the Chicago Director's Lab and former Artistic Director of Chicago's Tripaway Theatre.

Ching Valdes-Aran - Director and Obie Award winning actress.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How My Grandmother, B.D. Wong and a Leaky Bathroom Inspired BIG FLOWER EATER

My grandmother (left) in the 1950s.
My grandmother on my father’s side was a character to say the least. In photographs, she has the most relaxed body language I have ever seen in a woman who grew up in the 1910s and 1920s. She leans and lounges, hips curving to one side, in a rather lascivious way, looking strangely emancipated and not of her time. I remember realizing that she was rather unusual when she came to visit us in the States in the 1970s. Our two bonding conversations were about 1) Tarot reading and astrology, which fascinated her for being Western ways of fortunetelling that she didn't  know about; and 2) those shiny leggings that were new at that time. They only came in electric blue or hot pink, and we both coveted the electric blue ones.

When I got to be a teenager, I wanted the room she stayed in when she visited us since it had its own separate entrance. So I cleaned it out, discovering three empty, dusty, sweet vermouth bottles under the bed. Then I found a box of photos, and among all the black and white pictures, there was a mysterious woven orange pouch. Inside, I found several gorgeous red pieces of paper with Chinese writing, a few featuring lovely brushwork, all of them with some sort of wheel at the bottom. When I showed them to my mom, she made a noise of disgust and said (in effect), “Oy. Fortunetelling.”

Being completely prosaic, my mother had no interest in enlightening me, no matter how much I pestered her. The only thing I could read on those fortunes were family names, so I surmised that my grandmother must have had these fortunes cast for members of the family. There was one with my brother’s name, one with my father’s name and one with my name – the only name in ballpoint pen, like an afterthought. There were five others I could not decipher at all.

I kept the box of photos and the fortunes, but after putting everything away, I forgot all about the fortunes until many years later, when I was redecorating my old apartment on 11th Street. Inspired by someone else’s bathroom, I bought a gallon of red paint and my boyfriend at the time was helping me transform my Lower East Side loo from rundown and humdrum, to what I hoped would be fiery chic. As I was moving stuff around in the living room, I found that box of old photos and opening it, I rediscovered my grandmother’s woven pouch.

A similar fortune, but for a betrothal.
“Look at these,” I said, carefully unfolding one to show my boyfriend as he continued to work.

He had never seen anything like it before and exclaimed, “You should hang them up!”

Then I remembered reading in some magazine, maybe when I was getting my nails done, some article about B.D. Wong tiling his bathroom with his aunt’s vintage mahjongg tiles. 

“Hey,” I queried my boyfriend, holding the fortune up against the bright red bathroom wall, “What do you think about me hanging these fortunes here?”

“Great idea,” he replied and plucking the fortune from my hands, he stuck them on the still-wet paint. Thwak. 

Well, that’s not quite what I envisioned, my inner critic thought, but then the inner critic of my inner critic chimed in and told me to stop being so uptight and to relax. So we pasted all the fortunes on the wall. 

Needless to say, my mother nearly fainted the next time she came over and used the bathroom. I swear she shrieked and came barreling out of the bathroom scolding me for doing such a thing. For the next year, anytime she came by and had to use the bathroom, I could hear a steady stream of Taiwanese muttering.

Then after a few months of enjoying a refurbished bathroom, it began to leak. No one could figure out where the leak was coming from. The toilet of the apartment upstairs? The bathtub? Workmen traipsed in and out, three or four times, to no avail. Not that they were the brightest, but really, it was mysterious and annoying.

Worse, the fortunes were getting soaked. And there was no way to remove them. I watched with dismay, as the fortune that my grandmother cast for me became an illegible blur around the blue ink of my name, which remained sharp and took on an accusatory tone. I refrained from doing anything to the bathroom, wanting to preserve what I could of the fortunes. Eventually, it finally leaked so much, the entire ceiling came down.

The workmen came and put in a new ceiling. Only two of the fortunes were not wet and ruined. Thankfully, they happened to be the oldest, with the most interesting brush calligraphy. I had a new boyfriend by then, who helped me cut them from the wall. I took photographs of the soaked fortunes so that perhaps someone could help me read some of them in the future. Then we covered up the old fortunes with a fresh coat of turquoise paint.

My grandmother in the 1930s
I framed those two remaining fortunes and hung them up, first in the living room and then in the hall. They were there when I was evicted last January. But I don’t know where they went since. I haven’t been able to find them in my possessions.

When the bathroom started to leak, I joked that my mother was right: my grandmother had been upset that I pasted her fortunes in the bathroom. I imagined the dead relatives referred to in those fortunes lounging in the bathtub, wondering what they were doing in the Lower East Side. BIG FLOWER EATER is basically a giant riff on this joke, which really might not be a joke. 

I originally started it because a friend encouraged me to write a one-woman play, but I realized that I don’t really like one-person plays and I would be terribly uncomfortable in one. BIG FLOWER EATER will therefore feature three actresses, each of whom will play a young woman and her grandmother. It will be my first time devising a play and I’m excited to work with Kim Chinh and Helen Kim, both of whom have improvisation skills and writing experience. We’ll be using some exercises from Theatre de Complicite and several Guest Directors will be part of the collaborative process, as will James Daher, whose video work some of you may remember from the Direct Arts World’s Fair. We’ll be recording and reporting on each day of the workshop and we’d welcome comments from everyone. 

Like most of my work, BIG FLOWER EATER will examine how the past and present are connected, bringing to light something of the past that has been buried or forgotten. But I am also interested in ritual and its importance. As well as ways spirits can be presented on stage. Video, of course, can easily project transparent ghostlike images, but I’d also like to explore different avenues like shadows, glass, mirrors and aerial work. Ultimately, I’d love to play with a Pepper’s Ghost effect. 

But for this workshop, we’ll start with video, story, ritual, and an inimitable performance by traditional Korean drummer Vongku Pak. Fitting actually, that having been inspired by a red bathroom, the play will be developed in the Red Room. I hope you’ll follow this blog over the next few weeks as we delve into this theatrical experiment and come see the fruits of our labor December 7-10! 

-- By Victoria Linchong

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alyssa Joins Direct Arts!

Hi, my name is Alyssa Bothman, and I am honored to be the newest addition to Direct Arts as the Program Assistant for Take Two. I would like to introduce myself, as I will soon be sharing stories, interviews, and news with you. I recently moved from California to New York just over one month ago. I am from Los Gatos, California, a small town located just south of San Francisco. In June of this year, I graduated from Santa Clara University in the Silicon Valley where I received a double degree. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance and a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts with an emphasis in Dance. An interesting combination, I know, but my degrees sum up the pieces that make me whole. As a performing arts enthusiast and a striving dancer and choreographer, I decided to move across the country after graduation and experience life on the East Coast. What better place to be involved in the arts than New York City: the Mecca of performing arts!

I have always had a special interest in social justice and the arts, so I am inspired by Direct Arts’ mission to incorporate multiple cultures in its productions. With the ever-increasing desire for our American society to recognize all cultures, it is through organizations like Direct Arts to make this dream a reality. Since America is a melting pot of diversity, it is essential for us to celebrate the richness of culture in our country. Theater and film provide a means of communicating real world affairs with an artistic glow. I am proud to be a part of Direct Arts: an organization actively encouraging intercultural productions, and I am eager to plan and participate in the upcoming events this year.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

International Pavilions for The Direct Arts World's Fair

It was a rather panicky morning. The van was late and it was hard to wake up even after a double espresso - but we arrived at Campos Community Garden with cardboard and paint not too long after Taylor Sakarett, the Art Assistant.

Taylor had come to us through an ad in Craigslist and I was pretty amazed to discover that he was a intrinsic part of Bushwick Project for the Arts, an art collective that until last year, had squatted a former factory on Meserole Street. I was excited to connect him with Matt Metzgar and Mac McGill, who were both part of the Lower East Side squat movement of the 1980s and 1990s.

Taylor and I began priming cardboard and cutting them down to size. Marcellus Hall arrived and got to work on making the Americas Pavilion. I was glad that he had thought to print out the design he had created.

Marcellus' witty cartoons have been in The New Yorker and The New York Times. I first met him in the late 1980s on the J train on a dare from two girl friends to talk to an utter stranger. I think Marcellus had just come to New York City from Minnesota but he had absolutely no problems with a strangely friendly Asian girl chatting him up.

Meanwhile, it turned out that the garden was hosting a Green Guerrillas plant giveaway, so we had to figure out how to position ourselves so we could co-exist in a functional way AND stay under the one of the two covered areas just in case it rained. The gray clouds in the sky did not look good.  After setting up here and there, art-making ended up on the covered stage while plant-giving ended up under the tent. 

Raindrops did begin to fall as Mac McGill got to the garden, but they thankfully stopped. The plant giveaway was really swinging by that time - it was actually great to re-connect with some of the Lower East Side gardeners whom I hadn't seen since I was exiled in January.

Since we sprang it on him at the last moment, Mac hadn't had time to design the Africa Pavilion. I showed him what Marcellus had designed and he sat down and began drawing.  Mac's wonderful work anthropomorphizing buildings in the political graphic magazine World War III Illustrated has always amazed me.

After deliberating for awhile, he came up with a design incorporating the pyramids of Egypt, the continent of Africa and two African masks. Taylor helped him tape up some cardboard and he got to work.

Luba Lukova arrived, rather confused at all the activity in the garden. At this point, thirty gardeners were picking up plants amidst several pieces of cardboard (finished and unfinished) and Marcellus and Mac were cheek-by-jowl on the covered stage.

I began working with Luba in 1996 after I saw her graphic design for another show at Theater for the New City. A Bulgarian-born artist, her work melds a constructivist sense with the storytelling of surrealists. She designed the postcard and poster for my first play, VIRGIL, and for my second play, RITE OF RETURN.
I was trying to figure out where Luba could work when she stopped me and suggested that she plaster a plain white Pavilion with posters so it looks like a news kiosk. I loved the idea so we put Taylor on cutting out cardboard to dimensions that Luba and I agreed on.

Marcellus was supposed to have met Julee Kim for brunch but since it was getting past 3:00, he invited her to the garden and she helped him finish up.

Mac decided to take his half-finished artwork home to work on in leisure.

Matthew came as dusk fell and after wearily cleaning up, we finished the day with some excellent curry on 10th Street.

So the International Pavilions are pretty much in hand. Now we need to make Silent Auction displays...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Direct Arts World's Fair

On May 17th, Direct Arts invites you to imagine an alternate utopian universe - one where tax dollars go towards arts and education, rather than war and where artists making intimate, articulate, relevant theater and film can not only survive but thrive... one where minority artists and their stories are considered both viable and necessary to the mainstream.  Direct Arts celebrates this vision at The Direct Arts World's Fair, a retro-futuristic extravaganza to benefit their intercultural theater and film programs in 2011-2012.

Our 3rd Annual Benefit promises to be a pretty wild event. Jenny Rocha & Her Painted Ladies will interpret Billy Rose's Aquacade and Al Gori will be on hand with his Homespun Merry-go-Round. We're excited to have DJ Jaiko Suzuki with her encyclopedic awareness of international pop AND this year, guests will meet The Philanthrobot, whose edifying antics dispel the mysteries of donating to the arts!

Tuesday May 17
Causey Contemporary
92 Wythe Avenue
Between N10th and N11th Street
L train to Bedford Ave, 5 minute walk
$35 advance / $40 door
Enter the password UTOPIA

Wanna get involved? We're looking for artists to be part of this event - see our Call for Submissions. We'll also be looking for volunteers to staff the event in android costumes or random ethnic garb, which we'll partially provide. Email us at for more info!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Interview with Anna Zeigler

Anna Ziegler, author of THE MINOTAUR, took time from her hectic schedule to answer a few of our more pressing questions.

DA: Theater or Film or both, and why?
AZ: Both! I love both theater and film, and can't imagine my life without them. As far as my writing goes, I've done much more playwriting than screenwriting, but I've started to dabble in the latter. (I've been adapting my play Photograph 51 into a screenplay, and just got some support from the Tribeca Film Institute to do so--so we'll see where that goes...)

DA: What got you into theater?
AZ: I grew up in New York City and my parents took me to see a lot of theater. It was mostly musicals, but some plays too (I remember Kevin Spacey's Iceman Cometh quite vividly, maybe because it was so long). I can't say I knew as a kid that I wanted my life to be in theater. But I wrote a lot of poetry and fiction, and even my poetry was narrative and full of dialogue. My senior year in college, I applied to be in a playwriting class taught by Arthur Kopit. To get in, you were supposed to submit a scene, but I didn't have one. Lucky for me, he accepted me on the basis of a poem. He then became instrumental in my continuing on as a playwright. He invited me to be in a writer's group he was starting at the Lark that summer, and also suggested I apply to the MFA program at NYU where he then taught. I did both the writer's group (now known as the Lark Playwrights' Workshop) and the MFA program and got hooked somewhere along the way.

DA: How has your social/ethnic background informed your work?
AZ: Most of my work has at least a passing reference to Judaism, but I don't think of myself as a Jewish writer. I've been drawn to stories that feature Jews -- my play Dov and Ali is about a Jewish teacher and his Muslim student, and my play Photograph 51 is about the Jewish British scientist, Rosalind Franklin. But other plays don't use Judaism as a theme. If anything, my work has been more influenced by the milieu in which I grew up and things that have happened to me along the way.

DA: What was your inspiration for this play?
AZ: I've always wanted to adapt a myth, and it became clear, after seeing Sarah Ruhl's tremendous and inspiring Eurydice at 2nd Stage, that I would have to try right then and there. I'd been looking for the right myth, and a friend of mine, a director named Josh Hecht who was quite familiar with my work, suggested I write about the Minotaur because it tapped into some of the themes to which I was always returning--betrayal and forgiveness and the durability of love. There also seemed to me an unexplored angle to the story-- that the Minotaur was Ariadne's brother, and therefore she was betraying her flesh and blood in helping Theseus. This felt really fresh and interesting to me.

DA: What are you working on right now?
AZ: I'm working on the screenplay referenced above, and also a new play called An Incident, about a New York City family's trials and tribulations when the troubled son disappears on Visiting Day at his camp in Maine.  I also have a show coming up called No Ramon which will be presented in excerpt in New Georges' Germ Project at the 3LD Center this June.
DA: Favorite prime number?
AZ: Eleven, of course.

Thanks again to Anna Ziegler for indulging our curiosity, and be sure to catch THE MINOTAUR at Take Two! May 12th, 2011 at 7PM.  For more info please visit our website at: 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

March 25, 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that cost 129 girls and 17 men their lives and led to widespread labor reforms.  Most of these girls were age 16 to 23 and very recent immigrants to America. I think of my mother, who worked in a sewing factory when I was a child. I think of a hundred ambitious, lively, young girls still wide-eyed with being in a new country full of promise, standing hand-in-hand on the roof, faced with jumping ten stories to their deaths or being burned alive.

For those who are unaware of the infamous story, twenty minutes before the end of the workday on Saturday, March 25, 1911, fire broke out on the 8th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where 500 women and 100 men were busy sewing button-up shirts. With combustible cloth hanging everywhere, the fire quickly spread. While many on the 8th floor escaped on one overloaded elevator before the heat made it impossible, the girls on the 9th floor found that the door to the stairwell was locked and there was only one fire escape that quickly buckled beneath them. On the 10th floor, after the workers had climbed to the roof on the one available ladder, they realized they could not get down to safety. The firemen’s ladders were designed for six story buildings and could not reach the upper floors of the new cast-iron building. Thousands of people gathered and helplessly watched in horror as girls began to jump.
Five girls who stood together at a window close to the Greene Street corner, held their places while a fire ladder was worked toward them, but which stopped at its full length two stories lower down.  They leaped together, clinging to each other, with fire streaming back from their hair and dresses.
--The New York Times, March 25, 1911

Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were rabidly anti-union and known as the "shirtwaist kings" of New York. They had locked the door to the stairwell on the 9th floor to prevent girls from stealing and were subsequently charged with manslaughter, but acquitted with the help of a lawyer who insinuated that the survivors who provided testimony were coached by the union. Blanck was fined $20 for locking the doors to yet another factory two years later. But the fire did inspire labor reforms that made the workplace a little less deadly: in 1912, fire drills and automatic sprinklers became law.

Many of the girls who worked in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory lived in the Lower East Side, still reeling from the General Slocum disaster, which had claimed over 1,000 lives in 1904. To get an idea of the fire's impact on the Lower East Side, take a look at this stunning map created by Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, who are also behind the Chalk project, in which volunteer artists chalk the names of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory victims on the sidewalk in front of their old residences on March 25. On 11th Street where I lived, I used to go home on the anniversary of the fire, thinking of 14-year old Kate Leone and 18-year old Jennie Pildescu who never came home that fatal Saturday. Here's an eyewitness account from the tragic day and some sad photographs - even the city coroner wept. 

A hundred years later, with the battle over collective bargaining being decided in Wisconsin, it’s more than timely to pause on March 25 to remember that the labor laws we take for granted – the eight-hour day, the 40-hour week, minimum wage, sanitary and safe conditions, unemployment insurance –were rights that were fought for and won at the cost of many lives. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition is holding a procession at 11AM at the site of the former Triangle Shirtwaist Factory near Washington Square Park. Barbara Kahn, who writes interesting plays on lesbians in history, has written BIRD ON FIRE, a musical that depicts the fictional lives of two women who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. It's at Theater for the New City until April 10th.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Play it on the G-String

Herewith, Victoria Linchong outs herself as a teenage runaway, former stripper, high school drop out and generally the girl you don't bring home to Mother in an artistic statement on THE GRIND, a multimedia live episodic series, which we hope to develop over the summer for a production in 2011-2012.

Come check out the "pilot episode" of THE GRIND, following JP Chan's DRY CLEAN ONLY at Take Two on Tuesday, February 15th and stay for a discussion in which Victoria swaps stories with sex activist Siobhan Brooks-King, who's got a few tales of her own from her days at Lusty Lady in San Francisco. See the website  for more information!

THE GRIND is set at Bump 'n Grind, a strip club based on Baby Doll Lounge. 
Image courtesy of In the Cut and Jeremiah's Vanishing New York


By Victoria Linchong

In 1992, as a teenage runaway one step from the street, my best friend, a dancer new to New York City from Atlanta, took me to the Pussycat Lounge and introduced me to an amazing new way of paying my rent. I earned $80 that night dancing in my underwear - twice as much as what I made all week working as an usher in an East Village theater. For the next eight years, stripping was a means of self-reliance, the bankroll I could count on while I pursued my art.

In my circle of artsy friends, my story is not that unusual. It's almost a rite of passage for any ambitious girl of limited means. Yet, it's a story that's rarely told, mostly since it's hard enough to be respected as a woman and once you've outed yourself as a stripper, your credibility is basically shot. When one thinks of a stripper, one rarely imagines a low-income woman struggling to get by. As a stripper, you are either a victim or a slut, deprived or depraved. The focus on "sex work" centers on "sex" instead of "work," and while the double edge of sexuality is a rich issue to mine, in the context of "sex work" it fails to confront the real questions, which have nothing to do with morality, which are completely socioeconomic: Why are the options are so limited for women? What are the economic realities that make stripping a viable (and even, dare I say it, intelligent) choice for many girls?

In THE GRIND, six vastly different women attempt to find a means to a better end by dancing at a seedy downtown strip club. Although the play will be partially devised, the conversations and scenarios will be based on ones I remember and the characters are based on the girls I danced with - most of them artists, single moms and college students. It's a world that has largely vanished, purged by Giuliani's quality of life campaign, which for better or for worse, eradicated all the neighborhood topless bars, allowing only corporate homogenized stripper emporiums to survive. Set in 1997, THE GRIND serves up the difference between the New York you miss or the New York you missed, through the story of six girls navigating a transformative year, both in their lives and in the life of the city.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Preview Q & A with J.P. Chan!

J.P. Chan, writer and director of DRY CLEAN ONLY, was kind of enough to be the first participant in what we hope will be a regular feature wherein we get to better know the playwrights and filmmakers involved in this season's Take Two! 

Kavi Ladnier, Debargo Sanyal, and Aaron Yoo in DRY CLEAN ONLY

 DA :Theater or Film or both, and why? 
JP:Both. I like feeling inadequate at a variety of pursuits. I'm going to try app development next.

DA: What got you into film? 
JP: Loved sci-fi as a kid and always wanted to create worlds for the screen. After a few decades of procrastinating, I finally got around to it.

DA: How has your social/ethnic background informed your work? 
JP: I fell into the Asian American film and theatre circles here in New York and met a ton of amazingly talented people. I found I could cast and crew up my films without going very far, so I took advantage of the resources available to me. Very few of my stories are specifically Asian in any way, but they feature lots of Asians behind and in front of the camera. It wasn't at all planned, but I'm very proud that all my films were made with very diverse teams.

DA: What was your inspiration for this film? 

JP: The original cut of this film was actually made as part of a 64 hour film contest. The theme was "AKA," so I tried to explore the idea of secrets. Only after I finished did I realize it was also about fear, which was also the subject of my first short TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT? I followed up DRY CLEAN ONLY with a short called I DON'T SLEEP I DREAM which "completes" this trilogy that explores fear.

DA: What are you working on right now? 

JP: I just finished a sci-fi short that will stream online starting in March at I'm hoping to shoot a feature later this year and have a reading of a new play.

DA: And just to round out J.P. the man, how many baby carrots do you think you could eat in a minute?
JP: Thirty, easy.

Thanks again to J.P. Chan for being such a sport, and be sure to catch DRY CLEAN ONLY at Take Two! February 8th, 2011 at 7PM.  For more info please visit our website at: 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New schedule, new season, new year!

A very happy new year to all!  We at Direct Arts are extremely excited to be kicking off our 2011 Take Two season with a very special, all-Japanese program.

It begins with drinks (as does most everything special does) at 7:00PM for a happy (half) hour meet and greet with filmmakers, artists, social activists and you.  Once we are properly tipped, we'll be screening Jeff Sousa's THE HIROSAKI PLAYERS, winner of Best Narrative Short at the Woodstock Film Festival. Next will be a reading of the play JAPANOIR, by noted Villlage Voice theater critic Michael Feingold, and directed by Nancy Robillard.  Following the performance there will be a discussion with preeminent scholar Kyoko Hirano, as she and the evening's artists explore the connection between theater and film in Japan.

This promises to be an evening to remember, so join us at:

The Ballroom of the Ukrainian National Home
140 Second Ave (between 8th & 9th St)
East Village, NYC
7:00-10:00 PM
$10 donation, no one turned away

This, and every second Tuesday of the month, now through June.  For more information, including  the rest of the season's schedule, please visit our website at:

Thanks and glad tidings!