First ever of occasional posts featuring affiliated artist stuff around town!
New Georges Jam member Eliza Bent’s play THE HOTEL COLORS starts performances May 8 at The Bushwick Starr. She has a piping-hot Brooklyn College playwriting MFA, but being a playwright is just one of many things she does. Among them: she performs a lot, especially as a company member of Half Straddle. And she’s an associate editor of American Theatre. Fancy!
We love this play because it takes place in a youth hostel in Rome, so it brings back all the vulnerability, confusion and questionable fun we experienced on our own youthful travels. We love it because she wrote in Italian, then translated it literally and speedily into English, so it’s like nothing we’ve ever read — and plays juicy and hilarious games with language that end up being strangely profound. We love it cause it’s at one of our favorite venues, The Bushwick Starr!
Scroll down for the info, get tix and GO! But first… read Eliza’s awesome answers to Susan’s few questions.
When I cornered her in the lobby at GOLDOR $ MYTHYKA to find out how her show was going, Eliza told me it was kinda freaky to be “just the playwright,” and the rest of the conversation pretty much consisted of giggles and funny faces. On both ends. Not confident of my interpretation of our chat, I wanted to ask her more directly about her experience.
So… what surprises you about being “just the playwright”? Are you there in rehearsal all the time? Is there some learning that has to go on?
Yes, this is my first time as just the playwright (and producer). Previously I’ve implanted myself as a performer into things I’ve written/adapted/co-written because performance is a temptation I cannot resist. Plus, those projects have had shorter runs and existed in festival settings. But for The Hotel Colors, performing seemed way too daunting. Especially since I was doing serious producing, fundraising and audience outreaching. Or at least attempting to.
In any case, behaving as a playwright at rehearsals has definitely been something I’ve had to learn and been a mix of fun-struggle and vexing-thrills. As a performer, I have great fun letting loose after work, tearing around a rehearsal room, inventing songs and dance moves with fellow cast mates, snacking at any given moment and generally being a pain in the butt. (I’m mostly referring to my work with Half Straddle here). But because we are an ensemble this “being a pain in the butt” feels like a bit of our collective ethos and I’m in good company.
For The Hotel Colors it’s very different. It is a bit more—to borrow a phrase from my own play—Formal You. While a bunch of us know each other, it’s not like we’ve been working together as a group for five years. There’s still a lot of collaboration but in this case being the playwright means watching and usually sitting in a chair and chiming in at proper moments. I sit at a desk all day so my lack of physicality during rehearsal has been a surprise. On days when actors have conflicts and I’ve been pleased to stand in for them but then feel self-conscious about saying my own lines! So the dog bites its own tail…woof!
That said, I’ve loved being able to see how a director prepares from a more up close perspective and Anna Brenner has done an incredible job of corralling a group of strong minded, fierce and fearsome actors. It’s super to perch from this other angle and trade ideas and see the results. It’s also amazing to have a whole group of people working hard to make your play more amazing/smart/funny than you could have imagined. It is very humbling.
In terms of time, I’ve been dipping in and out of rehearsals due to some work travel stuff this month and also attending Italian meet up groups and various events where it seemed appropriate to try and promote the play. At first this made me nervous but then it seemed like the right thing to do. I think it’s important to let people wrestle with the text a bit without the playwright (me) cowering in a corner, or accidentally wrinkling my nose or putting my head under my shirt. So yeah.
What will be different next time if there is a next time? I would be very curious to try not producing my own work. I am not being facetious here. Up until this point I’ve always had full control when it came to producorial matters… what would it be like to leave this to another party? I honestly cannot imagine. It almost seems more terrifying than self-producing (and I should add I have had the help of two amazing producers for The Hotel Colors, Regina Vorria and Sarah Rose Leonard).
I’m also curious about your relationship with The Bushwick Starr, how that works between you and them. So many artists find they also get to be producers these days! Is there anything you’ve discovered about PRODUCING that’s been interesting or surprising?
The Bushwick Starr and I are in a relationship. We’re not like living together or anything but we’re pretty serious. Harhar. I have had a crush on the Starr for a while and did a few shows there as an actor. The Hotel Colors had a reading in the Starr’s reading series and I also directed a Kharms show there last year as part of Target Margin’s Last Futurist Lab. The production for Colors came to be because I’d met with Noel and Sue to express my “Formal You” interest in one day doing something at the space as a playwright. They were enthused but also candid about how much interest there is and how far out they are booked. They had just won their Obie! Then like a month after that meeting the group slotted for May ‘13 had a change in schedule and there was an opening. This was last July, a little less than a year out. I was on the moon.
The Starr is providing rehearsal space and press and promotion along with the use of the theatre and a percentage of the box office. Not to mention an unfathomable amount of moral support and guidance, which really can’t be understated. That’s an invaluable gift. My team and I are producing the rest in terms of raising money for costumes, props, set and insurance along with pizza donations (thank you Grandma Rose’s and Fortunata’s!) and a Perrier donation. Oh yeah and fees. We’ve raised money to pay everyone. The success of our Kickstarter campaign mystifies me. I am blown away that we surpassed our goal.
Producing is an art form just like playwriting. I find it to be a bit more consuming though. There’s a scheming side to my brain and a seemingly endless amount of outreach and sponsorship you can go for. So I think I sometimes need to rein it in. I just want everything to be amazing and perfect. So maybe if we aim for those Platonic ideals, the play will just be really, really good. And that’d be great.
And here’s all the info about her play:
THE HOTEL COLORS
Written by Eliza Bent
Directed by Anna Brenner
207 Starr Street, Brooklyn, NY 11237
L train to Jefferson Street
$15 early bird special (valid until midnight on 4/24)
Tickets here: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/34289
Six travelers spend one night in a rundown hostel in the outskirts of Rome. Speaking in direct translation from Italian into English the eccentric voyagers form a temporary community and unexpected friendships as they fail–and flail–in their attempts to communicate. Welcome to the Hotel Colors. Would Formal You like to take a coffee with me? Can I control my email now? I ask excuse of you!
Featuring: Christine Holt, Alessandro Magania, Linda Mancini, Federico Rodriguez, Kourtney Rutherford, Howard Thoresen*.
Producer Regina Vorria; Dramaturg/Associate Producer Sarah Rose Leonard; Set Designer Blanca Añón; Costume Designer Ásta Bennie Hostetter; Lighting Designer Yi Zhao; Sound Designer Ken Goodwin; Composer Joshua Chang.
Check out our special events on the following performance dates:
Thu May 9 – Parlare in Italiano at the Hotel Colors
Fri May 10 – Singles night at the Hotel Colors
Fri May 17 – Bike to the Hotel Colors Night (National Bike to Work Day!)
For more information about the show and special events please visit: