The Not Necessarily Top Ten Underrated Seinfeld Episodes

Seinfeld FAQ is now available from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books! Within the text, Nicholas Nigro includes many lists, including the one below ranking underrated Seinfeld episodes. Do you agree with this list? Leave a comment below letting us know if you think the list is spot on or if there are some episodes that should be added/removed!

The Not Necessarily Top Ten Underrated Seinfeld Episodes

10. “The Doodle,” where George agonized over whether a woman’s sketch of him was a good or bad sign vis-à-vis a relationship.

9. “The Cheever Letters,” where Susan Ross’s father’s big secret—a longtime, passionate affair with writer John Cheever—was unmasked.

8. “The Pen,” which found Jerry and Elaine in Florida visiting the Seinfelds and learning entirely too much about Jack Klompus’s “astronaut pen.”

7. “The Pony Remark,” frequently considered the episode that first established the Seinfeld benchmark in humor.

6. “The Dinner Party,” where the gang’s determined mission was to procure a chocolate babka and a bottle of wine for a party they were all attending.

5. “The Parking Space,” which considered the urban conundrum of who has the right to street parking space, someone backing in—like George—or someone pulling in nose first.

4. “The Apology,” where George testily bristled over not having received—from his vantage point—a well-deserved “Step Nine” apology from a recovering alcoholic.

3. “The Junior Mint,” where a piece of Kramer’s candy fell into the open body cavity of Elaine’s former boyfriend during a major operation.

2. “The Pilot,” where Jerry and George’s sitcom pilot was at long last cast and shot.

1. “The Abstinence,” where George transformed into a genius, an Elaine a blithering idiot, while they were both abstaining from sex.

00314952

How One Extra Minute Can Make For Your Best Audition Ever

Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell author William Wesbrooks was recently featured on GetAcceptd! In this blog post, he provides advice for performing your best audition ever!

How One Extra Minute Can Make For Your Best Audition Ever

Here’s the scenario: You wait outside the audition room minutes away from being called through the door. You feel your nerves kicking into “overdrive” and your confidence slipping away. You know that you are prepared to do good work, but experience tells you that your nerves are likely to get in the way.

This is what you do: Give yourself one minute — one full minute — to engage your brain, your imagination, and your power of concentration to move yourself away from nervousness and into your dramatic circumstance. Living inside your story is a much more powerful, and fun, place to be than waiting in a crowded room for your name to be called.

Create Your Dramatic Circumstance

  1. Think of your song as a story in which you are the central character.
  2. Determine what events in your story have brought you to the point where you have to sing this song in order to get what you want.
  3. Determine your other — the person to whom you are singing.
  4. Check in with your body (either sitting or standing) and feel yourself “long” through the torso and “wide” across the chest.
  5. Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
  6. Imagine that your other is standing in front of you.
  7. Continue your deep breathing and give it some time.

By taking these steps you will learn how to become a part of the story you are telling, and as you spend this time “living inside” your story, you will find that your dramatic circumstance comes to life, your “other” comes to life, and — most importantly — you come to life with increasing clarity, power, and freedom. Most importantly, you will also discover that the time it takes to get inside your story — to get inside each song you prepare — will get shorter and shorter.

Give Yourself a Minute

You are back in the waiting room. You feel your nervous system starting to run amuck.   It’s time for you to take charge. So start by sitting up straight in your chair and finding a spot across the room on which you can focus all of your attention.

  • 15 seconds – Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
  • 15 seconds – In your imagination, in just a few sentences, tell yourself the events of your story that lead you to this point of interaction with your other.
  • 15 seconds – Allow your imagination to turn that spot across the room into the other person in your story.
  • 15 seconds – In your imagination, again in just a few sentences, recreate the dialogue that compels you to take the action that is your song.

Any performer, from the novice to the experienced professional, knows that fear is the thing that can too often keep us from doing our best work. Fear can erase hours of practice, a well-developed technique, and — most critically — our belief in our own ability. I find — based on my experiences as an actor, director, writer, and teacher — that the steps laid out in the Dramatic Circumstance process are a consistently effective and powerful way to combat the effects of fear on a performer’s work.

Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

https://getacceptd.com/blog/

00103894

Congratulations, David Rothenberg!

Last night marked the 25th Annual Village Awards, presented by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation! GVSHP is a leader in protecting the sense of place and human scale that define the Village’s unique community. GVSHP recognizes those people, places, and organizations which make a significant contribution to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. This year, David Rothenberg was one of the Village Award winners!

00138534David Rothenberg’s multilayered life thrust him into Broadway’s brightest lights, prison riots, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins, and a Central American civil war. In his memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, his journey includes many of the most celebrated names in the theater: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sir John Gielgud, Peggy Lee, Alvin Ailey, Lauren Bacall, Christine Ebersole, and numerous others.

He produced an Off-Broadway prison drama, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, which reshaped his life. John Herbert’s chilling play led directly to the creation of the Fortune Society, which has evolved into one of the nation’s most formidable advocacy and service organizations in criminal justice.

Rothenberg was Elizabeth Taylor’s opening night date at the Richard Burton Hamlet – a distant cry from his entering Attica prison during that institution’s famed inmate uprising; these are just two of the experiences revealed in this memoir. As a theater publicist and producer – and as a social activist – he shares experiences with politicians and with anonymous men and women, out of prison, who have fought to reclaim their lives. The human drama of the formerly incarcerated that unfolds in this book is a match for many of the entertainment world’s most fabled characters.

Check out the GVSHP blog about Rothenberg here!

1 Funny Lady, 6 Hilarious Monologue Books

Alisha Gaddis, author of both Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny and Men’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny, was recently interviewed by Rebecca Strassberg of Backstage.com!

00123100“You have an audition. One where you are supposed to be funny. Really funny. They want you to actually make them laugh…in an audition,” writes Alisha Gaddis in the introduction to her book Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny.

“But you have to have a comedic monologue, and if you see another person do that tuna fish one one more time, you may gouge y
our eyes out! And wedon’t want that. You need your eyes to see the standing ovation that you will get once you snag the job that one of these monologues helps you land.”And with the help of Applause Theatre & Cinema Books and Hal Leonard, humorist, writer, and performer Gaddis is just beginning to deliver on that promise.

A go-getter by nature, the Indiana native currently stars with her husband on the PBS show “Lishy Lou and Lucky Too”—the music for 00130770which won the duo a Latin Grammy—and has been doing standup comedy since her days at NYU. She has acted on and Off-Broadway and has a long list of credits on TV shows, including “Mad Men,” “House,” and others. But Gaddis says she’s always been writing, and she started weekly magazine Say Something Funny…B*tch in 2010.

In conjunction with the magazine, its writers put on Say Something Funny…B*tch live shows until Gaddis saw yet another opportunity.

“Only a select number of people were hearing the words at the shows, and I thought these could really be funny monologues,” she says. “So I wrote the pitch in the middle of the night and sent it to my literary agent.”

Leonard and Applause “thought they were really fresh, really funny, and really current,” she explains.

Since the00130749 book’s publication, five more in the series have been ordered, including collections for men and teen boys (both coming in July), teen girls (currently being edited), kids (set for 2016), and the one Gaddis is most excited about: an LGBT 00130748version.

“There’s not anything like that right now out there, and I’m, like, ‘Come on, let’s be strong for our community!’

“It’s going to be more all-encompassing, so it’ll be all different ages, different categories,” she adds. “I’m working with one of my friends, the president of Swish [Ally Fund], and he’s going to help me guide it and make sure everything’s sussed out properly.”

With over 60 monologues in each book, Gaddis is establishing a monologue empire—the success of which was unanticipated.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Two Inches Down – Saving Arlene in Tarantino’s Death Proof

Dale Sherman, author of Quentin Tarantino FAQ, provides us with a fan-fiction post exploring what might have been if Arlene had survived in Tarantino’s Death Proof.

Two Inches Down – Saving Arlene in Tarantino’s Death Proof

by Dale Sherman

00122479When writing about Death Proof (2007) in the manuscript for the Quentin Tarantino FAQ, I started writing my own alternate version of the film. Oh, sure, that’s a neat thing to do as a fan; but for the author of a book discussing Tarantino? Here I am telling readers about the history of and ramifications facing a movie and suddenly I go all fanboy on everyone. Fortunately, I saw that I was heading down a … well, not a dangerous road, but a rather useless one for the book – who wants to pay to read fan-fiction, after all – and edited the material out soon after finishing the chapter.

Still, the things that bugged me a bit as a viewer kept rolling around in my head, as I know it does for a certain number of Tarantino fans who never have taken to the film as they have to most of his others. We spend half the film with extremely irritating characters who get bumped off, only to spend even more time with a new group of characters re-enacting the first part of the film. Could there have been a better way of handling it? Why bring our old friend Sheriff McGraw in for exposition that doesn’t really mean much to the rest of the film? Why are we introduced to other movie people, including two stunt-women, who are making a movie in essentially the middle of nowhere but don’t know about Stuntman Mike? What is he doing there anyway? Is he working on the film with everyone else? If so, wouldn’t everyone be creeped out that the stuntman who killed several women with his “death proof” car is working on the picture? The community of stunt people is rather tightly knit, wouldn’t Stuntman Mike be like the John Wayne Gacy of stunt-people? Known, hated, and avoided at all costs by everyone else in the profession? The stunt Zoe performs is neat and nail-biting, but could there have been a better way to get her on the hood of the car rather than “this will be cool”? And after all that, the film’s final image may be satisfying, but it seems almost too quick as well.

As I state in the book, the setup of the women partying in the bar and then being wiped out is obviously a type of Psycho influence on the storyline. In Hitchcock’s film, we’re supposed to side with Marion and even come to identify in some ways with Norman Bates as they have dinner and discuss their problems nearly a third of the way into the film. Then Marion dies and the character the audience identified with is gone, leaving us to take on new characters and go into a new direction with the film.

Same here with Stuntman Mike. We’re supposed to like him a bit in the first half of the film and we’re supposed to feel a connection between him and Arlene (Tarantino has stated he purposefully filmed scenes in such a way to make the audience see Arlene as the girl who survives to the end of the slasher film). Then he kills her off and – boom – the audience has to readjust to new character (Zoe Bell and the gang), while knowing Mike deserves to have something nasty happen to him for what he did. Yet we see that his new car isn’t exactly “death proof” and then there’s the odd way he pranks the women and then heads off as if that would be it, instead of the stalking deaths he caused in the first half of the film. And while we know that he’s a killer, why would the new group of women suddenly be out to kill him? Sure, he’s a jerk as far as they know, and dangerous perhaps, but they have no way of knowing that they need to get him. Because of that, their “roaring rampage” seems to make them out to be crazier than Mike.

Yet what if things had been different?

In the scene midway through the film, where Stuntman Mike kills the women in the other car, we see Arlene lower her head right before impact. The wheel of the car then comes flying through and gets her at the tip of her head, snapping her head back and does a lot more damage as it kills her.

Now suppose that Arlene had lowered her head just an inch or two further down? What if that tire had gone through and missed her by “that much”? Furthermore, with it missing her, there’s not only a possibility that she would have survived, but let’s go one step further – what if she emerged alive and without major injuries?

Here’s Stuntman Mike living, as McGraw states in more provocative terms, his sex life through his “death proof” car. He gets injured, but he’s still the survivor. But now there’s Arlene, the woman who he talks into dancing for him and being her own person, walking away from the wreck. She’s “death proof” without the need of a car. How would that affect Mike? More so, how would Arlene be affected in knowing that Mike intentionally killed everyone with his stunt car?

McGraw can’t be involved, but he can certainly put the thoughts into Arlene’s head that Mike is a deviate who killed her friends “for fun” and will likely do so again. Meanwhile, as in the film, Mike is all banged up and needs to stay in the hospital for several months. Arlene can’t do anything to him there, but she can plot her revenge for when the time comes. With this, you can still bring in Zoe Bell and the other stunt people. Have Arlene train with them to get a better understanding of stunt work, how Mike would build such a car, and how to counteract him when she (or they) get a chance. Sure, in reality there’s no way she’d become an expert at any of that within the six months or so Mike is recuperating, but this is the movies after all. You can even throw in Sheriff McGraw with his own thoughts and actions to help catch Mike (little knowing that Arlene has more in mind than simply catching him “in the act”).

In order words, the movie no longer is simply a twist on the slasher film, but one on the revenge thriller. You avoid the odd chase at the end of the film where Mike puts a scare into everyone and then seems to be happy to drive off into the sunset. Instead, we have a cat-and-mouse game between the obsessed killer, Stuntman Mike, and the obsessed avenger, Arlene. Will she push too far and endanger everyone or will he get his chance to claim his “death proof” girl? Will the others try to get her to do the right thing instead of simply get her revenge? Eventually it would all wind up in the car chase as seen in the film, but you could then add in the extra ‘70s spice of a sheriff in pursuit along with them, just like in so many Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit) type films of the period, along with the uncertainty of who is actually out to get who. Imagine them working on a film with that stunt on the hood of the car, but with Mike as the other stunt person who has now been pushed too far and wants to see them dead. They go “off-script” by continuing the chase past the filming point and into the main roads, while McGraw is in on the chase, trying to bring them all to justice.

I’m not going to kid anyone. I’m sure that many reading this may think that it’s a bad idea, and certainly that what we got is better than what I’m suggesting. After all, there’s no way anyone is going to say, “let’s remake the film your way, Dale!” Still, it’s hard to not look at all the brilliant work put into that film and wonder what “could have been.” That shows that there was certainly something there worth watching in the first place and therefore not the failure that some make it out to be.

And as for the above fanboy rantings? Well, it is a blog, and it is for free. Simply an added bonus for the fans who want to read more about the film and others done by Tarantino in the Quentin Tarantino FAQ. Just be reassured that you won’t find me going off-track like this in the pages of the book, no matter how fun it is to do so here.

2015 Tony Season and Stephen Schwartz

Congratulations, Stephen Schwartz! Schwartz received an honorary Tony award last night! In light of this recent event, Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked author Carol de Giere has contributed a blog post in honor of the award recipient!

By Carol de Giere, author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked (Applause 2008) and The Godspell Experience (Scene 1 Publishing, 2015).

00314791Famed Broadway and film composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked, et. al.) is not short on recognition by awarding agencies. A glass case in his home is filled with golden Grammy trophies, Oscar statuettes, plaques and various other symbols representing the way his achievements have been honored. Some are remembered in photos, like his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition and images from receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree this year at Carnegie Mellon University where he originally received his B.F.A. in 1968.

His new honor this Tony Award season is an unusual one. He receives the 2015 “Isabelle Stevenson Award” (named for the late president of the American Theatre Wing, Isabelle Stevenson). This award is presented annually to a member of the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations.

Although Schwartz received Tony nominations for Godspell, Pippin, Working, Rags, and Wicked, his award from the American Theatre Wing is not for his many achievements but for his years of contributions to help writers around him and for donating his time to important causes. They honor “his commitment to serving artists and fostering new talent through his work with ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, ASCAP Foundation and helping develop new partnerships as President of the Dramatists Guild,” according to a press statement.

Also, he recently served as President of the Dramatist Guild for six years. In that position he worked “…to strengthen and protect the rights of American dramatists, including battling censorship and piracy and improving the relationship between writers and directors, actors and producers,” the press statement adds.

As I was writing his biography, Defying Gravity, I noticed innumerable situations in which he helped other writers with some aspect of their new musical, especially during the annual workshops at ASCAP that he has led for over twenty years. In addition, he regularly performs for benefit concerts organized by friends. He helped with last fall’s Uprising of Love concert at the Gershwin Theatre to benefit and raise awareness of LGBT people in hostile countries. The list goes on.

His award doesn’t mark any kind of ending. Schwartz, now 67 years old, still has many irons in the fire, including a new stage musical Emanuel and Eleonore, scheduled to open in Vienna in the fall of 2016, a stage musical version of the DreamWorks film The Prince of Egypt, and several movie projects, among other things. He took time to write a Foreword to my new book The Godspell Experience, reflecting on his first major success: writing the score for Godspell at age 23.

An online newsletter The Schwartz Scene follows this artist’s ongoing efforts. http://www.theschwartzscene.com/ 

Applause Books publishes American Neo-Noir

Applause Books recently released American Neo Noir: The Movie Never Ends! This excerpt from the book provides a definition of the genre:

Part One

Classic Becomes Neo

The movie never ends

It goes on and on and on and on.

Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard

Their shadows searching in the night

Streetlights people, living just to find emotion

Hiding somewhere in the night.

Steve Perry & Neal Schon

A Definition

After many years, decades actually, of critical debate about what constitutes a film noir, the issue is still not entirely resolved. For us, film noir was never a genre but an American film movement that was defined by style as much as content, which began around the same time as World War II and ended just twenty years later.

That time frame, at least, is now almost universally accepted. The classic period of film noir spans the years in which American filmmakers created and sustained the cycle over the course of more than four hundred feature films. It began just after 1940 with The Maltese Falcon and wound down around 1960 or shortly after Touch of Evil (1958). Certainly there were prototypes and precursors of the movement going back to the acme of the gangster genre in the early 1930s. And there were many stragglers, late entries by Sam Fuller and other independent directors, but before the mid-1960s film noir’s classic period had run its course.

There is no precise moment or movie that marks the beginning of neonoir. For us, neo-noir is more genre than movement, a mimicking of the style and content of the classic period, the best early example of which is John Boorman’s 1967 Point Blank, an adaptation of The Hunter, part of a postwar, hard-boiled series of “Parker” novels about the criminal underworld by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark. Like its antecedent and from the first, neonoir would also be tied closely to a literary movement, riffs on the work of Hammett, Chandler, and McCoy, starting with the gritty exploration of sociopathy by Jim Thompson, the smug mysogyny of Spillane’s Mike Hammer and then a next generation that included Westlake, Ross Macdonald, and Elmore Leonard. 

While such novelists pushed their violent protagonists even further down Chandler’s mean streets dark with something more than night, the neo-noir genre was defined by screenwriters and directors who had grown up watching movies during the classic period. Some of the early neo-noir were “retro-noir,” narratives set in the not-to-distant past, whose characters wore period costumes and drove vintage cars, such as the private detectives Jake Gittes in Chinatown (1974), the classic-period icon Robert Mitchum as an older and more fatigued Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975), or Det. Tom Spellacy investigating a fictionalized “Black Dahlia” in True Confessions (1981). The multinational creative personnel of a movie like Chinatown written by American Robert Towne and directed by Polish émigré Roman Polanski, reenacted such classic-period relationships as Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder crafting Double Indemnity or Herman Mankiewicz and Robert Siodmak on Christmas Holiday (both 1944).

The most self-conscious of the early neo-noirs came from writer/directors. Walter Hill—who had previously scripted the 1972 paean Hickey & Boggs where old-school PIs discover that “there’s nothing left of this profession…it’s all over, it’s not about anything”—infused 1978’s The Driver with a noir style that echoed Kubrick’s The Killing (1957) and De Toth’s Crime Wave (1954). Hill’s characters are so pointedly archetypal that they do not even have names: they are simply the Driver, the Detective, and the Player. Three years later Body Heat (1981), Lawrence Kasdan’s homage to Double Indemnity, set a new standard for femme fatales. By 1987 the double-crosses and twisted psychology in David Mamet’s House of Games (1987) fully evoked its creator’s intent: “I am very familiar with noir…and I love it. I tried to be true.”

At the height of the classic period individual noir films transcended personal and generic outlook and reflected the cultural preoccupations of America no matter where the filmmakers were born. From the late 1970s to present, in a “neo-noir” period, many of the productions that again create the noir mood, whether in remakes or new narratives, have been undertaken by filmmakers cognizant of a heritage and intent on placing their own interpretation on it. As the various interviews conducted by scholar Todd Erickson and reproduced in his thesis where the term neo-noir was coined affirm, most of the filmmakers approach neo-noir with a conscious, expressive intent.

If neo-noir is to some extent, as in the classic period, America’s stylized vision of itself, one might expect a cynicism made even harsher by decades of cold war, nuclear peril, fiscal uncertainty, the threat of terrorism, millennial dystopia, and cultural upheaval. While the emphasis may have shifted among these social realities, the outpouring of films has continued. The actual results remain mixed. One aspect of film noir that many filmmakers have chosen to underscore is its forlorn romanticism, the need to find love and honor in a new society that venerates only sex and money. Many others have followed alternative narrative paths blazed in the classic period, and as a result any overview such as this needs a new “family tree” to trace through the titles. Of course, as with critic Raymond Durgnat’s original essay, many of the categories overlap and intersect, and many titles crossover several branches.

8 x 10 in. cutout print