East Village

On the writing industry

Chris Struck

Chris Struck

Chris Struck talks writing.

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Recently, I’ve wondered if there really are any helpful tips that I could give new writers. Sure, I’ve studied a lot of literary techniques and theory, but how helpful is yet another analysis of “what makes a great character” in a world where the evaluation of your work is subjective? Instead, I thought I might throw together a quick blog post on my route to publishing.

My circuitous, 12-year chase finally resulted in my first published book on Tuesday (6/11/19), and despite being compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alexandre Dumas, and Herman Hesse, the book sneaked past the New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, and every other noteworthy news outlet. Unfortunately, even after writing a great book, it’s still not that easy to get the word out there, and the advice is generally unhelpful. Authors today need platforms, and the most successful launches are done by people with backing like Michelle Obama and Tom Brady. Even three years ago, the barometer I heard from Penguin reps, was “300 twitter followers.” The same advice sounds laughable now.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve seen the fiction industry change considerably. When I first started, you could still send snail mail manuscripts to major publishing houses. I even delivered my first manuscript, printed, to the door of a top editor at Tor Books’s home. Only a few years later, I was sending five, ten, fifteen, or fifty pages to agents that I meticulously researched as publishing houses stopped accepting direct submissions. I followed all the advice that I could find on how to write a cover letter and seemingly, less than a year later, agents were publishing blog posts about “how not to write a cover letter,” showing that I had broken all the new rules. The reality is that you can’t base a query letter on the one at the back of Stephen King’s “On Writing” and get anything but rejection. The guidelines have evolved, and cold query letters are beginning to become a thing of the recent past.

For others who have been on the outside looking in, that must seem like the norm. Advice changes as often as it is given. It’s confusing and unhelpful no matter the source. Sometimes you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for an editor or agent to spew another list of tips that after integrating into your work, fails to make a difference. I’ve met more agents than I could bother to remember, more “top” editors since that first one in the late noughties, and a variety of other industry reps – and unfortunately, the age-old, “it’s about the writing” hasn’t been my experience. Has it ever been? If it was ever about writing quality, and Moby Dick was always as good as people believe it to be, why did it take almost 80 years to get popular? While I’m not a huge fan of the book, it’s a testament to faith in literature and shows that sometimes it appears legacy is luck.

My first manuscript was not my first novel. My first novels were written in early 2010 and submitted to agents. In retrospect, I think they were good stories, maybe not perfect, but definitely, too short. Even then, short novels were unpopular, but with the rise of NaNoWriMo, they became even more so. Suddenly, the standard went from 50-60k to 80k minimum, and popular books seemed to more likely have the ATOS reading level of a 4th grader than not. If you spent any time developing subtext into your novel (not to be confused with symbolism), then your work might confuse readers and unfortunately, an agent with ten seconds, geared to not care about your book, isn’t going to take ten minutes to analyze one line. To be honest, I don’t think that has anything to do with, “why my novels haven’t meshed well with agents,” but it’s a reality of writing and publishing today. Meaning, you should probably write a simple, long book, but even that’s not a guarantee of success.

My third novel topped out at 85k words, was written at roughly 1000 words per day over about 3 months, and the feedback I received made it seem irreconcilably devoid of quality. But as usual, I took the feedback and integrated it into new novels, and some of it, especially knocks on the depth of my characters, I took as a personal challenge. Two months later, I had written two more novels (my 4th and 5th), one roughly 65k words (after cutting from 74) and another roughly 85k words, that were developed from fragments of the back stories of two of my third novel’s main characters and featured entirely new supporting characters. The feedback for book 4 was less atrocious, and the agent reception for book 5, which I thought would surely be accepted was…silence.

I went back to the drawing board, picked up some old ideas that weren’t heavy enough to be novels, and made it a 2016 goal to write 2 short stories a month until the end of the year. I made it through 18 short stories before August but stopped there. Only one of the last ones I had written had found a home, and the e-zine went defunct shortly after. Even after all of that effort, while working busy season hours as a junior auditor, I was effectively still unpublished. I took a hiatus from writing, until I wagered with a friend of mine that I’d write another short story if he would start making professional confectionery chocolates again.

So how did I get published? Instead of writing that short story, I followed through on my sixth book; it had been on the back burner, since I had written the opening few paragraphs in early April. With what later became, KENNIG & GOLD, I took a much different approach. It was no longer about reaching a minimum word count or about writing in the vogue style. The goal was to write something genuinely good and technically strong, built through classic literary techniques that had been utilized by writers such as Shakespeare and Ursula Le Guin. I came up with a loose idea, found depth through subject matter that was very dear to me (my friend Nils and his late wife Marilyn), and patterned out an outline based on developing themes through interweaving them beneath plot lines.

The result is something I’m very much proud of. And after reading it roughly 100 times, end-to-end; out loud and not; and at times in one day while timing myself, the book still finds a way of guiding me from beginning to end. Even though I had earned those 300 twitter followers, I knew that I didn’t have the following to entice Penguin to take a chance on me. They don’t throw their advertising weight behind every book anyway. I sent the book to 15 agents and received my first rejection letters (instead of just being ignored), while putting in the work to self-publish the novel, despite 80-hour work weeks.

I printed off 500 business cards, delivered most of them before the publication date of April 5th, 2017, exactly one year after officially conceiving the novel. I grabbed drinks at speakeasies, jazz bars, and cocktail lounges; struck up conversations with Brazilians, Swiss, and other tourists; and held book signing and speaking events at bars in the East and West Village that supported meaningful causes. I began writing theater reviews for a blogger and later leveraged that into writing cabaret reviews for an internationally syndicated magazine. By the time January 2018 had come around, I had sold over 200 books, an important milestone I targeted after attending a Penguin conference in 2016, and through a conference (different conference) connection, I pitched “Kennig & Gold” alongside “The Sun Never Set” (a novel I wrote in 2017) as titles to BHC Press.

BHC decided they wanted both, and I took “Kennig & Gold” off of Amazon’s former self-publishing tool, Createspace, in March, and auspiciously, I received the signed contract for “Kennig & Gold” on April 5th, 2018. In conclusion, along with a lot of late nights, a lot of in-person leg-work, and a heavy dose of schmoozy sales pitching, publishing took following through on all of that advice despite a lack of immediate gratification. I had to go through a learning curve with “how” and “what” to write about, which included novels, short stories, and query letters. I had to hone my story into a concise description and synopsis, while creating an online presence (website, blog, magazine, twitter, Instagram). And ultimately, it took networking at a few conferences to connect to the right people at the right publisher. Sometimes, it feels like trying to lift a mountain, but the important thing is that I’m no longer doing it alone.

In a Little Room at The Wild Project

This review of In A Little Room at The Wild Project was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

In A Little Room
Written by Pete McElligott
Directed by Patrick Vassel
Stage Managed by Emma C. Olson
Set & Graphic Design by Zachary Zirlin
Costume Design by Evan Prizant
Lighting Design by Katy Atwell
Technical Director: Thomas Romme
The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 9/9/17

A phenomenal script by Pete McElligott was brought to life by the talented acting trio of Jeb Kreager, Luis-Daniel Morales, and David Triacca. Not since watching a performance of 'Night Mother have I felt a script had a better hold of character development and dialogue. Set in a hospital waiting room, the pair of Jeb Kreager and Luis-Daniel Morales weaved their way through the complexity of human relationships with dynamism and dark humor. They shined together in the roles of the seemingly hapless Manning (Jeb Kreager) and the suited-up and serious Charlie (Luis-Daniel Morales) as they meet due to an unlikely conversation starter amidst mysterious circumstances.

Manning walks in, peruses the magazines, crosses the entire room to take a seat, clears his throat and asks, "Would you like this coffee?"  As innocent a question as it may seem, it tips the dominoes leading us towards an intense conversation between two strangers about life, death, and the uncomfortable questions that may arise when we begin to talk about them. Charlie accepts the coffee, and as Manning, dressed in classic dad outfit (loved the costume design) goes to deliver it, he trips spilling the coffee on a sleeping guy (David Triacca). Manning and Charlie get to work deciding what to do about the spilled coffee and, of course, promptly do nothing about it. Thankfully, it was cold already. When the guy leaves to clean himself off, the two wonder if he will come back. Eventually, Triacca does return to the little room playing a doctor, the second of three characters - the third is an arsonist.
 

Photo by Zachary Zirlin Photography and provided by press kit.

Photo by Zachary Zirlin Photography and provided by press kit.

This is when the play begins to get darker and darker (or in other words - really good). Sometimes the audience is consumed with laughter while at other times, the material is serious enough to suspend the room in silence. Charlie just lost his wife, who, at 27 years of age, died after suffering two consecutive strokes. He pines for all the years that they might have spent together. He wonders about the triviality of her instant death. Manning attempts to comfort him by saying, "It could have been worse" and after a moment, Charlie whips around accusingly, "What do you mean it could have been worse?" Demanding an explanation, Manning eventually shares that his 5-year old daughter just died of a brain tumor after suffering months of agony. The two dive deep into what's worse, instant or prolonged death, and the question of whether they would warn someone who was potentially going to die. They are instead interrupted by hospital fires that are quickly consuming everything around them.

At one point, Manning describes how he views life - "Billions of people doggy-paddling in the middle of the ocean...Billions of folks. Surrounded by endless water. Doggy-paddling in place. Trying desperately to ignore the fact that eventually - they'll get tired, they'll get old, and they'll go under. All of them." This view is perhaps reflective of Manning's depression and is a foreshadowing of a decision he will make later in the play. 

Triacca returns as Keagan, who looks as if he has walked through the fire. He warns Charlie and Manning that they probably should leave the hospital and get out before the fire consumes the place. Manning and Charlie get into an argument again, but it's short. They are both faced with the decision of whether to leave or stay as the walls burn down around them. Charlie, the younger of the two and the one who has been talking about all the things he has to do, heads towards a stairwell Keagen pointed out. He tells Manning he'll be waiting for him with a car, but Manning waves him off. Manning can't bring himself to move, and then the lights go out.

Great job all around. The actors, especially Kreager and Morales were fantastic. The play was funny, deep, and disturbing. What more can you ask from a dark comedy? Nothing, I think. There is more to the play than what was referenced here, and I do hope that this taste convinces you to give In A Little Room a shot. It's filled with perceptive commentary. The play runs through September 24, 2017. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased atwww.tenbones.org or by calling 866-811-4111.

Loveless Texas at the Sheen Center!

This review of Loveless Texas at The Sheen Center was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Loveless Texas
Music & Lyrics by Henry Aronson
Libretto & Direction by Cailin Heffernan
Scenic Design by Evan Hill
Costume Design by Cheryl McCarron
Lighting Design by Michael O'Connor
Sound Design by Ian Wehrle
Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick
The Sheen Center
18 Bleecker Street
New York, New York 10012
Reviewed 9/7/17

Loveless Texas took an interesting twist on Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost and made for a generally entertaining musical. For most of the first half of the play, the tension built and the songs, written and composed by Henry Aronson, were fun and often catchy. A few missteps in the script and final performance, however, kept this uplifting tale from reaching the level of a virtuoso.

The biggest issues with this modern restructuring of Shakespeare's classic were that it didn't take a big enough step away from the original in the over-arching plot. It became too predictable while creating too many subplots which became mired in unnecessary detail. Almost every character in the cast of twelve actors had their own arch. This not only limited the pace of the first act, but it bogged down the second act as well with corny serendipity. Long story short, all the characters fell in love with a counterpart from a competing ranch in 1930s Texas. One of the largest issues with this was the fact that almost every actor had a song to sing. While the lyrics, were in my opinion, clever, they were mostly songs about death and devils and love. Potentially quality subjects for a comedy, but even the cast members who could execute their material better than others heard only a little bit of laughter and appreciation from the audience. There are two possible reasons for this. The first being that it didn't seem like Loveless Texas focused on the comedy. It seemed to be much more focused on a tense relationship between the mature, "King Navarre," and his immature, younger brother, Berowne Navarre, and how the relationship between the two characters developed. The second was that the audience had to strain to hear many of the songs over a live band that performed in the corner. The live band was a welcome presence but it was a little too loud at times for the actors to overcome.

Awesome set at the Sheen Center.

Awesome set at the Sheen Center.

Despite these limitations, I still enjoyed this musical. I felt like Darren Ritchie as King and Joe Joseph as Berowne did a fabulous job. Their solid performances helped to create palpable tension as the two butted heads on life philosophy. King Navarre owned a ranch in Texas at the onset of the Great Depression and had promised to sell an oil-strike to a rancher in Louisiana named Leroy Beausoleil. Leroy had apparently come upon the information that the strike was about to hit pay-dirt while King Navarre believed it was about to run dry. Before the land was officially sold, the oil reserve boons and King Navarre refuses to sell. After tracking down his younger brother, Berowne, who had been causing trouble all over the continent and parts of Europe, King has Berowne and his two companions sign an agreement to work on his property under three conditions: no drinking, gambling, or womanizing. Berowne reluctantly agrees, but then suddenly takes the high road on the property issue arguing basically that all the moral authority in the world doesn't matter if King is not a man of his word. King points out that Berowne doesn't understand taking responsibility, and frankly, as a viewer, I was hooked.

King Navarre's plans are complicated when Leroy's daughter, LaReine Beausoleil (Trisha Jeffrey) arrives in Texas to attempt to claim her land accompanied by three women, friends of hers, who have some history with Berowne and his companions. Admittedly, things move a little too fast here as love is in the air. The characters on King's ranch are all men, and they quite quickly find counterparts on the Louisiana side to fall in love with including the stodgy, woman-scorned King Navarre, who falls in love with LaReine after barely a word passing between them. King (Darren Ritchie) sings an intriguing solo number about choosing between business and his heart, and as the first act closes, he makes his choice - business - by interrupting the other lovebirds during the most comedic sequence of the play, a local dance that Berowne and his companions sneaked off to in bad disguises so that they could check in on their women. As this confrontation comes to a close, LaReine learns her father has died. King attempts an apology, but LaReine and her party leave for Louisiana immediately.

The build-up went for naught as the remainder of the play becomes song after song wrapping up the subplots. The main important part of this second act comes when Berowne and King argue in song about a compromise Berowne suggests. It is unclear what King will choose, but later, at a wedding between Duke Dumaine (one of Berowne's companions, Colin Barkell) and Kathy Bridge (one of LaReine's, Annette Navarro), King surprises everyone by offering the full deal to Berowne. At the wedding, everyone finds their love except for Berowne and Rosaline. For some reason, Rosaline is miffed after not receiving a formal response to a letter she wrote pleading for Berowne to stand up to his brother. He stood up to his brother, but apparently, she needed that in writing. A year later, she holds up his poker game disguised as a seldom mentioned minor character who goes by the name of the Cowgirl Bandit. When she reveals her identity, the two sing to each other about their love in a lovely duet. Amanda Lea Lavergne as Rosaline was one of the brightest spots of the cast along with Bligh Voth as Maria Broussard

Ultimately, the happy ending and the positive messages in the songs made for an enjoyable show. The expectations seemed to be very high based on the subject matter, and the high quality of the set design and costumes. Not to mention the inclusion of a live band. However, even from the third row, the difficulty in making out all the lines in each song became a serious concern. I'd suggest focusing the plot on the four main characters and cutting solo numbers by side characters that didn't greatly affect the dynamic of the play. Regardless, the show remained a pleasure to watch. For tickets ($30 for September 6-10 and $40 for September 12-24), go tohttps://sheencenter.org/shows/loveless/ or call 212-925-2812. 

Stand up and Take your Clothes Off! at the Kraine Theater

 

This review of Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off! at The Kraine Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off!
Various Performers
Produced by Jillaine Gill & Kerryn Feehan
Music by DJ Stevie C
Stage Kitten was Flora Carnivora
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 9/3/17
 

The Stage is set at the Kraine.

The Stage is set at the Kraine.

Jillaine Gill and Divina Gransparkle (filling in for Kerryn Feehan) co-hosted and curated an excellent line up of comedy and burlesque at the historic Kraine Theater in the East Village. Their comedy accentuated a night of laughs and sexy strip teases that kept viewers engaged and left them wanting more. Typically, this monthly variety show is co-hosted by Jillaine and Kerryn Feehan who will be back next month, but the chemistry between Jillaine and Divina was a pleasure to watch. For example, Divina dropped that she was coaching Jillaine to win the "Miss Coney Island" title this year and there happened to be a challenger in the crowd. It was a fun sequence which Divina followed up later by prompting Jillaine to read a prepared monologue. She read the part of the Judge's wife in Thinner. Jillaine got deep into character for the read with some campy retorts followed by a thrilling and conclusive shouting match. The audience responded enthusiastically. The duo also introduced the acts which included the female comics, Joyelle Nicole Johnson, Jen Mutascio, and Amber Rollo, as well as the burlesque performances of Sweet Lorraine, Miss Frankie Eleanor, and Clara Coquette.

Joyelle Nicole Johnson did a clever bit that combined political angst and sexual shock appeal revolving around a date with a white Trump supporter. He told her, "Black Lives Matter was a terrorist organization," and she decided that she has to do the deed as her part to help bring the nation back together. I'm loosely paraphrasing that because she also joked that the only reason she brought him home was "because he had weed." The funniest part, however, was her take on white privilege which culminated in, "he's mad because he didn't do anything with his whiteness." It had me laughing the next day too as I reflected on the performance. She also reminded us "you're about to see some titties, loosen up."

Sweet Lorraine, the founder of Shades of Burlesque, followed her and was easily my favorite act of the night. She strutted in wearing a wire mesh dress with a black corset to the song, "I Will Take That Ride" by Bette Davis. She had a classy, vintage hair style which hung just above her eyes which were painted to look like little almonds. As the song sensually chanted, "Lord have mercy...I'm mighty thirsty," Lorraine pulled off her opera gloves and shimmied out of her layers revealing her voluptuous figure. At one point she leaned over one of the audience members and began pulling off a glove with her teeth. She teased both guys and girls with sensual and sexual hand gestures.

Jen Mutascio came next and earned a lot of laughs. She made a number of self-deprecating jokes such as "I did grow up in Jersey. That is why I am so feminine" as well as one involving the guy in the front row who was sitting alone. She addressed him saying, "Hey, I'm a female comic. I'm not picky." Another highlight of her set was her joke about her mom finding her brother's gay porn in her closet. Her mom was appalled and Jen responded that is indeed what got her hot "because you can't get pregnant taking it in the back."

Miss Frankie Eleanor strutted on stage next in a beautiful golden dress with flowing, long, black hair. She moved smoothly to the Latino beat of Desatre by Pilon. She showed a lot of leg as she sensually removed various shimmering gold garments to reveal sheer underwear. She had incredible confidence and didn't even bat an eyelash when her bra caught as she removed it. In one deft swoop of her wrists, she snapped it off and tossed it aside to laughs, claps, and whoops from the women in the crowd.

Amber Rollo rounded out the comedy for the evening. She was a little in-between the other two comics with a mix of self-deprecating jokes that had some clever build ups as well. For example, she introduced that as a stripper, she made money by providing a "Girl Friend Experience." She listened, made eye contact, and didn't touch their dick." She also joked that she trades nanny service for a haircut and that the three-year-old was asking to be exclusive. She's "still got it," she laughed, and then dropped that improv (something she also does) was the lowest of the low as a performer because she could still be "booked as a stripper."

Clara Coquette upped the tension in the room coming out in full latex to the hard rock song "Feed My Frankenstein" by Alice Cooper. After pulling off her flowing cape, she caressed her curves and then turned up the intensity of her act. She made aggressive strikes into the air as she violently threw zippers and straps aside. Where only her eyes and lips had been revealed, she showed hand, arm, and leg until she went down to her bare chest. When she finally let her mask fall to the floor, the only thing remaining was her panties and high-heeled boots. Electric performance!

Ultimately, all the performers did a good job. The comedy was entertaining and included some very funny jokes. Props again need to go to Jillaine for delivering a solid monologue. The October show next month will be the show's six-year anniversary. Additionally, Divina will be back to her burlesque routine, which if it includes as much sass and attitude as her stand up, promises to be fun. Tickets can be found on The Kraine Theater's website for $10 (or $15 at the door). See link here: http://www.horsetrade.info/event/4e8273d0c379530633751cbc53de0221   

George Tabori's Jubilee at the Theater for the New City

This review of George Tabori's Jubilee at Theater For The New City was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Jubilee
Written by George Tabori
Directed by Manfred Bormann
Theater For The New City
155 First Avenue
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 5/11/17

George Tabori's Jubilee is a scathing rebuke directed toward any resurgence or sympathy in the types of behavior that Tabori witnessed first-hand in the lead up to World War II. Written originally in German in 1983, three years after Tabori returned, the playwright may have either seen familiar behavior or meant to describe what World War II was like. Within the 70s and 80s, German nationalism suffered from "a feeling of hopelessness" which later resulted in the 1989-91 social movement, "Die Winde," that reunited Germany under a democratic parliamentary system. It's hard to tell whether, in 1983, Tabori was responding to a social trend, calling out outliers, or providing critical satire on the century's darkest hours. While Tabori relies on mixed metaphors and stylized dialogue similar to Tabori's other reproduction, Mein Kampf, he also lays out his intentions in this dramatic tale of death and woe much clearer. There is no wondering whether we are to understand evil or contemplate the profundity of a satirical jab at the meaninglessness of wishing to prevent that which already occurred. No, it is clear that evil must be stopped immediately. This is shown expertly rather than told. We, as the audience, must relive the deaths of five innocents, each of which is related to the actions of the hateful, young skinhead, Juergen played terrifically by David Knowle whose villainous posturing and venomous tone captured the essence of hate.
 

Photo of GW Read and Andrea Lynn Green - photo by Michael E Mason and provided by Theater for the New City

Photo of GW Read and Andrea Lynn Green - photo by Michael E Mason and provided by Theater for the New City

Jubilee revolves around Juergen's visits to the graveyard where the victims of his hate lie buried. It may be said that he attempts to reconcile with some measure of guilt for their deaths, and yet he simultaneously tortures these dead ghosts further. In one scene he quite literally punches them in the face. While sometimes it seems like Juergen does, in fact, regret causing so many deaths, he spends most of the play rubbing into these ghosts that they are, in fact, dead. Each scene from the opening in which all of the ghosts and Juergen appear together develops in further detail how it is that these characters met their fates and ended up buried together in this particular spot. The first of these is an old man named Arnold, played by G.W. Reed. His performance is more than adequate to the role and starts the play off on a somber but patient tone. The young Juergen prank calls old Arnold and he tells his wife, Lotte, played exceptionally well by Cordis Heard, that it is just the "poor freak." He keeps up an uplifting reminiscence of when they first met until Juergen reminds him of the death of Mitzi, Lotte's late sister's only child. Lotte attempts to keep Arnold happy, but Juergen apparently doesn't think he has harassed the old man enough, however, and he shows up on the doorstep to put a bullet in Arnold's chest. From there, we dive into the interrelated events (and deaths) that have led to this moment.

The first three deaths are the suicides of Mitzi (Andrea Lynn Green), Otto (Jeff Burchfield), and Helmut (Derrick Peterson). While it doesn't seem to directly state which death came first chronologically, the play's timeline continues with Helmut, who is the gay spouse of Otto and Juergen's uncle. Helmut is upset at his nephew's constant hate and unpunished crimes against the Jewish, so he gets himself circumcised. Helmut begins to mentally self-destruct when he can't reach Juergen and eventually ends up in a hospital to receive treatment for his sexual preference as the source of his melancholy. He "succumbs" to the treatment and is left in a room with a belt just as a Nazi once left a prisoner in a room with a belt. Helmut uses it to hang himself in the same manner that the prisoner once was forced to in World War II. Upon receiving the news, Otto does the same, slipping into the water after taking sleeping pills. While it may seem that these deaths do not have much to do with the evil of Juergen, Mitzi's death is more clearly related begging us to ask the question, "When do we act?" Mitzi moved to this new school and fell ill-fated in love with a young boy in a long, black coat. While she never specifically says Juergen, he happens to always be wearing a long, black, coat. Seemingly as a joke or possibly out of some interest (shown in the form of hate?), Juergen sends Mitzi a letter. She is excited to read it, but upon opening it, she reads aloud, "How come they (the Nazis) missed you?" She promptly responds by putting her head in an oven. Are these instigator-less crimes? Is there no one to blame? Do we wait to stop the hatred until an outright act of violence has been committed such as the execution-style shooting of old Arnold?

David Knowle performs an excellent soliloquy suggesting that we, deep down as people, relish the chance to be evil and dismiss the small evils, better described as warning signs. Maybe this is true. each of these four deaths seems to be modeled after the deaths of Jewish prisoners during World War II. So how does Lotte end up in the cemetery with the other four? As it turned out, she is slowly drowned in a telephone booth amidst a parade. If the other death's metaphors don't draw enough clear allusions to World War II, Cordis Heard's passionate and desperate plea must ring true. At first, she is calm, letting every one of her safe friends know that she will be going away for a while when suddenly she realizes that water is leaking into her phone booth. She begins to ask calmly for help, but her friends think she is pranking them and start hanging up on her. The door is stuck shut, and the parade goers are too busy partying to notice her plight. Her friends continue to ignore her desperation, and she begins to bid them goodbye until finally, the water has drowned her. It was a beautiful performance by Cordis to tie the deaths together. Before World War II, many people likely knew that something was happening. Some left, but most either couldn't or by the time they realized they needed to, they were no longer able to leave the country. They asked for help, but people didn't listen. Many were too excited about the good things to care (the "parades"). Those stuck in Central Europe before the fighting broke out were drowned in front of everyone who never even lifted a finger in their defense.

While maybe this, for some people, was enough, the final act demonstrates the true darkness of ignoring those deaths that were evident. Andrea Lynn Green puts on an outright virtuoso performance as Mitzi with a conclusive plea. She portrays this through "what she learned about Hitler" for a school paper. She shifts characters and voices to showcase her range and ability, describing the needless hanging by the Nazis of a number of children aged 5 to 12 who were ordered to their deaths to conceal an experiment using the children to test an "anti-tuberculosis serum." It was a privilege to watch her work with such passion. The deaths were needless and horrible, but had action been taken, could the evil have been stopped even before Mitzi and the oven? While the inherent thesis does not stand on any single, specific story, it does display, in my opinion, exactly what Tabori had intended. This collection of snippets, comparable to a slide show or a series of dreams, provides a look into what it was like to watch the evil unfold as a member of the minority communities in Nazi Germany. There is very, little classic plot to speak of, but I would say that Tabori understood this. Instead of seeing the play develop in a classical way toward a climax, each scene becomes a clearer and clearer depiction of what the Nazi evil developed into to the point that researchers viewed children as "guinea pigs." The question must be asked even though we might hear the cries for help, "does Juergen listen?" See at Theater For The New City on May 20th or May 21st at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $18.00 for adults and $15.00 for students/seniors. They are available on the website, http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net. Enjoy!