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Show me love, baby

posted by Megan Wygant on Fri, Sep 19, 2008
in At the theatre

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Last weekend, an article from the LA Times talked about the wave of success playwright Itamar Moses has been enjoying of late.

It really does feel like there’s a Moses play everywhere you turn—Bach at Leipzig played at Santa Cruz Shakes in August, The Four of Us opens at The Elephant Theatre Lab in Hollywood this week, and The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego opens Back Back Back next week (and--if you’re really keeping track--he also has two shows about to start rehearsal off Broadway).

The funny thing is, while buzz was building in San Diego and LA, Itamar was here, in rehearsals for Yellowjackets. Everything was building and building and building around him, and he was sitting in the rehearsal hall, doing what he does best—writing like a madman. So, when the Times needed a pic of “The Playwright,” they asked one of their Oakland-based photographers to meet him here.

As a rule, someone from the marketing department comes along to facilitate anything press-related at the Theatre, to make sure the shoot is safe.

Itamar and the photographer (Here, for example, we’re in the Thrust during load-in for Yellowjackets. You can’t see it, but the stage is filled with technical crew, working to meet very very tight deadlines. Wires and cords and power supplies are everywhere. It’s probably not the best place to let loose a playwright whose script isn’t quite, well, finished.)

Unofficially, though, I’m there to do whatever needs doing—a photographic Gal Friday, if you will. I’ll break into locked rooms that look like they might be interesting, drag chairs and benches into more photogenic locations, or pull together ‘props’ suggested on a whim (for example, grabbing an empty cup from the concessions bar so that Itamar can pretend to enjoy a cup of “joe”).

The photographer’s job is to take a good picture. The playwright’s job is to be a good subject. My job? Is to help them do theirs.

That’s how I ended up spending a recent Tuesday morning at Au Coquelet, drinking coffee with Superstar Playwright Itamar Moses—with the express order of keeping him distracted from the fact that, hey, wait, a photographer was sitting in the bushes outside the window and snapping pictures like some sort of paparazzo stalker.

Also, had people stopped walking by, I’d have been pressed into the role of “passerby”—pacing outside the restaurant so the photographer could capture someone’s reflection in the window.

Here are five things I learned about Itamar during the shoot:

  1. He used to be on the chess club. Au Coquelet was where he and his friends used to play speed chess on weekends.
  2. Senior year of high school, his first class was at 10am, and he’d stop in at Au Coquelet around 8:30 or 9, grab a cup of coffee, and write for an hour. This was when he first started to entertain the notion of writing professionally.
  3. His iPod playlist is eclectic, ranging from classical jazz to new indie bands he’s just discovered. But, he cannot listen to music while writing—too distracting.
  4. Watching an actor work with the script is possibly the most important part of the rewriting process –- if a line doesn’t sing, or a scene doesn’t click, it could be that the scene and the line need to be rewritten…but it could also be that the clues the actor is using to shape the character are not yet fully defined, and the scene’s not working because the actor hasn’t been given the proper foundation.
  5. He has a really bad—I mean, really bad—fake British accent.

The chosen shot

Yeah, sometimes I'm convinced I have the BEST. JOB. EVER.

(Immediately above: the shot that ran in the paper. Believe it or not, I'm somewhere behind the green bush on the far right. Photo by Dave Getzschman)


This is one of the most interesting posts I've read. Do you do this often, or is this a once in a blue moon experience?

Christina | Sat, Sep 20, 2008

It depends a lot on what else we've all got on our plates. Terence Keane, our PR director, handles the majority of the photo shoots and interviews, but as he's been showing me the ropes, I've become more and more involved--meaning that I can step in when he's got other conflicts (or two actors who need to be in two different places at the same time)
For "No Child..." and "Yellowjackets" I got be be more involved than I had been in the past, which was great. Both Nilaja and Itamar were really interesting people to get to know better.

Megan Wygant | Mon, Sep 22, 2008

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