Editor’s Note: While there is a good chance a higher proportion of Kent County residents are in New York City this month as a result of the Big Apple’s theatrical debut of Chestertown playwright Robert Earl Price’s (and Pam Ortiz score) musical “Red Devil Moon.” countless number of devoted local fans were not able to make the trip north to join the fun.
That is where Bob Ortiz comes to the rescue. Over the next week, Bob will be sending photos and other facts about Red Devil Moon’s big moment in the New York spotlight.
Dateline: New York City – August 19, 2016
Today, Saturday, will be our last performance at the NYC Fringe Festival. I have no doubts about our performance, we know our “stuff” and it gets even better, more expressive with every performance. I do have my doubts (and suspect that my fellow performers do also) about the the equipment in the theatre…here’s hoping all of it works today.
We had the day off yesterday and with Pam returning to Maryland to attend our daughter Sofia’s show at the Mainstay, I took the afternoon to visit places that I had not been to in 50 years when I left New York. I was greeted with several surprises. There were aromas of weeds that I encountered in two small parks that seemed to transport me back in time. I saw iron gates and brick walls that I immediately recognized. I felt as if these and other images were tucked away in some file drawer in my head and somehow I was pulling them out and reviewing them like old flash cards.
I visited the first place where I lived with my mother, father and brother (Tito), at 5 Jane Street. It looks exactly as it did back then. The building was a converted horse stable. Two doors up, at 9 Jane Street, lived Lillie Mae Highland. She was a retired musician who wrote for MGM in the 1930’s. She lived alone and had no children. When I was 5 she asked my mother if she could teach me piano. She taught me piano. My mother and father, on occasion, cleaned her apartment. She opened a door into a world that I would never have imagined and that I believe placed me on a very different path than the one I would have walked had she not invited me to learn with her.
I finally decided to visit my old grammar school. I had avoided visiting that place ever since I left New York City when I entered a Catholic Teaching Order at the age of 14. I promised myself when I left New York that I would never come back. Memories of that place were, at best, painful. It was a pretty rough place. I was a small kid, a year ahead of myself and if I remember correctly the bottom three kids in the pecking order were myself and the only two african american kids in our class. But I went back yesterday with the hope that perhaps those who teach these children are able to these new children a respect, understanding and empathy for those who are different. Seems as if fifty years later we are still struggling to learn that.
This has been one of the themes of our developing musical “Red Devil Moon” and having spent yesterday looking back, I glad to know that I got to work with such a wonderful, talented and hard working group of musicians, singers and friends to keep this and other lessons on people’s minds. In the end, I think this is one of the most important role of all artists, to hold up a mirror to our society and to ask questions.
Thanks to the Chestertown Spy for allowing me to write this blog and thank you to Kent County and Chestertown and all who helped us get here.
Dateline: New York City – August 18, 2016
It’s been a memorable 24 hours…Ford Schumann’s newest grandson, Ilex arrived at about 5 AM today. Brooke and the baby are doing just fine. The Riverarts tour bus arrived in the lower west side at about 2 PM and by the time we saw friends at the theatre they all seems content having found good places to eat in the neighborhood.
We had a nearly full house and an enthusiastic and appreciative audience despite the fact that once again the theatre equipment keeps finding new, “creative” and different ways to break down. I am hoping we can avoid the for our last show tomorrow, Saturday at 2:30. Thankfully the audience was able to hear it well enough. Thanks to all of you who came.
We had a very nice turn out for the talkback. The moderator, a Fringe Festival staff person, did a nice job getting folks engaged in a conversation about the performance, the process, and creation of Red Devil Moon.
Throughout the last week, we have continued to miss Robert Earl Price’s presence. I’m happy to say that he continues to improve, and we are all hopeful that he may be released from the hospital either today or tomorrow.
Dateline: New York City – August 17, 2016
Some of us have tended to stay close to our apartments. Some of us (like Jerome McKenney and Tom Anthony) are up early and walking. They’ve been sighted at the top of the Empire State, Rockefeller Plaza, east side, west side, uptown and downtown.’
The second photo is Ford Schumann at a nearby breakfast place eating a spicy breakfast taco. When I ordered just a plain scrambled egg sandwich, the waiter looked at me and said, “with all these spicy foods and selections, you order a plain egg on a roll…why’d you bother coming here?” Ah! That’s the New York I love!
The RiverArts bus is coming today…we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family…while the past 8 days have been fun, they have also been hard work, challenging and not without their occasional frustrations. It will be nice to see one and all. People at the festival are pretty surprised and envious when we tell them that a bus load of Red Devil Moon fans are coming.
Also, a new critical review can be found here.
Dateline: New York City – August 17, 2016
Yesterday and today we are pretty much on our own as there are no performances on either day for Red Devil Moon. Some of us walked down to the 9/11 Memorial, another group went to some of the Fringe Festival plays, some went to the gym, wandered around lower Manhattan and tried to stay cool. Nevin took his violin and went busking although I have not seen him, so I don’t know where.
Pam and I went over to the west village, where I grew up. We visited a park dedicated to a friend who died in the Vietnam War, and then walked down to the High Line, a converted Railroad elevated line that is now a park and promenade.
Dateline: New York City – August 16, 2016
Yesterday afternoon a group of us went to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum on Orchard Street. The tour lasted about an hour and we transported back in time ti 1887 and 1920 to learn and experience how and where two immigrant families live, worked and struggled in America.
After that we went back to our apartments (we’ve rented three Through air/B&B)
Last night’s performance, our third, was (I think) our strongest performance. This is even though the set up is not the easiest for us, we’ve had problems with the video equipment and the sound equipment is not of the best quality so hearing ourselves (which allows you to regulate how you sing and project to the audience) has been non existent. Still, the audience response has been enthusiastic and wonderful.
…got to go, a group of us is going to walk to the ground zero memorial and then a tour of pastry shops!
Dateline: New York City – August 15, 1016
Newest Cast Member
Man about Town (photo by Karen Somerville)
It’s day five in NYC and our first two performances are behind us. The 13 of us are staying in 3 different apartments on the lower East Side. Trying to get to rehearsals, performances and meals has, at times felt like a cross between herding cats and Abbot and Costello’s, “Whose On First.”
I don’t play golf, but there’s a saying from that sport that I have found helpful these past few weeks…”play it as it lies.” In other words, deal with the situation you have, not the one you hoped for.
That phrase has come to the rescue many times since Thursday. That’s when Robert Earl Price, our playwright, the creator of our project and narrator was stricken by back pain that made walking impossible. By Saturday morning he was in the emergency room at Lennox Hill Hospital. With Robert Earl out of commission we needed to find a narrator.
Michael Wessel makes his living these days as a baker/pastry chef at Evergrain Bakery in Chestertown. He’s also someone who is willing to roll up his sleeves and do whatever needs to be done, so we asked him to come to New York and be our stage manager. On Thursday night Pam and Carol Colgate, our other two producers told him he was now the Red Devil Moon Narrator.
Tomorrow, our finest performances…
Here are the reviews we’ve received so far. We have a 7 pm show tonight. Early this afternoon 12 of us are going to THE LOWER EAST SIDE TENEMENT MUSEUM.