2008-2009


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In 2008 and 2009, I toured to France, Canada, and Austria with Temporary Distortion, booked three commercials in a single month, put up two short plays I wrote, performed in a critically acclaimed show at The Flea, and developed a couple of sprawling, ambitious projects with a fledgling theater company of recent Vassar grads who called themselves Woodshed Collective.

Unfortunately, the non-union commercials didn’t pay much and the work with Woodshed and The Flea paid nothing at all.  Still unrepresented, I got by on a series of day jobs: temping, data entry, paralegal work, and teaching the SAT.

Temporary Distortion, surprisingly enough, paid pretty well — but our touring engagements were limited, and the show itself — through striking and unique —— limiting. Like many avant-garde auteurs, Kenneth had little interest in the expressiveness and creativity of his actors. Much as I admired his work, I yearned for greater range and self-expression.

November 2008, after making it clear I no longer wanted to work for free, I was dropped from The Flea. In June 2009, not eager to commit to another two years of acting in a box, I dropped out of the new Temporary Distortion show.

As my established theatrical relationships started to fall apart, an even more important one was beginning. In August 2008, I went on my first date with Jess Chayes and nine months later we did our first show together (Clementine and the Cyber Ducks) with a young collaborative theater collective called The Assembly. Later that summer, Jess invited me to join the company.

 

 Stacey Collins and Ben in  Welcome to Nowhere ; Ben and Jessica Pagan on screen above.

Stacey Collins and Ben in Welcome to Nowhere; Ben and Jessica Pagan on screen above.

WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production

January 7-January 13, 2008

written and directed by Kenneth Collins, video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion, at P.S. 122

Performing Welcome to Nowhere at P.S. 122, a legendary experimental venue where I'd seen Claire Danes' incredible solo dance piece and Elevator Repair Service's staggering No Great Society, was almost as exciting as taking the show to Paris.

Almost.


I HAVE A LOT OF LOVE TO GIVE

Independent Film (Short)

January 15, 2008 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Ozu Takahari

My last shoot with the mysterious man who calls himself Ozu Takahari.

You can view the full film here.

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 Lorraine Mattox, Ben Beckley, and Brian Greer in  Welcome to Nowhere ; Ben on screen above

Lorraine Mattox, Ben Beckley, and Brian Greer in Welcome to Nowhere; Ben on screen above

WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production (International Tour)

January 20-February 8, 2008

written and directed by Kenneth Collins, video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion @ The Via/Exit Festival

(Maubeuge, France and Paris, France)


MACBETH

MFA Directing Project (Scene)

April 9, 2008

by William Shakespeare, dir. Matt Torney

with Alison Weisgall

Role: Macduff

Columbia University, MFA Directing

Born in Belfast, Matt has a pronounced Irish brogue, an uncanny knack for delving deeply into a text and a strong sense that the comic and the tragic dimensions of human experience are closely intertwined.

 director Matt Torney

director Matt Torney


THE WIFE

Closed Reading

May 1, 2008

by Tommy Smith, dir. May Adrales

Flea Theater


VIRGINIA LOTTERY - "PINK LEMONADE"

Commercial (Regional)

May 13-14, 2008

"Honey, could you get me a pink lemonade?" was the final line of the spot. At my audition, knowing how much commercial casting directors love improv, I ad-libbed, "Sweetheart, could you get me an orange fizzy?"

I booked it.


DUNKIN' DONUTS - "COULD BE THE COFFEE"

Commercial (National)

May 21, 2008

Spike TV


VERIZON WIRELESS - "WORLD'S HAPPIEST CAMPER"

Commercial (National)

May 29, 2008

Comedy Central

In a single month, not long after returning from performing Welcome to Nowhere in Paris, I booked commercials for Virginia Lottery, Dunkin' Donuts, and Verizon Wireless. The tone of these spots (quirky, comedic, light) was radically different from the tone of the work I'd been doing with Temporary Distortion (brutal, melancholy, experimental), but it didn't really matter.

For the first time in a year, I felt completely confident, and that confidence showed.


     

 

 

KASPAR HAUSER

Workshop (Musical)

June 11, 2008

musical dir. Kris Kukul, written (music, book, lyrics) and directed by Liz Swados

Flea Theater

A musical based on the true story of a German boy who became an instant celebrity after emerging from an entire childhood spent in complete isolation from society.

Liz Swados' writing is fantastically expressive. When another commitment prevented me from premiering the show, I was disappointed.


STICKY -

"100% GARY"

Performance

June 19, 2008

written and directed by Vadim Newquist

Blue Box Productions @ The Bowery Poetry Club

Sticky features ten-minute plays written for a bar, "because anything that can happen can happen in a bar".


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STICKY -

"IF YOU WANT BLOOD, YOU GOT IT"

Performance

June 19, 2008

written and directed by Vadim Newquist

with Vadim Newquist

Blue Box Productions @ The Bowery Poetry Club


THE ANNA AND PHOEBE SHOW

Web Series

July 6, 2008 (Principal Photography)

written by Anna Kerrigan and Phoebe Lithgow

dir. Anna Kerrigan

Role: David


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TWELVE OPHELIAS

Production (Musical)

July 11-August 22, 2008

by Caridad Svitch, dir. Teddy Bergman

with Kate Benson, Pepper Binkley, Dan Cozzens and Jocelyn Kuritsky

Role: H.

Woodshed Collective @ McCarren Park Pool

We performed the show with a live band (The Jones Street Boys) in the enormous McCarren Park Pool, which had been drained so it could be used as a performance venue. A year later, it was filled with water once again.

I played a sort of hillybilly Horatio, a man in love with a prostitute and enamored of his best friend.


THE ODD DOZEN

Independent Film (Short)

July 31, 2008 (Principal Photography)

conceived and written by Tommy Smith

improvised by the ensemble

dir. Reggie Watts

A mock documentary about Reggie Watts directing an experimental production of The Odd Couple, starring twelve Felixes and twelve Oscars.


THE BINGE OLYMPIAD -

"THE BREAK-UP"

Production (Short)

August 22-23, 2008

by Tommy Smith, dir. Jake Witlen

Working Man's Clothes


THE SISTER

Reading

August 30, 2008

by Eric John Meyer

with Lynn Berg, Audrey Crabtree and Ivanna Cullinan

Role: Bob

The Brick Theater

The first Eric Meyer reading. I'd eventually premiere The Sister over two years later — with a new cast, in a different role, with a new director.

It wasn't until eight years later that I'd play Bob in a production.


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WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production (International Tour)

September 10-September 14, 2008

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion @ Mois Multi (Quebec City, Canada)


STICKY -

THE MIRROR

Performance (Short)

September 19, 2008

BY BEN BECKLEY, dir. Vadim Newquist

with Julie Ferrell and Vadim Newquist

Blue Box Productions @ The Bowery Poetry Club

Having written a number of short plays, The Mirror was the first I'd had produced.


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AMERICANA KAMIKAZE

Production (Excerpt)

September 26, 2008

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

with Yuki Kawahisa, Lorraine Mattox and Ryosuke Yamada

Temporary Distortion @ The Prelude Festival (CUNY University)

After this work-in-progress showing, I continued rehearsing Americana Kamikaze for nine more months.

Eventually, in June 2009, with the play's premiere still more than three months away, I dropped the project. 

Temporary Distortion relies heavily on video design, so Kenneth needs actors to commit not just to a show's premiere, but to every future tour, wherever and whenever that might occur. I knew that if I ever missed an engagement (as I eventually did, for Welcome to Nowhere), he'd either need to re-shoot all of my video or to find another actor who looked exactly like me.


CATO

Production

October 11-October 30, 2008

by Joseph Addison, dir. Jim Simpson

with Jimmy Allen, Christian Baskous, Scott Rad Brown, Reg E. Cathey, Holly Chou, Ross Cowan, Anthony Cochrane, Andre de Shields, Jake Green, Eric Lockley, Craig Mungavin, Matthew Murumba, Brian O'Neill and Carly Zien

Role: Rebel Leader

Flea Theater

George Washington's favorite play, Cato is an eighteenth-century verse drama extolling stoicism and self-sacrifice in the face of personal and political upheaval. It was my final show at The Flea.

The cast of Cato was comprised of ten Bats (non-union actors who volunteered their time) and five professional actors (union actors who received compensation). Director Jim Simpson told the Bats, "We're paying the equity actors a few hundred bucks. They're essentially saying they can be bought for a few hundred bucks. By volunteering, you guys are saying something very powerful: you're saying you can't be bought."


"THE SILENT MAJORITY"

Benefit Performance

November 23, 2008

text from James Joyce and Allen Ginsberg, dir. Jess Chayes

The Assembly (as The American Story Project) @ The Bowery Poetry Club

Nearly every Assembly benefit features an original performance created by Jess Chayes.

This one drew on text from James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Richard Nixon's "silent majority" speech.


ADVENTURE QUEST

Closed Reading

January 2, 2009

by Richard Lovejoy

Role: Hero

Sneaky Snake Productions

Gradually, the Hero of Adventure Quest realizes he's trapped inside a video game — and that it's nearing its end.Rich wrote the role for me, but Clementine and the Cyber Ducks prevented me from actually premiering the show.

Six years later, my Clementine cast member Edward Bauer would play the part at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

 Rich Lovejoy's rendering of Ben Beckley as a video game hero. (The beard reflected reality; the muscles, not so much.)

Rich Lovejoy's rendering of Ben Beckley as a video game hero.
(The beard reflected reality; the muscles, not so much.)


THE MUMBLINGS

Staged Reading

January 27, 2009

by Dan Kitrosser, dir. May Adrales

with Alexis McGuiness

American Place Theater


THEATRE IS DEAD (AND SO ARE YOU)

Production

January 29-January 31, 2009

by Kiran Rihkye, dir. Jon Stancato

Role: Harvey

Stolen Chair Theater Company @ The Connelly Theater

When an original cast member had to leave the show, Stolen Chair auditioned me to take his place. It was my first time taking on a role someone else had created, and I enjoyed the challenge of both adapting myself to an existing production and finding myself in the role.

Four years later, I'd have to find a similar balance as an understudy for Peter and the Starcatcher.


WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production (International Tour)

February 17-21, 2009

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion @ Usine C (Montreal, Canada)


STICKY - 

"ROM-COM ABRIDGED"

Performance (Short)

April 13, 2009

by Jennifer Boggs, directed by Kara Ayn Napolitano

with Samantha Debicki, David Marcus, Ann Rooney and Elizabeth Stewart

Blue Box Productions @ The Bowery Poetry Club

Jennifer Boggs packed every romantic comedy trope she could think of into this ten-minute play.  It ended, of course, with a double wedding.

I wouldn't see director Kara Ayn Napolitano again until 2017, when I ended up performing with her husband in a national tour of Small Mouth Sounds.


CLEMENTINE AND THE CYBER DUCKS

Production

May 7-May 9, 2009

by Krista Knight, dir. Jess Chayes

with Edward Bauer, Cara Francis, and Emily Perkins

Role: Clive

The Assembly @ The Ontological-Hysteric Theater

A dark riff on "My Darling Clementine", set in California simultaneously during the 1849 Gold Rush and the 1990s dot com bubble.

Clementine marked my first production with Jess Chayes, my then girlfriend and future wife, a profoundly brilliant artist and an amazing human being.

It was also my first play with The Assembly, which would become an artistic home for me. I formally joined the company that fall.


STICKY - 

"ESSENTIAL STRANGENESS"

Performance (Short)

May 7, 2009

BY BEN BECKLEY, dir. Hondo Weiss-Richmond

with Richard Lovejoy and Hollis Witherspoon

Blue Box Productions @ The Bowery Poetry Club

The second short play I wrote for Sticky. Unfortunately, since the performance coincided with opening night for Clementine and the Cyber Ducks, I never got a chance to see it.

A professor and his student meet at a bar. They exchange ideas and clothing. Their relationship (like Milton's poetry) becomes irreducibly ambiguous, their emotions (like Nietzsche's philosophy) fundamentally unsettled.

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THE RED SHOES

Workshop

May 20, 2009

written and directed by Niegel Smith

Role: Doctor

The Public Theater

The need to perform, Niegel reasoned, may be both fundamentally toxic and necessary for salvation.  Based on the fairy tale "The Red Shoes," his play explored this dichotomy.


OU EST LE SWIMMING POOL -

"DANCE THE WAY I FEEL"

Music Video

May 30, 2009

Role: Featured Dancer

The British pop band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool created a music video featuring dancers from a wide variety of different disciplines, including ballet, pop-locking, club dance, and cheerleading.

The least trained dancer in the bunch, I jumped around a lot, flailed my arms, and kicked my legs in the air. The band loved it.

You can see the music video here.


S/HE

Staged Reading

June 15, 2009

by Nick Mwaluko, dir. Niegel Smith

Role: Stage Directions

The Public Theater Emerging Writers Group

A brave and brilliant transgendered writer, Nick Mwaluko wrote this play about his transition.

It's rare that reading stage directions requires a significant emotional investment. This was the exception.


ONEIDA: SERVANTS OF MOTION

Staged Reading

June 19, 2009

by Johnna Adams, dir. Connie de Veer

with Catherine Porter, Lorna Hampson, Christopher Hurt, Aaren Jacksen, and Kathleen Schlemmer

Role: Victor Hawley

Peculiar Works Project @ The Merchant's House Museum

A radical 19th-century Christian sect, New York's Oneida Community believed that through rigorous adherence to the principles of communal living and Christian perfectibility they could bring about heaven on earth. All members shared unskilled labor. "Complex marriage" dictated they share sexual partners as well, and raise their children communally. "Mutual criticism" sessions invited the entire Oneida Community to publicly critique an individual's failings.

When The Assembly began developing a play about 1960s radicals a year later, I was struck by how much the Weather Underground had in common with Oneida: "complex marriage" translated to "smash monogamy" and "mutual criticism" to "criticism self-criticism". Even the idea of Christian perfectibility had its place in Weather ideology — though of course it was revolutionary perfection that the Weathermen were after.

We performed the reading just outside the beautiful Merchant's House Museum in the East Village. You can see pictures of the event here.

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WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production (International Tour)

July 28-August 1, 2009

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion @ The Salzburg Festival (Salzburg, Austria)


THE CONFIDENCE MAN

Production

August 30-September 26, 2009

by Paul Cohen, based on the novel by Herman Melville

dir. Lauren Keating, Michael Silverstone and Stephen Brackett

Woodshed Collective @ The S.S. Lilac

"The Boat Show", as almost everyone called it, took place on board the S.S. Lilac, permanently docked on the Hudson River.

Freely adapted from Melville's final novel, the immersive show consisted of dozens of storylines that played out in a variety of different locations simultaneously. Audiences were free to wander wherever they liked.

Reviews: GothamistTheatre Is Easy

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THE SISTER

Reading

September 17, 2009

by Eric John Meyer, dir. Jess Chayes

with Anne Carlisle, Teddy Bergman and Jocelyn Kuritsky

Role: Bob

The Public Theater


STICKY -

"PEACE TALK"

Performance (Short)

October 9, 2009

by James McLindon, directed by Jess Chayes

with Dave Marcus

Role: Jack

Blue Box Productions @ The Bowery Poetry Club

I played a Boston bartender who enthusiastically supports the actions of the IRA, no matter how brutal; Dave Marcus played a moderate Irishman looking for a job. After a fierce argument about Irish history and politics, I hire the guy, much to his surprise. ("People today, they all just want to get along. Nobody likes to fight anymore, but people need to fight, as much as they need to talk. Or else, what’s the use of talking?")

Dave Marcus, Sticky's long-running MC, is conservative, confrontational, and contrarian. We've had some fierce political disagreements of our own, and though they'd eventually alienate me from Sticky altogether, they definitely enriched our work on this particular play.


THE MATERIAL WORLD

Staged Reading (Musical)

October 31, 2009

by Dan Fishback (music, lyrics and book), directed by Stephen Brackett

with Stephanie Di Maggio, Erin Markey, Audrey Lynn Weston, and Mary Wiseman

In a role later played onstage by Joe Urla and on recording by Chip Zien, I was an elderly communist who still dreams of revolution.


QUANTUM POETICS

Closed Workshop (regional)

November 6-8, 2009

by Kiran Rikhye and the ensemble, dir. Jon Stancato

with David Gochfeld, Liz Eckert, Ishah Janssen-Faith, Timothy McCown Reynolds, and Noah Schultz

Stolen Chair in Greenwich, CT