A New Performance in the 6th Borough

If you liked The Golden Horseshoe: A Lecture on Tragedy, you’ll love the followup, Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead. Join me as I try to resurrect a hidden and dangerous history. Which of you will dare to enter the terrifying Ouija tent of the damned and open a channel to the Other Side for me, live onstage?

Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead is a surreal, 60-minute, autobiographical show about the impact of ghosts — the real kind — and of dream interpretation — the inept kind — on one’s past, present and future.  It’s tragic, and it’s also hilarious.

It’s also a work-in-progress. I’ll be performing it with limited set, script partially in hand, followed by a Q&A, one night only, with support from my friends at the historic Plays & Players in Philadelphia.   The Philadelphia City Paper’s ultra-cool Critical Mass arts blog sez it’s probably going to be good, and they’re probably right, so you should probably come.

City Paper, Critical Mass Theatre Preview, by Matt Cantor
“It’s a one-man show, but award-winning playwright Jeffrey Stanley isn’t the only one in it. At least, he hopes not. Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead is a 60-minute ‘autobiographical black comedy’ whose supporting cast is made up of ghosts  — if they’re willing to make an appearance, Stanley says. An adjunct faculty member at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, Stanley is workshopping this free work-in-progress in Philadelphia — his new home — at the historic Plays & Players theater.

“Years in the making, the new play combines elements of earlier works, including another black comedy Stanley performed in New York at the Gershwin Hotel under the curation of Andy Warhol pal Neke Carson. Mix that with ‘inept dream interpretation,’ family history, and a Ouija tent, and the result is Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead. The play is ‘about communication between family members while they’re alive and maybe even after they’re dead,’ Stanley says. Expect humor, but also ‘a lot of death, a lot of suffering, a lot of human misery.’

One-man shows or otherwise, Stanley’s works focus on shared experience: in performing his CONT’D AT CITY PAPER>>

The Golden Horseshoe: A Lecture On Tragedy

While I’m discussing Medicine, Man and Tesla’s  Letters now being available on the Kindle, I may as well discuss THE GOLDEN HORSESHOE:  A LECTURE ON TRAGEDY.  I conceived, wrote, directed and performed this 75-minute  autobiographical  tragicomedy about family skeletons, Nietzsche, Elvis and a trip to the Underworld in 2003. It came about because I had met Michael Wiener, an amazing performance artist of whom I was a big fan, at a party once. Doubtless I had consumed many martinis, and began blathering on to him about something or other.  At one point he stopped me and said, as I recall it, “You’re a good storyteller. You should come and do something sometime at this show I co-curate at the Gershwin Hotel.”  I was flattered, said sure, didn’t think he was serious.

Six weeks later I got a call from Michael’s co-curator, famed artist and Andy Warhol cohort Neke Carson, asking if I was interested. I said sure, and that I had a whole spoken-word, true story kind of thing worked out.  He said great, why don’t you come by in two days and tell me more about it.  In truth I had no idea what I’d do, so I thought – What’s the best true story you’ve got, Stanley?  What’s the story that all of your friends always ask you to tell over and over? Then I thought, Got it.

I’m not a seasoned actor, but I’m not shy.  I give lectures on playwriting and theatre history, I’m used to that.  So, to make it easy on myself I decided I’d pretend to be  giving an absurd lecture on Greek tragedy, using  a family that bore a striking resemblance to my immediate ancestors, and a protagonist who bore a striking resemblance to myself, as the subject matter.

But then I needed someone involved who could actually act, to play me at times and emote on my behalf.  How to pull that off? Put an actor onstage next to me posing as my Teaching Assistant.  It snowballed from there.  The playbill would look like a course syllabus.  I’d give out a ludicrous quiz at the end.

Instead of hiding backstage before the show, I would stand on the sidewalk in