Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Today’s helpful tip: hotel etiquette

February 2nd, 2014

Never do this in a hotel.

Some Birthday Party

February 1st, 2014

The Geffen Theatre has either canceled or put on hiatus or rescheduled its announced production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. Now the director, William Friedkin, and Steven Berkoff, the actor whose role needs to be recast, are squabbling over whether the latter resigned, or was allowed to resign before getting fired. In this piece, Friedkin is quoted as saying  that Berkoff “was allowed to resign to preserve his dignity. Had he not resigned, he would have been fired.”

If you’re going to be allowed to resign rather than face the indignation of getting fired, but then the person who would have fired you tells the world that you were allowed to resign before the indignation of getting fired, then I think you’ve suffered the indignation anyway. Which, I take it, is the point here.

I doubt these two will be working together again.

But, being Hollywood and the arts in general, one can never say.

Plus, as you grow older, it almost becomes a sport to do again things you said you’d never do again. I recall Sean Connery returning after a 15-year lapse to the role of James Bond. I’m just glad someone had the self-awareness to name that film Never Say Never Again.


Apache attack

February 1st, 2014

Yesterday when I went to write a post for this blog, I found I couldn’t. Although the site and the blog were up, instead of the dashboard that allows me to post, there was a blank screen. Eventually, people smarter about such things than I am figured it out for me and were able to make the fix. It turns out that the problem was related to an upgrade of Apache on the server. And no, I don’t know what that means either.

Posted without comment by a playwright who occasionally has had his plays “interpreted” in curious ways by directors

January 28th, 2014



January 27th, 2014

On Sunday, I awoke to find two blog-related emails. The first I addressed in the preceding post.  The second was from the star of The Whale, thanking me for my “kind words” here, which had just been forwarded to him. I told him they weren’t kind words, they were earned praise — that his portrayal was astonishing, reminding me all too well of a dear longtime friend who struggled all too mightily with morbid obesity.

After handling those emails and a lengthy breakfast consumed with reading two thick Sunday newspapers, I took my two younger children to play miniature golf.  There is something wrong with the miniature golf course these days, because one of these children finished with a better score than mine. I’m not sure how that happened, but I’m looking into it.

After that, we went to the Bat Cade in Burbank, which is a batting cage with arcade with pizza parlor — a sort of mashup of activities geared toward my internal age (about 15). Just add comic books and it’d be paradise. There’s something wrong with the air hockey table at the Bat Cade because my son beat me and my daughter also beat me. This is not how this thing is supposed to work. Luckily, the classic arcade game Arkanoid II: Revenge of Doh was functioning perfectly well and I was unbeaten. We ate pizza to celebrate my victory, then took turns in the batting cage, where I successfully defended my head from 30 baseballs flung mercilessly at top speed.

Even though satiated with top-quality local pizza, we stopped at the nearby Ralphs (that’s the name of a supermarket — make your own joke) to stock up on comestibles. I spotted bottles of $15 chardonnay mysteriously priced down to $3.99 and snagged two; I will let you know if they were bottled in a Chinese lead factory. (If I never post here again, you’ll know what happened.) On a whim, I also picked up an 8-piece container of fried chicken because at this point I had no vision of cooking anything for dinner. Later, I discovered that the 8-piece container of chicken held only six pieces — there were no drumsticks. Which left me wondering:  had it not been properly filled by the people behind the deli counter, or had someone surreptitiously slid two fingers inside and stolen the drumsticks out of the case before I bought it? Either way, I figured I’d just eat it.

Later, I watched Downton Abbey, enjoying the latest episodic effort to ennoble a landed lord with grace and human dignity, when I know he’s a pirate sucking off the desperate largesse of the lower class; the show is simultaneously entertaining and deeply infuriating (the way I imagine the new video biography of Mitt Romney will prove to be). I also watched the Grammy Awards. On DVR. So that the entire nearly four-hour enterprise, stripped down to actual content, consumed only about 22 minutes. Takeaways:  How does one sing when swinging upside down from a rope? (Answer:  one doesn’t — it’s lip synching.) Also, now that I’ve gleaned that Ringo’s touring show largely involves him singing, I’m glad I’ve saved my money. As a singer, he’s a passable drummer.

I also wondered how much regret the guys from Daft Punk were living in, wearing those hot robot heads for more than four hours straight, and leaving the man in the Dudley Do-Right hat to inarticulately accept every award for them.

Finally, I went to bed and dove further into a late Philip Roth novel, Indignation,  that I had somehow missed when it came out. (I’ve been reading all of Roth’s new releases for years; same deal with Paul Auster and Julian Barnes — they publish it; I read it.)

Then, finally, sleep.


My hunch may have been wrong

January 27th, 2014


In this post, I was poking fun at bad publicity shots for bad theatre. I ended that post by writing,  ”I’m also struck by the hunchback on the left.” Note the relevant photo, which I’ve helpfully replicated above.

Yesterday morning I got a sincere email from a faithful reader of this blog. In a very kind way, he took me to task for calling the person on the left a “hunchback,” because he believes she has untreated scoliosis. And, I gather, whether or not she does, it’s wrong to call a person with a hump a “hunchback.”

I have to say, I’m not big on calling people out by being types. So if I’m guilty of that, I apologize. It wasn’t my intent.

The point I was trying to make was this:  Given the awful acting and over-the-top costuming and cartoonish nature of the photo, right up to that woman’s image, I had assumed she was acting impaired. Hence the offhand nature of my comment — I was criticizing the production and the photo, not her physical nature, and using a derogatory term to indict the intent. Looking at the photo again, I have to admit, I can’t say definitively what’s going on. (Though my suspicion remains that we’re look at bad character acting.)

In any event, I apologize for any unintended slight. And for the bad pun in the title. (Just couldn’t help myself.)


Last respects

January 26th, 2014

Yes, always go to the funeral.

Recently, I went to the funeral for the father of a friend of mine. The father was murdered in his own home. It was very emotional, as you can understand. Between the service, which was beautiful and moving and infuriating because we wouldn’t have needed this service had someone not done what he did, we were all emotionally spent. I cannot imagine how my friend felt — I would have felt deeply angry; plus, the killer is still on the loose — and yet, somehow, he said to me later when he saw me in the receiving line, “I can always count on you.” And, yes, he can.

When my own father died after a protracted illness and I went to his funeral, it meant a great deal to me to see how many people came out and how many of them I knew from my childhood. One of his friends, Mr. Groff, cried in front of me, and I still love him for that. And, obviously, haven’t forgotten it.

In late 2003, a friend and former colleague died young, leaving behind a wife and a little boy. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t go to the funeral. Whatever the reason was, it wasn’t good enough. Because I still think of him, and those thoughts are primarily tied up with my not having attended his funeral. That’s not how I’d like to remember him — by my poor behavior.

A very close friend of my 20s died last summer. This was a difficult person who nonetheless made a great impact on my young adulthood. I always thought we’d get back together. When I learned he died, I was stunned for weeks. Maybe months. Not surprised, but stunned nevertheless. I still feel strangely about it; again, because I thought we’d reconnect, and also because when your friends start to die, you know that death is getting closer to you. I emailed with his surviving family, all estranged, and learned that there wasn’t going to be a funeral. No service of any kind. Nothing to attend. Having learned my lesson, I would have flown across the country for that one. But there was nowhere to go. That is a sad final comment on someone of great talent who squandered so much.


Become one of the Simpsons for five bucks

January 25th, 2014


Here’s how.

Feeling a little excluded here….

January 24th, 2014

Surely, after 30 years of being involved in PR shoots for plays, I must have been involved in at least one of the terrible PR pictures from the theatre of the United States.

The guy in the photo above, by the way, strongly reminds me of my first boss, when I was 14 and he was theoretically running the nighttime classified ad department. He later got fired for sleeping on the job. Next time I ran into him? Nine years later, in college — turns out he was, you guessed it, one our flamboyant community theatre actors. I’m sure that in someone’s files there are photos of him in “acting mode” all too similar to what is seen above.

I’m also struck by the hunchback on the left.

Writing rapping

January 23rd, 2014

Who said what, writer James Joyce or rapper Kool Keith? Take the test here.