Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's a mystery.

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. 
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do? 
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well. 
Hugh Fennyman: How? 
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery. 
This is one of my favorite scenes from Shakespeare in Love. Mostly because over and over again it proves true. This summer has taught me an immense amount about the actual mechanisms of getting a play produced. And that’s within a festival setting. I’m sure if you’re truly starting from scratch, the obstacles seem even more insurmountable.

Watching Gabrielle work and create the characters that she plays throughout Bongani was a mesmerizing experience. I’ve never watched an actor create such full, complex, characters through improv. She paired the character improv sessions with actual writing sessions to nail down the story and work out the details of the plot.

What was so fascinating about seeing the play in the development stage, was that there are so many possibilities for how the story could unfold. There was so much that was explored and then cut from the final product. We saw about at least 10 different versions of Bongani’s story – there were so many different ways his relationship with Corrine could succeed and fail. How on earth could you pick?  How do you decide which betrayal hurts the most? Which moments of sexual tension to include? Each one pulls at your heart in a different way. You get enormously attached to the characters and want to do justice to their story.

While all of this wonderful creativity was happening there was also the flurry of activity that came with the actual production side. There were training sessions with the Fringe, venue day, one too-short tech session for the whole run, email glitches, ticket sales, last minute prop acquisitions, getting programs in a hurry and I could keep going but I won’t.

With the stress of the last minute things and the scurry to fix things (including the light board for opening night), the anxiety was building, it seemed certain that something was about to happen to derail the show. How on earth would this come together?

 And then it did. When disaster seemed ready to strike, when it seemed like none of the details would fall into place in time, they did. I'm still not sure how we managed to accomplish everything in time. The show came together.  Gabrielle gave amazing performances. When the audience came out of the theatre, lamenting the fact that they had to leave Bongani’s world, and raving about the journey they just went on,  all of the worries from before seemed trivial.  Because suddenly they were.

Hannah Vaughn is an actor who joined the Bongani team this summer as production coordinator.  She tweets for @Bonganitheplay. You can follow her own acting tweets @hanbmb and her blog at


We are very lucky to have had some wonderful reviews of the FringeNYC performances this past August.

August Schulenburg of wrote:

“…this piercingly political play never sacrifices the characters’ complexity or agency in exposing the rottenness of the apartheid system.

“This lovingly detailed yet epic story somehow fits in Maisels’s single body…”

This bracingly unsentimental play does justice to the complexities of love and identity under the pressures of injustice.” raves:

“Writer/performer Gabrielle Maisels delivered the best one person show of the festival… Maisels picks and enacts key scenes of their lives with such care that by the end the story will hit you like a hammer to the heart.”

“She brings each character to full life in a fraction of a second…”

“…she's so emotionally giving that you can't help but respond in kind.”

“…one of the finest solo performers I've ever been lucky enough to experience.”

And Dan Bacalzo of wrote,

“The writer/performer does not present any easy solutions to the lingering racism within the country, but instead chooses to create layered characters in a complex situation.”

“…the show's bittersweet conclusion packs a powerful punch.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We made the Encore Series!!

Whew. After being crushed by having our last two shows in the Fringe cancelled by Hurricane Irene, we then got the thrilling news that we'd been selected for the Encore Series, so we have four more shows this month! We'll be at the lovely Soho Playhouse. So nice.

Here are all the basics. More fun info to come!

BONGANI @ The Fringe Encore Series

Sat. Sept 17, 4:30pm
Sun Sept 18, 5:00pm
Mon Sept 19, 8:00 pm
Wed Sept 21, 8:00pm

15 Vandam Street
New York, NY 10013

Tickets and Info:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Actual blogging

Hmm. Maybe I'll use this as an actual blog. As I was posting this on FB a few minutes ago: 

Thank you to wonderful audiences yesterday. This morning I am...stunned, grateful, happy, excited...feeling all the energy of that special bond forged in the theatre; I'm up there in a glow of light, being inhabited by all these powerful souls, and seeing a sea of open, active faces in the audience around me -- traveling with me, laughing, crying, communing. I kind of can't believe that I get to do this.

I thought: I have so much more to write. It's pouring out of me now. I can't write a novel on Facebook, and then I went "Oh, duh. That's what a blog is for." 

Though now that I'm typing I realize I'm so tired I can hardly see straight. But I just need to gush about how beautiful yesterday was. Show Business. It's a weird thing. But that "still you wouldn't trade it for a sack of gold" is because there is magic in being surrounded by humans breathing WITH you. It's a crazy, beautiful experience. And somehow, this show, this week, I'm feeling it more acutely than ever before. It's been a profound and sometimes harrowing journey creating this piece...and suddenly it flies...and I'm just soaring with it, feeling a little like I was shot out of a cannon. 

More later. So grateful, content and thrilled this morning. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Mounting a solo show is crazy.

This will, one day, be more of a blog. But that will clearly be AFTER this show is mounted, so, in the meantime....

All the SHOW INFO is on the SCHEDULE tab.

Lots lots more info is on our Facebook page, which is Two-Girls-The-Play...

Photos are about to be posted think I need a photo page?...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monday's Bongani Reading

Hi to all of you out there.

I'm Justin, stage manager for Bongani.  On Monday night, I attended the latest semi-public reading of the show. I say "semi-public" because we had a very small, invited audience of friends and family-- about twenty people in total. It was pretty casual; we set up in a rehearsal studio in Midtown, with pizza and wine set up on a side table, and an air conditioner blasting throughout the evening.

I've been in contact by phone & email for the past month, but this was the first time I'd seen the show on its feet. It was also my first opportunity to meet Kate (our director) and Hannah (our production coordinator & liason to the festival) in person. And it was the first time I'd seen Gabrielle since we worked on Two Girls  last year.

There were no props and not costumes, and she had a script in her hand for all but one scene. The show itself is not tech-heavy by any means, but the bare-bones performance we saw that night put the focus squarely on the text & the performance. Gabrielle told us to come and go as we pleased. One or two latecomers slipped in after the the reading began, but I don't think anybody left the room until it was finished, an hour and fifty minutes later. It will be shorter by the time we open.

We followed the reading with feedback and a Q&A from the audience. I think the intimate setting (and the wine) helped to get open and constructive responses. The characters, most of them, are familiar from Two Girls,  but the story is new, and it is still being refined. So it was helpful to have a kind of 'peer review'. WE all appreciated the notes from Carol and Michael and everyone else (I do not know everybody's names).

I'm excited to help put together all the technical elements over the next two weeks, and to get this show ready for production. At the moment, I'm busy researching South African music and contacting local press. I will post again soon. And I promise that next time I will have pictures.