Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aaron Baker

Aaron Baker was our Clint Eastwood. He rode into town one day from out of nowhere and with his signature cocked-double-eyebrow expression, said nothing.

Nobody knew who he was. Tall, stocky, bald, chain smoker. Looking like he was ready to deliver a message from your bookie. Then, mysteriously, and again almost without a word, he volunteered to help you strike your set, build your complicated website, edit your feature film, perform the supporting part in your play, copyedit your promotional literature, buy a seat to every show you ever perform, orchestrate your multi-platform interactive cell phone environmental theater experience from a remote location, and cook you a gourmet dinner.

When he did speak, it was short and to the point. A few syllables in that trademarked smoky, understated, throaty bass voice of his. It was so spare you often worried you weren’t getting the whole picture. Why doesn’t he say anything? Is he angry? Depressed? Lulling me into a false sense of security until he has the opportunity to kill me? He can’t truly be the open-hearted artist trapped inside the exterior of a fierce gun-for-hire, traveling from town to town, dispensing gratuitous kindness wherever he roamed that he appeared to be, can he?

He could. And much more. He was an illustrator. And a musician. And a graphic designer. And a software engineer. And a grammar Nazi. And a television producer. And a writer. And a filmmaker. And a clown. And an actor. And a director. And a photographer. And a fanatic. And a nerd. And a fiancé. And a friend.

He was a jack of all trades and master of all.

He was a master ninja of life.

He was the man with no name.

To many among us, he was known simply as Walkup, Walkup.

Brick staff members will recognize that nom de plume from the theater’s ticketing system, which requires a first and last name to enter a sale into the computer. If a theatergoer refuses, or if the box office staffer forgets, the system records Walkup, Walkup as the patron’s name. Aaron was always Walkup Walkup. He absolutely insisted. Everyone knew his name. And everyone knew when he was in attendance. But no one could prove it.

Well Aaron, my friend? I have bad news for you. I can prove it. Today a packed house of your friends and loved ones bears irrefutable witness that you were here. Today, this jury of your peers will take in a wealth of video, still photography and testimonial evidence that will go to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that Aaron Baker was here. Future accountants and Ticketing Managers of The Brick will pour over the hundreds of performances we host for years to come and from years past and see listed on the presale register of nearly every show, that eternal smoking gun: Walkup, Walkup. You were here, Aaron Baker. And you will always be here. Ninja, cowboy, spaceman, chupacabra, brick. Ride on, Aaron. Ride on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


One of the first productions I did at The Brick, back in 2004, was a performance of The Pragmatists, an obscure early play by the equally obscure 20th-century Polish playwright Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, aka Witkacy. A theorist in addition to a creator, his concept of Pure Form posited a method of creating theatrical art using formal elements (color, sound, movement, etc.) as the primary structures of the play and then letting the narrative fall into place where it will, as nearly an afterthought. A catchphrase he used to encapsulate this theory was "Unity in Plurality."

My company, Piper McKenzie, has gone on to do many productions at The Brick, and my producing-and-marriage partner Hope Cartelli and I have both ended up becoming associate directors of the space. I would say that the phrase Unity in Plurality has been a kind of unspoken motto throughout all of this - both within our individual works and over the course of our (ahem) oeuvre as a whole. However, little that we've done has embodied the idea quite so fully as the project that we're premiering at The Brick this weekend: Piper McKenzie's Dainty Cadaver.

The idea behind the Dainty Cadaver is that of an exquisite corpse: one writer writes a scene; a second writer reads it and writes her own; a third reads the second scene - but not the first - and writes his own - and so on. It's a game we've attempted before, and it played a small role in The Brick's prehistory (see this origin story), but this time we're trying it on a much bigger scale: 18 writers creating three plays, which have been staged by three directors over the course of three nights, featuring more than two dozen performers.

The directors more than have their work cut out for them trying to reign this raging river of constantly shifting narrative into a single stream - creating Unity in Plurality, natch - but what I've seen from rehearsals (full disclosure: I have a cameo in Team B's piece so I've been following that process pretty closely) has made me even more excited about what I've seen than I was reading the plays on paper - and I was VERY excited about that. Watching these awesome writers - some of whom are familiar faces to Brick audience, others of whom are relatively new - figure out how to use their own voice and abilities while building upon each other's work has been really exciting, and I'm fascinated to see what audiences think about this grand experiment. Will these plays be believable as sustained narratives, or will they be totally balls-out chunks of random weirdness? Or somewhere in between?

In the meantime, the writers have all been participating in a series of Mad-Libs-style blog interview profiles doodads on PMcK's blog The Piperline. They'll give you an glimpse into the personalities that have led these individuals into the bastard art of playwriting - as opposed to something respectable, like locksmithery or being a soldier of fortune - as well as a hint of what kind of mayhem to expect on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Check it out!
And there are clearly more to come over the next few days! Also, Aaron Riccio wrote about the piece today, using it as an opportunity to use the phrase "the esteemed and always-up-for-an-experiment Brick Theater," which is certainly a nice thing. Buy your tickets for all three today! Unity in Plurality! WOOOOOO!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


In 2010, Time Out New York celebrated The Brick as Essential New York! "For the nerds, outcasts and mad experimenters of theater. That includes both creators and spectators." From January to July of 2011, The Brick is making good on this claim by presenting a series of productions and festivals that display the range and boldness of its many artists - whether they be returning favorites or brand new faces!

PIPER McKENZIE'S DAINTY CADAVER will run January 28-30. This show is an Exquisite Corpse-style playmaking project in which multiple playwrights collaborate on a single work without knowing what the hell the others are doing. Each writer reads the previous scene, writes a new scene, and passes it on to the next writer - who doesn't see any of what came earlier. Beautiful madness ensues.

For its inaugural edition, Piper McKenzie will present one-night-only performances of three new plays written in this unique collaborative style, with results ranging from inspired chaos to eerie synchronicity - all tied together by the unique voices of 18 hot playwrights, including:

Johnna Adams (The Angel Eaters Trilogy), Eric Bland (Emancipatory Politics:
A Romantic Tragedy), Danny Bowes (Q&A), Maggie Cino (Ascending Bodily), James Comtois (The Little One), John DeVore (Tupperware Orgy), Cara Francis (The Soup Show), Matt Freeman (Brandywine Distillery Fire), Justin Maxwell (Your Lithopedion), Jeff Lewonczyk (Theater of the Arcade), Rich Lovejoy (A Brief History of Murder), Qui Nguyen (Alice in Slasherland), Carolyn Raship (Antarctica), Mac Rogers (Viral), August Schulenburg (The Lesser Seductions of History), Crystal Skillman (The Vigil or the Guided Cradle), Alexis Sottile (Small Dinner) and Art Wallace (The Plowman's Lunch)

Find out more at

The Machine presents THE SISTER February 16-26. Some are allowed names. Some, only roles. In Colleen's family, she is The Sister. The role of The Sister is clear: Take abuse. Work the machine. And if you're really bad? You might have to wear the dog collar.

The Sister marks the first collaboration between emerging playwright Eric John Meyer (Not Winehouse) The Truck Project's 2010 Artist in Transit) and director Jess Chayes of The Assembly (Horse Trade Resident Theater Company 2009-2010; Clementine and the Cyber Ducks, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater). Find out more about them at their websites:,

THE IRANIAN THEATER FESTIVAL will be presented March 3-26. Iran stands at the crossroad of some of the oldest civilizations in history. As heir to Persian, Assyrian, Sumetic, Arab and other cultures, Iranian theater and performance from ancient times through today has been a vibrant hybrid. Yet Iranian theater is underrepresented on American stages.

The Brick proposes to expand the boundaries of this cultural moment, and collaborate with Iranian theater artists in the U.S. and abroad, by hosting and producing The Iranian Theater Festival.

The festival will include new works, in Farsi and English, from legendary Iranian exile and Helman-Hammet Grant Award-winner Assurbanipal Babilla, a celebration of Reza Abdoh, Two Stories That End in Suicide by Piehole (inspired by Sadegh Hedayet's The Blind Owl), A preview excerpt from Brendan Regimbal & Samara Naeymi's Aviary, Leila Ghaznavi's Silken Veils, newly-commissioned contemporary works from Iranian-based playwrights and participants of the Fadjr International Theatre Festival and a special celebration of the traditional Iranian New Year's holiday, Nowruz. Visit for more.

The Mad Ones present NEW UNTITLED PREMIERE March 31-April 16. The Mad Ones, winners of 3 New York Innovative Theater Awards (including Outstanding Production of a Play) for Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War, return to the Brick this April with their sophomore effort. Shrouded in mystery, the Mad Ones are busy in their laboratory cooking up another vibrantly detailed retro construction with live music. As Time Out New York says, "rest assured, you are safe in the hands of some confident new theatrical talents."

THE LITTLE CHAOS will run April 21-30. "When I was twelve, I smashed a vase over my father's head and killed him. At sixteen, I was the leader of a gang. One day we killed a guy who was sitting on a bench with a girl. We pissed down on him from a hill. He came up and gave us a dressing down. So we went for him, and he just keeled over. You know, with brass knuckles. And then he was dead. Just kicked the bucket."

A trio of outsiders that refuses to join a syndicate gets involved in a series of murders -- at first out of a need for protection; then to cover its tracks and finally for money.

Based on Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1969 film Love is Colder than Death, Chaos is the story of "poor souls who didn't know what to do with themselves, who were simply set down, as they are, and who weren't given a chance" (as Fassbinder himself put it.) Inspired by spaghetti westerns and Hollywood gangster films (in the vein of Raoul Wash), the show depicts a Munich of chain-smokers, fat prostitutes and troubled youths. Directed by Stiven Luka

Depth Charge presents THE ABORTION PLAY May 12-21.
A fable celebrating bourgeois individualism, nihilism, and equality in which Hour Heroine narrowly avoids disaster and fulfills her social destiny as a petite-bourgeois thanks to the greatest weapon in the long struggle for a free and equal world: abortion.

From the creators of Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill! comes the newest work of Depth Charge.

THE BRICK'S ANNUAL SUMMER THEME FESTIVAL will take place June 2 - 25, 2011. This year's theme is THE COMIC BOOK THEATER FESTIVAL. The influence of comics on our culture continues to grow. From the pop fantasias of Hollywood blockbusters to the rawness and refinement of intimate memoirs - and everything in between - it's impossible to deny the wide appeal of comics' words and images. The theater, of course, is no less immune to its spell. Next summer, The Brick will invite one of history's newest art forms to meet one of its oldest - and, through collaborations between visual and dramatic artists, the form and content of comics will collide with the content and form of theater to create strange new hybrids across both mediums.

Visit for more. Applications now online!

GAME PLAY 2011: A Celebration of Video Game Performance Art will be presented July 7-31.

Now in its 3rd year, the video game performance festival continues in what Seth Schiesel of The New York Times called "the most ambitious effort I know of to fuse the techniques and live presentation of theater with the themes, structures and technology of interactive electronic entertainment." See the mediums of stage and game collide in the most unexpected and surprising ways. Applications now online!

All shows will take place at The Brick (575 Metropolitan Avenue between Union and Lorimer, Brooklyn). Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 212-352-3101.