Saw the multitalented Chris Wells and scenic savant Rachel Hauck last night, both of them originally Actors' Gang affiliates, now either settled here (Chris) or bi-coastal (Rachel). Both talked wistfully about Los Angeles theatre, noting that contrary to the romantic vision, it's actually easier to get by as a theatre artist in L.A., compared to New York's more codified commercial hierarchy. Not that either made a fortune, or even much of a living wage, toiling in the trenches of L.A. theatre, just that the struggle to live is much more arduous in New York—as Chris put it, "Money and work are so insane here." He's nearing his 2 1/2-year anniversary in the Apple, while Rachel and her partner Lisa Peterson are tiring, she said, of seldom seeing each other, in whichever city; she was recently working at the O'Neill Playwrights' Conference at the same time Peterson was at the Sundance Summer Theatre Lab. Hauck is off to Tokyo soon to design a production of The Dresser.
The occasion for the meeting was a workshop performance of Wells' unclassifiable, self-penned Olsen Terror, a cabaret-style piece in which he plays a middle-aged media-junkie schlub who believes he is turning into the Olsen twins. Sample lyrics: "I'm only one man/But I feel like two... little girls," or, "It's a full house/But I"m empty inside." He's got some tweaking of the tone to do but it shows promise as another showcase for his outsized yet finely shaded talent.
He did note, however, another N.Y./L.A. difference: "New Yorkers," he said, "aren't able to be as authentically postmodern," by which he means, in his case, that he may have trouble convincing people that a show about the Olsen twins could have anything serious to say about American culture, and more generally, that the distinctions between "high" and "low" seem more entrenched in New York than in L.A. One wonders how Ken Roht's pop-art confections (as opposed to his more serious work would fare here. But speaking of pop art, isn't this the city that gave the world Andy Warhol and The Beastie Boys—and where, as Chris mentioned, he recently saw Wyclef Jean at Avery Fisher Hall?
Obviously, I can only hold out hope for my new home, on both the money and culture fronts. This Thursday I'm reviewing something pretty postmodern.