Thursday, June 16, 2016

Debut of "Turf Therapy" June 18

Our Climate Cabaret troupe will be debuting a new piece at our June 18 performance this Saturday at the Labyrinth Bookstore in Princeton. The performance is at 3pm on the lower level, and is free. We'll be portraying various characters, animating the inanimate, and reanimating the animate. There's a car and its driver, a climate cowboy who will try to sell you on his OK Leaf Corral, a Captain and Crew on the space station orbiting earth, and then there's a turf therapist and his patient, the lawn.

I'll be the lawn, and I have to say that I am honored and humbled to serve as spokesman, or, if I can get the wig to fit, a spokeswoman, for all those super neat, really messed up lawns out there that live empty but opulently indolent and drug-addicted lives as basically kept women for their respective Houses. Finally, we'll find out what lawns have been feeling all this time.

If you want to get the full whammy, my band, the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble, will be performing the evening before, this Friday, June 17, from 7-9 on Hinds Plaza next to the Princeton Public Library.

Below is a photo of an early, unisex rendering of me as a lawn, concerned about some leaves that are marring my beautiful green expanse.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Onstage Community Theater Featured in Princeton Magazine

Somewhat related to our upcoming performance of climate theater and sustainable jazz this coming Saturday afternoon (6/18, hosted by Labyrinth Bookstore on Nassau Street in Princeton, 3-5pm), is a feature article in the latest Princeton Magazine about McCarter Theater's Onstage group. All three of us performing Climate Cabaret this Saturday have received much of our training through the Onstage community theater experience. We collect true stories from the community, which are then turned into monologues and scenes that we then perform. The article tells the story of the fifteen member Onstage Seniors, most of whom have "come to acting late in life", which is to say, not too late in life to benefit from all the pleasure and insight that theater and acting can afford.

I came to Onstage, and to acting, four years ago. My background in science and jazz had taken me a long way, but had not required looking people in an audience in the eye while I spoke. While leading nature walks, I would tend to look at the plants rather than the people I was talking to. Our Onstage director at the time, McCarter's assistant artistic director Adam Immerwahr (photo), was having trouble getting me to look up when I delivered my monologue. Being a creative sort, he finally had fellow troupe members lie on the floor around me as I stood in the rehearsal room, so that I would be more likely to look them in the eye. His brilliant mix of humor, inventiveness and wisdom has been transformative for all of us.

Onstage Seniors is now directed by Liz Green, and we're performing this year's show at senior centers, prisons, and other area venues that are often underserved. For anyone interested, we will perform tonight at the Arts Council of Princeton. There is no charge for our performances.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Upcoming Performance: June 18 at Labyrinth Bookstore

Mark your calendars! June 18, 3pm, lower level of Labyrinth Bookstore in Princeton:

It's time to forge comedy out of angst, to take carbon and make carbonation, to have some serious fun with a subject that people feel so strongly about yet talk about so little. Princeton's own Climate Cabaret feeds off locally sourced irony to blaze new interpretive trails through inner and outer nature. 

Founded by Princeton's naturalist- and writer-in-residence, Steve Hiltner, Climate Cabaret brings nature, theater and music together to speak to the greatest dilemma of our time. A long-time jazz musician, composer, and environmental "activator", Steve in recent years discovered the power and joy of theater through director Adam Immerwahr and McCarter's Onstage community theater group. Joining him are core members of Climate Cabaret: Basha Parmet and John Abrams, with Phil Orr on keyboard.

Gain fresh perspectives on Carbon (a seductive renaissance atom, but beware--not all carbons are the same!). Meet the new, improved, and highly lovable Mr. SustainableWitness a man's tragicomic breakup with his car. Take an Ironic Ride to the Dinky, and explore Earth Logic in Space

Recent creations include a carbonated mini-play adaptation of Shakespeare, called Hamlet's Cousin, and a series of one-minute distillations of climate change: Team Spirit, Stronger Than the Storm, and The Super Sustainability Eat-Fewer-Oysters Championship

The Sustainable Jazz Ensemble will provide musical interludes. There may even be a Special Delivery at the end--a surprise solution to all our earthly problems--followed by light refreshments. The event is free. (Still working on the carbon-free part.)

Update: The Sustainable Jazz Ensemble will also be performing as a quartet with sax and trombone, Friday, June 17, in Hinds Plaza from 7-9pm.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Two of My Plays Premier in This Weekend's NJ One-Minute Play Festival

This weekend, on March 12 and 13, the One-Minute Play Festival will make its annual return to New Jersey. This year, playwrights from across the state were asked to write plays that investigate the questions: Who are we? What is our relationship to each other? To our community? To our work?

Answers to these big questions must fit into plays that are one minute or less. The plays are then rehearsed and performed in quick succession, fifty in all, by five groups of actors . It's super high energy and like nothing you've ever witnessed before.

I was fortunate again this year to be asked to provide two plays, and continue to focus on various takes on climate change.

In "Team Spirit", I contrast the stark pessimism and fatalism permeating our collective non-response to the challenge of climate change with the collective "can do" spirit constantly on display in team sports, where selflessness and sacrifice are seen as ennobling.  In the "World Super-Sustainability Eat Fewer Oysters Championship", I explore how we might define ourselves in ways other than through what we consume.

Check it out at the Luna Stage, 555 Valley Rd, West Orange, NJ 07052. Saturday night and two shows on Sunday. More info below.

Facebook Event:

Ticket Link:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Leaf Rap: The OK Leaf Corral

Many people feel a strong impulse to blow their leaves out into the street in the fall, creating a sense of catharsis, but also a big public mess. Here's a call to all, to ride herd on them-there leaves, but in the opposite direction, to giddyap and get 'em on back, to the OK Leaf Corral.

The script can be found at this link.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Climate Theater: Complaint Training

Friday the 13th in March, 2015 was one wild and crazy night at the Princeton Public Library as the Climate Cabaret launched, if not into space, at least into the space better known as the Community Room. Seven actors, a Princeton High School a cappella group, a jazz pianist, and three singers bearing an uncanny resemblance to Doris Day filled the full house with wonder, joy and laughter--perhaps not the sort of response you'd expect from material dealing with climate change, but there it was.

For those who missed it, the event was not lost in space, but recorded by The Little Camera That Could, tucked off to the side. Some of the sketches are posted here, at, so that they're accessible to Earthlings everywhere.

The evening began with a piece called Complaint Training, in which The Three Grouseketeers seek to fill any void there might be in instruction to the human race on how to rant higher, rant lower, rant louder, rant longerrrrrr.

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Sustainable Jazz: Waltz For Ruth

Climate Cabaret has a jazz component, specifically the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble, a group I compose for and lead. Keyboardist Phil Orr played music before and after our Climate Cabaret debut back in March, 2015, and I joined him on sax for a rendition of Waltz for Ruth just before the show began. Google "Waltz for Ruth" and you discover that bassist Charlie Haden wrote a Waltz for Ruth dedicated to his wife. My Waltz for Ruth is part of a trilogy I wrote prior to traveling to Cleveland to be at my mother's bedside during the last day of her life. I played the melody for her on the clarinet I had taken along, not knowing if she could actually hear it because she was unconscious the whole time. Something of her upbeat nature comes out in the melody.

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Contributing to The One-Minute Play Festival

In 2014 and 2015, I was asked to contribute plays to New Jersey's annual One-Minute Play Festival. Six different directors, each with six actors, converge to bring fifty plays to life with just seconds inbetween.

An online video documents the January 19, 2014 performance at Passage Theatre in Trenton. The show's intro starts at minute 12:10 on the video. My two plays are at 40:40 (When Time Went On Forever) with actors Steve Caputi and Susan Gaissert, directed by Steve Gaissert, and at 58:00 (Stronger Than the Storm?) with actors Amy Crossman and Scott Brieden, directed by Artem Yatsunov. Other plays before and after the "Stronger than the storm?" also explore NJ's response to Hurricane Sandy, including a piece by Clare Drobot that asks the question, "How can you be stronger than an inanimate force of nature?"

The 2015 festival doesn't appear to have been archived online, but was performed May 3 and 4 at Luna Stage in West Orange, NJ. My two pieces, "One Day Stand" (about planting a raingarden) and "The Economy Gets Hers", were directed by Steve Gaissert.

According to the 1MPF's website, "The One-­Minute Play Festival (#1MPF) is a NYC-­‐based theatre company, founded by producing artistic director Dominic D’Andrea, and is America’s largest and longest running short form theatre company. #1MPF is a barometer project, which investigates the zeitgeist of different communities through dialogue and consensus building sessions and a performance of many moments."

Twenty cities now have One-Minute play festivals, with each one drawing from its own region's playwrights, directors and actors.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Climate Theater: The New, Improved Mr. Sustainable

"As long as we must choose between present comfort and future climate, there can be no joy!" So declares Mr. Sustainable, as he searches for a way to feel good while doing good. In this before and after, can new advances in ultra light winter wear and "fresh perspectives on intergenerational relationships" help Mr. Sustainable and his spouse end a long, tense period of thermostat wars? Actors are Steve Hiltner, Basha Parmet and Cheryl Jones. Performed in wintry March, 2015, at the Princeton Public Library as part of the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

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Climate Cabaret: Around 8 Sings "99 Too Many Cars On the Road"

Princeton High School's a cappella group Around Eight was a big hit at the March 13, 2015 premier of the Climate Cabaret at the Princeton Public Library. Here they offer ways both large and small to get from 99 down to zero too many cars on the road. At the beginning of the video, they refuse my offer of printed out lyrics, this being the digital generation. A paperless performance--very sustainable. Around Eight led by Landis Hackett. Lyrics and arrangement by Steve Hiltner.


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Climate Theater: Breaking Up With Your Car

"It's guys like me driving cars like you that are messing things up forever," says Johnny, as he struggles to come to terms with his car's addiction problem. Will he run off with that "anorexic chick with the two skinny wheels", or will he and his car find a way to work things out? This performance was part of the March 13, 2015 premier of the Climate Cabaret at the Princeton Public Library, written by Steve Hiltner and sponsored by the Princeton Environmental Film Festival. Actors: Basha Parmet and Steve Hiltner.       

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