Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Things have gone a great deal more calmly today. Yesterday’s little hissy-fit came under control thanks to a little extra digging on my part, as well as some reassuring words from Sarah Morton. The fact is, the deadline fine-print read something like "You MUST have your press materials to SpinCycle no later than JUNE 5th – and failing that, well, they better be in by JULY 5th" or something to that effect.

We UPS’ed the promo mats, they arrived today. And you know, Ron at SC had asked for a copy of my script a month or so ago, did I send materials with it? See, I just need to take a few breaths. It’s already a hot summer for me.

Fortunately, the reviews for AM REV were largely positive. Now I spend all my nervous energy on this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Publicity nightmare

Oh Jesus Christ, what a nightmare. What the hell is wrong with me? I have been so hideously distracted by THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION to keep my mind on anything else. There was a major FringeNYC press deadline two weeks ago and for some reason, I just missed it. Just wasn’t paying attention. That’s not like me.

God, I am stressed out. I feel like I am going into this with my head squarely up my butt. Again, that’s not like me. Last year it was all mapped out so carefully, and now I keep stumbling, every step of the way.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Letters from Professor D.'s Class

Hey Mr. Hansen,

My name is Kelly and I am in Jill D.'s Critical Writing course at NYU this summer. I was hoping you would answer a few questions for me concerning "I Hate This" and the New York Fringe Festival. As she mentioned we are writing a preview of the NYC Fringe Festival. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

-So, the Fringe Festival received over 800 applications. Why do you think they chose to include "I Hate This" in the Fringe Festival line up? What will it add to the Festival?

-What are your thoughts about being included in the Fringe Festival? What are you most looking forward to?

-And lastly, the subject of "I Hate This" isn't one men usually discuss their feelings about. This has to add another dimesion to the subject. What do you hope audiences walk away from "I Hate This" with?

Thank you so much in advance for you time. I hope the summer months go well for you as you prepare for the NYC Fringe Festival. I look forward to hearing from you--no rush though.

Wishing you safe travels,

Kelly B.

Hey Ms. B.,

Your first question is a good one, though not one I am sure I can answer. I first became acquainted with the festival in 2000 when I happened upon it when visiting the city. Since then I attended again in 2001 as a participant (my wife Toni wrote a play produced in 2001, I was part of the crew) and have kept tabs on it as people I know were involved in ’02 and ’03. I am curious as to what their criteria really is.

I HATE THIS brings with it a brief history of praise – Fringe organizers say they are eager to find new, untested works, but must be influenced when a show has been met with critical acclaim in its original run, and I am glad to say this show has. But I have always worried about the content – Fringe shows can be so arch, so "out there." But it’s what I got now, if you know what I mean, I didn’t create this piece to hit the fringe circuit, and so I decided to take the risk. I am very glad that they have decided to take the risk, too.

What will it add to the festival? An element of surprise, I hope. Selling the show is hard work, I think people expect to hear some sob story, maybe I will do a lot of screaming, I don’t know. When I think of it, I wonder what kind of person would want to see that. What I think I provide is a story, one the largest number of my audience is unfamiliar with, and tell it in a way that they can understand what someone goes through when a child dies. And they laugh, too. Laughing is allowed.

I am greatly looking forward to being part of this festival. I have a love for New York that has a lot to do with my relationship with Toni and am always thrilled to return. And our participation in fringeNYC in 2001, while difficult, was an important step in our recovery. This play was inspired, in part, by the shows I saw there that year.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is the challenge of getting people in the seats. My experience at the Minnesota Fringe showed how successful it is to meet people and get flyers into their hands. A lot of the people I spoke to directly came to see the show. Festivals like these create such a great community and I am looking forward to being immersed in that.

Your last question is a very good one, and strikes to the heart of this show. If I thought I were saying something that had already been said, I may not have been moved to write it. But my experiences coping with neo-natal death were significantly different from those of my wife, and I was not surprised to see how the fathers are overlooked, their feelings dismissed – and the extent to which most men in my position dismiss their own feelings and allow themselves to be ignored.

I hope audiences come away from I HATE THIS with a better idea of what to do when people close to them loses someone, anyone. It’s always better to say something than nothing.

Thanks for the questions, please feel free to ask any others. If you don’t mind my asking, I would like to read your article when you have completed it.

Letters from Professor D.'s Class

Jyana at CPT put me in touch with a professor and freelance journalist in NYC who wanted to get her students in touch with Fringe performers. I snapped at the opportunity.

Here is one letter - I thought they were very good questions.

Mr. Hansen,

I am a student in Jill D.'s Critical Writing class and I have a few questions I would like to ask you about "I HATE THIS" for the article we are writing in class.

1. Why did you decide to make it a solo performance?
2. How did you prepare to play a dozen or more characters? Did you have any difficulties, and also what are the pluses to a solo performance?
3. How does it make you feel to be performing a show about an uneasy topic like this at an International Festival?

Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. The article isn't due until the 22nd of June so you don't have to respond immediately if you are busy. Thanks again.

Michelle L.


In 2001 my wife Toni had a play in the New York Fringe. It was a play she had written and had produced the previous year, before our son Calvin died, and returning to it, and returning to New York City (where she spent her late teens and early twenties) was its own part of our healing experience. I was running sound for the thing, and so did not have as much emotional or physical investment in the show itself, and spent a lot of time catching as many other Fringe shows as I could.

On our drive home I had a lot of time to just roll everything I had seen around in my head. And it was on the trip home that I got the first idea of writing this play. I think I even surprised myself, thinking something like "Oh God, you’re going to write a play about this, aren’t you?" Like I was ashamed, at first, to even think about turning what was, at that point in time, a very traumatic experience, and a fresh wound. But that’s what writers do, and all the time.

I had seen a number of solo shows at the ’01 Fringe, and some were very, very good. I had experience directing someone else in their solo perf. A few years earlier. Someone said to me at that time – David, you should write a one-man show for yourself. And my response was, what the hell do I have to say for an hour, about anything? Finally, I guess, I did.

But why a solo performance as opposed to a traditional play – the show is much like my journal, performed. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But I did write more personal stuff in that year than I ever had, and using it as the basis for the story, I am able to communicate the immediate feelings that come with this kind of shock, and this kind of grief. And as I am simply recounting what I went through, a direct-address, solo performance made sense.

Preparing for the different characters was easy. I don’t think they are astounding changes in character, it’s not like that guy in "I Am My Own Wife" I do not inhabit these other characters as much as … well, it’s like when some people tell stories, they like to impersonate the people they are talking about? It’s like that, taken to an extreme. The most challenging bit is when I have an extended conversation between myself and my own brother. But they tell me it works quite well. Because most of these characters are people who are so close to me, performing them comes more naturally then I would have thought before attempting it.

One major difficulty I had was with the one non-white character in the play. There is a nurse in this story, based, with no exaggeration, on an actual nurse we had while we were in the hospital. She was a terrible nurse. And my performance, in the early stages, was what I would call accurate, and not some cartoon. But it was apparent that she was of a different race, and that made people uncomfortable, and I didn’t blame them when they told me. So I changed her, the way she said things, the way her voice sounds – I didn’t want anyone to misunderstand what I was trying to say. And though I do not have a problem with altering certain aspects of the story to make them fit into a coherent tale, that bothers me. Because it doesn’t sound like her.

One of the pluses of a solo performance, especially this one, is that it is not at a "remove." I think it would feel stranger to watch people tell this story, with me standing outside of it. The audience knows it’s me, and I believe that makes it easier to watch, and not harder.

As for your last question, it was strange performing it last year in Minnesota. I was used to having a large number of people who knew me or knew who I was when performing it in Cleveland. In Minneapolis this was not the case at all, and when their reactions were muted (a lot of the show is humorous – but no one laughed) I was distressed … until a local pointed out the whole polite Minnesotan thing. You know, they don’t laugh at anyone else’s misfortune. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it put me at ease a little.

The fact is, in spite of its subject matter, I am always delighted to perform this show. And bringing it to New York, and not only because of its origins, is particularly special to me. Toni has such a connection to this city. When we began dating she still lived there, and we return often. And the city played an important part in our journey out of grief. The scene I mentioned where I have a conversation with my brother takes place at the Cloisters.

It will be a hard sell, it always is. Who wants to see a show about stillbirth? But I have always received such a strong, positive response from my audience – my company and I just need to hit the street early and talk folks into our show like everyone else.

I hope my answers are helpful to you, and I would be happy to read your article if that is all right. And feel free to ask any other questions if you need to.

Best wishes,