PRESS AS A WRITER & PLAYWRIGHT
Read Brian's interview in Visible Soul's "People You Should Know." (click to read interview).
"Santaland Diaries move over; there's another seasonal satire on the Christmas stage!"
"Perhaps most impressive is his shift from the winking
social critic his reputation has earned for him to earnest
"Dykstra is neither Marley nor Scrooge. Dykstra reconceptualizes Santa as an omnivorous corporate predator who owns the holiday. This is not St. Nick, Kris Kringle or Father Christmas but rather a pompous Grinchwith a red hat and a pot belly who seeks to maximize the franchise so that girls named Holly and Noel would have to pay a licensing fee to hold their names. Once the outrageousness of the notion is on the floor, Dykstra raises the stakes by bringing Santa and his legal team into conflict with another big man of a different color, the Jolly Green Giant. Not only is this a rival marketer with a lot of muscle, but his tagline sounds like copyright infringement three times over, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" This rises to a corporate battle of the titans until the shocking (well, startling) denouement."
Ho! Named Top 5 Holiday Shows
On Broadway & Beyond by City’s Best
“The energy in Brian Dykstra's plays and stage persona is very specific. For one thing, he looks like he'd be more at home at a sports bar, or parked in front of a wide screen TV on Sundays, telling each player how to retool his or her strategy.
But in Dykstra -- who's a veteran of Russell Simmons' Def Poetry franchise -- there are no airs and no pretensions. He emits a tough-guy honesty, a mixture of don't-fool-with-me and show-me-what-you-got. He's Everydude, which means he can do anything on stage, and very often he does.
Take his latest play, a Yuletide rip called Brian Dykstra's Ho! First, it takes guts to pop your name in front of a title, but it's good marketing: Something about the guy makes you want to hop on the ride, knowing you're going to catch some cool and sardonic sights along the way.
Staged by his longtime director, Margarett Perry, Ho! is actually a two-for-one proposition. In Act I, the commercialization of Christmas hits an all-time high-low point when Santa and his lawyers launch a nasty branding dispute. In Act II, we meet a fine Vermont pine tree named Sammy who awaits his destiny on a holiday-time sidewalk. Go ahead, count the rings.”
HO! has several possible definitions and Brian Dykstra puts them all to good use in his two-monologue show that finds both the irony and true meaning of the season. Santa's World is a rhyming rant of corporate greed, pitting a less-than-jolly Santa against a bitter Jolly Green Giant over usage of the catch phrase "Ho-Ho-Ho!" Dykstra's imaginative product placement is as dazzling as a set of blinking Christmas lights. The mood shifts in A Christmas Tree Story, an urban myth about Sammy the Vermont pine. He has waited his entire life to be the perfect Christmas tree, and the unexpected turns in this deceptively simple tale has the makings of a memorable, oft-recited, Christmas tale.
"If you go for the Grinch before Jimmy Stewart, and just cannot get enough of seasonal lore like David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice, HO! could be just that new item to add to your holiday repertoire. Celebrating the season by looking through a slightly off-kilter lens, it takes a satirical yet adoring approach to the genre."
“Brian Dykstra’s ‘Play on Words’ is a play about words. And meaning…Mr. Dykstra’s play owes a debt to “Waiting for Godot.”…There are tangents and striking riffs for Mr. Boyett, an excellent actor with crack timing, who can reel off long, tongue-twisting speeches that gain in speed and virtuosity…We are meant to think about the language of plays.”
“It goes great places!
As his two characters quibble endlessly about definitions and word choices, Dykstra sneaks in some incisive political commentary and arrives at conclusions both commonly held and rarely spoken…It's a grim play with a happy face, and when it really gets down to business, it makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.”
“This is a very funny play!
An astonishing sort-of stream-of-consciousness path that leads very purposefully to a place Dykstra intends to take us—a place where we're forced to confront the obfuscations and incendiariness of the words people in power hurl at us.”
“The playwright Yasmina Reza would not only recognize but probably salute A Play on Words, Brian Dykstra's corrosively funny two-hander. That's because he steals a page from her playbook, devising a seemingly realistic scenario that's actually a loony, lovable paean to absurdism.”
“True to its title, Brian Dykstra's A Play on Words is an English major's idea of non-stop fun. A Play on Words engages two long-time dorky friends in a bout of rhetorical
fencing where every word is parsed to its fullest and colloquialisms are dissected under a linguistic microscope. It manages to be both high-brow and low-brow — and thoroughly entertaining — yet underneath all the semantic and etymological arguments lies a thoughtful examination of how language both succeeds and fails as a means of communication”
"Dykstra outdoes himself here. The rapidity and studied verbal miscues will remind old timers of classic Abbott and Costello routines, but the dissection of everyday expression sounds like vintage George Carlin."
“There’s no question that Dykstra can twist, tatter and interrogate any phrase of language.”
“When old Polonius asks the disaffected Hamlet what he's reading, the prince perversely replies, "Words, words, words." Something of that same insurrectionary spirit toward language - as both invested with and barren of meaning - persists in all of playwright Brian Dykstra's works.”
"In the autological 'A Play on Words,' Dykstra distills his love of linguistics into a play about - and positively spilling over with - language. Best friends since high school, Max and Rusty have a backyard conversation that alternates paces quick and slow, reaches scales epic and trifling, and leafs through just about every aspect of language you can cover in that amount of time. Dykstra's intelligence affords his work a charming wit and a strong current of thoughtful commentary. We typically take language for granted, giving it a transparency in our lives. Word junkies, behavioral scientists, phonologists - see "A Play on Words" once, even twice. You'll give your vocabulary some exercise and chuckle at the confusing, bizarre structures we've customarily adopted.”
"Nonstop Laughter! Ferociously Witty! A gripping experience from start to finish."
"See 'The Two of You' with a friend and you'll be talking about it for a long time."
"[A] zany, delightful flight! Heartwarming! Hilarious! A glorious play!"
"On one level, The Two of You is a glorious play about creating plays, about how all the technical issues encountered in writing the script collide with the growing reality of these fictional beings who absurdly begin acting as if they are actually flesh and blood; as if what happens to them really matters. On another level it is about the terror that lurks in the very sinew of our closest relationships, that wounded place where we fear we no longer matter, aren't sexy or challenging enough for our lover, or even worse, wonder if they feel they gave something important up to stay with us. That they live in that illogical, bitter, frozen land of regret."
As the emotional stakes increase, there's barely chance to catch one's breath - especially since the play's momentum is propelled by that signature dykstravagant love of language. Lots of it, delivered by thinking characters whose mouths move as fast as their minds. Lest this sound overwhelming, be assured it's also very clever, very funny, and tenderly human - this is a love story that has to reinvent itself.
"The Two of You
touches the heart and the mind. It makes you rethink cliches about love and even more those about the theater."
"The ending of The Two of You can not be given away, but suffice it to say, he is on the side of love---What he gives is first amusing and then highly affecting. The opening night's packed house rewarded the performance first with gales of laughter and then not a few tears."
“A sharp, hilarious, and heartfelt work that offers a new take on the age-old mysteries of love and loss.”
“What elevates Spill the Wine to is Dykstra's unabashed adoration of language and its infinite uses. The words that spring from his characters' mouths bite, bark, stab, comfort, punish, console, cuddle, and entertain, often switching permutations within a matter of seconds. And although most of the dialogue is laden with quotable one-liners, it is when he lets his characters breathe into minutes-long monologues that Dykstra truly revels in his talent as a wordsmith.”
“Democracy needs defenders who are courageous, outspoken and intelligent. Democracy needs its solid citizens, its citizen-comedians, you could say. And Dykstra's right there. He’s a stump man, a born teacher. An evangelist.”
"Dykstra Strikes Again!
The Jesus Factor is must-see theatre for every concerned citizen, regardless of their political leanings. …engaging in every sense of the word!
“Dykstra is immensely talented, intelligent, and au courant. The Jesus Factor is good stuff. He makes you laugh but it is guilty laughter as you understand how serious his points are."
“Brian Dykstra uses outrage and humor like a blowtorch and kindling to ignite the slow fuse that burns for 90 mesmerizing minutes in his equally frightening and enlightening comic monologue, The Jesus Factor.
“Was no one else offended?”
“There are, of course, many pleasures in going to the theater five, six or more times a week. But one of the nicest benefits of attending so often is that you can really tell when a theatrical artist is stretching himself. Some years ago, Brian Dykstra was an amazing and arresting Eddie Carbone in A View from the Bridge in New Jersey. Because that was my first encounter with the actor — where he played a frustrated and defeated man — I wasn’t prepared for his big stretch in his dynamic one-man show, The Jesus Factor.”
“Every second of this play is perfect-I was enthralled from the opening line and could hardly bear to watch the characters leave at the end. Life-changing, revolutionary theatre.”
“At last! A real, grown-up American play! It poses its ethical dilemmas with a fierce intelligence, creating a slippery drama that is full of meat. Something to really chew on.'
“Clean Alternatives is a sharp and witty analysis of how language is manipulated to serve the interests of the powerful.'
“In more than capable hands, Brian Dykstra's rapidfire script never misses a beat. Unafraid to ask difficult questions, he probes the sleazy, double crossing world of corporate America. Superbly punctuated with slam poetry, this production illuminates some shocking truths about large businesses literally buying the right to pollute.'
“Played out against a backdrop of a giant dollar bill, Brian Dykstra's Clean Alternatives is a fast-paced, wonderfully played piece of agitprop about America's environmental record and the corrupting force of big business.'
"Many playwrights have been trying to reinvent the American language on stage, starting with David Mamet, whose Speed-The-Plow (1988) is kind of predecessor to this play. You hear it also in Aaron Sorkin's new TV series Stuido 60 On The Sunset Strip. Brian Dykstra exceeds them both in bringing vernacular poetry alive."
"Dykstra's Razor-Sharp play 'Clean Alternatives' is a slam dunk! Clean Alternatives is a must see. It's a powerful meditation on social responsibility and personal redemption, mixing razor-edged dialogue with a poetry-slam directness.
"Dykstra writes in a refined, punk beat styleŠthere are moments of genuinely moving imagery and surprising revelations from characters that are stunningly simple."
"Brian Dykstra wields a monologue like a sword!
His work provides the startling immediacy
that makes live performance feel so alive!
Blood pumps through every moment!"
"A bracing piece of agitprop that well displays its author/star's penchant for provocation. Political satire at its best!"
"Ferociously articulate dialogue
in a hail of David Mamet-ian testosterone speak.
Sharp performances across the board.
A fairy tale for our time!"
"A bracing piece of agitprop that well displays its author/star's penchant for provocation. Political satire at its best!
PICK OF THE WEEK!
The thrill of discovering a bright new talent is one of the indisputable joys of theatregoing. A sharp, funny, potent and oh-so-timely play about corporate greed and the environment.
Stimulating, whip-smart theatre that should not be missed."
Brian Dykstra's style is
a winning combination of Lenny Bruce and David Mamet.
The three person cast is rapid fire, word-perfect."
"Satire of a very high order.
Sharp, incisive theater as well as searing political commentary."
"Brian Dykstra is a very funny man. Gifted wordsmith that he is, Dykstra uses language as a powerful weapon send[ing] words bursting through the room like bullets from an invading army's machine guns."
"Brian Dykstra's mastery of language gets a thorough workout in his latest play, Clean Alternatives. Beginning with the Mametian patter of the opening scene, and flowing into the hip-hop poetry and languid monologues of the latter, Mr. Dykstra manipulates and blends English into a fascinating blend of highbrow and lowbrow…Mr. Dykstra works wonders with language. It's scathing, it's satirical and it's scornful."
"An intense, high-adrenaline production. Writing and performances that bring to mind George Bernard Shaw working in Lenny Bruce mode."
a comedic rant of political proportations
"One Off Broadway production you can be sure Republicans won't be flocking to is "Brian Dykstra: Cornered & Alone," but Democrats and environmentalists are going to find Mr. Dykstra 's EXHILARATING one-man show INTOXICATING and enormously satisfying."
"A bitterly funny barrage of home truths about the plight of American liberals"
"LENNY BRUCE would have saluted -maybe even toked a joint with -Brian Dykstra."
"Brian Dykstra : Cornered & Alone is a hearfelt, intelligent, captivating, uproarious, dignified, and, most of all important work of art. Dykstra is invading the fall 'must-see' lineup and he is not going to stop until he has reached his goal: change....I leave you with an opinion of my own; one which I have told every person i have talked to since I saw this show; GO SEE IT! See it now! Bring friends, bring family,just do not miss this one!"
"Brian Dykstra recently found himself listed on a Rush Limbaugh-affiliated website as an "enemy" of the conservative talk radio host. This seemed strange to Dykstra because there was no indication that Limbaugh or any of his self-styled "Dittoheads" had attended the Brian Dykstra : Cornered and Alone . "
"Listening to Brian Dykstra is simply EXHILARATING."
"Brian Dykstra is damn pissed. His one-man show is about the myriad things that he sees corroding our society. The questions he raises are TRENCHANT and on target. His description of Hollywood's manipulations juxtaposed against the show business of Washington is subtle yet POWERFUL."
"Equipped with a SHARP WIT, a poetic flair, and just the right amount of cynicism, he has put together an engaging and timely performance piece that won't win him any friends amongst Republicans but SHOULD BE SEEN BY EVERYONE."
"BRIAN DYKSTRA FOR PRESIDENT. Liberal and proud, Brian Dykstra will make you think of the Declaration of Independence with a passionately renewed interest. This man should be making the talk show rounds in order to spread his word to middle-America. Bring a politically apathetic friend. They'll thank you later."
“A dark, gritty story with its full measure of sex, violence, profanity and general nastiness. There is plenty of smutty talk and nervy confrontation even before the stranger, Cole (Oliver Conant), questions the twins’ parentage and begins an extended, horrific soliloquy about the last grisly day at Jonestown.”
“Brian Dykstra's play is a knockout psychological thriller with simmering suspense at every turn. There is nary a wasted moment in the script of twists and revelations which raises multiple emotionally charged moral issues. Dykstra's richly drawn characters have complicated connections to each other (including an ambiguous sexual bond between the twins themselves). This is an adult play, not for the feint-of-heart.”
“Tense barroom thriller… Sexually charged… Fiery… Mesmerizing… Riveting”
"A riveting edge-of-the-seat affair shot through with sex, violence and narrative thrills. Hiding Behind Comets will show up again somewhere soon and it will sell a lot of tickets."
A side of America darker than baseball, apple pie, and Satanic manipulation is on view in Hiding Behind Comets!"
"The play has stayed with me longer than most works ... Dykstra knows how to deliver jolts in both plot and theme…Dykstra is a writer to watch."
"Hands down ONE OF THE FINEST NEW PLAYS
OF THE SEASON, this edgy suspense drama is both a superb
ghost story and a joltingly subversive study of human politics. GO
I love this play."
"SWEATY-PALMED suspense…a lean, predatory production... DON'T MISS THIS LITTLE SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY "
“To ticket-buyers who reveled in Killer Joe as well as in Letts' Bug, Dykstra's SPEEDING-ON-SHEER-NERVE melodrama ought to satisfy any craving for new shocks. The piece incorporates the kind of TWISTED TWISTS that had patrons in my row GASPING as the theatrical pedal was pressed to the metal. . . As Cole, Dan Moran could SCARE THE PANTS OFF AL CAPONE.”
"A truly HARROWING and THOUGHT-PROVOKING play, the kind that GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN and continues to pester your soul for days after the house lights come up. Cases are made, issues are debated, and as in true life, there is no right answer. That, perhaps, is the most terrifying aspect of all."
"A TENSE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER… Dykstra is a writer with a lot on his mind...If you want a show about apple-pie American siblings, better head uptown and buy a ticket for Little Women."
" Dykstra 's CRACKLING variation on 'So, This Guy Walks Into a Bar...'
"a masterly evening of suspense... Dykstra achieves commanding insights into the characters....It is Dykstra's talent for writing dialogue-now slicing, now vulgar, now sardonic-that provides exciting sparring...There are fascinating explorations, notably the strange symbiotic emotional and physical connections that the twins have for one another...There are also substantive contemplations on larger themes: the manipulation of minds through the perversion of faith, the twisted rationale that extended guilt can cause and the unsettling effects on children when they are deprived of truth."
“a roller coaster of events that keep patrons on the edge of their seats until the very end.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Best of 2003: Theater
Biggest jaw-dropper -The surprise announcement in mid-September that arts patrons Lois and Richard Rosenthal were ending their long-time association with the new play prize at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. What would have been the 16th winner, Hiding Behind Comets by Brian Dykstra, was clearly a bone of contention. We'll find out why when it has its world premiere at Playhouse in March. read more
City Beat (Cincinnati)
The Elements of Great Theater
Cincinnati Playhouse makes a splash
with its commitment to cutting-edge plays
But others have been edgy works that made audiences — and apparently the Rosenthals — squirm. For instance, Angus MacLachaln's The Dead Eye Boy (2000) told a tale of domestic violence and child murder; this season's new play selection, Hiding Behind Comets by Brian Dykstra (March 20-April 18, 2004), led to the Rosenthals' decision to stop funding the prize.
"Because of a lack of enthusiasm for this year's selection, we have chose to discontinue the prize," the Rosenthals said in a prepared statement. Indicating a desire to avoid "awkward situations" in the future, they added, "We have decided to discontinue the Rosenthal New Play Prize and instead work to find other vehicles in which we can continue our support of the Playhouse."
Stern is undaunted, saying the Playhouse will continue to stage new works.
"If American regional theater doesn't develop new materials, it really won't happen," he says. "Regional theater is the touchstone of new theater development." read more
About: Hiding Behind Comets
"Hiding Behind Comets will show up again somewhere soon, and it will sell a lot of tickets."
No hiding the pain
'Hiding Behind Comets' makes its world premiere at Playhouse
“Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park associate artistic
director Michael Evan Haney says to consider yourself warned if you
plan on attending a performance of Hiding Behind Comets:
" Be prepared to hold onto your hats."
“Running through Sunday, April 18, Hiding Behind Comets is the name of actor-turned-playwright Brian Dykstra's new play, which made its world premiere at the Playhouse earlier this month. A drama centering around the interaction of four characters in the middle of nowhere, Comets is not what one could consider a "standard" production by any means.”
Playhouse in the Park introduces you to survivors of the Jonestown Massacre
“…Hiding Behind Comets is a well-constructed, tightly wound drama with a plausible but edgy twists to keep the audience completely fixed on the unfolding story until the very last moments of the performance. For Cincinnati's more sophisticated arts crowd, it will be an outstanding hit.”
Rough-hewn 'Comets' invades Playhouse
“…The writer of "Hiding Behind Comets," a new play having its premiere tonight at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, doesn't hide behind heavenly lights or much of anything -- especially controversy.”
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“Brian Dykstra is working hard to turn ranting into a new genre, and if he succeeds comedy may not be safe…the word flow feels unstoppable…he can make you think as hard as you laugh …Dykstra displays striking comic powers.”
“Seinfeldian …Comedy with this kind of intelligence and edge would be right at home on the sharper satiric cable shows. Fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will be pleased.”
“Playwright Brian Dykstra promotes himself with a short-play collection humorously called ‘That Damn Dykstra (the boxed set),’ and fortunately he has the comedic chops to justify it. If this were Miles Davis The Boxed Set, you'd have an amazingly eclectic mix going from bebop to cool to fusion to funk, many brilliant, all creatively inspired and each in a different way. ‘That Damn Dykstra (the boxed set)’ also contains a number of very different grooves — from poetry-slam verse to veiled social satire to Seinfeld-esque short plays seemingly about nothing.”
“Fast-paced and poetic …Brian Dykstra has more on his mind than garnering laughs.”
“Brutally funny…fast, furious, and intelligent. The overall effect of the production is to use intelligent dialogue to show the contradictions and expose the banalities of our modern lives…a very funny and sharp night of comedy and entertainment not to be missed.”
“Insane, Wacky, strange and downright hysterical.”
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"Brian Dykstra already has an international reputation, well-grounded on his surpassing verbal pyrotechnics and an almost Hitchcockian sense of how an everyday encounter can be rewritten to rattle your timbers. Dykstra is not one of those playwrights who thinks that the American theater is supposed to be an aspirin for the middle class."
"The play at every moment is about real people, real emotions, real strains in the human fabric that arise from and yet transcend racial and class differences…An intense portrait of love and betrayal in a compromised society."
"Viewers perch on the edge of their seats!"
“…highly impressive theater…picture perfect play…more explosive than fireworks on the pier.”
“With the impressive debut of Strangerhorse at Access Theater, playwright Brian Dykstra joins Stephen Belber (Tape), Melissa James Gibson (sic), Christopher Shinn (Four) and Shelia Callaghan (Scab) as an emerging literary talent worth watching. His rich, multi-layered drama explores racism, prejudice and assimilation. It also poignantly addresses homophobia, ethics, trust and self-worth.”
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“ A bold, blunt orgy of lust, mind games, and self-absorption. Very few contemporary plays capture the American obsession for overanalyzing every aspect of sexual relationships as perfectly as Brian Dykstra’s Forsaking All Others.”
“ A dizzying free-fall both fascinating and sickening to watch.”
“A Mamet-like twisted game of moral jeopardy.”
“If you were disappointed by Channel 4’s ‘Sex and the City’, you may well find what you are looking for in Brian Dykstra’s Manhattan-set, Mamet-ish new play… fascinating …intriguing…a mesmerizing merry-go-round of absorbing New York narcissists...all highly plausible and engrossingly depicted. The result is a less clinical, more visceral version of Patrick Marber’s Closer.”
“a chess game…a chain of fast-paced moves.”
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Meets Woody Allen.”
“An intense, and at times, heavy play about infidelity, loyalty, and ultimately the need for honesty in a relationship.”
“Forsaking All Others really does stand out in excellence.”
“Wanting what you can’t have is bad enough, but in Brian Dykstra’s scorching play Forsaking All Others egotistical Alan decides to convince both his best friend and his wife they desire something they didn’t know they wanted in the first place.”
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“Dykstra usually gives his sketches simple foundations: roommates debate how to paint the patio furniture…but each scene soon escalates through looping meta-logic and fast talk, frequently rising into an obsessive-compulsive delirium… Dykstra 's contentious creatures argue over "primary" versus "base coats" of paint, wonder if they can describe a mosaic as "Mexican-y," and catalog insults after a catfight ("You said 'witches' and followed it up with 'wenches'?").”
“pitch-black…often darkly funny…Dykstra puts his characters through the ringer.”
“The attention-getter on Honor's itinerary is Brian Dykstra's Mick Just Shrugs, which opens the evening. It's about a high school student named Mick whose art project features an American flag getting soaked in lighter fluid and then set afire by a Bunsen burner; the press release promises that a flag will indeed be burned during the performance. I wondered how it would feel; Dykstra makes it a supremely cathartic act of desperation, signifying where too many of us seem to be vis-a-vis rousing ourselves to activism against the current regime in this country: Mick Just Shrugs-such the right title, by the way-is about anomie fueled by inertia among grown-ups who ought to know better. It's very much a play for our time.”
“( Dykstra’s) people are both tortuously rational and obsessively doting, and he often builds their conjectures into absurd and hilarious dimensions. An early sequence, pitting a would-be environmentalist against an apparently insensitive lout, even brings to mind Shakespeare's cunning clown scenes; in amicable but competitive verbal sparring, the jester twists his challenger's words and triumphs.”
“Dykstra's work was for me the most satisfying item on the program.”
“… looping meta-logic and fast talk, frequently rising into an obsessive-compulsive delirium. What's the difference between designating a stairway "out of service" and "out of order"? A middle-management woman, denied access, wants to know. She interrogates a security guard, and in the ensuing conversation they riff on servitude, servicing, and the "service economy," among countless other fine points… His people are both tortuously rational and obsessively doting, and he often builds their conjectures into absurd and hilarious dimensions.”
“When his compulsive characters find the right words and rhythm, their verbal flights take off in psychological, political, and just plain pathological directions—leaving some badly skewered subjects in their wake.”
“Spreading the Word is about three women (Cynthia Babak, Sarah Baker, and Vickie Tanner) sitting around and comparing notes about their common two-timing mutual ex-boyfriend. It is reminiscent of a Sex in the City episode.”
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"It has been my view for some time that Brian Dykstra is one of those
American playwrights that we ought to be paying much more attention
to. His plays are dynamic and emotionally charged and distinctively
funny - and they have a sense of pacing, of style, of soul, of anger,
of conciliation, of mindfulness about what does and does not make a
dramatic moment. I'm increasingly fascinated by Dykstra."
“Dykstra brings one-man show ‘The Jesus Factor' to Kitchen Theatre”
Talk Back on Politics and Theatre
"So, I get this offer to write an opinon about "Political Theatre." It's that wide open, "Political Theatre" and I wonder how I got so lucky."
As the Fall Campaign Simmers,
Presidential Politics Take Center Stage
"But where the short plays tackle political questions without a specific agenda, Perry's next effort, "Brian Dykstra: Cornered and Alone," which she will direct and co-produce (with Jack W. Batman and Greg Schaffert) at the Triad Theater (158 West 72nd St.) for an open run beginning Aug. 3, is 90 minutes of pure political theatre."
Times Trumpets an "Exhilarating" Evening of Bush-Hating
"The Times pushes yet another anti-Bush art show in Friday's Weekend section. Reviewer Anita Gates has kind words for Brian Dykstra 's one-man political propaganda show, "Cornered & Al one," playing on Manhattan's Upper West Side."
Waiting for Righty
A look at some of the left-leaning shows that will be playing in NYC during the RNC.
With GOP in town, politics treads boards off-Broadway
"It seems like every theater company is waving its arms, saying, 'Look, we're doing political theater,' " says Brian Dykstra , who takes on President Bush, Justice Clarence Thomas and other conservative icons in his acclaimed one-man show Cornered & Al one , now playing at the Triad Theatre."
Actors step out of their roles — briefly
HARTFORD — Actors Brian Dykstra and Daniel Cantor are out of character — or maybe not. Each is pitching his view of playing to win, and it's all playing nicely into the context of "Rounding Third," the baseball-based comedy at TheaterWorks, Friday through Oct. 9.
Dykstra plays Don, the bottom-line coach of a Little League team. Cantor plays Michael, a new-to-town assistant coach who's more concerned with the journey than the destination of victory. At least that's how things start out in Richard Dresser's play.
Out of costume, they look their respective parts: Dykstra in all black — T-shirt, shorts, socks, sneakers — Cantor in calmer, non-confrontational, non-athletic earth tones, with granola-ish casual brown shoes.
Dykstra's point, made in the company's rehearsal room but outside the confines of the script, is that it's not up to competitors to enforce the rules.
"If you want to go ahead and try to screw somebody on a business deal, if you can do it, go for it," he says. "But you shouldn't be allowed to do it."
"I don't buy that," Cantor says. "That's the same thing as, ‘Cheating is fine unless you get caught.' "
Dykstra says that's not really what he means. Anti-trust laws and the like are one-thing, he says, but social convention has gone wild with restrictions on aggressiveness — contrary to the animal nature of people.
"I will kill you to take this mastodon meat and feed my family," he says, by way of illustration. "I will kill you."
"That's right," counters Cantor. "But the genius of antitrust (law) is that it doesn't deny competition, it encourages competition."
Steve Campo, TheaterWorks Artistic Director (and the director of this show) cuts in.
"This is kind of a representation of what the rehearsal process is like," Campo says. "Because we ultimately segue into huge, big-picture discussions about politics, society, philosophy — all that."
In fact, Campo says, take baseball out of the "Rounding Third" equation and you still have a play about the ethics and limits of competition, about what the right spot along the cooperative-to-cutthroat spectrum we should groom our kids to occupy. But Little League baseball and kids' sports in general make for a setting a lot of people can relate to.
Out-of-control parents have made a good run at ruining youth sports by attacking each other and coaches, berating opposing players and teaching their own kids that cheating to win is OK. There's been a backlash, a call by some people to a return to youth sports that are really about letting kids have fun — not about stroking the egos of coaches and parents.
On the other hand, does the touchy-feely, everybody-wins tack get children ready for the realities of competitive life? In the grown-up world, we keep score in lots of ways.
"My sister's kids aren't allowed to play ‘Duck-Duck-Goose,' because no child should feel the outsider," Dykstra says. "They don't keep score, and my sister sort of (says), ‘My kids don't know how to deal with losing — they never lose.' "
In "Rounding Third," though, Don and Michael find out that maybe they've got some common ground. When you get down to it, who doesn't like to win?
"We ultimately come away from it with a sense that these guys really had something to give each other," Campo says. "Both of them manage to articulate, fairly convincingly, these very different perspectives."
On Politics and Theatre
So, I get this offer to write an opinion about "Political Theatre." It's that wide open, "Political Theatre" and I wonder how I got so lucky. Here we are witnessing the single most mediocre minded, crony-filled, confederacy-of-the-inept to run the country since at least the Jackson administration (he was number seven) and I get to dash off a few words for a readership known to be among the most liberal in the country. Most of the artists in America (and certainly the one's reading Backstage) while not necessarily members of the choir, almost certainly know the songs. Naturally I have to leave out the tiny percentage of politically conservative thinkers (and I'm tempted to put that word in quotes) in show business, as that minuscule aberration is akin to black republicans and progressive fundamentalists.
"It is the nature of the political theatre to stand up and give comfort in trying times.
First to the choir.
Then to the fence-sitters."
In the heart of every political theatre artist there is the fleeting hope that the word will have an effect on the world. We hope to be a small part of the force that swings the pendulum away from the clutches of Intelligent Design hypocrites who want to get their church all up in our state. We wish to accomplish nothing less than changing a world where a Born-Again Christian President routinely breaks a Commandment (you know, that pesky one about not lying) while bastardizing the actual meanings of words so that environmental acts do exactly the opposite of what they sound like. The only thing the "Clear Skies" Act is "clear of," is regulations that might keep pollution out of the skies. But here I am about to open my latest play and the marketing guys have advised that we downplay the political angle in a story about a woman approached by corporate lawyers interested in purchasing her pollution rights. And why do I get this advice? Because it's their experience that "Political" theatre is a tough sell. Even here. Even on the Island of Manhattan, arguably the most liberal strip of land in the country. It is my fervent hope that the content of the play is moot as soon as possible. If this play is still relevant fifteen years from now, that means we're still fucking up the environment like it's our very own chemically contaminated septic system. And even at best, what is it we hope for? That people who already agree might come see something that has the possibility of giving them comfort. Because it's especially nice to hear someone else say something we agree with in a world where we find ourselves feeling like the crazy ones because a million more homeless children since this administration took over isn't acceptable, but no one seems to catch any political fallout from systems successfully designed to make rich white guys richer and poor folks poorer. It is the nature of the political theatre to stand up and give comfort in trying times. First to the choir. Then to the fence-sitters. Then, maybe someday someone will hear something they suspect they already knew. And that thought will be presented in a crystallizing way, or an actor will bring a humanity to a moment that makes someone realize that something in their world is no longer acceptable. And that's what the best theatre is trying to do. Not change minds. But incite like minds to shine their lights on people and corporations who are getting away with making the world a worse place and clearing their throats to say, "No more of that, Mr. Chaney. We want to stand as a country that is united against torture. And not just in principle but in actual practice." Because the political theatre holds out hope that we are those people. Even during the times we are not.
"Brian Dykstra recently found himself listed on a Rush Limbaugh-affiliated website as an "enemy" of the conservative talk radio host. This seemed strange to Dykstra because there was no indication that Limbaugh or any of his self-styled "Dittoheads" had attended the Brian Dykstra: Cornered and Alone." read more
Press photos of Brian Dykstra, in black & white at 300 dpi are available fom the Acting Page.
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