by ELENA OUMANO
In the midst of the overpriced, dull landscape that has become Greenwich Village stands the Cornelia Street Café, a survivor from an earlier era when audiences discovered young Bob Dylans and Maya Angelous.
Monologues and Madness, a monthly event in the Café’s basement, restores that now-rare glow of discovery. Founded and hosted by actress/writer/theater reviewer/wedding officiant Tulis McCall, the evening features cliché-free, often brilliantly performed brief pieces written by the monologists themselves.
This June’s standouts included Carl Kissin’s camp counselor addressing aspirants to false murder confessions—a tour-de-force fusion of derangement and sense—Trish Alexandro’s generous-hearted Latina supermarket cashier, Flash Rosenberg’s astute riff on “future nostalgia” and offerings from too many other gifted regulars to describe here.
Asked how she started Monologues and Madness, McCall discussed the method in her evening’s sublime madness. “I kept showing up at the Café’s Thursday artist’s salon, and Robin Hirsch, a partner, invited me to have a night of my own. I did a few, which were tremendous failures, but he kept inviting me back. I love to do monologues, so I wondered if anyone else would.
“As Ed Koch said, ‘This is New York City. We have a million of everything.’ I sent out emails to everyone I knew—‘I want to do an evening of monologues, would you join me? But they have to be original—yours or someone else’s—we don’t need to do Death of a Salesman again. That’s the deal,’” she says.
McCall remembers that some friends advised: “‘Make them two to four minutes; otherwise, you’ll die!’ I thought people could use them for auditions. Instead of [playing] Blanche Dubois and eyes rolling back in heads, they could do something that makes a person sit up and say, ‘Hey, who wrote that?’”
The Monologue Slam also started at Cornelia Street, but, McCall worried, “it had guest judges and an award at the end of the evening. I didn’t want that. I wanted people to go, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work. Let’s see.’ Also, I wanted these monologues read, not performed, without the pressure of memorizing because you’re still playing around with the text. It’s really a place for people to try things out and be creative at whatever age. There’s a lot of ageism out there, but not at this place. I expect people to keep creating until they keel over.”
Monologues and Madness
Cornelia Street Café, 31 Cornelia St., www.monologuesandmadness.com; first Monday of the month, 6-8 p.m., $10.
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