Skip to main content

Just Keep Trying; Long Island Playwright Jack Canfora Shares The Secret of His Success

59E59 Theater Feb. 9 - Mar 4, 2012
59 E. 59th St. (Park/Madison)
New York, NY
by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP
      About 2 years ago I attended a staged reading of a play called Jericho at the Rattlestick Theater in Manhattan. The playwright, Jack Canfora, is a teacher of 11th and 12th grade English at Plainview Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School on Long Island and an actor who, in 1993, performed the opening monologue of the first (and only) full-length play I ever wrote. Unfortunately for Jack, the monologue was his character’s only appearance in the play, so he had to hang around backstage for the entire show to participate in the company bow at curtain. Fortunately for me and the entire cast, he did this graciously and with a lot of humor. That is commitment.
      Amazingly entertaining and strikingly serious at the same time, Jericho deals with the effects of 9/11 on two New Yorkers directly affected by the attacks and coping in very different ways. It won the 2011 Edgarton Foundation New Play Award, recently completed a full production at The New Jersey Repertory in Long Branch, NJ, and richly, deservedly praised in the Oct. 23 New York Times review. I cried all the way to the subway and on the long train ride home after that reading of this play. The characters lived in my thoughts for weeks as they continued to evoke real emotions in me as if these were real people whose lives directly connected to mine. We all struggle to live with these stories and images indelibly written into our narrative and seared into our soul. But the impact of storytelling through live theater comes mainly through its the power to entertain. Describing himself as “a sucker for dialogue,” Canfora displays a love of language through verbal workplay that is just, well, very funny and great to listen to, but not at all out of place even dealing such a dramatic subject. That’s commitment plus mastery. That is art.
     Jack's hard work was rewarded recently with The Abingdon Theater's Christopher Brian Wolk Award for his play Poetic License which runs February 9 through March 4, 2012 at the 59E59 Theater, 59 E. 59th Street, New York. 9The reviews - which are rich with praise - are linked below this article, Click here for tickets.) Commitment is central to the making of art in the same way that daily, dedicated, usually gradual training is central to qualifying for a marathon. “I wish I did have a method,” Jack explains when asked about his creative process. “I just keep trying. I've had very few ‘Eureka’ moments as a playwright. I have this romantic vision of artists channeling their creativity in great, flaming bursts like the montage sequences from "Amadeus" or "Shakespeare in Love" but it's just repeated attempts for me. Sometimes it flows better than others but I've found that's not a guarantee of quality.” A guitarist and singer/songwriter – he’s the Canfora half of the guitar duo Canfora and Koenig who perform all over New York and wrote some music for the production of Jericho - he cites the influence of musicians John Lennon and Elvis Costello as well as playwrights Arthur Miller and Edward Albee among the artists whose work inspired and helped shape his own. “The nice thing about theater,” Canfora states, as well as, “I would submit any art form -- is that, when it's done right, we learn something collectively.” The great thing about great playsis the opportunity to witness the potential of even a single encounter with another person to change someone’s thinking. We observe the way an intersection of experiences can redirect a person’s life.                                                                                                                                               
    Art is healing the way good psychotherapy is healing: when it raises questions that may have no answers but in the effort to examine them we are more alive and awake, which can galvanize our creative energy to engage with the problems we face. Art is a way to use everything inside us – including and sometimes especially our hate, rage, and resentment – to make something of value that lives outside us. Jack Canfora’s hilarious and hard-hitting art can get inside your head and not let go. And whatever our goal or dream in life, we can also take hold of and apply the secret to his success. To be fair, he has a blazing talent to work with, but the important thing is to do something we love enough to stick with it through all the repetitive, frustrating parts of the process. Because we have to find ways to tell our own story, not in spite of, but because of the obstacles and injustices we face. Make the commitment. And just keep trying.

Complete Review of Jericho in the Sunday Oct. 23 New York Times
Reviews of Poetic License: "License To Thrill" New York Post
                                         Time Out New York

Jude Treder-Wolff is a trainer, consultant and writer/performer. Her show CrAzYToWn: my first psychopath is in performance at Broadway Comedy Club, 318 W. 53rd St. New York. Feb. 25, 2012 7 p.m. More information





Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

    Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence . These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers.      Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use.  by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP       Why Improvisation? Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete.  The tensions of the crea

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP , Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff         “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, j ust as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.     The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a profe

Stories To Light Up The Night: An Interview With International Teacher/Trainer, Storyteller and Author Susan Perrow

        "It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you." Ben Okri, Birds of Heaven Stories can change your life and when they do you almost never see it coming. The way a story gets into our consciousness is often subtle and suprising. Something about it sticks. And if we allow the story to do its work it sticks exactly where we need it. This is true of both receiving a story and making one. The skills required to weave together character, conflict and color to create a vivid and imagination-grabbing tale that is also transformative takes time, training and experience to develop. It helps to be familiar with the impact of stories on our own inner life, recovery and growth. It helps also to have an inspiring, gifted teacher to guide the process.        Such was my experience in April at a full-day wo