My pain is freaking hilarious

Does it count as schadenfreude if it's aimed at yourself?

"There is no denying that Hammond is a smart writer." I deny nothing!

Third review.

Review: Theology vs Mythology vs Philosophy

Imagine a world where the great minds of theology, mythology, and philosophy are forced to battle it out to become the dominating intellect. This world can be found in Set Yet in Motion, Alaina Hammond’s cerebrally charged comedy. Cassandra is having some problems with Apollo so she calls upon God, the Judeo-Christian one, to take care of him. God appoints Immanuel Kant to do the deed by killing him with an arrow. Along the way, Kant philosophizes with his buddy Johannes Climacus and gets seduced by Friedrich Nietzsche, now in female form. Set Yet in Motionbuilds upon a fantastical battle of philosophy that never gets old. And to make the discussion entertaining Hammond uses theatrical comedy as her device. There is no denying that Hammond is a smart writer. She fills her script with jabs and jokes. But unless you happen to subscribe and understand the schools of thought and know all the references, Set Yet in Motion becomes too heady and unfunny to those not in the know. What Set Yet in Motionseems to be missing is accessibility. Using iconic characters as a way in is a great start. But the material, and subsequent portrayal of the characters, has to find a way to allow everyone, even those who know little to nothing on philosophy and religion, in.
As far as entertainment value goes, Hammond and director Michael Bordwell try to incorporate physical comedy and sight gags as a means to garner laughs. And it actually could have worked with the right group of performers. Sadly, the ensemble didn’t quite fit the needs of the piece, with perhaps the exception of the gender-benders. London Griffith as Nietzsche went all out in her performance. And it was fun to watch. Katherine Wessling was dominating, and funny, as God. Her material may have been the strongest of Hammond’s script and Wessling capitalized on it. With the story ultimately falling on the back of Immanuel Kant, Vincent Bivona was forced to step into a geeky leading man role. Bivona wasn’t quite able to live up to the challenge.
Casting can play a huge part into the success of a play. If the actors aren’t quite grasping the text, it’s hard to ask an audience to play along. Set Yet in Motion is a smart script. But this ensemble didn’t quite seem like the right fit.

My original character breakdown for Set Yet In Motion
(Of course, for reasons of time, the scene with Athena and Jesus was cut so they're no longer in the play. Other than that, I feel that my director really respected and enhanced my vision.)

Ancient Greek Gods And Prophets:
Cassandra: 20s-30s. The woman whose luck is so extreme it's hard to envy or pity her. As if she got a book published and barely survived a violent kidnapping before she was twenty, and these two events are entirely unrelated. She never seems to bring it on herself, but unbelievable things constantly befall her. Evokes whistles of both empathy and appreciation, followed by "Cassandra, wow...heck of a thing. Good for her, I guess. Still. Wow."
Tiresias: 40s+. Your favorite uncle or intellectual mentor, who borrows your clothes without asking.
Apollo: 20s-30s. Handsome. Charming. Asshole. Rapist.
Athena: Late 30s+. The least stuck-up, least pretentious girl you went to school with. No, even less stuck-up and pretentious than that. Has high-self esteem and doesn't take herself particularly seriously. Often flippant but never condescending.  Harms no one, full stop.
Judeo-Christian Deities:
God: 40s+ Straight white cisgender male privilege embodied. Probably not evil. Ambiguously Jewish. Loosely based on the playwright's undergrad philosophy professor.
Jesus: Early 30s. Nice Jewish boy, also kind of a "bro." Popular boy with a heart of gold who was legitimately friends with many of the nerds. Played decent football at Princeton, brought social consciousness to his frat while turning wine to whiskey. All around good dude, fully aware of his duties and privileges. Actively tries not not be conceited. Usually succeeds. Kind to women, supportive of feminism. He and Athena have a two-way "understanding." Exclusively likes older women. Very, very high libido.
European Philosophers:
Johannes (Climacus, AKA Søren Kierkegaard): 20s-40s. Can appear to be a bit of a toady to God, but that's actually not fair. He's not trying to curry favor for his own glory, but genuinely wants to serve and please his God in every way he can, with every waking breath. His motivation is as close to being pure as a human's can be. As such, he's a bit of a fanatic and kind of annoying. But sincerely so! Every devout Christian you've ever met, with natural cocaine in his bloodstream.
Immanuel (Kant): 30s+. Reluctant hero. Even less enthusiastic villain. Has probably been fully "at ease" in both civilian and militaristic sense for a total of five minutes his entire life. Arguably the play's protagonist.
Friedrich (Nietzsche): 30s+. Most likely crazy but not in a dangerous way. There are very few things she could do at this point that would shock you. Wherever she ends up in life, you'll say, Yup, that sounds about right. Does almost nothing by accident; is the opposite of Cassandra in terms of apparent agency.

Second review!

The tenth annual Frigid New York festival has sprung.

The first show I got to see is an amusing milkshake of Western Philosophy.

Alaina Hammond’s Set Yet In Motion brings together seven larger-than-life characters, all in the intimate underground space at Under St. Mark’s.

First, there is the distressed Trojan damsel, Cassandra (Malka Wallick) who complains to the blind seer Tiresias (Ken Coughlin) that the immortal Apollo’s lust knows no bounds.  Tiresias suggests that Cassandra call on the Judeo-Christian deity to dispose of the Olympian rake.  Note the mythological crossover here, but it does come from a guy who as legend has it lived both as a man and a woman.  This also explains why Tiresias is caught borrowing Cassandra’s lady-garments.

Wouldn’t you know it; the Judeo-Christian deity is a beautiful woman (Katherine Wessling). She accepts the challenge of breaking strong-arrowed Apollo (James Rieser), and summons two philosophers known for writing a whole lot about faith and action: Immanuel Kant (Vincent Bivona) and Johannes Climacus, a.k.a. Søren Kierkegaard (Christian Michael Ramirez).  Johannes is ready to take the leap of faith, but Her Majesty tells Immanuel it’s imperative that he smite Apollo (he of the famous Python).

The philosophers in the audience were laughing as Immanuel tried very hard to reason himself out of his task.  The canonical chuckles increased as Immanuel sought the help of progressive thinker Friedrich Nietzsche (London Griffith), who has embraced his inner woman and now wears only lingerie.  “Now that’s a Friedrich Nietzsche I can get behind!” declares a still non-murderous Immanuel.  The suddenly sexually-liberated Nietzsche follows Immanuel to where Apollo, resting under his laurels, has raptured Cassandra.  Are you thinking of ten different ways this story could end? I know I was!

I only wish Tiresias could have seen how charmingly the show was directed by longtime Hammond collaborator Michael Bordwell.  From white lounge-togas, to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, there are many reasons you should see this show and take a friend who Kant stop laughing.

My first solo review!
It's...fair. In every sense.

Set Yet in Motion

By Alaina Hammond; Directed by Michael Bordwell
Part of Horse Trade's FRIGID New York

Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 3.4.16
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place

by Helen Herbert on 2.22.16

Set Yet in Motion.

BOTTOM LINE: A loose mash-up of historical and mythological figures bickering over relevance and power.

Set Yet in Motion opens on Tiresias (Ken Coughlin), the blind prophet of Greek mythology famous for his clairvoyance, donning sunglasses and playing a solemn tune on a flute. He is then joined by Cassandra (Malka Wallick), the Greek mythological princess who was given the power and curse of prophecy by the god Apollo. Cassandra is crying over Apollo’s advances toward her and Tiresias does his best to comfort her. We then learn that Cassandra has taken her qualms to the Judeo-Christian God (Katherine Wessling), with a capital G, who decides to have Apollo killed. God then enlists the help of two philosophers, Immanuel Kant (Vincent Bivona) and Johannes Climacus (Christian Michael Ramirez) to perform the deed. Kant is hesitant to participate and thus God chooses him to murder Apollo alone, since his reluctance proves his understanding of the consequences. On his journey, Kant is discovered by Friedrich Nietzsche (London Griffith), in a female form, who tries to convince Kant to let Apollo live. However, Kant is able to escape Nietzsche’s seductive grips and find the arrogant Apollo (James Rieser) arguing with Cassandra. While Kant is still grappling with himself about whether or not to kill the diety, Apollo’s actions force Kant’s hand to follow through with his ultimate test from God.

Written by Alaina Hammond, Set Yet in Motion mixes various Greek myths and historical figures with moments of rhyming text and modern vernacular. Director Micheal Bordwell succeeds in moving the series of vignettes along at an even clip and suggesting the setting with the minimal set pieces of UNDER St. Marks. Additionally, utilizing many modern clothing pieces, the costumes generally suggest a distinction between the characters that hail from Greek mythology and those that exist in another realm.

The standout performances in this production are the likable, nebbishy Vincent Bivona as Kant, and the vivacious London Griffith as Nietzsche. Both actors possess ease, clarity with the text, and a clear enjoyment of their roles that made watching them a breath of fresh air in the small, packed theatre.

Unfortunately, while some of the performances are enjoyable, much of the plot is full of insider philosophy jokes that were lost the audience. For example, if you weren’t aware that Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who is considered a highly influential figure of modern philosophy, or that Johannes Climacus was a 7th Century Christian Monk who supported a divine command law of ethics—the play does very little to let you in on the humor of their arguments.

All in all, philosophy enthusiasts may find Set Yet in Motion to be laugh-out-loud funny; however, I fear this interpretation may wash over the general populous.

(Set Yet in Motion plays at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through March 4, 2016. Remaining performances are Monday 2/22 at 10:30pm, Saturday 2/27 at 5:30pm and Friday, 3/4 at 8:50pm. Runs 45 minutes with no intermission. General tickets are $18 and $15 for students. For tickets and more information, visit

Set Yet in Motion is written by Alaina Hammond. Directed by Michael Bordwell. Sound Design is by Bennett Hammond. Publicity Contact is Emily Tuckman. Graphic Design by Richard Rolen.

The cast is Ken Coughlin, Malka Wallick, Katherine Wessling, Vincent Bivona, Christian Michael Ramirez, London Griffith, James Rieser.

An interview with my director

Set Yet in Motion: 10 Things To Know About The Show Before You Go (2016 FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL)


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Ten Questions. Ten Answers. And one Big Surprise in the audience …


Set Yet in Motion

Set Yet in Motion presents ancient Greeks who must contend with the Judeo-Christian God. Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche address the intellectual and romantic tension between them. Also, there’s onstage sex!* (*Verbal, metaphorical. Some would say that’s the sexiest kind of sex.) A good time will be had by philosophers, artists, and geeks from all walks of life.

Show  Info:

  • Thu Feb 18, 2016 | 10:30PM

  • Sat Feb 20, 2016 | 2:10PM

  • Mon Feb 22, 2016 | 10:30PM

  • Sat Feb 27, 2016 | 5:30PM

  • Fri Mar 04, 2016 | 8:50PM

UNDER St. Marks New York, NY $15/$18

Answers by Michael Bordwell

1. Forget the PR version. When you’re talking to your friends, how do you explain this show to them?
Michael: God sends the great philosophers to kill Greek gods. That says it all. Plus there’s sex, drugs and…well…

2. Here’s a scenario: After the show some audience members go have a drink.  What’s the part of the show you hope they’re discussing?
Michael: What happens in the woods…stays in the woods ;)

3. What drives your show – character, theme or plot?
Michael: All of the above. At first reading, I would have said the plot – but – given the amazing work the actors have done, their characters add an amazing level to drive the show with the plot.

4. In rehearsals, read-thrus, or prior incarnations, what’s the one thing someone said about the show so far that made you (or the team) the most proud?
Michael: “This is so much fun. I haven’t done theatre in three years and I am thrilled THIS is what I am returning in.” – said by one of the performers.

5. If money and resources (and even reality) were no object what is the most lavish, luxurious, pointless prop, costume, effect – anything – that you would spend money on for this show?
Michael: Hover chair, an elaborate, real woods set complete with hacksawed tree trunks, and Greg Nicotero to design ALL my special effects.

6. What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to regarding the FRIGID Festival itself?
Michael: Probably seeing friends I haven’t seen in a while. That’s what’s great festivals like this – they’re the best homecoming parties/reunions with people you actually want to catch up with after 10+ years.

7. Is there a scene, a moment, a gesture … anything at all in the show that you anticipate may get a completely different reaction depending on the audience that night?
Michael: Friedrich Nietzsche…that is all.

8. What’s your favorite line from the show?
Michael: My favorite line, without spoiling the plot… “I bumped into Jesus and he gave me booze.”

9. What’s the last thing you usually do before the beginning of a show?
Michael: Ummm….take my seat. :)

10. You scan the audience and you see a face that stops you dead in your tracks – who is it? And why are you shocked?
Michael: My boss…how did they find out about this…hope I keep my day job.

Well, here’s hoping your boss isn’t reading this … but trust me, I won’t tell!  Still, I bet no matter who that person is, they’d be really excited to see this show, and really impress with what you do in your “other” life.

Thanks so much for answering our questions, Michael!

The rest of you – don’t forget to check out Set Yet in Motion


Horse Trade Theater Group will present the 10th Annual FRIGID New York Festival at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A) February 16-March 6. All shows run 60 minutes, or less. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at

Yay, I'm officially a published poet!
The poetry journal arrived at my apartment yesterday. You can tell it's prestigious because it's printed on yellow paper and held together with two staples. It's like a poetic pamphlet. And I'm in it! I'm credited on the front page as "Plus several other poets." Hells yeah!

NYC isn't where dreams go to die. That's that other city. You know the one.
On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I acted in a play I wrote called Memory Show. The performances went well. On Thursday (tomorrow!), I act in a short play my friend wrote.

Sometimes I remember that despite the bull shit that comes from living in Manhattan, I came here with a dream at 23. New York didn't kill my dream. It cultivated it. It said yes.

Still, the traffic sucks, oh god it sucks so much, fuck my life.

Possibly my most arrogant, privileged, humblebraggy post ever. I give zero fucks.
Teachers College, Columbia University gives me some Ivy League prestige. I also genuinely love my program (MA, philosophy and education). I'll miss it when I graduate.

Lesley University's School of Education gave me accreditation, and a somewhat practical degree (M.Ed). I have many criticism of the place, but on balance I'm glad I went there.

St. John's College--though I didn't graduate--got me started on my philosophy degree, and I met many wonderful people who continue to brighten my life. I can forgive its faults, for the friends I made there.

But I know who I am without these places.

I don't know who I am without Marlboro College.

Most of my formal education was chiseled into me during my three years on the hill. It caused me great heartache, at times. I don't whitewash the painful memories, nor need to. It was worth every second.

It's one of the best things that ever happened to me. I'm a better artist for the time I spent among its dead trees.

I love you, Marlboro. I give you money every year for no reason but gratitude. You gave me so much more than a BA in philosophy. You endowed me with real academic confidence.

I believe in you. Thanks for believing in me. I feel you every time I write a paper, or a play. Your collective hand guides mine.

I'm like a child with a new toy; if I'd known I could play with colors I'd have posted more often

We're "published." There are worse problems to have.
My mom: A short story I wrote is going to be published!
Me: Hooray! So proud of you! What about the other short story you wrote that's supposedly going to be published by someone else in that other thing?
Her: ...Yup. Any day now. The publisher keeps sending me links to the anthology I'm allegedly to be included in.
Me: Ugghh! So frustrating, that delay! I sumitted to a poetry journal, who accepted my poem, and then asked me for additional poetry. They accepted my second poem, and apparently forgot about the first poem, because all correspondence since then only acknowledges the second poem. In any case, I should receive the journal, sometime in like 2019 or whatever.
Her: I hear you. Oh! And they're paying me money. 5 dollars.
Me: Totally counts.
Her: Yeah, we're super-successful.
Me: No doubt.

(The above is a super-condensed version of a real IM chat; you get the idea)


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