Chicken Fires & Whiskey Donuts

18 Jul


First of all, WHS Pimp says, “Hi.”

…The Gnome would too, if she knew this blog existed.  She a very “interested” person, in general.  The MSN news page is one of her best friends. (‘Course so are “LOL cat blooper” and “how to bedazzle anime chihuahua sweater” YouTubes), but the point I am trying to make is that she is a curious person, who likes to learn things, and contribute.

…Usually one would think that would up a person’s practical intelligence…ie: real world facts, figures and info, but it never seems to.  She instead somehow manages to skip over all the political unrest, current events, and new cures to diseases…coming out reading the top news stories page every morning with a comment like, “They found a two-headed monkey in Belize!” while in large red block letters the day’s headline reads: “Typhoon hits China, killing 500!”

…She has a knack for missing the actual point of things…in general, skipping over the informative to get at the side-bar item.  Which is totally fine, obviously, each to his own.  But perhaps this helps explain how a person can reach their mid-twenties and still be quite clueless about so many things that the average person takes for granted as general knowledge. Even things which have nothing to do with politics or world-events…things that come with collective everyday American experience of this century.

…Like the other day when WHS Pimp handed her some cash to do a Taco Bell run. “Just get one of those mix box things of plain tacos and burritos,” he said. The result, a tentative unwrapping of a wrapper from the front office and her voice calling out:

She: “Um…does your burrito have cheese and sauce in it?”
Me: “Yeah.”
She: “Shoot! I told them plain burritos.”
Me: “That IS a plain burrito.”
She: “It is?”
Me: “At Taco Bell? Yes.”
She: “Oh.”

…Or how on Monday’s she frequently needs to relearn how to put someone on hold and take them off again without disconnecting them.

…Or how she loses track on which week is payday, when it is only every other one.

…That she can’t figure out that emails you sent to the wrong person with customer contact information can’t be magically “taken back,” that you have to hold the red button up on the water cooler at the same time as you press it, in order to get “hot” to come out…that ones boyfriend shouldn’t leave pot butter out on the table overnight and be surprised when your dog is totally hallucinating at two a.m..

…As if these mental blocks aren’t enough, she’s also added the new “Pregnant Brain” comments to the list. This is for the things she does that she actually REALIZES are not the smartest choices. Which lead to moments like:

Me: “Did you know ‘Pregnant brain’ is the leading cause of wrong shingle color this week?”
WHS Pimp: “Is that a thing?”
Me: “Well, it’s cost us about $300 in repairs so far, and it’s only Wednesday…so yeah, I guess it is.”


Gnome: “Oh man, ‘pregnant brain!’”
WHS Pimp: “What?”
Gnome: “I brought in these donuts and forgot about [WHS Chick's] insulin thing. She can’t have any of these. I should have got her a plain.”


Gnome: “…So I was gonna get these diapers on craigslist …like a hundred or something for thirty dollars and things but then I thought about Costco. What are you guys buying them at right now?”
WHS Chick: “Well…we just got a box of 90 at size one, and 90 at size two for about forty bucks.”
Gnome: “So…is that worse or better? I dunno…I don’t do math too good right now…with the extra hormones and everything…”

…Really, it goes on and on. But there’s no need to beat a dead horse…(even if you think its whole problem is just being a lazy bastard.) But it does make things like trying not to laugh at someone’s future mother (6 months in), really, really difficult.

…And that doesn’t help AT ALL when one morning you come in and are greeted with:

WHS Pimp: “So, The Gnome won’t be in today. I guess her apartment burnt down in a chicken fire.”
Me: “Sorry, what?”
WHS Pimp: “I’m not really clear. She was kind of hysterical. And you know how when she gets all worked up she forgets words and things?”
Me: “Yeah.”
WHS Pimp: “Well…it was like that.”
Me: “So…a chicken fire.”
WHS Pimp: “Apparently.”
Me: “Is she…okay??”
WHS Pimp: “I think so. I mean she’s physically fine…she was out walking the dog at the time. But I couldn’t really make out much more after that other than they won’t let her back in, she only has the clothes on her back, and the whole thing has something to do with chicken.”
Me: “Okay.”
(long pause)
Me: “I’m super tentative right now, and I’m not meaning to make fun, seriously, but…was it by any chance her fault. Like, we aren’t going to have to bail out a pregnant woman from jail on accidental arson charges?”
WHS Pimp: (equally tentatively.) “I don’t know yet?”
Me: “Okay. So…we wait it out.”
WHS Pimp: “…It’s gonna be a ‘Monday.’ Yeah.”

…Turns out the Chicken Fire was NOT the Gnome’s fault after all. It was totally the crack-head living downstairs, who decided to plop some chicken into a deep fryer and proceed to fall asleep.

…Which in the end was…”comforting???”

I dunno.

…But after many calls with Red Cross and other donation agencies, she is back under a roof, with more than just a single change of clothes, an insurance settlement, and no longer living next door to a crack addict. I don’t really know if this is a silver lining, cup-half-full thing or divine intervention from raising a child next door to a drug dealer.

…So that happened.

…In Other News: WHS Pimp decided to rock it 1940′s-Cop-Style this morning with a breakfast consisting of Gentlemen Jack in a coffee cup, and a donut. This is definitely not the norm at 9:05 in the morning…but considering he still hasn’t been to bed from yesterday yet, and was still here loading contractors at 3 am…that makes this both his Happy Hour, AND technical end-of-day. To which I say: “Party, on, friend. I tink my coffee cup to you!”

“…But if you touch that fucking custard filled beauty waiting for after this final report run…I will kill you.”



WTF Was That?

13 Jul


We have come to the end of our first week in performing “The Maids”…which has been a hydrogen bomb of gorilla theatre warfare, in-all.

…Each night has had a surprisingly vast difference in performance, as well as audience reception, for something so closely and intricately choreographed, containing only three people in a one-hour show with no intermission break.  Live theatre is just that…and boy-howdy if this doesn’t live up to the zenith of definition in that aspect. 

The show is a wild animal. We’ve attempted to domesticate it to a certain capacity that you can feel somewhat safe being in the same room with it…but the “on-top-of-us” intimacy of seating, the brutal heat of non-airconditioned space with stage lights blaring, the slight of hand and turn on a dime in fury and danger one moment, to intimate whispers the next, makes a whirlwind of wet, hot, suffocation literally palpable in the space we share with the audience.  When we talk of the binds of our confinement, they can feel it too…and when we unravel into dangerous dark webs of chaos, they are forced to sit in the eye of the cyclone right along with us.

…And at the end…when we dissolve into the quiet, sweaty, sinus-draining, mess of horror…the lights come up…to a few beats of silence and tentative clapping…because everyone (including the people taking their bows on stage) are too overwhelmed, to manage much more than that.

…So then the actors retreat to our makeshift green room, we peel off our completely soaked-through undergarments, we mop at our faces and baby-wipe-bathe ourselves best as we can manage, before putting on street clothes and joining the “salon” of wine drinkers, milling about the bookstore.  It is then, after they’ve had a breath or two, a wine or two…after they’ve removed themselves from the heat of the stage lights and dripping sweat, and spewing effluvium out in front of them…that they collect themselves enough to attempt to wrap their head around what they have just seen. 

…And by and large, the bulk of the patrons present (not belonging to Academia) seem to come up with the same question: “What the fuck was that?”

…Which is (by and large) why non-conventional theatre is not my favorite.

I’ve liquidated out of every orifice, filled my brain with pictorial horrors, gotten bruised from crawling on cement floors, blistered by heels, fought dehydration headaches, agonized over line interpretation, humped chairs, brought myself to pitch of orgasm in public, wailed injustice, clawed at my body like an animal, and pushed to justify a sick and twisted game, a murder, a dissolve into total insanity…and at the end, I’d like to think it is understood “Why.”

When people see this, and can only shake their head in wonder and say, “I don’t understand”…it makes one feel like they bled and fought and died without reason. And that, I think, is the battle fatigue I was NOT ready to undertake.

I KNOW it’s a lot. I UNDERSTAND that it’s everywhere and intense. I GET that the language is crazy and poetic and strange…that the characters are multiplied with many separate personalities…that it houses uncomfortable scenes and language and politics and realities. I know because I’ve been fighting to figure them out too. And I’ve had a great deal more time with the script than you just sitting there, seeing it for the first time. I know that it is the nature of the beast that this is the kind of theatre it was specifically built for…a varied interpretation and NOT answering all the questions, or feeding you answers you are comfortable with. But that realization doesn’t magically make it easier to take when facing someone who just traveled with you for an hour and fifteen minutes and says at the end of it, “I don’t get it.”

Absurdist theatre isn’t for everyone. I myself, am not particularly a fan. I did it for the challenge. I did it to work with a director I respect, and a company I love. I did it because it was messy and massively infringing in its mental and physical demands. I did it, ultimately, because the thought of it scared the living shit out of me, I trusted the leader in power, and felt ready to jump off a new artistic cliff.

…I wouldn’t take the decision back.

It is massively difficult.

My body and mind are infringed and uncomfortable with every performance.

I do throw everything I have at it…damning the consequences on if I fly or fall.

I have done both.

But being open, being seen in it is a different kind of “uncomfortable” than I was prepared for it to be. At the end of the night, when I come out in street clothes to patrons in the lobby…it isn’t me they are greeting. It is this…after-taste. They don’t know what to say. They question but don’t know how to phrase it. They recognize the intensity, but not necessarily the nuance that goes with it. Every once in a while, someone who can see the layers, will grasp on for a short tete-a-tete…but mostly, not. Mostly, they don’t know what to say…(and after all that, I certainly do not.) Mostly they just smile awkwardly, or nod a “good job” then retreat with their wine to a further corner, to talk amongst themselves while occasionally leering at me on the sly.

…As if Solange is still there in the room with them…and they have to keep a tentative eye out, just in case I might flip my shit one final time and set fire to the book stacks, et al.

As a practiced player of bitches, whores and baddies, I had long ago learned to take these sort of after-show reactions as a complement…proof I’d done a good job…they couldn’t disassociate the actor from the performance, and that meant you’ve emotionally “got” them.

…But there’s a confession to make in this one, that I’ve genuinely never felt as a performer before. And it’s agonizing.

At shows end…

…I go into the green room.

…I strip off my soaking wet costume.

…I sop up my face with towels.

…I put on my street clothes.

…And I come out to a lobby full of patrons drinking wine and talking about this show they can’t quite put their finger on.

…And when even one innocent patron braves the front to come and talk to me, Solange looks out my eyes back at them…still totally destroyed with the actions of the night, thinking, “I gave you everything…how, how…how after all of that, do you still not understand?”

I’ve played some difficult roles, some mental mayhem’s, some twisted sisters in my time. But this is the first show where I’ve traveled so far and internalized it so deep, that even I have a hard time finding “Me” once again, at the end of the night.

…The most dangerous game I mount in this show…is the role itself.

Which makes this, the most demanding and vicious piece of work I’ve ever done.

…And it frankly scares the shit out of me.

Every night.


An Open Letter To Genet

9 Jul


(Or, “An Actor’s thoughts to her playwright.”)

Dear Genet,

Seriously? What the @#$&, man! 

…Have you any !&#%!%# idea how #^&%$@% insane this piece of political diatribe is?!  No!  You don’t care!  You just @#*$^&# wrote it!  You sat there, ruminating over a long-time fascination of a famous, grizzly murder one day, and somehow thought, “Dude, I can totally make this more #^&$%# up than it already is!”

…And then you took out a pen and some paper, and (with the aid of a #^%@-ton of drugs and alcohol), free-formed this massive mind-#%$^!

…It’s like a twisted Salvador Dali painting threw up all over the pages, and just dried there. 

…Bouncing from one character to the next, within a single actor’s role, within a single monologue…hell, often within the same sentence…you’ve given no aide in where one bounces out and the other “in” until the occasional name reference will jar you to halt and say, “What the #^@%?! Am I her now? Or me? Or me playing her? Or her playing her? Or her playing her playing me? And when the hell did it change?!?!”

…Regardless of time and space, you’ve made past, present, and future tense all bleed into each other, without rhyme or reason, switching on and off, throughout…none of which is helped by the self-incestious, continual first-person and third-person flip-flop, mid-line, while often two layers deep in “you playing her” to begin with.

…What with your from-out-of-nowhere suddenly grand word usage, amidst random short Hemingway simplistic sentence structure, then forcing through a page and a half without seemingly completing or ending a single sentence…attempting to commit your words to memory has usurped even the two-hander Mamet “Oleanna” in frustration; as though you both have problems finishing thoughts (or even showing where in the #^$# they come from to begin with), at least HE has a rhythm you can ride…a wave you can catch to help a poor bastard out! Learning your text is like trying to play new-form jazz with a tone-deaf person! Who is mentally unstable! And possibly drunk!

…All of which, is only “the words.” This is before the marriage of endless maniacal “business.” Before the dressing and undressing, the sexing and unsexing, the cleaning, and destroying, tea-pouring, whip-cracking, attacking and choking, slapping and spooning…before your every facial orific is leaking all over you (and all the other people you and the others play) within the show, within the show.

In short, your “little one act” is kicking my #&#^@^# ass!

We Open in TWO DAYS.

With only 15 days of rehearsal under our belt.

…And THREE of them were spent SOLEY in bookwork…trying to figure out just what in the #&#% you are talking about…

…So that we can strip down to our skivvies and hysterically interpret it to other people…

…WITHOUT the drugs and alcohol you used to get us into this mess in the first place.

So, thanks for that…you Absurdist asshole!


A Very Tired Actor, Mid Tech-Week

Hi, I’m Your Brain On “Creepy”

27 Jun


I’ve been off book for three days…which is weeks past my usual time in the process. Absurdist Theatre and my memory sectors do not like one another. In fact they have fast become enemies. I think if I hadn’t finally managed to commit that goliath fuck-all Norma-Desmond-monologue-from-hell to my brain by Tuesday, I was gonna shiv that script with a spoon.

…But I did. So I didn’t.

…Which now brings us to deeper book and character work, while constantly murmuring disturbing monologues about singing songs while cutting up people to bits, burying them in the garden, and at night, “watering their toes with a little hose.” Or the one where I almost strangle my own sister, or the one where we plot how many pills it takes to poison someone…or the most grimacing one: about stabing pins into my belly to abort all the foetus’ I throw into the gutter thanks to being continually raped by the milkman.

…These are not happy places to be going, in one’s brain. It’s disturbing enough when you’re just chanting the words on a technical level in order to word associate, picture them on the page, and retain them. Once you step OUT of the book, it becomes this whole other thing to actually “deal” with them…to internalize them…to justify them, to give them emotional power and support…to OWN them.

…This kind of text, when you are burried in it, when you eat, sleep, and dream it…is a kind of poison you voluntarily consume. You have to be careful mentally to build up your immunity to it, as the drinks you take of it get bigger. You can’t expect to come in as a lightweight and kick back a whole bottle, cold, and be able to function in any way at all by end of the night. It takes time to train for this shit…to prep, self- monitored slow accumulation to build up tolerance…and (perhaps most importantly) you’ve got to aquire one hell of a “cleansing/hydration plan,” to help rip you out of that mental space every night before going to bed.

…It doesn’t always prevent the creepy brain hangover, but it surely helps…till the project is finally done and you can check yourself into mental rehab.

…Which (from where I sit at present) is still four weeks away.

Perhaps now isn’t really the best time to become obsessively in love with “Orphan Black” Season 2 (team Helena/Cosima)…but I am. The terrible/wonderful part being that I’ve nearly consumed it all now, which means there will soon be no more left to feed on. I will have to then go to other pastures. Hopefully ones with less eye-gouging and blood. Someplace where my poor little exhausted brains can rest peacefully…without the help of a whiskey, neat.


Justifying A Villain

17 Jun


Judi Dench (and a lotta other fine actors) have intimated that playing a villain, is basically the opposite of what it sounds like. 

The best of the best claim (rightly so) that the bad guy doesn’t think of himself as a “bad guy,” he thinks of himself like the martyr, or patron saint, in a Holy War, with totally justified means. 

…In short: you don’t play a “villain” as a “villain,” you play them as the core of morality…their own.

With the million-and-one fucked up ways that people try to explain their extremist politics and wars and crimes of passion and other day-in-the-life-of horrors, it makes the old mustache-twisting “bad guy” of the past look like not only a joke, but so low-man-on-the-villain-todem-pole that (in the world of “crime”), he’s gone extinct by way of basic natural selection.

…That was “the old scary.” Now, the stuff that really freaks us out, are the people with a “cause” which they will vehemently support to any ends necessary, with actual full faith and conviction behind it, that cannot be reasoned with; people so passionate that they seek followers to align with them, who will follow at any cost, without a twinge of doubt.

…This is how Hitler and Charles Manson gained followers…

…This is how suicide bombers become recruited.

…And this is what makes it infinitely more interesting (and disturbing) in your headspace, while working on a show wherein you figure as one of the “not-so-good-guys.”

When your job is to get into the mind of a serial killer, or pedophile or Nazi SS Officer, or hijacker, and “justify” their actions by a line of reasoning…whatever the hell that reasoning could possibly be…it makes for some incredibly unsavory thought processing and bookwork time. Far worse than the characters you’ve faced with deep scaring secrets. Worse than the innocent victim of a heinous crime.

…This kind of role brings you to the dark side of the moon in foreign territory, so far-reaching, so far removed from the norm…so far the fuck out there in emotional isolation, that you feel like you’re suffocating in space. By taking on the monster, you agree to get inside of them…to see how they tick and why. The darkness you find there can be as vicious as a black hole…sucking the absolute life out of you, if you are not careful. And sometimes…even when you are.

As a student of an Art, your study becomes a certain fascination. You hunger to know more answers to the “whys” and “wherefores”…so you dig deeper, read more, watch more, infiltrate your mind and body with the information of this particular “evil” in order to better understand it, and the reasons it claims validation for its actions. And this form of work and investigation has been known to give birth to a phenomenon, wherein the bi-partisan observer can become a mentally infiltrated ally in empathy….even if only for the split second of a moment.

…Which can be an exceedingly disturbing split second.

…Grab a time machine and ask Truman Capote while he was working on “In Cold Blood.” Or Heath Ledger in the car, going back to his hotel every night after playing “The Joker.”

…Either way…there’s a line (invisible), that can be crossed. And when your job is to constantly push that line in order to get at more facts and details that will help you to do what you are supposed to do, on a limited schedule, with performance dates fast approaching…sometimes you push even harder and faster than normal.

…And with it, forcing lines into your brain-memory sectors which are grotesque, violent, and poetically visual…

…When you’re in THAT head space for days and days on end: chewing the words of a romantic psychopathic murderer, over and over as you try to digest them, own them, figure them the fuck out…that is when you occasionally need to take a freakin’ blog break. Breathe a bit. And consider…

It’s nice to know…somewhere in that tightly shut up and protected part of me…that after this role-playing game of epically dramatic murder is over, there will be a chippy little Scouser hairdresser waiting at the end of the tunnel, to rescue me and bring me back again.

…On night’s like this, when it too dark in my head to sleep…it’s nice to know Rita is sitting there…ever so patiently. Waiting her turn.

…With a smile.


Educating Me

14 Jun


One of the longest casting waits, for a most wanted role, has come to an end. Gone: the shallow breaths, the gut-spinning angst, and all the doubting emo feelings that go with it.

One call on a Saturday, and I’m cured.

“Educating Rita” is a hell of a gig, all on its own. I know it like a soul mate, it fits like a glove, yet the challenges it’ll bring me and the things I will learn from it from rehearsal through performance, excites me to unknown end.

…Add to that, a Director who I’ve never worked with and know by her results and reputation will work my ass off in all the best ways…add to that an SM who is a family love, very dear to my heart…add to that a “39 Steps,” and “Office Hours” bud with killer comedy and so-easy-to-bounce-off-of chemistry, its almost ridiculous…and you have the biggest fucking cherry-topped joyride of blood, sweat, tears and hard work ahead of us that I can hardly contain myself.

…Only, I have to.

At least for a little while.

…Early casting was primarily for line learning and month-long Director sabbatical-taking. A few meets in July, but nothing in earnest, till August.

…Leaving me time to calm the fuck down, and give those twisted-ass “Maids” my full and undivided attention.

A happy, happy actor, now resides behind door number B1. Quite possibly the luckiest in town :)


The Infinity Waiting Game

12 Jun


Powerlessness blows bum.

…Next to the work-up about an audition for a specific role that you really really want…the next worst feeling, is when the audition is over, and for whatever specified number of days, you are told that you have to await the decision for final casting.

…Wait for hours that seem like months, days that feel like years…with zero control or information.

This is like living in your own little fate and anxiety-filled episode of Burn Notice…where any good or bad decisions you made in the past, have equal power to haunt or help you, but you don’t get to know which it’ll be…until after the longest FUCKING commercial break, known to man.

…Least, that’s how I see it.

…That’s how it looks from here.

…On day four.

…Since first walking in the theatre door with my audition piece.

…The day after the final callback.

…With possibly two more to follow, before final announcement.

Being an actor ain’t for sissies.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

…Now: Back to more line-learning…



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