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Donna Reed Disease

30 Oct

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Am in desperate need of a vacation.  

Somewhere not here.  

…Not where paperwork and same-routine waits at my office desk.  A place where phones don’t ring, or even exist.  

…I need a break from the depression of sitting on my couch for hours on end streaming Netflix until two a.m., and not taking showers on weekends till show call. I need a place with fresh air and detox facials…with yoga stretching, and books…with no beach bods in bikinis reminding me how horribly out of shape I am. 

…Also, no children.

And it needs to be virtually free.  

…If you google all these qualifications, you come up with a few pilgrimage monasteries and not much else.  But I hate dirt.  And road trips. And camping.  
I’m a sucky pilgrim. 

…Not as bad as the ones who swapped smallpox blankets for Indian corn…(I have morals)…but I can admit my limits.

Thing is, I’m still depressed from “Rita” closing.  I miss the work it took, the challenge, the journey.  “Dial M” is like being in a radio show with costume changes. I go home afterwards, tired and depressed from doing nothing but crying…because it’s all I’m scriptually allowed to do. Ten or twelve different ways. And then I go home and drink while chanting, “suck it up, you have a job, other people don’t.”  

I wish I could do that.  

…Instead, I’ve contracted Donna Reed Disease.

Donna Reed the PERSON was one of the first women executives in television history.  She launched her own production company, siting lack of roles being shopped her way, even after winning an Oscar four years previously… proceeding to then create her own vehicle to star in, which ran for 8 seasons.  

…But nobody knows that part.  

You say “Donna Reed” and everyone immediately thinks of the stepford-like perfection of 1950’s housewife: subservient to her husband, dutiful to her children, vacuuming the carpets in high heels and circle-skirts, with a full five course home-cooked meal on the table… greeting hubby at the door in formal wear with a cocktail in hand, every evening by five.

I love the 50’s…don’t get me wrong.  But after playing a lot of back-to-back ball-buster women in a row…I have never, until now, been so keenly aware of the backslide in women’s lib, post-40’s.

The 1940’s were my years.  

…Women tossed off the housedress and went to work and fucking OWNED it.  Cuz they had to…cuz they could.  Cuz War happens.  Then the War ended and the fellas came back and womanity backslid about 5 paces, right off the bat.  Again, because they had to…because PTSD’s are fucked up…and the women respectfully backed off to help heal and encourage the fellas to find their footing again.  

…But they bowed down and backed off so far, it became the social equivalent of going from Egyptian pyramid-building with full septic systems, to log-cabins with outhouses.  It was an entire decade of backtracking so hard we became virtually a sex of soap opera stars: melodramatic damsels in distress, consumed in Barbie doll perfections.  

…This should not be new to me.  The concept isn’t, but fighting this script to find SOMETHING to do with this role, became nothing more than a frustration of limitation.  You can only serve the script as writ.  I came in hoping for that 40’s Noir dame of awesome, whose seen some things, done some things, and knows some things…a woman of the world. None of which is written, nor supportable in this text. 

…She is a flat-out victim.  Written as a flat-out victim.  At every man’s whim to either destroy or save her.

I’m a pretty damn capable actor who can sniff out good dirt just about anywhere…but when there is none, there is nothing you can do.  

…But cry.

…As many different ways as you can.

…Then disappear for 20 – 30 pages at a time, and come back to cry some more.

It is frustrating.

…It’s a job. I’m thankful to have something. I’m trying to enjoy it.  To at least gain some level of cathartic channeling from a bad day in it or something.

…But it doesn’t work.

Donna Reed Disease.

There’s a lot more here of wasted wealth…and no one will see it or give a shit. And it bothers me.  I said it.

…In the end: I’m not good at being the “just-stand-there-and-look-helpless-and-pretty” character. I don’t do any one of those things good enough to fulfill my artistic needs.

…But what I DO get (thankfully) is a cast and crew of great people.  The fellas are hilarious and dandy drinking buds, and if I’m pressed to admit it: I kinda do really like that blue dress in scene one. Even if it is girl-clothes. 

Also: the murder scene doesn’t suck.  So there’s that.

…Which is why I think, most of all, I just really need a vacation right now.  Followed by some kind of steak-sized role to dig into, directly after.

“Hedda Gabler” for Christmas, anyone???

~D

 
 

Dear Rita…

20 Sep

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This is the last day we get to hang out. 

…Which is weird, cuz somehow I feel like you’ve always been there…inside me…waiting to be born. But since you have been fleshed out in full human form, you can’t just go back to “that place” anymore.  You’ve come too far for that. 

The last day of performing a bucket-list role, like you, changes so many things.  Forever.  The fact I once had you, in my grasp…someone I have wanted to meet for all of my artistic life, it’s like spending three months with your favorite celebrity or a rock star, on the road.  You get not only this fucking FANTASTIC high and joy of being in their direct presence and learning from them, but you also get to know them on a personal level.  You learn their little isms and irks and habits and sense of humor…and they become MORE than just your “idol”…they become a mentor, a friend, a part of your family.  I know things about you that no one does, because you’ve trusted me enough to tell me.  And the same truths have been granted to you, from MY inner-most parts.

…What I’m saying is, sometimes a role isn’t just a role.  A character isn’t a “character.”  You’ve looked up to them too long. You’ve built a career goal around one day not only meeting them, but getting to spend that time on the road of discovery with them, side-by-side.  And bucket-lists being what they are: that unlimited dream-list of desire, with zero editing with all your biggest wishes and dreams…getting the opportunity to actually touch, let alone embrace a role off that list is Lotto-breaking odds for actors.  It’s our pinnicle.  It’s all the reasons we became actors to begin with.  It’s what we strive to better ourselves for…to one day, maybe, somehow, get a chance to say, “I’ve always wanted to do that part, and now: I am.”

…Course what they don’t tell you ’bout all this is that even (on the giant odds) that you DO get to work with a giant desire role like you, there is always that sinking-gut realization that in a specified amount of time: it will all end.  The dress will turn back to rags, the coach to a pumpkin, and the horses to little white mice.  I may have (by utterly astonishing odds) got to go to the ball after all, but the ball will end…at the stroke of midnight.

…And that’s where I’m at today. It is 11:55 and I know I only get one more dance…one more whirl around the floor, one more moment to be in this costume, with this hair, the monster you-shoes clonking around under me. I get one more time to spend with all those 26 monologues, which tell the story of who you are, where you come from…to share your simple wisdoms, and get frustrated with your mountainous journey “to know…everything.”

It isn’t just the loss of a placeholder on a list somewhere. It is so, so, so very much more than that. It’s sense of accomplishment, yes…but it’s also putting to bed, a hope and dream…it’s achieving an Everest climb that you’ve wanted and trained for (in some ways) all of your artistic life. And it’s done now. There are other mountains to climb, of course, but not this one. Not anymore.

Dearest Rita, it has been a voraciously joyous pleasure to finally meet you…to join in your groupie crowd, study by your side, talk literature and politics and hair extensions with you. It’s been wonderful to get to know your heart and how strong your spirit is, despite the self doubts. You are, in many ways, so much smarter than I am…you see things in ways that so trump the over-complicated that it is like watching someone win a game of chess in two moves, flat. I love your acceptance of the past, your hope in the future, your humor and wonder and wit. I understand your bad days and frustrations…I’ve seen you at your worst, as you have seen me. But we’ve also been there for the best bits too. And they surpassed everything I loved and THOUGHT I knew about you, which put you on the “list of people I wanted to meet most in my career,” to begin with.

…You are so much more.

You’re a good teacher.

Today, I have to say goodbye to you, and we’ve only just started. I don’t want to let you go. Cuz now that I really know you, I get that it’s not just crossing a name off a list tonight. It’s losing a friend…and as anyone whose done that knows, it leaves one hell of a hole behind.

…So what say, we meet after the show and cry into a whiskey or two…my treat?

Love-Love-Love,

(And super grateful)

~D

Tag-Teaming Murder & Education

8 Sep

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Dearest “Rita” is alive and well, warbling her free-association wisdoms at-will (and speed), and having a great time playing with her Professor…which ends our first weekend of performances, and ushers in today’s first rehearsal of the next gig.

From Liverpool to London, back to Liverpool again…and London…I’ll be splitting time for the next two week’s ‘tween our enthusiastically educating Scouser and a London society-dame, fighting to survive murder, Hitchcock-style. While we are on the same island, there is a good sixty-year era-difference, not to mention sizable pocketbook increase…which’ll be fun to bounce around between…cuz who the hell doesn’t love Noir and 50’s fashions, mixed with sailor-mouthed, punk, fuck-me shoes?

Yes to it all!

…And so with today’s first table-read, we pack away the Chekhov, Ibsen, and Forster et al (Sunday nights thru Wednesday), and bring out some epic Noir film-festing to put some meat on these ingénue bones facing me in print. 

Famously portrayed by Grace Kelly, in her typical perfect-looking-yet-boring-as-hell-to-watch fashion, the plan is to make our Margot in Dial “M”, more than that.  Something with smarts, bite, and maybe even some (god-forbid) sex…seeing as she’s blackmailed for schtooping who she shouldn’t, and all.  Which means I’ll be forced (dammit) to dig out all my Stanwyck’s, Tierney’s, Astor’s, Bacall’s, Davis & Crawfords…Turner’s, Hayworth’s, and Gardner’s (woe is me) to settle in for some one-on-one refresher courses, (hee hee) on how to be bad-girl-awesome…in general.

…Working against iconic interpretation is always a “thing” when tackling something like a “Hitchcock”…which is 50% fixed in this case by not casting a blonde, really.  The moment lights rise in scene one, I’m automatically given more freedom to fight against the character-as-played in pre-conceived expectation, by physical presence alone.  The other 50% is taking dated text and infusing new life into it…figuring out how to leverage a more realistic, suspicious, sexual, “human” being from a white-toast sort of role, as usually played. 

…I’m going mining for more in there…and it’ll be fun panning to find it ;)

~D

Joan Crawford, You Bitch

2 Sep

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It’s like she knows…she knows the timing most ill to arrive and fuck with you…am I right, ladies?

…She even tag-teams the really important times with the most bitch- version of her personality. Because opening a giant show isn’t enough, nor is month-end…following a major Holiday weekend sale. No, no, hell no! We need you all drugged and water-logged as well, with aching everything’s…and that super special sensation of wanting to barf every time you open your mouth to talk.

….This really coincides well with two pages of customer bookings and a dress rehearsal where you talk at high speed for about two hours, virtually non-stop.

…Which is all to say: the dame’s been dead for decades now, but Joan Crawford is still the biggest bitch around. Let it be known.

Meanwhile, nerves decided to hit me this weekend like a ton of bricks. Which has only ever happened in one other show ever, that I can recall.

…Nerves belong on Opening Night…and maybe a few seconds after “places” call. Nerves don’t have any form or function this early in tech week. Because there’s just too much shit to do still, frankly, and the adrenaline rush helps you zero-much right now.

There’s sort of a lot riding on this role and this show…personally, professionally…it’s opening a theatre season, there’s a giantly talented team who helped to get us here, and this is a bucket list role. I really don’t like screwing up anytime, but I would REALLY hate it in this instance. And I’m afraid that the roughly eight hours of sleep I’ve gotten this weekend from obsessing about it, isn’t helping.

…Ye olde friend Anxiety has been whispering tales to me, and as we know, that bastard is a hard one to shut up. Which means a lot of added concentrated energy I already don’t have at the moment has been aimed in that direction this weekend. Until today. Because I’m too damn busy (outside of this sandwich break) to pay it any attention.

….Which I suppose is the only good thing about how freaking busy it’s been in here this morning.

So, winning?

…I’ll call it a “win.” I could use one to get a leg up on what comes after this.

I know, I know this show. I know I’ve done the work to support it. I know I know my path and what it takes and feels like to follow it from beginning to end.

I trust my team.

…I just need to freaking breathe…

…And trust “me.”

~D

14 Costume Changes & Some Acting

29 Aug

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Bit of a clothes horse, me.

…An option of fitting a first dress in before tech was jumped on, so we could focus on one horrifying onslaught before a tidal wave of others come in to cream us this Saturday. And so, a first dress was had. Last night. And it wasn’t particularly brutal on anything except my feet (dear three and four inch heals…you’re assholes. It’s a good thing you’re cute.)

….Anyway…we charged ahead, I broke some things, we managed line-call-free, fit in all my 14 costume changes, and called it a late night for the first time since we began rehearsals…but we DID it, which I think is the important thing to focus on at this point.

…At this point.

The last time I did a two-hander show was “Oleanna”…again: a professor and a student, having at one another for two hours of stage time. Just me: just him. That’s it, folks.

…The amount of focus, LISTENING, line retention, blocking and prop movement is insane. It REQUIRES nothing less than 100% lock-and-load on the other actor…so that no matter what choices/accidents/line-flubs/enlightenments/emotions are flying around through the air between you…you are a one-entity receptor.

…It’s like ballroom dancing, in a two-hour-long competition, where we both take turns taking the lead, changing styles from fox trot to samba to waltzing seamlessly, at any given moment, and attempting to do it all without one single misstep. Your anchor is in the eyes of the other guy…you make the audience phase out into the wallpaper and bookcases of your world, and together you begin on step one…and it never ends or eases up until the curtain goes down.

…And we know this from experience. As even before costumes and props were added, every break has been filled with line running and blocking, since day one. We don’t pop out of focus, we still can laugh, take a slog of water, and a quick slash…but damn if we’re not still running a monologue while in the loo, walking blocking while feeding from a water bottle on set, or futzing with props ad nauseum. Because we have to. And that’s okay. Because we happen to really fucking love it, you know?

…Like really. A lot.

Difficult is good. Frustration can be tempered and recycled into something better next time, thanks to the lessons you’ve learned. And when you click with a character who you know in your guts…who you can access without interruption in mind or manner…it’s a fantastic ride to be on. Even more so when you trust…really TRUST the team behind you, and that guy right there opposite you, on stage, every night.

…Even on the days of frustration and energy-sap…even when I know there’s more we can find in a moment (and we will, next time)…there is nothing lacking in the team work…in the connections we’ve made, in the amount of fight it takes for two people to command the stage alone… lifting words from a page, into something exciting and wistful, amusing and dangerous, hysterical and poignant, witty and humble. It’s an honor, a challenge, a fucking hell of a ride.

…And every night, when it’s over, the realization comes crashing in, on the ride home…as the adrenaline drains from every pore: and complete mental and physical exhaustion smacks us stupid with inevitable result. We are totally…right now…this second…living an actors dream.

Hells. Freakin.’ Yes.

Bring it, tech week.

~D

Russian Sex Pirates

19 Aug

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So, the woman who keeps my tongue placed properly, with good “O’s,” is also a Russian Sex Pirate, and I mean…there’s a resume if I’ve ever seen one…

Our wizard of dialects, whom I’ve worked with several-many times (I’ve lost count now) across the years, is also a published author of sex-niche literature aimed mostly at same gender/sci fi markets. As she calls it, “Lots of naughty men”…and sometimes, in space. Course she gives the lesbians some lovin’ too…but the point is: it’s a very specific market. Which could easily (I would think) make her a zillionaire one day, if she ever decided to take it to the big-screen. Instead, she seems totally content to work with Shakespeare and history, teach people the ins and outs of a specific location dialect, and be a covert sex pirate in places like Russia, where her illegally translated works have found their way into the hearts of people whom she has taken a map out to find are located in the middle of fucking nowhere.

…How do they find her?

…How does the porn translate (and who is doing it?)

…How is there a market for it there, when they don’t even have a market for fruit and veg?

…All questions I certainly know that I am curious about, but we prob’ly won’t ever get to the bottom of. Because it’s in a nowhere place, and the woman who wrote to her for an autograph wasn’t really up on the English thing. But that’s okay, because apparently she intends to use these books to teach her better English…which means that even with the pirate Russian copy, she’s now somehow obtained a pirate English copy as well, and will be compare-contrasting line for line…like Tom Hanks with the guide books, in that “Terminal” movie. Only sexier.

(Least that’s how it all happens in my head.)

…Which just makes me wonder. What kind of conversational English is this woman going to be absorbing, exactly? Cuz, this is a whole different thing than watching TV soap operas to learn Spanish. This sort of immersion could become quite the sticky wicket, when you get down to it. Not that anyone in her village would know really, as I’m fairly sure there is no one there to Police her on the topics she chooses to rattle on about in some foreign language. But if gay space porn can inspire her to learn a new language…what ELSE might it inspire in her? Perhaps “travel” is in her future. And how awkward might that be (little-known to herself) …standing in line at the passport counter in immigration, answering questions like:

Officer: “What is the purpose of your visit?”
Russian Porn Fan: “I wish to have inter-galactic sex-experience with many mens, and womens, not of my people.”
Officer: “How long do you intend on staying?”
Russian Porn Fan: “Across millennia. For a week, last year…or maybe two.”
Officer: “Do you know anyone in the U.S.?”
Russian Porn Fan: “Yes. Writer. Many good-time books of space. And mens. With mens. And womens. With womens.”
Officer: “Do you have any fruit or vegetables?”
Russian Porn Fan: “Veg-e-ta-bles, no good. Spoil. Use non-latex, only. Like this.”
Officer: “Have you anything to declare?”
Russian Porn Fan: “Lube. Many flavor. I pick up, France, on way. Yes, okay?”

…I mean…think about the world that could open up for this woman, using porn as her first gateway into a language. Our language. Would it saturate her to the point of simple acceptance…making statements without even thinking twice, which we would turn twelve kinds of red in embarrassment over?

Gassing up in Oregon: “Stick it in, fill me up all ways…mmm, good.”

In the Bible Belt: “What you use for flag-ell-a-tion? Leather crop, or whip?”

In Texas: “You lasso first, then wrist and feet to tie up like cow?”

In Vegas: “So this: America-Amsterdam?”

In LA: “Village of many plastic robot womens! Is true! This place of science experiment for alien peoples lifeforms?!”

In SF: “This Castro street fair, is ‘pay-to-play’?”

In Florida: “The old-time-mens all eat pill like candy, and sit by pool to watch, like TV sex-movie. For why, please?”

Anywhere, watching Fox News: “These people, need: ‘hello orgasm nice to meet you,’ then no more face-talk angry all-time.”

…On and on.

…And, ohmygod, what if she were to discover Comic Con?! Would her mind just fucking EXPLODE with fantasy-come-to-life, over-stimulation?! Suddenly to openly begin weeping from pure joy…surrounded by Trekkies, and aliens, space blasters and furries screwing each other in hallways…Cosplayers totally in character who wouldn’t break it if they were lit on fire (therefore in much the same mindset of believability as her.) To have traveled thousands of miles away from her tiny home village, and have stumbled upon Mecca…her tribe…could you imagine the effect that would have on you???

…And all because she somehow, once upon a time, picked up a pirated copy of specifically themed literature, written by the woman who is a Shakespearean linguist by trade, and a sex-nerd, by fate.

BAM!

Mind. Blown.

…Study on, you slavic fan-girl! And may the force be with (and in) you!

~D

The Importance Of Being Busy

14 Aug

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The office is dead, the show is in work-runs, The Gnome has swollen up to three times her size, I’m on my 12th cup of Keurig, and Cecil just dropped off her application.

…This is what makes “news” for the week, aside from the depressing stuff.

…Depressing stuff that is slamming every news outlet and social media page, for good reason, yet there is only so much a person can take, becoming so saturated and consumed by it all.

I understand it.  I take it in.  I choose to process it privately. 

Two of my teachers passed this week, and it doesn’t matter if one had an active part in the decision and the other had lived a full and rich life…it sucks either way, when it is the creative-force of a mentor leaving the world-stage.

Period.

…So, I join in with others in celebrating their work through festing their films, and get on with mine…which is what they would want me to do. But with a little, “O Captain, my captain”…and “You know how to whistle, don’t yuh Steve?” playing in my mental background.

…A background consumed in constant line runs, ad-nauseam, in “Red Dwarf”-a-thons, to get Lister’s scouser cadence permanently tattooed into my brain…in reading Whitman and Ferlinghetti…in revisiting director’s notes, and blocking…and trying to decide which of the 36 monologues I’ll pluck out and work on today.  I’ve plenty to keep me busy…which is good as the office is supplying almost nothing to that end, for freak reasons during our peak season, that I can’t for the life of me figure out.

Meanwhile, the sweltering and suffocating heat in this Kennedy Administration building has been kicking our one little wall-unit-air-conditioner’s ass…even when turned on at 5am…which has us sweating by 8:30, despite all efforts, while in the lobby The Gnome melts puddles all over her desk and floor.

…Being this pregnant makes absolutely nothing look comfortable, and it makes heat and humidity look like fucking torture. This once tiny, tiny human, has even moved on from her basketball-bump phase, and started to swell up in the arms and legs to the point of near bursting, across this past week or so. 

…Worse timing ever, one could say.  And she does.  Frequently.  Not that I fucking blame her.  I’d be the worst complainer EVER, in this situation. Which is why: Don’t ever forget Mother’s Day, like EVER.  These people lived in a nine-month-long solitary-bodily-confinement, at torturous levels, for us.  One should at least score a phone call and card for that, yeah?

…And speaking of Gnomes, (or at least this one), we’ve gotten our clever back-up for her confinement and leave-time, which will put Cecily and Gwendolen together again…only this time in office adventures.  Which I’m super stoked about because not only is she an actually competent person who I won’t have to continually train and re-train to do the job she was hired for (as I frequently do now), but it’ll make for amusing FB status updates. 

…Things like:

“Cecil and Gwen + tacos, at tea.”

…Training sessions like:

“The good ended happily, and the bad: unhappily. That is what Customer Service means. In matters of prepping importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” 

…Not to mention endless chatting opportunities like:

Gwen: I am known for the gentleness of my disposition…
Cecil: –And the extraordinary sweetness of your nature–
Gwen: …But if I hear that woman bitch one more time, so help me god, it may necessitate murder.

…or…

Cecil: …Cute UPS guy!
Gwen: Mmmm. Has nothing, but looks everything…
Cecil: …What more could you desire…?

…The cheese whiz of possibility is endless…ENDLESS I TELL YOU!

And hells yes, I will be banking on it.

~D

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