Archive | December, 2013

Dear 2013,

31 Dec

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It’s been a year, friend. 

… A good one.

I’ve not much to complain of, as it ticks it’s last hours away. And when I do think of something, I remind myself that I’ve my family, friends, health, way to pay the bills, and theatre.

…What the HELL do I even have to bitch about, ey?

Tonight, (the busiest party one of the year), I’m spending at home in my pj pants, with five “children” (three, adopted), a bottle of wine, reminders of the past year, and an entire movie library before me.

…It is, in a word: delicious.

Nothing wrong with dressing up and doing the town red, but…nothing wrong with staying home with a too expensive bottle of wine, candles lit, comfy…warm…writing notes to friends which I think might be witty (three-quarters of a bottle in) but might prob’ly be not.  Never mind.  They will love them and me anyway.

(…Ain’t I lucky?)

The answer is: I am.

Whatta year.  Hell of a stretch creatively.  Friendships born and grown.  Adopted foster children, (in the form of fish and two frogs) as Cecil departs for studies abroad.  The BFF visit, short but of weight and importance and life-blood resuscitation that it always is.  Dates with The Fella, to talk of all things. Marty Christmas blitzes still to follow.

…Still trying to relinquish the last vestiges of what playing an animal in children’s theatre, over the Holidays can do to an adult frame. 

…Satisfyingly counting up the vast array of roles I got to tackle n’ play this year.

New friends.  Family times.  Even (yes) blogging days, when you all reminded me, after a drought of not posting, how important this relationship…OURS…here, is.

It’s been a good year.  But then, I had reason to believe (at the beginning) that it would be.

2014 will be different.  Artistically: much more improv-based.  In that I don’t know much of what is to come…or even of what is out there waiting for me.

…And we all know how awesome I deal with that…

…But even so: I have faith.

Faith.

…And I don’t believe in “accidents.”

So there is that.

And here am I.

…Finishing a tiny slip of a post, watching foster frogs dance in a water ballet, between sentence typing. 

…Before swapping out bluerays, and tackling another favorite film, paired with these cheeses and an excellent vino.

Happy New Year, friends and creative family!

May yours bring all things of wonder and joy!

~D

An Open Letter

30 Dec

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Dear God,

Please make me morph (as close as humanly possible) into a carbon copy of Emma Thompson, someday.

…I should like to own the linguistic and intellectual banter to keep up with the Cambridge fellows of her like, as Stephen Fry, and Peter Laurie, and all the rest.

…Please let me one day read Lit in a top worldly place of letters and write an Oscar winning screenplay on the author’s works of my former thesis.

I would like  to be one of the newest version of Lunt and Fontaine, Olivier and Leigh, Branagh and Thompson, please.

Could I get away with being a total bohemian nutter, and people will still love me viciously?

…Also, please can I marry Willoughby?

I would really  appreciate working with Streep, and Pacino, and Hoffman, and Winslet,  whilst have them love me so much, they consider me family.

Can I own the magic English skin that never wrinkles or ages, and the lithe figure to go with it?

Please, dear God, make me funny some day.  (I know my limits, but a 100th of a percentage of Dame Thompson will due me.)

…Also, WHY ain’t she a Dame yet…it’s really bothering me….

Smart-sexy.  It’s a thing. I watch it and want to own it. Willing to work hard: please help me to achieve.

A “Character Actor” of first degree: please grow me.

Smart choices. Smart dialogue. Smart wit. Smart woman. I beg this degree.

A double header, double feature is all it takes to remind me…how astronomically essential a hard worker is. And how (more  than anything) I wanna be “that guy.”

…Who, in this case…

…Happens to be…

An Emma Thompson.

I  thank you.

Sincerely,

Me.

Q&A With ROUS’s

17 Dec

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After the performances of Narnia, all actors have been encouraged (contractually) to reappear on stage in costume and makeup (profuse sweating as a bonus), to mingle (scare the shit out of), take pics (squint funny faces), and chat (in accent mostly) with the little people in the audience (target patrons numero uno.)

…Which makes for some interesting interactions really.  And I’d be remiss not to give them a little entry all their own.  So here it is.  Some of the top Q&As of last week.  Keeping in mind that in our particular production, our costumes and makeup ride the wave of animal-people just this side of the scary valley in computer animation.  This means we are mostly people, with a few animal touches as suggestions. People clothes, but with furry accents. People faces, but for mostly nose and lip alterations.  This makes it both cute, and totally relatable on a stage, and yet (understandably) kinda super freaky to a two-year-old, when you’re squatting and talking to him about a foot from his face.

Top Ten Questions/Comments To A Rodent Of Unusual Size:

10. From a sister of a cast member: “How do they stick your tail on?”
Answer: “It jus’ grows there, silly! (Wif the ‘elp of two extra large safety pins in me bum.)”

9. From a Mom: “Can she touch your ears?”
Answer: “Of course yew can, deary!”
From Mom: “Can I?”
Answer: “They ain’t as grand as Mickey’s, but they’re sure feelin’ popular today!”

8. From Me: “Well, and wha’ was your favorite part?”
From a Big Brother: “I like the wolves. Cuz they’re mean. And that one lady. Cuz she’s mean.”
Me: “Ah…but yuh saw wha’ ‘appened to ’em!”
Big Brother: “You were alright too…sometimes.”
Me: “When I was mean?”
Big Brother: “Yeah.”

7. From an actor: “Have you seen yourself on film, doing this? The whole way you move is just hilarious! This round, wide, rolling waddle thing, with your butt popping out and hanging mid-air in that weird squat kind of shelf…?!”
Me: (long pause.) “Um. Thank you?”

6. From a friend: “So. should I start NOW on the beaver jokes or wait until later. Cuz after that whole thing, I’ve got about 140 stored up.”
Answer: “Stand in line. I’ve got 5 weeks worth, myself.”

5. From a grade-schooler: “You and your husband fight like mommy and daddy!”
Answer: “Well ‘at does ‘appen sometimes, don’t it?”

4. Two Adult patrons: “Can we take your picture?”
Me: “Certainly!”
Adult Patron one: “With us?”
Me: “A course!”
Adult Patron two: “As beavers?”
Me: “Done and done!”

3. (Toddler stands with total horrified look frozen on his face)
Toddler Mom: “Hi, he just wanted to meet you.”
Me: “Oh, alrigh’…well, ‘ow are yew, then?”
(toddler stands with total horrified look frozen on his face)
Me: “Did you have fun watchin’ all the animals?”
(toddler stands with total horrified look frozen on his face)
Me: “Which ones were your favorite?”
(toddler stands with total horrified look frozen on his face)
Me: “Am I to’ally freakin’ yew out and will la’er turn up in a shrink session someday?”
(toddler stands with total horrified look frozen on his face, as parents laugh)

2. From a Dad: “You really get into that beavering, don’t you?”
(Dad realizes what he said and starts to blush)
Dad: “I mean…”
Answer: (with a wink) ” –‘salright, love, I’ll jus’ stop yuh there…only gets worse when you try to wiggle ’round it.”

1. From 311 adults in the past four days: “Doesn’t your back hurt hunching over like that for two hours?!?!”
Answer: ” (*FUCKING) YES!!!!!!!! (*OBVIOUSLY)
(*the asterisks, implied.)

~D

All Animals: On Deck

12 Dec

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Tomorrow is Opening.

…And in Children’s Theatre, I am now prepared to state that this means exactly the same thing as for “adult theatre.”

…Only with less cussing on final dress.

The melt-downs are a through-line, however. 

End-of-tech week, it’s something to be expected of Actors and Crew…SM’s and Directors, to have at least one or two rage/yells/freak-out/bitch-snap and/or good crys by the point we have reached today: which is the final rehearsal before Opening.

…I would just like to state right now, however, that though I’ve seen and/or participated in my own fair share of such freak-out traditions in my time, I  was only yesterday fully informed of how I’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time.

I have been SCHOOLED.

It has been NOTED.

The thing is: no one is as expert at throwing a tantrum as a preschooler.  No one is as fussy with their makeup as a teenager, even with an animal nose.  No one will complain more about what they are wearing than a grown man in a fake beard and/or knee socks. No one has known pain until they’ve played a hunched-over animal for 20 hours (so far) this week. No one understands a mother’s level of zen, until wrangling 3,000 (or so it seems) middle-schoolers, across two months of time.

This is the truth, my friends.

…And I have SEEN it.

…A three-year old Peacock having a total melt-down backstage, while Aslan is dieing and an audience looks on?  Been there.

…Frequently late Beavers, missing entrances cuz of flirting with evil wolves? Seen that.

…Unauthorised spur of the moment dance-offs during blocking, by grade-schoolers of all animalia ranges? Yep.

…The total and COMPLETE inability to stand still and listen when placing two middle-school girls together (in any variety)? Check.

…A final threat to confiscate ALL cell phones if the SM so much as catches a GLINT of glow, or thumb mid-text, on any of them, from any person in the cast, ever again? You know it.

…The come-to-Jesus final last-straw frustration of still dropped lines, fucking up whole scenes at a time, three days before opening? Uh huh.

…The look on the lead makeup artist’s face (of 24 animals), when told her earliest actor calls are only an hour and fifteen minutes before curtain? Witnessed.

…The realization that we have three days off and ten shows between now and the end of the run next Sunday? Registered.

Final conclusion?

Children’s Theatre ain’t for sissies!

You gotta MAN UP to ride this ride, people!

…There’s no “glamor.” There’s no “pacifying.”

…There’s 47 too many people in the dressing room.

…There’s 111 too many in the lobby during cross-overs.

…The lamp post is NEVER going to be where it once-upon-a-time was supposed to…so just fucking get OVER it!

You WILL run into the wardrobe on accident, during black outs.

…And several small people.

You WILL hear when the 5-year-old Stag misses her entrance.

…And mostly cuz 15 people behind the curtain will be sotto-voce-ing it to her from afar.

…Also, there WILL be laughter when you are trying to lay down whole plot monologues, which no one seems interested in…cuz holy fuck, aren’t you that one chick who was in that show that time, with the stuff and the thing…??!! And now you’ve got ears made of felt and an animal nose!?!??!

The suspension of disbelief and/or improv at this level is a thin, thin line, my friends. Some are better at playing both sides, than others. I am not one of the better ones.

…I am going out there (stupid as it may seem to some) as a fucking BEAVER.

It’s my job.

So: I’m doing it. And I take it seriously.

It’s studied, and justified, and articulate, and specific as all my stage work always is. I don’t know how to do it any other way. I never have.

…So: from day one, I’ve been Mrs. Beaver. And this weekend, I was Mrs. Beaver. And tomorrow, and the next week…I will show up for every performance and bust JUST as much ass, being a non-hibernating mammal, as I have in anything else I’ve ever done.

…Because, (though I have tried) I don’t quite understand the way to differentiate it out.

A role is a role.

A scene partner is a scene partner.

Age ten or not.

…And though it may come with plenty of “good” sides to it: this mindset is a dangerous one to have (I’ve found) in the world of little people theatre.

…The expectations: for myself, are the very same I expect from them. From everyone. I always have.

I’m a hardass about “show up and work.”

I admit it.

…And while I am TOTALLY glad I’ve come to play with my friends and theatre family in Narnia over the holiday…lets just say: I’m comfortable in acknowledging that I’ve not missed my “calling,” all these years, after all.

Three things I know to be true, from the experience of where I stand now (in retrospect):

1) I am not “mother” material

2) I will always be frustrated by wasted/unfocused rehearsal time (child-related or not)

3) I can play a decent Beaver

Let it be noted.

~D

Behind The Scene Beaverfications

3 Dec

So you’ve never been a beaver before. That’s cool, I mean we were all there once.  But I know stuff now that might come in handy, should you ever undertake playing one…(or becoming cursed or otherwise enchanted into it.)

…First: little-known truisms:

* Beavers secretly have the best butts in the whole of the animal kingdom. And legs of steel.  This is because squatting and waddling burns so many calories per hour that you could eat a whole Giant Red Sequoia and still come out lookin’ like Suzanne Somers from the 90’s Thigh Master years.
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(How everyone NOT in the Beaver lineage, keeps it fit.)

* Beavers aren’t big on the “animal soundtrack” album.  They are still frankly pretty pissed about not being offered a contract with the “See n Say” recording studio.  But that’s okay, cuz  little-known-fact is: (and by “fact” I mean “we totally made it up”), Beavers sound alot like Chewbacca. Expecially when angry.
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(Only the “popular animals,” my ass! Beavers are the cheerleaders of Narnia, bitches!)

* Beavers know all the answers to every plot question ever known to man. And all the secret forest pathways. In fact, Wizards have been studying them for centuries, cuz they only WISH they were as awesome. This is why you have two all-powerful pointy-hatters in those “Lord of the Ring” books and it STILL takes 80 years, two generations, ten or twelve armies, and three months of constant video streaming time, to climb one fucking hill just to throw a stupid ring off the top…and why our show is currently clocking in at an hour and a half.
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(“I got this.”)

* Beavers are the sole of discretion. Especially if you accidentally-on-purpose run away to join in cahoots with a White Witch, and decided later (when she tries to kill you), that maybe that wasn’t the best idea. No questions asked, you can rejoin the good-guy team, whenever you want to. (Also, we won’t say anything about how you accidentally tooted while waddle-running in battle that one time.)
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(Honey, what I know could fill a book, but buy me a drink: and we call it even.)

* Beavers have a certain sophistication which most forest animalia lack. Where the horse may have some powerhouse elegance, and the birds: a certain designer-label-born beauty…the Beaver can muck around, sweating and rolling all over the stage (or forest floor) all night long, battling Russian wolves and evil she-creatures galore…but their favorite way to unwind end-of-the-night, is still a decent sized cocktail, while watching Once Upon A Time on bluray.
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(Some “me” time, end-of-the-battle day.)

* Beavers are masters of disguise and stealth. In fact, they can hide in plain sight while overhearing stage conversations for whole scenes at a time. Their secret is keeping super still. And the fact that apparently every other animal is really really nearsighted with terrible senses of smell.
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(The famous “statue” pose, figuring largely into our specific production.)

* Beavers like to argue. A lot. They’ve placed first at every International bickering convention since 1902. Mostly tossed up in a good natured way, the bickering is how the Beaver shows their over-protective love. Kinda like your Mother. (And other alternatively aggressive ethnic family.)
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(“For Chrissake Ralphie, you lazy bastard! Did you mud over that last layer yet?! You want we should all die in a hut cave-in or what?!”)

…In short, when undertaking to portray one of these fine, noble, classy bastards…have some respect for the Mob Boss of the forest. Cuz they’ve got this animal kingdom shit tied up ’round their little finger. Truth.

~D

Actor Fat

2 Dec

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Have been eating role-sugar for eight months now, and my actor butt has gotten fat. 

…As much as I love me some comedy, (and as hard a work out as they are in their own right), I’ve been missing the meat-n-potatoes  of my average yearly diet, sorely.  I love the drama and angst and hard book work and mental prep that goes with a good juicy steak of a role. Which shouldn’t be construed as complaining…I’ve been WORKING….and in fun stuff…but there does come a point where if you have to swallow one more bite of cake and ice cream, you feel like you’re going to explode.

…I’m right there.

The joy of the high tea delicacies of “Earnest” was wonderful, and I absolutely love it.  The challenging a-la-carte three-desserts-in-one of “39 Steps,” kicked by butt with sugar rush, and now beavering away in “Narnia,” feels like a milk-n-cookie afternoon snack.  But, finally booking something that requires actual chewing and digesting, just made m’freakin’ week…gotta tell yuh.

…Even if it is only a performance read, with only four or five rehearsals underneath it.

It’s an uber group of players, brought together with a director who produces nothing as just flake or muddle-and-serve.  She plops in table work, gets the read up on it’s feet for action, and presents it in a style all-but-performance-ready, save the book in-hand to reference to, as needed.  Wickedly well rehearsed, which means we get about four days of solid, amazing, script chewing and work-shopping ahead…for which I CANNOT FREAKIN WAIT.

…Throw in the fact it’s an Odets, and we’re walking in Group Theatre footsteps with all the ensemble complexities and arguments and whirlwind of emotions and politics coming with it, and you’ve got a very happy Hennie in the making, m’friends!

Steak dinner on the rise! 

…But first, lemme finish these double-stuff Oreos, cold glass o’ milk on the side 🙂

~D

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