Archive | June, 2014

Hi, I’m Your Brain On “Creepy”

27 Jun

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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.

~D

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Justifying A Villain

17 Jun

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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.

~D

Educating Me

14 Jun

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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 🙂

~D

The Infinity Waiting Game

12 Jun

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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…

~D

A Week, In Rep

10 Jun

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Fanning my attention across multiple shows this week.

…And loving it.

First: Line learning and monologue running, followed by a Monday audition for “Rita.” Today: Sister’s bookwork and character work on “The Maids.”  Wednesday brings us “Rita” revisits for callbacks, with Thursday beginning “Maids”  blocking. Friday, I getta take a little R&R as I watch me mates do all the heavy lifting, Opening Night of “Spamalot.”

…Brains focused, one day at a time. 

Without wanting to jinks myself, this week is for the Repertory scheduling prep to come, if Santa gets me everything I want for Christmas, gig-wise.  Hard to remember I was living this life a year ago, starting shows midst running others, or rehearsing a short gig simultaneous with a long gig…passing the characters off like a baton in a long distance race.  

Like the process of birth, I think the actor’s brain protects us after such feats, by wiping the exhaustion and frantic pace of schedules immediately from your mind the moment the next season begins.

…It’s like our “sanity safety net.”

…It’s only when you find yourself back on the chalk line again, multiple shows-deep ahead of you, that the memory of what you are about to (or might be about to) undertake, comes crashing down on you again. In real time.  Only you’re there now.  On the line.  There’s no going  back.  And you wouldn’t want to, even if there was.  You WANT this race…so badly  you can already taste the sweat and late hour commutes across multiple counties…the endless mugs of hot tea as you pace trenches into your office floor, running lines at lunch.  Multiple voices and accents sharing space in your head…multiple genres playing with your emotions at the same time. Its more than just a neat card trick…it takes a hell of a lot of focus, even when its all you do with your day. Throw 40-hour office work weeks on top of it, and there is a reason I have no friends outside this world, no significant other, or children…or even a pet. (Fish aside.)

…Where others might look at that and see missed opportunity, and squandered time, I see a responsible individual, totally self-aware in the fact that art and spending time with the people who do it, are her life’s real work. And not everyone at the end of an exhausted expanse of days can look back with a grin and say, “Well that was a hell of a week! Can’t wait to do it again…”

….And MEAN it.

~D

Waking A Giant

4 Jun

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If Theatre is a family (and it is), then it makes sense that I feel gut-punched right now…

…Because like every self-respecting LGBT-21st-Century-Community with multiple Mom’s and Dad’s, little sisters and big brothers, in a splendidly blended environment of love and universal acceptance…we are the village that it takes to raise a child. All of us were reared in it. And all of us will eventually take our turn (if we haven’t already), reaching out to the others who come after us.

…In that respect, our family has lost a once-“son”, then “father”, and now grand-poobah of a “grandpappy,” who has taken his final bow on this earth with the grace and dignity and showering of respect he has so very much earned, during his time on this planet. In this family.

When I first met him, he was a totally indestructible force of sparkling dry wit (still is), dressed in sooted togs, as the most beautiful Alfred P. Doolittle of all time. Beautiful in the dirt smears, in the picking at a flea in his armpit, in the good-ol-boy jeer and wink that killed the audience every single bloody night. Beautiful in his choices, in his art, in his reckless abandon at whatever his particular version of “dancing” was, as he lolliped about the stage with his mates and us, every night…dead of summer…covered from head to toe in wool-and-such, in a theatre with no air conditioning.

By show’s end, I was eternally gobsmacked and we were “pals.”

…I was 20 years old. A brand new transplant from California, and he was (and is) one of my first friends, in the first show I had ever done, here in this state.

…Which is how I’d eventually book a headshot session with him. And how I first met his other art: conducted behind the eye of a camera lense.

(Naturally, he was quite brilliant at that, as well.)

…As he was brilliant in “talk” in telling a yarn…in summing a story up seen as no one else quite sees it, in private IM’s after reading a blog I had written that particularly tickled his fancy.

Meanwhile: we worked on more shows.

…He: as a “softy” singing, “More I Cannot Wish You,”…watched nightly from the wings by the whole lot of us…the sweetness and endearment so very, very clear in his interpretation.

…Then: a hell of a court case, where I…ME…THIS person, right HERE…got to sit beside him…nightly…in a silent court room, just we two, in a single scene. As Drummond shared a window into his psyche in “Inherit the Wind.” A simple, moment, yes. But “full.”

…And you know the “fullness” that I mean.

…Or at least, I wish you to some day experience it, if you haven’t.

He was, (and is) quite frankly, loaded with “that thing.” That special whatever-the-hell-it-is that defines the “great” from the “good.” He was (and is) that extra step of something special…something you cannot quite put into words, but you absolutely can “show.” Least some people can. He can (and could.)

…And in case you’d ever doubted it…there was his gorgeous, human, wonderfully truthful without being overly sentimental Norman in, “On Golden Pond.”

…He is (and was), one of the greats. The greatest of them. You may have never heard his name, but you should. You may have never seen his work, but you ought to have. He would have taught you so much. He did, me. (And likely hundreds and hundreds of others.)

…Not just “how to be an actor” either. Not only lessons an actor could watch and mentally note for use later down the pike…when…IF… we were (or are) ever so lucky to have the talent and to have gained the access to perform the kinds of roles he did. I mean: just even as a “human.”

Human lessons.

…You know, the kind of things that “dad” and “granddads” are SUPPOSED to do.

…And his last one, for us…on a stage. The last one he took his bow from at large from here in the Pacific NW…was how to face age, and illness, and loss with dignity…with humor…with devotion…with love…with respect.

I’ve always said (and always will) he was one hell of an actor. But I think maybe he cheated a bit on that one. I think, more often then not, he supported that character with his own personal viewpoint and wit and sass. His own brand of “He-ness.”

A giant has passed our way, friends. He lit a lot of fires on his journey, and I am one of them. You might be too. And tonight I’d just like to raise a toast to my (and our) good friend, and head-of-the-family, as we know it…with thanks.

To the great Clark Maffitt.

Sincerely,

One of your many, many friends and fans,

~D

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