Archive | July, 2014

34, Of 55, Plus Some Dead People

29 Jul

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Have well-passed the 50% marker for lines, now riding at pg 34 of 55, including 36 monologues soupin’ ’round in my brain as we speak. 

…Add to that the independent study sessions, and a couple specific character assignments by Mdm Director, and I’m rounding out nicely. 

“Songs of Innocence and Experience” (Blake),  wasn’t a fav, but then I’ve never been ape for poetry to begin with. Did take to a few of the 46 in that collection though: The Little Black Boy, The Chimney Sweeper,  and The Divine Image from the first movement, deal with race relations, child labor, and the collective responsibility of man’s humanity to man in ways that you could see heavily influenced Dickens (whom I love.)

Earth’s Answer, The Clod & The Pebble, The Sick Rose, The Angel, and The Garden of Love, from the later movement, focus on recognizing and redeeming the sullied soul of mankind, domination of ownership, bitterness of corruption, the mistake of regret and hardening of the heart. No surprise that I preferred the second movement to the first…thanks to richer imagery. London, itself was prob’ly the most depressing (and at the time true) portrait represented…offering not a single hope towards salvation. But then, in 1794 with war and revolution, what the hell would you expect?

…Personally, I’m enjoying my re-visit at “Howard’s End” (Forster), much more, though Rita doth protest it…MUCH.

It’s obvious why…as the most doomed character is someone she can so keenly empathize with: being in more or less the same social structure, hoping that self-study and book-learning alone will save one from the doomed destiny they were born into. She reads this in prep for her very first lesson with Frank…when she is not yet able to separate her subjectivity and sentimentality from literary criticism. It’s interesting how literal she takes the words that are spoken, and how personal a jab she sees them make at her own background. It paints a very different picture, while reading it through her eyes. The level of becoming totally incensed at the injustice of the social and political situations, from both the weaker and more powerful players, feeds her to not only go on a tirade about it, but cite it several times later in her study, as a continued annoyance. Makes me wonder if she picked it up again at the end of the play, (a year-and-a-half after her studies first began), would she view it the same way or actually be able to see with the subtlety of a more educated eye, the wide-scheme commentary it was written to be?

…I’d like to think, if given a second chance, she’d learn some things from Forster too. I’d like to think, someday she’ll be wandering around a dusty book store, see the title of a beat-up copy there on the shelf, sniff haughtily, and take it down while muttering to herself about how crappy it is. Then just scan it a bit…then a bit more…until her mutterings stop and she realizes how changed the words as-printed have become to her.

…And maybe…if she’s got a five-pound note in her bag, she might end up taking it home with her, again…and when she’s finished it, seek out Frank’s address, for a quick note. Something like:

***

Dear Frank,

Against m’better judgement, I’ve given “Howard’s bleedin’ End” a go, again. Not that it’s the greatest piece of literature ever writ, but…I guess it’s not quite the “crappier than crap,” I first thought.

…Though I still say Henry Wilcox, can kiss me arse.

~Rita.

***

…Anyway, halfway through “Howard’s,” then onto “Rubyfruit Jungle”, (by Rita Mae Brown) whom Rita has selected as her namesake…which I seriously cannot wait to jump into. I’m picturing it as a cross ‘tween a lesbian coming-of-age book, mixed with some “Lolita,” and a harlequin novel. I could be wrong…but that sounds about what would turn her on. We shall see…

Meanwhile, great homework from the boss thrown in, prompting a couple essays on how the constantly repeated “I want to know” quote changes throughout the text:

* Simple truth and curiosity
* Voracious hunger
* Frustrated irritation
*Ongoing quest for more

…As well citing the ties that restrict and bind her:

* Political and economic restrictions from outset
* Lack of education
* Peer pressure and expectation
* Wifely responsibilities
* Self-worth

…Along with a new one to work on: The affect of Frank’s alcoholism on Rita, with regards to her past dealings on the subject in her own life.

All good meat to chew and digest. Anyone who says that comedy is all fluff, is an idiot. ‘Course, this is not a normal comedy. There’s very little “normal” about it to my viewing. It’s a deliciously complicated duet where the highs and lows never quite match up but get close enough to kissing, to keep you on the edge of the seat…hoping…til the end.

~D

Link

The Writer Callus

22 Jul

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I miss school.

…Not the institution, you realize…the study that goes with it.

I miss reading and writing endless essays. I miss the notebooks, chicken scratched thoughts scribbled and outlined through a text until it comes out looking like a theatre script, mid-rehearsal. I miss the debates over themes and content. I miss mining all the layers that literature can hold in simple sentences printed on a page.

As an adult, all my reading and study has derived from pleasure, not pressure. I take in the books I know like the back of my hand, because I love them…I’ll occasionally read a light fiction easy-read because it was once recommended. But when I have no class to go to, no paper to write, no actual “reason” to dig into something like a slim novella of poetry and really break down what in the hell they mean…I just don’t. I’ll read it (maybe) and take what I want, what I took at first glance from it, then move along. But there is a loss in doing that…the “study” of writing as an art. Beyond plot.

…I miss that.

And so, I’ve taken the cue from m’next show, as Rita, to put myself through the paces these next two months. Apart from studying the script and character, I’ve a whole load of additional works to consume…pieces, and authors, and works of art which are sited within the script. I’ve charged myself to retrace Rita’s footsteps…to follow her path of discovery, with some of my own.

…It’s been two days at work, filling the down time with googling, and printing, cutting and taping, collecting reading lists and quotations and poems and paintings, and massing them into a black Piccadilly notebook, to be translated and studied later. Every literary reference, every author, every theme listed out in neat lines, a mass of poems printed, and liner notes begun. Of the three hours wherein not so much as a phone call rang through the office today, I secured three monologues (with attending dialogue) into my brain, and wrote themes on twelve poems from Dylan Thomas, William Blake, Henrik Ibsen, Roger McGough, & Oscar Wilde.

…And in the words of Rita herself, “It was FUCKING FANTASTIC!”

My hand written scribbles cover pages and pages, the side of my hand marked with lead from adding side notes to theme ideas, and that callus…my old friend on the rest of my middle finger, has re-dented in supplication from the constant pressure of a pencil.

I am back! That nerd-kid who would spend hours, over-writing by three or more pages, every essay she had ever been charged to write out. The kid who, (because of necessity) was forced to become a pretty decent editor, getting to the meat of the matter, tapping into the veins of a piece or a character…which would become that essential theatre tool I’d carry with me, for ever and ever. That kid who eats up language styles and word choices like its ice cream, who’d rather get lost in languidly profuse imagery, in a specific smell explained in words, in a world entirely fictional yet familiar, than almost anything else.

My brain is hungry as Rita’s, and I’m so thankful to have this extra time, this extended rehearsal period, to really dig in and build her piece by piece, poem by poem, book by book. In case you’d like to knock along with me a bit…here’s today’s list:

* And Death Shall Have No Dominion – Thomas
* The Sick Rose – Blake
* Gone – Ibsen
* You and I – McGough
* Let Me Die A Young Man’s Death – McGough
* Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Thomas
* Survivor – McGough
* The Blossom – Blake
* The Clod And The Pebble – Blake
* The Grave Of Shelley – Wilde
* In The Picture Gallery – Ibsen
* The Survivors – Ibsen

…Lots more to come.

*joy!*

~D

Chicken Fires & Whiskey Donuts

18 Jul

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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.”

…Or…

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.”

…Or…

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.”

­čÖé

~D

WTF Was That?

13 Jul

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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.

~D

An Open Letter To Genet

9 Jul

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(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!

Signed,

A Very Tired Actor, Mid Tech-Week

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