Archive | January, 2015

Grapes of Wrath (And Other Kinds)

28 Jan

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Corporate has been here all week doing inventory counts and driving us to drink.

…A new Regional Manager swap out happened with the New Year, and we traded in our GQ-Havana-smoking-bottle-of-cologne-per-day Rep, for an 80-year-two-pack-a-day-bronchial -cougher.

…With The Pimp gone until today, still on leave, that left two of us having to babysit the old gossiping bastard, trying to get legit work done while he hovered like a parasite on it’s host, attempting to suck the absolute life out of us.

Three days of loaded questions, and trying to turn one against the other to disclose crap about a third…for what the hell kind of purpose??? Who the fuck knows. But we have…oh…30 other things we could legitimately be doing instead of this bullshit-fest, which he started on day one by trying to dig up dirt on The Pimp, behind his back, while he was on bereavement leave. How fucking callus can you GET?!

…Needless to say, he hasn’t won any points this round…nor is he bound to before his (AT FUCKING LAST) 3pm flight tomorrow. It was already all I could deal with today…I have no idea how the hell I’ll get through tomorrow. The temper fuse is running short, and my bullshitting meter is tapped out.

…So, I’m tired. And pissy. And not super in the mood to deal with my music-blaring upstairs neighbor, while I try to rest before showering, and wrapping my legs in padding like a mummy, before call.

…The only GOOD thing this week, was that cupcake on Monday, and solving the mystery of this clump of bruises constantly reinfecting my upper thighs. Steel boning is the culprit, not tiny Helen hands, spoon stabbing, or floor-falling. Either way, with fresh markings after every rehearsal, (and no clear way to prevent them with the amount of crawling, carrying, tugging and squatting I’m doing), I’ve decided to embrace them as my personal Grapes of Wrath, and deal.

…The show must go on.

Dear God, I dunno how in the hell I will even find the patience to get through tonight’s technical reblocking from hell. Annie may have more bite than usual tonight.

@%##$#&#%#*$#@%# !

~D

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RIP, Pops

22 Jan

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The WHS Pimp is on family leave in CA after losing his “Pops” the week of the Corporate Manager’s Meeting.  He was in the middle of a shit-storm of flight delays, and missed connections when the word came through from home…stranding him alone in an airport bar, halfway between here and there, with what would end up as something like a 1 am final arrival in Florida.

…Pops had been sick for quite some time, but the plan had been to divert the return ticket after the meeting and see him in person, say the things a son says when they are facing that moment, and come home with at least some semblance of a closure.  Instead, WHS Pimp tossed back about a fifth of gin amongst strangers, got on another flight hours later, and was deposited to a three-day orgy-fest of unnecessary political game-playing…which he somehow managed to live through, even in his emotionally fucked-up state, with more grace and self-respect than the yahoos conducting the whole enterprise.

Any other person would have waved a giant finger of “fuck you” to the Corporate heads back at the airport, and changed destinations right then and there…I sure as hell know I would…but the WHS Pimp didn’t. And not only that, he failed to even tell us back home that any of it had happened, until two days into the Conference.

And it sucks. 

…It sucks he missed the face-to-face goodbye.  It sucks that his Pops was so young to begin with, and that life-choices can handicap a person so severely that sometimes you just can’t find a way out.  It sucks that The Pimp was alone when he heard it…that no one was there to get the top bottle off the shelf, put it in front of him and say, “Tell me some stuff about your Pops…I know there’s a million awesome stories…”

…And it sucks that even when he got home, we were all too damn poor to front a bottle, set up a wicked feast, and wake the man a proper way.

…All we COULD do, was take over the biz, and shove him out the door to California, to be with the people who COULD do all that for and with him.  So we did.  And he’s there.  And is reporting back with pics of long-ago friends he hasn’t seen in years, and sister time, and mornings with Mom by the pool, and general shenanigans that you need to have to survive the kind of shit-storm that is “death.”

It’s good for him to be home…has been too many years since he’s been.  We all wish it was under better circumstances (obviously), but I happen to know first-hand that sometimes the only thing to bring you together is the loss of something great.  It’s a stupid law of life, but there it is.

So, from here we wish him well, and lots of stories, and “remember whens,” and laughs, and building more good memories to bring back… helping counter the hard ones that first sent him there.

…And we also would like to say, for the record: “STOP CHECKING YOUR FUCKING WORK EMAILS…ALL THAT SHIT CAN WAIT!”

Love and stuff,

~D

Blue-Eyed Freak

20 Jan

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Have been watching a lot of Paul Newman lately. 

…A beautiful actor…and not just physically (though, he was that too.  Obviously.) I mean in “applied theory.”

Personally I always preferred Newman’s enviable ability to take all his work on a character, internalize it, and just “be”…unlike his classmate Brando…who acted through strange speech placement and physical ticks, with the specifics of an acting exercise deployment.

“Being” is the most arduous task an actor has to achieve, at the end of the day. Not everyone can do it, and it is frequently a thankless job, written off and underappreciated, because it lacks the flash and boom of sex, and rape, and murder and Hollywood mayhem.

…In essence, it’s taking all that table-work, and research…the inward exercises of intent and motivation, hours and hours of scene beat breakdowns, and workshopping…and trusting that somehow the work will take care of itself, informing your performance without forcefully pushing its agenda every second.  Learning all that, and trying to let it go so you can just “be” is – I think—the thing that keeps the artform of acting moving forward.  Because the challenge is so insane, constantly switching up on you from character to character, scene to scene, day to day, performance to performance.

Very few people win awards at this, but in my opinion, the actors who can just “be,” are the Masters of the craft. Not to be confused with the lazy, incompetent bastards who just “show up,” mind you. There is a mighty Mississippi of difference between a fella who arrives, takes up space, says a line…and a fella who has a reason, a past, a future goal, a hidden desire, an agenda, when he does.  But those things don’t mean he’s gotta hammer you over the damn head with it.  The intrigue is the fact that you can grasp a hint of what is going on in their heads…and you want to know more.

…The intrigue is: they make you lean in, and watch them…even without necessarily knowing why you’re doing it.

In theatre, this is a strange little animal to get ahold of because house size and lack of close-ups force you to use other active choices, and help direct the attention where it is needed.  There is a balancing act involved…and it’s a favorite tool, used by other actors, who I particularly favor.

…Meanwhile, though I appreciate the hell out of it, I totally admit my own limited capabilities, despite the recognition of the theory.  I can achieve it in a capacity of wryness, or the stillness of being “creepy,” but when excess energy is added to the mix, my already overly expressive face seems to run away with itself like a drunken sailor.

…Because I’m busy focusing on the inward information, listening to the others on stage with me, and forging through my own map of goals, I don’t honestly spend a lot of time thinking about what it all looks like while doing it.  My attempts to simply “be present,” inadvertently allow my face to run away with every thought that comes across my brain, which from half house in a 500-seat theatre, works for me.  From three feet away: not so much.

…The strange irony of this is popping out now, after two very broad and ostentatious roles.

I knew I would need to reel that shit far, far in, for this. Counting on the discipline of the corset to remind and readjust my bodily constrictions, I’ve been fairly concerned about what the frustration and bookwork exploding from this character, would naturally do with the rest of me.  But, what I wasn’t taking into consideration at the time, was the true size of a straightjacket I was being handed.

…The difficulty of battle sequences that I thought would render me completely physically obscene “expressively,” have been counter-challenged with an almost constant direct impediment: a pair of sunglasses worn for over 90% of the show.

…The discipline this is forcing on me has taken away the thing I’ve unconsciously leaned on for years as a performer, as well as forcing the development of one of the things I need most to work on. 

How do you spell out a thought process without eyes? How do you restrict the most essential communicable part of your face, while your body core is ensconced in steel ribs, and still tell the story? 

…I’ve got limbs, shoulder posture, neck rotation, knees, and a mouth with vocals as tools.  That is all.  Because of the rise of the circular rims, I haven’t even the browline to help me tell a story equally infused with fight and pain, hope and loss, anger and…at last…love.  I been made to drop the security blanket I’ve by turn counted on and been cursed by, for years, and am being required to learn another way to tell you, another way to show you, another way to “be.”

…And because I’m still working on finding her voice, that means I’m working on four fronts at the moment: The athleticism of choreography, the rise and fall, in and out of cadence…from neutral ground to flash-back nightmares in childhood, Simultaneous scene work: splitting any given moment between working with Helen physically in a totally different scene from the conversation-filled one being held with someone else, and dealing with a stolen security blanket…trying to trust I can do the job without it.

…In other words: “just fucking tell the story, and BE.”

Sounds easy enough when you say it. 

…But trust me: it ain’t.

Newman was a freak.

~D 

A Corporate Meeting

14 Jan

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Annually, all the yahoo Big-Wigs on the East Coast, gather up reps from the Regional Management team like cattle from across the Nation, and corral them into some big hotel with a giant board room, and an open bar.

…All book their flights in separate classes from first to steerage, and arrive at said destination  as the plebeians are met and crammed into taxis, and the CEOs share a limo, dropping all off at some resort-like hotel, where they retreat into their double-occupancy suites, and open the seal on the minibars before first meeting.

…And from that time until the “conference” is over, (some two or three days later), the entire entity of people who run our company, are basically fucking hammered…until the conference room after a 2-hour shut-in meet, smells like a whore house dipped in stale cigars and sour vomit, while many sit in sunglasses, heads hovered over coffee, still sporting stripper glitter on their faces.

I know this to be true, though I have never attended said meetings…and how I know is: pictorial proof stretching back to as far back as the original Boss, and since confirmed by WHS Pimp.

…And the stories.  The stories and stories and stories that never seems to end or die. It’s the kind of thing you would expect from Frat House parties, but certainly not a gathering of the Top Brass and affiliates of a multi-million dollar company.  Certainly not with the Corporate HR manager in the room.  

…But then, that’s our company: a myriad of oxymoron’s. In fact a myriad of ALL the morons.

Can’t order a name brand Bic pen because it costs 30 cents more than the Staples brand, but you can write off a lap-dance as a “business expense” when purchased for the Operations Admin. Anyway…it worked when Boss showed me the check refund that one time.

…Get hammered with emails when spending a- buck-a-can more on fast-drying display paint, due to our weather conditions…but no one gives a shit that you drank so much, you puked on the SW Territory Manager’s shoes in the bar, and he turn in a compensation receipt upwards of $150.

…Two of our THREE only high-ranking women in the company, spend their time getting so sloshed and slutty, their boobs fall out of their blouses, while becoming suctioned in public make-out sessions with married Sales Reps, and have to be carried/dragged to their rooms.  Or more often get their kicks playing, “body shots” with the CEOs. Of course, they are eventually disciplined (being women) and rarely do the same return, one year to the next.  But like a legend that must go on, they seem to re-cast with the same “type” who keep up the shenanigans the following year…like a really badly plotted out Diversity placement program.

…The men, meanwhile, are as Gods in their playground.  Corporate cards burning a hole in their pockets, they return every year with the same intent: to out-do the last one.  They “treat” favorites to saunas after lunch. Picked up in limos by the half-dozen, they file out at posh night clubs and order shots all-round at $30 a pour, fighting over who pays next as they whip out their black American Express cards with the kind of pride that means it doesn’t matter what size is hidden in their jockey shorts.

…And AFTER the meet-and-greets…after the “after parties” and “after, after parties,” the karaoke and cigar smoking over pool tables…after the last tab has been fought over and paid…or forgotten about entirely and charged next day to a now “lost” credit card…they all somehow double and stumble back to the hotel for MORE “fun.”

About here, the stories of Boss and WHS Pimp split their course.  Only because The Pimp is smarter and knows what he HAS to do to “keep face” with these people, and yet manages to do it without losing his consciousness or dignity. Because HE, unlike Boss, isn’t a fucking idiot.

…Which means, while WHS Pimp is in the shuttle of all the main events of the “good ol’ boy network,” his ability to hold his liquor and self-respect, even while surrounded by them, gives him ample study and text time to report back on the events as they occur.  (Not to mention a sick amount of ammo against all involved.)

…So that through all of this last meet, when the capper event to end ALL events went down, he was so on the inside, it is entirely possible he might inherit the company full-out one day.

Picture it: The CFO, CEO, Director of Operations, our own Regional Territory  Manager and the HR Manager are in the upstairs uber party suite on day two, after a long, long, long night of other pre-parties below.  At a fire pit outside by the pool sits WHS Pimp and other lesser company commodities when they hear screams from above and look up in enough time to see a man drop from the fifth floor window.

…What they didn’t know until the slideshow—yes SLIDE SHOW—presented the next morning, was that this had been an ongoing bet by the Top Brass in the upper room across the past two nights.  A bet taken to such extremes that on night one, the CFO sat and calculated speed, and velocity, in order to prove or counter prove the theory being waged : on how fast a person jumping out of said window could land in the pool below. 
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…Meanwhile, the CEO and our Regional Territory Manager opened the window, cut – yes CUT—out the screen in its entirety, and started pitching everything that wasn’t nailed down, out the window into the pool below, while chant-counting and arguing weight difference and gravity.

For reasons we will never know, no one from the Hotel saw fit to stop them hurling things out the upper story window into the pool.  Quite possibly as it was around three a.m. at that point and the danger at a limit…until the following evening, when they took up where they left off. The same team assembled, the same soused state achieved. Only THIS time, the debate over form and weight apparently necessitated taking it a step further…to the point of fashioning a dummy.

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What they used as weight-filler is unknown, but a particularly stellar move of dressing it up in our Regional Bosses’ $250  button-up, belt and pants before hurling him out the window, was a specifically fine cherry topper.  Not as awesome (and I mean “giant” not “cool”) as the amount of total terror from patrons and co-workers below, watching what they assumed was an actual person, dead-weight falling out the window after the chants “Jump! Jump! Jump!” sounded from above.

…And really nothing but nothing is finer than the slamming of said dummy, just shy of the actual pool target, into what would have been a total impaling by the wheelchair access water launcher.  Nor the fact that it was entirely filmed.

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…Except possibly the fact that with our biggest Top Brass and Chief Financial Officer in the room above doing the math, they forgot to include thrust and projection of said body, thus after two nights of calculations and what is I’m sure a HEFTY room charge for vandalism later…the bet is still unresolved…as the body never even made it to the water.

These are the people running our company, folks.

…There aren’t enough words.

Truly.

~D

The Corseted Lineman She-Hulk

12 Jan

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First of all, my back feels awesome. 

…I’m not being factious, I’m being real.  And that’s saying something, considering what my body went through last night.  The saving grace: a steel-ribbed and reinforced rehearsal corset (thank you Mdm Costumer!)

…Another surprise is that the heels of my palms aren’t bruised all to hell, from slamming down onto and crawling around on a  cement floor over and over again, nor my right pinky bone from repeatedly ramming my spoon-hand to table top for vibration and re-set mark purposes.  My knees however were not so lucky. 

…Without a single ice cube or even a bag of veg in the freezer to help…the swelling last night, together with the bruising already coloring up, made even the weight of PJ pant legs uncomfortable. 

–BUT, The Breakfast Scene is choreographed!

Outside the emotional “gut-puncher” that is the ending at the water pump, THIS is the biggest moment of emotion and physical response in the show…besting all the other dozens and dozens of mini-battles we erupt into, for one reason or another.  The Breakfast Scene is the grand poobah of frustration, fight, chaos, and control of the entire piece, coming in at just the half way marker of the show.

…A mega ballbuster.

Until I go to repeat the fight actions tonight for our first stumble of Act I, however, connecting the emotional content with the actions, counting beats, protecting the kid, watching for audience splash and projectile flinging zones, aren’t my concern…nor my knees that look and feel like mutilated punching bags.  It’s the simple day-to-day form and functional use of my arms and legs.

 …Lifting an 80 pound, squirming human, wrestling her to the cement floor, and pulling her back up, over and over and over again…for hours, even when you’re in shape, is a lot on a body.  When you’re sick-grossly NOT in shape (like me), it’s a lot worse.  My already notoriously weak muppet-arms were a given to take the hit.  My quads however, are screaming proof today that ye olde corset did its job, forcing me to lift with my legs and not back.  Today, my limbs feel like I spent last night bench pressing a semi-truck and not a near-teenager. Even knowing this was coming (based on the necessities of the battle sequence), you can’t really prepare for the kind of soreness that follows something so insanely physically taxing as: “The Breakfast Scene.”

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…We follow it in word-for-word specific breakdown, as it is kept intact in the actual script, with very few small adjustments needed merely due to set adjustments, and safety. But the violence and action is the same.

…And THIS is what Annie Bancroft was wearing under her costume.  For obvious good reason. 

 

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Even Linemen aren’t kitted out this much, downstairs…but with the above as reference, (and a Ma who can whip up damn near anything with a sewing machine), this Annie is spending her LAST pad-less day on set tonight.  I may feel like a marshmallow man in bulk, even before adding the Victorian high collar, petticoats, and fitted long sleeves to the mix…but if I learned one thing last night it was that cement floors don’t give a flying fuck.  About plates, bouncing silverware, overturned chairs, OR “you.”

…As for my spaghetti-noodle arms and screaming legs, they’re just gonna have to suck it up. We’ve 39 days to opening, and a month of runs ahead of us.  By the end, even without meaning to, I should have the fucking core and toned lift-strength to rival She-Hulk .

…Meanwhile, as I blubber on…keep in mind that Bancroft and Duke did it for 719 performances across 21 months…and then again across five brutal days of filming for three cameras, months and months later, as if for the very first time. 

…It’s the kind of realization that makes my brain-balls wilt like raisins as the word, “freaks” involuntarily escapes my mouth…(not for the first time.) 

…Brilliant bastards…

~D

Making Choices

7 Jan

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It’s endless. 

…The supply of facts, figures, and analysis on Sullivan and Keller seems to stretch on infinitely.  Which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong…but it is also frequently debatable from one source to the next…with something as universally “go-to” as Wikipedia being the least academically sound posting of all.  The fact that anyone can contribute to it, is obviously the problem, but that it is likely the first place people will go for info on the topic, pisses me off.  It’s all over the place with inaccuracy…

…As are (from time to time) various books.  I’ve a small shelf of them in my brain now…not counting other articles, reports, essays and such.  Each time I open a new one, it sends me diving back into my now almost 400 pages of notes and clippings, to fact-check something I distinctly remember being reported as another date, time, location, argument, or note of reference.  At this point, I’m forced to use averaging to choose accuracy…in that if I’ve read it twice as this date, and once as that one, I’ll consider the original two reports as correct, unless the scales start to counter with a third option, or added numbers to one or the other of the first two. 

…How the hell can you get facts this way?

 You would think that with two such widely noted historical people, and archives scattered all over the country in their own handwriting, we could get together on some specifics …but it’s surprising to me how much is left out, misstated, inferred, or simply made up, to fill the gaps between days and years and functions…not only when the written and archived materials were lost or (in some cases) purposely destroyed…but even when a picture of a dated letter in Sullivan’s own handwriting states a fact, readily available to view from the Perkin’s archives online, without even leaving your chair.

It’s irritating.  And frustrating.

…First of all: Helen was 6, not 7…Annie 20 not 21 when they met in 1887.  It’s as easy as knowing their birth-months to calculate. AND IT MATTERS.  It matters because they were REAL people, because the difference between 6 and 7 is the difference between what should have been a first grade education and a second grade one…which matters to a child with zero education up to that point, in as much as Helen had to learn not only how to function day-to-day in a seeing and hearing world, and be taught what we spend our infancy learning about basic human interactions, etiquette, feeling, reactions, desires, disappointments, and frustrations…but also how to spell every word that made up every sentence she spoke, as well as grammar and formal sentence structure, mathematics up to and including multiplication tables, to read raised letters and braille, and print square letters in full composition format…as well as learn basics in earth sciences, history, astronomy, and geography, at an age when the average school child is just beginning basic reading, and simple addition and subtraction.

She was 6!

YOU couldn’t do that at 6!  You couldn’t do it at 7 either. Hell, the average adult can’t manage it NOW …but that isn’t the point. The point is: FACTS. 

…And Annie, at 20?  With only six years education…not “formal” mind you, just plain “education” of any kind…under her belt.? Yet, she took up the only post offered to her after graduation, sending her 1200 miles away, where she would be paid the equivalent of $625 (today’s calculation), plus room and board, per month, as a governess to a wild-child neither she nor anyone she knew had ever set eyes on.

…Adding to that her OWN handicapped circumstance (which seems to be frequently forgotten in all this), as well as the difference between “success” (whatever THAT meant) and “failure,” separating the the facts of either earning a living the only way she could fathom how, or going back to the State Alms or Work House.

…No pressure THERE.

It ALL MATTERS.

…So it bothers me when I have holes in the info that I can’t dig up.  The traces are gone (in some cases)…in others, we have only word-of-mouth to go on…and I trust even the written ones little enough as it is. The main point of contention I now face, being: Annie’s voice.

Her disposition is well noted, her temper, her inclination for finery and beauty and nature, her love of poetry and Shakespeare and virtually every other form of the written word…she was a talented sculptor, a fine horsewoman, occasionally composed verse, had an almost photographic memory of stories, anecdotes, and amusing tales, had a very wry and bitingly quick wit, was terrible at spelling and mathematics, hated anything to do with “sewing notions,” fought depression and anxiety, could at times be emotionally crippled with PTSDs from her childhood…in her top-most form, only attained 50% of her sight, eventually going fully blind, loved to cook, and had a monstrous affection for animals .  Add to that about a billion other fact and figures I have ferreted away…and I’ve come up with a pretty solid idea of the woman as she would stand, day-to-day…but it is (with all of that) in mute form.

…There is only ONE surviving sample of her voice, at age 62…and is a mix between the heavily elocution-trained musicality of Hollywood grande-dames from the early talkies, and an east-coaster wideness, in evidence of her Boston school years.  We know, that though born in the U.S., her constant surroundings through childhood amidst the Irish Immigrant population (including her parents, uncles, aunts, and the Almshouse after), left her with the mimicry of an Irish brogue…strong enough to be self-conscious of it (along with everything else about herself) when she entered Perkin’s School for the Blind, at age 14. 

…We know that in her valedictorian speech, six years later, she was reported by several newspapers attending the exercises as having, “a grace of expression,” “…with genuine refinement.”  Assuming then, that she’d worked her ass off to oust that accent, along with her other less savory childhood habits.

…Yet, Historical biographer Kim Nielsen suggests she still had some semblance of a lilt, even if only faintly, as late as Helen’s beginning of college at Radcliffe in 1900…which puts Annie at age 34. In other instances, Helen had been noted to ask if Teacher had an accent and was told “no,”…though had it been by Annie, herself, she could have preferred this as the answer to the reality. Meanwhile, on the flip side, Helen was able to note the differences in accents from Northerners and Southerners based on vocal vibrations felt by hand, at least by Annie’s second year with her. Whether the question was asked prior or after that, and if it was queried based on an oddness that Helen found in Annie’s speech, which fit neither in straight “North” or “South” categories, is unknown.

…Time, tons of speaking engagements, a stint in vaudeville, travels abroad, and further self-education very easily explains how we get from whatever-her-voice-sounded-like-then, to the 62-year-old version from the short video.  But the amount of previous affectation and when it was changed is still up for debate.

…The ever-copied full-on brogue that Anne Bancroft won her Tony and Oscar with, however, is not.

That was a simple solution created to help break a heavy Bronx-Jewish accent from her 750 performances of the previous Gibson play, “Two for the Seesaw,” she’d just completed before “Miracle” rehearsals began.  It was a quick fix that director Arthur Penn had come up with to help her speech patterns refocus, and is frequently copied in most productions which have followed…one assumes as either lack of research, or reverence to  “the one who came before” (and won all the awards, while she was at it.)

…Either way…thankfully Mdm. Director was in the “without” camp, letting the Irish feistiness show through in her many other aspects of expression.  I have enough to do without having the ghost of Bancroft’s ridiculously amazing performance haunting my every move. This leaves me a mode to create distance from her.  We’re both playing her in our 30’s, both keeping in mind the premature sobering a childhood like hers can have on “youth,” both ball-buster broads, and since she’s been a teacher of mine all my life…I’m even at war to break her specific cadence with these lines running in my head.

…What I get now, is the gift to create a sound, specific to where Annie is in her own history and education at that point in time.  With so many historical facts to get down, this freedom to invent her sound freely, has been (and still is) a major working point, and the essence of my own thumbprint on her.

…Mdm. Director has chosen to bring out the hint of brogue as-was in childhood, for the flash-back nightmare sequences… so I’ve countered, adding a taste in other key moments such as an added sense of play when making fun of herself…and, following a pattern which happens to most people with a previous affectation, to bring it out a bit whenever she gets angry or overwrought. 

…Basically…the flavor is still there…but not necessarily to where you pick up on the specifics of it…only: she has a different way of talking.  She is still at times fighting against it, like a war with her wanting-to-be-more-cultured self… sometimes embracing it, as solace when alone and frustrated or emotional…sometimes getting caught up in it, despite herself.

Figuring out how to do all that and make it unconscious, a matter of mental state, a peculiarity of just how “unfinished” this girl is herself, never mind with the weight of the extraordinary challenge facing her…I think it will help to convey the constant struggle, the lack in her own education, and the reminder that these two people are just beginning.  They have a long, long way to go…in life journey, in education, in everything they will achieve that hasn’t even been thought of yet.

 …Every day, it’s a total joy to remember all that, lace up my boots, and begin.

~D

It’s Cute, How I Thought I Knew Some Stuff

3 Jan

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Tonight was the first of what I will refer to as “The Lady B Sessions,” so called, as it is a project in which my dearest former Mama (Lady Bracknell) and I (her former Gwendolen), collect her fifty years of theatre, polish it up bright as a new penny, and build it into a one-woman show.

After shooting her a 70-question Q&A sheet a-la “Inside The Actors Studio” for prep, I arrived with pad and pencil in hand, stayed thru dinner, dessert, and tea…until, I finally kicked myself out of the poor woman’s house, 5.5 hours later.

…From this, I have exactly one page of written notes and the original question sheet print-out, with zero minutes of what I’d planned to record digitally.

I am a lousy documentarian, all of a sudden.

…Which is super inconvenient, when you are starting research on a one-woman show…

…But it isn’t all my fault.

I blame Ezra Stone. And Sara Seeger. Also Opera stars: Dorothy Kirsten, Richard Tucker, Anna Moffo, Sherrill Milnes, and Marilyn Horne.

…I blame Rogers & Hammerstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, Puccini, Verdi, Wagner, and Offenbach…as well Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Richard Nash, Michael Cristofer, Alfred Uhry, and James Goldman.

…I blame The Metropolitan Opera, Polish theatre tours, La Boem, downstairs Czechoslovakian dinner-swaps, music theory, Amelia Earhart, WWII, original snapshots of major film stars from the late 40’s, Concerts in England, theatre in Germany, Holocaust Memorials, the American Airforce, and Betty Buckley.

…This is but a grain of what makes up the entire freakin beach, which could only fit in the first five-and-a-half hours conversation about this one woman’s life.

Her Mentors, her costars, her roles, the people she’s met… across fifty years: Solid gold.

…The more I listened and gaped with my mouth hanging open, and head nodding in reply, the less and less I felt sufficient to share table and tea with her, never mind the stage.

I was frankly hypnotized. For over five hours.

THIS is what a career in theatre means…even though she claims to have “never really gone pro.” If THESE are the stories, the people you work with, the memories you make, even without a Union Card under your belt…I feel ever so much more secure about my artistic future…lemme tell you.

…Provided (of course) I’ve got the “it” which is required to keep going. Which she so obviously does…to the point of brain-spinning brownout.

My mind has absolutely no idea where to start, how to filter this information between what she laughing refers to as, “only the good and interesting stuff,” and “other”…and fit it all into a neat and sleek little 90-minute or less package.

Fifty years in Opera and Theatre…from American soil to Europe, and back again. I’ve acted with this woman on stage, ate from her plates, sipped her tea…and she’s entrusting me to help collect all her memories into a piece worthy of the grande dame she doesn’t even realize she is.

…I gotta tell yuh: I used to think I knew some stuff. But that was like six hours ago. I know better now.

These two feeble pages of notes, are laughing at me as my brain circles back to Blackheath, Mobile, Frankfurt, Seattle, New York and all the places in between.

…How in the hell do you fit 50 years of that into an hour-and-a-half?

…And when in heaven’s name do I get to go back, and hear more of it?!?!

-D

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