Tag Archives: acting

So Many Things

3 Oct

Sometimes… I don’t write much while working on a show. Often that is code for other things…like the kind of experience I’d rather have disappear into the ether for all of time. Sometimes it’s just because I’m too damn busy and can’t be bothered. And sometimes it’s because I’m living the moment fully and will set time aside later to reflect on it. 
This show was halfway parts two and three. 

Am very thankful to have done a thoroughly joyful, silly show with a lot of my dearest friends. We opened a season, slaughtered the season ticket sell projections, and while it was never meant to be Shakespeare, we played hard, enjoyed the fuck out of one another, and learned lots. 

…Having worked with the director before in “Narnia,” I’d no idea what to expect of the process, sans 30,000 children in creature makeup… But knowing the “woman,” I figured we were in solid hands. Finding a new favorite Director out of the gig was bonus-town…because she knows her comedic beats like a mutherfucking pro (not that I doubted her, it’s just not my own particular field and difficult to judge when in beaver makeup.) And “why” she quickly became a favorite is due one part on her persona and equal on her run-of-the-room.

My favorite directors trust their cast to do the job they were hired to do. We have different job titles because we have different jobs. Having worked under every variety of Director from vice-grip Dictators, to absent cluelessness… I’ve come to the conclusion that my preference neither ignore you nor manhandle you. They trust you. They give you guidence, then let you take the leash. They allow you to explore, create, make mistakes…learn. And then, they modulate. They study your choices and adjust. They understand what your intent is and marry it to the theme. They allow freedom of expression, but are so studious on the work that they can give you a note like, “lift her on this line instead of that.”and the next night, that beat is magically solved, beautiful, and perfect. 

Collaboration is king in theatre. It is the solvent to awkward “real life” relationships I seem to suck at. Finding a fellow artist who speaks my same language, I am always as surprised and delighted as if I heard my mother-tongue in deepest Africa. Finding one in a friend I’ve known for some time in a variety of ways, makes me feel both a little dickish and also winning. It isn’t that there is doubt. It is that people need their moment and roles to shine. And I’m a distrustful bastard by nature. So: even more fight. 

…Long and short of it being: “Hey, J.Y… You’re a good fucking teacher, can’t wait for the next time.” 

Next: You know when you have a real talk with a person you only “casually” know…like through another friend? And you know how that can be awkward as hell, because “people” and you go together in none of the ways? But then you end up having this super long artistic joygasm conversation that kinda creatively blows your mind? Had one of this weekend. Which then launched me into closing and strike and presenting at an awards ceremony… On zero sleep-juice, but all the artistic-yay…which is my main purpose on earth to obtain…meaning: I gained a legitimate real life, serious new theatre family-friend, and am exhausted today. 

Totally worth it. 

…These past two months of “crazy”: totally worth it. 

…Sharing a dressingroom exclusively with Cecil for an entire run: bliss. 

…Learning the subtle command of a friend’s artsistic influence over yours: educationally rewarding. 

…Being paid to play and work with the family you’ve hand-picked: fucking priceless. 

Hot damn, I’m lucky. 

(And I know it.) 

~D

Whew. Whoa. WHAT?!

15 Jan

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All the ink is dry in all the reviews for our show, which just seems to take this sizable monkey off my back, and let me settle in to do the work without outward distraction.

…Reviews aren’t supposed to matter, and some shows I don’t read them on purpose, because I’ve got a bigger plateful than other times, and need to be focused on “my show with my team” vs what other people are flinging at it. It’s difficult, because artists want feedback. But sometimes that feedback gets in the way, and just in case…I chose not to follow that yellow brick road, this time around.

…Course you can’t really get away from it anyway. Other people talk about it, drop you notes…you can’t do a show in a social bubble. So what I do know, is that whether people are “feeling” the content and amount of work they personally have to do to keep up with watching a Stoppard: consensus is — we are doing ours to help them out at it. So: that’s success. Not everything is for everyone, but the fear of en-mass walk-outs and angry refund demands, is over now.

…Now I just getta work and play, with the team. Which is pretty outstanding.

…And pretty essential. This week, especially.

When the world loses an entertainer, an artist, it immediately knee-jerks to its polar relationship with them. That one song, that painting, that movie, that concert. Because ART MATTERS, TO EVERYONE, even when they don’t realize it a lot of the time. It becomes like this crazy few days or weeks of manic memory bumps, and articles, and YouTube tribute videos…an explosion of new DVD, MP3 and CD sales.

When the Artistic world loses an entertainer, an Artist, we immediately knee-jerk to devastation. Because it isn’t about that one song or film or concert. It is about the loss of “family.” They were our teachers, our collaborative companions in countless instances, because of what they inspired, and wrote about and expressed when laymens words couldn’t scratch the surface. They made us want to be and do what we are. They were our freakin heroes, paved the way for us, encouraged us, showed us limitless options of looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary.

…We lost two big ones. Within 4 days.

Too much, too soon.

The tributes keep coming (as they should), and everyone mourns them in their own way. Sometimes it’s hysterical blubbering, sometimes a silent pictorial tribute, sometimes it’s about festing their work, reminding oneself of what a gift we’ve been left behind. I’m more the latter style, but I understand why people can take it to the extreme.

Art is so incredibly personal and builds a relationship like nothing else, between one stranger and another. What was meant by it in the creation might not be how it is received, but that is kind of the magical thing about it. Your interpretation is purely yours. It’s as private as you want it to be, and builds relationships based on that. It’s why we have favorite singers and writers and actors. Because somehow, though we’ve never met, they get us, and where we are at, and can show it better than we can even put into articulate sentences.

…And because of that, the loss of every artist means the loss of this matchless person who you should never be ashamed to mourn, tear up over, get pissed off, about. Guess what? Their job on this earth was to make you feel something, think something, consider something, that you never could have, with anyone else. That intimacy can’t be bought and sold in tickets…that, is personal.

It’s personal.

It’s family.

It’s a hero.

It hurts.

They went too soon, but dammit, the job they did while here…

Rest in peace dear Sirs.

…And, “thank you. From all the Family.”

~D

Another Tech Week

6 Jan

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I dunno how many blogs have been dedicated to this subject versus all the rest, but I’m fairly certain that based on the stress blowout needs that they bring: it’s gotta be a lot.

…Someday, I’ll attack one of these without topping onna 40 hour office work week as well, and am sure it will be like adding a great big dollop of cream cheese to a dry bagel.

…How much easier must it be to get it down without such harsh requirements from all corners and directions. What if you actually did these things on a full night’s sleep? With time for proper meals? No need for five cups of black coffee before noon? Or after 4 p.m?

…Being awake at two a.m. fixating on lines you fucked up in the run, wouldn’t cost so much the next morning. You wouldn’t have to be fighting so hard not to get the office cold everyone has…because there would be no “office”…

…And your “mind”…

…Your mind would be totally focused on only one major thing: to open this show and not fuck it up.

…Your whole entire day would be spent just in the service of this. To sleep until you wake up. To take a walk or workout or detox in your own favorite manner. To eat meals like a human being: at a table. With silverware. With nothing coming from a greasy bag or box. Time to run your lines and do more book work, time to blow out the stiffness that can happen after a long rehearsal process when the words start to become too taken for granted or automated. You could spend three hours just rehearsing that one scene with mock props, to get it as clean and seamless as it was back when you were just miming.

…How awesome to not have to wear out your voice all day long on phones and over report explanations, but be able to vocal rest, and warm up slowly and specifically, to exactly the parameters which service that particular role the best?

…In every way, on every day, it would be infinitely easier to do the Actors job, if it was the only one we needed to do. If every discipline of it could earn a living wage so that non-Hollywood-elite could have personal trainers to keep us fit, get us prepared for physical makeovers, smack fast food out of our hands and replace them with green high energy things. How much easier to have the beauticians do all the coloring and styling and preshow makeup. To just show up and do our job, and that would be enough.

…Sadly, of course, this isn’t the way. We do all that shit (and more) on our own, plus hold down whatever job we can manage to pay our bills.

…Which is what we all expected when we started this gig. But it doesn’t make the job any easier, knowing that.

…And it doesn’t make this Tech Week any less of a general living hell, than the last one was. It’s just a long-ass labor, you know is coming from the beginning. It’s mostly always worth it. This one will be. You just gotta think of that beautiful baby being born on Friday, suck it up, and take the sleeplessness, exhaustion, anxiety, and (often) literal pain, like a Boss.

Own it. As best you can.

Almost there…

…Almost…

…Almost…

…And stop fucking up that line…

~D

Some Early Sorkin

24 Dec

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I am festing “Sports Night.”

…It is my first night off for the Holiday, we start tech for “Arcadia” on Monday, which is, (coincidentally), when Corporate takes up residence in my office lobby again for a week, and top brass shows up the next. Just in time for Opening.

…I’m saying: this is the last breath before I suffocate under a mountain of stress, but even knowing that…I’m cool. Cuz I’m sipping on Christmas whiskey (as in ” a present” not “vintage” or “flavor”), and am watching one of my favorite writers, with a newly favorite cast, hinting at shadows of what is to come in all our futures.

I’ve always loved Sorkin, but it’s been a complicated relationship. Like many of his characters, he is an elitest, Ivy-League-educated, smarmy, asshole. But I can’t help liking him. Cuz talent is fucking sexy.

…Just so happens,  I have read and seen his plays, his master television works are quotable yearly fested go-tos,”American President” is one of the first of five DVDs I ever owned, and I have had countless conversations on character trait shares and cross indexing ‘tween all his works.

…’Cept this one.

…Because his Freshman effort is the last I have seen, and only, which I don’t own. Which is strange, and inexcusable, but “fact.” I know that whether I like sports or not, I would still be intrigued, cuz: it’s his. But for whatever reason, it has stayed an illusive missing piece, until my newly anointed Theatre Hubby and I got talking the other day (as we constantly do) and I mentioned my egregious error.

…So, he’s fixed it.

…I am blazing through his complete collection copy, like a house on fire…acknowledging the nods which will be addressed in Sorkin’s latter works, enjoying his spin this round on his particular formulas…and (possibly due to the math and patterns of “Arcadia”), really picking up on the specific algorithms of his life’s writing…like a thesis. You see how “this” character here, would later inspire “that”…his ever evolving ensemble troop of actors, is already well mixed and (though younger), well seasoned. The themes he will continue to deal with, the moments of contrast he will continue to play with, the dude-chick in upper-middle management power, the surly but lovable asshole…the liberal-with-a-cause, the unrequited love angle, the massive missunderstandings and false suspecting. The witty, nerdy, sexy, neurotic. The lion-hearted patriarch. It’s all there…even from the beginning.

…Which blows my mind…because even in its infancy, this was a cut above all the rest. Even the death of the unfortunate (but period-consistent) live audience laughter, was put to rest, well before say, M*A*S*H’s was. Because this wasn’t a comedic sitcom. It was not…even in the 90’s king of comedy years of “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and the rest…to be labeled as such. This was “theatre”… on television. And it seems that once they “got” that…all worked in it’s smooth, undulating, quirky way.

…Which is why it keeps getting canceled as well…because it doesn’t fit the “box demographic.” Sorkin requires you to listen, participate, and think. These are not (sadly) the things a television audience wants to do at the end of the day. They want to be “entertained.” And because Sorkin is a playwright, who makes film and television, his audience base is unfortunately the people who can’t tune in and up the ratings. Cuz we’re busy creating our own, on show days.

…So when we HAVE time, we fest. We feed, like thirsty vampires, on his creative blood.

…And it is delicious. And heartbreaking.

…Because we cannot seem to keep his work solvent and Prime Time , alone anymore. Which is a giant fucking shame. Because his gifts from politics to art to humanity to romance, are fucking brilliant. He’s that guy I’d love to antagonistically fight with and make love to, for like eternity. And in this: I am not alone.

…But the point is: to KNOW his work so intimately, yet be introduced to it’s beginnings at the end, it like a timewarp in evolution of art and politics of our time. He was so forward-thinking, yet so constructively challenging. He knew what we needed, but not how we’d get there. He built archetypes not within boxes, but hovering just outside them, and like Tennessee Williams, has spent his career perfecting the through-line of imperfection, within these archetypes.

…But, in the beginning it was different. It was younger, fresher, less “loaded” with bogged down realworld, shit.

…Which is almost heartbreaking. Because nearly every episode begins with an establishing shot of two buildings in New York, which we had always (until now) taken for granted.

My God, how much has changed for all of us, since then…

…Anyway, this is all to say, “Thanks, Bernard, for the brain and emo toys.”

Love,

That Hannah Chick.

~D

…”Hello?” (When Adele Sings Your Theme Song)

5 Nov

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Tonight launches our final week of performances of [title of show]…which (being a new company) has had a supremely small attendance for its run.

…This changes nothing at all about the intent of energy we performers begin these performances with, however does do a number on us as each one progresses.

…One doesn’t have limitless resources to extend without some sort of compensation. If you think of it in banking terms: you end up withdrawing more than you have in the account to help make up the difference…which leaves you in the hole by halfway in. And that has its repercussion on your metal and artistic being…leaving you overdrawn in self confidence, artistic joy, and energy.

…You take a hit, is what I’m saying.

…With every poorly attended or poorly received performance, it registers on some basic level. Which is shitty, but as an Artist, we’ve all been there. Maybe even once or twice per run. It’s really difficult, you try to shake it off, reboot, find a reinvigoration source, and launch at it again, hoping for the best next time. And that’s usually the end of that.

…This run, however, has become an ongoing set-up of repeat hits so consistent, it feels like one is prepping for war every night…a war against ghosts that somehow seem to unseat you and suck the life from you with the weapon of nothingness. It is an unsettling prep, I have had to try and learn to make…at the 11th hour…not knowing until places call if we are at a total cancellation (which has happened twice thus far, due to zero bodies present), or a repeat of another performance to four people (which happened three times last week, meaning 12 people total saw it, combined.)

…Rough audiences and small houses by all means happen…but in well over fifty productions, I’ve never seen the like of this before. Attempting to keep ones head in the game before a show, and focus on intent and pace and energetic enthusiasm without over-compensating or being pulled into a black hole of depression is like 99% of my time spent once the curtain speech begins. And I’ve come to the well-tried conclusion by now: I don’t like it.

…Embracing my character and cast mates, and growing our relationship through nightly choices and consistent ground-work is what I like. I find that the rest tends to take care of itself if you are present and openly aware. But I’ve also now found that being present and openly aware is like a super-drug-OD-hit, when it is to a room of silence. The awareness rockets skyward and I end up having to fight instead of embrace.

…Which is not to discount the four people who do come…cuz God knows their job is awkward as hell now too. How are they supposed to fill an entire room with active awareness and joy? Anyone who’s seen a comedy at home on their couch alone must understand on some level that shit just ain’t funny when you’re the only witness to it. Comedy is a team sport…It needs way more “thems” to stock up the laughter ammo.

…Which leaves us at this epic kind of theatre fail which is sorta no one’s fault, really. We’re doing our job, they are trying to do theirs, and though we are in the same room, it’s like we are actually separated by like 1300 miles and years of distance.

….In short: Adele totally just sang our artistic life theme song…

…Which you’d think would be way cool. But under the circumstances, kinda isn’t.

~D

Fatal Comedy

28 Aug

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A joke:

A chick steps off stage after her final number of a final performance, and suddenly silently bursts into tears. From equal parts joy, pain, and unfathomable relief, she crumples against the wall in the theatre wings as the final scene plays out onstage, and makes a promise to herself.

…”I’m never doing another fucking musical for the rest of my life. So help me God.”

…And she totally kept that promise. For four years.

…Then, one day (early this week) a Union house says, ” Hey yeah…we wanna pay you to do this musical.”

…So the chick totally undergoes a severe flashback musical trauma PTSD instantly, and fires back a response doing damn near everything to talk them outta it.

“I’m super rusty,” she says. “It’s been four years since I’ve sung a note! I didn’t audition for the musical on purpose…you really prob’ly don’t want me in this.”

….And then they say, “Um, yeah, no…we really do. This is like a legit paying gig offer, for our premier show, in our first season, with extension option. So…you wanna join us or what?”

…And the chick, who is still freaking out from the first time it was offered, realizes that shit just got real. There in no real choice here if she wants to move forward. This is that thing she’s been fucking waiting for, it’s here, it’s now. It’s that “time” and “place” and “opportunity” she has been working her ass off for: A pro Rep company, in her own town, blocks from her doorstep. And they want her.

…It’s here. All the things…are right here.

…So she fashions a response, and presses “send,” trying not to puke from terror and the insane truth that: getting what you want can sometimes be supremely overwhelming.

…And the punch line is:

She loses the bet, but wins all the things. Just one day…from outta nowhere.

…Which is all to say: hey guys, I’m doin’ a mutherfucking musical! And by some wink of fate, it happens to be this one:

https://youtu.be/9DDdM66_nSI

Who’duv thought…

I mean: really.

~D

Hey, Kid I Know…

13 Feb

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Dear Kid I’m Working With~

Look, I’m gonna play it straight with you: kids are not my favorite people.  They used to be, and then I grew out of them.

…I frankly no longer have the patience for your antics, fits, mess, lack of personal space, penchant for screaming at a pitch that only dogs should be able to hear, throwing fits in supermarkets, getting goo everywhere, inexhaustible energy; smart-ass attitude, annoying precociousness, and/or creepy attempts to act like you’re 35 when you’re actually 8.  What with all the digital world of internets and gaming and hashtagging also now added to the mix with this generation, I don’t even know how to communicate with you people anymore. 

See, kids have changed. They used to be introduced to things like real-world etiquette, discipline, and imagination. They used to have respect. They used to actively “play.” Like: games without plastic controllers. Outside.* And they used to be “kids.”

(* It’s this place with dirt and trees and no walls around it, that you— never mind…)

…So no, kids aren’t my bag.  Which means that every time I work on a show with you people, it becomes a huge “gird your loins” moment for me. 

…It’s having to watch and try to temper every single “sunofabitch” and “fuck” that naturally wants to erupt when one screws things up royally. (Which you’ve obviously seen: I do plenty.) It’s having to put you first in every moment in every scene that we usher you through.  It’s constantly checking in after every stage fight and altercation, terrified that some horrible bruise matching any one of our own, will end up having child protective services banging on our door and hauling us away in handcuffs.  Plus the frustration of you little bastards knowing every single damn line we keep fucking up, and not even breathing heavy after nine minutes thrashing around or dancing or whatever-ing, when the rest of us all want to collapse on the cold concrete and just die.

…None of which is counting the off-stage moments in rehearsal…with your little high-pitched voices constantly running a mile a minute, gluing yourselves to one another in giggling bunches, fighting with one another, squirming and making noise during emotional moments, your by-and-large total inability to focus on anything but cell phone screens, lighting fixtures, or dust floaties in the air…unwillingness to “play” or look “uncool,” and like a cat somehow know the exact wrong person to follow around in a room full of other people who would actually welcome and adore your attention.

I have done my damndest to stay away from environments like this, on purpose.  I’d rather bleed from my eyeballs than endure a production of “Matilda,” “Bye, Bye Birdie,” or “The Wizard of Oz.”  I’ve only ever done one children’s theatre show, which I still haven’t recovered from…and you literally could not pay me enough to do something like “Annie.”

…That being said, as cantankerous as I am about it, I gotta admit: some of you people aren’t the worst.

I’ve known a few.

…One singular “tween” with whom I would work in several shows across several seasons, proved my “all-kids-suck” rule was for-shit.  At least in her case.  SHE didn’t-suck so much, she became like a little sister, a best pal, who would rightly (we always said she would) go onto NY and LA and all round-the-world, spewing her talent all over the damn place.

…For reasons stemming 100% on a bucket list role, I voluntarily and happily walked right into this thing called, “Oliver!” once, with about three hundred of you people totally surrounding me.  And every single damn one of the yous were fucking amazing, outstanding, hardworking “artists”…I don’t give a shit how wide the age-range gap ran.

…And if you want to talk about “horror:” a cast-full of teenage girls for “Children’s Hour?!”  This hugely emotional roller coaster job to do, based completely off of a group of young women being able to sell a performance of lies and nasty intentions so well that is catapults and obliterates the lives of every adult sharing the stage with them.  And they fucking DID!  Every night! Like goddamn Rock Stars!

…Meanwhile, ”The Diary of Anne Frank” is completely ushered, bound, and delivered on the shoulders of a 13 year-old girl.  And in the almost unheard of casting choice, ours actually WAS that age.  Have you any idea the fucking weight of that role on even a young ADULT, let alone a “girl” who hasn’t even experienced an iota of real-life emotional equivalency to inform her of what she is about to put herself through every performance?  A freaking ball-buster of awesome, who worked like a damn draft-horse, pulling us along with her. Every. Single. Night.

…In other words: I’ve been lucky.  Like… supremely.  The pit-of-my-stomach ache of uncertainty of how in the hell we would be able to swing these shows, ended up being for nothing.  Because these kids were special…these kids grew from crops bearing hard work and determination and dedication and support and monster abilities.  I’ve felt surrounded by some kind of freak genetically altered talent-fruit, just being around them.  And by the end – with not a single exception – I have seen them not as kids at all…but as co-working artists. Because they were. And are. 

…Which brings me to you.

We aren’t as emotionally close in “real life” as I was with a lot of those other young people. And I admit, a huge giant-ass part of the difficulty in this piece revolves around the fact that you can not only NOT help ME out, you cannot even help YOURSELF. Such is the nature of the story, and this script. We all knew this going in, but that does not alleviate the weight that it brings (literally), in what is required to get this show up, on its feet, and run in complete, each performance.

…And what I have to lift, YOU have to provide.  All of it.  Dead-weight, in body, emotionally feeding me every frustration, beating, slapping, pinching, and slamming your body into mine…repeat, after repeat, after repeat. Drawing me into your mind and thought process with only facial cues and touch to tell me where you are and what is happening at any given moment. 

…And you cannot see.

…You cannot hear.

…You cannot speak.

…You cannot understand.

Kid, this entire show works exclusively on the fact that every single fucking audience member who walks through those doors will believe it.  Believe it so thoroughly and emotionally that what we have all just literally busted ourselves black and blue for MEANS something, SAYS something, and that by the final moment in our little pool of light, we will have earned and lived up to the job we’ve been entrusted with: telling the story of these two amazing women who did it all for real.

…That is so damn much to ask of you.

I know it.

…But you know what ELSE I know?

(…Like in that pit of my stomach where it usually sits all sour and undigested-feeling, every time I know that a kid is about to be involved in something super high-stakes and emotional…?)

I fucking know, without a doubt, you can…and WILL…do this.

…And when those lights fade out on Opening Night, everyone else is gonna have to stand behind me. Cuz I’LL be your number one fan…waiting to shake your hand.

Actor to actor.

Thanks for the work, partner.  You’re alright.

…For a kid.

~D

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