Tag Archives: characters

The Old Woman

27 Jan

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…some brain away time…

***

There’s this old woman.

…She looks a little like me, and she spends a lot of time at this book cafe, sipping at endless cups of coffee, leaving large red slash-stains along the porcelain lip.

…She doesn’t talk to people, mostly remains consumed in her books and papers, only sometimes, will sit back…take off her reading glasses, put a perfectly manicured hand to the back of her neck, and ease out a kink of stiffness settled in there, from too many hours of bowing over her work.

…And she is working…always…on something. Her interests are totally eclectic, but somehow themed across pockets of time, which only the wait staff will notice, because she has come here…for years…doing the very same thing. Alone at her table.

…But never, “lonely.”

…When not absorbed in her studies, she does manage to recognize the human beings all round her. She watches them, in fact. Rather closely.

…The students taking up multiple tables together, books, laptops, and papers everywhere. The quiet and comfortable husband and wife settled in, consumed in their newspaper and magazine, as they prob’ly have, in exactly the same way, over Saturday morning breakfast for the past however many years. There are the young people gabbing back and forth “at” one another (rather than “to”)…as one cannot hold actual conversation with a person, burried in their cellphone news and social  feeds.

…Sometimes, there are the awkward couples on first dates, the families with little people and their weary parents,  focused on the coffee reader board ahead and the promise of help that it will bring to their harried day.

…Sometime, it’s a man or a woman, alone. Some used to it, some visibly uncomfortable, as if wearing a new skin.

…She imagines their fuller selves as she watches, these pairings and singles…what they stepped out of to come here today…what awaits when they get home. What is their work? How do they play? Is the marriage one of old friends? Will there be a second date?

…The old woman watches all of this. But not with longing, or necessarily a sense of disconnect.

…She knows these stories. Well. In some way, you could say that she has lived all these lives, parading around her, and even holds special memories of the minutest degree, about them…from when it was her time…her sister, her son, her lover, her friend… “her,” thirty-five years ago, sitting alone like that one there…fully confident, hard at work, totally at ease…being the single, solitary lady at a table, in public, consumed in whatever the hell she was doing.

…But the secret she holds, sitting at her far end table, is one that no one in the cafe would ever imagine, or believe… to just look at her…even if they did.

…Which, they rarely do. Because why should they? To the eye, she is just an old woman, sitting in a cafe. Alone. So: a “spinster” or a “widow”…but of nothing any more complex or engaging to the curiosity.

To the young: she’s nonexistent. To the couples, perhaps a lonely peek at their one day inevitable future, to the singles…a potent gut kick of panic, “Dear God, what if someday, that is me? Alone. At a table. Just the same as I am now?”

…And every once in a while, because the old woman is keenly observant, she can feel these thoughts actually eeking out from the looks and gestures of those who are thinking them. For she is quite good at interpreting these even slightest of facial hints.

…After all, it is her profession.

…And I say, “is” not “was,” because she has been lucky with a job description one cannot age out of. In fact she is working, even now…at that table, as she has been for years on end. She is at study, waiting for a peek of something curious and extraordinary, blended into the everyday average of the average person’s busy day.

…She studies them like a scientist, interprets as an analyst, clicks in with their emotions, builds them in her mind as characters in say…a book.

Of course this doesn’t mean she knows the answers, that isn’t the point. It’s the art form of “what if” that she is after. Because life has so much endless possibility in even the most mundane of appearances.

…For instance, just looking at her…this old woman, alone at a table…could you imagine her true actual self? That she’s been a high end prostitute, a nun, an inventor, was once mostly blind, had been stabbed and shot a good many times, and had done her fair share of brutality, up to murder…several times. She was a lesbian with many male lovers, and a mistress…but also a spinster, with countless marriages, and children now dotting the globe in all ages, races, and colors.

…As well, as can toss back a neat double of whiskey as swift as any burley biker, holds more secrets than a government official at voting time, and has plans to meet up later with a gob of people twenty or more years her junior, where she will have love affairs, in public, and then go out drinking afterwards…just for the fucking fun of it.

Not for a moment, would this occur to any of the occupants at the other tables, nor the wait staff she’s known by sight for a decade or more. For despite her volcanic and tumultuous past, she is an introvert, and had always preferred to be the keeper of the secrets, than “out” them. It’s always been more fun, that way.

…Except sometimes…

…When she takes a look round a crowded cafe and spots a woman, alone, also sitting back and taking in the room. Their eyes meet. Across time and space, a connection is formed lasting perhaps only a beat.

Maybe the younger woman nods her head slightly. Maybe the old one winks. A smile begins on both mouths…saying nothing and everything. Kindred spirits: a meeting.

The younger woman holds the glance as if to say, “I see you, I know you, I will be you someday. And I’m pretty damn cool with that, actually. ”

…To which the old woman manages an actual chuckle and tilt of her head, as if to say: “Honey, are you in for a hell of a treat…”

~D

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Annoying Necessities

4 Feb

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Marketing has begun in earnest on “Miracle,” and I’m faced with the immediate knee-jerk reaction to go on defense against what can only be stated as, “good common sense, solid name recognition, and branding hype.”  In short, it is very annoying, very necessary, and very practical.  And I hate it.

…Which can come off as incredibly snotty and apparently self-serving, given my role.  This was not my intent when this morning’s happy post of the theatre marquee change hit FB.  It should have frankly excited the hell out of me!  We are 15 days from opening, with a killer cast who is constantly fighting for and making smart and informed choices, a crew who is totally supportive and accommodating, down to wiping smashed eggs and water off of every theatre surface we touch, and a director who isn’t interested in self-pity or being pretty, but wants it real, and hard, and inevitably dirty. 

The basis of this rehearsal period has been like boot camp, with the outrageous demands on body and psyche hammered every rehearsal, every day.  I’m not what I’d call “in shape” by any means of gym-regime definition, but I can lift a damn 80 pound kid in a one-arm curl as she squirms, while walking down stairs, grab a 20 pound chair with the other hand, slam it down, and her on top of it, then commence with a struggle ending three times on a cement floor, in a corset, as only about 50 seconds of a 9 minute battle scene.  My body, such as it is, imperfect as it is, has grown to embrace and muscle through things I could never imagine previously…nor frankly even at the beginning of the night before it is done. 

…This is a beat-show…where every moment, I have to focus absolutely everything I have on “right now, this moment.”  There is no room for the arch that reaches beginning to end, that arch will take care of itself thanks to the book work and previous rehearsals we’ve had.  I can’t think about the “allness” of it…I need to focus on this kid, this moment, this task…which given the circumstances of theatre and an untrained fairly savant Helen, requires me to be on my toes for any new accommodation that might be necessary.

(Keep in mind, this is only “playing” this person in her struggle against unheard of odds, for two hours. Not actually living it, day-to-day, as she did.)

…And I fucking love it. 

It is mind-numbingly difficult, and requires all I have, to do it.

…Which makes me think of this interview with Imelda Staunton I was listening to, yesterday. 

…By the time she hits 7:53, I had a total “YES! YES! YES!” moment of confirmation.  I am not the only freak who enjoys the struggle and ass-kicking more than the rest of it.  But where we veered in attack, was my absolute fight for the biography.  And that biography, I’ve been swimming in from all different  corners of the internet and book pages, for months now.  Months of confirmations and months of proofing, and months of reading over and over and over again how easily Anne Sullivan was dismissed as a mere coda in the events of Helen Keller’s education and life.  As if she was not only NOT directly responsible for it, but that she was apparently unable even to exist without hanging onto her apron strings later in life. 

…As if her efforts and achievements completely ended at the water pump that day, instead of merely transitioning into a “part three” of a long life, already full of adversity and achievement unto itself.

…Which makes seeing the marquee, seem like another slap in the face, or brushing aside…belittling at least half of the story which gave us the reason we– any of us– even know who Helen Keller is today.

…The fact that for smart purposes, it reads: “The Incredible story of Helen Keller” above the title, shouldn’t bother me, in theory.  But it does.  And it seems that even though Gibson specifically wrote this piece as a sort of love letter to Annie herself, and even in the title, refers to her…what we know about this show in the collective consciousness is exactly what the marquee claims.  The fact that even a show about Annie’s history and work, gives Helen top billing, because that is how her work has been regarded historically, sucks.  And I’m not saying this from the Actor’s perspective of not getting “my” character’s name up in lights. I’m saying it for the simple fact that Annie herself deserves it to be there.  Of its own accord. In her own biography. And stand just as strong in recognition without Helen’s beside it.

…What bothers me is that no matter how many books are written, or times this show is ever produced, THIS is going to be the marketing necessitated…because without Helen, who-the-hell is this “Annie Sullivan” person?

…To which I say, “Without Annie Sullivan, who the hell is Helen Keller?”

~D

14 Costume Changes & Some Acting

29 Aug

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Bit of a clothes horse, me.

…An option of fitting a first dress in before tech was jumped on, so we could focus on one horrifying onslaught before a tidal wave of others come in to cream us this Saturday. And so, a first dress was had. Last night. And it wasn’t particularly brutal on anything except my feet (dear three and four inch heals…you’re assholes. It’s a good thing you’re cute.)

….Anyway…we charged ahead, I broke some things, we managed line-call-free, fit in all my 14 costume changes, and called it a late night for the first time since we began rehearsals…but we DID it, which I think is the important thing to focus on at this point.

…At this point.

The last time I did a two-hander show was “Oleanna”…again: a professor and a student, having at one another for two hours of stage time. Just me: just him. That’s it, folks.

…The amount of focus, LISTENING, line retention, blocking and prop movement is insane. It REQUIRES nothing less than 100% lock-and-load on the other actor…so that no matter what choices/accidents/line-flubs/enlightenments/emotions are flying around through the air between you…you are a one-entity receptor.

…It’s like ballroom dancing, in a two-hour-long competition, where we both take turns taking the lead, changing styles from fox trot to samba to waltzing seamlessly, at any given moment, and attempting to do it all without one single misstep. Your anchor is in the eyes of the other guy…you make the audience phase out into the wallpaper and bookcases of your world, and together you begin on step one…and it never ends or eases up until the curtain goes down.

…And we know this from experience. As even before costumes and props were added, every break has been filled with line running and blocking, since day one. We don’t pop out of focus, we still can laugh, take a slog of water, and a quick slash…but damn if we’re not still running a monologue while in the loo, walking blocking while feeding from a water bottle on set, or futzing with props ad nauseum. Because we have to. And that’s okay. Because we happen to really fucking love it, you know?

…Like really. A lot.

Difficult is good. Frustration can be tempered and recycled into something better next time, thanks to the lessons you’ve learned. And when you click with a character who you know in your guts…who you can access without interruption in mind or manner…it’s a fantastic ride to be on. Even more so when you trust…really TRUST the team behind you, and that guy right there opposite you, on stage, every night.

…Even on the days of frustration and energy-sap…even when I know there’s more we can find in a moment (and we will, next time)…there is nothing lacking in the team work…in the connections we’ve made, in the amount of fight it takes for two people to command the stage alone… lifting words from a page, into something exciting and wistful, amusing and dangerous, hysterical and poignant, witty and humble. It’s an honor, a challenge, a fucking hell of a ride.

…And every night, when it’s over, the realization comes crashing in, on the ride home…as the adrenaline drains from every pore: and complete mental and physical exhaustion smacks us stupid with inevitable result. We are totally…right now…this second…living an actors dream.

Hells. Freakin.’ Yes.

Bring it, tech week.

~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

Manic, Twisted, & Sexy

28 May

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Today, I have three less personalities to concentrate on, still leaving me with a sizable deck yet to be sorted.

…A great new program at the UWT has been attempting to launch a theatre works interest, not only to the student body but local community as well.  Some of it’s leading professors have brought in a handful of actors to work both with the student playwrights and faculty, to do read performances with talk-backs to get the ball rolling, and I’ve been supremely lucky to be amongst those handful. 

I LOVE contributing in my own backyard…my own city…blocks away from my little home.  I love that they are eager to bring more arts to the area, use it’s local artists as resources, engage audiences made of faculty and students and community, in talk-backs about social issues, politics, art, and literature.  I love being part of a grass-roots movement, and that as more and more educational systems are phasing OUT the arts in their schools, we have a very esteemed University staff stating, “No!  In fact, we don’t have ENOUGH!” 

…How awesome is THAT?!

(I know, right?)

…Which is WHY I now have three less contributors to my psyche, in as much as last night we finished another such read, with a wonderfully alert house-full, engaged in the process, the structure, and the event as a whole. A fine study on mental illness and addiction and the affects they leave in their wake. I had a hell of a lot of fun as the bipolar, self-drug-prescribing, alcoholic root of it all, playing with tight text, exercising a little of my own demons, and having an exhausting wale of a time. These are the kind of work outs, (when married with a dream cast of close buds), when you really getta blow it all out there with full conviction, knowing full-well you are supporting, and are supported by, the best.

It only gets better than this, when it’s up on it’s feet and in full performance…

…Which, speaking of, leads us to the next part of the personality deck: A twisted little tale of sisterly sexual obsession and dark deeds.

“The Maids,” a translation from the Genet original, is next up on the calendar…with hopes to butt it snugly up against a mainstay of my bucket list, which will be auditioning next week.

…So, currently, I’ve a Scouser hairdresser a-la Pygmalion (“Educating Rita”) sharing space with a twisted turn-of-the-century homicidal Frenchy who likes to play-act as others. It’s an interesting combo up in my head these days, to say the least…which I obviously love, as only an actor would voluntarily piggy-back that range and number of personalities together at one time. Dropping the manic-bipolar-drugged-up-drunk off my back, makes the rest left over seem almost feasible at this point.

…So now I’ve only to concentrate on the massive “Maids” line load, break down my script as to whom I am “playing” when, and prep a monologue. Pffft!! Piece of fucking cake!

…Except, minus the cake.

…Cuz I’ve seen what we are wearing in this little French horror story, and the deconstructed waste of seedy, stringy undergarments we will be sporting, while slithering all over one another, requires yet another diet regime to flog and whip my body into a submissive state that I feel comfortable slobbering all over a stage in my “altogethers.” Well, as comfortable as one can be, anyway.

…I wonder if going vegetarian is the key? I wonder if I could even fathom a world without meat for any real length of time?

…I wonder if The WHS Pimp would survive the wasteland of this office with an hormonal and pregnant receptionist, and a meat-addicted me on the wagon?

…Fuck that…would the WORLD survive it??

…This is prob’ly TBA.

…But definitely not till after I finish this donut…

~D

How The “Actress” Ages

5 Feb

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Listen up, it’d be easy to call it a “formula”…like there is science and reason behind it, but the truth is: a female actor ages roughly three times the speed of a male one, and that is the truth.

…This is not in “actual” body, this is measured in a thing called, “playable age,” which means the gap you can fill, based on what you look like and your “type.”

The older you get, the wider the gap ‘tween the sexes age in comparison, gets. This is how Sally Field played Tom Hanks’ love interest in 1988, and his mother by 1994, only six years later.

…That’s a sizable swing, people.

The fellas get to age as it comes to them, regardless of number, primarily filling three titles across a career: Child, Love Interest, Old Man. Women get four: Child, Love Interest, Mother, Crone. Yes, women get an extra label in there, but the major difference shows when you plug in the actual playable ages of what these times of life are considered by Casting Directors.

Women
Child – Infant to preteen
Love Interest – Preteen to 25
Mother – 25 -35
Crone- 35 1/2 – onward

Men
Child – Infant to preteen
Love Interest – Preteen to 170
Old Man – 171 onward.

…This is the actual truth. (Sort of.)

…The only break we really get, (as women performers), is if we happen to be Character Actors. In which case, even BEFORE 35, we have already (at some point) played one or two Crones, and our fair share of “Mothers” anyway…so the smack in the face for “playable age” isn’t such a big deal.

…In my case, looking at the cast list yesterday…I just thought it was funny.

…Sort of a little bit depressing…but I can still smirk about it.

…About what, you ask? Oh yeah…I forgot to mention:

One of the next two roles, in this show I’m working on, has me playing opposite an adorable, hilarious fella, I last worked with in “Anne Frank.”

…At the time, he was playing Otto, Anne’s father.

…And now: he’s my son.

With this kinda “comedy,” who needs drama?

😉

~D

A Rehearsal Post

28 Aug

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Sitting in the house, while an oddly masculine woman plans her debutant daughter’s party, as her husband schemes homicide.

Now: Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre interrogate our hero.

…There are only two people on the stage.

It’s a long one, (as far as they go in this show full of French scene madness.)

…Six and a half pages.

The finale of Act One.

Psychotic Nazis, world overthrow, frenetic gun brandishing, top secret-secrets, maniacal laughing, rampant crossdressing, murder, peepshows, and self-propelled seating.

Six pages.

…Oop! Back to beginners, I’m up!

***

Later: Just back from Scotland. Baking accidentally phallic bread loafs, tucking in murderers for a good night’s sleep, and watching a lover escape into the night, through the “rear window.”

…It’s been a full night already, and we’ve been at it less than an hour.

First, came an “underware parade,” for instance.

…This is how you know I’m in a show, cuz in real life, I haven’t worn so little as a one piece swimming suite in public in over a decade. Yet tonight began, trying on high heels and period underwear, while the costumer and everyone watched me parade around, flop about, and mock die, so they could talk function, light, and color notes.

…Like every other prop on stage.

…And now they’ve moved on.

…Via a slow motion chase scene.

***

Next: an assembly hall, featuring the oldest man in the world, and a fuck-all political speech that would make Aaron Sorkin sit up and take notice. Mostly cuz it’s so long and terrible.

…In all the good ways.

***

Nexter: Invisible car ride through the moores, followed by erotic ballet by handcuff.

…I’m telling you, this show has freakin’ everything!

And more.

~D

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