Tag Archives: classics

Some Dames

23 Dec

Off hand, I can’t think of anything that links them aside from their sex. Even their talents were in different departments…but this week, when not hitting the books like crazy sauce in biographical prep for a drama, I’ve been spending my down (and sick) time in between, resting my eyes and writer’s cramp on some other dames I know.

…Old friends and teachers all-three. I’ve no idea how I selected this particular stream of films to follow other than, I guess, the ladies were a tonic I needed at the time, and wrapping up my last day off in a row, with sniffles and coughs and general “ick” about, all I can say is, “what a way to go.”

Women who defied and yet defined their particular archetypes, in a swirling dervish of talent.

…One: classy and refined…cast primarily as the elegant English Rose, though she was more of a fiery Scot in actuality.
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The next: one of the top screwball gals who defined the genre as Frank Capra’s favorite Leading Lady, all the while hating both fame and publicity second only to Garbo, in the annals of Hollywood history.
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And last, but certainly not least: a blonde with a voice that could shatter glass, who made bank (and an Oscar) in the ditz market, though in reality was neither blonde nor dim-witted, but sported a cultured mezzo speaking voice, and a recorded IQ of 172.
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These: my playmates for the week, serving up many, many laughs (and some tears too, as needed.) Excellent sport, to watch them at work in their own dynamics with costars, seeing how they cater each role and relationship accordingly. If I’ve seen these movies once, I’ve seen ’em a thousand times. And how you know a performance and the artist doing it is good is: it never gets old. You wait for those best bits of dialogue and looks and interactions, like a kid waits for Christmas. And because it’s saved forever on film, the joy of it landing with perfection…every time…is a surefire guarantee.

…And hot damn but these dames were good at the game. Played the hell out of the stereotype they were prescribed to (as most were in those years in Hollywood), meanwhile managing somehow to one up the system at the same time.

Deborah Kerr owned the entire world of beautifully bone-structured, stately English wife and motherdom…until she decided to flip it the finger, drop the accent, bleach the red from her hair and role in the sand having extramarital sex onna beach, somehow stumping the censors so hard they let it pass…as surely if saintly Deborah Kerr does it, it can’t be immoral in any way…can it?

Listen: nothing is quite as twisted as her end scene in “The Innocents,” as tear-jerky as her pretending she missed the appointment on top of the Empire State building on purpose in “An Affair To Remember,” or as frustrating as her chaste love, refusing to deny her final vows to the novate in “Heaven Knows Mr. Allison.” It’s true what they say about good girls, “when they are good, they’re good…but when they’re bad, they’re better.” Sometimes, you just need some, “From Here To Eternity.”

…And sometimes you need some Jean Arthur…who was virtually a ghost of a celebrity, hating everything to do with it, though one assumes, not the “acting” bit. She was said to refuse most PR responsibilities regardless of the contract, and suffered terrible stage fright, doubting her every choice and needing coaxing to go on often times. But when she was “on,” whatever she touched turned gold…helped greatly by the fact that people like Capra and Howard Hawks and George Stevens knew a good thing when they saw it. And put it up there with people like Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart.

…Awesome as her politically wry and pessimistic Saunders is in, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, ” and emotionally clobbered and confused in, “Only Angels Have Wings,” watching her navigate the physical requirement of fast-paced comedy like her Oscar-nom’d performance in, “The More The Merrier,” on a dime of precision that could stop just shy of a single bat of a wing before the butterfly effect…is fairly amazeballs. Especially knowing her confidence was at like zero, and yet she would still one day teach a class at Vassar, passing on that knowledge (through mind-waves I suppose) to none other than student Meryl Streep.

Finally, then comes my great binge for today: the brilliant blonde bombshell, Judy Holliday. “Bells Are Ringing,” “It Should Happen To You,” “Full of Life,” and “Pfft,” are choice…but nothing touches her “Born Yesterday.” How you know is: she won the Oscar fair and square…but in the only comedy competing in the biggest cinematic year in Hollywood history, since 1939…beating out veterans Bette Davis in “All About Eve,” and Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard.”

…She was 29 during filming, had nearly lost the role to every eligibly aged actress at the time, as though she had originated it on Broadway…they claimed she had no “star quality” to bank on. Even stranger twist of fate being, the role had been written for Jean Arthur, who in another fit of nerves, had pulled out just before it opened…leaving Judy three days to learn the role, cold. Not even having been an understudy.

…The show opened, as scheduled, and she would perform the role 1200 times, before finally landing the contract at Columbia, and giving a performance on film, so totally fresh and inventive…yet beat-perfect…that it slaughtered the acting competition in a year of diva-supremes.

Her particular “light” burned out far too soon, at 42, from cancer. But not before leaving several killer Comden and Green collaborations, a slew of Broadway performances, and a son behind. Not least of which, she was the only person to face the McCarthy hearings unscathed, beating him so coolly as to not name names or face blacklisting, by acting the part of the dumb blonde everyone still assumed she was, (and totally getting away with it.) Just beginning to finally break free of the stigma roles which made her a star, she had formed a plan, before a second battle with cancer, took her life.

…A sad ending, tragic for the loss of talent, and where else it might have shown. But then, much the same can be said of Jean Arthur’s early retirement after “Shane.”

Either way, I have them now. They belong to me and their performances, from grave to grinning, are glorious. It’s good to visit with old friends, and check in from time to time…and it had been too long. Sincerely glad to have had the chance (even if it cost me a cold) to meet up and check in again.

…The ol’ girls really hold up. They dont look as if they’ve aged even a single day. You should drop in on them sometime, yourself. 😉

– D

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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

A Win, By The Numbers!

24 Jun

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Wanna know some awesome?

New stats just in for “Earnest:” 

…At the completion of our second weekend, we’ve pulled into the 4th highest grossing show of the season, (of 6.)  That is not trend sells, that is total box office.  Which means if “Earnest” closed today, we’d be 4th of the season.  We still have three weeks left of our run.

…Further fun?

We are #1 in weekly grossing ticket sales…not just of this year, but of the entire past two seasons.

This (of course) is due in large part to our killer reviews, brilliant designers, amazing direction, hands-on SM wizarding, and some pretty funny people on stage.

…And these numbers are something to be proud of, not ONLY because we’ve yet to even reach halfway into our run, but because Summer is a difficult theatre sell with all the blockbusters hitting the screens, people taking off on vacations, and everyone rather being out in the sun than anywhere else, that is not.  And also the fact that this is not a musical, features no children, and is a small cast.

…As an idea of house projections, for instance…(set by people who watch the trends year after year)…”Earnest” was set at a 38% ticket sell projection.  We are currently holding at a 70% average.

…Uber exciting news in numbers, buckage, AND (not least of all), hope for the future.  Because combining that with “Twelfth Night’s” ALSO surprise final numbers, proves that the classics are very much in healthy attendance and demand in the arts and theatre arena in the area at present.  SUCH a welcome piece of info for so many of us actors in the region.  Good solid scripts, good solid roles, proven over time.  Who could ask for anything more?  Especially with things like “Pride & Prejudice” coming up around the Holiday season.

…And as I finally finished the final press trailer (which posted today)…we can only hope a new bump in sales will follow, pushing us past our often quivering closeness to full-blown sell-out performances.

…Especially Thursday.  As it’s Actor’s Benefit.  And we are all poor.

(hint, hint)

Thanks to the friends and fam who have already come, to those who plan to, for the ones who will see it several times, and the ones who bring fresh blood with them when they do!

These are YOUR sales numbers too!  We couldn’t have done it without yuh 🙂

~D

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