Tag Archives: film

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

The **Non-Spoiler** Blog About [that one movie]

22 Dec

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In an effort not to be assholes, (or get shanked by pain-of-death warning alerts put into human form), this week’s vaguebooking on [certain movie] on the Facebooks, has taken a whole new turn in self-denial social media. It’s like parental blocking, only for nerds, and proves that it is actually possible to go through life as oblivious as one wants to, and yet still somehow actively participate.

…I’d say we’ve come a long way from the whole tester “Game of Thrones” spoiler debacle. I don’t even watch that damn show and even I knew what happened with whats-his-face and her in that one scene.

…Which is good. I mean, IF you’re gonna fuck something like that up, best NOT to be the “Holy Grail” from childhood.

…Because, even if you don’t consider yourself a giant [certain movie] fan…it still packs a punch in your gut, if for nothing else than that this was a formative moment in our youth…in two generations (and now three) of it.

…Even if you hated [three certain movies], and loved, or were indifferent to the others, they were still very much there…in the landscape of your adolescent consciousness.

…And even if [character name] wasn’t your first crush, or a poster of [character name] didn’t hang on your wall, or you didn’t have the entire [place] in Leggo form, a [prop] in identical replication on your bookcase, the entire [collection] in hardbound, or [character name] wasn’t responsible for your first [uncontrollable anatomical purge]…every morning…for four years…you STILL were landblasted by the commercials, trailers, toys, and general everywhereness of media about it.

So, let’s be real: it does matter to you.

…[certain movie] is a sort of time capsule, in a way. Its theme song is as powerful as that breakup song you bawled through on 24 hour loop repeat, in nineth grade. Its characters are like looking back at yearbooks from High School. The signature [stuff], the constancy of [other thing]…it all comes wooshing back the absolute second the lights go out and [that one guy’s] trumpet blare blow begins the [sound] and the [feeling] of the thing until it sorta makes you wanna bawl like a three year old child.

…Which is why, if you haven’t, you should “GET YOUR DAMN ASS TO THE THEATRE AND SEE IT ALREADY! SOME OF US GOT SHIT TO TALK ABOUT, AND YOU’RE KILLIN’ OUR OBSESSIVE BOOK-ON-FB-POST-JOY!”

…Yes, I’m talking to you: [that one guy]!

~D

So Meta

15 Apr

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So I’m watching film about actors in the  theatre…which is like my favorite thing.

…You know: “All About Eve,” “Bullet’s Over Broadway,” Being Julia, ” “Noises Off,” “A Midwinters Tale,” “Somewhere In Time,” “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” “Curtain Call, ” Stage Fright,” “Tootsie,” “Waiting For Guffman,” “Shakespeare In Love,” every Mickey & Judy movie…to name a few?

…I’m secretly addicted to this practice.  It’s like the best of both worlds.  You get your cinema effects and star power on instant never-aged replay for life, but your little foreign freak world of hysterical “will they make it work or not” deal, of the world I know best. Plus really good smarmy one-liners. Cuz it’s internationally known that “actors” are whip-smart diva-bitches. Like, as a race.

It’s always fun when actors get to make fun of actors. No one knows how fucking neurotic we are better than ourselves. We can slip-stream right to the guts of it and make the “ouch” of truth, fucking hysterical. Cuz we are crazy freaks in our own way…not always the media-enhanced one, but faintly strange non-the-less. And we know it. We know the normals know it. And they know we know we know it. So to see one of us, BE one of us in all our process-filled glory, is a secret delight.

…Maybe because in true fashion of how the world looks at us, everything in all of life seems to be about an Actor when an Actor is in the room. Which is not (I guarantee you) the fact as it stands. Almost nothing is about us. Ask my creditors, and customers I serve 40 hours a week…the reports I run, the laundry that needs doing, groceries that need to be bought, the sleep I don’t get.

Actors are just people. And while it might be weird to think that Meryl Streep buys toilet paper…so did your first grade teacher, and you got over that whole shock and awe moment in the grocery aisle once…so maybe you’ll survive this too.

Thanks to my taxes I just filed, I happen to know for a fact that in 2013 in five shows, I’ve gone to 107 rehearsals, did 63 performances and traveled 5,958.36 miles. So that’s 170 days out of 365…and on most of those I also pulled a full 8 hour shift at the office. So sure, it’s my “career” and my “other full time job,” but if you think my landlord, or the guy I sell a garage to at work gives a flying shit, you are sorely mistaken. Like “theatre,” the cinema about it is a heightened reality of the truth…it shows what we want to think of as the lifestyle in the best of circumstances. Which means it’s semi-autobiographical…but only in the “working like a sunofabitch” sense.

…For instance: I’ve never known anyone who shows up to the theatre in full makeup, hair, and designer threads, with an entourage of handler’s in their wake. Even the famous people. We all show up the same way: looking like junkyards…it’s what yoga pants and oversized sunglasses are for. This is also true of our dressing rooms. They are never the elegant well-lit mirror-fest of solitary joy, full of flowers and blue M&M’s. It’s 99% of the time, a tiny pit, in the back corner or bowls of the stage, populated by anywhere from 4 to 47 other people. Even the nice theatres upkeep this tradition. A face-lift in the lobby and front-of-house…state-of-the-art sound systems and light boards mean dick to the non air-conditioned backstage, sweat fest, badly lit, real-deal where we all live.

…But for some reason, film (for the most part) likes to glamorize us while simultaneously showing how socially fucked up we are. Basically this makes it 50% right. Films like “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Noises Off” capitalize on the sheer ridiculousness of our lifestyle…the stakes we play at, how bad the really bad can be…and how psychotic we must be to do it all voluntarily. This is mostly true. Which is the sad/hysterical truth. Films like “Being Julia” and anything by Noel Coward, like to give us “class” and grandeur, wit and elegance. This is true maybe 5% of the time, though we’d like to claim it as biographical truth…yet it is difficult to be those things while sweating like a motherfucker, through endless quick changes, and wig swaps, in period underwear that keeps riding up, with an audience full of coughers.

…Mickey and Judy “lets put on a show” films are basically like tech week with teenagers…and don’t even get me started on the faux reverence of “Shakespeare” and his haloed language, when it’s contemporary people trying to wrap their heads around an inside joke that’s hundreds of years old, and relate it to people in the seats more occupied with remembering to pay their gas bill than watch a show right now.

In my opinion, there is one perfect example of theatre as shown by film. and that is Mankowitz’s “All About Eve.”

…Prob’ly cuz it was written and directed by a theatre boy from way back. He should know. And he gets so much of it right…from the raw longing, to the near misses and near hits, to the dive dressing rooms, and bliss of Openings…the politics…the power plays…the self-conscious aches, euphoric highs and shitty, shitty lows…showmances, and sexual drive…to sense of family and loyalty…all rolled into one. As well as the smarmy, bitchy, luscious extravagance of quick wits and one-uppers. Basically, it’s creative sex on film for the theatre kid. It’s our story, told extremely well…by people who get it…by people who were there.

…By people who got us here.

…So it goes that sometimes, I open up the decedent little box of joy that is the story of our life in what we do, and I watch it. Not, I think, for nepotism. Mostly for sense of “togetherness.” Like Christmas dinner with the family.

…It’s a strange little freak of a gene pool…but it’s mine. And I love it.

~D

…And Then Tennessee Williams Ruined Me!

24 Nov

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For a west-coaster born-and-bred chick, I have a total and complete sick weak-in-the-knee obsession for the Southern Gothic. 

…There is something about the heat and hysteria and inborn-overtly-entitled meanness of a Tennessee Williams play that absolutely slays me.  And it always has.

I have a distinct recollection of the first viewing of “Streetcar” in fact, that left me sexually confused and breathless for about a week.  I was a pre-teen, at my Aunt’s house, supposedly “babysitting” at the time.  In reality: the kids were asleep, I had raided the pantry for the absolute last ounce of junk food, and was drooling over TCM (my biggest weakness of all time.)

…That is, until Brando showed up in his sweat-stained t-shirt, and his gross-mean-horrid ways.

Brando was too much man-meat to handle in one sitting, come to find out. And  even then, I knew there was something intrinsically “not right” about wanting to be Blanch DuBoise when I grew up.  But god help me, that bastard playwright confused my lust of art so much, that I’m still not entirely sure WHY.

…All I knew from THAT MOMENT of “…young man…young, young man…”, is: I wanted to have a “young man” at some point, and say those words…and be Vivian Leigh, and bed a dude like Brando, who was a giant machismo dick. (and probably had one.)

That is a lot for a twelve-year-old to take in.

It’s a lot for a 33 year-old.

…What I figured out (in retrospect) is that, despite my latent Cougar-like tendencies, (apparently), I ALSO wanted a man to be ” A MAN,” and above all: I wanted to be a great “Actor.”

…An “Actress” (in title) seemed trite somehow.  And fairy tale-ish.  Or “cute.”  It’s sexist, but true. Everyone always seemed to take men more seriously so  that was the night I decided not ONLY did I want to say great lines by great writers, but to be “sir’d” while I did it. And from that night to this: it has never changed.

Film had frequently changed my life up to that point, for various reasons.  It had already made me want to act. It had already made me mad for character work and accents and periods not of this time.  What THAT night did, was introduce sex on screen in a TOTALLY different way to me.  And also the seriousness of the content being performed. 

…Before “Streetcar,” my first love had been musicals…(where sex is wrapped up in kissing and plots were formulaic)…and my personal idol: Audrey Hepburn (where sex was classically chaste and plots mostly uncomplicated.) “Streetcar” rocked my world with the possibility of messy, horrid, violent, excruciating “other” options to that mix. That people underwent this in “life,” I totally got. That people were aloud to SHOW it in PERFORMANCE, I had (until then) absolutely no idea.

And because “sex” and “acting out” is such a big fucking deal to young people, “Streetcar” became a BIG FUCKING DEAL to ME. And so did it’s writer. And it has STAYED that way. And always will.

…Which makes evenings of indulgence (like tonight), courting several of his wonderfully flawed characters (worked-up-to-their-sexual-catastrophe-best), an even better treat.

Listen: I’m single. I’m playing a Beaver in a children’s show. I was thirsty. I drank.

…And GOD was it tasty.

“Night of the Iguana,” is no “Streetcar.” But when you wade through the character fleet of “women-of-a-certain-age” set dressing, and get past Richard Burton’s sweaty, overt scene-chewing…you get to witness several sweet-spot moments of William brilliance…which reminds me WHY I love his writing and character work so much. Which takes me back to a twelve-year-old, plastered to the TV like my very life depended on it…frequently forgetting to breathe.

…Deborah Kerr’s smallest of acting choices making ten-times the weight of power than all of Burton’s brayings (for instance), are a thing of subtle, steadied beauty. Ava Gardner’s total disaster area don’t-care-how-shitty-I-look drunken lushness, is excess-of-delight. That scene of painter-to-defrocked-pastor, on the relateability about the true definition of a sexual moment, is brain candy. The poem of an old man: is hope. The bitter-sweet ending: a nod to life’s imperfections.

…Other than perhaps Albee, I know of few modern playwrights who can plot the vilification, deconstruction, enlightenment, and saving-grace of a character to hold a candle to Tennessee Williams. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it ends well…in fact it frequently doesn’t. But to have the opportunity to play…(even once in a career)…someone as flawed and real and naked and ugly and open as he makes his characters to be, is such a terrifying and liberating thought. I can’t help but be jealous of the bastards who get to, while I sit here and wait…biding my time…from TWELVE YEARS OLD, to whenever “middle age” begins to register on my face…and let me finally, finally get the chance…the chance I have waited for, already, for the bulk of my lifetime…to get good and real and dirty, in something as awesomely complicated and disturbing, as the Major Leagues can possibly dish out.

…To play with some text from Tennessee someday?

Delicious thought.

…And totally, totally worth the wait…

~D

A Break

18 Aug

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…Sometimes a girl needs a break from 24/7 lines, murder, and mayhem. 

…Not necessarily a “girl break” (ie: An Austen or RomCom film fest, featuring junk food and heavy sighing.)

Sometimes, all you need are some snarking smart-asses, and some sex.  Then, when you remember that you’re single, you have a buddy over n’ say:

“Hey, Justin and Mila…wanna have a foursome?”

…And everybody lives happily ever after.

This movie is magical in that it talks the way people really do.  (At least, my kind.) Also, makes fun of the sappy stuff, proves that laughing and sex can be a GOOD thing, and that friendship is mightier than the screw.

…Which, thank God.  Am I right?!

So, there is that. 

…An evening’s release from dark lit rooms, killers lurking in shadows, and dead bodies laying around just everywhere. 

Tonight, tousled sheets and funny bedroom bossings took precedence. Okay, sure, it was on a screen, but yuh takes what yuh gets, kiddies.

…And yuh bes grateful to the miracle of  “the BluRay.”

~D

Good EEEEEEEEve’ning

11 Aug

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He never got an Oscar, but he’s m’top choice of subject for my final, 365th blog of the year.

…That’s right, tonight is IT, sweeties.  I’ve done did it.

A blog a day for one full year.

…Come rain, shine, sleet, snow…come crap-days or fine, during rehearsals and shows…two a.m., midnight, or noon-thirty…every day: a blog.  Something.  Prob’ly not great, but there…as I promised they would be. 

…And tonight, instead of focusing on what in the hell it all means in retrospect, I’ve decided not to.  Mostly because (in keeping with the trend of a lot of these entries), I haven’t the time.

…I’m studying, you see.  Up to my chin in show prep, I’m twenty films deep into the Major General of Maguffin: Mr. Hitchcock himself.  Taking notes like a good girl on all the intimate, insider details of his famous blonde Divas and their particular brand of “yum.” (Not to mention his love affair with the naughty villain Dames.) It’s not like I’m unfamiliar with his most famous of trademarks (second only to his profile)…but undertaking becoming three of them, requires a new swipe at the film stock, with a new filter in focus. 

I have always been a GIANT Hitch fan.  His sick little macabre sense of humor, his constant re-invention of the cinematic wheel, the thumbprints he uses on scripts he shoots…and how many ways he can manage to make “murder” and “suspense” one of the sexiest foreplays EVER, made him a favorite from day-one. 

…I’m already holding his early Hollywood classics like “Rebecca,” “Notorious,” “Spellbound,” “Suspicion” and “Shadow of a Doubt” snugly in my head from repeat-repeat viewings.  His golden years as well, with “Vertigo,” “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder,” To Catch a Thief,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho,” “Rope, ” “Strangers on a Train,” “The Birds” and “Torn Curtain.”  When I say, “I love me some Hitchcock,” I seriously mean it.  I’ve twenty of his titles (well known and lesser) in my own library so far, with an Amazon wish-list holding the rest, plus every new bells-n-whistles Bluray and Criterion version of any already owned ones.

…Which made watching this show, “The 39 Steps,” IN London, IN the Criterion Theatre, with all it’s zillion Easter egg nods at Hitch “other” works, about one of the dork-coolest things I’ve ever panted through while wearing a shit-eatin-grin the entire time…in my life.

…Tonight, I’m playing with my old friend again.  Watching old favorites in a new light, with a goal in mind, and having a whole lotta fun while it’s happening.

So, excuse the lack of anniversary touting from a full year’s work come to a close.

Tonight, I’m just too busy to bother.  I’m on a date. With the Master of Suspense.

And it’s hawt 🙂

So ends this blog (and “North by Northwest.”)

…What, oh what, will come next???

~D

Much Ado About Whedon

23 Jun

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Or…

“A Quietly Lovely Study Of The Bard, By Some Friends.”

Listen.

…I’ve only been waiting to see this freakin’ movie for over a year is all.  Ever since the first whispers started to gather about the “maybe perhaps” possibility that, “one of the many informal script reads at the Whedon house,” frequented by what has come to be known as his “company,” was at some point, going to be “put on film.”

Then: we were told it was Shakespeare, and who was playing whom, and the torture of the wait really began.

Tonight, after matinees and friend times, it was finally seen. 

It did not disappoint. 

…And not because of gimmicks, explosions, sex scenes, or technical wonders.

It was a quiet film, with focus on the text and relationships, in a very contemporary reality. The script was adapted and directed by Whedon, trimmed by one-third from Shakespeare’s original, filmed in twelve days, in the Whedon household, between wrap of “Avengers” and the beginning of it’s editing.

Branagh’s “Much Ado,” it ain’t. 

It isn’t suppose to be. 

Do yourself a favor and DON’T go to compare.

…There is plenty of room in your home library for both.  And you should want them.  Side-by-side. To show the range and possibility that can be lent to a text that needs but a cast of dedicated actors to make it work. This sounds simple, but is very rarely the norm.

It’s the argument I will always back, that though not EVERY classical piece of theatre lends itself to changes of theme and period, Shakespeare does. Because unlike all classical pieces of theatre, Shakespeare wrote of universal truths: Humanity, at cross purposes of love, hate, jealousy, sex, politics, and war.

…This is why his writing will ALWAYS be releveant. And why his words will work today, tomorrow, three hundred years from now, or even in three hundred centuries. So long as you place it with purpose, and invest your emotions in the text, it can take place in Messina, 1612, or Joss Whedon’s kitchen, last year.

…THAT, my friend, is good fucking writing.

…And Joss’ friends, are good fucking actors.

…These things go well together…and while on Holiday, they made a simply lovely baby, in a labor of love.

As an Actor, I adored watching seasoned family-friends, working together in new capacities, with undeniable joy spilling out all over the screen.

…As a film lover, I adored the simplicity where the story seemed to unfold as if by accident, with no worries of magnificents in technical prowess, just as if the camera were another character cast within the play, who happened to be there at the time, overhearing and seeing whatever conversations seemed to be happening.

I loved the new Benedict and Beatrice history add, and how Acker used it to deepen her work in a new direction of a character rarely seen in such vulnerable light.

…I loved the simple shock and awe of a boy come home a man, seeing a girl now turned to woman, without heaps of dramatics, concentrating more on the wonder of love’s slap across an unsuspecting face, as shown by Kratz.

…Gregg, as Leonato: a delight…that always adorable smiling face, infused with so much trust and affection, such a doting papa, a loving uncle, turned betrayed man of sorrow, but never quite losing the faith in humanity, which infuses the final act of sorrow with an underlying friction of hope despite all.

Diamond: a worthy Prince with a sparkle for mischief played exceedingly well with the text, and in building a delightful kinship with Gregg and Franz, was nicely counterbalanced by Maher as villian Don John.

…And Fillion, of course, was a comedic delight as Dogberry, having a lark making fun of his “Castle” world, as well as reunting with Buffy alumni along the way.

…In fact every role, (down to the smallest speaking feature), was placed in loving hands, surrounded by trusting family members, and simultaneously made the most of, while playing it with a soft touch so as not to break the delicately simple world as created.

…There was only one exception, for me.

…A mountainous surprise of one, in fact.

This Benedict, a long-time alumni of the Whedon tribe, (and proven chemistry-maker with Acker), seemed to be playing at a different sport than his fellow castmates.

There was no question of his understanding the text, or delivering it to a purpose, but the emotional connection with the words and his fellows, seemed lost in translation somehow. Most noticibly (oddly enough) when with Acker…whose alernate emotional working of Beatrice’s usually constant joviality, ached for deeper stuff than surface matters, when in banter.

…It was a surprise to watch her do the emotional lifting for two, not because she wasn’t good for it (tiny though she may be, she is fierce with her intent), but merely because…I know I can’t be the only one who has been so very much anticipating this “Wesley” and “Fred” reuniting on screen once again. It’s been a long, long ache of a wait. And though the final coupling manages to deliver the goods, the road to get there had missed opportunities of intimate wonder, which where certainly set up by Sir Joss, and Acker but never seemed to get picked up along the way…hungry though his co-actor seemed to be to coax, tempt, poke and play with it.

…Analytical much on this one? YES! You. Fucking. Bet.

The Whedon team is Master-class time, you guys. Even in a twelve-day shoot. Even when it (rarely) falls short of the actual spike-mark. These people are artists…they LOVE what they do, they LOVE their fearless leader, they LOVE their extended and ever-growing family.

They LOVE making movies.

And it shows. Pure and simple. On all of their faces. Total, absolute, childlike, joy.

…These are the kids that played with super-8’s filming action figures, and lip synced to records, and made faces in mirrors just for practice. These were the kids who read comic books, and then drew their own, and wrote stories, and did theatre, and doctored other people’s scripts just so they could work somehow, somewhere, in the business. These are the Indie film nerds, who though now juggling multi-million dollar budgets in film and TV shows, managed to still keep their souls and not forget why they started doing this in the first place.

They love what they do. And they love it even more when doing it with friends.

It’s deliciously infectious.

…And I’m not overselling it a bit. I promise you.

Find it. See it. Smile. The end.

~D

The Trifecta

11 May

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Have been spending quality time studying some lovely Aussies of late.

…Mostly their English works, of course.

The theme is by accident, not design. 

…Have been indulging in “An Idea Husband” where Cate Blanchett serves up a steady dose of dignity and propriety, while playing with Wilde’s words like the pro she is.  Followed by a Frances O’Connor kick…because she was such a delicious Gwendolen herself, and though I refuse to watch her working at it (for my own good), I can watch her natural play and ease and bite in other pieces, guilt-free.  So I do. 

…”Mr. Selfridge”, “Iron Jawed Angels,” Mdm. Bovary,” and currently: “Mansfield Park.”

Every actor has their “forte,” no matter how eclectic their works. 

Blanchett was born with the baring of a queen, a woman with insane amounts of strength and power.  Quite smartly, she’s played them frequently.  With command and elegance and unquestioning authority. 

…Very much a Gwendolen trademark, and I will borrow from it liberally, thank you.

Meanwhile, O’Connor nearly explodes with her inward eagerness to explore possibilities.  She manages to achieve a frequent feeling as if she is somehow cooking over a slow flame, bringing an intriguing energy, constantly drawing your eye to even her smallest choices.

…If you’re unfamiliar with her, she might be an amalgamation of a Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle…I’d say.  Though, Kate at her neutral is more explosive and raw, and Jennifer (only the best Lizzy Bennet of all time): more dimply with blatant laughter in her voice.

In the end: I defy anyone to out-English these Aussie ladies.  They absolutely own it…giving me two sides of excellent modeling to work from…though I am still at quest for a final third. 

From Cate: That deeply-cut and cultured dignity…at the very height of “womanity.”  From Frances: That deliciously naughty period-specifc nature of being up to no good and being quite good at it.

…What I need next, is my Farce-queen.

We are pressing the limits of our design, up to the absolute edges of sex and comedy…farce being my least experienced skill, for sheer lack of practice after  doing decades of drama, after drama, after drama.

I have a wealth of teachers at my disposal, but have yet to pick the athletically-comedic poster-girl, that will complete my team of artistic direction for planting Gwendolen firmly where she should be.

…Have found the voice. 

…Have found the still postures and posings.

…Still exploring the confines and explosions of her sexual nature.

…Not even begun on the boundaries of the “ridiculous.”

I need to find my missing teacher.

…So specific. 

None of the screwball comedic ladies of the 30’s will work.  It requires more dignity. Maybe a Myrna Loy/Nora Charles vibe?

…Ultimately, I want an almost theatrical vastness and presentation. Not “farce” so much as “grandness.”  (Which is different.) Rooted in seriousness, that is funny only because she takes it so seriously. As if she’s seen twenty-too-many three-act love stories on stage, and very much fancies herself as playing the heroine in real life.

…Like a silent movie.

Yes!

That’s what I need!!

I’m not going back far enough!

Time to pull out and play with some Gish and Garbo I think.

Garbo.

…Ohh…..Garbo. 

Fuck. Yes.

Totally deliberate.  Completely serious, always with life-and-death consequences. Sexual vibe in spades.  Fantastic body posture usage and expression when words are not enough.

BAM!

Two Aussies, and a Swede walk into a bar, and: My new English trifecta is born.

…Study blogging narration saves us again!

Woop!

~D

Giant Janet McTeer

11 Mar

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I’m on a new bender.

…It’s almost as good as alcohol.

Current obsession is now OFF the Holocaust and back ON the Brits. 

…This is due in large part to saving my sanity. And finally streaming Call the Midwife, (which everyone has told me I needed to have already watched six months ago, and only took me this long because it has to do with things medical, and I hate medical things.) 

Once I used up all my French and Saunders options by mid-weekend (together and separately), I decided to give it a “go” anyway. 

…And it’s fantastic.

…Which is a no-brainer when you immediately see in the opening credits that Heidi Thomas co-writes and produces it. (Goddess of Pen-and-Ink who gave us Cranford.)  The woman just has freak skilz in period pieces…I’m telling you.  It’s her, and Bill Gallagher’s work on Lark Rise to Candleford for best of the current adaptation artists, and Julian Fellowes for freakishly just inventing shit that seems like it was.

(Damn you Downton and your cocking cliff-hangers!)

…Anyway…

…By late last night (aka very early this morning), I was travelling over to linked “suggestions” in my Netflix streamer, all of which I had seen before… popping me onto the Janet McTeer train with Songcatcher , which forced me back into Albert Nobbs, (a film she totally stole from Glenn Close, great pal, or not…) …filling in with supplemental YouTubing interviews, which lead to her theatre work, and haunting her ridiculously stellar reviews and character insights study time as Nora in A Dolls House (for which she won everything you can win in every country she played it in)…then phasing naturally into that one time she and Harriet Walter were the warring queens (literally) of West-End and Broadway.

…Which brought The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, after work, slamming a shit-ton of her stuff onto my Amazon wishlist, and now coming a sort of odd full circle with Daphne.

…Which in the world of Kevin Bacon-law, links both McTeer, Lady Cora Crawley (née Elizabeth McGovern), a Julian Fellowes double hit via Geraldine Somerville (of Gosford Park fame), overt society excess, theatre, creative process, war, and the lavender leanings lifestyle, into a freak-world where all of my recent projects and obsessions eventually converge (like they almost always do.)

Its like swimming in a giant pool of irony.

On total accident.

…Weird.

…But awesome.

…And just goes to prove how totally influential my “teachers” are. Giant Janet McTeer amongst ’em.

…So…off now I go, to watch her 6’1″ Amazon frame, dwarf tiny Geraldine Somerville. As a most excellent Gertie Lawrence, in a shameless, camptastic display of everything-excess.

Ta-ta, kids.

~D

Shakespearean Saturation

3 Nov

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Two evenings off, going into tech, and I’ve put The Bard on, in love story succession. 

Tonight: “Loves Labours Lost,” and “Much Ado.” 

…The words ring in my head…some sticking for a while to stay and rest there. Ideas and plot lines I know as well as the back of my hand, being reintroduced in new ways only cuz I’ve been living in the headspace of it for little over a month now.

…Great feats of wooing, and anger, lust, jest, mock, and clowning.  A sense of humor is necessary for the journey…and a balance of it and the drama.  Finding the perfect give and take to engage.  That, I think, is the secret and separation ‘tween “well done” Shakespeare, and “not.”

…Then: the lines.  Comparisons, metaphors, sworn oaths, and poetry…some set at a pace, some slow to chew…

…In Love:

“…And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs;
O, then his lines would ravish savage ears
And plant in tyrants mild humility.
From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain and nourish all the world:
Else none at all in ought proves excellent.”
~ LLL

“I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.”
~ Much Ado

“I would forget her, but a fever she
Reigns in my blood, and will remembered be”
~ LLL

***

…In Anger:

“Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman?
O that I were a man! What, bare her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander,
unmitigated rancour,
–O God, that I were a man!
I would eat his heart in the market-place.”
~Much Ado

***

… In Metaphor:

“Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise,
Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedantical; these summer flies
Have blown me full of maggot ostentation: I do forswear them.”
~ LLL

“Is it not strange that sheep’s guts could hail souls out of men’s bodies?”
~ Much Ado

” He hath not fed of the dainties that are bred in a book;
He hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink.”
~ LLL

” Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
-One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.”
~ Much Ado

“Many can brook the weather that love not the wind.”
~LLL

“O, she is fallen Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul-tainted flesh!”
~ Much Ado

“Therefor brave conquerors, for so you are
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires”
~ LLL

***

…In Insult:

“They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.”
~ LLL

“O, she misused me past the endurance of a block.
She told me, not thinking I had been myself,
that I was the Prince’s jester, and that I was duller than a great thaw,
huddling jest upon jest, with such impossible conveyance upon me,
that I stood like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me.
She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.
If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her,
she would infect to the North star.
So indeed all disquiet, horror, and perturbation follows her.”
~ Much Ado

“He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.”
~ LLL

“Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamper’d animals
That rage in savage sensuality.”
~ Much Ado

“Your wit’s too hot, it speeds too fast, ’twill tire.”
~ LLL

***

…In Comedy:

“Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of
the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?
No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would
die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till
I were married.”
~ Much Ado

“A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it.”
~ LLL

“For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?”
~ Much Ado

“The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen
As the razor’s edge invisible,
Cutting a smaller hair than may be seen”
~ LLL

“I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much
Another man is a fool when he dedicates his
Behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at
Shallow follies in others, become the argument
Of his own scorn by falling in love.”
~ Much Ado

***

…In Drama:

“Every one can master a grief but he that has it.”
~ Much Ado

***

…Cue-to-Cue tomorrow…(or today, by-the-clock.) A long weekend ahead, but the company is excellent, so onward into Hell Week…with gusto!

~D

I Totally Know That Guy

24 Oct

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A year before Christopher Guest’s, Waiting for Guffman, Kenneth Branagh got a bunch of his peeps together and created, A Midwinter’s Tale.  It is a black and white mockumentary of a group of theatre offcasts, mounting an entire production of “Hamlet,” location: the buttcrack of nowhere…in two week’s time.

…It may sound slightly familiar, yes?

…And It is also fucking ridiculous

Freakishly true in it’s characterizations of theatre people in general, you really can’t watch it without laughing your ass off and saying, “I totally know that guy!  I worked with someone just like that in (fill in the blank.)!!”

…The melt downs are beautiful, and totally realistic in both their timing, inappropriateness and largess.  Everyone becomes a shameless flirt, surrounded by sexual enticements at every corner, merely because someone with a pulse is standing right there. Bitchy comments are flung about at will, name-dropping is a favorite past-time, people become so tunnel visioned in their own characters and selves that nobody listens to what anyone else is saying until people start blowing up at one another.  Stakes are insanely high, specific, important and necessary as if life and death were constantly on the line.  Weird habits and traditions are catered to, fits and passions are excused on account of “artistic temperament,” and it is so full of buried and thrown away one-liners and Improv moments that you could watch it twelve times in a row and still not get all the jokes on account of laughing at the other new ones you just, for the first time, finally heard.

In short: it is perfect.

…And it was my “homework” last night, in study aides.

What I was reminded of, while watching it again, is that this entire process of “theatre” is almost nothing but a “constant” of manic urgencies and self-doubts, hysterics, excitements, depressions, anticipations, exclamations, fashions, foibles, habits, traditions and high-maintenance filled melodrama. Even the “mellow” shows are that way, at some point. What we do is a frustrating business of self-challenge, which is a major contributing part of why we do it to BEGIN with. So my little “shit-fuck-damn!” of yesterday, is mere water under the bridge compared to things like “First Dress,” “Tech Week” and “Opening Night.” In truth, I am actually a perfect example of every fucking character in that movie, and it’s only a matter of time before I hit every one of those points of biographic archetyping (if I haven’t already), and the same goes for every other person in the show.

The truth is: we are ALL “that guy.”

At SOME point.

…Even if only in the privacy of a bathroom freak-out, or tears in the shower, or arguments with ourselves in the car, or frustrations over that one fucking line that just won’t stick. Some will be more obvious with their “process”…with anger diva implosions on stage, or bitchy head-bites, or line blanks, or costume emergencies or any of the other zillion-million things that can and do go all to hell at some point during a run.

…Yesterday I was just mid-archetype, is all. In the: “for fuck sake, figure it out you damn idiot, it ain’t like it’s rocket science!” phase. And because I was forced to look at it square in the face, (via the mirror of a very lucky homework idea), today I’m much more calm and realistic about things.

Currently I’m residing in: “New idea, in a different direction entirely” phase…wherein I decide to stop forcing what doesn’t feel right and isn’t working, and just go with the gut instinct instead. Thanks to varied discussions with cast mates at the pub, after rehearsal.

…It’s a decidedly calmer world to live in, during this phase. I appreciate that. And I realize it will only last so long before some new “hell” begins to dog me in some other way. But that is part of the the FUN of it, for shit’s sake. SO HAVE FUN WITH IT. And get over your damn self!

So, thanks “KB.”

And the cast and crew of cuties I’m currently working with, who totally have my back 🙂

It’s like the OTHER part of the film that holds just as true as the rest, and keeps the “theatre family” (in all its myriads of dysfunction) afloat. We genuinely do respect and enjoy one another’s work and friendship. S’pecially when the going gets tough. There’s no one better to “go to the mattresses” with, in the world, than the people who stand beside you, on a stage.

For reals.

~D

Some Quality Stalking Time

22 Oct

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Went on another stalking bender this weekend, during my down time on the couch with a heating pad plopped on my guts.

…It’s one of my all-time favorite things to do, and is usually accomplished in short blips as needed, unless I’m laid out for a significant amount of time and happen to be watching something that reminds me that Actors are fucking amazing human talent-Gods of mad skillz.  (Least, the ones I follow are.)  So while their super, amazing, talents played in serial episodes of yay on my TV, I got out the tablet and followed some of my current craze-crushes to see what they’ve been up to of late.  And because I feel you should be aware of these people (who are not necessarily really well-known “A-listers — though they SHOULD be), I will be including them in today’s blog as a special appreciation day to “That One Dude.”

…”That One Dude” is the known face, but often nameless actor (and by “Actor” I mean “Actress” too…I just prefer it as a general term.)

…So here are my peeps, (in no particular order), currently being stalked. (All English, of course, cuz they’re who I haunt the most.)  Some names better known than others:

Julia Sawalha – You’d know her best from Ab-Fab. I love her best from her period works. After a ten year acting hiatus she popped back onto the screen in literary-plums Cranford, and Lark Rise to Candleford, and after the the 20th Anniversary Ab-Fab specials is now sitting on two new series’ from which she has yet to pick. Being kinda the shit at the moment, she is well-open to be choosy, and cuz she’s got killer taste and obviously a good sense of self-humor, am totally chomping at the bit right now to see what she does next.

Imelda Staunton – RADA Grad, and one the best Harry Potter villains, ever. She’s of the original company much used in Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson works like Peter’s Friends, Much Ado, and Sense and Sensibility. Her acting chops are enormous (Vera Drake) no matter how diminutive the package it comes in (she’s only 5′ tall.) And she’s a major fav for her overt Character Actor-ness, sucking your eyes into her direction absolutely every time she pops onto the screen. Next up on her docket: a dark retelling of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s POV.

Brendan Coyle – Right now, you know him as “Mr. Bates,” hailing from Downton Abbey fame, but I know him first from Gaskell’s North and South (also sporting Richard Armitage, in his break-through role.) A solid Actor who often shoulders characters in the working man’s fight, with political morals, (which is a thing I could always take a little more of, coming from a TV screen, thank you very much.) Next up, more Mr. Bates-ness, and cop drama Sunshine.

Lisa Dillon – RADA alum, and primarily a Theatre baby. She was part of the “who the fuck wasn’t in this series,” Cranford, but spends the bulk of her time on The Boards, with a whole slew of Acting Awards already pocketed. (She also wow’d the tabloids with her 43-year-difference romance with Patrick Stewart — hello, Captain!) She’s an acting heavy of her own accord though, with huge range and some awesome reviews for Ibsen’s “Master Builder” (with Stewart), Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” and “Private Lives,” Fedeau’s “Flea in Her Ear,” Eldridge’s “Knot of the Heart,” Tennessee Williams’ “Period of Adjustment,” and Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”…to name a few. The woman is only a year older than me, and has such freak credits, that if she stopped acting tomorrow, she would STILL have had a better career than anyone outside of maybe Meryl Streep. True story. With the works she tackles, she’s definitely on my list of people to see on stage, next time I travel London way.

Derek Jacobi – On my trip to London, I missed seeing his Malvolio in “Twelfth Night,” by one week, and it totally tore me up to realize it. He’s a fav from back when I first started following the Branagh ensemble works like Dead Again, Henry V, and Hamlet et al. You’ll prob’ly remember him from Altman’s Gosford Park, or I, Claudius. As one of the co-founders of The National Theatre (with Laurence Olivier), and one of the RSC’s most elite, he’s shared stages with everyone from Ian McKellen, Peter O’Tool, and Richard Burton, to John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller. A major contributor to Branagh’s education when he first began, he works on with the equal force of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, as war horses of eternal awesomeness. It is always good class time, well spent, to watch him at work…so I’m always on board whenever his name hits a cast list. Just closed in Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House,” at the Chinchester Fest Theatre. Next up, some screen time with Emma Thompson, David Suchet, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters in bio pic, Effie…followed by period piece Of Corset’s Mine, and a Shakespeare Uncovered PBS special, as he performs and coaches a session at the Globe on “Richard II.”

Emma Fielding – Another Theatre mainstay, you’d prob’ly only recognize from the Cranford series. She does audio book work on the classics, and had also taken a turn winning Theatre awards for Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” (on Broadway), as well as Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”, Moliere’s “School for Wives,” and John Ford’s “Broken Heart.” Among her other works: Viola in “Twelfth Night,” Lady Mackers in “Macbeth,” and title role in “Jane Eyre.” She just finished the UK Theatre tour of “The King’s Speech,” (as Queen Elizabeth), and Hesione in “Heartbreak House” with Derek Jacobi…so it’s too bad she has no range or anything…which is good to be mindful of and learn from when archetype boxes start hemming you in. For the life of me, I can’t find what’s next on her docket, but I’m sure as hell gonna see that woman on stage at some point, so need to figure it out within the next year…when hopefully I’ll be back overseas again.

Hugh Bonneville – Lord Grantham to most, this Downton Abbey alum goes back to Notting Hill, and Mansfield Park, for me. Read theology at Cambridge, and a graduate of Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, he is primarily a character actor on screen, always a comfortable, solid edition to any scene he’s in, without needing to trapes out a bunch of bells and whistles to achieve it. On stage, he gets to strut more in the spotlight…his first gig as Ralph Fiennes’ understudy in “Midsummer,” got him picked up immediatly with seasons spent at The National, and RSC, and has a huge reel of credits including “June and the Paycock,” “School for Scandal,” “The Alchemist,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and played Laertes to Branagh’s “Hamlet” at the RSC. Also a Patron of children’s charities, he’s just an all-round awesome fella, which comes through in every print interview he gives. Totally on my list of favs, and people to watch at work live, oneday. Next up: More Downton, and Sci-Fi/History mix Return of Captain Nemo, with Captain America’s Haley Atwell.

Claudie Blakley – First fell hard for Claudie in Gosford Park, with her tiny details of awkwardness and heartbreak making a totally stand-out performance to me as an (at the time) totally unknown, on a screen full of giants. She won me over further with her ensemble work in Cranford and Lark Rise as well, never hogging a scene, always eager to play with her partners and match them and challenge them with continual, solid choices. She’s the kinda person I’d wanna share a stage with every day. A grad of Judi Dench’s Alma Mater, London Central School of Speech and Drama, I will follow her anywhere, on any future project she chooses, because one can never learn enough ways to share a scene, own a character, and exude consistent excellence as a specialist in ensemble working. Most recently in National Theatre Live productions of “Cherry Orchard” and “Comedy of Errors,” and “Macbeth,” at the Sheffield Crucible.

Victoria Hamilton – I did a whole freakin’ blog on her once, cuz the woman is fierce, and we fill the same esthetic theatre shoes including height and general look and build, so she’s an ideal role model to watch and learn from in dynamics, role choice and general chutzpah. A LAMDA grad, she’s swept awards for nearly every theatre role she’s done, from “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” (which you can watch it here, in total. And yes, that’s Eddie Izzard as her co-star.), to “As You Like It,” and “The Master Builder.” She was Viola in the Derek Jacobi “Twelfth Night,” and closed in June with glowing reviews for Mike Bartlett’s “Love, Love, Love.” You might know her on film from the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, or Lark Rise, or Mansfield Park. I know her as my more awesome Doppelganger. Either way, she’s always on my list of look-ups, and will always play a part in ticket purchasing, whenever I’m abroad.

…The list went on from there, going on until the wee smalls of the morning. Because I could.

…It’s a fetish that always makes me eager to get to work and learn things, and do them better than the last time. They’re my teachers, these people…as much as the ones I currently (and in the past) have shared the stage with. And at some point, I’m gonna see ’em all live, from a theatre seat, like I did with Dench.

One of my many goals.

…You should cue up and watch some of their work, if you haven’t already, and see what all the fuss is about.

~D

Miserable Joy

21 Sep

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By now, prob’ly EVERYONE has seen this sneak-peek trailer of Les Mis…but in case you’re the one guy who hasn’t: here it is.

Now lets talk for a second about the main reason this brings me so much joy. (And beware…cuz I’m gonna get super passionate about it.)

…It isn’t so much the cast (though I am so happy right now about the choices made, that I could throw a party and pop champagne corks all over the place.)

…It isn’t the fact they have a 70 piece orchestra that will totally go to town until my ears bleed (though you’d think it would be.)

…It isn’t even the intense attention to details in costume and general hardship-grime-ickiness (though, it is a major contender.)

Why it wins the Miserable Joy Award today, is because Cameron Mackintosh (unarguably, this generation’s King of West End Musical Theatre Production), has reconfirmed my total trust: that informed acting SHOULD be the key to musical presentation, REGARDLESS of how pretty (or not) it may sound. Acting FIRST, and the rest that follows will be an honest interpretation. As. It. Should. Be.

…If Cameron Mackintosh, is willing to back that and put it on celluloid for all of time, to the extent of allowing his actors to do their work LIVE and in the moment…if HE is willing to say, “pretty ain’t the purpose, people…what you FEEL is”…then I gotta greet that man with a whole slew of virtual high fives and “fuck yeahs!”

Ripping an audience out of an emotional moment in order to deliver note-for-note perfection, should not be how we do things in theatre performance, people. Lets leave “pre-recording” in the studio, where it belongs. Lets leave that to the Opera, where the entire PERFORMANCE is based around the music itself.

…”Musical Theatre” is another animal entirely…and it should be…that’s why it has a different name.

…The importance should be on the characters and their journeys. Sometimes, yes, it is just based on a strawberry-shortcake kind of plot with hearts and roses and not much else. So sure, that’s not gonna be the greatest acting challenge…and the musical intent will pretty much follow suit and take the lead.

…But when you have a guts and glory kind of musical…where people are in WARS, they are HOMELESS, they are STARVING, they’ve been BEATEN, and TERRORIZED…they live in a form of HELL and are AT THE END OF THEIR ROPE…PLEASE don’t stop everything and sing your soliloquy like your million dollar musical training coach has reamed into you, with note-by-note perfection. I wanna FEEL what you are FEELING right now…I don’t give a SHIT if your voice rasps with anger, or cracks from emotion…I don’t CARE if you run out of air and can’t hold the note for the full extended 26 measures. If your sobs make you drool, if you can’t even barely squeak out in SPOKEN WORD, what we already know are specific notes, painstakingly composed by one musical genius or another.

…That is okay by me.

In fact, I PREFER it.

BRING ME WITH YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY. The whole messy, painful, heartsick part of it. And leave those “musical perfections” for another day.

…What Annie Hathaway said in that interview is IT, entirely. As a performer, you should have a responsibility to service the role as it was written…and it is meant to be played. It is a disservice to throw that all out the window for vanity’s sake because it might not be the most beautiful thing to witness…and might not be the best version that you are musically capable of truly achieving. As an actor, you should be willing to make this sacrifice, equal to smearing dirt on your face, shearing your hair off, and losing 20 pounds, in order to achieve it. Or get the hell off the stage.

…If you can’t deal with these necessary details of live performance, get yourself a recording contract, and become the next concert-touring super star. Own it! I will prob’ly even buy your record and love the HELL out of it! Seriously. Because that is art TOO, and I envy and appreciate the HELL out of it. Within it’s own world of existence.

…But if you are in this thing called “theatre”…with all your GUTS, then BE IN IT. Please. Please. Please.

And, “Thank you.”

…Because, believe it or not…there are a LOT of performers out there who actually do this, and do it astonishingly well.

As for the rest, I can only hope they will become utterly infected by this film, and bring a renewed energy into the entire genre of performance, making it a new universal “norm.”

…God, I am just so exited about it all, I could just sob with relief. Really.

Thank you, Mr. Mackintosh.

Again.

…For like the forty-billionth time this decade.

~D

Art And Its Wonders

1 Sep

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* A highly informal essay. Just because.

Gram was an art teacher for over twenty five years, and because of this had an entire art room set up in the house that was the wonder of our childhoods. 

…Eventually there would be thirteen grandkids who would pass in and out of it’s doors, gobsmacked with the infinity of possibilities it held.  Every pen, pencil, crayon, marker and craft item in existence, was housed within it’s closets, cabinets and shelves. The gigantic table could sit three butts deep on one side, easily…as we would all lean over our work with tongues poking out the side of our mouths in deep concentration, comparing creations.

It was a breaker of rules, that room.  Just passing it’s threshold, entered you into special “time laws,” that could suck away six or eight hours within the blink of an eye…so consuming and enticing it’s possibilities.  It should be no surprise then, that I would naturally want my own version at home, and after a couple of trial and errors, managed to finally create a serviceable mock-up.

Gutting my tiny bedroom closet…leaving only the naked light bulb on a string, and all my clothes crammed in the far corner…I inserted a mini fold-out table, squished in a kid-sized folding chair, and VOILA! My very own art studio, just like Gram’s.

…Only mine came without windows.

…Sure, I had to crawl in under the table and do a chin-up off the lip at a specific incline, just to ease myself up into the chair. But it had plenty of space for all my art-making stuff…arranged according to size, shape and color. And it had it’s own door that I could hang a sign on, indicating it was a real studio and whom it belonged to.

I spent hours and hours in that “room”…sweating my ass off and nearly passing out from lack of oxygen. Jackson Pollock might have had more manic creation fever than me at that time, but that’s about the only person I can think of. I was totally fanatic about it…even keeping to specific “studio times” where I would lock myself in, staring into the abyss, just waiting for the muse to reach out to me. (This was sometime circa age eight through ten, btw…just in case you were wondering how far back my little anal-retentions actually reach.)

…Every once in a while, Ma would come knock on the door and peek in, just to check on me. The door itself, I kept insisting, had to be kept closed for privacy…”so I could think and things.” Even though I was an only child, with an entire bedroom just on the other side of it, that stood completely empty. Had Ma not done these occasional check-ins (annoyingly always leaving the door cracked open when she left), I prob’ly would have died from asphyxiation.

…Which is prob’ly the only time in all of History that a coroner’s report would have come back, “death by complication of intense coloring.” I could totally have been famous and things. But then, I hear posthumous fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, lookit Van Gough, for instance.

Anyway…the point of this story was to ad more evidence to the fact that I am a highly disciplined person. Even when it comes to my creative work. But minus anything having to do with consuming food. I like it: taking stock of my creative self, holding me responsible to perform up to a certain standard, even if it isn’t really convenient, and I am the only person who ever knows about it or sees the results.

And even if that means literally shutting myself up in a closet in order to accomplish it.

It’s because of these kind of things that I think people often confuse “Artists” as freaks, hermits, irresponsible lushes, moody assholes, or just flighty scribes of bitchy wit. Possibly also, because we often “act” like it. But by and large, we are actually quite manic furies of creative energy, that occasionally just need to blow off steam after a long day of focus, concentration, and dedication. And, I think we’ve earned it. Look at the things we create and set free into the world:

Music is the only language without any barrier of class, race, age, political, religious or educational barriers, that has ever been invented…reaching literally every civilization the world has ever known.

Photography can speak in more silent words that haven’t even been invented yet, per square inch, than the whole of the Oxford Dictionary.

The written word has more power to change relationships, beliefs, theories, insights, affections, enticements…fuel anger, honor, regrets…infuse power, introduce change, and keep safe our History than any other artifact that a time capsule can possibly hold.

Performing Arts, are the lessons of our past, the hopes of our futures, the well-earned mini vacation after a long day. They are the window into our own personal souls, and the opportunity to share our cultures and experiences with one another. With heightened emotions, and physical intent, it empathises with our pains and pleasures. With immediacy and technique, it instantly shows all the limitless kinds of life journeys that exist around us and through all of time.

Culinary Arts, are built to experience every human sensory perception we own and explode them with the infinite possibilities of paired perfumes, textures, tastes, crunches, slurps, visual presentations, and new invented delights.

Architecture represents it’s people and time, with date stamps meant to last for the remainder of our existence…and whatever comes after. “We were here!” It will say in stone for thousands of years after we are all gone.

…And the collective of formal Fine Arts, bring us the ability to actually visualize our past, experience collective movements throughout history from the time they were recorded, see the dimple in stone, the stroke marks on canvas from another era made of berry pigment and indigo…burnt wood charcoal scratched on pulp from ancient trees, forming the yellowed paper where Michelangelo’s sketches cavort in various states of dress, work, love and play. And they give us the opportunity to record the “now,” for future generations to refer to.

…So sure, Artists are kinda “different” from the average guy.

We aren’t wired to accept the normal processes and aspirations of society as a main. We keep odd hours, dress different, think different, focus for far too long on minute details while totally ignoring the obvious. And, we can get depressed because, for whatever reason, we can’t re-create what’s in our head.

…Where a “good day” for a millionaire is making two more millions. A good day for an Artist is making a single perfected sentence that rings just right when spoken aloud. Even if it took twelve hours to accomplish it.

…A “normal person,” understands the concepts of corporate ladder climbing and building a decent 401(k). An Artist is an Artist until death…it isn’t a job description we can ever walk out on. It isn’t something you can “graduate” or “retire” from, just stopping one day and moving on with the rest of your life. When we try, it actually tortures us. When we “can’t,” we get drunk, fall into epic depressions, invent quests, become hermits, battle insanity, and in some extremes even kill ourselves.

Because, it is the only life we know.

…It is the greater part of who we are, the people we surround ourselves with, the things we believe in, and the sacrifices we have made for a life that could depress anyone who wasn’t in Holy Orders. It’s the whole reason that things like money and power and (sometimes self-respect) never seem to matter a damn to us.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying we are all on the same level, together. There are the wealthy of Hollywood, and Award-winners…there are the Intellectuals, and Politicians among our numbers as well. What I’m saying is: an Artist would do it even without the money, power and fame. Most of ’em do.

Here is what I think: An Artist is an idea in human form, birthed for the sheer purpose of inventing relatability, beauty, honesty, horror, hope and communion with one another, as a species. And it all starts with the passion of whatever the hell it is that you know you were put here on this earth to do. Because guess what? Art is everywhere. It’s in a prime number, a theorem, scientific invention, the planting of a garden…the technique of driving a race car, the swing of a golf club…the mixing of a really good Martini.

YOU are an Artist. Even if you don’t know it yet.

…Maybe not in the “conventional” way, (you rebel!) Maybe not with a box of Crayolas or a block of marble…but of something. I promise you. Whatever that “thing” is that makes life’s color seem a bit brighter to you…that is your Art. And you should make time in your life to dedicate to it.

If I learned only one thing so far, it’s this:

Art isn’t an “extravagance” in life. It is a necessity. And it has no “wrong answer,” because it’s expression is a representation from whatever time and circumstance in which it was created.

…From the first cave carvings, to your favorite movie…from architecture in Rome to an Olympian’s performance. From Betsy Ross to whoever sewed the flag that is flying right now on the face of the moon — Art is the only thing that links every human being to every other one…in some way, shape or form.

However you practice it, whatever strange disciplines it requires of you, however “inconvenient” it might sometimes be…make time for it.

Practice your Art.

Hell, practice all fifty of them!

Be brave and explore things.

It is the whole reason we’re even here.

~D

She’s Branding

28 Aug

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I feel like I just bought a cow and poked a searing hot branding iron at her ass.

She Writes A Little, now has it’s own dedicated Email and Facebook page with a line-up of materials coming your way should you choose to partake in them.  Mostly, I haven’t done this yet because I’ve been terrified since the last “outing,” that someone would sniff me out again.  But I think I’ve got the matter handled, secured and ready to launch out into the webosphere.

…The other “hold-back,” was what in the hell I’d do with a dedicated Email and FB page once I got them. 

This is the part where I drop heavy hints to people who might want to hire me to write things.  Don’t feel shy.  You should really give me a buzz and we can talk.  I can write serious, academic, literary, script and research article stuff too, you know.  I’d prove it by showing you my resume, but that would kinda blow my cover a little bit.  So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

…Meanwhile, as I anxiously await the many job opportunities blowing up my email inbox even now, I’d like to shift focus to the FB page a moment, if you will.

I’ve spent hours (2), tonight on my couch, deriving a cunning plan wherein scheduled materials will crop up on it, each and every day. Each day of the week will have a special post all it’s own, having nothing at all to do with the blog…(only sometimes)…and may or may not help me think of further writing ideas to expand upon, so as members you may or may not get a super special insider peek. It will be themed like this:

SWAL’s Facebook Datebook

Mon – Dames We Dig
(Dames we love and why. Inspiration in spades, these chicks got it to spare.)

Tues – Books To Read
(Book list favs from Hollywood, and bios and theatre and history. If I love it, you’ll love it…I mean, my God, we’re practically twins.)

Wed – Mmmmen We Love
(Famous fellas who get it done right, and why. With special emphasis on boys who have voices you could lick like a spoon. )

Thurs – Strange story of the day
(Weird but true news items or personal anecdotes in tiny blips. Like your own little Freak Show ticket, every week.)

Fri – Fetish Feast
(People, theatre, food, film, and lit within the fetish world. I am dedicated to searching it out…no matter what gross pop-ups thusly occur.)

Sat – Sins We Partake
(Bad-for-you or naughty favorite booze, places, delectable dishes, naughty reads, and “didja knows.”)

Sun – Saving Graces
(Quiet retreats, mental clean up, relaxing movies, books, happy place listings of “the greatest hits.”)

…At some point I’m prob’ly gonna need to come up with a better pen name, as well. Because “SWAL” prob’ly won’t sell a whole hell of a lotta books. It sorta sounds like the acronym to a disaster relief fund or hybrid disease or something. Maybe I’ll hold a contest to name me…like MGM did for Joan Crawford. And then I’ll thank the winner personally in my hypothetical book when it’s published. And maybe ship them some of this:
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…Because I’m a hell of a lot nicer than Joan Crawford ever was. All she ever gave out was sex and wire hanger welts.*

~D

* Note to self: Cross reference Crawford under Thursday through Saturday. And maybe Monday. I mean, lets be real.

10,000 Cups Of Tea, And A Gollum

19 Jul

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In keeping with the norm, I’m mid a beaut of a “post-show crash.” 

Every time a show ends, all that adrenaline I’ve been souping up with instantly wooshes out of me, like a pregnant woman whose water just broke.  Really, it depletes that fast.  And with the precise timing of Mother Nature, I spiral dramatically into a hell of a decline: sobbing sinuses, raging fevers, throat feeling like a cheese grater attacked it…you know, the usual misery of a common cold.  It happens because I push myself too hard, get little sleep, and eat crap due to time restraints.  When you’re “on,” the rush of it will help to compensate these things…but when the show is over, it’s a total nosedive.

…Which is what happened little more than 4 hours after I reached home on Sunday night, post-dinner with the group. 

Home!  My bed!  Fresh jammies! 

…This lasted all of a trip to the bathroom.  I was still unpacking after one of the longest, hottest showers ever invented, when I started to feel it all climbing onto me with sticky realness.

…’Member that terrible “Spiderman 3” movie, where the alien black tar animal stuff glunks onto him, inflicting evil?  It was like that.

Alien.  Black tar.  Animal stuff.  Glunked.

It’s exactly what I felt like.  And depending on how much I am physically attempting to do: it still is.

…Monday’s noon call at work, was a wash…because I couldn’t sit up by noon.  I couldn’t even swallow.  By two, I made it exactly as far as my couch. This is where I laid for the next many hours, only moving occasionally to flip like a  pancake in a pan, and boil some more hot water.

…Water.  So much water.  10,000 cups of tea made from about eight different spice, herb and flower varieties…and the magic juice of theatre, which a few of us two shows back decided to call “Gollum Piss.”  It tastes about like what it’s named, and is basically a hot toddy from hell: Hot water, as much straight lemon juice as you can take, ditto on cyan pepper…and if you’re new to it: maple syrup to sweeten.  At some point you just stop adding the maple, because it’s a useless attempt to make it taste better anyway.  And if you are home: a jigger of whiskey every so-many-cups, rounds it out nicely.  With luck, you’ll have burnt through all the mucus, freed your vocal chords and be sporting quite a nice buzz, before the mixture settles in your gut and begins torching holes in the stomach lining. But you will be able to breathe again.  And sometimes swallow.  And it’ll out-burn the fever. Whatever is left over has you happily humming to your bottle of Jack Daniels…so: good all ’round.

…Course, this is just “Day One.”  By “Day Two,” you are at work, gripping your guts with acid indigestion and honking out coughs like a yard animal.  But the important thing is that you made it through the first day.  This is what you tell yourself as you drool all over the make-up paperwork you’re doing, because you had the audacity to be rendered almost dead the day before, and no one saw fit to start on anything from over the weekend…just pile it up on your desk.

…Which brings us now to day four. Because days two, through now, haven’t changed much, really.  Still paperwork hell…only now I can breathe naturally out of both nostrils at the same time, and my guts don’t feel like they’re cooking over an open flame.  Also, I can walk a reasonably straight line again without my head floating ten feet above my body somewhere at the end of a string.  Tonight: I’ll get me some fresh air…try a short walk…drink more fuzzy water.

Tonight: I will defeat the last of this scourage…so I can come in tomorrow, fight my weekly battle with Payroll, turn in the last of the week’s reports, and have me a “weekend” like the normals.

It’s good to have goals.

~D

Miss Scarlet, With The Car, In the Bathroom

2 Jul

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Exactly one week from Friday, I will be amongst many in a throng of humanity, crammed into Seattle Art Museum listening to a series of lectures on the rules and regulations of gorilla-filming for the 48 Hour Film Festival.  Thankfully, some several-year veteran’s are the ones who have built our team, selecting it’s members with whatever crystal ball of weirdness they own.  I know it’s an “iffy” brand, because they want me to be a part of the deal…and I’ve never been on a film set in my life.

…I adore film, don’t get me wrong! 

…I want to make babies with it and pepper the world-over with them…like a Queen Victoria of cinema.  That isn’t the concern.  It’s that I am “of theatre.”  Like the “in my bones” kind.  And I’m not a cross-over when it comes to displays of my talents.  I am particularly unphotogenic…to the point that head shots and archival candids are the absolute bane of my existence.  And this is partly because everything on my face is giant. 

…There is nowhere to GO, no safe haven to retreat to when an entire face is just yelling at you with every feature.  So I consider it fortunate that this is a “good” thing for theatre, and we all get along swimmingly for it, la-de-dah.

But now, two perfectly lovely people want me to do some film.  And I said “yes,” because they are perfect and lovely.  And then I thought about my little “problem” and added a small asterix to my contract clause.  We are working exclusively on “handshake” terms, so not being in exact writing, it goes something like this:

“I will be honored to do this film shoot with you, on the strict understanding that I in no way have to act on screen in it.”

…The addendum clause to the addendum clause they replied back, goes something like:

“…Unless we really, really need you, cuz for whatever reason it’s the only way to go.”

…To which my legal department responded:

“…But what if I had another solid behind-the-screen job that might even make it a conflict of interest in time and schedule budgeting?”

…To which they said:

“Fine.  You’re head writer.”

…To which I said:

“Um…I’ve never written a screenplay in my life!”

….To which they said:

“You’re like a 7-time produced playwright. Suck it up, and learn.”

…So that is what I have been doing. 

I have a job.  I know what it is.  And my giant face won’t be screaming at people on a screen the size of a two-story house afterwards. 

I can work with this. 

…And I have been.

Two practice runs in fully timed and detailed mock-up situations.  And several panicked moments of complete spontaneous inadequacy.  One of the mock ups though has even been claimed by Team Leader to film later, just “because.”  He thinks it’s solid.  He likes the “reveal.” And no one paid him to tell me that.

…Every stumble-effort success, is still a “success.”  So, play on.

Tomorrow, will be my third pass.  A couple notes from Team Leader as an Editor and Director on things to be mindful of from passes one and two, are simmering even now, in my brain.  Just a-waiting.  Married with a couple things I’ve learned on my own, along the way. Here is my mental notebook going into run three:

1)  Less locations, less effects for post.
2)  Shorter.  Always shorter.
3)  It’s not meant to win an Oscar.
4)  Over-“dramaticalness” reads on screen faster than a fart is found out in an elevator.
5)  Maybe find a different way to kill people than with cars.
6)  Find a wine-bitch.  I work waaay better when I stop thinking and editing crap before I’ve even allowed myself to actually write it.
7)  Pretend like this isn’t going to be seen by thousands of people on a movie screen with my name on it.
8)  Pack my toothbrush.
9)  Make peace, right now, that no sleeping will be taking place.
10) Remember: we are having fun.

…So goes my next gig.  Followed quickly by the next two, back-to-back, up on stage.

Rest time is over, friends.

Season’s starting!

Time to get the head back in the game.

…”About fucking time!” Says I.

~D

From The Bunny Ranch

29 Jun

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Welcome new readers!  I have some.  Already!  And as-such, seems we’ll have to do a bit of last-season-wrap-up to get them into the swing of things.  So here goes, the condensing of the multi-episodic soap opera that was my previous blog.

Firstly: I will irritate you with purposely incorrect grammar, punctuation and completely made up words.  Like it or lump it.

Second: I will never disclose a single person’s actual identity, about whom I am writing.  Unless they are famous.  Then I’ll name-drop that shit till the cows come home.  You may certainly make guesses as to their ID, but keep it (and mine, if you know it) to your damn self. Mmkay?

Third:  I have two jobs.  It may get confusing to follow the drama if you aren’t made aware of that.  The first one is my “career.”‘  I am an Actor.  A theatre one. I do it often and all over, and even get paid, so can legally write things like movies and books off my taxes every year.  This is very important, because those two things are the crack-cocaine of my very existence.  So, I will, coincidentally, be writing a lot about them, too. 

…The second job is the job I have to have, to actually pay the bills.  This time, I’m not even going to name-drop the true profession.  Instead, I will liken it to working in a cheap Brothel…which totally translates, if you happen to know what it is I really do. 

I don’t get paid well for it.

I work like a dog at it.

The Boss makes his living because I do all the work for him

It’s populated with other-whores, only they work as independent contractors, for which I personally serve as Pimp.

…And not a day goes by wherein I don’t feel screwed raw and left for dead.

….”So get a new second job!” you might be saying.

The short answer to that is: I’m trying.  The long one is: Meanwhile, I can afford to be picky, cuz at least I already have a job.  And why “settle” again, when I don’t have to?

Fourth: I try my best to be “entertaining” in voicing my frustrations.  Dark comedy has made others into millionaires.  For me, it just makes having to reach for the Xanax bottle a less-frequent occurrence. But first and foremost, this is my “out”… my “haven”…my land of Oz. So sometimes, it won’t be “entertaining.”  Sometimes that shit might bum you out or make you say, “Hmmm…” with a thinky face of serious reflection…or fire you up to want to call me out on the street and exchange in some fisticuffs.  I totally understand this.  So you should too.

Fifth: There is no “fifth,” but I’m anal retentive and having an incomplete set of count-offs is like someone going into my cupboards and turning all the labels around.  Just wrong.

Consider yourself caught-up.

…Now onto the new season…

~D
…  

The New Den Of Iniquity

29 Jun

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A new chapter and a new blog.

…After three years I was hacked out of my carefully protected undercover pseudonym…not a happy moment of realization, I assure you.  But worry not, little bunnies, no personal repercussions arose from it, only private ones.  It was suggested by certain people to say, “fuck it, let ’em revel in the shit, joke’s on them.”  Only this is my haven, writing out all the dirty little details.  Always has been.  Regardless of whether certain people relish in the fact they are stars of many a frequent episode, or not…I don’t want them to have access to my private life, any more than I did before.

…Which brings us to two things: 1) Limit my audience, or 2) Pick up sticks and move to a new town.

Guess which one I picked.

…So here I am, back in witness protection, writing from what I hope will be a fantastic home for years to come.  Welcome to the new (and possibly improved) brothel, kids! I’ve cleaned it up and all, but it’ll take a while to get all the rooms themed and situated in such a way as we have all become accustomed. Till then, please join me in popping open your favorite bottle of whatever is on the bar, and raise it up in a toast…

To: The New Den of Iniquity.  May it outlive the last.

Thanks for readin’, loves.

~D

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