Tag Archives: performance

I’m Gonna Read Your Diary

2 Jun

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Cecil’s new theatre company is having a fundraising event with an open mic for the entertainment. Cuz Cecil is smart and knows, “why spend money on that shit when – if given the option – artists will whore themselves out for free.”

… She isn’t being greedy in this…the fundraiser will pay tech, talent and designers on their premiere gig…but this being a fundraiser means if you ain’t got the change, you can donate your art-things.

… All my change being deposited into the London fund, I only have the latter to give. And even that I was gonna decline participation in, only cuz open mics make me artistically hive. I need more distance and like a damn character between me and an audience…this gig is far too much like public speaking, of which I am awkward at, in the supreme.

…But that was before Cecil asked me to do a dramatic read from her 13-year-old-self’s diary.

I have done so before. In fact, thrice to several small gatherings I have shared it’s contents.

Because frankly, it is magnificent.

The first time was on one of our “Drunk Tuesdays,” so named from its original conception, on a Tuesday where we decided to drink too much, read some plays, wander to the corner gas station for Scratch Lotto tickets and candy, and spend the walk back dreaming of the flat we’d buy in London with the winnings.

…We had so much fun doing this on a stupid day of the week where one generally does nothing, and not winning all the things we scratched, that “Drunk Tuesdays” became a thing…generally whenever we needed one, no matter the day of week.

… So it was on one of such nights, that Cecil began to talk about this boy she’d obsessed over at age 13, and this diary she’d kept over a short few month span. Would I like to read it?, she’d asked.

…And so, on what would turn out to be the next “Drunk Tuesday,” Cecil jumped off the couch, squealed that she’d just remembered something, and ran out to her car. There she had been toting what she called, “The Donovan Diaries,” which she’d gotten her mother to dig out of her childhood bedroom and send her.

… Already, it was amazeballs. Built by hand, with outer covers of black sparkle construction paper, hole-punched and loop-tied with ribbons, filled with about a half centimeter of ruled paper, partially filled in with multiple – colored writing, each color claiming it’s own diary entry, complete with a Prologue of who this was for, when they could read it, what they were to do with it after, and hints at occasional super secret codes and their super secret keys to them, somehow within a reason unknown, to be kept within these same sheets.

… And so: we read. In tag-team style. With a dead seriousness, and solemnity of truth that we all wished, at that age, to be taken with.

… And we did this, in between ugly-faced crying laughter from the audience’s side. Because there just was no other way to receive it.

…Because goddamn it, the strategy to getting and holding a “man’s” attention, knowing what to do with it when you have it, trying to deal with not wanting it when it is there, but do when it isn’t, and all the complications which come with this, are even funnier when you haven’t learned enough to laugh at yourself about it yet.

… And so, for reasons of sheer embarrassment, and truthfulness, Cecil has charged me with the task to stand at an open mic, not on a “Drunk Tuesday,” and share her humiliations with earnest solemnity.

… And I will.

… And the people will cry with joy.

… Because 13 or 23, you couldn’t buy a Cecil, and the brain it comes with, for a million dollars.

… But you can try your best, at the tip jar.

~D

Weird Shit Actors Say

18 Dec

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The current theatre I’m working at is one of my home base hubs…and so are the places we go to in the area after rehearsal and performances. We have become known…(because, frankly, how do you miss us)…at these places, not necessarily by name but by vocation. To the bartenders and waitstaff, we are those theatre weirdos, who pop in, take over the place, drink too much, over tip, eat whole meals at 11 pm, and go along our merry way.

…They know the “regulars,” and track us from show to show…some sincerely not giving a shit, but earning their tip by asking after “how it’s going,” some who have actually been inclined to attend, “Holy shit, that part where you walk off and blow your own head in…that’s freakin intense!”…Some just nod at you and bring your usual with no comment, and know enough not to ask if you want another round…it just appears as if by magic.

…Then, occasionally, you get the guy or gal who hasn’t yet worked our table before…and I imagine what must go through their heads when they are indoctrinated…hearing our conversations for the first time. We are only on the surface, “normal people.” Its not like they haven’t served nuts before, but we are a special brand of them.

Because of things like this:

Normal People (Meeting someone new): “Hi, hi — nice to meet you — where you from, what’s your wife’s name…oh, you’ve got kids?”

Theatre People (Meeting someone new): “…But then Dad was an alcoholic mess, so naturally, I did jokes and funny voices to make mom laugh…and people would be like, ‘oh Anne, he’s so funny, I bet he turns out to be a comedian or something…'”

**

Theatre People (Ordering food): “I don’t do meat, or animal byproduct, or gluten, or nuts. So, I’ll have the house salad with no dressing or croutons, or almonds. And a double Vodka on the rocks.”

Normal People (Ordering food): “Steak. Beer.”

**

Theatre People (Talking politics): “…No but it’s a classic case that Freud would wet-dream over. He’s obviously got some serious mother issues to work out, so is taking his total lack of control in that relationship to like the zenith level, by making all women pay by taking away their own basic rights, so he can feel empowered over the fact that she started dating after Daddy left or whatever, and he didn’t like the fact that mommy was gettin it on with Mr. Frick, across the street. ‘How do I stop her? By stopping all of them,’ he thinks…penance for ‘slutiness,’ paid in full…”

Normal People (Talking politics): “Well…I like my shot-gun, so: I’m voting for that guy.”

**

Normal People (Talking about the Holidays): “…And Suzy had that bronchial thing that was going around, so we had to stay home. I did a ham…baked a bit, but..it was a quiet Christmas.”

Theatre People (Talking about the Holidays): “We had a double header on the 23rd, then the 24th, came back for a pick-up rehearsal for the other show on the 26th, then musical work for that special New Years gig, on Wednesday and Thursday. I haven’t actually been home except to sleep in like a week. Also, I think my fish died, but I don’t have time to deal with that, so am just avoiding the living room in general right now…”

**

Normal People (On finances): “So we are working the budget really closely with our accountant, because we’ve decided that maybe we’ll refinance next year, and use that capital to roll back into the kitchen revamp and finishing the basement into a fourth bedroom…”

Theatre People (On finances): “….Yeah, I knew I’d over-draft by Tuesday, so I did the whole, ‘go take out $200 from the versateller before it hits so I only get feed once’ deal…like yuh do. Anyway, this round’s on me.”

**

Theatre People (Regarding job interviews): “And so then he asked me what I was, and I’m all like, ‘what do you mean?’ And he’s like, ‘well I can’t decide if you’re some kinda exotic ethnic thing or just like…part black?’ And I’m like, ‘dude, I’m whatever the part needs me to be. In fact, I can be taller, shorter, blond, even Cajun…if that’s what you want…”

Normal People (Regarding job interviews): “…And then this middle aged white guy walked in. So, that was over.”

**

Normal People (Talking relationships): “I dunno, it’s just so complicated and unnecessarily chaotic. If we love each other, why can’t the other stuff just figure itself out?”

Theatre People (Talking relationships): “No! NO! No! That’s just too simple. I mean, sure, you can play it that way…if you want to, but there’s like 150 layers under that basic set up…so much more ‘complication’ to mine there…I mean, I love you, but am like obsessed with her for some reason…which I mean obviously goes back to that time in the third scene where she slaps me…but my devotion and love for you is different…calmer, like. See I think I idolize you, and deep down I realize I just don’t deserve you, so I go with the gut reaction of the mirrored image of myself: her. The ‘wandering whore,’ so to speak. It’s nothing against you personally.…”

***

Normal People (At the end of a long night): “Whelp, that’s me: done in. Off home to do the husband/wife/mom/dad stuff…maybe night cap with a bath…”

Theatre People (At the end of a long night): “So…the after party is at yours then? I’ll grab a bottle and some bread or something on the way…oh, and hey, can I just crash on your couch or whatever? If I have to wake up to someone else’s early morning sexing in the next room one more time, I swear to God — P.S. I love how you’re single. We should get drunker and fool around. Think about it…”

…And so it goes. Entertainment and intrigue on and off the stage.

…You’re welcome, server “Mary Beth.”

You, are welcome.

~D

A Letter To Friends In The Audience

16 Oct

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You know how I have really high expectations of myself as a performer? And, you know how I am my worst critic and get really pissed off when I feel I have not been able to give the best performance I can for whatever random reason might have just occured?

…And you know how you mostly say, “I couldn’t even tell, what the hell are you even talking about?”

…And we sorta debate/argue a bit back and forth over it? And you roll your eyes at me, and I still feel I’ve failed, and then we all go out for a beer afterwards, under the stipulation we talk about anything at all but what you’ve just seen?

In good conscience, I can’t do that with this show.

…First of all, because it’s delightful and hilarious and populated by totally talented people…and second of all, because it’s a brand spanking new company, and we need all the word-of-mouth we can get.

This, however, doesn’t change the wall of anxiety I am facing every night to do this thing, I don’t have self confidence to be doing. You cannot reason with it, dismiss it, beef it up…I’ve tried…none of that seems to work. And though I am absolutely doing my job out there, to the best of my particular ability in this field, it is not a wheelhouse that any amount of exhausted rehearsals have managed to make me feel, “oh, hell yeah…I’ve got this.”

…In short, I will know most of the people in every audience of this show…because I’ve worked in this town for 15 years now, and have super supportive kick-ass friends. And I guess what it comes down to is:

1) Thanks for coming and being here for all of us, I know you’ll laugh lots and enjoy the hell out of this dork-fest of theatre love.

2) Please, dear God, can you spread the word on the streets to get some butts in the seats.

3) Fuck the beer, after…I’ll need a whiskey. Same table-rules apply.

Signed,

~ Perpetually-Freaked-Out-Susan

A Wish For The Having Of Funness

8 Sep

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This is a formal request I am putting in.

….Because apparently everyone else in the world considers doing a musical as a hella good time, while my anxiety-brain has been a little-lot in Hell for the last three days in prep for both the first read yesterday, and tonight’s first music work.

I want to have a good time. I want to be excited and challenged, in the good and positive, “learn lots and get gooder” way, instead of the “truly gut-wrenching, terrifying, I haven’t slept in x-days,” way. Wish there was a damn switch to make that happen.

….Also, though am touched at the like inherent confidence everyone seems to have in me, I wish just one time when I voice my total abject terror at the moment, people would stop saying, “Pffft, you’ve got this.”

….Because, yuh know what? I really don’t. And saying that is just making me feel worse…belittling the actual real terror I am feeling.

….Cuz there is: ” going outside comfort zones,” and there’s, “facing past memories of the last time this went down,” that are flashing back with only the horrible parts, pretty much constantly.

What I want, is to super-real-time enjoy this super fun role, with these totally fun nerds, in this hilarious show. But my entire being is so fucking destroyed by the very real knowledge that this could completely be a set-up lesson in humility so righteous, that self-humiliation is only a tiny part of the possible after-effect.

…What I’m explaining here is: this isn’t just learning lines and choreography. This is playing a musical fucking instrument. My voice. A thing not played, or trained…it can’t even read the notes of what it’s trying to do, and the last time it had to “hold a part” in anything was ten years ago, as part of a giant chorus. Now I’m supposed to jump up and magically figure out how to tight-harmony as one of four, in frankly a super complicated “not your average 50’s musical” structure.

…I literally cannot think of a single goddamn thing more terrifying to me right now.

…I’d rather spread-eagle, naked, in front of an audience in a show-and-tell gynecological exam, than face even tonight’s first musical rehearsal.

Seriously.

No. Fucking: seriously.

This, is a whole new “overwhelm.” It’s the six-feet- under kind.

….And what I WANT, is for that not to be. What I WANT is to be free to embrace the laughter from last night’s read, and the screw-ups we all made in first pass at the music. I want to know, to TRUST that my team can trust me. I’m very big on that. And I cannot say, with any self-faith at all, that “I’ve got this.”

…So, maybe like just saying it in print, will help a little, in dispelling the puking-bad-horror I am feeling right now.

…Cuz even singing literal songs about just that, ain’t cuttin’ it.

…Type-casting has just never been more ironic than this. Like, ever.

~D

Dear Annie

11 Mar

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Well, my friend, as I’ve stacked two shows simultaneously after this one…I wanted to take a moment of reflection before an insanely busy weekend launches, inhibiting me completely.

…As it stands, we are three performances from where our road together ends.

…The time when both our bruised bodies and wrecked knees, ribcages stuffed in steel-lined corsets…the gallons of sweat and frustrated shared history with “that kid”…will have come to completion. I know how exhausted my body and brain is…I cannot even fathom how much yours was at final rest…but with Helen there beside you, I know it’s a peaceful, and well-loved place I leave you…until someone else picks up this script and begins the journey all over again.

I have truly treasured being a part of your world and history…learning the tiny details and intimacies of your life…the hard times and the sweet, and I’ve done my absolute best to provide the most truthful access to you that I could conceive of from months of study and communal brain space.

…I have to admit, it has been a more difficult task than I thought, to keep perspective in. Because honestly, you crack me the hell up with all your self-affacing humor in letters, your ferocious arguments in a heated moment, your stubborn refusals to back down, your imperfect people skills. But god, you were beautiful too…with your very honest, human struggles against doubt, and self confidence, and pain, and the loss that fueled the nightmares which haunted you all of your life.

I am astounded by so many things about you, but most of all, at the way you still managed to open (even if only to one person, truly) and trust enough…to “love” again. Despite all of it.

…I have loved being some far-reaching part of your existence. I did my best to do you proud, and though I could frequently hear you cussing at me and sighing from above, during manic rehearsals …I know you’ve nodded in my direction at least once or twice. Because I’ve felt it.

…A lot of actors I know, find performing actual people from history a daunting task. It’s a slippery slope that many feel caught and restricted in, which I never have. The homework only feeds me…the mindful conversations I have in my head which I have always invited the spirit or essence of such person to openly become a part of, makes me feel I’m participating in a secret interview with the past that not many people get the chance to undertake. I feel connected and energized and try to erase as much of my own judgment as I can, to keep an honest and open gateway to whatever enlightenment may come of it all. In essence, it may sound freaky-deeky, but in those moments, if I’m good and fair and trust…I am never alone…and I try to bring that with me as a host for the story being told. Frankly, I love the companionship of history and the people who make it worth remembering and talking about.

…Like you.

If you could look down right now and see what has come from the work you had started, all those years ago…I think I know you well enough to say that while not totally satisfied, you would still be proud. So many things changed for the better because of the work that you and Helen did.

So many lives.

…If you taught us nothing else, it is that every person has a worth of destiny and meaning…be they deaf, dumb, and blind, or an orphan girl with only six years of education under their belt.

…Whether you were of the inclination to believe it or not… I bet you all I’ve got, that a little boy named Jimmy…perfect in body and mind…is standing beside you right now, proud as hell, and grinning with all of his might, in agreement.

…And Helen too.

Three more shows, and I have to let you go. But before I do…wanna know my deep down secret?

In over 50 roles, you have been my most especial and absolute favorite.

Thanks for the hard, and wonderful work, Lady. In life, and on stage.

Your Big Fan,

~D

Earnest, My Lover

4 Mar

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Here we are…halfway through the run of “Miracle,” over the hump of that 16 shows in 17 days marathon, back at performances as usual tomorrow, while today I have first read to begin the next show.

It’s the first time I’ve ever remounted a role, which is going against the grain for me.

…Whatever character I take on, I put everything I’ve got into it…so good, bad, or otherwise, there is no need to revisit them to my mind.  Obviously I could have taken later lessons and instilled them into earlier characters in my career to make the work more solid, but performance art being what it is…one could always say that, then end up playing the same 5 roles your entire career on repeat.  No thank you.  I learn what I can from each, and move the fuck on.  It’s healthier that way.  Even for the ones I really, really love.

…But this re-visit comes from what I’d call “unfinished business.” And it is also allowing me to work with one of my favorite artists I’ve ever shared a stage with.  The fact we had both done the same show before, is anything but adding dust to an old already-written book, as his role has now swapped and we’ll be firing on all cylinders in a trilogy of romantic mayhems together.  Our last chance to touch upon that regime was in “Importance of Being Earnest,” where we first realized the mad-cow totally platonic chemistry we apparently swim in together…which amuses the fuck out of us both, I think…as I doubt two more totally NOT interested-in-one-another-at-all people could be found. 

…The joy of finding a performing  “yin” to your “yang,” the always “yes-man” to every idea…the person who you can literally go anywhere you can mentally and physically conceive of, on a total whim, which for some reason just always fucking works…THAT is a hell of a lot of fun to play and work with. Actual communication isn’t even a necessity of the beast…it’s like we’re artistically wired to the other’s guys idea-sector.

…Which, given that it’s period and farce, outrageous and scintillating, means I’ll have a lot to keep my mind busy and inventive, and  joyful as I wave goodbye to my favorite role to date.  The transition will be far less bumpy with a buddy at my side…several buddies in fact. 

…Sometimes being “The Woman,” ain’t all bad…

Hark, “39 Steps”…it’s me again.  Grab the wigs n’ handcuffs…eets time to plaaaay. 

~D

All The Things

26 Feb

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This just in: Kids like food fights. 

…The Student matinee this week (our 10th show in 11 days so far), was full of Elementary fidgeters,  College ASL reps, and Teachers…which showed obvious divide in content appreciation until it came to the giant breakfast battle, wherein everyone became immediately 5 years old and hypnotized by the fact that two people were slopping around with this much goop on total purpose. 

…How much we consume and throw around on stage is pretty staggering, frankly, (as provided by our tireless prop-mistress, and cleaned up by our beautiful tech team), and contains as follows:

50 biscuits, 5 dozen scrambled eggs, 5 packs of mashed potatoes, several pans of fried potatoes, 75 pieces of bacon, one bone-in ham, 30 corn muffins, 2 cakes – one coffee crumb,  one white chocolate ganache-drizzled, 5 bags of green beans, 4  glasses of milk, many pitchers of water, and several  fistfuls of candy.  PER WEEK.

…I dunno where the hell that skinny  kid puts it all, or what keeps her from puking all over everything when I continually haul her up by her guts and fling her around…but I know I’m certainly taking in the bare minimum as necessitated per the scenes. Just keeping water down with that much action in a corset is pushing it at times, but the point I suppose is that the bulk of it never makes it in a mouth at all… rather becoming graffiti about the stage, smashed into costumes, crumbed on blankets, plastered on floors and table tops, sludged on chairs, my sunglasses, our hair, and (with amazingly few instances) audience members.

As to the amount of damage we do, relocating intermission became a necessity…cutting the show in such a way as to show a fairly set divide between the more humorous and youth-filled first half and the exhausted, dogged-and-determined second.  As our run stands, the nightmares which have haunted Annie in spurts begin to slam at her directly at the top of act two, launching her further into self-doubt and a sense of impending failure if not for solving a total lack of discipline from her pupil (and most importantly her constantly-placating family.)  A cut I originally disliked, (but obviously understood the reasoning for), I have now with performance, begun to embrace. 

…What this means is a shift from prominent physical battle in act one, to mental battle in act two…though both are present throughout the show in fits and starts. Act two has become where the bulk of the “acting” comes in…where the weariness and battle of inner demons comes to the front over fists of food and face slaps, and it is also the only instance in the entire show where we are able to tackle the words of the piece without being slammed with the constant technical work going on all around us.  One scene… with just myself and the Kellers in a room with no walls, no furniture, not a single prop to be seen.  Just three people: working organically off one another, passing the ball back and forth as we fight each in our own way, for the soul of this small person. 

…It has become my favorite part of the performance.  Not for the gravitas and tears shed…but for the lock-and-load workmanship with two fine actors who know their shit, and don’t ever let go of their particular rein and purpose and intent no matter which way they get pulled  by the other two in the scene. 

…None of which should show disservice to my Helen.  You couldn’t if you tried.  She’s a regular ball-buster of performing determination. 

…But after chasing her about non-stop for over an hour, it is nice to selfishly stand on my own two feet – upright off of the floor—face two seasoned pros, and play a game of emotional poker to see who will win THIS night.

The emotional and physical demands are great, and the stakes are high for all of us in this show, but there is something to be said for the simple joy of speaking well-written words on a stage with nothing else but the story and your scene partners to guide you and make you become better at what you do, than when you first started the night.  No other “special effects” are required.

Thanks, guys.

~D

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