Tag Archives: roles

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

Mark Twain Said It First

28 Nov

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In 1909, Mark Twain inscribed one of his photographs to a 43 year-old woman. 

…She was a celebrity in her own right, due to the fact that years previously…half blind, and with only six years of education under her belt, she’d graduated valedictorian of her class. The following summer, answering a posting as a teacher and governess, she began her journey, eventually arriving at a small southern town over 1200 miles away from any place she had ever called ” home.”

All by the age of 20.  

Nevermind the fact that before age 14, she was blind, deserted with her brother in the poorhouse,  slept on a cot beside the alter in the dead-house for 4 years, had never owned a comb, or been given a single day of education.

…Despite it all, by the time Mark Twain inscribed his photograph, she had already managed to begin a life-long friendship with Alexander Graham Bell, met President Grover Cleveland by special appointment in Washington DC, was on several National Education Committees, and helped her only student across the past 22 years, gain a Bachelor of Arts degree from Radcliff College, cum laude.  

That student, was Helen Keller.

…The first blind-deaf graduate to ever earn a BA…never mind in Ivy League…whose tireless work for equality, education and rights for minorities and specifically the deaf and blind, would send her (and her Teacher) to speak and advocate in nearly every country on the planet… inspiring Eleanor Roosevelt to deem Keller, “Good Will Ambassador to the world.”

…None of which would have been possible, had not someone broken through the black silence, giving her the key of communication. Just 26 gestures in a cupped hand. Letters, which spelled out words. Words that had a meaning.

The inscription, the enamored Samuel Clemens had written on his photograph, summed an entire world-wide view, from every country with a newspaper and a finger to the pulse of current events, science, and education at the time:

“To Mrs. John Sullivan Macy with warm regard and with limitless admiration of the wonders she has performed as a miracle-worker.”
~ Mark Twain

So the story begins. 

A child of illiterate Irish immigrants, with the tenaciously stubborn spirit to survive her ruined childhood of desertion, hunger, disease, and abuse…who fought her way though poor house, blindness, massive medical undertakings, and loss of every family member by age ten; to become the only hope to a blind-deaf child from a privileged southern family, seemingly an entire world away from all she had ever known, and become the first woman in history to be interred at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., solely on her own merit.

…This, but the tip of the iceberg in beginning research for another bucket list role, coming up this February:

Miss Annie Sullivan.

…An astonishingly large pair of button-up boots to fill.

I adore biographical plays. They are my absolute favorite…bringing out the amazing communion of history in completely living form. The hours and hours of research like a detective-archeologist…chipping away across page after page, quote after quote…to piece together notes, facts, letters, theories…to dig in archives, build timelines, and fill notebooks with endless findings in scribbles. To get the absolute closest you can to the bone of the person. To, in the end, commune with them in hopes you bring out the fullest version possible…honoring them with the portraying of informed “truth,” as best as you can grasp it.

Since the moment I first sat shocked and thoroughly awed by Annie Bancroft and Patty Duke’s performances on film…I’ve wanted to know what it would be like, to be IN that stubborn Irish skin, myself.

…To see what I could do, if I studied very hard, learned all I could, and let her come out as she needed to, with me as her vessel.

And now, I get to.

And WHAT an honor.

…Little did I know before the research began…just how much she had to offer, and from how far she had come to achieve it all.

A miracle worker, indeed.

Now, to meet my OWN hellishly brilliant little Helen.

…And begin as Annie once did: to earn the trust and find a singular way to communicate and bond with this new little person, entrusted in my care.

It’s you n’ me kid, with a stellar team to guide n’ support us. Let’s do ’em proud.

~D

 
 

How To Cover Your Bases Like A Boss

10 Nov

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For the first time in…well…”awhile,” I’m showless.  Not only not tag-teaming ‘tween a performance for this one, while rehearsing another…but totally without a role at all. 

…No idea what “next” is, nor the “next, next” after that.  Which is not a norm for me, cuz I like to stack my plate. So, naturally, instead of taking time off to enjoy the break of not having lines to learn or blocking to run…I’m spending lunch the day after closing my last show, trying to find m’next three  jobs.

When you’ve no solid idea of which way things are leaning…no pre-casting already taking up some of the slack in that department…it means you’ve gotta go straight to the boards and start shopping.

…Which shows are being done where? With how long a rehearsal schedule… running which date to which?  It isn’t about just finding out what is “next,” it’s about making a combo of line-ups…one show which could allow a second to follow without conflict or too much mental/physical strain. 

…Cuz my working area is large…across three counties.  So it’s not just, “This show starts rehearsal and opens…then what?” It’s: “This show starts rehearsal here, and opens there, but that show begins rehearsal about three-quarters through the other one…can I do both considering they are in two different counties, and have enough recoup time from that super physical show and this super wordy one? Then, what’s the third follow-up option after the first closes and the second has begun its run?”

Scheduling even the hypotheticals can be tricky…not to mention the second and third-alternate options. And then, what do those alternate option shows do to the schedule following that?  This means basically three separate scenarios laying out in front of me right now: Option 1, which because of placement of performance dates means an only two-show set-up, ‘tween now and end of May.  Option 2, which gives three back-to-backs, booked solid. Option 3 which means no casting in first or second show preference,  leaving a third and fourth try open for others.

… Season set-up like this requires a lot of picking and choosing.  What are the roles you really want? Who do you want to work with? How do the shows fall on the calendar? Are you willing to chance it all on one, or all of them, to give up other show options? Or do you set up a fall-back alternate knowing how bad it would already suck not to get the roles you want, but even more so if you are also sitting at home with no job at all? 

…There is always a give and take in these instances. And even when you know where your heart lies, it means dick until you get the offer call.  It’s Lotto odds for an actor to get what we really want, to begin with. Even for the secondary and third choices, we’re damn lucky to be considered at all. Not to mention that sometimes the seasons are so banging, it’s like there’s nice, meaty fun just everywhere you look…and choosing at all becomes an agony.

…Which is all just an incidental to the fact that it is entirely possible you won’t book anything at all. Cuz there are like six zillion actors in this world.  And even Union odds are 1 job in 10.  So…good luck with that.

But you know what?  This is what an actor has to do.  To prepare every scenario of what-if and then book the audition slots, prep the pieces, and show up to fight it out.  And even if we nail it…it is entirely possible that hair color, height, weight, politics, size of any one piece of anatomy being too big or too small, or the casting agent or director being hungry, grumpy, or needing more caffeine, can still TOTALLY tank it.  Even if you don’t.

That’s show biz. Rejection option any time for any reason. At all.

…So, there’s always that to consider.

Which means, the ONLY POWER an actor really has, is to be “prepared.” For anything.  And everything.  Including winning the role. Or losing it.  And what comes after, is where the next adventure begins.

But it doesn’t start at all, if you don’t get out there and try.

…Which is why I’ve already booked 6 role option audition slots for just the month of November, alone.

Now, onto prep.

🙂

~D 

 
 

Things That Make Sense [Possibly Only] To Me

5 May

Wicked busy day at work…pushing $122,000 in new orders and bookings that had my butt stuck to my swivel chair for the full eight hours. 

…Decided to counter this with a 4 mile walk through partial spit and sunshine by the waterfront, directly after errands run of bank and script pick up.

…Then I peed.

…Checked my texts which had accumulated throughout the day, totally ignored…(due to reasons they pay me for)…and I saw a set from Puff:

Puff: “Awesome news…I will be up for Pride through 4th of July…!”

…JOY!!! Because, now that am camped in HRC with the Seattle kids…AND signed up for the huge-as-fuck event committees LIKE Pride…I was only the other day saying how kick-ass it would be if he were here for my first one, and I was there for his (in Seattle), cuz (without being a giant cock-block), we could hang some, and have times of awesome with him and his boys (whom I love), ‘tween my booth tending, button passing, and picture taking.

TIMES of AWESOME will be had. Indeed.

…Came home next, to find a gigantic box on my doorstep, weighing approximately half a pound.  After perusing labels which told me nothing, finally came to my senses and just ripped the thing open.  Arms waded through a sea of crumpled newspapers, reaching deep into the box’s guts to fish out: a giant globe on stand, and a card from an antique store in New Orleans.

…Texted The BFF, directly: “I presume was you who bought me the world…”

…The BFF texted back: “…It is your oyster after all.”

(This is why she is The BFF…reason # 562.)

…Wandered about house, attempting to find the perfect place for the world…and I found it: On top of record player by the complete Sherlock and choicest Du Mauriers.

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…Winning. Or rather, “won.” “Winning” sounds better. I will just move everything into the present tense now. Because.

…Go about opening new script (role secured only just last night), and begin to peruse the merchandise. She’s good, the playwright. A local. Commence to take notes, pull up dialect and start working for a good ol’ Louisiana drawl…mid-texting The BFF, who is well into the religious ceremony of Margarita drinking that is: Cinco de Mayo.

…I say I’m too lazy to go to the trouble of “all that mixing,” so offer chilled champagne, (still sitting in the fridge from my woeful birthday), or a warm scotch, as substitute.

The BFF says, ” Definitely champagne. But maybe I’m biased. It’s 80 degrees here.”

I respond: “I think it’s still wise here at 60-something. Cuz I mean..it’s champagne…”

We agree she is right. This almost never happens. She (presumably) goes to mix another ‘Rita…I grab a bar towel, and pop the cork.

…I study some more…

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…Mid-study I try to gauge the distinct difference between Creole, Cajun and general Louisianian dialects. Dunno which I’m suppose to use, so decide to learn all three.

…The Champagne goes largely untouched for some period of time, as I work. Then, as I fold up the script for now, I suddenly remember it.

Veuve Clicquot it ain’t, but it itches the scratch when yuh got it.

…I decide this would be an excellent marketing line, and I am totally in the wrong profession.

…I pour out some more.

…I drink it.

…I see the lap top sitting over there on the couch arm, plugged in and getting juiced.

…I decide maybe I should blog some. Then I can say I did a little study, a little writing, and a little walking with my evening…not just, “laid on the couch like a whore, swilling champagne and watching Burn Notice specials. Again.”

…Although, whatever sounds so bad about that, I’ll never know.

…You’d have to ask a non-actor civilian.

~D

How The “Actress” Ages

5 Feb

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

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

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

…That’s a sizable swing, people.

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

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

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

…This is the actual truth. (Sort of.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

…And now: he’s my son.

With this kinda “comedy,” who needs drama?

😉

~D

Actor Fat

2 Dec

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Have been eating role-sugar for eight months now, and my actor butt has gotten fat. 

…As much as I love me some comedy, (and as hard a work out as they are in their own right), I’ve been missing the meat-n-potatoes  of my average yearly diet, sorely.  I love the drama and angst and hard book work and mental prep that goes with a good juicy steak of a role. Which shouldn’t be construed as complaining…I’ve been WORKING….and in fun stuff…but there does come a point where if you have to swallow one more bite of cake and ice cream, you feel like you’re going to explode.

…I’m right there.

The joy of the high tea delicacies of “Earnest” was wonderful, and I absolutely love it.  The challenging a-la-carte three-desserts-in-one of “39 Steps,” kicked by butt with sugar rush, and now beavering away in “Narnia,” feels like a milk-n-cookie afternoon snack.  But, finally booking something that requires actual chewing and digesting, just made m’freakin’ week…gotta tell yuh.

…Even if it is only a performance read, with only four or five rehearsals underneath it.

It’s an uber group of players, brought together with a director who produces nothing as just flake or muddle-and-serve.  She plops in table work, gets the read up on it’s feet for action, and presents it in a style all-but-performance-ready, save the book in-hand to reference to, as needed.  Wickedly well rehearsed, which means we get about four days of solid, amazing, script chewing and work-shopping ahead…for which I CANNOT FREAKIN WAIT.

…Throw in the fact it’s an Odets, and we’re walking in Group Theatre footsteps with all the ensemble complexities and arguments and whirlwind of emotions and politics coming with it, and you’ve got a very happy Hennie in the making, m’friends!

Steak dinner on the rise! 

…But first, lemme finish these double-stuff Oreos, cold glass o’ milk on the side 🙂

~D

Welcome To Purgatory, This Is Your Captain Speaking…

24 Sep

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…In the event of an emergency, please hang out unobtrusively where you are, and someone might (or might not) be with your shortly.

In the meantime, please enjoy your free packet of peanuts. Unless you are allergic. In which case:

…Welcome to Hell, this is your Captain speaking…

***

I’ve gone dormant and underground.  For a couple of days.  I have found out that in this day and age of constant status and text updating, it really freaks people out.

…So this is to the freaking out people: don’t freak out. That’s my job.  I’m basically on retirement pension.  I’ve covered the whole field so well, they decided just to give it to me as a whole package deal. With stock options.  Like when a sports player leaves and they retire the jersey number.  That’s me.  I’m just that good.

Anyway, this is where I’ve been for these past days.  In purgatory.  Which is a lot like free-floating space, really.  No general direction or force to be pushed in, so you just “be.” Floating there.  Waiting.

Waiting.

…Which we all know that actors are totally awesome at, right?

…So…where (at the moment) I can recognize that I am in “purgatory”… in reality, it’s felt a lot like the other place, with hellfire damnation and anxiety episodes riding one right after the other.  Prob’ly because they have, and it is, and has been.

…And that was just to do with shit at the office.

Other decisions needed to be made, that really sucked, as well.

And none of this is really “finished,” per se.  I’m still floating here. Still waiting.

Every day at the office, this week, is a possible “last.” I’ve pulled myself from casting possiblities in a show I’ve been wanting to do for like…oh, a decade… and I had a MOTHER of an anxiety attack Sunday night, to show for it all.

Because I’m a human.

That’s all.

And I know that.

But, still.

It sucks.

And now, we have reached the halfway mark. 

…The cusp of Wednesday. 

…I’ve thrown my hat into a new casting ring, last minute, which will offer more role challenge bang-for-my-buck…I’ve got two MORE top-brass Corporate big-wigs arriving at the office tomorrow…I’m on day two, of minion training.  They tell me the warehouse inventory numbers are off by around $118,000…I’ve spent two days now, trying to divorce my mind from performance-based Scottish, to re-invigorated Irish dialect by tomorrow’s callback at 7:30, and no matter WHAT, I HAVE to get my shit together by Thursday, so I can…you know…go on stage and be “funny” for two hours each, across the next four days.

And I will.

Cuz I’m an “actor.”

…We are pretty fucking amazing when it comes to resilience and crap.

In “real” life, not so much, but on stage? Move over Baby Jane.

So for now, I’ll just keep my head low, hug the turf, position my pads accordingly, and get ready for the inevitable whistle blow, when they finally pop the ball and this shit starts getting real.  Until then…

…Until then, I’ll just wait here.

…Floating in the nothingness.

…Waiting for whatever the hell comes next, to just show up and finally fucking happen.

~D

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