ceebeegee: (Digitized Pumpkin)
It's been awhile since I've written, mainly because I've been absolutely absorbed in my classes and in a couple of projects coming up. Classes were a little tough at first--I've had very little training for how to structure a class and they evaluated me almost immediately (on my third class--guys, can you let me get used to things first?) and that was a little frustrating. But now I think the classes I teach are going very well. I'm still nervous about them--I structure the HELL out of my classes--but I am seeing genuine improvement and actually enjoying myself as well. Yesterday I structured a lesson wherein I taught the first (5-7 yo) and second (7-9 yo) classes the dragback (a defensive maneuver in soccer). I really put a lot of thought into how to reinforce teaching them and even made up my own drill. (They gave us a manual but it's less helpful than I thought it would be. For one thing a lot of the drills are hard to understand on the page, and also I think some of them are a little too advanced for my first class.) Also there is a kid in that first class who was a bit of a pain--kind of a showoff and also a complainer. I finally figured out how to "tame" him--I'd use him as my demonstrator, which appeals to his pride in his abilities, and I also "discussed" with him whether he thought the "give and go" (basic passing play) was too advanced for the rest of the class. Now he loves class, because he's like my little assistant.) Then when we had The Big Game I encouraged the kids to use the skills they just learned by valuating them--I said anyone who successfully executed a dragback or a give and go in the game would earn an extra point. Only a few kids did the give and go but even that was more than I expected--getting the kids to play smart, to strategize and not just run after the ball, is a huge accomplishment. (For comparison *I* have a hard time playing smart!) And lots of them did the dragback in the game! It's really very exciting to see kids learning and to know that you made that happen.

So a few days ago Ryan asked me if I wanted a comp to the opening of a musical he's in--Liberty, down at Theater 80 in the East Village. Liberty is actually a heavily reworked version of a musical called Lady of Copper I did back in '01-'02. When Ryan texted me I thought long and hard about it, because my experience with this show was not one of unmitigated joy. I auditioned in fall of '01 and I could tell at the auditions they were singing me for Emma Lazarus, the ingénue. They even joked about how unsuited I was for Moskovitz (the character role, a comic shtetl-type) so when they offered me Moskovitz I was surprised but took it. We did a couple of performances up in Washington Heights that were filmed, and apparently this producer dude, whose parents were VERY well-connected (they founded one of the very well-known actors studios in the city) saw it and wanted to take over and take this thing to Broad-way! So they allowed it and this guy just ran roughshod over the show and me in particular. They immediately switched me to playing Emma, which was fine by me, and then booked us at the Cherry Lane. (Again, fine by me.) But this guy was a TERRIBLE director--I mean, truly a joke. Absolutely terrible direction, and he insulted us, and really seemed to have a problem with the questions I would ask him to try to understand what he wanted me to do. (At one point I remember asking him how do I justify that Emma walks up to a complete stranger and initiates a conversation when it's been established how shy she is? And he got upset and was like well YOU wouldn't do that, but SHE would. Like he didn't understand at ALL what I was saying.) Everyone detested him. It got so bad the rest of the cast started sticking up for me, both privately and to his face. It was fun working at the Cherry Lane though.

Then they had me doing a bunch of the school tours which were ROUGH. The audiences were fine but I had to get up BEFORE the crack of dawn to get into Brooklyn by 6 am, load in, and then drive to wherever we were performing. I bonded quite a bit with my Lady Liberty who was awesome and funny--she was a former Miss Kentucky and Miss America contestant so she had the dish. We had similar senses of humor :) At one point the people who'd written and composed the show sat us down and told us they were hoping to take the show to Broad-way but they couldn't promise us anything casting-wise but we would get our Equity cards out of it. Needless to say none of this happened. But imagine my frustration years later when I discovered they'd ended up doing EQUITY TYA TOURS UP AND DOWN THE EAST FUCKING COAST. Where was *I* when you were doing this? Why didn't you call me so I could at least get a goddamn Equity card to make up for the shit I suffered under Avram and the incredibly hard work I did in the local school tours?? I was, and remain, genuinely pissed off about that.

So I wasn't sure if I wanted to go but in the end I said yes. And I'm really glad I did. The brother and sister writer-lyricist-composer team, Dana and Jon, saw me and actively sought me out and were extremely gracious toward me. Dana was reminiscing about my audition and just raving about my voice. "That gorgeous soprano voice! I knew right away she was our Emma." (It got a little awkward when I reminded her they'd originally cast me as Moskovitz :) She did not remember!) And Jon was VERY nice to me (I always thought he had a tiny crush on me, not enough to act on but he always seemed to respond to what I was saying or doing. Just a hunch :)

They've retooled the show into something entirely different and...I'm not sure it works, exactly. It's definitely less of a children's show but it's not quite a nuanced enough show to engage adults. I think it wears its heart on its sleeve--nothing wrong with that but it still has a junior-ish feel to it. And I think recasting Liberty as a young girl, instead of a woman, emasculates the give and take even more. Now the villain, Commissioner Walker, literally towers over this girl and looks like even more of a bully--there's no subtlety to his portrayal. It's an interesting idea but I don't think it quite works.
ceebeegee: (Helen of Troy)
The Exorcist has been playing on TV that past few weeks so I've had a chance to check it out again. Still one of the most terrifying movies of all time, in my opinion. Peter and I talked about it once--it's kind of stunning that movie only won two Academy Awards. Two! It was nominated for a bunch but only won for adapted screenplay and sound mixing. Peter said that when Ellen Burstyn won the following year for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, it was just kind of understood that it was REALLY for The Exorcist, that the Academy was making it right. Okay, so good. But let's look at Linda Blair's performance, which was also nominated for Supporting Actress. This was the year that really showed up what a sausagefest Hollywood was (and is)--there were so few decent roles for women, they had to nominate two little girls to fill out the slate for Supporting Actress.* Another nominee, Candy Clark, was given the nod for her role in American Graffiti--now I happen to love that movie but it's not exactly Long Day's Journey Into Night! Candy Clark's role was kind of insubstantial and fluffy (she was great, don't get me wrong, but not Oscar-bait, IMO). Now looking at the performances of the two little girls. Tatum O'Neal won for Paper Moon, becoming the youngest Oscar winner in history (and smoking out her dad, who wasn't nominated at all for PM! Good, Ryan O'Neal's a tool. A hot tool, but a tool nonetheless). If you watch Paper Moon, Tatum is not exactly a supporting actor--she CARRIES the film from start to finish. I think she's in every scene! And she was nine AND it was her first film. An amazing accomplishment. That said--again, Addie isn't the most difficult role. Tatum was essentially playing herself. So why did Tatum win?

Well, when The Exorcist premiered, everyone was blown away by Linda Blair's performance. This sweet little girl, turning into THAT? (Stephen King's discourse on American horror media, Danse Macabre, talks a lot about this movie, it's very interesting. He connects the surge in "demon child" movies in the mid-'70s [eg., The Omen, It's Alive, etc.] to the lingering fears of the youthquake of the late '60s.) And the voices were a big part of the reaction--the voices are viscerally terrifying. I can't even type out some of those lines, they creep me out so much. Oscar noms came out and Linda Blair got one for Supporting Actress and seemed well on her way to a victory. Then la scandale emerged--Linda hadn't done all of the voice work. A longtime actress, Mercedes McCambridge (I saw her in Giant, James Dean's last film) did much of the voice work and was never credited--Linda's performance was seen as tarnished and the Academy reactively gave it to Tatum. But rewatching it this week--it really sucks that she got caught up in that crap, because she gave an amazing performance even beyond the voice. She literally became another person--she played a fucking demon, for God's sake! She was strapped into that disgusting bed for weeks on end in that freezing room and had to spew pea soup all over everyone! What's really interesting is that she's better (that is, her performance is more compelling and real) when she's possessed than when she's plain old Regan--when she's essentially playing herself. It's just too bad that her career didn't really go anywhere after that so she couldn't get a "makeup Oscar" the way Ellen Burstyn did.

*See also 1976, when Jodi Foster was nominated for Taxi Driver, and Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were nominated for a genre film--horror, no less!--with Carrie. The Exorcist doesn't really count as a genre film, it goes deeper than that, delving into religion and psychology as well as horror--certainly it's deeper than Carrie. See also: Quinn Cummings, another little girl, nominated for The Goodbye Girl. (She was SO CUTE in that movie--love her!) Also see also: Leslie Browne nominated for her painfully terrible performance in The Turning Point. Oscar had to fill out the slate somehow!
ceebeegee: (Rocky Horror)
Rocky's second weekend (and third performance) was at the Strand Theater in Lakewood NJ where we performed last year.  I had to be there much earlier than the cast so I got a ride with our sound and lighting designers.  Smartly I brought along a pillow and just craaaashed in the back seat--slept all the way to Hoboken and woke up marvelously refreshed, especially once Dave brought me a huge thing of coffee!  We teched and had our dress rehearsal and then enjoyed dinner (sandwiches and soda).  At one point we started talking about sex tips and I ended up reading to my cast from a Jezebel article on terrible sex tips from Cosmo.  We were fucking DYING, the whole cast was completely cracking up.

Last year at the Strand was a rather quiet show for several reasons, the main being that it was the day of that freak snowstorm in late October.  This depressed turnout and small houses tend to be quieter.  NOT THIS TIME.  OH MY GOD.  They came prepared to PAR-TaY.  There was a group, about 2-3 rows, who had pre-gamed, gamed during the show, and continued to game during intermission!  And they were LOUD.  Mad, mad props to Jen and Tim who suffered constant callouts and managed to stay very focused and in their moment.  I'd worked with them, saying you will get tons of shit during those last scenes, don't let it throw you. (And there are some truly hilarious shoutouts during Super Heroes.  My favorite one is during Brad's emo verse:

I've done a lot (of anal sex)
God knows I've tried (anal sex)
To tell the truth (about anal sex)
I've even lied (about having anal sex)
But all I know (about anal sex)
Is deep inside I'm blee-ee-ding (.......from anal sex)

But I told them--don't let it throw you.  Stay in your moment, stay in your beat--you will have earned it, and there will be those in the audience who appreciate it.

Because I didn't want to do your standard let's-just-throw-this-onto-the-stage Rocky.  Super Heroes was always my favorite song--I found it so haunting and melancholy--and I decided between that and the music box quality of the reprise of Science Fiction, Double Feature, that the show underwent a major tonal change in those last two numbers.  And I didn't want to waste that, or the other interesting stuff in the text.  And this was my "vision," if you will, of Rocky:  first, as I discussed before, I noticed a theme of observation and voyeurism.  They're always watching each other on monitors, and the Narrator watches them, and the opening number is about watching movies.  So I decided to expand this and add what I called Voyeur (or Observer) Phantoms, and assigned them specific shoutouts, and the opening number was staged according to this theme--binoculars, 3-D glasses, remotes, etc. and I had various slides on the slide screen of eyes watching at various times.  Now what is the flip side of voyeurism?  Exhibitionism, of which Frank is the quintessence.  I talked to the cast about the observer effect, and how we all act differently when we know we're being watched--which led me to Janet and Touch-a Me.  It took me FOREVER to figure out what I wanted to do with that number--it was the last one I staged, I kept telling the girls just give me a few days, it's percolating.  Finally I figured it out--Jen KNOWS she's being watched, she figures it out when she watches Brad on the monitor.  And that's why she decides to hell with it, I'm going to jump off the pedestal (yes, I literally had her on a pedestal) and embrace this journey--and so Magenta and Columbia are cheering her on, not mocking her.

This led me to the floor show which is where Janet really blossoms--she sings:

I feel released
Bad times deceased
My confidence has increased


What does Brad sing?

It's beyond me
Help me, Mommy
I'll be good, you'll see
Take this dream away


So with that in mind, I couldn't stage Super Heroes any other way than how I did--after Janet's verse, during the long ah-ah section, I had her turn and look wonderingly at the castle as Brad reaches a tentative hand out to her.  He just wants to go back to the way things were.  He wants to forget it ever happened.  But as Thelma says "something's, like, crossed over in me and I can't go back."  Janet can't go back; she's not that Janet anymore.  So I staged it that she walks away from him--this is what made some of the cast gasp.  I didn't think it was that big a deal--as I said, it's all right there in the text, I can't be the only one who's staged it that way--but I heard an audience member gasp as well and Eric (our Riff Raff) said it was "brilliant."  And Tesse made me so happy--she said who ever saw a RHS where Janet actually experiences character growth?  Feminine empowerment through sexuality--which was a huge thing in the '70s, the birth of the feminist movement, and of course RHS is very much a product of the '70s!  I love my sexually empowered, strong-ass Janet!  Jen approved as well--she specifically told me she liked the feminist Janet :)  And she played that moment beautifully, with this look of regret and resolve and love and goodbye all at once.  Jen's such a great actor.

With all that, and tying into the theme of observation and voyeurism, I decided to take a side trip into exploring the fine line between art appreciation and objectification--a dynamic that usually targets women, but in RHS, our eponymous character himself is the objet d'art who is objectified (and yes, I had him up on the pedestal as well).  I underscored this mainly with slides of Greek and Renaissance male sculptures, plus I had Rocky executing classical art poses on the pedestal during Charles Atlas.  (Also at the beginning of The Sword of Damocles, when Frank first touches him, I posed them as God and Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling--appropriate since Frank is the creator of life.  I also found out that the real Charles Atlas himself used to pose for sculptors!) At first the Phantoms are in awe of his beauty but rapidly they start pawing him, and taking pictures with their cell phone, and slipping bills into his trunks.    It's a fine, fine line...
ceebeegee: (that is not what I meant at all)
Weekends are killing me!

Saturday's schedule:

*10-11:15a Soccer clinic
*Race back on train, pick up 1) library book on reserve, 2) medicine and special diet for Tatia
*Shower
*2-3:34p Softball game
*Carrying softball equipment, go to Jersey City on various trains to visit the cemetery where we're staging Pirates next weekend
*Spend about 45 minutes at cemetery, going over staging
*Take PATH to Hoboken to attend penultimate Pirates
*Go out with everyone who attended Saturday Pirates (Jason, Paua, Ken, my friend Dave et al.)

Sunday's schedule:

*12:15p Soccer game
*Race back on train, switch out soccer equipment for softball equipment
*3-4:30 Softball game
*Race back on train, drop off softball stuff, get changed for show
*Meet Anya at PATH station
*Final show!


FYI--Awesome news--I hit VERY well on Sunday, .666! And my two hits were SOLID hits, well over the third baseman's head. VERY happy.

Last night was our final performance of Pirates in Hoboken--we had to cancel Friday's performance because of the rain but we had a runthrough anyway since we'd canceled our brushup rehearsal on Wednesday (again, because of the storm). I couldn't get there until 7:30 but I'd emailed my notes to Susan and our SM, and got there about halfway through. What I saw of the runthrough looked fairly tight--energy was high, etc.

Last night after the final show the girl who plays Ruth wanted to talk to me. It took her awhile to get it out but basically after the Friday rehearsal she felt....as though she was horrible and a terrible performer, because of the notes I'd given her (which I presume Susan had read to the cast). She said she tended to internalize criticism and take it very much to heart which then makes her spacy, fearful, etc. I was wondering where she was going with this, and finally I said "well....you do realize I won't stop giving you notes, right? That is my job, and I said from the start how perfectionist I am as a director." She immediately said "oh no! I don't want you to coddle me or anything like that just...." After having this halting conversation with her for a good half-hour, I'm still not sure why she told me! And these are the notes I gave her:

*Ruth--Paradox steps are sloppy, she needs to go over that.

*Ruth--when you react to the news of Frederic's betrayal you MUST commit to that scream, it's the only way you're going to get a laugh. SCREAM, like you did in rehearsal--it's hilarious that way. You've started pulling back and it doesn't get a reaction. If you're worried about your voice, pitch it high (I did Something's Afoot for 3 months, 6 shows a week and I had to scream in that--you just put it at the top of your range and you're fine) but you MUST commit. It's the instant overreaction that makes it funny.

*Ruth--I KNOW she knows the choreography for "With Cat-like Tread," we have certainly run it enough. But she's always a little behind and she doesn't look as though she knows it--she must be on top of it, and know where she's going. Please go over that.


That's it! I'm not even going to ask "was that so bad?" because I know it's not. And I'm certainly not going to hold back. She did try to say over and over that she wasn't asking me to be easier on her but I still have no idea why she wanted me to hear this, unless it was to explain her flakiness on stage (whch, YES, she is incredibly unreliable onstage). I did tell her that if we've gone over something a lot in rehearsal and I have to give the note again, I'm going to be harder on the actor. I HAAAAAAATE giving notes more than once. And I explained to her (which, yes, I'd already talked about in rehearsal) that we don't have the time to run and run and run numbers, especially not numbers which involve only a couple of people (as Paradox does). We teach them to you, run them a few times and then it's on you to go home and drill them a million times. We're not your babysitter, you have to take responsibility to get these steps into your bones--that's what makes a professional. And I said this very gently--this mindset of yours, this internalization of criticism, such to the point that it affects your performance--is definitely a handicap as a performer. You're going to have to find a way to process criticism effectively. I am not a mean director, I do not insult my actors or belittle them. But I do have high expectations, and I do everything possible to help my actors meet them, because I care so much about how my shows look.

Oy gevalt. She has a lovely voice and can be funny on stage but this ain't worth it. I HAAAAAATE high-maintenance actors. It's annoying enough to deal with a headcase who's really, really GOOD--she is not, she's good in some aspects but her stagecraft is...well, lacking. I doubt it would've helped our conversation if she knew that running through my mind was a note from last night's performance--"Ruth, stop following Frederic all over the stage! Stop MOVING. I didn't block you to do that."

Titanic

Apr. 13th, 2012 01:29 pm
ceebeegee: (Beyond Poetry)
I'm writing up a Clio entry on the Titanic and just had to share this thought--Rose had MUCH more chemistry with Cal than she ever did with Jack. The whole scene where she and Jack are getting to know each other, when they're strolling on the deck and she's looking at his pictures? Cringe-inducing. THIS is supposed to lay the groundwork for her life-changing decision to throw in with him? HE'S TEACHING HER TO HOCK LUGIES. Nothing says sexy like seeing phlegm fly out of your beloved's mouth! The drawing scene when he's sketching is hot, but mainly because of Old!Rose's voiceover--i.e., we get inside Rose's head. The big problem is that she seems so much more mature than he does--Rose dresses older, she looks older, she looks bigger, she talks like a woman. He looks and sounds like a boy, she comes off as a woman.

Now Rose with Cal? HOTTT. (I love it when he says "Rose is displeased...what to do?"). I definitely think she could have schooled him on his disdain for Picasso and the like. He was crazy about her, even if he was a psychotic abusive prick. So don't marry him, Rose--but don't kick him out of bed ;) I think Rose and Cal would've worked better 100 years hence, when he didn't have quite so much male privilege on his side, and she would have more options.

I think finding a starlet from old Hollywood was a cool idea, but Gloria Stuart really looked nothing like Kate Winslet, and I don't think she was much of an actor. (Frankly I thought the Supporting Actress nom should've gone to the woman who played Rose's mother. SHE was great.) There's a way to deliver some of those awful lines like "you mean, did we 'do it'?" (*shudder*) You have to say it impishly--it's Rose stooping to conquer, Rose having fun with her aristocratic background and demeanor. You can't say that line flatly and informationally or it just dies because it is really a terirble line!

I do love that final scene--very sweet, her seeing all the rest of them in her dream (or maybe rejoining them, if she actually dies then).
ceebeegee: (soccer)
I logged quite a bit of rehearsal time for Vagina Monologues this weekend and we're almost caught up.  I've worked with nearly everyone except for two whom I'll see tomorrow, and I think it's going really well.  We had an AMAZING rehearsal yesterday for the two-actor piece "My Vagina Was My Village" (about what Bosnian women experienced during the Yugoslav conflict).  This was the second time I'd worked with these two women--the first time, last weekend, we talked about the language (there's a lot of poetry in this piece), the structure, the sensuality.  All technical stuff.  Yesterday we revisited it.  The piece has two "sides," two voices--the first is a woman remembering all these beautiful good memories, "green forest," her boyfriend lying next to her in a meadow, that sort of thing.  I worked with her on loosening up her body--I said this stuff is so sensual, you can express that physically, you don't have to just stand there.  If you want to reach out or run your fingers up your arm, something like that, you can and should.  And at one point she talks about singing and songs--the previous week I'd said you can sing this, if you like.  So when she came back she sang through that stanza and then we decided to have her sing parts of it, rather than throughout the stanza.  It sounded really, really cool, very organic.

The other piece is MUCH darker--very strong, difficult language about the terrible things she experienced.  I had a hard time getting this actor to connect with what she was saying--she had a kind of monotonous reading (a lot of American actors sound like this, because our way of speaking is much less modulated than the Brits) and it was a little too "this bad thing happened and then THAT bad thing happened."  Too pat.  So I said I'm going to try an exercise with you--if you find it too cheesy, we'll do something else.  She started again and I jumped very close to her and bellowed. I kept dancing around and yelling at her, random phrases and gestures that she wouldn't be expecting.  And it WORKED--she was startled into actually connecting with the language and what she was saying.  She was actually trembling afterwards but she loved it and wanted me to do it again.  She also was connecting to what the other actress was saying when she did the singing bit--she found herself getting angry that this lovely innocence had been destroyed.  So we did it again and about halfway through I stopped jumping at her because I was riveted to the floor.  FANTASTIC reading.  Just terrific.

I also had a soccer game and was injured AGAIN.  I'm getting very tired of this.  Maybe it's a winter thing?  It is hard for me to warm up.   Anyway I turned on my knee and hyperextended it and now it feels like it'll buckle at any time.  Grrr!  Not like!  I honestly don't know if I'll be able to play this weekend--if I can't, I will make pan cookies or something like that.  I'm pretty sure I'm old enough to be the mother of most of the rest of my team--I might as well act like a team mother!  But we spanked the other team, 4-1--and their one goal was scored by US!  (One of our defenders accidentally kicked it in.)  BUT they were still a pretty good team--I think they were outshooting us.  And one of our goals was a complete fluke--our goalie had the ball and kicked a big, long pass down the field.  It bounced once in the end zone of the other team and the goalie misjudged it and it went over her head.  I felt bad for her, that certainly sucks.  Still, I'll take the goal ;)
ceebeegee: (Default)
We had Friday and Saturday off from rehearsal.  I welcomed the opportunity to forget about the show for two days, but I wanted to work on the tap solo and NAIL that entrance, so I booked space at Ripley-Grier for Saturday afternoon.  I've also been sick the past week--Friday night was brutal, I could not stop coughing--so dragging myself out of bed Saturday morning wasn't fun!  Susan and I drilled the hell out of the solo and by the end I was nailing it AT tempo.  Triples and everything.  Yay!  So I think the key is to warmupwarmupwarmUP every night.  Run that thing over and over and over, and then run it listening to my iPod.

I dragged myself back home and curled up in bed, pausing only to email regrets to a Halloween party.  Ugh...

Yesterday I felt a little better.  We had a clean up rehearsal and went over a lot of the music and much of the dance.  Vocally there was a decent amount to clean up--there are a LOT of discrepancies among 1) what we were taught by the music director, 2) what he notated in the score (he wrote many of his own arrangements) and 3) the vocal tracks he recorded for us all.  Kind of annoying, mainly because he's a bit of a dick, one of those guys that is brittle and will not take well to any pointing out of mistakes.  The mistakes are a bit more apparent to me than to the other two altos (I'm singing alto on this) because I read music and see the mistakes he's made--uh, what I'm hearing on the vocal track is NOT what is in the score in front of me!  His arrangements are great though, I'll give him that, I especially like the last number.

Singing alto is weird for me--I enjoy the opportunity to sight-read (sopranos usually just get the melody) but the parts are always a little low for me.  I can hit the notes but they're not terribly comfortable.  And I'm not used to hearing the alto line, I'm trained to hear the soprano line.  So I had to work harder than normal on the score for this.

I gotta say though, I'm a little nervous about two performances.  I have a strong suspicion that the guy who plays Frank N Furter is tone-deaf.  This is not a death knell--Tim Curry talks his way through much of the score--but if that's what he needs to do, then DO it.   Don't massacre the score by trying to sing what you can't, just commit to talking it.  I'm not sure how familiar he is with the score--I don't believe he's seen the movie as he didn't want to go on a cast outing to see it, he was afraid of being influenced by Curry's performance.  (To which I say--man, you need to develop stronger acting instincts.  I've seen the movie many times, and my take on Columbia is nothing like Little Nell's.)  Anyway, I guess he doesn't know the score but in that case, LEARN IT.  Get the soundtrack and listen to these songs, even if it does influence you.  The Sunday before we open is a little late to be stumbling over the Charles Atlas song.  It's a good thing he's a good actor--his performance (other than the singing) is pretty decent.

The other performance is Steven as the Narrator.  Again, don't know if he's seen the movie but his take on the Narrator is all wrong.  The Narrator is the CONTROL character--he (like Janet and Brad) is quote-unquote normal.  He's not a freak, he's commenting on the freaks.  He's supposed to show up how weird this whole journey through his normality.  Steve's playing it almost like he's excitedly gossiping on the story.  Noooooo!  Deadpan, controlled, sober--THAT'S the Narrator.  Not giddy and excited, it undermines his function.  And this is small but it gets on my nerves nonetheless--he sings the last verse of Superheroes instead of speaking out.  Now Steven does have a lovely voice but the way he delivers it, he's all soulful and sad, NOOOOOO!  Again, that's not the Narrator.  This didn't happen to YOU, you're the messenger.  And I know he's singing it not because it's a character choice but simply to show off his (yes, lovely) singing voice--but it's not appropriate for the character or the show.  Ergh.

We have tech/dress tonight and tomorrow, and then an invited final dress for Wednesday.
ceebeegee: (Massachusetts foliage)

  • How effing cool is this? NYC is going to introduce a bike share program--you pay an annual fee, pick up a bike at a rack and then you can ride it for up to 45 minutes. I LOVE THIS. I just think this is the coolest idea! For one thing, I would love to bike more but bikes takes up mad room--even with an apartment the size of mine, I want more space. It's also a pain to carry a bike up and down stairs. This is so convenient! And green-friendly, and community-firnedly, and it'll encourage fit habits! When I lived with Ryan and Cami I used to run errands on my bike--maybe I can get back to that.


  • The weather is getting chillier, guys, and you know what that means--apple-picking time! Gothamist had a cool feature on several orchards that seem to be pretty close by, and maybe less expensive--Apple Ridge Orchard is only $9 admission, and Outhouse Orchards has peaches and pears as well. And Dubois was voted Best Pick Your Own. Maybe we could branch out from our beloved Applewood winery? Or stick to the boozey good times? Let me know your thoughts, guys! Ooh, can't wait to make some apple bread.


  • I got cast in a reading! Duncan sent out an email to a bunch of us to submit ourselves to Oberon's reading of The Empress of Sex and the director cast me as...uh, the Empress, I think! Other people I know, like Walter and Amada from PCTF, are also in it. The rehearsal is next Sunday, and the reading is the next day. So now I gotta update my website.


  • To which, BTW, I have been adding more and more content (note the video clip from The Promise and the audio of me singing "Come Away, Death"), as I get used to iMovie on my lil' Macbook Air. Everyone is right--iMovie is infinitely better than Windows Movie Maker. Truly, I cannot believe Dell or anyone would allow Microsoft to crap all over their hardware with WMM--it is easy to learn but has way too many bugs and is frustrating as hell. No program would be better than WMM.


  • As I announced on Facebook, I'm taking on a new project. I was so angry at the rape cop verdict, I decided I had to do something with that anger. I did some research and found out about a fantastic organization that really fills a need--a group called RightRides, that offers FREE rides home on the weekends to women and those who identify as LGBTQ (since the aim of the group is to tackle gender-based street/subway violence). I'm going to be volunteering with them as a driver! They operate from 12-3am on Fridays and Saturdays--if you need a ride, call (888) 215-SAFE (7233). They serve 45 neighborhoods in NYC, and they add more according to demand--so even if they don't serve your neighborhood, call 'em anyway so they'll add it!

    (888) 215-SAFE (7233)

    How much fun will that be? Riding around the city late at night, chatting with passengers--I'll be like a preppy, blonde Travis Bickle!


  • Happy Birthday, Prince Harry! He was born right around the time of my cousin Jessica.


ceebeegee: (Default)
So, the Planet Connections Awards Ceremony was last night--and I won!!!! "Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role of a Play" says my award--yay!

Eeeeeehhhh!!!!

I also performed in the ceremony--they asked me to sing the opening song in character (as Roberta). The song was terrific but I didn't get it until Monday and we didn't rehearse until Thursday--and then only had two rehearsals over all, INCLUDING the tech! So I was a little nervous about that, for sure. Amada (one of the PCTF bigwigs) was one of my backup singers. And I made a new friend! As part of the number I interacted with one of the other nominees (for "Best Solo Performance") and a couple of people commented on our "chemistry" so we're FB-friending each other. I was a little disappointed I didn't get to do the "red carpet" thing--the schedule was supposed to be 6:30-7:30 Red Carpet/Cocktail Reception and we *should've* been finished with the tech by then, so I'd planned to change into the orange dress, be photographed in that, and then change into the red dress before the start of the show at 7:30. This did not happen--we didn't finish rehearsing the number until 7:15. Lord! No time at all to mingle, drink or change. And my hair--I was able to try to curl it during the tech but it didn't help at ALL. My hair has gotten so long, it just pulls the curls out. Even spray gel didn't help. I squeezed into the red dress and then waited FOREVER for the show to start--as I was waiting, one of the staffers wanted to take my picture on the red carpet for the website. She ended up taking two pictures, one of regular Clara and one as Roberta.

The number went pretty well. I made one mistake but nobody noticed, and I was actually enjoying myself, lots of energy. That is definitely one thing I have as a musical performer, is ENERGY! During the rehearsal period for my ship contract, when the musical director and choreographer were telling us about the "Greas'd Lightnin'" show, they said there were six characters--the Greaser (Danny/Kenicki type), the "Bad Girl" (Rizzo type), the Nerd, the "Nice Girl" (sandy type), the Class President and the Cheerleader. I said Can I be the Cheerleader? They smiled mirthlessly and said oh, don't worry--you were the FIRST person we cast! (When we learned the 'ography for the "One Singular Sensation" show, I was CONSTANTLY getting the note "Stop bouncing! Learn to glide!" Although my bouncing definitely helped during the "Land of 1000 Dances" number.)



Me as the Cheerleader, with my friend Mickey as the Nerd

After the number I went downstairs and changed as quickly as I could--I'd worn my red hearts dress for the Roberta number but wanted to wear The Commando Dress (that orange racer-back dress--so sexy!). Amada offered me a glass of wine, most of which I gulped down (we weren't allowed food or drink on the auditorium) and we chatted for a while. I told her how much I liked the Festivity--I said not only is the PCTF a good thing overall, by furthering various charities and "teaching" people (for lack of a better word), but it is clear that Glory and the rest of the team respect the art and the craft of what we do as theater professionals. None of which can be said about some OTHER theater festivals! I think it's wonderful that Glory has put together such a solid endeavor in only a few years--well-done and I'm proud to be associated with it. I told Amada about how we as artists hear so frequently that what we do is basically self-indulgent and something like PCTF contradicts that--I also told her about the volunteering my 2008 Xmas Carol cast did, and how seeing Xmas Carol in '07 inspired Holly to start her Guatemala endeavor. See, art CAN make a difference--not just in attitudes (although that is important) but in actual measurable change.

After this I ran back upstairs and sat with Duncan, Chris and Akila, Heather and Doug. Doug won and then they announced me right after him. (Woo hoo!) It seemed there was some kind of ballsup with the actual physical awards, as I and several other winners did not actually get our awards until after the ceremony when they FOUND them! I know that when I went backstage after the first number, I walked through several extremely stressed out staffers sitting on the floor amidst a bunch of papers, saying things to each other like "have you found 'Best Actress in a Musical'?" And one poor presenter read off THE WRONG NAME--not the name of a non-winner, but a winner for another category. Poor girl was horrified. Luckily I think most people didn't quite understand. I saw a lot of the PCTF plays this year but seemingly none of the ones that won anything! I will say, one the actresses that beat out Heather--well, I saw that show and not to be unkind but I think they made a mistake. She wasn't impressive. Doug agreed with me. And there was another show that sounded (and looked) fantastic, called Wanderlust--they did a bit from it for the ceremony and Duncan told me he'd heard the 'ography* was amazing.

After the ceremony we all went back downstairs and mingled. The show started VERY late so we didn't have that much time for the after party (we had to be out of the space by a certain hour). Heather and I wanted to buzz Scott (also in the cast) who usually tends bar at his champagne bar Flute on Sunday evenings but as it turned out, he wasn't there last night, so Duncan, Heather and I ended up going to Pig & Whistle and I totally nommed on some crab and asiago dip. YUM. Then I got home and called my Mom, who was thrilled.

So exciting!


*The director for the ceremony (the guy who staged it) used this term--this is literally the first person I've heard say "'ography" since my ship contract. I need to get back to musical theater, I'm losing touch with my roots! Duncan, write me a musical :)

Eeeeeh!

Jul. 7th, 2011 04:23 pm
ceebeegee: (Default)
So as y'all know, I just finished a show, Sweeter Dreams, wherein I played the acerbic, baroquely eloquent film critic, Roberta leFay. The show was part of the Planet Connections Festival--and yesterday they released the list of nominees for this year! Everyone in the cast has been nominated--Heather for Best Actress, Scott for Best Supporting Actor and Doug and me for Best Featured Actor/Actress, respectively!

Yaaaaaay!!!!

I'm especially happy that Heather and I aren't in the same category. I'm actually in more scenes than she is, and I'm pretty sure I have more lines, but the story is about her, I'm just an observer--so we're not competing with each other! I didn't see any of the other nominated performances in my category, which is good in a way, so if I lose, I won't be all "I saw that show, she sucked!" I can just kick back and have fun.

Yaaaaaay!!!!


Duncan's script and Chris's multi-media stuff were also nominated. So exciting! Naturally I immediately pimped out the news all over Facebook and my website. Walter Brandes was also nominated for his reading so I congratulated him.
ceebeegee: (oz)
Friday evening I went down to the Gene Frankel to see the last Planet Connections show I could, Doug's (our Tom in Sweeter Dreams) other show, Hummingbirds. Not bad at all--his performance was great, as were the two women. One of them (the two women) buttonholed me two weeks ago after Sweeter Dreams, raving about my performance and...touching me?! Not inappropriately but flirtatiously. I certainly wasn't offended but was wondering if I'd interpreted that correctly and later Duncan said "oh yeah, she was all over you." Okay, then! Anyway, she and the other woman, whom I'd seen in another PC show, Loose Women... (she was great) were both very strong. I couldn't hang out to compliment anyone afterwards, as I had to book way back uptown to catch the end of Jason's "Take Back the Park" viewing--I guess I'm sort of a mascot now!

I got there and it was a bit of a bust, due to the clouds. There were about 5 other men besides Jason--he introduced me and then he and I talked for a bit. After the interview came out the day before, Jason had emailed me, calling me "very brave" and he followed up on this. I demurred a bit--I'm not traumatized, and nothing lasting happened to me, other than radicalizing me even MORE about rape and violence against women. It's not brave, it's just facts. At any rate, he told me that he thinks the interview was not just on local radio, but on "All Things Considered"--which is national! Wow! He thinks this because some friends of his heard the interview in New jersey, out of range of local NYC radio stations. Pretty cool!

I got home and heard the AMAZING NEWS!!!! YAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!! So, so happy for all my gay friends and family--we truly are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God! So happy that the New York legislators did the right thing. It is TIME! I started weeping, reading the explosion of joy of Facebook. Then the historian in me was even more moved reading what the legislators had said to explain their affirmative votes--this especially got to me:

Republican Senator Mark Grisanti then spoke about his struggle before coming to his decision to vote for the bill. "A man can be wiser today than he was yesterday," he said.

This is literally bringing tears to my eyes. This is how progress is made. This is how we make things better, not just for us but for those around us. This is the difficult, incremental process of social evolution. There has seemed to be so much anger and hatred for the past 20 years in politics--so many wedge issues, so much pointless divisiveness, so much cruelty. (Specifically, I'm thinking of shitty, godless Pat Robertson blaming 9-11 on feminism and homosexuality. That's not partisan, that's not ideological or true to your religious beliefs, that's just being a nasty, cruel piece of shit.) I'm not kidding myself that it's all ended--I know it hasn't. But by God, in the past 3 years, we've elected a black man to our highest office, and we've just doubled the number of gay people in this country who can be married. Even the setbacks are being nullified, like when Prop 8 was overturned in the courts. I love reading about the '60s--there was so much incredible heroism in the civil rights and anti-war movements, and so much history was made. It happened so quickly. My friends, these are our sixties. This is our time, our chance to change the world for the better. To grow, to accomplish--to change the world.

By the way, I just called my state senator and thanked him for voting yes on Friday. His assistant was thrilled, thanked me and told me also to email him, which I will.

Saturday was the final performance of Sweeter Dreams--Christine was there, as was my friend Linda, as well as Jason and Caroline. Jason was right up front laughing at everything, it was great. I had a little fun with the interview scene and finally FINALLY got a laugh on my throwaway snark on Joanna Remarque. I made two small adjustments--I emphasized my criticism of her in my first monologue just a little bit more, to set it up, and then in the interview I made the eye roll bigger and FINALLY got a laugh! I also added a new obnoxiously correct pronunciation--Spielberg is now Schpeelberg, the way the Germans would say it. Heather told me they all laughed backstage when they heard that.

After the show Jason and I got Mexican food and just had a nice long convo. I had plans to have dinner with Tim so I raced hom and got ready, then I met him at Houston's by the Lipstick Building (one of my favorite buildings in the city). We talked forevs, had a lovely time. He thinks the cop rape verdict is complete bullshit, BTW. We went to a bar for a nightcap and the Yankees game was on--they showed a guy sliding headfirst in slomo and I commented that I'd done hook slides (and of course regular slides) but I'd never slid head first, I was too nervous about messing up my face.

Sunday I slept quite late--finally got up and cleaned and got ready for my Sunday softball game. We played the Northwestern team and HAMMERED them. The final score was 12-1. Yikes! I hit .500, plus a sacrifice grounder. And I was part of a double-play--there was a runner at 2nd who was caught between the bases when our center fielder caught it. I yelled "Throw it here, he has to tag up!" And when I got the ball, ran his ass down, even though I could've just ran back to 2nd base. But what fun would that have been? :) It's more fun to tag them!

At one point I was on 1st base and someone popped it up to the infield--the 2nd and 1st base players weren't communicating too well, so I gambled, thinking they wouldn't catch it. Well, the 2nd basewoman DID catch it so I was in trouble since I hadn't tagged up! I DOVE back to 1st base just under the tag--so now I can say yes, I HAVE slid head first!

After the game 5 of us hung around for batting practice and then we went over to a bar when the Northwestern team told us they'd be. And--I think one of my teammates was flirting with me? Sometimes it's hard to tell. But he seems to direct a lot of attention my way--he's always teasing me or asking me questions, and then he was comparing our gloves (his is huge and expensive, mine is very old--I've had it since I was 8-9--and NOT-expensive) he said something like "I'll only buy her a good one if she goes on a date with me." Um, what?! I'm just saying, my female radar is pinging. He is cute, though. Anyway, we all had pitchers and maued wings. Nom, nom, nom...
ceebeegee: (Family)
Jason Kendall, Donna's husband, had a "Take Back the Park" event (in conjunction with his twice-weekly astronomy viewings) this past Wednesday, in response to a rape that happened in Inwood Hill Park over the weekend. (The PTB, I guess the PEP, were trying to squash afterdark activity in the aftermath.) A bunch of people came out, more than Jason typically gets for the astronomy viewings--we had hula hoopers there and everything. Jason set up the telescope and we got to see Saturn which was VERY cool--you could even see saturn moving, because the Earth is moving. So cool! I chatted with a newbie who's a fairly recent transplant to the neighborhood and it turns out she's from Baltimore and is a professor at Yeshiva University. I blathered on about history and Shakespeare and she invited me to see Inwood Shakespeare Festival's Othello with some of her students the next night.

So I was planning to go and then yesterday I got a call from my cousin Larson, who was in town for an interview and wanted to get together. I hated to bail on my new friend but Larson lives in Massachusetts and I haven't seen him since his wedding two years ago. I got to the outdoor space where ISF performs, at the edge of the park, and told her I couldn't stay until the end, explaining why, and she understood. I saw most of it but got Larson's text that he'd arrived during the last scene, so I missed the very end. NO GREAT LOSS. *Not* a great production--most of the leads were not impressive. The worst was the guy who runs the organization who cast himself as Othello. Judging from his picture it's difficult to tell if he is in fact black or part-black but he did put on a rather obvious wig with kinky curls. I don't even want to speculate why. The larger problem was that he just wasn't any good as Othello--not invested, no rage or despair, no focus or specificity. (And, really, way too old--Othello is not supposed to be THAT much older than Desdemona. It looked gross in the bedroom, frankly.) The "trance" bit was especially painful, although that's not the easiest bit to pull off. The scene in the bedroom was just so FLAT--like dude, you're about to KILL her, you look like you're disappointed the buffet ran out of sausage! Let's see some intensity! He totally metaphor-boated "Put out the light and then put out the light" by first gesturing with the light he had in his hand and then--yep--pointing to Desdemona. Thanks for breaking that down for us! *Headdesk* It might have been better if the Iago had been more murderously intense but he wasn't that great either--not as bad as Othello but you didn't feel his insane bitterness and rage. Desdemona was similarly disappointing, pretty flat. I will say, that's NOT an easy role to play--Des is such an angelic character--but I think she was sacrificing charm in order to make her seem more victim-like. The supporting roles were much better, including Cassio, Emilia, the Clown and Bianca. Emilia tore it up, although she didn't seem that experienced--but she was passionate. I was disappointed overall--I know they can get great talent out there, I saw Comedy of Errors with Elizabeth and Andy there last year and that was good, and CoE seems *much* harder than Othello.

So, I wasn't too disappointed to duck out early. Larson met me and we walked over the Indian Road Cafe for a quick bite and yacked about The Family. He had an interview here but sadly if he gets it, will not be moving to NYC--darn! SO great to see him! I love my cousins.
ceebeegee: (Drinks!)
Show is going so well! I love Roberta now--I still have a healthy respect for all those monologues but I am so much more comfortable with them and am having a great time playing her. Apparently the other three actors have been flubbing lines a little bit--this is one good thing about ZOMG MONOLOGUES. It takes forever to learn them, but once they're learned, I only have to worry about myself, I don't have to stress about someone else flubbing their lines.

I will be heading down to the other theater to see Jenny Fersch's (SM from Pirates) play. I saw Kelly Monroe's (director 2.0 of this spring's Macbeth) play, "Hold," which was on a double bill with another play, "Monster." Kelly's play was pretty good (although I dozed through a bit of it)--a man who is calling a suicide hotline and keeps getting put on hold. The one actor we saw, the caller, was QUITE good. Difficult role, I was extremely impressed. The phone counselors/people on the other end of the line (voiceovers)--ehh. They were trying too hard, which is easy to do as an actor anytime you're "missing" a dimension. (I notice this in actors who have to act without lines--they mug, they indicate, they overact.) The other play was...err, pretty terrible. I feel bad saying that, I know they were struggling with lights and I can sympathize with that but--yikes. It was about child sexual abuse--the main character had gone through some kind of very traumatic incident and had regressed or some such shit. The doctor sparred with a detective who was sent there to question her and there were monologues from the MC's parents. Even in the most skilled actor's hands, this sort of topic is very, very difficult to handle without coming off as cheesy or exploitative, especially when you have an adult actor pretending to be a child. One of the very few showcases ever to make this sort of thing work was Sybil, which still holds up extremely well, but not only was Sally Fields amazing, she was surrounded by an amazing supporting cast. And it was film. "Monster" was no Sybil, I'll leave it at that. But I did like the opening poem that the AD read.

If you've seen Sweeter Dreams vote for us at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards! Interestingly all of us are listed as lead actors--Thomas, really? He's only in three scenes. (Although he's terrific in all of them--he, Heather and Scott are all uniformly great.) Ah, whatevs.

Loving all this heat. Mmmm, summer...

The Weekend

Jun. 6th, 2011 01:27 pm
ceebeegee: (Beyond Poetry)
The second and third performances of Sweeter Dreams went MUCH better. I am getting used to the laughter during that opening monologue, and playing with the timing a bit, although my timing still isn't perfect mainly because that monologue TERRIFIES ME. I can never, ever relax during this show, I always have to be aware of what's coming up because ZOMG SO MANY WORDS. But I am starting to get into the moments more. I told Scott (who plays Brad--my character is so isolated and I work so little with the other actors that I literally only learned his actual name this week) that "I think I've invented a speech impediment" (my weird little Rs). He loves our scene together, he's told me several times how much he likes my line readings on things like "that's grrrret" and "grrrrret things are in store for him."

Interesting to know there have been reviewers--I'm a little worried about that because I can't get a feel for how I'm coming across. (Oh for God's sake Clara, STOP DIRECTING YOURSELF.) Anyway, a little worried that I'm going to get raked by reviewers.

We had softball Saturday and I made another double play! Runner on first, ball was hit to shortstop who flipped it to me and I made the throw to first. Yee haw! That's actually a harder out, because I have to pivot on second base, it's a difficult throw. I practice it all the time but since I have no prep for the throw, it's not easy.

I was running in Sunday afternoon (I was a little late for the call) and passed someone in the lobby--I stopped and said "You're 'Jeff Mancuso'! Oh my god, I love the Cellular Biology clip!" The guy is in one of the clips from the movies in review in Sweeter Dreams--Cellular Biology gets a *terrible* review from me, and the clip I show is effing hilarious with that obnoxious kiss. A lot of people who were in the clips saw the show this weekend.

After the matinee yesterday, I went up to Central Park for more softball. Got three hits yesterday!
ceebeegee: (Beyond Poetry)
We had our first performance last night which was effectively our tech as well, and was certainly the first performance of any kind of front of an audience. It definitely threw me a bit--I had to wait for a bit of laughter on some of my lines, I had to think more and time things differently which normally I love (I love the technique of comedy) but I was so nervous that I dropped a small chunk toward the end of the opening monologue. Not a huge amount and I covered it well enough but I know the slides beyond me are dependent on what I'm saying. Argh! So frustrating, I know that monologue, I can rattle it off in my sleep. I apologized to Adam backstage (he's running the slides) but he said no sweat, he was able to adjust pretty quickly.

Had another almost-flub during the Oscar nomination speech which, although it's so short, is probably my most difficult monologue, since there's no consequence or narrative to it, it's just names and titles. There was a slightly-long pause between the second and third Best Actor nominees--I almost jumped to the 4th one but then it came to me. SWEATING. I think this flub was triggered because when I walked out for the Oscar nom speech, the light was different and I kept thinking "Am I in the light all the way?" and then "I don't think I am, should I cross and block the slide show?"

I rather love my costumes--well, most of them are my clothes anyway but I quite like one of the suits I wear (not mine), a charcoal-grey wollen double-breasted suit. It's sexy-frumpy.

This is a nice group of people--a small cast, just us four, but we get along well. It's a little odd because I share so little stage time with them.

Jesse Rosbrow was waiting after the show and he said it took him a minute to realize--hey, in real lfe someone speaking this long (my opening, two-page monologue) on camera would have a teleprompter (instead of memorizing the copy). I said YEAH.

Afterward I needed strong drink--we tried to hit up Acme but they were closed (but not closed--I checked their hours, they close at 11:30 on Thursdays) so we went to the place next door, called the Smile. Very cute and I loved the ale I got but their menu is a little frou-frou for post-show nomming. At any rate their kitchen had already closed so I couldn't order food--STARVING. It's a good thing I maued a Magnum Doble* on the way to the theater, because that was pretty much my dinner.

*I discovered Magnum bars when I did my cruise ship contract in Spain, they are CRACKTASTIC. Ice cream is very big in Spain, you see heladerias everywhere on the streets. My favorite Magnum bar is the Doble--sooooo much caramel. It's vanilla ice cream on a stick, covered with chocolate, then lots of caramel, then more chocolate. I always tried to basically just eat the caramel with a little bit of ice cream to accompany it. This is easily accomplished in Southern Spain because it gets very melty and you can just pull off the layers with your teeth. Mmm, caramel...this contract was also where I discovered the incredible deliciousness that is banoffee pie. Also j'adore the cheesy ads with Rachel Bilson.
ceebeegee: (Beyond Poetry)
So I'm in Duncan's play, Sweeter Dreams, playing Roberta leFay, the film critic. We started off-book rehearsals last week which terrified me going in--Roberta has a CRAZY-long monologue that kicks off the play, 2+ pages. As well as 4 or so other monologues ranging from 1.5 pages to a paragraph. I have two scenes with dialogue but most of my performance is me monologuing. As I worked on it I realized the sound of the voice I'm giving her reminded me of Darren Nichols from Slings and Arrows--appropriate since the two characters share certain elemental personality traits. I built on that and now she definitely has her own distinct, weird voice, especially with the Rs. "That's grrret!"

I got through the first off-book rehearsal okay--not great but okay. I was terrified for the first, longest monologue--I literally sat there in one pose for pretty much the entire piece, just thinking ahead to the next phrase, the next thought. Every time I run them, my muscle memory retains a little bit more. That said, I kind of like Roberta being a little stiff in weird ways. You'll see what I mean when you come to the show, but I have this kind of Juliet Prowse on the bottom, Dawn Weiner on the top body language thing going on. Anyway every rehearsal is a little easier, even though I keep changing the pronunciations of certain words. Based on my analysis of the text, I decided that Roberta was very Baroque, and likes to complicate things. She also likes words, as evidenced by her LONG monologues and by her florid vocabulary, and likes to be very correct in her pronunciations of foreign phrases. So I add syllables, I enunciate words within an inch of their lives, I over-hit my Ds & Ts. It's fun. I've been cracking up Duncan and the cast which of course is great--I'm doing my job--but then *I* laugh as well. I'll be fine in performance, it's just in rehearsal I lose it. I've never played a character as over-the-top as this.

We had our dress rehearsal last night--I have INSANE amounts of costumes. All huge-ass power suits and dresses. My first outfit is basically a whole effing COW--heavy red leather top, heavy leather skirt. My heart sank when I looked at all the outfits lined up--it just seems like so much, so much clothes, so many scenes, SO MUCH VERBIAGE. But actually the runthrough went quite well--I'm on the other side, I'm not that nervous about performances anymore. And I made some of the cast members laugh during my interview of Brad. Yay for being funny!
ceebeegee: (Beyond Poetry)
Also, last week for class we read Henry V and watched bits of it in class, both the Olivier and the Branagh. Haven't seen the Branagh since it first came out in '89--it's quite good! I definitely prefer it to my Olivier--I have very mixed feelings about the quality of Olivier's films (perhaps I should say their success--as I emailed to my professor:

Olivier's Shakespeare adaptations have always tried to bestride both theater and film--NOT always successfully! ("To be or not to be" CANNOT be a voiceover, what was he thinking? Shakespeare's lines are too theatrical to be believable as thought, they *must* be spoken aloud. Declaimed, as it were!)

And the 1944 H5 is sooo cheesy, with its forced humor during the Salic law scene, and that Globe framework. Just doesn't work for me, although I do like Olivier's Richard III--hottt! I like how he split up the wooing scene, makes it *infinitely* more believable that Anne finally succumbs. Only Olivier could make Humpback Dick hot!

Anyway we looked at it specifically WRT Laws of War--since the 1944 was meant as British propaganda, they left out the Harfleur speech and the speech where Henry has the French prisoners executed. Branagh's version, which of course is much darker (they called it "the post-Falklands Henry V"), has both scenes (I believe--I know he has the Harfleur scene, he chews up the scenery, masticates it within an inch of its life, and spits it out again). We compared the Agincourt speech, even though it doesn't address Laws of War, just because it's so good. (Hilariously, Olivier's Agincourt is all sunny--uh, the rain and the mud is WHY the English won, guys! The French cavalry got stuck in the mud and the English archers finished 'em off.) The professor compared the long shots in the Olivier to the closeups in the Branagh, saying this is why Olivier is the better actor. I emailed him:

Do you really see the tight camera closeup on Henry in the St. Crispin Day speech as bad acting? That speaks to more Branagh's directing than his acting--and really, that's just a different style....Branagh's Henry V shots and editing are more cinematic. I also think his take on the text is more a look at Henry the man--his development from Prince Hal the carouser to a King in every sense of the word, whereas Olivier's movie had a wider focus.

He replied:

I make that point about Olivier simply for the sake of an audience that has probably never seen him and is likely to be wowed by Branagh's eyes (a student last year practically swooned) and stirring
music and the reaction shots of Brian Blessed.


As I said, I hadn't seen it since it first came out, but I really liked what I saw (again) so I watched some more last night on YouTube. OH MY GOD. The wooing scene. The wooing scene. Kenneth, marry me now. NOW. When he walks around the table saying "Oh Kate, nice customs curtsy to great kings..." I...I cooed out loud. So, so cute. O anonymous student from last year, I am RIGHT there with you!

And on a fairly random note, I *love* how little English names have changed in 600 years. We STILL are naming our princes and princesses Catherine and Henry. And Edward and Margaret and Elizabeth and William...
ceebeegee: (Puck)
Saw Bye Bye Birdie last night.

W. O. W.

This *may* surpass The Civil War as the worst Broadway show I've ever seen. I came close to walking out of CW at intermission, after that dreadful, self-indulgent number "How Many Devils?" but since someone had given me the ticket, I figured I owed it to them to stay.

BBB's big main, overriding flaw is the direction--including staging, casting, and the diection of the actors. Gina Gershon, who is gorgeous and who played Sally Bowles for the Rundabout to great acclaim, is egregiously miscast as Rosie. She is really terrible--not only can't she hit the notes, she can't project at all and does this weird, swooping thing on the notes. I can't describe it but she's pretty bad. Her dancing is non-existent, but worst of all is her performance. She just doesn't get the specific style, the energy of Rosie and the show. Her actions and staging is muddled and unclear--she seems like she's apologizing. She doesn't pop.

Stamos is a little better--he at least has a nice voice--but he is just. Not. The Albert type. At all. He doesn't have that nerdy, gangly energy that Albert should, and so he's just not that interesting in the role. Again, he doesn't pop. The girl who plays Kim has a lovely voice and is very sweet, but also doesn't get the role or the show. Kim is supposed to be so wide-eyed, she's ridiculous; "How Lovely to Be a Woman" is supposed to be simultaneously hilarious and adorable, because she's singing about how she's a woman and she's 15 and she's just so darn excited about those "simply beautiful clothes!" This girl sang it as though it were a thoughtful, introspective ingenue anthem--obviously the director didn't go through which phrases to lean on slightly, to make it more comic, like "the wait was well worthwhile," "...a woman's smile" and at the same time, revel in being able to "...stay out after ten!"

But all of this pales to the travesty that was Bill Irwin's performance as Mr. MacAfee. He should not be allowed anywhere near musical theater ever again. His performance of "Kids"--a slam-dunk number, an hilarious, character-based comic number, "this crazy kids, they'll be the death of me"--was THE worst, most self-indulgent, masturbatory performance I've ever seen on Broadway. He moaned and squeaked his way through the lyrics--it literally sounded as though he were having a bowel movement, the way he moaned "Keeeeeeedsuh!" My face was right out of the movie of The Producers--I was truly embarrassed for him. Honestly at this point I never want to see him in any show again, I hated his performance that much.

On the dimly bright side--the teenagers were completely adorable. Ridiculously adorable. I don't know how they directed themselves but they were all terrific, and GOT the show, they nailed the energy. I liked the Birdie too--he's not perfectly cast (a little too young, IMO) but still very good, and sounded nice. The sets are kind of minimal but I did like them, especially the MacAfee's living room--I really want that couch and those pillows! Music direction is only a'ight, I wanted to hear the kids more. Choreography is almost non-existent until "Lot of Living" when it finally picks up (the Shriner's Ballet and another dance number of Rosie's are cut).

Edited to add:



As I said, the teenagers are the best, second-best, and third-best thing about the show. They all give terrific performances. Just look at those adorable faces!
ceebeegee: (crescent moon)
After visiting Ipswich, Mass. (which is near Salem) in July for my cousin Larson's wedding, I watched a terrific miniseries about the 1692 witch trials. And then this week I saw the 1996 movie adaptation of The Crucible. Miller wrote the screenplay, and he did a terrific job--as heavily stage-bound and unnaturalistic as the play is, he really adapted it well to the screen. For instance, the second act, which takes place entirely in the Proctor farmhouse on one night, is spread out over weeks, and you see some of the events that the Proctors discuss. The one big change I didn't like was how much he cut the scene in the forest between John and Abigail--her monologue was eliminated, and I LOVE that monologue, it is so creepy and poetic and wonderful. "...As bare as some December tree I saw them all--walking like saints to church, running to feed the sick, and hypocrites in their hearts! And God gave me the strength to call them liars, and God made men to listen to me, and by God I will scrub the world clean for the love of Him! Oh, John, I will make you such a wife when the world is white again!"

The performances are all very strong, especially Daniel Day Lewis as John Proctor, Joan Allen as Elizabeth Proctor and Paul Scofield as Judge Danforth. And I actually quite liked Wynona Ryder as Abigail--she can be a little mannered for me sometimes but I thought she did a good job here. Her (and the director's) take on the character was interesting--more waifish and little-girl-lost, especially in her first scene alone with Proctor, than the Homewrecking Temptress as she is typically portrayed. This is entirely appropriate since when you think about it--John Proctor is completely at fault for their affair. A teenage girl in a sexually repressed society who is therefore completely unaware of her own sexuality, an orphan living in the scraps of her uncle, who's working in someone else's home--he was obviously much more in control of the situation than she was, and is therefore more to blame. Now, what Abigail goes on to do is her responsibility--I'm certainly not defending that--but you can't help feeling for her at the beginning of the story. She really is lost. I've just seen so many harpy Abigails* that I liked this take on it.

History's Mysteries... )

*Years ago, in Virginia, the play group of my home parish, St. Andrew's, was performing The Crucible (they were using the altar as a stage, which I thought was extremely cool. Hey, we're (Anglo-)Catholics, there's a very fine line between performing and celebrating Mass! Anyway, one of the supporters of the group, my grandmother's best friend June Hansen (a well-known Equity actress and Helen Hayes award winner in DC) asked me to look in on the rehearsals and give the director any feedback I might have--I guess this was at his request, I certainly made it clear to him he was free to reject or accept my thoughts, as he wished. I watched a little bit of the first scene--this scene is set at the Parris's household, and Betty is catatonic and we hear how the night before, Parris caught the girls dancing in the woods. Proctor comes over and eventually he and Abigail are alone together. She tells him "'tis nothing--my uncle caught us dancing in the woods, is all" and he replies "you'll be clapped in the stocks before you're twenty." And she melts, saying "give me a word, John, a soft word."

Well, the way this scene was being performed by my church group, John says the stocks line (and the preceding lines) to her sternly, as though he were lecturing her. There was absolutely no flirtatiousness between them--he is stern and stiff, holding her at arms' length. The director asked me for any feedback, and I said "uh, you may want to consider exploring some of the subtext in that scene--it's more interesting if John is still attracted to her and he's fighting against that." Not to mention--it's hardly even subtext when the script itself adds it--the stage directions say that John is smiling on that line and she responds with "a giggle." It's this buildup that leads to "give me a word, John--a soft word." The director looks at me in confusion--"really? You think I should put that in?" Well, YEAH! Arthur Miller thinks so too! May I introduce you to THE SCRIPT? I know Miller's asides are long but they're actually quite helpful.

Anyway, getting back to the movie, as I said the performances are all great, and the last scene between John and Elizabeth will blow you away. Truly fantastic acting between the two of them. And the direction is quite strong as well--in the commentary track, Nicholas Hytner says how he and the crew had this fancy that the Devil had entered the camera, and at times, there was a Devil's-eye-view. For example, the "yellow bird" that the girls "see" during Mary Warren's testimony comes swooping down on the girls--I thought that was great. It was filmed at some uninhabited island in Cape Ann, and the whole thing just looks gorgeous.

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