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I recall at some point last semester during techs for Reckless. Both Faqir and I were board ops, and during techs one evening were were waxing philosophical about theatre in the booth. I regret that I forget about this moment started, but as we were commenting on the play, Faqir would constantly remark on how “it’s a process” and yes, that’s what draws me, and us, to theatre, is the process. The majority of our grades to not come from exams or papers, but working on a production, the coming together of talented minds to work as one cohesive unit, go to throughna series of designs, rehearsals, actors, egos, whatever, all to create an ephermeral experience in which no one performance is the same. And yet I still ponder as to why I’ve been drawn to stage management. I’m still not sure if it’s for me. More later?

As a stage manager, you are an active observer. oxymoron, yes,

15 Plays

I got tagged for this meme on Facebook, and while I was doing it I realized it’d be pretty well suited here. Especially since quite a few plays were from the Ideas trip.

So…

List 15 plays you’ve either read, seen, or participated in that have had a strong effect on you and that will always stick with you. Tag some friends including me. Enjoy And Support Live Theatre…

( I decided to do these in chronological order where possible)

1. “Proof” by David Auburn. This production on Broadway back in 2001 was the first professional play I’ve ever seen, so it’s significant. I’ll admit I’m actually not a fan of the script itself, but it was this production that I think, looking back, secured my interest in theatre. Part of it was seeing Johanna onstage for the first time, and secondly, the moment right at the end of the first act where Catherine reveals she wrote the play was one of the beautifully staged moments I’ve ever seen.

2. “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” by Terrence McNally. Saw this at Arena Stage a few years ago. Just a really lovely, lovely, touching little play. This was probably the first play that had a strong emotional effect on me. The image of the two sitting on the edge of her bed brushing their teeth in silence still tugs on my heartstrings to this day.

3. “She Stoops to Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith. My second show at UMW I acted in. Good times, not a lot of drama, and just a really fun show to be involved in as I finally got to know people here in the department a little more.

4. “Oleanna” by David Mamet. This shoe was done in Studio 115 and was my first time stage managing. I remember I did it mostly because I had a crush on Mitch at the time, who was directing it. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Theatre-wise, I mean.

5. “The Threepenny Opera” by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. I don’t really know why I love this musical so much, I just do. Both the music and lyrics stab you like Macheath’s knife. Heh heh, get it. I have yet to see it onstage yet, but the old movie with Lotte Lenya is worth watching.

6. “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Christopher Hampton I’ve been a fan of this story ever since I read the novel in high school. That, and my interest was piqued by the fact that Alan Rickman originated the role of Valmont back in the day. So that helps a bit. That, and it’s a damn good play and it’s amazing how Hampton works the motivations and desires and about 300 pages of letters into a two and a half hour play. The chemistry there is astounding. Anyway, I saw it on Broadway in the Summer of ‘08 with Laura Linney as Merteuil and Ben Daniels as Valmont. Both were excellent, although Ben Daniels took me off guard at first as his Valmont was very foppish and silly, but ended up winning me over in the end. And the set design was amazing. That was one benefit of viewing it from the mezzanine.

7. “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts. I saw this on Broadway about a year ago when Johanna was Barbara. It’s a huge show and was awesome.

8. “The Quality of Life” by Jane Anderson. Gahhh, so lovely. It’s about death, kind of, in contrast with the title. It skillfully brings up all of the political and personal issues surrounding death and examines it from two different viewpoints. It almost looked as if it was going to be a left v. right argument, but it isn’t, and it turned out to be a really personal, poignant play, especially for anyone who has ever lost anyone close unexpectedly. It was the closest I ever got to crying during a play, and that says something being the robot I am.

9. “God of Carnage” by Yazmina Reza. Saw this on Broadway. So good, it was like a punch in the stomach. A 90-minute riot. It closes June 27, see it if you can! It’s worth the money!

10. “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” by the Neo-Futurists. Oh man, where do I even begin? This is the kind of theatre I want to do. I want a tiny room in some business’ basement to paint and call a black box and put on good theatre. Basically, it’s 30 plays in an hour. Some are funny, outrageous, bizarre, avant-garde, Artaudian, whatever. Or, what I like to call it, a bunch of weirdos coming together to do what they love. What I love. Do want.

11. “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder at Barrow Street Theatre. Directed by David Cromer. Wow. It’s not so much that it’s a good production of Our Town, as anyone can do a good production. It’s like Cromer revisited the play and found out the meaning that’s been hidden there all along, that even Wilder himself couldn’t see. It’s phenomenal, and apart from that, it just makes sense. I demand anyone who has ever been involved in a production of Our Town to see it especially. It makes it all the more powerful.

12. “A Behanding in Spokane” by Martin McDonagh. Saw this with Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, aka my future respective husbands. In some ways it’s a vehicle for Walken’s creepiness, which is alright by me.

13. “The Lion King” I got to shadow the SM on this show with Shayla. Apart from being some amazing eye candy, being able to be given this opportunity was pretty freakin’ awesome. That, and I loved watching the scene changes via the infrared camera.

14. “Venus in Fur” by David Ives. With Wes Bentley and Nina Arianda. This is such an engrossing piece of work. And Wes Bentley’s gaze pierces through the calloused shell of my soul.

15. “Romeo and Juliet” I stage managed this beast of a show as my senior project here at UMW and survived. But really. I learned so much from this process and ended up being thrown a lot of curve balls, even once we entered into the run. It was worthwhile though as good learning experience. The gods were smiling on me when I won that banner in the raffle, hoo-damn.

My Final Post

So I started thinking about my petcha kutcha, the final presentation we have to give consisting of 20 slides of just images lasting exactly 20 seconds each, about ourselves and where we were at the end of this class. We had done one earlier in the semester, and I discovered I really needed to write out what I was thinking first, before I started pulling pictures. When I was done, I realized that it was probably the most complete thing I had put down about me, maybe ever. So now, that document is my final blog post. I think it summarizes pretty well how I feel about myself, on the cusp of graduating. Enjoy.

When we last did this project, I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely honest. I hate talking about myself, and I’m an intensely private person. So the idea of creating a powerpoint slide presentation that exposed the inner me wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. So I dodged. I fed you guys what have become my standard lines about why I am going into the theatre, put up a lot of high school photos of me that I neither recognize nor relate to anymore, and kept most of myself hidden. I do that a lot. Most people, even friends, have no idea what I really think of them. Much less do they really know what I think about me. All those emotions, I keep locked somewhere, because human connection is something I’m simultaneously terrified of and drawn towards.  I hardly think I’m alone in this.  Basically, I’m a coward. And this is why I act. In the safe space of a theatre, I become someone else, and those deep, pithy connections that happen onstage, I get to have them, and then get out of them two hours later. A little humanity-pill that keeps me from losing it. Call it a creative outlet.

Over the last few months, I think I’ve come to realize this more and more. The strain of taking 18 credits, working, and doing a show made me irritable, withdrawn, and a generally unpleasant person. I’m sure you can all relate. By the end of R&J I was so burnt out that people had started to come up to me asking what was wrong, which almost never happens unless you’ve started putting out signals that it’s ok to ask you that. I think that the strain of working and keeping up a public face without really letting anyone in had started to get to me.

In New York, we saw a lot of great theatre, and met a lot of important artists. The thing that struck me about the people we met though, and really the whole city, was the way their work consumed them. And not in a good, artistic way, but in a the rat-race gives me meaning kind of way. The UMW grad who boasts of his 18 hour days. He seemed so proud of the fact that his whole life was devoted to getting the next job, and yet so desperately unhappy, like his whole life had gone into his headshot and resume. Like every time he handed it out, he was giving away a piece of himself. Or The broadway star whose ‘actor’ persona is so affected and yet so total that I wonder if he even knows how to switch it off anymore, touching my arm and oozing platitudes about how anyone can be a professional actor, they just had to love the work. They all said you had to love the work. I wondered if it ever loved them back. Even the plays we saw had an inordinate amount of people engulfed by the person, the caricature, they had shown the world. All the characters in God of Carnage, so wrapped up in their own selves they can’t function when their personas break down. Philip in The Pride, who undergoes radical treatment in order to hide from himself. Most of the people in A Little Night Music, who spend the majority of the play hiding how they feel behind the person they’re pretending to be.  And all the while, the poignant question Emily asks at the end of Our Town repeating in my head, “do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”

By the end of the trip, I had a vague sense of unease. That sense has been growing ever since. How much do you give yourself to your work, whatever it is? Should it ever give you your life’s meaning? I realize that being interested in your work and working hard at it are important, but where do you draw the line between yourself and it? Can you draw that line in the theatre? I want my characters to be influenced by my personality and not the other way around, but after a certain point doesn’t the opposite become true?

And I realize that all of these questions are manifestations of me, the artist, not wanting to jump in. To keep a part of myself from the audience and the work. And that as long as I hesitate like this, I will never really live up to my full potential as an actor, because of course the work should give you meaning and influence you, and if you don’t let it you aren’t really connecting.

But do I really want to let that be me?  I certainly don’t want to become like the people we met on the trip. And I think, over the course of this semester, I have, at least a little bit. There has been no time to stop and think, just go, go, go, damn the torpedoes and turn things in, rehearse your character, graduate. On the one level, I wanted that. I was devoting myself to my work wholeheartedly and those pesky human relationships, well, I just didn’t have the time anymore, thank God. I could hide from myself and others in plain sight, on the stage even, letting the relationships there replace the real ones in my life. But now that it’s over, I have the time, and I’m starting to dislike the person I’ve become.

So now the question is, do I keep acting?  I don’t want it to be my little release anymore. The fake relationships on the stage, as beautiful and poignant as they may be, aren’t as important as the ones I have as Me. I think I’ll try it for a while. If I can still look in the mirror and see myself there,  and if I can keep the people important to me close, then maybe it’ll work out. If I can’t, then fuck it. Theatre imitates life, it isn’t the thing itself, and if it ever starts to be, then it’s probably time to burn down the theatres, throw the scripts into the sea, and live.

Sorry if that’s a little melodramatic. It probably would have been less so with a little more sleep. But at least it’s honest. Finally.

Closing Thoughts

This should have been a “What I Learned in New York Part 2″ but closing thoughts seemed more appropriate.  Tonight is our last night of Ideas in Performance.  In two days, my Junior year of college will be over.  A year from now I will be preparing to graduate, my senior project will already have been turned in, and hopefully I will have a job.  (maybe that’s a little optimistic.)  I found this hope while I was in New York that I haven’t had in a long time.

My parents are less than supportive of this whole “theatre thing”.  They don’t understand how I will get a job or make a living and provide for myself.  They had almost convinced me that maybe I had made a mistake.   But I know that theatre is the only thing I want to do.  I will never be the kind of person that can sit behind a desk for 8 hours a day for a job I hate.  I would rather work for half the pay doing something that makes me happy, or at least doesn’t make me depressed.  There are plenty of things I can do in theatre and my interests are always growing and changing.   Gregg has said many times that it isn’t so much what you majored in, but the skill set you develop while in college.  Theatre is the most collaborative vocation I can think of.  For the most part, we all respect one another’s jobs and creativity and ability to contribute.  That skill will be viewed favorably on any job application.  So I have faith that the skills I have developed at Mary Wash will provide me with a job in the future, hopefully the near future.

And maybe some of the contacts I’ve made in New York, D.C., and the contacts I will make in Baltimore this summer will help me to find some degree of happiness when my parents are no longer paying the bills.

So in conclusion, this class and the trip to NYC opened my eyes to options like graduate school, joining an acting company, apprenticing, etc. and gave me hope that I will find success after college.

Ce n’est pas une erreur.

Someone pointed out the grammatical inaccuracy of my title. This is intentional. Look it up, people.

where to go?

This week while working on my pecha kucha for our final, I realized that I didn’t really know the next step to take. I mean in theory I do: I know that once I graduate, I’ll start going on auditions, sending out resumes, and never being able to  answer my parents’ questions when they ask me about my life, mostly because I probably won’t know what I’m actually doing. Everything is so up in the air with a career in theatre, but I honestly don’t know if I could have a “normal” job, one where I go to the same place and do the same tasks every day from 9-5. All I know is that I’m happiest when I’m going to rehearsals and working in the theatre. Whenever I’m not working on a show, I always feel like a part of me is missing. I feel like I should be doing something else because I have too much free time on my hands. Part of me actually enjoys running around like a crazy person, going from class to class to rehearsal to work to whatever else my life holds that particular day.

Being in this class has helped me so much. Seeing all of the fantastic theatre that I have this semester, I’ve realized that what I’ve always wanted to do is act. Though I have done other things since coming to school like stage manage, I’ve come to know that my true passion, along with singing, is acting. I miss that energy I feel whenever I get onstage and the pride I have in myself when I know I’ve done a part well. I love acting because it gives me a chance to discover new parts of myself in addition to creating someone completely different from myself. It forces me to think and feel and become someone else. Often times, I’m able to see a part of myself in every character and I take away something from each character to add to myself.

This has been the most wonderful class for me this semester mostly because I was getting to a point where I was starting to doubt myself a lot. Ideas in Performance has shown me that I can achieve my goals and do what I want to do. All I have to do is not be afraid to take chances. I know this may all sound  a little cliched and cheesy, but it’s whats been going on in my head for the past few years. Now I have a focus and I know what I need to do in order to achieve my goals, and it makes me so happy.

I kept a diary pretty religiously in high school. Everyday I would get home, go up to my bedroom, remove the brightly colored, floral spiral I got in 8th grade from between the mattress and boxspring (p.s. not the best hiding space. This is the first place sisters look!) and write about what happened that day and how I felt. Mostly it was about boys. I wish my teenage self had more profound thoughts than “omg he waved i wonder if he likes me omgomgomglolololol”. There was nothing in those hundreds of entries about what I wanted to do or be or how I felt about… anything really.

In school, I was asked to write papers, do presentations, give speeches. The only time I recall a teacher asking me for my opinion on subject matter was in religion class, my freshman year. I had been raised Lutheran and was attending a Catholic high school, so obviously my opinion was wrong. (I read The Da Vinci Code during her class later that year as payback.) That experience was somewhat of a turn-off to sharing my opinion in the classroom. Anyone that has ever had a class with me will know that not much has changed. In New York, our discussions at night never felt like “class” and I felt comfortable talking about the shows we had seen and what I had been doing. Sitting around the seminar room table: flashbacks to freshman year religion class when everything I said or thought was wrong.

A few things sparked this debate I’m having with myself. The discussion with Gregg in class about whether or not college students are entitled to have an opinion about professional work and how my grades in discussion based classes are suffering.

I kept a diary because I thought my opinion mattered. What I said had a point and I had every intention of making it heard (to myself, but still…). I stopped keeping a diary for many reasons, but mainly because when I read over those entries again, even a few months later, I felt stupid. What I found there in purple ink was a bunch of pointless drivel that would never matter. So which is worse…. an uninformed opinion, ignorance even,… or no opinion at all? Maybe it’s better to just be wrong and learn from it, then to be silent and never grow…

So here I sit once again with another (very different) diary. You won’t find a single entry on here about boys or drama with my friends. This is the diary I should have been keeping all along: What I’ve done, where I want to go, and how I’m going to get there.

You want to…

…start a theatre? Let’s! I have faith in us. Let’s do it.

Maybe? Perhaps? One day?

Who knows.

I can do anything.

Sailor Mars

So we all have to grow up sometime. But sometimes, I don’t want to.

After graduation, I will spend a couple months in Fred until my lease ends. I currently have a job lined up as a Production Assistant at Ford’s Theatre in DC. I am excited. Beyond excited. You have no idea. However, I am terrified.

Petrified even.

Am I really qualified enough for this? Did they chose the right person? Do I really know what I am getting myself into? Can I handle it?

I have these thoughts every day.

But I have to think that I am qualified for this job. I am fresh out of college. Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, as they say. But I am willing to learn. Eager to learn. I feel that this has to count for something.

I also have to put faith in those who put faith in me. Gregg and Brandon think I can. So I have to as well. My motto is that “things have to work out because they have no choice but to work out.” To some extent, I feel like fate is out of my hands. Things will happen as they will. However, what I want will happen. I will be a success.

Does that sound like an oxymoron to you? Because it does to me. But it is the essence of what I believe. Of what gets me through the hectic days.

I wanted to be Sailor Mars as a child. Her real name was Raye (Rei). She was a fireball with hard shell but a warm gooey center. She was competitive when it mattered and could take charge. Emotions were frivolous. She suffered silently but could turn and take you out in a flash. You never really knew what you were gonna get with her. She wasn’t the star of the show, not did she necessarily want to be. But she did want to be recognized. I wanted to be Sailor Mars as a child.

I think I am becoming her as an adult.

Friday 2

Today we Meet with Arnold J. Mungioli. Our first five minutes were embarrassment because all we knew about him was that he was a casting director for Disney and had cast Fela. His biggest piece of advice was to know everyone you will meet, every professional, know all that they have done. That this can get you a role because it shows you have done your homework, because you can cater to what that person wants. Because you can show them you respect them. His other points were . . .

  • Say yes to everything. Many people refuse roles because it makes them move or understudy. This is very foolish. (gave me hope because I know I would not do that and if people do, more opportunities are then opened up)
  • Be a player in the game. Know your type and be ready to be it.

 

A couple of us went to the Public theatre to meet with Ian

Ian was the most casual and lest stressed professional I think we met. This probably means he was not in the middle of a show at the moment. His advice

  • Know the theatres and their programs. Know their mission.
  •  Know Shakespeare fore the flesh of it. That is the juicy part not the scholarly part. That part we need to bring to people.
  • Shakespeare in the park is great. There is a program at the Public for mid career actors, always keep honing your craft.

 

Book of Grace- long periods of silence and a very convoluted theme/lot made me dislike this play. I did not see a purpose for a lot of moments. I did like that it was read from a book that one of the characters was writing throughout it. There would be brief stops of footnotes and turning of pages. I really liked the Public theatre but I am not a fan of Suzan-lori Parks.

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