29 March 2007

"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it."

The Buddha said that. I'm fairly confident he didn't speak English, however, so there may be room for interpretation. In fact, he may have said something more along the lines of, "Your work is silly, and stop it, so you can discover that I ordered large french fries. You bastards."

Mm. Hot, tasty french fries.

This quote (the real one, not the fast-food version) encapsulates nicely the craft of acting, as well as the art of living. We begin with an openness to discovery, be it in developing a story or approaching a script for the first time, and throughout the process we strive to give ourselves over to it entirely. Both aspects are challenging, at least for those of us not born with some supernatural talent for finding and believing. (Equating belief with abandoning oneself to life and/or a play is probably an entirely other 'blog entry.) There's the need we feel to be perceived as experienced and knowledgeable, which blocks most possibilities for discovery. There's just plain assumption and bias, and the little "truths" we live with from day to day as people that help us get by, but may have nothing to do with the world of the play. There's just being plain acute enough to perceive discoveries, and open enough to accept them from others. You get through all that, and then there's the part of your heart.

Damn it. This stupid play has me making inappropriate, obvious rhymes.

It's not a stupid play, however. It's a very intelligent and visceral play. Ideas and feelings clash with one another in fascinating ways, and on the whole it is posing some of the more fascinating "unanswerable" questions of human existence and behavior. Why can't we shake the yoke of needing to please our parents? Why, when we love, can it be so difficult and insane? How do we live with a love that consumes us? Why can't we all just get along? What is wrong between women and men? Why is America the way it is, violent and obsessed and often delusional? What is true? I love questions, particularly ones that we can never quite answer to our own satisfaction. They give me hope, in an unsettled sort of way. They help me believe that there are great discoveries yet to be made.

But this business of the heart . . . it's difficult. I'll be very frank (or Frankie [oh God I kill me][somebody has to]) and admit that I'm having trouble at this stage of rehearsal with giving myself to it with all my heart. Why? Well, it's probably a terribly involved question I ask on your behalf, but foregoing the venting of intense personal details (and collective sigh...and GO: "Aaahh...") let's us just trace the journey of Frankie for a moment. Who knows? Maybe we'll make a discovery or two. Come along with me!!!

He's one of Shepard's sensitive, intelligent brother characters (already I enter in judgment, eschewing discovery). The play opens with Frankie on the phone with his brother, Jake, trying to sort of talk him off a ledge, emotionally speaking, and get his brother to tell him where he is and what's happened to put him in this state. He keeps trying to calm him down. Eventually, it comes out that Jake has killed his wife. Then he hangs up, leaving Frankie to shout into a dead line after him.

The next we see Frankie, he's joined his brother in a hotel room somewhere and is trying to get to the bottom of what happened. He tries to comfort his brother, but also doesn't buy Jake's explanation of the events and criticizes his brother for always shifting blame for his own actions. At the height of this confrontation, Jake passes out suddenly. He comes to as Frankie is trying to understand what happened and help him, then explains that he feels as if he's going to die without his wife. Frankie offers to go to her family to find out if she's dead, or alive, or what, and Jake forbids it, then pleads with Frankie to stay with him, which Frankie agrees to.

Frankie's next scene occurs three days later, when his mother and sister arrive at the hotel at his behest. Jake's been deteriorating, talking to himself and shaking uncontrollably, for the entire time. Their mother comes in and tries to take over immediately, protesting that Jake is just "play-acting" over Frankie's objections. Jake wakes and imagines his sister is his wife, growing aggressive with her before passing out again. In the end, Frankie convinces his mother (it isn't hard) to take Jake whilst he goes off to find out what happened to Jake's wife, Beth. This drives their sister out of the house; she doesn't feel safe with Jake around. So it's off to Montana for Frankie.

When he reappears, it's about two days later at the home of Beth's family. We know from dialogue that he tried to convince Beth's brother to let him see her, and he refused. He doesn't appear on stage, however, until Beth's father, Baylor, comes dragging him in. Baylor's accidentally shot Frankie in the leg, having mistook him for a deer. Much follows in the rest of the scene, but for Frankie it's mostly about dealing with pain, shock, discovering Beth is indeed alive, trying to figure out what's wrong with her and beginning to perceive a resistance to his leaving, even if it's only to get him to a hospital.

It's unclear how much later we revisit Frankie on the family couch, but he and Beth are alone and she has taken off her shirt to wrap around his wound. He seems to be focused, past the shock, and claiming the bleeding has stopped. (How that's possible, what with nobody properly bandaging the wound, is a question for Mr. Shepard.) The scene that follows is an involved one, mostly between Frankie and Beth. He begins just trying to get her to put her shirt back on, and what follows is a kind of "getting to know you" scene, in which he's trying to get to understand the extent of her injuries and if his brother's story is true, and she's trying--well--to fall in love with him, basically. (This is also a scene in which something positively surreal happens; the characters have a discussion about acting, and playing a character.) Their interaction mounts until Beth is seducing Frankie by way of an assumed character, and he rejects her. By the end of their time alone, he is struggling to either make a phone call or leave of his own volition. The rest of her family...except her dad...huh...enters separately, none of them willing or able to help Frankie escape. Beth goes to bed (it's daytime), her brother goes out to hunt more deer (he's brought in one carcass already) and her mother comments on the snow and leaves Frankie alone on the couch.

In the second-to-last scene he has, Frankie is mostly asleep. He is finally woken by Baylor, who does so because he can't bend over to pick up his socks. Frankie is beginning to be feverish, and speaks at length about the craziness of everyone in the house and his frustration over not being allowed to leave. Beth comes downstairs and declares she's going to marry Frankie. He says no, her Mom says yes, her Dad says no. Beth's brother, Mike, enters and proclaims that he's got Jake tied up in submission outside, and that he's going to get him to apologize to them all. He leaves and Baylor goes upstairs as Frankie is left on the couch again, this time with Beth and her mother on either side of him, planning the wedding.

So in the last scene of the play, Frankie mostly lies on the couch and shakes with fever. He doesn't come around until Jake walks in the door, free now, at which point Frankie seems to believe Jake's there to bring him back home with him. But no. Jake is there to say goodbye to Beth, to tell her to be with Frankie instead, to which Frankie only responds once Jake is walking away, shouting after him that he was true to him. Beth goes to Frankie and the play ends with her holding him in her arms.

Okay. So. Discoveries?

Some of my more radical notions include:

  • Frankie is in love with Jake.
  • Frankie is actually gay, but hasn't admitted it to himself.
  • Frankie always wanted Beth.

And one from the director:

  • Frankie dies at the end, either after Jake leaves, or possibly before, and the scene between them and Beth is a kind of hallucination of what everyone wanted the chance to say, but never got to.

That's all well and fine. Great, even. 'Cept Shepard's plays don't exactly run on hydrogenated concepts; more on crude Texas gut emotion. When it all comes down to it, it works best when one puts all of their heart into it and takes it on faith. I suppose some understanding may help with that, but it's an issue more of identification-with than understanding-of. It doesn't matter that it doesn't make sense that Beth would love Jake intensely inspite of him almost beating her to death; what matters is that she just does, on stage and in front of us all. And whether or not Frankie would do more for himself in the course of the play, he doesn't. He's there for Jake, fighting for Jake, putting all his heart into Jake. And in the end, his heart gets broken.

Couldn't I just give you some french fries, instead?

27 March 2007


Last Saturday evening I attended a dance concert: Right Before You Fell. I just fit it in, thanks to the repeated calls from my friends who made it a priority to check in with me and make sure I didn't forget about it in the miasma of my current schedule. I went directly from rehearsal to dinner at a friend's restaurant, to this concert, and then even made it to a late party. The party was to bid adieu to the loft that was home to Kirkos for years. The concert, that was a culmination of a friend(and fellow Kirkos member)'s very hard, very disciplined, and as it turned out, very fun work.

Kinesis Project Dance Theatre, headed up by dancer/choreographer Melissa Riker, had its full evening of performance last Saturday. My ties to Mel are multiple. I met her, as I did many good friends, performing in a show called Significant Circus, in 2001. She, Kate Magram, Patrick Lacey and I formed a sort of creative support group not too long after that--The Exploding Yurts (please don't ask)--and Kirkos came into being shortly after that. In the six years that I've known her, I've had the pleasure of watching Mel work and grow through that work. Saturday evening was a surprisingly emotional experience for me. I should have expected it, but I was surprised to experience just how much hope and excitement I was giving off during the concert. I was seeing my friend's work fully realized. I know how difficult that is to achieve, and something about just how much that means to her.

Me and modern dance, we don't hang out much . . . in spite of having had long-term relationships with two professional dancers in my time. I have a great appreciation for what the dancers can do, how expressive and dynamic their bodies and movements are. I envy that, in truth. I also respect it. So much so, in fact, that I refuse to be categorized as a dancer. This occasionally brings much frustration to the likes of Friends Melissa and Patrick, who are hell-bent on convincing me that I am worthy of at least the adjective, "dancer," if not the title. I resist. It's related to how I feel about Joe Nobody doing Guys & Dolls in his community theatre and then going around calling himself an actor. I mean, sure, he is. (Mad props to ma' boy Joe.) But he hasn't received any training, he hasn't gotten up at dawn to stand in a line for an open call, he hasn't haggled over a summer stock contract or sold worldly belongings in order to take said contract.

But I transtate a bit.

So we don't hang, me and the modern. I have just enough experience and appreciation to say about a concert, "I liked it because of THIS. THIS seemed a little weak, but that may have been in support of achieving THAT." I've been to concerts with dancers before, and often we appreciate the opposite aspects. When a number leans toward narrative a bit, I get excited. When it is seemingly solely about the beauty of the movement, I begin to tune out. Don't get me wrong: It's beautiful. Wow. Pretty. But so is a photograph of a sunset, and somebody needs to tell me why I should care. That's me. I'm an actor. Because of this bias (and I've done what I can think of to separate my appreciation for theatre from my appreciation for dance), some dance concerts I've seen have made me want to claw out my eyes and throw them underfoot.

And it's not the ones that are all about the beauty. No. If I can figure that out from an early moment--that priority--I can sit back and relax, let them dance me where they may. Rather, it's the ones that have something to say, but don't seem to give a damn if you understand it. Or that say something whether you like it or not, sucka! These really get to me, because the people involved--though I'm sure they went in with the best intentions...in some cases--inevitably chalk my lack of understanding up to me, not their efforts or ability to communicate with me. I suppose you could say that I value communication in my art. Intentional communication, be it about ideas, emotions or something else entirely.

To this end, Right Before You Fell was sort of the perfect show for yours truly. I must confess that, right up front. This critic is biased. The concert utilized set pieces, spoken dialogue, live music, character, scenario . . . it was very theatrical. People were constantly doing things, not just fulfilling choreography, and acknowledging and responding to one another. Imagine that.

Read about the inspiration for the show here, March 15. Some would have hated it. If I had gone looking for pin-point-perfect technique, or classical movement, or really anything conventional at all, I would have been disappointed. Instead I was uplifted by vignettes about trying to get along with and without people. Between dances, open doorways and closed doors were moved about on rollers by dancers dressed like nuevo gypsies, as they held a kind of movement dialogue with one another. Each had what seemed to be their own character, informing their choices and scenarios. Melissa's acrobalance experience shone through at certain points, particularly to a number choreographed to Tom Waits' "The Piano Has Been Drinking," a piece I was lucky enough to get a preview of at the Kinesis benefit in December (see 12/25/06 for a photo). That section, too, is a good example of one of the best aspects of Right Before You Fell: its sense of humor. I've known Melissa for a while now, so her brand of humor is about as familiar to me as anyone's. RBYF was a great manifestation of unbounded joy for living, and unabashed moments of the surreal.

I could critique some aspects of the show, of course. It irritated me not to have a schedule and titles of the different dances in the program, and I felt as though the end of the evening needed a more significant punctuation, or perhaps clearer imagery of having come full circle (or home, if the notion of taking a walk is to be followed through). But these things may become clear to me after our inevitable Yurtian debriefing. Kate, Patrick, Melissa and I will all gather and surmise, and I'll get the inside skinny on what her specific intentions were. Even without this knowledge, I walked away from the concert feeling fulfilled, and even a little happier about the little unhappinesses in my life at present.

Melissa has extended me an informal invitation to join Kinesis in some performances this summer. (She couches it in the term "movement actor" in deference to my sensitivity about artistic categories.) I hesitate, uncertain about what I can contribute and what I hope to get out of it, but seeing her concert shows me more possibilities for an exciting, empathetic collaboration. It might even be funny.

Hey! We could do excerpts from Guys and Dolls!

26 March 2007

Extra-Special Birthday Edition!!!

No, no, no. It's not my birthday. Not yet, anyway. It is, rather, that time of year around which all of my friends have selfishly decided to arrange their birth dates. Let's get organized here, people! Couldn't we spread them out just a little more, and maybe make them a little less immediately-after-Christmas? I swear, it's like the holidays begin for me a marathon of gift-giving every year. And I forget more birthdays than I remember! Totally; totally. I'm awful. You have to be known by me for, like, at least ten years before I start saying to you: "Wait. Wait. Isn't your birthday some time this month?"

Case in point: My adopted brother (adopted by me, that is), "Anonymous," just had his thirtieth last Friday, and I failed to plan for it. Granted, I didn't hear about the party until about a week beforehand, but I should have been better prepared all the same. I should have realized the significance of this year and--when A Lie of the Mind schedule conflicts were being arranged--included March 23rd as a no-go date for rehearsal. Alas, I did not, and so missed the digging of the shin.

I can be short-sighted like that, but it's also possible that I'm in denial. Anonymous' birthday kicks off the birthday schedule for my troika of oldest friends, affectionately dubbed by my mother as "The Three Musketeers." Anonymous is in March, I in June and Mark chimes in in August (It is August, right, buddy? [Man. Do I suck.]). This year, we are thirty. Ye Gods, the wonder of a round number.

It may not be wonderful, or even wondrous, yet the turning over of another decade of this life makes for some serious reflection. Even eschewing the coincidental little deadlines I set for myself at a very sage 21 years of age (see 2/5/07), Year Thirty holds some significance for me. It holds significance in the universal subconscious as well. Jesus is widely believed to have begun his ministry in earnest 'round about that year of his life. Hamlet is often interpreted to be just thirty when he begins contemplating his readiness. And, of course, there was that hit television extravaganza that took the airwaves by storm for about a season and a half. My hope had been to celebrate my thirtieth year since kicking and screaming into this world in Italia, busking in Piazza Navona, Roma. As time inexorably jogs forward, however, the prospect of that trip grows slimmer and slimmer. Nigh anorexic. Leaving me with the question: What, then, can I do to celebrate whatever it is I am and do on that very special day?

I put it out to the universe. But it is not for this reason I 'blog at you today. Nor is it to point up the bizarre nature of an actor's schedule as it relates to his ever-patient friends (i.e., "Sure, I'll be in your wedding. That is, if I don't get a gig. Even if I get a gig, I'll try to get off, of course. Of course, if it's tech week or a performance there's nothing I can do. But count me in! Maybe..."). No, I am compelled to write today because of other people's birthdays, and the potential artistry in honoring them.

Consider all the people you've known in the course of your life. Consider not even everyone, but just those people you've held a conversation with more than once. There are probably a whole lot more than 365 at this point (not to presume too much upon the age of my [5] readers or anything). So there is the potential that every day of the year, someone you've known is celebrating his or her self; indeed, on some days, more than one is. How many people do you not speak to anymore, who are turning a year over at this moment? How many have you forgotten entirely who might be remembering you attending their sixth birthday, right now? And just what the hell is my point?

Well, I find it humbling to contemplate this. It reminds me that every day we make a choice to honor the people we've loved and who've loved us with our actions, or to not. UU's believe in the interconnectedness of all living things, and when it comes to other people, we're supposed to respect that particular interconnectedness even more. Similar to a bunch of actors on stage at a given moment, we all have to depend on each other for things to turn out right. It's frightening. It's awesome. We have to take it for granted somewhat just to get by, not panic or become mad with power. But every once in a while, it's good to be reminded how things really are.

You say it's your birthday? Well it's my birthday too; yeah. Happy birthday to you . . .

22 March 2007

So You Want to Get a Divorce?

This will be a long post. I considered trying to figure out how to link a document online, then got distracted by my own fingernails. The following is a sort of study guide to matrimonial law I served up about a year ago to provide my replacements at my day job with what I hoped was entertaining background information on all they'd be involved with there, legally speaking. My day job has gotten very little attention on this here 'blog. Here, then, is the only time it will come to the forefront of subject matter, I promise. It's written as though speaking to a potential divorcee, but I use it to train the assistant in the hope it will endear them a bit to their demanding clients.

So, you want to get a divorce…?

So, you want to get a divorce? Well, the first thing you have to ask yourself is: Does my husband/wife feel the same way? It’s sort of like when you were contemplating marriage in the first place. (Remember those heady days?) You have to test the waters to see if you’re getting divorced alone or together. This will be important later. The first official thing you want to do (and this is where we come in) is:

CONSULT with a lawyer.
Like most fairly affluent people in the New York area, you’re not about to find a lawyer by surfing the web or cruising lawyer bars. No, you ask your friends for a recommendation. You ask your divorced friends, your accountant friends and your lawyer friends (ha ha), and eventually you get a recommendation. Let’s say it’s for a certain lawyer, Ms. Murgatrude Miggins, Esq. (henceforth “M&M”).

You call up and, because they’ve never heard of you before, they ask you who referred you. You are nervous, because hey, this is a lawyer’s office, and you don’t want anybody to know you’re getting divorced…but eventually the smooth-mannered assistant coaxes a name out of you, writes it down and eventually too, you speak to Murgatrude.

She tells you that she has to meet with you to really evaluate your case, and that this is called a “consultation,” the asking price for which is now $400. This sounds peachy-keen to you (as you are no doubt fairly affluent) and you set a date.

The day arrives, and you sit down with Ms. Miggins, Esq., and spill your innards about the situation. Assuming you feel good about your chances with M&M representing you, the next step involves two documents:

· Retainer Agreement
· Client’s Rights and Responsibilities

Retainer Agreement:
A five-page letter of almost entirely boilerplate text and printed on stationary, the retainer agreement is essentially a letter that lays out in some detail the relationship between M&M and her client. The information most usually changed involves the amount of the initial retainer payment, and of course the new client’s name and address wherever applicable.

Client’s Rights and Responsibilities:
A kind of acknowledgement form both the client and the attorney sign expressing an understanding of the various protections afforded a client by the State of New York. The assistant of M&M keeps copies already printed in the green-labeled form file at the base of the left-hand shelves.

You sign the retainer agreement and client’s rights and responsibilities and hand over your retainer payment, and walk out the door feeling very adult and responsible, though a bit more financially depleted. And you will be, immediately, because fast on your heels is the assistant crossing the street to M&M’s bank to deposit your retainer check. Afterwards though, he or she returns to the office and makes a new computer folder for you and an expanding file with your name on it, and likely six folders within labeled: Correspondence, Legal, Drafts, Net Worth / Financial, Retainer Agreement and Notes.

And hey, even if you don’t decide to retain M&M as your lawyer just then, for your $400—and at least an hour of your life—you get M&M’s notes from the session stapled together and filed alphabetically in an expanding file labeled Consults, located in the file drawer directly above the client files.

For those who do decide to continue, the adventure is just beginning!

PRELIMINARY WORK to secure your advantage.
So as we’ve established, you’re fairly affluent, but who wants to take chances with your money or property? There’s a possibility that this thing will come down to a fiscal bloodsport between you and your ex, and while you truly “just want him/her to be happy,” it doesn’t mean you should be condemned to live the rest of your life lonely in impoverished homelessness. If you were the main provider, you need to be prepared to protect some of your assets so they don’t go in entirety to supporting your ex and dependants in your former lifestyle. And if you weren’t the main provider of the family, you need to establish just how “weren’t” you were, and do so early in the process in order to get as much support as possible from your ex. To these ends, the document you need is a:

· Statement of Net Worth
A detailed form, to which your most recent tax returns are attached, which represents your metaphoric fiscal profile. The Net Worth Statement (henceforward “NWS”), as it is sometimes called, is divided into a basic outline of general life information, wage information, expenses, assets and liabilities. M&M usually gives you a blank NWS right out of the gate, and it is up to you to fill it out, but up to her assistant to get it saved into their database. If you are handed a paper copy, later her assistant will type it into the system, saved under your name. If you are emailed the form, just hopefully you’ll fill it out on your word processor and email it back, saving everyone a lot of effort and billable hours.

What else can I do to help myself out in this strange new land, you ask? Well, make sure you have copies of as much relevant financial information from you and your soon-to-be-ex’s life together, including tax returns, records of holdings, deeds, bills and statements. In addition, anything you can do to keep your new attorney on the case without upping your billable hours unnecessarily is great for you. Along these lines, it is definitely best for all concerned that you and your soon-to-be-ex have some kind of agreement about wanting to get divorced from the get-go. That’s not always possible, but it makes for an uncontested divorce, rather than a contested divorce.

Uncontested divorce — Oh sure, the love is gone, but that doesn’t mean we have to have the Supreme Court of the State of New York intervene to get anything done. We’ve talked it over, and it’s time to get a divorce. And listen: It’s not even like we don’t have spitfire argument over who gets what; it’s just that we can agree to disagree and let our lawyers do the negotiating. We’ll work this thing out, print up and sign an Agreement, file for divorce thereafter using a set of forms and documents collectively known as Uncontested Divorce Papers. And then we’ll be free to move on with our lives, having likely spent only what we paid in our respective retainer fees.

Contested divorce — I hate you. Oh, how I hate you. I hate you so much, I’m not even sure I want to give you the satisfaction of actually divorcing you. And I don’t care how many hours, dollars or tears it takes, I and my lawyer are going to make you suffer for whatever it was you’ve done to me. There’s going to be a Summons filed and served on you (or me, eventually), and after that motion upon motion: Affidavits and Affirmations, Orders, Stipulations and Statements, Notices of every shape and color, Requests for Judicial Intervention, Demands and Interrogatories, Subpoenas and Verified Complaints. It won’t end until we’ve spent all of each others’ money, or you’ve died of blood loss from all the paper cuts. Then, maybe, we’ll draft an epic Agreement, only to have to submit a Modification Agreement weeks later, and when the dust finally settles all that will be left to hear is our lawyers bickering over which of them should have to draft and file the final Divorce Papers.

An UNCONTESTED DIVORCE: tricky, but reasonably civil.
Your uncontested divorce may involve preparing and filing some of the papers more commonly associated with a contested divorce, in which case the first thing to be filed would be a Summons, in order to get the case registered and acknowledged by the Powers That Be. Then you’d proceed to whatever you needed. But chances are, unless there are discrepancies in your ex’s NWS or there’s a general feeling of mistrust about the whole process, it will just be document production and negotiation regarding child support and maintenance payments, real estate and equitable distribution of property from here until you have a final draft of your Agreement.

· Agreements
They go by many names—Agreement, Settlement Agreement, Stipulation of Settlement and Agreement—but essentially they are all about two crazy kids coming to a common (and legally binding) resolution about how they’ll divide and live their separate lives. It’s usually a pretty lengthy document, anywhere from 10 to 80 pages, and divided into different titled “articles.” It does not get a back (blue) like every other legal document we deal with.

Most of the work behind an Agreement is done by the lawyers themselves in consultation with their clients and negotiation with one another, either telephonically or in meetings with or without their clients. As a client, you just have to know what you will and won’t accept in a deal, communicate that clearly with your attorney and be readily available to him or her when they need to ask you questions, procure documentation from you or send you a draft for your approval. The rest is the assistant’s domain, just making sure the calls get through and the changes get made to the document in a way that doesn’t sabotage the rest of its numbering and formatting.

And then bing! Bang! Boom! It’s done. You’ve settled the matter, everyone has signed with a notary (M&M) present and the copy of the Agreement to be sent to the Court has both of your initials on every page and next to any handwritten changes made to the text. Pop the bubbly and go spend the night with your new/old girl/boy friend, right? Well, not quite, I’m afraid. Before you’re officially divorced, there is still the dread:

· Uncontested Divorce Papers (UDPs)
Fortunately for you, these papers require little-to-no additional input from you, as most of the information in them has been determined from information you’ve already shared and the very Agreement you finally reached. Unfortunately for you, these “papers” are numerous (anywhere from 12 to 18, depending on whether children are involved) and when they are actually filed is up to the whimsy of the attorneys involved…and they’re not really getting any more money from you. So pester them. Bug them. Know who’s doing what and how. Here for you is a list in no particular order of everything that goes into a set of UDPs:

· Note of Issue
· Notice of Settlement and Proposed Findings of Fact
· Notice of Settlement and Proposed Judgment of Divorce
· Plaintiff’s Sworn Statement of Removal of Barriers to Remarriage
· Defendant’s Sworn Statement of Removal of Barriers to Remarriage
· Verified Complaint
· Affidavit of Plaintiff
· Affidavit of Defendant
· Affirmation of Regularity by Attorney
· Certificate of Dissolution
· Original Settlement Agreement
· Request for Judicial Intervention
· Plaintiff’s Affidavit of Facts and of Children’s Residence *
· Qualified Medical Child Support Order *
· Child Support Summary Form *
· Self-Addressed Stamped Form Postcard
* – Not included where parties have no children as a result of marriage.

Each document (not forms, though) gets its own back, and each has to be signed by somebody, and conform all their language between them and the other papers and the Agreement, and certain of them need what’s known as an Affidavit of Service attached to them, and probably at least three copies of the entire set need to be produced. In other words, it’s a lot of intricate, exacting, boring work that no one wants to do and most will procrastinate endlessly on. And yet, you’re not actually divorced until these UDPs are not only produced but filed properly with and approved by the Court.

That having been done, you’re done! Congratulations! You may now court whomever you choose, and the whole world can know about it! Oh, wait. You say your once-significant other physically abused you and you want money for damages? Or that said other has moved out and won’t talk to you, even about the sweet relief of divorce? Oh. Well then, what you need and will get is:

A CONTESTED DIVORCE: twice the money, half the results.
Oh bejeezums; you went and got yourself in a sticky spot, didn’t you? How could anyone involve themselves in a relationship that could go oh-so-wrong, and once having done so, how could said hypothetical anyone not work to remove themselves from such a situation sooner? Well, if difficult questions could be listed as assets on your NWS, you would certainly be rich as Croesus. Sadly, such is not the case. There are most likely few answers for you, either, but following are some types of legal documentation you should know, as you are likely also to need them in the very near future.

· Summons (With Notice)
This is what sets the ball in motion in terms of your matrimonial action. When one files a Summons, one also needs to fill out two forms, which your helpful assistant has copies of in his or her forms file, located under the left-hand set of shelves in his or her office. The first is a plain old piece of paper, called an Index # Cover Sheet. The second is printed on carbon paper, and is dubbed an Index # Purchase Form. Additionally, you will need a check for $210 (as of 8/05) made out to the appropriate County Clerk with whom the Summons will be filed. Once it’s filed and the Index # is purchased, every copy of the Summons must be standardized with the Index # and date of its purchase.

Then it gets really exciting. The Summons must be served upon the other party for the action to get active. This is either done via a service provider or by hand, by the assistant. But the assistant is rarely enlisted, and of course may refuse this task. This leads us to our next enthralling, all-purpose legal document.

· Affidavits
Simply put, this is the basic document upon which all proof and argument in matrimonial law is established. It’s used for anything voiced in the first-person that’s not “spoken” by a lawyer. That means that if it’s a client’s, assistant’s or even a messenger’s, it’s said in an Affidavit. This also means there are something of an endless variety of the things. Here are some examples:

Affidavit of Service (AoS)
This is the Affidavit an assistant will likely use the most. It also looks completely unlike any other Affidavit, lacking in the usual case heading and numbered-paragraph format. Often, you will find your attorney’s assistant’s name on your AoS. This is because the purpose of an AoS is to attach it to another legal document, one which you’ve sent to the adversary. The AoS is in essence a testimony of the sender, saying, “Yes, boy-howdy, I sure did send that Order to Show Cause to this attorney at this address by mail/messenger/FedEx/personal service/facsimile/trans-meditative state.” Because of the variety of methods of sending said AoS…es, there are also different forms of AoS for each method of delivery.

Affidavit of Plaintiff, or Plaintiff’s Affidavit (or Defendant’s, etc.)
This follows the basic format of every other Affidavit you might run into. It has the standard heading, with case title, Index #, Court and County, and the rest of the document is written in the first-person and formatted with numbered paragraphs, with a signature line at the end for the “author.” You get yourself an affidavit one of two ways. Either your attorney bases it on the notes he or she has taken and drafts it him/herself and submits it for your approval, or he or she bases it on a narrative they’ve asked you to write for them about the ordeals pertinent to the case. The best way to scribe such a narrative is to keep it factual and concise, but not without emotion where appropriate, and to email it so the language can easily be cut and pasted into your Affidavit. This saves everyone time and effort.

The rest of the types of Affidavits are fairly well explained by their titles, and all generally follow this format. Some examples:
Affidavit of Facts and Children’s Residence
Affidavit in Support of Motion
Reply Affidavit

There is a document that usually goes with any Affidavit coming from a client such as yourself, and it is known as an…

· Affirmation
This comes from your attorney, and is almost a carbon copy of the appurtenant Affidavit, only it’s in the “voice” of your attorney instead of you and cites more legal language and cases at certain points. It looks virtually the same; only the title and specific language differ. It’s important that this document match, in sum and substance, every point you have to make in your Affidavit. Obviously, it’s not necessary in the case of AoSes and the like.

· Orders
This is typically quite a short document (how novel) and is a bit like doing the typing for whichever Judge is presiding over your case. In essence, it is what you want the Court to sign off on, to make happen for you. It is usually backed up by an Affidavit, an Affirmation and some Exhibits, all stapled into one back and collectively referred to as an Order to Show Cause (OSC). Orders have a special text in the upper-left corner of the first page designating the particular Court address and room, and the signature line is for the Judge. Additionally, once the lawyer gets a signed Order back from Court, the assistant often has to copy the pages that are amended and signed by the Judge and attach them to any office copies of the Order.

· Stipulations
Similar to the Affidavit, this is an all-purpose document used when asking for a change of circumstance or basically anything more minor than an actual Court Order. It is often comparable to a “mini-Agreement,” in that it is something which both parties (hopefully) sign in agreement of. Examples include:
Stipulation (plain ol’)
Stipulation Extending Time to Serve Complaint

· Statements
Exactly as it sounds, a simple statement of fact(s). The NWS is such a document, although highly formatted. Usually Statements look rather like Affidavits…only they’re Statements.

· Notices
As it sounds, a document making known certain facts or occurrences in a given case. A Notice of Entry announces to all concerned when a particular document was filed in Court (these are attached to the Judgment of Divorce, and Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, in the UDPs), and a Notice of No Necessity announces any waiving of normally procedural requirement from the other side.

· Requests for Judicial Intervention
This is when the S. H.’s the F. in a big way. It is more a form than a document, though it is often accompanied by an Affidavit of some sort explaining the situation in greater detail. This document is used to get the Court’s attention in deciding something (said something often being a sort of punishment one attorney wants to inflict on the other for their bad conduct or tardiness) that the lawyers themselves can’t resolve and aren’t willing to negotiate any longer. This form is also filed with UDPs, in that it’s simply procedural when filing papers that require immediate decision.

· Demand for Production of Documents and Interrogatories
These are often directly related to the NWS, in that they’re used when your attorney has reason to suspect that your ex may have something to hide in terms of his or her financial status. These are a matched pair of rather lengthy documents that do what they say. The first demands very specific financial records, the second makes general inquiries into financial status and development. They are used in determining support and maintenance issues on both sides. The corollary to them are Responses to same, which are made far easier when the adversary is willing to email the documents to your attorney, because then his or her assistant just has to copy and paste the demands and inquiries into a new document and insert the answers provided by said attorney.

· Subpoenas
A document more commonly used in connection with the accused and witnesses in a criminal case, Subpoenas are nevertheless occasionally needed in matrimonial affairs. Generally a Subpoena is used to call a person or business entity in to take testimony from, either in the Court or in one of the attorney’s offices. This is another document for which service will be needed, and that service will undoubtedly be provided by an agency accustomed to handling such things, as it is a highly popular hobby in New York to attempt to avoid service of a subpoena.

· Verified Complaints
Yet another document included in UDPs, a Verified Complaint is used in that regard to list very simply the causes justifying a Judgment of Divorce and concisely state what relief is being sought for those reasons. In other contexts, a Verified Complaint can be used simply to get a complaint the party has on record with the Court, regarding anything from excessive lying to physical abuse.

Doing Lines is bad for Doing Lines

I myself, personally, have never tried cocaine. For many reasons, which are probably pretty obvious, but there are two that are personal to me. The first is that I don't like the idea of consuming--in any fashion--synthetic materials. I do; daily, of course, but some such materials we have more choice about than others. The second is that I can safely say the last thing I need in my life is more reason to be anxious or hyper kinetic. Thanks. Thanks, no. I'm all set.

The other night in rehearsal we got into a brief discussion about controlled substances, and one actor (I'm not naming names...or naming anything, for that matter) posited that one of the reasons he was beginning to have more trouble memorizing his lines was probably all the alcohol and marijuana he had consumed in his life. Another revealed that, as a result of his misspent youth and habit of ingesting cocaine, his teeth were shot to the point of mostly having fallen out--a bad thing for a performer . . . or, really, anyone. Finally, still a third member of our merry crew revealed another interesting, burdensome blight that one of her friends had to endure as a result of her years of cocaine usage.

The bridge of her nose collapsed.

{Tangent: Our final project for make-up class in college was to be handed a picture from a magazine and emulate the appearance of whomever was photographed. We had, I suppose, about an hour to do this. I got handed a close-up of Michael Jackson, taken from an angle looking up from rather under his chin. Along with being plastically pointy, his nose was missing the connecting bit between his upper lip and his nose proper (("proper" being a relative term in this case)). I did it, and I can't remember exactly how, but I do recall smelling black greasepaint for about two days afterward.}
However it happens, memorizing lines gets harder as one gets older. It's science. (<- movie quote) When you're young, you may be able to read something a couple of times and get it surprisingly perfect on recitation. As you age, the little things, the specifics, get harder and harder to store. (I take particular issue with variances: anybody/anyone; somebody/someone; North Dakota/South Dakota :why can't we just pick one and be done with it? Poetry? Bite me.) Like crossword puzzles, regularly committing material to memory is good for one's mental health. Unlike crossword puzzles, it doesn't get easier with age and experience. It gets harder. Similar to one's prostate. You have to work it regularly to keep it in good shape, but with every use, it's getting weaker.

I can understand why we don't have redundancy on our brains; that would just get confusing. But why not on our prostates? It could be like a Pez dispenser in our pelvis. Just keep a couple of spares below the diaphragm, and when ol' faithful wears out: Ker-chunk. Out with the old, in with the new.

But I digress. I am having particular difficulty with memorizing my Shepard. This is actually the first Shepard play I've ever done, and there are allowances to be made for adjusting to the poetry (Anybody? Anyone?) of an unfamiliar playwright. And age, or brain abuse (chemical and cultural) stand as neat excuses. But what I really believe the problem to be is this: I haven't had to get off-book for a new script in approximately a year. Word is bond.

Todd shares this in common with me, to some degree. For the past year, we've both been working our tails off in theatre, but never on projects with a script, per se. Everything is a workshop (script in process), semi-improvised (scenario instead of script) or movement theatre (um...dance? basically dance). I started the past year of theatre excitement with Zuppa del Giorno 's last original play, Operation Opera, which was semi-improvised and essentially written (and rewritten every performance) by the actors. Then it was off to Italy, where we worked on structured improv the entire time, culminating in Il Postina, in which the dialogue was not only semi-improvised, but in Italian. Thereafter, I did do a "straight play," Over the River and Through the Woods, but it was in its third incarnation and "memorizing" the lines consisted of reading the script a few times. Fall and spring, up to this point, were predominated by developing The Torture Project, which takes the concept of a work-in-progress to all new heights.

In fact, the last scripted play I did was Good, last March. Guess where that was? Same place A Lie of the Mind is going to be: ye olde Manhattane Theatre Source. Does it end the unscripted cycle of a year? Probably not. Most of the work I've invested in with any kind of long-term interest has been related to development and improvisation, in one respect or another. As in art, life. Or is it the other way around? Anyway, this past year has also definitively been the most unscripted of my personal life as well. I only hope I'm remembering enough as I go to be learning the whole time . . . maybe even learning more than the same three lessons over and over again. Still: They're good lessons. They must be. Otherwise, why would I remember them, right?

Now if only I could get that damn Eric Clapton song out of my head . . .

21 March 2007


Oh 'Blog, you knew I couldn't stay away from you, didn't you? You've known all along, and yet you allowed me to play out my delusions, my fickle little fantasies of not needing you with an intense, feral desire. Only you hear me, 'Blog. Only you . . . understand me.

My hair is quite long now, and it isn't getting cut any sooner than the end of April, when A Lie of the Mind closes. (The director wants that "Remington Steele" look.) As with most issues concerning my self appearance, I vacillate wildly in my feelings about it. I have good hair. Shit man, I have great hair. I'll say it. It's soft and fine, without being too thin--it has just that right amount of body, so I don't really have to do anything with it if I don't feel so compelled . . . and I rarely do. In fact, the only complaint I ever have about my hair is that it tends to make me difficult to recognize from situation to situation. It's a proven fact: My hair length and style changes my face significantly, so much so that people I've worked with more than once will sometimes not place me when I see them again--say a month later--if I got a haircut.

{I'm really worried about Jeff...he just keeps talking about his hair...I think he might be self-obsessing a little bit...then again, it is a freaking blog...I mean: " 'blog "...}

One thing having long hair makes me think about is the past. The reason for this is two-fold. Fold one is that hair is a record of cells gone by, so when I wear it long, I occasionally think about what was going on in my life when the cells at the tips of my current hair were dying and being expelled from the pores atop ma' noggin. At this length, I'd have to guess it was when I was doing Operation Opera (actors measure their lives in shows [actors: holla if ya hear me]), maybe propagating a flock of follicle fronds whilst singing a Queen cover, or enjoying a fire in David Zarko's fireplace.

Fold two is a memory of the time in my life when my hair was longest. Said time was the end of my Freshman year of college; a strange time. It wasn't particularly memorable in the moment, but in retrospect, about a million things were going on beneath the surface that would later sprout up and change my life for good. (Like hair, dare I suggest? [Too much there? {That was too much, wasn't it?}{Shit.}]) I won't (can't) get into all of that here, at least now, but it shaped me as an actor, a person and--more specifically--as a newly minted adult.

{...he's claiming a lot of self understanding now...what's he selling here?...at least he isn't talking about his damn hair anymore...}

I was a little miffed about not having permission to cut my hair for an occasion I attended this past weekend. That occasion was a sort of reunion, at least on my part.

I detest reunions, sort of for the same reasons I resent New Year's and Valentine's Days; it's an occasion where everyone is trying so damn hard to have a good time. And not just a good time, but the right kind of good time. That judgment, hanging about like smog, affects me, perhaps more than it should. And at reunions it's freaking LA smog, because everyone is taking stock of their lives (read: judging themselves against others). I favor a quote which refers to that notion, today's finsky quote:
"I know everybody's coming back to take stock of their lives. You know what I say? Leave your livestock alone."
This reunion was actually a wedding. The girl I moved to New York to be with got married on St. Patrick's Day, and I was there. Don't worry: I was invited. Why was I invited? I can't say I really know. The break-up was fairly amicable, at least inasmuch as it could be with two very hurt people with rather little life experience involved, and I've made a point of staying friendly with her and her family. I still consider it pretty unconventional to invite the big ex to one's wedding, but ultimately I decided that it was their decision, and I wanted to go. I wanted to bear witness to the marriage of two people who love each other, and I wanted the brief reunion with people who had been my loved ones.

I guess I have to admit I'm taking stock of my life a bit, too.

{...oh God...here he goes...this is where it gets ridiculous with embarrassing clothes-rending and gnashing of emotional teeth...where's my iPod...I need to block out the sounds of his self-pity...}

It was amazing. Really amazing. Someday I'll devote a 'blog entry just to the adventure of getting to the church on time, but for now the amazement is from how welcomed I was, and how full of love the experience was for me. I was busy trying so hard to be as unobtrusive as possible, particularly at the reception, yet people sought me out, and everyone I caught up with I also shared a memory or two with that I couldn't have remembered without seeing him or her again. Sure, there were some more or less awkward moments for me (like when the Maid of Honor mentioned in her speech that my ex hadn't been seeing anyone while they were on tour together...suppressing laughter at that point was one of the more Oscar-worthy moments of my life to date) but all that was trumped by getting a rare and beautiful moment in life to remember someone I used to be, and say goodbye to him with fondness.

I don't know if I'm the only one who feels this way,

{...oh God, here he goes again...}

but I often wonder

{..."he wonders while he wanders"...dear Lord, save us from these musings...}

if I haven't

{...oh, hasn't he?...and what horror will--

Hey. Hey, Super Ego.


Yeah, you. Knock it off. You're being kind of a d&%k.

I'm doing no such

You're being kind of a d&%k. And I don't appreciate it. Now knock it off, before I'm forced to start following the "The Secret" program just to spite you.


Anyway. I often wonder if I haven't lived so much, changed so much, that I've lost track of more versions of myself than I could possibly keep track of. Not that I essentially change, necessarily, and maybe this is just a matter of perspective. Some probably see their lives as fully integrated journeys of evolution. I can see it that way, too, but most of the time I look back and feel a great distance from my past thoughts and actions. It's a little bit like most plays I memorize. I can do a full production of a play, spend months learning and then performing lines, yet when I read the play a year later it seems alien to me. Then again, I know some words by heart that I may never lose, for no special reason. I mean, do you ever wonder if you're still who you've been before? Is this some kind of demented syndrome hatched from the habits of an actor, always moving from role to role, or is it more common than that? What do you think of yourself as you've been; and, when you think of him or her, do you feel better about that person, or the one you are now?

I was sought out recently by a fellow journeyman on The Third Life(tm), and an alumna of my college, one Jason Carden. Jason has been on the west coast for years, and I hadn't seen nor heard hide nor hair of him since he graduated, a year before me. We did two shows together in college, The Three Musketeers and Stand-Up Tragedy, and in the latter we sort of co-starred. About a month ago (whilst I was still in California: see 2/19/07), Jason emailed me to see if we could catch up now that he was in New York for a while. I finally coordinated that with him tonight (a real miracle, given our combined schedules) and we met for dinner.

Once again I had the experience of recalling memories I never could have without the other person present. I was grateful that we didn't have to worry about one of those horrible one-ups-man-ship conversations actors can so easily fall into when catching up with one another, and before long we were confessing how much we hate the idea of reunions. Yet there was nothing awkward, or judgmental there. What there was, was a kind of understanding about the people we had been when we both had Richmond zip codes, and a curiosity about who we were now. And that was welcome, because not having to be explicit about who you are or where you come from is a relief as long as, at the same moment, a mutual respect is implicit.

Two struggling actors re-met in a restaurant today, and by the end of their conversation they were on the subject of Batman. Icing on the cake.

Ice was all over the street today. After a little period of promising warmth, March has whipped the city with frigid weather again. As Jason and I started to chat on the way to the restaurant, he mentioned that he had his hair cut short just the other day, and now he was really regretting the loss of insulation. I had to smile, feeling warm and oddly young.

19 March 2007

Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap . . .

Hello loyal (3-4) readers. I'm sad to report that I have had a tragedy in my life. It seems the pressures and tribulations of working for my boss have forced her full-time assistant (not me--I'm a "paralegal") into the hospital. Yes. I'm being literal. More significantly (to me, anyway), said assistant also quit on Friday.

For those of you in the know, the rest of this entry may be unnecessary, but I cling to the hope that there are people out there who are A) not fully acquainted with the details of my life; and B) reading this 'blog. I cling and I cling, and Rose tells me, "Don't let go, Jack! Never let go!", and I reply "My name's not Jack," as my icy grip perilously weakens moment by moment.

Anyway. My heart will go on. Just ignore it.

Outside "the know"? Then know this: No new 'blog entries for a while, probably. I will be pulling double duty (which, for Mona, pretty much means quadruple duty) until we can find and train a new assistant for her. This, added to the rapidly accelerating rehearsal process for A Lie of the Mind, equals no time for extra craft work.

I can only hope that Literature can withstand my absence for however long it takes to find a new sucker, er . . . SKILLED OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR.

16 March 2007

Rainer Shines

Tonight's rehearsal was hard for me. We were working (amongst other things) on the final scene, during which my character spends about 5/6ths of the scene unconscious and shivering on a couch. On the last two pages, however, he has to suddenly experience all the pain and want of his journey . . . possibly also whilst hallucinating. Specifically, Frankie learns he is losing the person he loves most in the world, in spite of doing everything he could to help that person and make things right. Sounds hard enough, but I seem also to have a block about that particular set of emotions, or with the journey it takes to get to them. Or both. So there was much frustrated conference between the director and my person, and finally I got something of what it should be, and then on the final run I failed to access it again. This is the process.

Today, too, I decided to search for a nice quote for a card I have to write. I turned to Rilke, my favorite poet, and specifically to a book of his prose and poetry entitled "Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties," translated and evaluated by John J.L. Mood.

The book has an interesting story. Well, my copy does. Well . . . it's at least interesting to me.

It was published in 1975. The book is unique in form: unique font (Linotype Caledonia), unique dedication and "epilogue" pages and a surprising sampling of words from throughout Rilke's life of dedication to poetry. It's an orange paperback, with one of those designs on the cover that makes one say to oneself, "Ah. Late-sixties, early-seventies." It apparently cost $3.95 in its day.

But I'm not interested, Jeff!

Well, I didn't buy this book, nor was it bought for me. In 1999, the year I graduated from college, my parents began the move from my hometown in Northern Virginia to where my mother's church is, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Immediately prior to graduation, I helped (with Friend Mark) move my entire childhood home into storage. After I returned from my summerstock gig in Ohio, I shacked up with my dad in his temporary apartment in NoVa. See, my parent's new home was being constructed, and there were problems. In the meantime, my dad continued to work in NoVa and my mom had her apartment in Maryland. So, for a time, none of the Willses were living together (my sister was in her second year at college in Blacksburg).

It was a strange time. I wanted to get to New York, but didn't have any money. I was beginning my career as a professional actor, but was waiting to hear about work. (Eventually, I would be hired by The National Children's Theatre in Minneapolis--a whole other story.) I didn't really want the work, though. Mostly I was motivated to it because my home was gone, and I sort of wanted to be in New York, where my girlfriend at the time was. If I had settled in my childhood home--if my parents hadn't moved, and I wasn't forced to stay on a cot in my father's apartment--I might not have felt sufficient motivation to move the hell on.

My father's apartment was small, and the laundry facilities were shared in a room off of the lobby. I can't remember if it was when I arrived there, or after I had been there for some time, but this is where the book came from. The laundry room. My father found it, and my dad is wonderful, but not commonly noted for his attention to personal detail; yet somehow he saw this book and remembered Rilke as someone I cared about. So he ganked it for me. It meant a lot to me. It still does.

But I'm still not interested, Jeff!

Well. The final facet of this particular book is that it was a gift at one time, from a certain "Brad" to a certain "Jennifer." (No; not those. Definitely predated them.) In the front of the book is a hand-written dedication in black ballpoint pen:
"Jennifer, with whom
I am learning the difficulty
of love.
The dedication was written for Valentine's Day, 1977, which happens to be the year of my birth. I have no fondness for Valentine's day (see 2/14/07), but knowing this was a gift between two people in an intimate relationship means something to me.

But it's funny, too. Jennifer (I presume) has gone on to mark up the book. And not just with dog ear-ing, but in blue ballpoint pen. She underlines, she writes occasional notes in the margin. And, in a climax of irony, she inscribes a large-written "Bradley!" next to this particular section:
"In his uncertainty each becomes more and more unjust toward the other; they who wanted to do each other good are now handling one another in an imperious and intolerant manner, and in the struggle somehow to get out of their untenable and unbearable state of confusion, they commit the greatest fault that can happen to human relationships: they become impatient."
Emphasis added (by "Jennifer").
In this section, Rilke is writing specifically about the errors made by the young in love. He argues that love can not be won and deserved until those involved are mature enough to appreciate that it is work, it is ultimately difficult, and that such is the true value of it. I think Rilke might have suffered from similar psychic afflictions as I do, which is to say, "Rainer, get over it. Not everything must be a struggle." But he also has a solid point.

The purpose of this 'blog is not to write about love, but life and art. None of these can really be separated, however. I love this book, and the journey it's had, its glories and its blaring imperfections. And I love the way life is a story of the same kind of strange and often untraceable--but always extant--connections between people and times.

13 March 2007

I am Surrounded by Babies

And they are adorable. Though they do, at present, remind me of a Dane Cook routine regarding unpleasant sounds and child abuse. So hopefully nobody will squeak a marker against the paper or rub two pieces of packing styrofoam together in my proximity any time soon, because the likelihood of my being around or about a baby is high. In fact, when visiting with the Younces (see 3/11/07a) I was offered the newborn to hold, and I replied nay. Twice. Was it because I feared harming the baby? Perhaps, but I also feel there was a part of me saying in response to such an offer: No thank you; I'd rather not sample exactly what I'm missing just now.

Fatherhood, I expect, is one of those things that one can--at best--imagine they're ready for. And such dreamers are invariably wrong on some level. So, in essence, it's a leap-and-the-net-will-be-there sort of endeavor. I'm accustomed to that manner of feat, and in concept it holds less fear for me than it once did. No man ever feels ready to be a father, yet we do it anyway. The miraculous thing to me about becoming a parent is the choice. There aren't too many significant things we can do in this life that we have so much choice about. Career success, as with many other forms of success, depends on degrees of fortune that are impossible to calculate. Love happens to you, if the mystics are to be believed, and usually when we change someone else's life in any way it's an accident. And yes, a couple can decide to have a family and fail for one reason or another, and children can be accidentally gestated . . . but that choice . . . that readiness--performed in whatever degree of ignorance it may--is miraculous.

I finally came to feel I was making some interesting, valuable choices in rehearsal for A Lie of the Mind last night. Naturally, these came faster and better when I felt I could let go of the need to make really effective choices. So there you are. Nevertheless, I don't feel it was solely my overall relaxation in the role that allowed the progression. In my opinion, it had just as much to do with the development of the group vibe between Daryl, Todd and I (I was only there for my first three scenes), and the deepened understanding about the family relationship between Jake and Frankie; and, indeed, family relationships in general.

Between runs of the first and third scenes of the play, in which it's just our characters on stage, the three of us got into several discussions about family that included personal anecdotes (a necessity to Todd's process, if I'm not mistaken). This is the sort of thing that usually makes me impatient, and feels like a waste of time. My philosophy is normally to get a play on its feet. That's where the truth is hiding. I'm not wrong about that (you bastards), but last night's discussions were as revelatory as our runs were, and I'm grateful for whatever allowed me to really be involved in them and not chomping at the blocking bit. I found understanding for why Frankie would continue to fight for Jake when he's clearly such a f*$@-up, who only makes Frankie's life more difficult. We got some specifics down about ages, and overall relationship shifts over time. Most importantly, I recognized both that I was the only one in the room who hadn't had the experience of having a brother, and that there were parallels between Frankie and Jake's relationship and that of mine and my sister's.

I should have had a brother. It's even possible that I should have had two, and that I would be the second-oldest of four, instead of the older of two. There has been, throughout my life, a weird sort of longing for those lost brothers, the result of which is seeking that relationship out in certain friends and trying to be the best freaking brother in the whole freaking world to my sister. I have only had moments of achieving that kind of celebrity in relation to Jenny, but I'm lucky enough to have a sister who recognizes those moments and remembers them. We've got what I would describe as a good relationship. It's gotten necessarily more complex as we've grown up, but the essential affection is still there and strong. I'd still jump in front of a train for her without thinking. She'd still tell me if she thought I were doing something dumb. Does, in fact. Every chance she gets.

This is the kind of borderline personal information that people are railing against the blogosphere over, claiming it's horrid narcissism and self immolation all in one. Yet I can't avoid it in this case, because my life is just that tied up in my work. I suspect everyone's is, really; it's just that actors make a point of exhibiting it on stage or screen, in agonizing detail. And, more to the point, exploring it without judgment. An actor is a scientist of his or her self, objectively observing his or her own reactions and paradigms of behavior, and using them to the benefit of a story. Even when we do things we'd never do in life, something within us responds to it. Otherwise, the effort is aborted before it ever has a chance to experience the empathy of an audience. Either it's true on stage and we identify with it on some level, or we don't identify, and the moment is instantly false.

The choice to create is a bold one. To make something out of one's self and set it out for the world at large is sort of everyone's dream, on some level or another. It's always a kind of miracle to do so, an encapsulation of the spirit that is responsible for our being here at all. Create and nurture art. Create and nurture a child. Create. Nurture.

12 March 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

At 9:00 tonight you'll be humming that to yourself, thinking, "What the crap? How did that song get in my head now?"

And I will laugh with wicked delight!

My college roommate of two years, Durwood Murray, had a spring tradition. It was this: We would walk the quad, or the Fan, and as we walked some young lady would invariably saunter past in shorts, or a tank top or both. Durwood would respectfully but noticeably appreciate this combination of factors and then say, to no one in particular, "Man, I love spring." Trust me when I say that, coming from Durwood, it was charming.

After a brutal half-week cold snap, it is warming up in the city. I doubt we're out of the lion days of March yet, but I take what I can get when I can get it. (How is it in the gutter there, mind[s]?) It enervates me, reminding me of just how much of my bouts with the doldrums lately have had to do with cabin fever and lack of light. My mood is sadly sensitive to a lack of warm light, undeniably; yet it is a response I can't help but wonder if I might not be having at this point had not someone once suggested the idea to me. Capiche? It's like you never ever see people in wheelchairs, then a book you're reading mentions them and suddenly they're everywhere. Sophistry at its best. Or worst. Whichever you choose to believe is right.

Yesterday was a highly productive Sunday, in part as a result of this (and in other part because I largely ignored my phone and had my roommate about, which somehow always motivates one to look busier), and one of the things I produced was to finally reduce the size of my pictures files from California (see 2/19/07). My new camera (Casio Exilim EX-S770) takes poster-sized shots, and I haven't figured out how to recalibrate the camera yet, so loading up the shots onto my computer essentially obliterated what little storage space poor Grndyl had left. This simple, seemingly monotonous task turned out to be really interesting. Distance lends perspective, and I recalled that for a week I had an early spring on the west coast.

Last night Anna Zastrow--an amazing clown--came over and we met and discussed her full-length clown piece, Breathe or You Can Die! She showed me a DVD of its performance at last year's Fringe Festival, and we discussed what she liked and didn't like about it. Anna wants me to work with her on improving the piece; sadly, we both have continuously busy schedules. It will take some doing to find time. But I love her clown, Helda. A couple of years ago I helped direct her appearance in a show we were both performing in, Madness & Joy!, by Ruth Wikler's group, Cirque Boom. It was a great time, and it's rewarding to know that Anna apparently found my input helpful. Helda is a wonderfully sentient clown (which is probably why I identify with her so well), and Anna is a wonderfully committed and serious clowner. I hope we can work it out.

Must . . . tie . . . disparate portions of entry . . . together . . . . Can't . . . allow . . . for disjointed . . . personal narrative . . . .

Finally, last night Friend Adam and I caught a late showing of 300, the movie based upon Frank Miller's amazing graphic novel of the same title. I love Miller's work (he wrote and drew my favorite comic in the whole world ever: Batman - Year One) and Adam and I have sort of a pact to see every comicbook adaptation together, yet I was reluctant to see the 300. Miller's previous film adaptation, Sin City, was the most amazing translation of a comicbook to the screen I had ever seen (at that time), full of understanding and appreciation not just of the story and characters, but of the dramatic appeal of the aesthetic. And after I saw it, I knew I would never willingly watch it again. The grotesque acts of violence in those stories have to clobber you for the world to make sense, and Miller accomplishes this with ease in his drawings. The movie took such a literal approach to the translation of these acts, however, that when put in motion with real voices behind it, this translation created a running terror throughout the movie of wondering when the next holocaust remembrance would occur. It was terrible.

300 is a violent, violent movie. There is decapitation and evisceration galore. Yet the makers spared a thought or two to allowing the aesthetic of the film to convey the violence and stakes without necessarily conveying the horror of dirty deeds. Somehow, through the bodies piled high, the black blood flying in clumps through the air, the silhouetted limbs falling to the earth, the violence is glorified, occasionally laughed at and in some way justified. It helps to know the historical context of this movie (which isn't to say the film is at all an accurate portrayal of events). This battle was ancient Greece's Pearl Harbor, and without it and the sacrifice of Leonidas and his 300, Western civilization as we know it probably would not exist.

Make of that what you will.

Spring is sprung, the Persians are being gored gloriously on the screen and the clowns are coming out of hibernation. Lock up yer daughters, ye farmers.

"Lock it up!"

"No, you lock it up!"

11 March 2007

Hil Ar I Ous

10 Things I Hate about Commandments

Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross

Must Love Jaws


On my way home from rehearsal Friday night, I was stopped at the corner of 48th and 6th (in Manhattan) by two tall gentlemen (All right: tall to me. You bastards.) who asked me a question. I could not hear these men, as I was listening to one of my transcendentally brilliant mixes through my Sony MDR-J10 earbuds, so I removed said earbuds from my ears, only to discover that I still could not understand these men. They had fairly heavy French dialects, and were asking me something about channel four. "You mean NBC?" I innocently asked, pointing to the glowing studio sign down the block. (In my hometown, NBC broadcasts on channel four.) Non, Non. The bar: Channel 4. Sorry fellas. No notion.

They moved on, and as I reinserted my Sony MDR-J10 earbuds I wondered what kind of bar they were headed for. Would I be allowed in, if I tailed them? Sadly, I was distracted by the common flaw of my Sony MDR-J10 earbuds. If you yank them too hard, invariably one will get a wire loose and only send you smatterings of aural delight, which is not delightful. The opposite, in fact. Cursing my good-natured ribaldry with the French, I switched to Dane Cook (spoken word, IOW) for the long ride home.

Frankie, my character in this incarnation of A Lie of the Mind, is a tricky guy to play. The only background you're given on him is his relationships with his siblings and mother, and a brief reference to his having won a baseball scholarship in his youth. Oh, and he was played by Aidan Quinn on Broadway. (Who ranks amongst my list of least favorite actors, though Benny & Joon is an undeniable classic. You bastards.) He has nothing--as far as I have discovered within a week of rehearsal--of his own to fight for in the play, apart from his survival after receiving a gunshot wound. Most of his time is spent trying to help his brother out. Tricky tricky tricky. This morning, getting ready to leave for our first full stumble-through, I was busying my mind with questions about this problem. Questions like, "Why are you such a foil, Frankie?" and "Who made you such a tool, Frankie?"

Then we had our stumble-through, and stumble we did, with great conviction. My favorite moment was when one actress expressed frustration with not having learned a note about remaining positive about everything that happened on stage, and another replied, "Yeah Cindy, I mean, you have been working on it for a whole eight days now." (I refuse to indicate "irony" with an emoticon in this space.) I relished the run-through, dreading it as I had been, because something about its continuity allowed me to cease freaking out about how incapable of the work I felt and thereby actually listen. Imagine my profound sense of revelation upon actually hearing my scene partners. Ah, victory. Or, at least, a step beyond.

After rehearsal I called Friend Younce, who was in town with family for yet another niece's blessing. I had forgotten that this was the prophesied weekend of said visit. Fortunately (and, might I add, miraculously), I had nothing else doing tonight. Unfortunately, the crew was assembled IN BAY RIDGE. For those of you less familiar with the boroughs of my nuevo Zion, Bay Ridge is to Manhattan as Richmond is to DC . . . at least by subway. It is not so far from my home in Brooklyn, however. If the Younce clan had been gathered in the Bronx or Queens, yours truly wouldn't have had the evening he eventually did.

After near-on two hours of travel, I was amongst them. Friend Dave, his wife Michelle, their children Hildegard and Enoch, his sister Carrie and her husband Ed and their children Hazel and . . . uh . . . Ginger? No. Dang it. I'll get it later. Also Dave and Carrie's parents, whom I hadn't seen in years. It was great, albeit rather different from my usual hang time with Dave, which is usually more reminiscent of our olden days of comicbooks and discussions of girls and mythology. I love the Younces. They remind me of how sane, yet individualistic family members can be. And Dave is one of those friends of olde that I just fall back in with. So it was unconventional and welcoming.

There was pizza, and playing kids' games, and a movie (Stranger than Fiction, which I had already seen and--not joking here--I believe would have made a better book) and some of the olde discussion.

When I stepped out to head home on the R train, it was raining but warm. It was midnight, but really 1:00 AM, given the imminent spring in time. That amazing smell of newly wet asphalt was rising all around. It was uplifting; one of those moments that makes one wake up a bit, just enough to remember to recognize and appreciate the world around him. After a few moments of enjoying the sound of the rain on the street and the stone's-throw East River, I happily inserted my new Sony MDR-J20 earbuds into my ears for the not-so-long journey home.

09 March 2007

Don't Lie to Your Mind. It's Unkind.

Yet we all do it. Why? Why should it be so difficult to resist deceiving ourselves? I suppose it has something to do with hope. We need a certain instinct for imaginative creation just to get by, to hypothesize and perceive long-term rewards. This is part of what helped us as a species get to where we are today, the ability to imagine ourselves happier if:
  • We kill a mastodon instead of a grass rat;
  • We take a little longer to find a sharper rock to skin it with; and
  • We avoid killing Ghlugg every time he does that stupid interpretive dance thing.
Sure, it's become more abstract in recent eons. It's not so much about immediate survival, hence the emphasis on the idea of hope. Things are bad now? Don't likey the president? Hatey your job? Have hope, lil' soldier! Hope's good for what ails you.

And relatively speaking (or writing), as long as your hope-o-meter (or fiction-o-gramme, for you Europeans) is in fairly regular interaction with the outside world, you get helpful feedback. Helpful in the sense of:
  • Hey! You are a little more awesome than that. Don't dress so poorly.
  • Hey! That may look an awful lot like a good thing to eat, but those in the know know it will eventually kill you.
  • Hey! You can not fly, no matter how much you want to. Step away from the ledge. Step away . . .
Not so much, when it comes to one's internal imagination system. Hope has a much more enhanced ability--nigh mutagenic, one might say--to polymorph into utter falsity. Anyone read the report of Gingrich confessing his extramarital affair, which occurred during Lewinskygate? Holla back, Newt! Holla back. Did he perceive the moral loophole afforded him by his religious views, or was it a subconscious struggle? We may never know. What we do know is that not one of us is without self-deception on some level, so we may not throw the first stone. Even if he did totally project his own self-hatred on someone with more responsibility. Even if it turned him into the same kind of liar he railed against in those halcyon days. And even if I do say, "Jehovah."

Don't worry guys: I'm only bringing this up because of the title of the play I'm working on now. Yep. And yes, sometimes there is a strange, coincidental reflection between the show one is working on and one's own life. But that's just superstition. And yeah, fate does make fools of us all, and the Oracle can not be broken, and all that, but I'm sure my life is going to be just peachy no matter what portents come my way. And--though this may seem something of a non-sequitor--someday I'll be Batman. Yep. Uh-huh . . .

08 March 2007


It's funny. Chris Kipiniak's Spider-Man debut? It's funny. I can't tell if it's funnier because I know Chris, and can hear his voice in it, but that only matters to those of you who don't know him, so I don't really care. Does this dissuade you from picking up a copy? Oh shoot. My blatant nepotistic promotion has backfired. Well, suppose I told you there was an interesting error in the publishing of this comicbook? It may never come to anything that would make the book valuable, I suppose. Unless Chris' career takes off, that is.

In the final moments of the final confrontation between Spidey and the Circus of Death, embedded in one of the funniest captioned frames ("Meanwhile, up above.... Remember? The guy on the trapeze?") are two frames in which the dialogue and the character's expressions are switched. When the evil acrobat's face is contorted with concentration, he says, "Oops." When it's pale with fear, he says, "Almost...got..."

Last night I had another rehearsal of A Lie of the Mind, still reeling a bit from head cold and the necessary medication. It was a mess for me. I would shift between congested retardation and loopy impulse-control difficulties. It got to be very frustrating to me, trying to push past this wall of mucus to make good work. Every choice I made rang false to me, range falser and flat, and I could never be sure if it was because I was making such poor choices, or if I just couldn't feel the right reverberations.

Working out of order as we are, to accommodate everyone's schedules, one of the last scenes of the evening we worked on was the first in which my character, Frankie, is introduced to the family of his sister-in-law. In said scene, he's just been shot through the thigh, and he has very little dialogue to express a variety of things: pain, anger, shock, fear, confusion. More difficult still, his intention in the scene is bizarrely structured. It's rather achieved within the first moments he arrives in the room, and thereafter he merely fights for his own freedom . . . poorly. It was going to be tricky, and I knew it. The only thing an actor can do, past any preparation, in this circumstance is to jump in. I did.

And started making mistakes left and right.

Which worked great. It turns out, having a head cold is pretty excellent base material for emulating the symptoms of shock, which is rather the key to the strangeness of the scene. The character is slipping out of reality, but fighting it all along, struggling against himself to achieve what he's already achieved. He's getting no feedback, or at least none that he can understand and interpret.

It's tricky for me to embrace ignorance, or to relish "not knowing." It was one of the biggest lessons I came away from Italy with last June. And yes, it's one of those lessons I keep learning over, and over, and over again. I'll probably never get it naturally. So for those of you who know me: be patient. Someday I'll be able to admit just how little I know. Think of how much I'll be able to learn then.

07 March 2007

Cold Head

Sorry, I'b a liddle buddled. I beant "head cold."

I am a wuss. I will admit it; I will declaim it with gusto . . . as soon as I feel a little healthier. When I get sick, there's nothing halfway about it. There's no "little 24-hour thing" for this boy, ever. I like to believe it is because--even on a physiological level--I maintain the courage of my convictions. Probably, though, it has more to do with having a Constitution score of about 2. (Yeah gamers: I went yon.) Friend Patrick (who has a much more admirable Constitution score) was right in his comment in my last entry. The past year has made personally known to me much illness and injury (for more detailed explanation: 12/31/06). In the words of the Bard: I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors, but think that God's got a sick sense of humor, and when I die I expect to find Him laughing.

Meanwhile, the world marches merrily onward, oblivious to my suffering. Monday's rehearsal and showing of The Torture Project (v. 3.5.07) occurred. That's not to suggest it went poorly, I just never really know how it went until I hear back from the producers. I spent whatever of the day I wasn't in the Shabaq position lying on the floor trying to marshal my reserves. The showing was PACKED, the which I take some of the responsibility for. We had a small room to begin with, and there was more concern for surrounding the big-wigs with appreciative audience members than there was with actual space, so . . . mistakes were made. Which should be okay, what with it being a workshop presentation and all, but you never can tell. Some of the more memorable of these included:
  • Tripping into an audience member in the first row because there was no light in which to exit after my first scene.
  • Running out to strike a music stand and getting it nearly disentangled from the newly added Christmas lights on the ground before realizing I jumped the gun on its removal . . . all the while the next scene has already begun.
  • Literally choking whilst trying to make drowning noises in a tub of water placed behind the audience because--due to the necessary additional seating--I was awfully worried about splashing the designer handbag just inches away.
I blame it all on the sickie. The response immediately following the presentation seemed positive, but of course that's what you do when locked in a room with about a dozen people who effectively told you, "I made this, and I think it's pretty and special." We'll get the real response when Ms. Laurie Sales emails us all to say either:
  • Quit your day jobs! The Public wants to create an everlasting ensemble troupe comprised solely of us and the entire Schreiber family!
  • Do you guys want to rehearse in New Hampshire again? At least we get free space there . . .
For the moment, I am merely glad it's over for a while, and merely hopeful that the next time we mount whatever version of it we have much more ample time and resources. Since the showing, too, I had my first rehearsal for A Lie of the Mind. I spent the day leading up to it resting, which is a significant sacrifice when one works an hourly job one already has to take some time off from for various theatrical endeavors. Sadly, I was not (and am not yet) cured by this respite. I did, however, manage to unbind and recycle countless Torture Project scripts into draft paper. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice. (And which is today's movie quote; name it, you freakin' namers!)

The cast of A Lie of the Mind is awesome. Just awesome. I was in no shape to socialize, but the work is so engaging there was very little impulse to, either. I've been lucking out on the casts I've been a part of the past couple of years. I can't be sure if that's luck, actually, or one of the occasional benefits awarded those of us who stick with this nutty craft long enough to build a bit of a community. In addition, I have to spout that I'm very impressed with the director, Daryl Boling. I've worked with Daryl in this capacity twice before, the first on a debut called The Center of Gravity (his directorial debut, I believe) and the second on a production called Criminals in Love. It's been three years since CiL, and in that time I've caught only two productions Daryl's directed: his Black Comedy/White Liars a couple of years ago and his Miss Julie about a month ago. I suspected, based on that last production, that he had really developed since I last worked with him. My suspicions are confirmed. He is approaching the text with a sensitivity and insight reminiscent of David Zarko, and I can't wait to be able to breathe through my nose again so I can rise to his work.

Tonight is another rehearsal for ALotM, and naturally I have mixed feelings about being there. This is what I want to be doing most in the world, but nothing is exactly fulfilling when one is in pain (see wuss comment above). It's one of those sacrifices--along with the resulting reduced income--that tests my resolve to be doing what I'm doing. So in at least one way, I'm coming out strong today.

PS - This Vick's nasal inhaler is good stuff . . .

PPS - Total sidebar: Amazingly excellent actor Chris Kipiniak from the TP is a comicbook writer as well, and today the first of his Spider-Man series arrives on the shelves. It's a series for youth. I so don't care, and am getting my copy right now. I know a comicbook writer!