26 February 2009

Block? Block. Block?

Friend WHftTS has a recent post on his/her/its 'blog that reminds me of how irksome the collaborative process can be. It is easy to feel lost or frustrated, or both, and sometimes the whole damn thing hardly seems worth the effort. It has to be a strong choice, I think, to collaborate with particular people at a particular time on a particular work, and we have to be prepared to have it go completely different from our expectations. Even then, we may contend with that familiar urge to go ear rippin'. And anyway, we don't always have a choice in one (if not any) of these areas. Theatre, in particular, involves a lot of ball-passing, and very rarely does any quarterback make a 90-yard dash that results in a touchdown.

Ew. When I resort to sports metaphor, it's time for a new paragraph, at least.

Having just come off a highly collaborative process, I'm very sensitive to WHftTS' frustration over people who block. By "block," in this sense, I'm drawing a parallel between collaboration and improvisation (much safer metaphorical territory [is that ambiguous?] for yours truly). A block, in improvisation, is when someone says "no" to a suggestion. A pretty straight-forward rule: Don't say no. Until you consider that the very rule you just stated violates itself by its negative construction. Then think of how conditioned we are to say "no," automatically or otherwise. Then consider how many different ways there are of saying "no," or blocking, without using that particular word; without saying anything at all! It is often quite challenging, saying "yes" to everything. Hell, it's challenging saying yes even once, in some contexts.

It would seem, at first blush, that some critical faculty is required for collaboration, and it is. The trouble is, saying "no," or arguing, is too easy. "Easy?" you demand. "You call that struggle easy?" In a sense, yes, Dear Reader. Blocking is itself a much simpler, more direct choice than, say redirecting, or even trying out whatever's just been given to you. Therein lies much of the problem with blocking, even that of the most sensible and creative variety -- it contributes nothing.

When we teach improvisation, Friend Heather and I get people in the practice of saying, "Yes, and..." at the beginning of each sentence. This is a good ritual for keeping communication open. The first, and most consistent, breach of this rule that always occurs is someone saying, "Yes, but...". Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that one says "yes, but" because they sincerely have a better idea. Hands down. No question. What harm then? The harm is that in disagreement so abrupt and direct, one halts the flow of energy, which is more important to a collaboration than almost anything else. Perhaps worse (for the blocker), in a good collaboration you may find yourself ignored. Like water, the group's efforts have to keep flowing, lest they become stagnant, and you, Dear Blocker, are in their way. More to the point, though, there are other ways of influencing the flow, ways that run less risk of ignoring what might turn out to be a problem-solving idea at that. Focus, explore and contribute, rather than block, and odds are that you'll get a better result every time. Maybe in some cases we can and ought to direct a given collaboration. That can be helpful, but no matter how much your direction is needed, you never own the collaboration. It's always the groups'.

The other block I have on my mind is one WHftTS addresses rather frequently as well: writer's block. Or, I should say, WHftTS addresses the cure, which is regular writing. A discipline. Like a pulp detective, I can't help but feel the two blocks are related in some way(s). I spent a couple of months away from my play Hereafter -- never reading it, much less writing on it, in that time. My intention had been to spend the last two weeks of R&J working it over, but the first week was packed with workshops, and the second . . . well . . . I just couldn't get to it.

It has become apparent to me that I'm actually suffering from a bit of writer's block. That seems natural enough. My writing in general over the rehearsal period had been sporadic at best, downright occasional at worst, so I'm a little out of practice. Plus, I care an awful lot about Hereafter, and so I don't want to mess up whatever I've already gotten right. Plus, I can't recapture how I felt when I was writing it. Plus . . . I mean, I wrote the two best pieces of it months apart from one another, with no regard for unity . . .. And . . . uh . . . er . . ..

"Yes, but . . ."

You can block yourself. In fact, what may be so very frightening about collaboration is that it mirrors the internal process so well. They're both instinctive, wandering, exploratory quests, filled with wrong turns and time, time, time. They're best approached with patience, enthusiasm and direction, albeit ever-changing direction. It's hard enough work without getting in my own way.

25 February 2009

Reversals of Fortune

Firstly: Over 30,000 page loads! Yay! That is all.

I am beginning to see how the economic crisis will affect me, and others of my ilk. At first, there was a supreme comfort in watching all these richies lose their marbles over watching digital numerals descend. Now, I'm aware that the uber-richies aren't going to feel a thing and perhaps, relatively speaking, I should feel some remorse for the less-than-uber. But I must say, when you're as far down on the fiscal ladder as I, it's difficult to make such distinctions in perspective. (That ended up being a dastardly interwoven, imagistic pun, didn't it?) So I have felt largely schadenfreude, an emotion that is not very common for me. It's completely insensible, too, since I know that rich people aren't rich in spite of me. They aren't keeping money from me, so any resentment I feel is purely self-inflicted. Still and all: Ha-ha.

For some time, it felt as though I had won some terrible lottery that I didn't know I was playing. My lifestyle seemed to defy every pitfall of this downturn, this recession/depression, and in ways very specific to my personal choices. For example, I have an IRA, no 401k. That money is safe, and those who've been making more are now losing out. Another example is my lack of home ownership, car or otherwise asset-enhanced merchandise. It seemed as though I could look at my semi-vagrant, actor lifestyle and say, "Hey buddy, you've actually been sensible. Your frugality and emphasis on the moment was the real safe path. The reckless jokers are actually all these market gamblers and careerists. Here: Here's a pat on your acupunctured back for you." I could recline in my cheap chair and regard the concept of trickle-down economics as an irrelevant, elitist concept from the Reagan 80s.

Alack, it is not so. We're all in this together, as I've known somewhere in the back all along, and on the horizon I can now see the incoming storm. It's in the seemingly little things, like public transportation and food prices, that the first painful slights will appear for we "starving artists." These little things are actually monumentally important -- they're what we spend our little money on. The health insurance I just jumped on due to my newly married status will now not be free. Perhaps most awaking is the fact of the Electric Theatre Company's imminent collapse. Like many (if not most) small regional theatres, ETC is always hovering on the brink of inviability, to the extent that one ceases to notice. But this time around, I couldn't help but see how tight it was all getting. I felt, for the first time, like a strain on the theatre. It was almost an it-or-me scenario in terms of money, and I of course had to choose me.

Though I can't help but be reminded of the Chinese parable of heaven and hell, wherein both places have an elaborate dinner for everyone, but provide only three-foot chopsticks with which to eat. Hell is where they frustratedly starve, heaven where they know to feed one another. Maybe our table has been deprived of its entree, but I still feel the key to getting through this will be to help each other out as much as possible. So I ate some expenses on the theatre's behalf, and I contributed some to their funds, all the while insisting on timely paychecks. Balance in all things. Hopefully some good will come out of this; the bankers and investors will learn to balance too, and the artists will become more focused, more motivated, more true. Hopefully. And in the meantime, some sacrifice and suffering. Some unexpected joy, too.

24 February 2009

Wrapping Up Romeo

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!

[The actor is silent, twitching his fingers as if to draw something out, then upping the gesture until it is a furious, full-arm coaxing.]

Arise, fair sun! And, and and...

[The actor looks around himself frantically, finally spotting something in the distant horizon.]

KILL the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief that thou her maid art far more fair than she!

[The actor gives a take to the audience as if to say, "Wow, did you hear me come up with that?" The actor is never sure if this take is going to land as he intends it {that is, as a gleeful sharing of enthusiasm rather than giving the sense that he's impressed with himself} and so, sometimes, he skips it. Sometimes.]

I'll miss my clown Romeo. Though potentially not for long, as the Italians are very encouraging about getting some part (if not all) of the production to Italy to perform, either this summer or next. Still, the curtain has fallen on this particular outing, and it's unlikely that another will be quite the same. So. To review:

The key to my take on Romeo lay in a late note from our clown director, Mark McKenna. He compared Romeo to a puppy -- all loyalty and enthusiasm, no strategy or subtext. This worked great, though I'm sure another performer could have done it better. One of the greater challenges for me in this exploration was to let go of my calculation and crispness in favor of an instinctive openness. I've never done so well at this before, yet I'm certain I didn't take it as far as it could have successfully gone. (So I'll be thankful for another chance, or two.) Romeo had big, ungainly paws and an ear-flapping energy. Part of the beauty of this puppy imagery was that it gave permission to be angry as well as cuddly, which helped me figure out how a clown Romeo could slay a commedia dell'arte Tybalt. It's funny: I used to attribute an animal to every character I played, a technique I've gotten away from in my adult career. Of course playing such a young lover would end up being nested in that work!

Prior to that image, there was a lot of struggle on my part to succeed as a clown in the role and, as I said, my success was mitigated by me just being me. I remember in college my TV/film acting teacher told the class that I shouldn't be going after non-brainy roles, that my "look" or "type" was too focused for that. I thought, thank goodness I'll be doing theatre, where I can more easily transform, but the personality traits she was picking up on were perfectly valid. I'm a thinker. That's not to say I'm especially intelligent, just that I work from my head first whenever I can. Bad habit for an actor, generally speaking, which is part of what I like about trying to do this amazing craft. I like the work involved in getting instinctive, getting into my heart. That didn't save me from some fury-inducing frustration during this rehearsal process (natch'), but even that was reminiscent of my teenage years, and so wasn't entirely an obstacle.

I have come to a new appreciation of the axiom that "there is no subtext in Shakespeare." This is a saying so often said that it is starting to lose letters, holes appearing like new constellations in the firmament of phraseology. (And yes, I do miss the language already.) In the little roles I've previously filled, it was apparent to me that every character says what is on his or her mind, and nothing less, but it wasn't until trying to fill out a role like Romeo that I felt how essential that no-subtext rule is. You don't just say everything as you feel it, you express it, wholly, and the whole thing is in motion the whole time. There is no stop to your internal life, there is no censorship or, ultimately, room for grand interpretation. Take, for example, the following:

"This gentleman, the Prince's near ally, my very friend, hath got this mortal hurt in my behalf. My reputation stain'd with Tybalt's slander -- Tybalt, that an hour hath been my kinsman! Ah Juliet; thy beauty hath made me effeminate, and in my temper softened valor's steel."

This ended up being the text I most had to mess with, interpretation-wise. Somehow in the clown world and with our vasty cutting of the text, it needed to be an upbeat bit, in order to more dramatically drop in the moment when Benvolio came back with Mercutio's mask in hand to tell of his demise. It's right there: mortal hurt. Romeo's upset and knows that Mercutio's at death's door, yet I felt I had to play it lightly, as though Romeo were oblivious right up to the last second. It never felt right, and it never would, because there's only so much room for interpretation. The conditions are all right there in the text, and honesty lives in living them out in their time and measure.

Apart from a few other little alterations, I feel strongly that our show was very true to the story and the characters. There was some doubt of this to begin -- we didn't know if a clown & commedia world would work at all, much less whether it could be convincingly applied to R&J. (Note: Next time, Jeff, read through the play a couple of times before you get super excited about your concept....) We were lucky in discovering, in my opinion, that this concept was in fact well-suited to the material. Romeo and Juliet are just as innocent and moment-to-moment as clowns, and they are surrounded by a world of connivers, and scarred fighters, and hypocrites. And all these people are lovable, even the worst of them, which makes the tragedy truly, uh, tragic. You feel bad for everyone. It will be a while before I'll be able to see the play as anything other than how we conceived it. Indeed, watching film versions of it I'm compelled to laugh, especially during the back-to-back "banished" scenes. You can't expect me to believe that he wrote those without some sense of the comic irrationality of teenagers.

One criticism of the show lingers for me: That it was too manic, that the tragedy was ultimately undermined by all the broad comedy preceding it, and came off as too abrupt. This sticks with me because I feel quite the opposite. To me, life is like that. Tragedy is abrupt, and I meant every emotion prior to our characters' deaths, regardless of how comic the effect was, so I feel that there was plenty of room there to believe that something truly sad was happening. This critique is also interesting to me because, technically speaking, Romeo & Juliet is not exactly a tragedy. The deaths are quite accidental and unnecessary, rather than inevitable. There is no return to the status quo, true (the hallmark of classical comedy), but neither are the main characters of especially high status. Furthermore, it seems to me that Shakespeare knew this, and spent some effort to counteract it. Of all the lines we cut, a great many were (I believe coincidentally) of a foreboding nature. Hardly a scene goes by without Romeo and/or Juliet saying something about a bad dream or sudden image of death. Methinks the playwright doth protest too much, in other words.

What we made, ultimately, was a very broad, structured comedy that aspired to inspire tragic catharsis at the end. I know we reached this aspiration for some, and not for others. Such is theatre, such is life. I feel very fulfilled, now all is said and done. It was not as I imagined it, but that's collaboration, and the show was probably better for it. I learned much, and kept learning, which I take as a sign that we were doing something right in terms of story and character. The audiences enjoyed themselves, and we achieved some measure of delight, surprise, and grief. It was funny, and it was beautiful, and if I never get to play another leading Shakespeare role again, I can happily hang my hat on this.

That's not my plan, though. I've got a taste for it now.

22 February 2009


Now this is how you choreograph a fight. Note the quick direction, yet LONG SHOTS to take in the ACTION. Plus a woman with actual arms...

20 February 2009

Anxiety ANXIETY Anxiety

Yeah. The dreaded A-word. That one what doth top off my list of topics more often than I'd like. There are some occasions for which I'm sure it would not surprise you, Dear Reader, that I experience my share of stress. Under-rehearsed show openings, callbacks with prominent theatre artists and just auditions in general. Then again, there's one I probably haven't written much of -- namely, the return to NYC after a long-term gig has taken me away.

Last night I had not one, but two anxiety dreams, both closely related to the fears associated with returning to the city and my more-regular life after I've spent some time acclimated to the good life. Keep in mind, "the good life" dangles me over a cliff of poverty, taunts me with creative failure at every turn and has its own share of stress. Yet somehow, the thought of returning to el day jobo and the verities of (big) city life manages to top any of that. It tops it, turns it around three times and kicks it out the door by its reproductive organs. It's awful, frankly. Mostly, I think, because it's laced with reminders of the compromises I have still to make in order to make this triple-life work for me. I crave integration now just as much as I did as a freshly graduated BFA holder. More, perhaps, because now I understand how sweet it could be, and how rough, too.

I haven't a whole lot to complain about, from one perspective. And I dearly love returning to better food, somewhat more fiscal compensation and, of course, my much-missed wife and friends. And heck (AND tarnation), there are no surprises here. I'm good at NYC at this point. I got my technique down and everything. My fellow artists will understand the frustration of tasting, just tasting, the possibility of sustaining one's life doing what one loves. Wherefore anxiety? Why not anger, or sorrow, or something more productive? I have no ready answer. My theory is that it springs from the aspect of less-than-welcome change. I'd probably do better with it if I could embrace it as opportunity. It doesn't have to be a reminder of what I don't have. I need to work on this.

In the meantime, the final showings of The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet gallop apace. This show has definitely infected me with a Shakespeare bug. I'm planning to read more of W.S. for a bit when I get back to the city, feeling very connected to the amazing, functional poetry of it. Last night we had a pleasant surprise in our audience in the forms of a former Zuppa actor and friend of the troupe. Erin McMonagle and Seth Reichgott visited from BTE, where they are rehearsing Leading Ladies. They had effusively nice things to say about our work, which is always welcome from fellow theatre artists, particularly those you particularly respect. We visited ever-so-briefly after the show before they needed to get back to Bloomsberg, but it was loverly. I hope I get to work with Erin again, and Seth for the first time, soon.

Some of my anxiety over the end of the show, and the re-entry to the day job, has been mitigated into productivity. I've arranged to meet with Friend Cody to discuss a regular acrobatics/balance group, and intend to spend a good deal of my time once back in sending out headshots and auditioning, perhaps for more Shakespeare. I usually have the best intentions for setting my best foot forward when I return to my home base, then wallow in adjusting to my return and feeling (quite frankly) sorry for myself. So it is my fervent hope that making appointments and such will keep me out of such nonsense this time around. Dang it, I like this work. Why lag, much less stop? I don't need a vacation. I need a never-ending trip, and I am my own events coordinator.

Hm. Maybe I should have been an author of self-help books, instead.

19 February 2009

Study Under This!

I got a surprising call yesterday from the casting director of Humor Abuse. Apparently, they still haven't made a decision for casting Lorenzo Pisoni's understudy, and she wanted to make sure I was still available. I, of course, had written it off by now. In fact, when she asked, "Are you still available?" I swear for a moment I heard, "Sorry, we can't use you this time." It seems that with getting the show into previews (starting tonight), they just haven't made a decision yet. (Another possibility of course is that they want to see more people, without lopping of the possibilities they have seen thus far.) Oddly enough, Friend Dave's Maestrosity friend is also up for the slot, though I have yet to hear whether he received such a follow-up call. Perhaps they have half the male circus-actors of New York on hold? Perhaps. Still, it's always nice to hear that one didn't commit career sepuku in one's callback . . .

18 February 2009

Inquiring Philosophy

Last night I attended the first dress rehearsal for Marywood University's A Midwinter Night's Dream, something for which I specifically returned to town early. It was gaffe-ful, naturally, but I expected much worse, given the students' generalized anxiety about the progress of their rehearsals when I led them in a workshop last week. I should learn: Actors in general, and young actors in particular, are given to anxiety about any show. It's how we channel what to most people seems like unaccountably constant enthusiasm. We have to channel it somehow, lest we drive others crazy with it (as if our anxiety didn't risk that) or, more dangerous, make them jealous. Most people rarely get to experience the kind of unapologetic joy that actors with an opportunity to perform do. Most people, it must be said, feel a need to beat down that seemingly selfish celebration.

I may seem a bit cynical with that last, but I swear to you that I'm feeling very open and grateful. Last night's performance put me in mind of some of my earliest experiences in theatre. First of all, I was in about two college productions per year after my freshman one, and was reminded of how that environment is so unique for theatre. Secondly, Midsummers was one of my first high school productions. I played Philostrate, a fun but generally thankless role. As I watched a rather Annie-Hall-like Philostrate ply her few lines last night, I was reminded of the beautiful feather they gave me for a quill pen when I played the role, and how the director tried as delicately as possible to direct me to play him, shall we say, as weightless of sole as possible. In brief, I was reminded of the times when theatre was a different kind of adventure for me, when my priorities were all wrong for supposed good work, when I knew little and (perhaps more dangerously) thought I knew more. Thankfully, the Marywood players are far more self-aware than I was a decade or so ago, and their show is well-constructed and a refreshing venue for seeing young actors working with great sincerity and no small amount of artistry.

I'm also writing to you, Dear Reader, from the office of the Electric Theatre Company. Directly over the computer I'm using (the one usually reserved for the tiresome business of juggling money to make sure types like me get paid) is a corkboard, and pinned to this corkboard is a quote from Simon Callow. I read Callow's memoir, Being An Actor, and enjoyed it. Friend Patrick gave it to me as a 30th birthday gift, and nearly as he did, another friend commented on Callow as a self-important git. Uncouth, to be sure, but the drinks were flowing quite liberally even that early in the evening (as evidenced by the gallery on my Facebook page) and I leave this as the friend's excuse. Whether or not it's true, it colored my reading of the book a bit. I rolled it about as a question in my own mind, and have left it largely unanswered. The book didn't offend me, was interesting, and at times even inspired me, so who am I to judge? The corkboard quote from Callow is from another book, The Road to Xanadu:
"The loss of excitement is the beginning of professionalism. The thrill of standing on stage, of receiving an audience's attention and admiration, the release of becoming someone other than yourself; all these stimuli are transient and superficial. They must be replaced by something more deeply rooted which takes as its starting point the audience's experience rather than your own."

I'm still reeling a bit from a troublesome note given to me by one of my directors on The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet (see 2/16/09). Two things I can hardly abide are being accused of selfishness and being instructed to relax. The first is because I'm perpetually paranoid about seeming self-centered simply because I want things for myself, the second is because telling me to relax is possibly the most futile, self-defeating exercises in which to engage me. To me, it's a little like telling someone to jump, than berating them for coming back down without your instruction. I admit that one of my character flaws is in how easily frustrated I am, and how quickly I can lose my sense of perspective -- and I try to take responsibility for these attributes as best I can. But tell me to "relax" too many times, and I will remorselessly rip your ears off. And I'll still go off and try to be more perfect for you. I'm in a long process of learning how to fend for myself when it's necessary, something that comes more naturally to some, and I'd like the world at large to recognize that my default state is to do everything I do for it, for them, for anyone but myself.

This is getting a little too self-important/self-flagellating for me, and my reasoning rather a lot cyclical at that. But I've needed to vent, so that was pretty effectively accomplished with the above. The real question I am trying to come to grips with is, where do I draw the line between "good" work, and the work I want to do? Another way to ask it is, what are my standards for myself in my work, and how do I maintain those in the face of adversity? We all have to be open to criticism, but we also can not afford to take all criticism at face value, lest we be stymied completely. There is no perfection, of course. Make that your goal at your own peril. So how do we define the best we can do, from moment to moment? I just advised a whole theatre department to have a sense of personal direction in their work, and now I'm questioning my own. It's necessary work. It's also a pain in my ass.

My quick-and-dirty answer (or, my jumping-off-point for re-exploring this question) is to say that in my perfect world, the audience and the actor meet on an equal plane of thrills, tears and laughter. Perhaps this is why I want so much to take the director's chair for a bit, to gain some better perspective on this possibility. Maybe it's impossible. I won't know until I try. And in the meantime, I have had to decide that the note I received was simply a misperception. It felt like a good show. It didn't feel I was showing off, nor in danger of doing so. It felt like the audience and my fellow actors and I were meeting on a level playing field, and each upping the other's emotional investment. I felt like an adult choosing to make that compact with the audience, and I felt like a kid, playing without knowing what to expect next. What else could an actor ask for?

16 February 2009

But Soft, What Paycheck Through Yonder Window is Cut...?

My very awfully busy week last week was every bit as awfully busy as I had imagined. Rewarding, but not in the material sense, as most of the payment I'll receive for said work will take its saccharine-sweet time in getting to me. This I'm afraid is standard practice for the teaching artist (largely what I was, apart from Romeo Montague, last week) which is all-too ironic, teaching artists being folks that generally need the money rather immediately. I don't do what I do for money's sake -- obviously -- but there are times when one needs it more than others, and now is such a time for this guy. As I tried to impart in one of my workshops this week: Work is not a job unless it pays, and a job is not a career unless you are working. But let's assume the institutions will not fall apart completely before I get my checks, and focus on the work. The work is what this branch of my 'blogging is about, after all.

Tuesday was a workshop for the Electric Theatre Company's Griffin Conservatory, one in acrobalance. However, my usual teaching partner (my Juliet Capulet) sprained her calf and got a cold in one fell swoop over the weekend, and I was stuck trying to teach partner balancing without being able to demonstrate it. This turned out all right, though, as I had only two students show up and was able to modify the class to a general "physical acting" one, with some balance and tumbling instruction. So for three hours, on the padded floor of our R&J set, we three cavorted and grew together a bit. It was the most remedial class I'd taught in a long while, which was actually very nice. It reminded me of how much there is to appreciate in the smallest or most intuitive of movements.

Wednesday was a two-show day, our first, and due to a faulty calendar I managed to schedule my career workshop at Marywood right between the two. For a while I was nervous about this, as my central theme would have to be, "Do better than I have." But I learned from the students, who requested some further coverage of acrobalance (I've teased them with it here and there over the last couple of years) and that I talk about In Bocca al Lupo. So I called it "Finding Balance," and tried to combine physical activity with discussions about balancing a professional life with a creative one in the theatre. In essence, I was putting this here 'blog on its feet, and I ended up feeling that it went rather well. It's still a fledgling workshop, to be sure, but with a little more organization and some more concrete material I could see myself running it other places. At any rate, the students seemed to get good information out of it, and definitely enjoyed themselves. I like combining thought and action. Feels like acting!

Thursday and Friday, Heather and I choreographed fights for North Pocono High's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was in itself a kind of workshop, involving as it did students who'd never done any physical theatre at all. Marywood has an up-coming Midsummers coming up too, and it's awfully fun to be surrounded by these shows whilst doing R&J; popular opinion has it that Shakespeare created them in close conjunction with one another. For North Pocono, we spent all of Thursday teaching stage combat basics, then taught them specific choreography the next day. We had just enough time to do it all, at that, and had to rely on their note-taking and diligence hereafter for any hopes of it sticking. The four actors were wonderfully focused, though, and we would have failed had they not been. Overall, I'm very happy with the work we did. We taught them funny, story- and character-based choreography, and we did it right, without skimping on technique and safety.

Which makes it rather ironic that I got PWN3D by Paris in our fight for Saturday night's performance.

The performances went fine this week, though we had considerably smaller audiences across the board compared to our preview, pay-what-you-can nights last week. I came to feel quite a bit more at home in Romeo this week, and truly, even the quiet audiences seemed to get a lot out of the show (I usually disdain that "they were quiet, but really attentive" excuse for bad shows -- these I do not think were those). I had a big week for visitors; my parents came Friday night, and Wife Megan and Friend Patrick saw it both Saturday, and for Sunday's matinee. This is the first Zuppa show Patrick's been able to catch, which made it an absolute thrill for me. Sunday morning the director thought that these audience members might be part of the reason my performance was the way it was. He said it was a very good show, but that I was just this close to playing more for myself than for Romeo; nearly showing off, to put a finer point on it. He asked me to just be careful, and relax.

So the past couple of days have had a cherry a-top my gradually built sundae of doubt about continuing as I have with Zuppa del Giorno. No conclusions as yet, but me, I am a'thinkin' . . .
But the real news! I got punched! In the eye! Yes, in our climactic battle, I accidentally got a shiner from one Conor McGuigan; and yes, I'm sorta proud. I don't think I've ever had a black eye before and, in spite of speaking in verse at the time, this one was pretty Fight Club-y. The move was a down punch to the face, where I am kneeling and he stands over me. Among his other virtues, Conor's got bony knuckles, and at least one of them connected with my brow that night. The effect is rather like my left eyelid is stuck in a Boy George video -- lovely, deep purples, but only on the lid. A little concealer does the trick for shows, and now I get to make up stories about what a tough/hilariously clumsy guy I am.

It made for good conversation in my audition today. I hadn't planned on returning to New York these days off, but got a call V-day about auditioning for a Lexis-Nexis web spot and decided to shell out for the bus ticket again. It was quite an out-of-the-blue opportunity; I was plucked from the casting files of one Lisa Milinazzo, but for the life of me, I can't remember what, if any, connection we share. The bad news is that the filming dates conflict with the final shows of R&J, and are thereby impossible for me, but the good is that the audition went great. I seem to get these opportunities to play straight-faced businessmen that are actually funny and run with them. This was another case in which they asked me to improvise around the script and loved what I came up with. (I really, really need to parlay this type into some live show that will get me noticed by agentry.) Casting people for The Office, please note: I am your guy in spades. I even know Scranton! Come on!

I'm looking forward to this final week of the show being rather more relaxed. Even our two-show Thursday should seem a breeze, compared to last Wednesday. My first order of business upon returning to Scranton tomorrow will be to attend a rehearsal of Marywood's A Midwinter Night's Dream, which I'm very much looking forward to (their actual performances conflict with ours). Then I hope to spend my days getting resumes out for the next gig, 'blogging more, and beginning the first revision process on Hereafter. That's not exactly relaxed, I guess. But it sounds wonderful . . .

10 February 2009

And Now for Something...Completely Different

It is my day off, after all. Mostly. I'm headed back to Scranton early to teach acrobalance to the unsuspecting students of ETC's Griffin Conservatory.

Friend Patrick had a recent post directing me here, where I promptly played with creating my own comicbook character's cover. The result:
It's awfully silly stuff, and apparently part of an advertising scheme (cp+b is an advertising agency) but for what exactly is not as immediately apparent. Naturally I took it far more seriously than was intended, trying once again to realize what a real-life vigilante crime fighter might look like, assuming he had even a passing familiarity with superhero tropes. This website put me in mind of Hero Machine, a wonderful little bit of Flash that Friend Younce introduced me to years ago. Hero Machine gives you many more options, including the possibility of actually naming your imaginary figure (the Amazing Kicking Black Belt not being my idea). And so, of course, I almost-immediately had to head that-a-way and see how my vigilante would turn out if he could, I don't know, disguise his identity somehow! The result:Kind looking fella', isn't he?

Obviously my trope for a "superhero" is based on Batman: No powers, all determination. What I've been thinking about lately is that a real "superhero" would be most interesting for his (or her) need to be anonymous. Apart from the legal ramifications, of course, what would compel someone to endanger themselves regularly and anonymously? There must be a deeper psychological reason, in addition to the pragmatic. Comicbooks have tackled this before, of course, but never to my satisfaction.

So what we have here is a mid-level-income superhero, with a priority for fighting street crime, but not killing anyone. His weapons would have to be compact and largely non-lethal, and he'd need ranged ones as well as something for in-fighting. The shuriken is actually a compromise; when I was thinking about it, I realized darts would be the best weapon for such a vigilante. Blown or tossed, a dart with some kind of drug would be the most efficient tool in such a one's arsenal. The rest of Hero Machine's provisions were pretty great for my purposes. He'd need agility, but would certainly be armored, so sectional plates are best. Paratrooper boots, with ankle support but rubber soles, are the best footwear any vigilante could need. He could use leather pants, but his top would need something that breathes and flexes more, and of course good, tight-fitting gloves. Some little things I particularly appreciate -- equipped at his sides but not his front or back as this would impede brawling; he's a little jacked up, as one would be if one took to the violent neighborhoods nightly; he's in dark greys, imminently more practical for hiding in shadows. Hero Machine only failed me in the kind of mask I wanted for him. To cover his brow and eyes, I had to cover his ears too, and this is something no one in their right mind would do (sorry, Bats).

This was a fun way to spend a day off. I'm going to post the code for this guy below. Simply go to Hero Machine and select "Load," paste it in, and you can mod him up. Or make your own. Whatever you do, share it in the comments somehow.

2.5b5*m1*The East Sider*Hair:Standard,understubble,732C00,000000,100,100,21,Eyebrows:Expansion1,raised,5A3410,5A3410,100,100,20,Eyes:Expansion1,slanty,01B3F1,390F7C,100,100,19,Nose:Standard,thinhook,F8B684,F8B684,100,100,23,Mouth:Expansion1,stern,EE694A,F8B684,100,100,17,Beard:Standard,gaunt,FFD08C,F8B684,100,100,22,Ears:Standard,fraBlank,F8B684,FFFFFF,100,100,18,Skin:Standard,wounded,F79E72,F8B684,100,100,8,Mask:Standard,topbandana,202020,000000,100,100,26,Headgear:Masks1,tophalfbandana,000000,313131,100,100,24,Undershirt:Expansion1,tek,727272,5A3410,100,100,9,Overshirt:Expansion1,scifi,434343,000000,100,100,28,Coat:Overshirt,downchevron,000000,181818,100,100,27,RightGlove:Standard,plain,5A3410,181818,100,100,16,LeftGlove:Standard,plain,5A3410,181818,100,100,15,Insignia:Standard,fraBlank,DC0028,FF0000,100,100,29,Neckwear:Shoulders,2straps,5A3410,000000,100,100,30,Belt:Expansion1,twotone-left,312829,000000,100,100,14,Leggings:Expansion1,checks,313131,FFFFFF,100,100,10,Overleggings:Expansion1,furbriefs,4B4B4B,000000,100,100,31,Pants:Standard,fraBlank,FFFFFF,FFFFFF,100,100,13,RightFoot:Expansion1,dessertboot,000000,202020,100,100,12,LeftFoot:Standard,combatboot,202020,000000,100,100,11,Back:Standard,fraBlank,FFFFFF,FFFFFF,100,100,5,Wings:Expansion1,fraBlank,FFFFFF,FFFFFF,100,100,6,Tail:Expansion1,fraBlank,FFFFFF,FFFFFF,100,100,7,Aura:Expansion1,mentat,FFFA9C,FFFA9C,100,100,3,Companion:BigWeapons,motorcycle,181818,53453A,100,100,4,Background:Expansion1,forest,B2B2B2,EE694A,100,100,1,RightHand:Expansion1,shuriken,A6A6A6,000000,100,100,25,LeftHand:Blunts,nightstick,181818,FFFFFF,100,100,2,#

09 February 2009

"Arise, fair sun...!"

The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet has opened its three-week run, and I am on our first sincere day off (during the rehearsal/development process, no day off is truly spent "off"). I write to you now, Dear Reader, from my super-secret Astorian lair, where I will spend the next twenty-four hours in blissful avoidance of hemp rope and hard lumber. I love our set, but she is a harsh mistress.

How shall I begin to tell you of our process? Well, I'll start with the product by saying that this is the happiest I've been with a Zuppa del Giorno show in years. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's as effective as Silent Lives, nor as consistently funny as Legal Snarls, but it is a good, funny, heartfelt show that audiences seem to enjoy. I've grown accustomed to Zuppa shows being very reliant upon audience -- they're all broad comedy, and if we don't grab you, then we don't have you. TVNPCoR&J is no exception, but this time we have the benefit of a script and we're working with a story everyone knows to one extent or another, so it's easier to keep the audience even when a couple of jokes don't land. And we've had great audiences so far! Sunday was by far our smallest (and toughest) house so far, with only twenty or so, spaced out both is seating and in energy, it seemed. The rest were great; big audiences with lots of energy to contribute to the party. May the trend continue!

As it so often happens with the Zuppa shows, our process was varied and anti-linear. So many people contribute so many things, and everything has such equitable value that we can sometimes dissolve into a bit of confusion. David calls this "committing to the chaos," and it sometimes makes me want to tear his ears off, but he has a point. To a point. Whether it's order or chaos, Zuppa's process is inclusive and positive, and I appreciate it for that. This time around was particularly zesty. We were working with three directors and a fight choreographer, essentially. One director can't hear so well, one can't communicate in English so well, the third was only there for short periods and was trained in a different style of theatre altogether, so really it's kind of an accomplishment that we got a cohesive show of any shape to its feet, much less one that runs as well as this. There were many other scary/insensible moments and factors, but this is all just to say that I didn't come here to complain -- as with any show, there were points at which I thought, "Hang it up, all of it. I'm going to be a goat farmer in the east Andes."

The script went through various revisions. David did an initial cutting that he decided was just too long for the comedy we were trying to build. He suggested we choose lines that were especially important to us and feel free to improvise around those . . . which is a cool idea, but a little complex in practice. We were already improvising scenes based on the scenario set forth in the text, and reading the scenes straight, but to do the two together in the moment takes a particular genius, the first step of which would be (in my opinion) to know the text inside and out. We didn't yet. So eventually, David did another cutting, and we modified that through petition. (I want to keep, "Then I defy you, stars"; we can lose, "The fee simple? O simple!") For a while there, I found myself feeling heretical, slicing into the scansion as such, but eventually it became clear that what we were creating was going to be mongrel Shakespeare. After all, some of the text would be improvised, and some would even be spoken in Italian. Our priorities were sense first, then humor -- the music would have to be found in the spaces between.

An early rule we set, however, plays to our advantage: Romeo and Juliet's scenes together are whole, and wholly the original text. For a stretch it seemed we might have to make cuts to the balcony scene. It is, under the most formal conditions, like a mini-play inserted into the larger (making yet another case for Midsummer's being a parody companion piece to R&J), and Shakespeare had good reasons for giving everyone an act break and a chance to buy a few walnuts just before it. We did not have such a luxury -- our one intermission was resolutely set between Tybalt's death and Juliet's "gallop apace, ye fiery steeds" -- so for a time the scene was set on the carving block. Fortunately, we gained a sense of our style just in time to save the playlet. We chose early on to have Juliet and her Romeo speak the original text, as an indicator of their love and to distinguish them from what we assumed every other character would be doing at the time (that is, improvising dialogue left and right). Though we eventually decided it was best to have everyone speak mostly from the script, this early rule was somewhat prescient. By making the lovers clowns in a world of commedia dell'arte characters, we automatically made them a different pace and energy altogether. Commedia characters address the audience, but aren't ruled by them, whereas clowns have needs to ask permission, and must take even more sensitive cues from their audiences than intuiting what will make them laugh. It's as though the commedia characters are adults, enthusiastically sharing their argument with the audience, whereas the clowns are children, checking in with their parents to make sure they are pleased and eager to share with them each new discovery.

This has been the hardest work for me: Being, as a clown. I've done clown work for a few years now, but silently, and I wouldn't say it's my forte. Heather's much, much more natural with it than I. She has only to look at the audience, and they know everything she's feeling and thinking. I'm more calculating, less open, and am easily sucked into the rampant, frenetic energy of my fellow performers -- it's what I'm used to, I'm good at it and it gets laughs. But it isn't nearly as honest, vulnerable or interesting, frankly. I can hit the rhythms precisely, and get a laugh, but there's nothing precise about the clown. He is too present, too young to be precise, and that is part of his appeal. It works beautifully for this story, but it has been throughout an effort for me to make it work. (In some ways, of course, this is appropriate -- Romeo gets sucked into his environment and its violence, and spends a lot of his time trying to "make it work.") The most helpful note to me in this regard, a rather eleventh-hour one at that, was to think of Romeo as a dog, innocent, loyal and incapable of seeing past the next moment. Since I sometimes feel like a reincarnated dog, in both helpful and less-helpful ways, this resonates for me.

As if this work to "relax" in my work (oh yes -- many's the time that "relax" was my note for a scene, and not one but three directors almost got their respective ears torn off) weren't enough, hey: IT'S SHAKESPEARE. It is, to be perfectly honest, in spite of my abiding love of it, and four Shakespeare plays on my resume, my very first lead Shakespeare role ever. In fact, prior to this, my career in Shakespeare was particularly notable for playing roles that would just barely qualify as speaking ones: Philostrate in Midsummer's, Ned Poins in Henry IV 1 and Much Ado, the ONE messenger who speaks. So this was both great and terrible, and I've done it with no resident Shakespeare director, really. Some may be horrified by my interpretations, but I think I've done all right. I read up, and reviewed notes, and generally made the text a particular priority even at times when it seemed not to be one to others. It's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and I hope I'm doing it some small justice.

So through much trial-and-error, "finding the game" of the scene, improvisation, a little text analysis, collaborative gag making and general mayhem, we have made what I would describe as a very lively, very youthful cross-pollination of commedia dell'arte, clown, screwball and even a bit of Shakespeare. It's good fun and, I believe, loyal to the spirit of the original, for all we can know about it. When I read the play now, I can hardly believe it hasn't been played more comically more often. Even after the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, the keening is so young, so naive in its way, I can easily imagine the rabble of Shakespeare's time eating it up with spoons as they chuckled in melancholic empathy. Friend John feels that the pallet is too heavily laid with comedy to prepare the audience for any of the tragedy, but I affectionately disagree. This is how life feels to me more often than not. We're all trying to live out a joyful comedy, especially in the face of tragedy, and innocence makes us weep just as passion makes us laugh. My feelings turn on a dime as our play's do.

I'm glad to have it up at last, and I'm proud of our work for what it hoped to be, and what it became. And who knows what it will yet become?

08 February 2009

Short Shrift

Quick one here, as we've a manatee this afternoon, and I'm busily preparing for a quick trip home afterward for my day-and-a-half off. The coming week will be jam-packed for me: Shows, teaching acrobalance to the theatre's conservatory class (sans my usual teaching partner), teaching a workshop on career management at Marywood, and choreographing fights for North Pocono's Midsummer's (you may recall our teaching there back in October). My hope, however, is to do a proper entry about some of the process behind The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet sometime tomorrow, between getting my tax paperwork straight and working the kinks out of my rather bruised body.

For today, I just want to say thanks to everyone for their thoughts and encouragement in seeing us through this process. It seems to have been a project that has inspired a lot of enthusiasm in people, and created a certain synergy in the community -- both the local community, and the larger, meta-community of our far-and-wide friends and family. I was reminded of this vast, unseen network of support in a couple of ways in the past twelve hours. Last night, after the show, I was greeted by several students from both Marywood and North Pocono who had attended. This was a big deal to me. It's a kind of community that is only created by open sharing, and a willingness to learn, and I can not value it highly enough.

And then this morning, a different kind of reminder. I woke a bit groggy from a late bedtime, and lingered in bed, checking my email on my phone (not even thinking of casting news, I assure you). In my inbox was not one, but two messages from friends letting me know that I showed up in their dreams last night. One is a friend whom I haven't seen in years, that worked with me on the very first show I ever acted in with David Zarko as director, and the other is a friend who lives all the way out in merry olde England. I regard it as an unequivocal good omen when I show up in others' dreams. This is the kind of thing that I'm sure I have Facebook to thank for, yet I also feel that it's owed in part to the power of this play. It's the kind of story that signifies so much to so many that it has only to be mentioned and one finds oneself making strong associations, and perhaps thinking of younger times. That alone is reason to do a funny, mad-cap version of Romeo & Juliet; that alone is worth the work and tears. Thanks, everyone, for keeping the star-cross'd lovers alive in your hearts.

Also, in one of their dreams: I was Han Solo. That's neither here nor there, but I had to mention it...

07 February 2009

Bus Rides and Show Business

The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet has its official opening tonight, after three successful preview performances. There's an awful lot I have to write about that process and its outcome, and I will, but for the moment I'll be a bit coy about it in order to clear up another mystery. I've been writing here ever-so-occasionally, and both of my past two entries hinted at some audition process in which I was ensnared, one about which I didn't want to write too much for fear of jinxing it. Well, yesterday I had my callback for the thing, and my impression is that all that's left is for a decision to be made by the powers that be, which frees me to reflect on the work a bit and draw what conclusions I will.

There is a show opening at Manhattan Theatre Club called Humor Abuse -- a one-man show about and starring Lorenzo Pisoni, a performer who grew up in The Pickle Family Circus. It concerns his relationship with his father, predominantly, and incorporates all sorts of interesting performance sources, such as clowning, commedia dell'arte, acrobatics and even martial arts. They have had, as you might imagine, had some small difficulties in finding an appropriate understudy for Mr. Pisoni, whose star is very much on the rise and will likely miss a performance or two for other obligations.

So a couple of weeks ago (when R&J was yet an embryo of a show) I received an email from a casting director inquiring as to my interest in auditioning. I replied immediately, grateful that I got to check my email that day. MTC is one of my favorite theatre groups and it would be huge to even be seen by them, not to mention I felt I was well-equipped to the demands of the show . . . as I then understood them. Forces seemed to be aligning to my favor, too. A circus friend also got contacted by the casting director, looking for men who fit the bill, and she thought first of me. An old director had some small connections with both Lorenzo and the director, Erica Schmidt. At first I thought I had to learn a new, difficult acrobatic move for the show -- a "108" -- only to discover it was a common pratfall that I already did as part of one of my clown routines, one of the first I ever learned. So, on January 29, I rented a car and drove to New York for my audition.

I was nervous enough, but it was one of the best auditions I've had in a long while. It was just me and three other people, casting directors and representatives of MTC. They had me prepare a side from the show, which I over-built with quasi-clown elements, imagining that the style would be used in such a show. They gave me an adjustment that amounted to, "Um, yeah: Stop that. Just tell us the story." Which I did, no problem. Then they had me perform a bit of my clowning, and I did a segment of trying to "escape" my hat, which I had previously utilized both for Friend Melissa's Blueprints and my solo (theatrical) clown debut. It went beautifully; so much so, in fact, that it helped crystallize what I was trying to do as a clown Romeo. I felt great about the audition, but also came to realize I didn't have about half the skills under my belt that they were looking for. I am not a juggler, per se, and have not mastered face-balancing nor a standing back-tuck. I managed not to cut myself off at the knees in interview, but let them know these short-comings, as well as the fact that my final R&J performances conflicting with the first four days of the contract. They assured me I'd hear something soon from them. I drove back to Scranton, just a half-hour late for that evening's rehearsal.

After about five days or so, I had persuaded myself to give up hope for it. All actors do this, I'm sure. It's like waiting to hear from someone you've given your number to. It's a grieving process, really, though a bit preemptive. I was on my way to a rehearsal when I got the call from the casting director -- could I make a callback for Lorenzo and the director on Friday, the 6th, at 4:00? I told her it would be almost impossible to get back to Scranton in time for the 8:00 show, and asked if it could be even a half-hour earlier, and she said she'd check with them and call me back. I gave my phone to the company manager as I began an Italian run of the show. At a break, when we'd hit our intermission, I checked in with the company manager, who told me she had called back and they could go no earlier. I conferred with my director, and we convinced ourselves that it could be worked out, so I called back and confirmed, reminding her that I would have to be in and out.

And so, yesterday, I caught the 7:20 bus to New York. The theory was that a bus would be able to circumnavigate rush-hour better than I. If I could catch the 4:30, I was supposed to pull into Scranton close to 7:00. I'd miss fight call, but be there in plenty of time to prepare for curtain. The next bus was for 5:05, getting in at 7:45, which was too close for my tastes and tempted worse the gods of rush hour. I pulled into New York at 10:00, and walked to MTC to plan my best route of escape. I found a parking lot that cut through the block between 43rd and 42nd, and mapped out the twists and turns to get me to gate 25 in Port Authority. Thus prepared, all that remained was to re-read the play, which I did over coffee in a cafe in NYU-land before meeting Wife Megan for lunch at Two-Boots. Thence it was to Knickerbocker to catch up with Friend Geoff and Sister Virginia for a couple of hours. Then, to MTC's studios.

I signed in and started my warm-up. The casting director came out and told me she was about gathering folks to get me started on time. Another actor from the day I auditioned was there, as well as a fellow who I took to have auditioned that day that they were asking to stay for the callback session. In their lobby I stretched and balanced. I was terrified, of course, stressed for the time and convinced they would see my juggling and cut me immediately. I tried to psyche myself up and out, reminding myself over and over that I knew what I knew and couldn't magically be someone else. The important thing was to be loose and inviting, at joy in my work. I looked at my watch, which I normally remove for auditions. 4:05. %$#*!

Finally, shortly after watching Lorenzo and Erica enter the studio, I was invited in. My audience was comprised of them, the casting director and the MTC rep. I dropped my hat and backpack on the floor and twirled the cane I brought as I asked them what they'd like first -- my thought being that I could save time by demonstrating skills in between other demonstrations. They asked for the side first, which I provided in the more subdued style, though choosing to make eye contact -- a choice usually inadvisable in auditions (one generally speaks to a point somewhere above the auditioner's heads to avoid making them self-conscious), but given the material I thought it best to be open and engaging in that way. That done, they asked for my clown excerpt, which I performed much as before. It did not go over nearly as well, sadly. It's tempting to blame your audience for this, but the fact is probably that I rushed it, and put too much emphasis on tricks and not enough on connection. It was over quickly enough, however, and I had shown them my "108" on a linoleum-and-concrete floor, so there could be little doubt as to my ability to perform acrobatics safely.

After that, they interviewed me a bit, and asked about my schedule conflicts and the skills. They seemed pleasantly surprised when I replied that I felt confident that I could train up to doing a standing back-tuck. They asked about staff work, and I twirled the cane again and cited my stage combat and (limited) martial arts experience. Then: juggling. I told them honestly that the longer I was asked to do it, the worse it got, and referred to a line from the show about how you either juggle, or you drop, and don't. Lorenzo responded to that, which was gratifying, as he was mostly quiet through the process. They didn't make me juggle, and I owe some sacrifice to some clown god. Then the conversation turned to my need to depart in a hurry, and I commented that it was odd how this audition came up when I was working on a show that involved so many related aspects. They asked about it, and seemed quite interested in our regional R&J and its concept. I glance at my watch discretely: just time enough at a jog. They asked who I was playing, and told them, and Erica Schmidt -- Erica Schmidt -- asked me if I could do the balcony monologue for them.

Ah. Well, yes. Of course. Of course. (In my head: TIME! TIME! TIME!) I gathered myself to one corner of the room, put on my nose, then realized I hadn't decided where Juliet was. I stepped out and said, "Sorry; need to find my window." The wall behind them was all window, and as I chose a corner to address, I went back to my corner and thought, "What in the hell am I going to do?" The moment in the play is staged around various set elements, and prepped by twenty previous minutes of madcap hilarity, in comparison to which the balcony scene is quiet and innocently tender. What in the hell could I get across here, in clown style, without seeming to mug, nor to seem neutered by my lack of environment? I dove in, and mimed sneaking in to the garden. I addressed the audience of four directly, and made eye contact, as clowns must. They were neutral. I kept on. I tried out a silent joke that I had only discovered the night before, gesturing for Juliet to come out before actually saying, "Arise, fair sun..." and got a laugh. I don't know how the rest went. For some reason I interrupted myself before another sure laugh, "See how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O that I were a glove on that hand, that I might touch that cheek!" They thanked me, and I thanked them, and I was off.

Running! Running across 43rd street, through the parking lot, across 42nd, into that entrance of the Port Authority, down the stairs, down the underground hall connecting the two wings, down more stairs, up to gate 25, where there was no one left standing but the driver. I hand my ticket, get on the crowded bus and find a seat. Almost immediately, I doze off. Twenty minutes later, I awake to find us in gridlock, and that I have pulled something in my upper back. Hard to say when exactly I did that. When we finally get to the Delaware Water Gap, I call my stage manager and let her know. The bus has very little traffic thereafter, but it's taking local roads, and time is slipping. It pulled into Scranton at 7:45, the company manager drove me to the theatre, and I had just enough time to do my presets and get into costume and make-up. It was our best show yet: Tight, funny and well-paced.

Well, I don't know how I fared. I'm grateful for all of it. You can analyze this sort of thing all to pieces. They did ask about my schedule. But they weren't willing to adjust times for my audition. They seemed to like the idea of the work I am doing in concept, but they didn't have an overwhelming response to what I showed them. What it all boils down to, as friend Geoff and I discussed in the hours leading up to the callback, is that it was worthwhile simply to be seen in that context, and by those people. I met admirable artists, they met me, and I have a good story to tell. It's wonderful, really, whatever the results may be. I love running for these dreams, and I love working to these purposes. Thank you, clown gods.
Now I just have to go through a few days of convincing myself I'm better off without the job . . .

05 February 2009

News Brief


We have had our first preview performance of The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet. It went well. We had a capacity crowd for the pay-what-you-can preview, which seemed to include a great many students from the local universities, there by requirement. Nonetheless, they were a good audience. It's safe to say we learned more from them in one performance than we might have in a week's more reherasal.


The audition I attended in New York last Friday has resulted in a callback for this Friday. It's at 4:00, despite my protestations, and it will be a very narrow thing indeed to get back to Scranton for the show. Regradless, I'm going. It's for the director and star of the show and they will, much to their chagrin I'm sure, be asking me to juggle for them.


It's cold here again, but I understand it will warm up considerably for the weekend. My health steadily impoves, though minor injuries from my exhuberance and our over-built jungle-gym of a set are steadily accumulating. I need a massage, some acupuncture and more money, so am in some ways living for Monday, our day off.




I miss my friends and family in New York and elsewhere, and am excited by the prospects for some of them to attend R&J. My bounty is as boundless as the sea...