20 December 2010

...O Hai

Lest you imagine my absence has been a matter of rest:

ITEM!  On October 16th Wife Megan and I performed aerial silks at a Halloween-themed circus show at Streb S.L.A.M.  It was my debut on the aerial silks and - now that I think of it - my return to circus performance after an absence of some years.  More on this in its own post (promise [promise]), but suffice it to say that I survived and learned a lot in the process.  And: enjoyed it!

ITEM!  On October 17th I performed in a staged reading of Margo Hammond's The New Me, playing a private detective, which is one of my favorite things in the whole world.  (Good role to love, too, since a fella' can play that general type through many different stages of his life.)  It went well I thought, and I really enjoyed exploring the guy's subtle self-interests in the midst of performing his job.

ITEM!  On October 29th I and my better 50% traveled to Chicago.  It was my first time there since 2001 when I toured through it with the partial-German-language farce I starred in (not bragging; educational theatre).  It was a great trip that really inspired me in unexpected ways, not the least of which was attending the late show at The Second City and being reminded of the value of sketch comedy in constructing commedia dell'arte.

ITEM!  November 1st brought me to only my second participation in a meeting of The Pack.  At said meeting I had a scene from Hereafter read, and received feedback on it.  It was very interesting, and ultimately encouraging for continuing work on the script.  Seems like the answer to making it cohesive may be in streamlining the number of ideas represented in it.

ITEM!  On November 8th there was a developmental reading for a small, private audience, of James B. Nicola's Closure.  In it I read several male characters, and it tested my mastery of dialects, and found it as lacking as it always has been.  Some are naturals at accents, but I need to work at it to achieve consistency, and switching rapidly (occasionally having whole scenes with myself) between them was dizzying.  It was fun to try, though, and good to notice that as the script went along, I got better.

ITEM!  On November 13th I participated in a table reading of The Widow Ranter, adapted by Adrienne Thompson and directed by the acclaimed Karen Carpenter (no, not that one).  In it I played the boisterous, large old Colonel Ranter, eschewing type left right and center amidst a table of over a dozen actors.  Interesting to see all the energy and dynamic shifts with that many friends and strangers with a performance bent in one place.

ITEM!  For the first time with the revised cast, on November 21st The Puppeteers held a developmental meeting in Scranton.  It went well, and rapidly, and of course a great deal of time and work on my part has gone into the show's development 'blog.  It's an amazing - and very much ongoing - process, creating an original comedy from scratch.  We've had two more developmental meetings since, and begin the rehearsal process in earnest on December 27th.

ITEM!  I finally participated in NaNoWriMo!  And I failed!  Well, inasmuch as I didn't fulfill the word goal of 50,000 by deadline.  I did, however, get a great deal of writing done on an actual novel, no matter how questionable its worth.  It was very much fun and very much difficult, as my update-only post for November attests.

ITEM!  For the first time since I was 23 (by which I mean last year, amirite?) I performed in a musical on December 2nd.  Sharon Fogarty's one-act comic musical, Speaking to the Dead, had me playing a game-show host who falls for his ghost-whispering costar in many more ways than one.  Actually, initially I wasn't to sing, but at one rehearsal I gave a line a sing-songy quality and BAM: a few lines of song for yours truly.  It truly was a hoot.  And such a pleasure to finally work with Ms. Fogarty after many near-misses at Manhattan Theatre Source.

So, you know: That.  It's been a busy two months, and likely to be nothing but busy through the holidays and on into January.  The Puppeteers opens January 19th, and that weekend is the only one in which I'll be guaranteed to be in town watching it.  If you have the means and desire to make your way to wintery Scranton, I commend you and recommend it --  it's going to be A LOT of fun.

Merriest and happiest, one and all.

01 November 2010


11/5/10: It seems I've forgotten how to spell.  Just the interesting words, though. It's like forgetting long division.
11/8/10: WAIT. Wait: So it's actually going to be harder to make time to write during the weekends.  Aw, man...
11/9/10: I find it strange that the good folks at NaNoWriMo offer SO MANY DISTRACTIONS when you sign up to be an "official" participant.  When my email pings me, I STOP WRITING.  SURELY YOU KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN.
11/10/10: Making money is such a drag.
11/11/10: To write fiction is also to do varied and unpredictable research.  I'd be so much better informed as a person if I had tried to write a novel before now...
11/12/10: I hate being behind the curve.  I hope to correct that this weekend.  I hope to hold myself to that by writing this here...
11/16/10: Cannot...make...enough time...for to be...writing...
11/17/10:  The worst part of NaNoWriMo is definitively the way in which it makes you a failure on so many days.  This week I've organized rehearsals out of town, accomplished work at my job that I'm eminently unqualified for, and gotten off-book for a show.  But my word count HOVERS behind the curve.  Still, if I were to quit tomorrow (I won't) I wouldn't regret a moment of the time invested.
11/18/10:  I have all my narrators in the same room!  Yay!  ...Now what?
11/19/10:  It's necessary that I research military technology for this story.  It's not that I enjoy it.  Oh no.  No. Not at all.
11/22/10:  It's interesting how this is teaching me to work from all sides.  An outline informs writing narrative, but also vice versa, back and forth.  Also, what ends up being told and what shown - fascinatingly ambiguous.
11/23/10:  Thanksgiving is looking like a LOT of hours spent puzzling over a keyboard...
11/29/10:  All is pretty much lost.  I'd have to get some 13,000 words done in the next 24 hours, and I'm not even sure I could do that with a sick day.  Still, I'm compelled to get as much more as I can - which is a pretty cool feeling.
11/30/10 9:36am: So here is the point in the writing process when one imitates Admiral Farragut and says, "DAMN THE OUTLINE!"
11/30/10 10:37am: What in the great wide earth possessed me to make this thing such a plot-twisty mess?  I am freaking lost, and I'm supposed to know what's going on...
11/30/10 11:57am:  If I've fallen back in love with my story, can I get an extension?  Like, maybe three months more?  NaNoWriMos.?
11/30/10 12:42pm:  Aaaaaand here we lag.  Thinking after eating lunch really is the worst.
11/30/10 12:52pm:  I'm totally being verbose on purpose.  Definitely a drawback to the NaNoWriMo route.
11/30/10 2:01pm:  Compositionus Interruptus.  To change light bulbs.  Oh yeah - being a professional author would be just terrible...
11/30/10 3:31pm:  They couldn't choose a month with 31 days?  No?  Anyone...?
11/30/10 4:52pm: Pretty much time to get to rehearsal.  Tonight I'll post, but I didn't clear the 50,000 mark, and I confess some disappointment.  I think part of what makes this challenge so appealing is the seeming impossibility of it, and the sense of hope one gets to maintain in the face of it.  I have had that in spades, and enjoyed it right up until the end.
11/30/10  11:03pm:  The grand total - 41,222.  Nothing to sneeze at, as failures go.
HOWEVER, some of those words were words I wrote years ago when I started the project, and I haven't added in all of those I plan to use.  If I add it all together, even though it doesn't represent writing done this month, the total comes out to...
Damn it.
Well anyway, nice playing with you all (those of you who were playing).  I hope now that all that writing continues a little longer, and then gets revised into something I'm not completely ashamed of.  Somewhere between here and there, I will feel like I can say, "I wrote a book."
Which kicks major ass.

08 October 2010

The Puppeteers: Simulcra & Pareidolia

As I mentioned back in September (see 9/20/10), I'm writing more and more on the development 'blog for the next Zuppa show.  If you want to follow along, feel free!  Right now the ideas are big and broad.  They will narrow from discussions of theme to tiny details of fart gags, just you wait and see.  My latest entry discusses ideas of creation and recognition.  A snippet to whet:

Many [human] instincts apply to our tendency toward seeing faces in things with whose creation we had little or nothing to do - pareidolia.  We see faces in woodgrain, water stains, toast.  You name it.  Of course we're inclined toward this for a variety of reasons, but what interests me about it are a few possibilities outside the realm of anything logical:
  • Maybe we're more inclined to pareidolia when we're lonely, or feel great need of some kind.
  • What if, instead of seeing faces because of a need, we're seeing them because we in some way recognize an object in front of us in some personal way?
  • What if pareidolia leads to a relationship, the way the supposed recognition involved in "love at first sight" can?
 Read the rest here: Simulacra & Pareidolia.

07 October 2010

BatFan Fiction Submission: The Bat of Bahrain

Found here.
As promised, here it is: our second Middle Eastern Batman story!  And possibly our last.  Oh dear - you're worrying now, aren't you?  Here you were with this amazingly excellent idea, and the submissions will be closed?  Is there no justice, in the night, wrathful, righteous justice?  (Maybe you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, in which sad case, look here: 9/21/10.)  Well, fellow crime fighters, leave the ranks of the superstitious and cowardly, and submit away, either in the comments on the original post, or by emailing me an idea.  We like ideas here.  I'll even give you an absolutely and utterly consequence-free deadline: the polls will close on October 15th.

This second interpretation, The Bat of Bahrain, is submitted by loyal devotee of the Aviary (and, completely coincidentally I'm sure, life-long friend) Davey Cruz.  He's got a gem of a 'blog himself: Peter, Puck & Mxy.  Check out the cut of his jib.  You shan't be disappointed.

The Bat of Bahrain by Davey Cruz.
Based on ideas by Davey Cruz and Mark Hubbard.
Based on characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

This is my city, the one I choose.  Al-Manama, jewel of the Arabian Gulf; capital of Bahrain: first to submit to the will of Allah, and follow his prophet Mohamed.  Bahrain was ruled by his envoy Al-Ala'a Al-Hadrami since the seventh year of the hijra.  Al Manama has grown since that time, constantly adapting to the outside world.  There is the Bahrain World Trade Center, and the newer Bahrain Financial Harbor buildings.  On the other side of the city, Abraj Al Lulu sits, newly opened and ready for residents.  From my position on The Dark Tower I can see the international airport, the naval port, the brightly lit neighborhoods of Hoora and Adliya.  In the distance, on a clear night, I can see the old capital of Muharraq. But all that concerns me is the rape about to happen on the 40th floor.

I slip back down the stairs until I reach the 40th floor, home of R.B. Alwayn and Associates, one of the largest business groups in the region.  Not wanting to leave a trace of my passing, I duck in a rarely locked janitor's closet, up into the ceiling and weave my way though the ducts.  I check my watch.  2:45 in the morning.  Perfect.  I can hear the voices of two men 5.2 meters down and to my left.  That would be the rapists.

Yesterday I overheard them saying that they wanted to take the new girl down a peg; and luring her here at this time, claiming a phone meeting with a client in Sydney was the way to do it.  They didn’t even have to say how they were going to take her down.  I just knew.  Crime against women outnumbers crime against men by five to one in my home.  And yet it is almost never reported.  Women can vote, hold office, own companies, and still they will not report crime for fear of the backlash against them and their families.  Sound of an elevator slowing and stopping on this floor; she is early.  I have less than three minutes for her to get all the way though the secure doors and into the conference room.  Time to move.

As I drop into the room behind the two of them, I notice that they have not even bothered to set up the video phone, or bring in a smart board or even laptops to set the scene.  What they did have were two lengths of rope on a chair, a pair of handcuffs, a bottle of some clear liquid, and a open container of what claimed to be “Extra Strength Horny Goat Weed.”  I flung my arms wide, spreading my cloak like wings and stage whispered “Justice, like the bat who catches a bird in flight, shall be swift and unseen.”

I dropped a miniature flash bang in front of them as I closed my eyes behind my mask.  I knew where the men were, and had time to let my eyes adjust after the small charge went off.  They were both stronger than me, and full of adrenaline, the thought of what they were planning had emboldened them.  Were they common criminals, my presence might have given them pause; I am beginning to get a reputation, but these educated men had no time for superstition.  Fortunately for me, they were as stupid as they were educated.

Both charged at once, nearly tripping each other for me.  I blocked the clumsy and blind first strike of the larger, and guided the second’s attack around my body and into the large conference table.  A kick to the chest as he went down and I could hear him crying in the dark.  The first had wound up for a second blow, but seeing the inner door open and their target enter the main room of the office, I didn’t have time to dance with him further.  I chopped his throat, and while he gasped for air, put the handcuffs he had so thoughtfully provided on his elbows, pulling them behind his back.  I placed a pre-typed message on the conference room table and, kicking both of them for luck, slipped back up into the ceiling as the young woman entered the room.  She had the good sense to run and scream and call for security.  I had the good sense to make sure that one of the security on site that night was a decent man, and not likely to take a bribe.

Back on the roof I slipped into my helicopter, throwing off the niqāb and signaled my servant al Fraheed to take us back to my home on Nabih Saleh Island.  I had to hurry back and change.  I was due back though those doors in a few hours as Ms. Alwayn herself.

17 August 2011 UPDATE: Check this madness out...

01 October 2010

BatFan Fiction Submission: Shadow On the Wall

Found here.
And we have our first Middle Eastern Batman story (see 9/21/10 for context)!  We have another in the queue as well, which we'll hopefully submit to you, Dear Reader, sometime next week.  So get on your submission already!  Remember, it can be a bare-bones, two sentence concept left in the comments of the original post, or can be emailed and more elaborate.

Here we've got a fascinating and rather researched take on the idea, replete with a linguistic pun or two.  Pavarti posted this over at her 'blog before I had a chance to here.  Please read and enjoy, and heap praise upon her.  Without further ado...

Shadow on the Wall by Pavarti

Recai Osman awoke slowly, consciousness flickering in and out. The unforgiving sun beat down on his bruised and exhausted body.

Where am I? His mind struggled to remember the last twenty four hours.

Gritty particles of sand moved sympathetically as he slowly rolled onto his side, pain shooting through his head as the light hit his closed lids...the sun greeting him with cruel intensity. Sand clung to his long lashes and hair, and as soon as the disorientation passed Recai brushed it off roughly with his sand-infested hands; particles so fine they had filled his shoes around the spaces his foot filled and ground into his scalp between each follicle of hair.

Finally Recai was able to sit up and look around. The night before was still a blur. He remembered the bar at Bozooğulları Hotel and drinking with a Kurdish woman who had reminded him of his mother. Her eyes were deep set and so dark they might have genuinely been black, but it was the mischievous glint and the sound of the language his mother spoke when they were alone that drew him in. Her veil had been tight around her hairline but pulled back away from her shoulders so that he could see the neckline of her dress clearly.

Pinching his brows together he sat, his head spinning with a hangover and dehydration. How had he gotten out here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sand and grit? He could only hope that the dunes around him were the ones that resided to the south of the city and not some further, larger wasteland.

He didn't remember leaving the bar, or traveling at all. There were rumors of nomads kidnapping, robbing and deserting bodies in the desert, but he would remember if he'd been kidnapped. Instead all he remembered was drinking bourbon while admiring the curve of the mysterious woman's collar bone, which showed seductively above her blouse.

The Dunes just outside of Elih, Turkey were not large, but it was easy to get disoriented and lost in amongst the shifting terrain. If he was lucky he'd have awoken when it was still dark and could have followed the light of the city toward home, but now, with the blazing sun above him, luck was something he just didn't have.

Man didn't last long in the dunes without water and supplies. If he had a canteen and some salt tablets Recai was resourceful enough he would have been able to survive without food or shelter for a few days, but like this.... He shook his head, sending streams of sand onto the ground around him; those kinds of thoughts weren't going to help him get home.

Recai blinked back his confusion, finding it difficult to clear his mind. The sun and lack of water was starting to affect him already and the temperature was still rising. Recai took off his shoes and socks, knowing that despite the burning sand, this terrain was best traveled the way his ancestors had; he needed to feel the earth below him, listen to the sand as it fell away from his steps.

He undid his belt and jacket making a satchel to carry anything he needed. His pockets had been emptied and he was as penniless as a wandering Roma come to find their next fortune. Soon he had his designer button-up shirt tied up on his head like a Jain turban and his worldly possessions hanging from his belt over his shoulder.

The scruff of his unshaven face protected him slightly from the sun and the turban kept him somewhat shaded. Recai took in his surroundings and the placement of the sun and set off in the direction he hoped was north.

Recai walked for what seemed like miles, resisting the instinct to second-guess his direction. The sand moved between his toes but soon he found his footing and his body responded to the landscape like it was a genetic memory. He remembered his father's words from a trip to the Oman desert when he was a child: never take your shoes off; the sand will eat away at your feet. But Recai had done it anyway then and now, feeling more in control with that connection to the ground, its movements speaking to his flesh directly.

He was in the middle, every direction would lead out. Either to Elih or one of the smaller villages that were scattered around the city. But who out here would take in a stranger? A stranger with a Hugo Boss turban and a bruised and bloodied face. Insha'Allah, he would be delivered to safety.

The sun was high overhead, beating down so that no living thing dared venture out into the desert. If Recai had a tarp or blanket or...anything, he would have dug himself a hole and conserved his strength until night. But instead at the crest of the next dune he sat on his bundle, keeping his body away from the sand so that it didn't suck the remaining moisture from his system, and looked out before him.

From his vantage point he could see the crescent shape the wind had carved in the sand below him. Recai's face was wind burned and his shoulders were screaming from the assault of the sun's rays, but still, the city was out of range, all human life well past the line of the horizon.

Standing up the ground shifted softly again, making Recai think of the last time he had been on his family's Yacht. He used to love going out there as a child, taking the helm from his father when far enough out there wasn't risk of him accidental steering them into a shallow section of the River. Elih was landlocked. This city where his father had made his fortune and helped build a sophisticated Arab beacon for the rest of the Middle East, a place where Turks and Kurds co-existed peacefully. A private jet would fly him and his parents out to Iskandarūn where the boat was stored.

He hadn't been to Iskandarūn in years. Not since his parents had died. Not since they'd been murdered. Not since Elih had fallen into the hands of Mayor Mahmet Yılmaz and his PKK henchmen. Terrorists hiding behind the thin veil of faith. It made Recai sick to his stomach the way the city was falling apart; devolving into crime and ignorance, but there was nothing he could do. He simply was not his father.

Walking along the crest of the dune, hoping to find a way down that didn't involve sliding down the great sand wall, likely creating an avalanche that could bury him alive, Recai felt a rumble in his chest, like a vibration that was surrounding him, calling to him from the air itself. The pitch rose as the noise intensified, now a screaming growl like the Jinn's song. The dunes were collapsing.

Recai began running, hoping to keep ahead of the avalanche he had caused, which was forcing the sand to move against itself with such strength it was singing in protest. The physics of the phenomenon were the last thing on Recai's mind though, because in this moment, the most important thing was to not be caught beneath the cascades of sand that were reshaping the landscape of the dune.

Dropping the satchel that held the last remnants of his modern life Recai scrambled across the crest, unable to get completely away from the avalanche. The dune song crescendoed and he could feel the sand pulling him down, drifting out from beneath his feet as he tried to push off against it in flight. With a scream Recai lost his balance and fell to his hands and knees just as the top of the dune fell out from beneath him, sending him rolling with the sand. He was now not just the instigator of the disaster but part of it, swimming within the sea of sand that carried him away.

* * *

A hand twitched in the sand before Hasad Sofaer. He looked down at it from his perch atop his camel without much concern. Unfortunately it wasn't unusual to find body parts out here in the dead lands of the dunes. What was curious was that this one had garnered the interest of the great beast of burden he was riding upon. No one survived long out here alone and the PKK had taken to leaving living, and dead, people to disappear into the sand.

The PKK, Hasad spat at the ground, wasting precious moisture to solidify his curse. Once again the beauty of the desert had been defiled by those bastards. Hasad's camel twitched and lowered its nose to the severed hand, but instead of pushing it over in the sand to reveal the rotting stump the camel felt the hand close around it; startling the animal and Hasad.

The old man jumped down from his perch and stared at the wiggling hand, wondering what kind of devil had animated a dead thing. Was this how the world would end? Was this the day the Golems come to avenge their wrongs? Hasad was not a superstitious man but he had been raised in a tight community of Baghdadi Jews and when the impossible appeared before him, the stories of his youth had more credibility than ever before.

The hand began clawing at the sand, trying to push it away. The sight pulled Hasad out of his thoughts and inspired him to action. Kneeling down next to the hand he began digging in the sand, his camel snorting and spitting behind him, as if sensing an evil rising. This could be a man, a man left to die; Hasad could not sit back and allow such a thing to happen if he had the power to stop it. His God and his soul demanded it. Too many had died out here already.

Still digging, following along the hand's arm he found another hand which grasped on to his forearm. Leaning back against his heels he pulled against the hole which was quickly filling back in. Pulling hard enough that he could feel his old joints protest, his feet slipped out from under him as a head came free.

The face looking up at him from the sand was sun-burnt and bruised. It looked like there was blood matted in his hair but it was hard to tell with the sand clinging to him. Hasad lay on his stomach and reached out his hand to the man who was taking ragged shallow breaths, having literally just fought for his life.

"Beyefendi?" Hasad called, sliding toward him, trying to disturb as little sand as possible, while getting an upsetting amount of it down the front of his own shirt.

"Yarmetî," the man whispered before his head slumped against the sand, his neck going limp. The beginnings of a red beard and the language Hasad didn't understand but recognized sent off warning signs. The old man knew that for a Kurd to end up out here alone, he was either very dangerous or very stupid.

Cursing quietly under his breath the old Jew slid away from the man and retrieved a rope from his camel, tying one end of it to the harness the beast wore. The smell of the creature had long ago stopped bothering him, but he still had no affection for it. The other end of the rope he tied into a noose and hooked around the man's arms, as low as he could get it, and tightened the noose so that the arms were brought together at an angry angle behind the stranger's head.

Hasad sighed and shook his head.  Better a dislocated shoulder or two than dying out here alone. With that he slapped the camel on the backside and set to pulling Recai Osman out of the sand.

28 September 2010

I Can Not Stress Enough...

Found here.
There's a little voice in my head that moonlights as an escape artist.  It must be, because no gag or act of psychic bondage will shut the little son-of-ma'-brain up.  It is in essence a control valve for my ambition, and it goes a little something like this:
"Jeff.  Jeff.  Jeff.  Jeff.  Jeff.  Hey Jeff.  Jeff.  Jeff.  Hey Jeff.  Hey.  Remember that thing you have to do.  You know: the thing.  Not the one thing, but that other thing.  But do the other other thing first.  And then remember to come back to the first thing I mentioned, and then do that one thing.  If you can't remember any one of these things, well, you're probably going to screw it all up.  Actually, you will.  Screw it all up.  It's already screwed up, by merit of you being the one who has to do it.  It's all going to turn out very, very badly - even worse than using an adverb in an ambiguous context.  Which you just did.  Worse yet, the aforementioned screwing up will occur as a result of a spiral of failure starting with some small thing and eventually taking the entire endeavor known as YOUR LIFE down like the Titanic.  Because that's what happens to big, ignorant things.  Hey Jeff.  Hey Jeff.  If you don't stop sucking soon, it may already be too late..."
He's an extremely helpful little guy.  Especially when one is dealing with multiple deadlines.

Recently I added to my roster of responsibilities some work for a company that sends actors in to corporate environments to facilitate lessons in communication between managers and their team members.  I was wary of this sort of work at first, because Wife Megan worked for one such institution when she first moved to NYC, and they sounded horrible.  Very touchy-feely, metaphoric and therapeutic in their approach, which I personally find inappropriate for a work environment.  (Yes, even in theatre work - a debate best left for another post.)  Fortunately, the place I'm working for now has a more pragmatic view of communication in the work place, and it's one I thus far agree with.

So I'm trying to apply their philosophy to a conversation with my extremely helpful little guy (henceforth "EHLG").  It might go a little something like this:
Me: Hey EHLG. How are you?
EHLG: Hey Jeff. Hey Jeff.
Me: Um - hey.
EHLG: You know what?
Me: What's that?
EHLG: You suck. At living.
Me: Okay, see-
EHLG: Living is something you're very bad at.
Me: Do you see what you just did there?
EHLG: You mean the way I spoke truth to power?
Me: Well from my perspective, you tried to tear down power.
EHLG: Word up.
Me: But see, EHLG, I don't have much of any power over you.
EHLG: Word up.
Me: And if you tear me down, it only hurts both of us.
EHLG: Word...huh.
Me: What is it you're hoping to get out of this?
EHLG: You know, you're not very good at this feedback stuff.
Me: Okay.
EHLG: You fake it pretty good, but that can only take you so far and pretty soon you're going to fail and suffer.
Me: I'm suffering now.
EHLG: Not as much as you will if you keep going.
Me: Is that a threat?
EHLG: You know, you're not very good at perceiving threats.
And let's take a little break here.  This is a weird post, I'll admit it, but also pretty interesting to me, I must admit as well.  The first practice session I had with the feedback-training company got confusing quickly, because we were all trainees and we ran sessions with one another.  That meant that in addition to trying to learn the techniques the company used in role-playing, we were at times role-playing being a facilitator who was role-playing being an employee of a manager/student who was, him or herself, a role-player; all the while improvising a scenario with specific given circumstances.  (WE HAVE TO GO DEEEPER [BRAAAAHHHHHMMMMM...].)

The big mistake I made in that practice session was not when I was playing the manager, but the actor/facilitator.  I got confused, and came on too strong with the obstacle that "manager" was being asked to deal with.  Ideally, one wants to adjust to his or her level of intercommunication and nudge it towards something more, and I just barreled on through with my characterization instead.  Call it my learned imperative response as an actor.  I've gotten better at it.  One key element is to insert a pause in the role-play for analysis and discussion.  It allows the manager to reflect and feel permitted to try a fresh angle.
EHLG: You suck.
Me: Thanks EHLG; I appreciate your feedback and will try to consider it in future endeavors.
EHLG: You're welcome.
Me: I wanted to talk to you today about your feedback, actually. Have you found it to be getting you the results you want?
EHLG: Mostly. I have to keep repeating myself, which is pretty irritating, but that's the way it goes when you're talking to someone sucky.
Me: Have you thought about trying a different approach?
EHLG: Oh, I'm always changing gears: you suck, you blow, you aren't good at anything ever, you are justly hated and/or despised, your failure is compounded by your ugly face and funny clothes, etc.
Me: You do spend a lot of time coming up with that feedback
EHLG: Thank you.
Me: Let me tell you, though, that what I see is that your negativity is working against you, making your job harder on yourself.
EHLG: You're not very good at perceiving reality.
Me: Thanks, EHLG, for phrasing that in that way.
EHLG: What way?
Me: "Not very good."  You did that earlier, and I really appreciate when you show that consideration for me. It makes me feel better about listening to you.
EHLG: Your feelings are unimportant and stupid.
Me: You're welcome to have that opinion, but can I just point out that by assuaging my feelings, you make your job more efficient? In addition, by ignoring them, you imperil your position in this personality.
EHLG: I do?
Me: Of course, I wouldn't want to lose you if I can help it, EHLG.  You are always working, always keeping an eye on your well-being, and I appreciate the vigilance.  It's just that your negativity threatens to bring down everything you touch, and I of course can't have that happening. By being so aggressive in your input, you're alienating essential coworkers, like passion and inspiration.  Do you understand what I mean?
EHLG: Yeah.
Me: What do you think about that?
EHLG: It's stupid.
Me: Well, let's agree to check in again next week, at which time we can review your progress and make some decisions about what will help us work together better.
EHLG: That's stupid and sucky and you're stupid and sucky and I hate you.
Sometimes, you just have to be proud of how well you can handle a situation, and hope to get better results next time.  Having a little understanding for yourself can help with stress, too.

24 September 2010

Tied Up in the Air

My teacher, Ms. Cody Schreger, who is fairly wicked awesome.
For almost a year-and-a-half now, I've tried different ways of tying myself up, suspended from the ceiling, at least once a week.  Some weeks I let go by without fulfilling this habit, others I manage to engage in it several times.  But it's likely that I've tied myself to the ceiling a few hundred times now.  For some, that might qualify them as something of an advanced practitioner when it comes to tethering oneself to the inner-roof; Wife Megan, for example, is quite adept after the same extent of experience.  Personally, I still consider myself to be an intermediate at best as it pertains to lashing my body in suspension from architectural hoods.  It's tough to pin-point the reason for this discrepancy, but I generally chalk it up to Megan having had extensive dance experience, and me being a rather shimmying, scampering, klutzy ol' dork.

(Friend Geoff still think it's hilarious/terrifying that I stilt-walk, since from his perspective it's a dodgy proposition for me to make it regular-walking through a doorway without comical mishap.)

Whatever the reason, this discrepancy is why Megan made her aerial silks performance debut in August, and will be showing her sophomore routine in the same show in which I will hopefully prove to the world that when I fall off of fabric, it's purely intentional.  The performances will be in mid-October, as part of an all-ages Halloween show at the STREB studio in Williamsburg.  I've been preparing for it since I got back from the Marywood work in Scranton (see 9/12/10) and am just at that stage where one realizes just how much work will actually need to be done to achieve one's vision.  Whenever we have an idea for a performance, we never truly have a concept of how much it will take to achieve it.  It's similar to what I've read about childbirth in this way, I think: as time goes on you remember the joy better than the agony.

I posted a video the week I got back of my very first draft of the piece.  I wouldn't have done this normally, but the curator of the show needed to see a sample and I figured the worst it would do is demonstrate how far I had come by the time I posted a performance video.  Even in ten days (six hours' rehearsal) or so, the piece has evolved quite a bit, and I have a clearer sense of where I'm headed.  What started out as a concept piece featuring my stock silent-film clown has evolved into something with a larger story, lightly connected to what Megan will perform and featuring a new clownish sort of character - a slightly deluded old-timey strongman.  It's fun, recognizable and it works, I think.  I've even found a song and buffed down the choreography to a reasonable skill-level and duration.

However: This is hard work of a variety with which I am not terribly comfortable.  I have been known, when a show I'm in randomly requires dance choreography, to internally combust, and not in that nice fuel-injected way.  It makes me SUPER SELF CRITICAL and HULK SMASH.  For some reason I don't get this way with fight choreography, nor acrobalance - love it!  Give it to me more please!  Aerial silks has a dancier (is SO a word) feel to it for me, though, and so there are some personal blocks there.  On top of that, it's awfully specific in a way that people without training can take for granted.  As an actor, it's painfully obvious to me when someone is trying their hand at acting, and doesn't have certain (eventually) instinctive specifics going on.  So I'm working on that with silks.

I'm also trying to build a piece that plays to both my strengths and weaknesses.  For example, I can't seem to point my toes to save my life.  You might be surprised what a difference this makes.  Heck: Even if I could achieve this WONDER of the classical dance world, my extension (how straight, long and pretty on is) in my legs is worse than a Virginia fence.  But I have a certain amount of upper body strength.  Nothing that's leading Cirque du Soleil to pound down my door but, you know.  So I've devised the circus strongman character as someone who might take pride in his stiff form and right angles.  Ah, but there's a trick in that, too.  My feet can't just be casually flexed, they must be UBER-FLEXED at ALL TIMES.

Ah, art.

It's great fun stuff, though, in spite of all the struggles.  It's still climbing, after all.  I'm often at odds about the work required to go from enjoying something to being able to do it reliably well.  I gave up on vocal training because I wanted singing to remain something I enjoyed for myself, rather than resented for needing to struggle through.  This isn't necessarily an intelligent decision, I realize, but it's one that was and continues to be personally important to me.  I don't want to do this with silks, however, which is why performing is so important.  It forces me to take things from fun to reliable, and thereby take whatever little talent I have to whatever little skill I can muster.  So I remind myself of that every time the move is too complicated for me to remember, or I am too weak to execute a climb for the fifth or sixth time, or the dance belt (O God, that dance belt) chafes.

And then sometimes I just scamper and shimmy to my heart's content.