Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Had a prolonged moment of theater geek yesterday.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
One of the things that led me to start writing these scripts full of inarticulate lines, these lines that never seem to get to the point, clearly came from my experience from a part-time job I had once of transcribing the contents of interview tapes. The tapes were from interviews with local people in regional communities conducted by a think tank seeking ways to stimulate the culture and economies of the communities.
Making the transcripts was a tedious job, but at the same time there was something very interesting about it. That was because as you transcribed it word for word, you couldn’t understand what the people were trying to say. But somehow, by the end of the conversation it began to make sense and you could see what they had been trying to say, even though their words themselves were not saying anything clearly or articulately. This surprising realization was an important one for me.
However, when I am writing a play I don’t use the technique of transcribing from tapes of spoken conversations. I write it all myself. So, some people might say I should try to write scripts that are more articulate (laughs). But if I did that, part of what is important to me would be lost. I reproduce the real, inarticulate way that average people actually speak, because one of the things I want to express is what lies within that ineptness, the larger content.
Is it that you want the audience to experience the fascination of being able to understand the overall gist of what is being said even though the individual details of what is said are virtually incomprehensible?
More than that, there is the fact that this is what our verbal life is actually like. That is the important thing to me. What I am saying is “Isn’t this the way we actually speak?” Of course, it is possible to criticize this kind of verbal life, but I have no interest in saying whether it is good or bad, or criticizing it. We are actually living in this kind of verbal environment. Some people might say that since we are living in such an inarticulate world, we should at least try to use articulate Japanese in our theater. But I think that is a rather limited attitude. To me this Japanese that people actually use is even richer and more positive.
This goes back to the influence I received from Hirata, about diverting the consciousness of the lines by shifting consciousness to the body. In this respect I have continued to follow Hirata’s example. But, just as focusing too much attention of the words kills them, shifting too much attention to the body movement also kills the body presence. Therefore, you can’t shift the consciousness to the body either. So, where should you focus the consciousness…? To explain what comes next is very difficult, and we can speak in terms of image or signifié (thing to be signified), but in essence what I mean is that there must be something within the human being that precedes the script or the bodily expression. When you say something or make a gesture, there must be some underlying reason, something inside that is the origin. That is where I want to take the consciousness. That is what I am now encouraging the actors to develop within themselves in the studio when we practice and rehearse.
Is that image different from the “impulse” that Stanislavsky talks about? Or the “motivation” that Japan’s New Theater directors often speak of?
I don’t know Stanislavsky or Strasberg or New Theater well enough to answer that. In fact it might be the same. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if it was the same. All I am saying is that having a source within where every word or movement originates is an extremely essential element of theater.
However, the image that I think is essential is not the image of the “recipient”, the person watching the play. If the image of the recipient is the sadness or joy that emerges after they read the play, that is not the image I am referring to. As far as I can see, I would say that the large majority of performances present the script from the image of the recipient. But I believe that acting in a way where the lines are spoken on the basis of an image gained from the script is completely wrong. What I am talking about is the image in the internal point of origin of all words and movements.
When you work with actors in the studio, you substitute the physical exercises that most theater companies use before starting a rehearsal with an exercise where you have the actors practice speaking by just talking on and on about things that have occurred during their day. What is the purpose of this unusual form of training?
Rather than thinking of it as practice in talking, the purpose is to get the actors to recognize how they actually move their bodies when they are speaking normally in daily life. And also to get them to be aware of the fact that those movements do not originate in the words they are speaking. To explain this a little further, this exercise gets people to see how difficult it would be to think up such complex movements if the everyday things they are talking about were written down and given to the actor as a script and the actor had to try to create those movements based on that script. So, once you understand this, my exercise is training that helps the actors create as fiction the same actions that fit the normal, everyday body use.
Another purpose is as a form of training to gain an appreciation of just how rich this that I am talking about is. In other words, how rich the origin before words is. By rich I mean that there is a much larger volume of information underlying any words that we speak. There is no way to put everything in that original image into words. The words are no more than the tip of the iceberg we see, and it is an attempt to create awareness of this. State from the opposite direction, for an actor to try to create the minimum amount of image necessary when delivering some lines from a script, that is a meaningless and uninteresting thing. So this is also a kind of training to get the actor to grasp what is happening within themselves so that they can create an image from that vastly larger well of information from which the lines of the script have originated.
I am always telling the actors that the body and the words are not connected or integrated. In reality, it is extremely rare for body movements to complement or reinforce the words we are speaking, and most of the time our movements are completely unrelated to our speech. I think that nature of the body is something very rich. And in that sense, I think that our natural, real body movements are richer than those of actors on the stage. That is why I want to get closer to the richness of the actual body by creating plays that are modeled on reality.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Boisvert keeps it moving briskly, and manages the complicated final sequence—featuring three scenarios playing out simultaneously on stage—deftly. Underwood himself plays Ezra Wesley with real gravitas (he also has a terrific cameo as Peter's boss at the newspaper). Mike Mihm feels precisely right as Peter, the vaguely existential, sexy anti-hero whom we can't help but root for. Andrea Marie Smith is appealing as Halle, and Jon Hoche is chilling in a number of different roles, including the Pakistani Fareed and, perhaps more so, an American CIA operative. Paco Tolson gives another of his trademark excellent performances as Milan and a few other characters (he has a wonderful comic turn as James Blitz, a highly-strung TV news show host).
All in all, The Brokenhearteds makes for entertaining and insightful viewing, and welcomes a talented new playwright to the New York theatre scene.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Okay, everyone. If you're reading this, if you're an actor, if you're a nerd or a geek, and if you're into the great performances of the ages, then you're probably already one of the millions who have seen Neill Blomkamp's film District 9 that opened last week. If not, and you have a strong stomach, then go see it and treat yourself to a master class in on-camera acting. The film entire consists of one character's cathartic journey towards understanding and redemption, and that character is played by South African actor Sharlto Copley.
Rehearsal for Temar Underwood's political thriller The Brokenhearteds is underway and we've blocked act one! There is a lot of optimism and excitement based on the camaraderie of the cast, the inventiveness of the director/design team, and the producer's professionalism. There is also a bit of the best kind of fear. Everyone is being challenged by the demands of the text which I've described to myself as "Chekovian Noir." The characters are involved in political intrigue and action while at the same time their relationships to each other are emotionally raw and vulnerable, wrapped in dark human comedy. Very hard. High risk, high reward, though. Working on it for the people.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
"Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign - as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise - that for God to really work in my life I shouldn't be getting off so lightly."
"While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride."
"If I walked in with a real spirit of humility then this last legislative term could well be our most productive one - and that outside this term, I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm."
"Faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator's hands - this is what I always do. I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. And if there is an open door in '12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door."
"I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." -- Revelation 3:8
Professor feels at home in town's 'peaceable kingdom'
By MADELEINE BLAIS
Published on June 26, 2009
Sorry, Berkeley, Montreal, Washington, D.C., and Boston: You just lost out, in that order, to Amherst as the top college town in North America, according to Katherine Cohen, founder and CEO of IvyWise and ApplyWise.com.
This is no big revelation to those of us who live here.
I grew up next door to Amherst, in a town called Granby, which reveled in the rhythms of its ordinariness. My friends had horses, we ate homemade rhubarb pie, and most of the town's elders practiced a certain kind of penny-pinching Republicanism.
We scoured spring pools for the first flowering growths after winter. We nailed pails to trees to catch the sap. We really did swing on birch trees. At times we jokingly dismissed Amherst as 32 square miles of wishful thinking surrounded by reality (I checked with the town manager to make sure my surface area was correct), but in truth we basked in its ambient glow. It made us feel part of a larger, more sophisticated world, the world where in the 1950s earnest globe-trotting professors brought back slides from distant places and dutiful faculty wives served punch out of real punch bowls.
We were invigorated by the presence of the students at Amherst College and UMass, the children and grandchildren of presidents and shahs, the children and grandchildren of sales clerks at Filene's and firefighters from Hingham, gathered in the same place, with a common purpose, to build a better future. We lived, happily, on borrowed pride. Emily Dickinson wrote her poetry in a stately house on Main Street a century before I was born, but, even as a child, I was spooked by her telepathy. "There's a formal feeling in the house the morning after death," she wrote. How did she know what it would be like at 5 Center St. in the next town over when my grandmother died so many years after the poet's own death?
As schoolchildren in 1963 when President Kennedy visited Amherst College to dedicate the Frost Library, we were expected to tune in. We were expected to listen when he said: "I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft . . . And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction."
Personal distinction - Kennedy's expression - is one of the bulwarks of this town where, as the T-shirt makes clear, only the "h" is silent. Amherst is a strong taste where even the trash trucks have attitude. Emblazoned on the back of Amherst Trucking: "I recycle, therefore I am."
Amherst is dependably eccentric - where else does the police log report that three bicycles arranged precariously high up in a tree turn out to be an installation by art students, illustrating what principle of composition I am not certain.
In Amherst, the crosswalk signals in the center of town make chirping sounds instead of an ugly buzz. The pepper spray used by the police is alleged to be organic. Street vendors sell soy votives and a weekly farmer's market boasts up to 30 kinds of apples. The new movie theater used to feature vegetable-dyed M&M substitutes and to this day there is a handy dispenser filled with nutritional yeast to shake onto one's popcorn.
Above all, Amherst is a place bound by words and bound by nature.
The first is abstract, the other concrete, but both are willful, unsettling, and mysterious in their power.
"There's an atmosphere in Amherst of wanting to learn about things: not just books, but gardening, history, natural creatures, the landscape, the weather, the arts, politics, whatever keeps people curious and alive," says a friend, the poet Susan Snively. "In any case, I'm glad I don't live in Gravel Switch, Kentucky."
I lived away from the valley for many years, but when it came time to make one of the most profound decisions of my life, to pick a place in which to raise my family, I returned, convinced that this was at heart a peaceable kingdom which honored the land and the mind in equal measure and which valued seasons of all stripes, including the seasons in a person's life.
Amherst resident Madeleine Blais is a journalism professor at UMass-Amherst and author of "Uphill Walkers," a family memoir. She also wrote "In These Girls, Hope Is A Muscle," the story of the 1993 ARHS girls basketball team which won the state championship. The column first appeared in the Boston Globe.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Plumbing in the kitchen still not fixed. Landlord AWOL. Kitchen sink remains unusable. Just washed a load of dishes in the F'in tub. Ugh.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sometimes I need a really big push to get moving on things even when they're the things I want to be doing and the things I need to be doing. Getting layed-off is as big a push as I'm probably going to get in terms of getting my career business taken care of (and now I'm also under the gun trying to find an apartment before september).
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Just did another reading at The Lark followed by an out of the blue opportunity to debut a new play at Shakespeare-on-the-Sound's reading series in Rowayton, CT. It was called A Bed the Size of Portugal by Mat Smart. Awoye Timpo, my friend from days of old, directed it and there were a lot of laughs all around.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Kate has posted a new video to her website that is simply amazing. It's called Life Liner and it can be found in the "about" section. I make a cameo appearance and I think it's an amazing accomplishment. You really get to know more about her and who she is through it. Enjoy it here.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I mean, if you like going to readings at The Lark then this is perfect for you.
If you don't know what I'm talking about then just check it out and take that chance you promised yourself would be your New Year's resolution. "Get out there, socialize and meet people!"
That was mine, anyway.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
So: first things first. I am in a reading of Jon Kern's kung-fu-identity play Tapefaces at Walkerspace this saturday at 3pm. It's being produced by the inimitable 2G (Second Generation) Company and they rock. Qui Nguyen directs. It's free, so if you get a chance, come check it out. Many great friends are also in it: Jon Hoche, Amy Waschke, Jodi Lin, Temar Underwood and Dustin Chinn. Having a ton of fun working with them all, onstage and off. Actually, I shared a good cry with Dustin and Temar at Mahmoun's on St. Marks last night when I put some hot sauce on my falafel and in return it practically burned out my soft palate. Thanks for being there, guys.
Other production news: The Vampire Cowboys are remounting Fight Girl Battle World in July and it'll be a sick reunion for that team, too. Noshir is in LA, and can't make it, but otherwise everyone else is back. The one and only Jason Liebman takes his place as Adon-Ra, the other last human. Check the website for more.
I've been freelancing with Professional Artsists and Paradigm for a little while, and the things I'm getting sent out for have been amazing money gigs. Now I just have to book one. I'm learning a lot on my feet and trying to bone up on some of my fuzzy audition areas and playing the numbers game. My manager Donna has really been amazing and has wrangled me into many rooms I'd have never seen the inside of even months ago. I'm building up a growing list of supporters in the casting community and any day now I will be able to give my relatives something to watch out for on TV. Some of them have always liked the theater stuff, but others have always wanted me to be on their favorite after-dinner shows. I'm going to try and do both.
Kate is working hard on her new play Bird House which is also going up in July at The Mint's space. KNF Co., the producers, are amazing, savvy women and threw a crazy burlesque benefit a little while ago. Elizabeth and Jon were MVPs, getting their faces painted with us and generally being game for anything. More on her show soon, although you can also check out their website. I particularly like their description of what the play is about and its relevance. Kate also has a kick-ass new website for her own self (http://www.katemarks.net/). She participated in a music video festival last month and it was a huge hit. The video starred our good friend Mina Vesper as a woman in a disturbing relationship with money set to the Violent Femmes' "Promise". None of us will listen to that song the same way again.
End Days seemed to close right when things were really heating up, but there's another production happening in PA, so maybe it'll come back around in the future. The process of performing that show was a nightly ordeal with me (and what felt like my personal dresser, Veronica) dashing through tiny backstage spaces to do innumerable quick-changes. And when we weren't racing to throw my robes on or fix my beard I was chillaxing forever with absolutely nothing to do but hang out in the EST office. That is when I really became addicted to Facebook. Now that I do not have mandated free time, the chatting and posting has slowed to a trickle. A lot of people came to the show through Facebook Word of Mouth though, and for them I am very, very thankful.
Hot on the heels of End Days I got a chance to work with Youngblood playwrights Eli Clark and Dorothy Fortenberry for a Brunch and a Bloodworks reading, respectively. It was really good to be back with that crew. A lot of friends I don't see as often as I'd like are out there on 52nd street and it was great to hang with them and meet new kids, too.
My nephew Jalen had his confirmation this past weekend and it afforded a chance to see him, my brother Joe and his wife Deborah, and their families and friends. My sister drove me up from the city (very impressively done), I played Prince of Persia for the first time, played Boggle for the zillionth time, and got a lot of time in with folks and then came back to Greenpoint. It was awesome.
I have been watching a ton of movies with my Smart Partner at the 52nd street project and the films lead us to discussion which will be published in the literary journal Fivey. The movies include (in no order): Quantum of Solace, the Haunting in Connecticut, Underworld 3, My Bloody Valentine 3-D, and fast and Furious. Quality pictures....um, yeah. Well it made him happy.
Okay, until next time.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Here are some I was able to find just tonight:
"Lisa Peterson's tightly directed production is perfectly calibrated to mine the play's humor without losing sight of the complex family dynamics in Laufer's script . . . She's aided by an excellent ensemble cast. . . Tolson -- who also doubles as Rachel's drug-induced hallucination of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking -- strikes comic gold in both of his parts."
"Two acts are too short a time to spend with Deborah Zoe Laufer's lovable characters in "End Days." The sweet-spirited script . . . brings out the best in all five performers, especially a daring Dane DeHaan. His portrayal of Nelson, a doggedly happy bullied teenager, gives the play its heart and soul. While a snide Stephen Hawking and an uncommunicative Jesus vie for the minds and hearts of the traumatized Stein family, Nelson miraculously represents the reconciliation of faith and reason."
"Director Lisa Peterson gets smart performances from an outstanding cast and tightly shapes the play. Friedman's performance particularly shines -- his Art is sad, funny, and dynamic. Tolson's double turn as Jesus and Stephen Hawking -- who becomes Rachel's invisible pal after she reads his book -- is impressively funny. Ephraim's angry, sweet teen, O'Connell's desperate mom, and DeHaan's simple optimist are all expertly portrayed."
Waited a long time for these to come out, and they're good, too. I know I've been having an absolute blast working on this. Just doing my part to get the word out.