Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Starring Role

Theatermania just posted an article on Goodbye Cruel World with a headline that starts with "Paco Tolson to star in..." Holy shit! With a big picture! It's not one of the publicity photos but one of my old headshots.

I cannot believe it, man.

Read the article here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Photo Shoot


Had a prolonged moment of theater geek yesterday.

Goodbye Cruel World had a publicity photo shoot at an address near 34th street. Theresa Squire who is working on our costumes has a studio near there so I assumed it was her place we were going to. She's been the go-to photographer for the preliminary press shots with Vampire Cowboys, so I assumed we'd hit costumes and photos in one fell swoop.

I was early and called ahead to see if I had the address right and to see if someone would be there, and a curt voice said something like, "Yes, come on up." I didn't think it sounded like either Theresa our our other designer Antonia, but I dutifully followed the directions to #509.

I stopped at the door. The door said "Carol Rosegg". Not only was I half an hour early but now I was also convinced I was in the totally wrong place. Carol Rosegg is one of the most famous theatre photographers in New York. I would sometimes wile away the time at my old job looking through page after page of her work on the internet admiring photos of some of my theatre heroes in action imagining the day when she would take my picture from the center orchestra. I didn't even want to knock on the door because if I was in the wrong spot then I would embarrass myself in front of an industry giant. I stood there frozen and then went for it anyway.

I pulled the handle and it gave a little, then clanged loudly in the empty hallway. It was locked. Awesome.

I turned away trying to figure out how I had gone wrong when I heard someone on the other side get up and cross to the door. A woman answered and said, "Hi, I'm Carol. You're the first one here. Just have a seat and read your Voice." I was so surprised that I went in and instantly dove into the paper trying to wrap my brain around what was going on. Was she expecting someone else and thought I was them? I could just picture Bill Irwin or Nathan Lane knocking on the door in 15 minutes saying, "Okay, I'm here let's do this--hey, who the hell is that guy?"

Eventually the others arrived and we got started. It quickly became clear to me that I have a ton to learn about getting my picture taken, but Carol was very cool about it and ushered us through some composition and framing suggestions. It was a really fun experience and Cindy and Tami were in amazing costumes out there with me so we had a lot of improvisational fun. We had a tuba with us as per a scene in the play and that ridiculous prop was prominently featured (I ended up playing it during the session and it tasted like rust). We had a blast. I can't wait to see how the pictures turned out!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 People of the Year

So much to talk about!

First up, Martin Denton and the good people at nytheatre.com have named me one of 2009's People of the Year!

At the New York Innovative Theatre Awards Martin and Rochelle gave a rousing, articulate speech about the hard work and commitment that goes into making art. I remember sitting in the audience and really digging what they were saying. "They really get it and believe in it," I thought. And that is part of what makes this recognition so special for me. We're all in it together and although they're not performers, they're a big part of who we are and what we do. They understand the struggle and participate themselves. Their staff sees a zillion shows a year and I know I am one of the great multitude who rely on this website for the word on what is going on in the community. I remain completely floored.

Two of the three shows mentioned in my POY bio were shows I did with Vampire Cowboys (Soul Samurai and Fight Girl Battle World) and I have to say I owe a huge debt to them. They are a tremendous group who have done outstanding work for many years and taken me along for the ride. Part of what makes them so special is the quality of the collaboration, and in both of those shows I was a member of an incredible, true ensemble. The third show was Temar Underwood's The Brokenhearteds and again, all of us were up there as one and they all blew my mind. We did it all together.


Secondly, two shows are lined up for next season. The first is Robert Ross Parker's production of Goodbye Cruel World in January with Roundtable Ensemble. The play is an adaptation (Robert's) of a play called The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman and it's fast, furious, and physical in the best comic traditions. It'll be at The Arclight Theatre on 71st street, more details to come.

Following on the heels of that will be the Off-Broadway premiere of Michi Barall's play Iph, Then with the Obie-award winning Ma-Yi Theater. Visionary director and, ahem, Obie-award winner Loy Arcenas, who directed their brilliant production of The Romance of Magno Rubio and the workshop of I__NY, will return for this as well. That'll be sometime in March/April at The Ohio. More details to come.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Toshiki Okada Interview

Further along in the investigation I found this interview with Okada at the website Performing Arts Network Japan where he describes what fascinates him about hyper-real language and the genesis of his performance philosophy. You can read it in its entirety here.

My favorite excerpts are below.

From this you invented the unique script language that is now being called “super-real verbal Japanese. What was the process that led to this?
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.

In addition to the unique character of your scripts, we also see very unique body movement by the actors in your plays.
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.

Physical/Theatre

So I've been working on a workshop of a play by "hyper-colloquial" playwright and choreographer Toshiki Okada and investigating the relationship between text and movement. These videos were absolutely mind-blowing and game-changing in that investigation.



This clip deals with the concept of "The Image" and how it is the foundation for both what the actor is saying and the jumping off point for how they are moving. When you talk about something you are simultaneously imagining it and that imagery has a physical life.



This clip is that idea in action.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

October is Here

So updating the blog was definitely not on the menu for tonight, but I'm excited to announce a few things.

















1. I will be joining the Vampire Cowboys in presenting their First Bite workshop of Alice in Slasherland at the end of October at the infamous Battle Ranch in Bushwick. Wow, that's a lot of branding. Expect more of what you love from this amazing company in full effect in three weeks. Details here!















2. I will be joining Dan Rothenberg and The Play Company in work-shopping Aya Ogawa's translation of Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada's Enjoy, also in October. I've always wanted to work with them and especially after their masterful co-production of Lloyd Suh's American Hwangap this year. Man, oh man. The Enjoy workshop will be in-house, so not open to the public, but I'm still really excited. I think some people I really admire are in it too, and just to be in the room with them is going to be a total trip.














3. The VC Saloon series is back and the great Dustin Chinn's Let's Ninja Science Ranger Team Get! will have yours truly as the Blue Ranger in a time-traveling, irreverent, Voltron-esque comedy. Can't wait. Details.











4. There's more brewing but I'll wait on that. Saw a bootleg version of Ong Bak 2 my sister let me borrow? Pretty amazing stuff. More later!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Support Systems

If you can, you guys should come see Temar Underwood's The Brokenhearteds. I don't mean on closing Sunday, I mean tomorrow. Or next Thursday. We've got one weekend left in the run and we're counting on the men and women of the theatre to show some love and support to an ambitious new black playwright. Not because of that in itself but because everyone got their start somewhere and this is a hell of a start for Temar.

Everyone should see it because it's about us, man. It's about our generation and the things we do for love and art and I guarantee there is something in it for you somewhere because he writes about what we are living. There was an article in the Times this very week about political maneuvering straight out of our show. The characters are artists or dreamers of one kind or another. The people we know and aspire to be. It's like looking in the mirror every night.

Martin Denton, first man and champion of the indie theatre had this to say:

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.


If you're Equity, use your card. If you're a savvy Facebooker, use the discount codes. If you're a friend, don't wait until the last show.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Dramatists

Last night I had the honor of being a part of the New Dramatists new members welcome event that featured readings from each of the six new playwrights. My friend Qui Nguyen just got in and it was a great time. Saw a lot of old friends and colleagues and did a lot of catching up all around.

The excerpts I heard that night were mesmerizing and surprising in their own ways, mostly due to their brazen theatricality. The new frontier of theatre seems to be headed back into a physical, ritualistic use of the actor as an instrument of transportation. Each of the readings used the actors as true storytellers and used the full complement of the actor's skills to maximize expression, including dance and song. Even the minimalism of Richard Maxwell's actors served as an electrifying conduit to something profound and beautiful deep in the language (precisely because of it, I thought).

It was quite a night.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Acting Master Class


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.

There are SF elements, action, and a killer story, but that's kind of all window-dressing. Sharlto Copley is the consummate everyman and his corporate drone character gets put through unbelievable trials. There is never a false note in his performance as we sit witness to his descent. I'm probably going again if the budget allows, he's that good and my budget is that small.

There have been things I've seen this year and this summer that were strong showings from established names (Sam Rockwell in Moon comes to mind), but Copley's role demands depths of emotion and raw objective that are simply not to be found in anything else I've seen yet. To say more would be to spoil it, but I watched him for two hours and, as an actor, my brain was saying, "Yes, yes. Mmhm. That's what the real deal looks like. That is a realized, successful performance. Motherfucker!"

(I tried to nick some pictures from the movie off of the internet but google apparently doesn't have a great selection to choose from. I didn't intend this to be like a teen fan site a la the Jonas Brothers, but then I thought sometimes people just deserve love.)

Hats off, Sharlto Copley, hats off!

The Brokenhearteds


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.

Now, on to act two. Tickets are on sale, so check out the website for more.

Also, Qui Nguyen's blog Beyondabsurdity has up-to-date links to great reviews of the Fight Girl remount. Thank you, Pink Ray Gun and L Magazine!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thank You, ComicCritique.com


Read some blog praise for the remount of FGBW here!

Artwork by Jeremy Arambulo.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FGBW

"Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes agaaaaaain...."

Ah, those places we missed. Ticopria. Il Nova 7. Dancorprium. Pena 15. Qward. Blark. Flimrack. Milkshake.

It's been a long strange trip putting together a full-on remount for only 6 performances, but the reward is getting to feel that goofy, improbable joy of being ridiculous again. Feeling the energy and love from the audience. It's amazing and addictive and unforgettable. We're not done with the run, but I just wanted to thank everyone who stepped up and made it possible. People who traveled, people who took on more responsibility, people who urged friends to come (and came a second time themselves), people who joined the team, and of course, the people who put up with us while we were working on this beast.

Good hard work, everyone.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TheaterOnline.com Bird House Review

Here is the review in its entirety. I think this is one of the ones that truly understands what the experience of seeing this play is. Enjoy!

BIRD HOUSE
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Ashley Griffin
Marcus Woollen ©2009 On the Bright Side, Syl (Christina Shipp) and Louisy (Cotton Wright) live happily together in the safety of their treehouse.

There are some evenings at the theater that just make being a critic worthwhile. After wading through many not so great nights, a show will come along like a breath of fresh air and make you feel not like a critic, but like an audience member having a magical evening at the theater. This is why we do what we do.

Marcus Woollen ©2009 Once safe in their tree house, Syl (Christina Shipp) protects Louisy (Cotton Wright) from an onslaught of creatures in Bird House

Is Bird House a perfect show? No. What makes it extraordinary is that I couldn’t care less. Bird House overcomes tremendous challenges, inherent in the very nature of what it’s trying to accomplish, and somehow finds the formula to do what so many shows attempt, and come up short on.

Written by Kate Marks, and directed by Heidi Handelsman, Bird House tells the story of two beings (are they children? Birds? Siblings? Human?), the bright and innocent Louisy, and the sweet, adventurous Syl who live happily together in their tree house, until Syl ventures off to be a hero in the far away war torn Lop Side. Alone for the first time, Louisy falls victim to the whims of tiny creatures at her doorstep. When the two sides collide, impossibilities become real, and both realize the lines between right and wrong are not as clear as they thought.

What makes Bird House so breathtaking is that it manages to create a believable world ruled by dream logic. In our best dreams, the feelings, and emotions stay with us long after we wake. But if we try to explain what exactly happened in our dream, to describe the plot, the characters that appeared, relay the words that were said however real and important they seem to us, their logic becomes nonsensical, and vanishes when we try to describe it. To create such an experience is one of the most difficult tasks imaginable (just look at all the failed attempts to bring Alice in Wonderland to life in as striking detail as it exists in book form,) yet Bird House manages it.

That it does so is truly a testament to the communal effort of all those involved. And I do mean all. Remove one element, and the whole thing would crumble. The beautiful set by Sara C. Walsh is perfect from the moment you enter the theater. Its most striking element is the tree house itself, which looks straight out of an episode of Sesame Street or Johnny and the Sprites. It not only fulfills its function, it at once makes us feel at home, and comforted. Even the tree that holds it in place is structured so as to make the theater’s lighting plot look like the tree’s branches. When the dark Lop Side world encroaches in – well, it does what every creepy fairy tale wood was meant to do – create an encroaching danger, loneliness, and sadness on what was once so safe and comforting. And just as Jim Henson created both the world of Sesame Street and Labyrinth, so these two worlds, though starkly different, are beautifully unified.

Marcus Woollen ©2009 A bird invasion? Syl (Christina Shipp) and Louisy (Cotton Wright) in Bird House

The costumes (including hair design) created by Jessica Pabst are extraordinary. They flowed so seamlessly that I almost don’t know what to say. It’s difficult to analyze them as they were so much an organic part of the world – as was the lighting design, Video/Projection Design, and the beautiful puppets (created by Lighting Designer Rebecca M. K. Makus, Video/Projection Designer Alex Koch (who also designed the sets for the beautiful Irena’s Vow,) and Puppet Designer Andy Toad). The music by Quentin Chiappetta was haunting and lovely.

All four principle actresses were extraordinary. I had the pleasure of seeing, and reviewing the two leads, Cotton Wright (Louisy), and Christina Shipp (Syl) in Much Ado About Nothing, and Belles respectively. Both are wonderful actresses who, as lovely as they were in the previous productions in which I’ve seen them, have only grown, and I was thankful to see them be able to really let loose in roles that truly offered them the chance to go wild in the best possible way. Their honesty, and depth were the heart, and engine of the play and they never let it run down for a minute. Much as in a dream it’s possible to find yourself experiencing events as two people simultaneously, so in Bird House you identify with both Syl and Louisy.

The other two women, and I hesitate to call them supporting, for they had just as important, and almost as large of roles as Ms. Wright and Ms. Shipp were revelations. Special props must go to Kylie Liya Goldstein who played the nine-year-old Myra with the depth of a forty-year-old actress. It’s no surprise that she has serious Broadway credits to her name. Wendy Scharfman likewise played Rita with the joy one would expect from a young child and managed to layer both true heartache, and wise omnipotence into a character whose ultimate role we’re not quite sure of until the end. Ora Fruchter and Anthony Wills Jr. were fantastic as the puppeteers. Special props must go to Mr. Wills who not only handled a set malfunction with such cunning that it should be left in the show as is, but garnered show stopping applause for his puppet Ant’s death.Director Heidi Handelsman did a seamless job of envisioning the impossible (as good as the script is, one feels that the beauty of the show would be lost if simply reading it on the page), and Writer Kate Marks has accomplished what other writers only dream about. I certainly look forward to seeing their work in the future, as well as that of the KNF Theater Company.

Despite some minor elements (two projected characters are often confusing, and it is difficult to understand what they’re saying) Bird House is a magical play. The guest who I brought with me to the theater (who’s ticket was comped) declared that this is a play she would gladly pay to see, and wants to come back with some of her other friends.

I wouldn’t mind seeing it again myself.



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bird House: An Impossible New Play by Kate Marks

Kate Marks is a playwright whose vision knows no bounds. I have had the pleasure of seeing her new show Bird House twice now, and each time I was absolutely floored by her verbal dexterity and imagination.

The actors, puppeteers, designers, director and even the producers have given this beautiful play incredible support. The language energizes fearless clown-inspired performances, complete with haunting lullabyes, cowgirl ballads, and marching songs. The look and feel of the two worlds of the play resonate on a level beyond logic and emotion. On the blasted "Lop Side", a war-torn wasteland, an endless dirt floor is punctuated by a lone scorched tree and a blackened dresser, something so domestic and incongruous that immediately you intuit the discomfort and danger of the place. A fierce, malevolent wind periodically blows projected items across the stage. On the Bright Side, the tree house in which the main characters live is comprised of a gorgeous patchwork of found wooden objects that deserves an hour of inspection just to see how many pieces it's made of and where the pieces came from. It is airy and full of comforting things you might see in your own kitchen.

The play is a challenging one in the sense that it demands a lot of the audience. Birds fly out of a character's mouth, an army of ants invade, the wind blows furniture around--this is not a living-room play by any means. It is the story of two people and how they grow together and apart, and how the world changes us. If you like essential human truths like I do, there are plenty of lines that will follow you home that articulate those feelings you've always had but never new what they were. To me, going to the theater and seeing lives played out onstage is one of the most precious outlets we have for self-relection as a people, and Bird House delivers big-time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Double-Post Wednesday Night!

This is straight from Chris Kelly's Huffington Post...post called "God is my Doorman: Mark Sanford for Non-Christians." Enjoy.

Hemingway said that the problem with Henry Miller was that he got laid in the afternoon once and thought he invented it. Governor Mark Sanford got laid in Argentina two weeks ago and the way he continues to go on about it, you'd think he cracked cold fusion. The man won't shut up. If Henry Miller talked about his sex life as much as Governor Mark Sanford talks about his sex life, people would have started thinking he was some kind of perv.

So today Mark Sanford needed to amend the number of times he kissed the Spider Woman in the last year, for those of you keeping score at home. Now it's five, including two overnights in New York, one for general fornication and one more - approved by his wife! - that was supposed to be just to talk about old times. Sort of an adultery exit interview.

The fact that someone as unconscious as Jenny Sanford was in a position of authority at Lazard Frères makes it amazing that there's a banking system at all.

One thing Mark Sanford isn't doing is resigning. Why? Because God Himself wants Mark Sanford to stay on as Governor of South Carolina. Just ask Mark Sanford:

"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."

And if anyone knows about getting off, it's Mark Sanford.

But more importantly, the Almighty insists that Mark Sanford stay in office. South Carolina is his punishment. Like when Job got boils.

And the citizens get to help God help Mark Sanford be a better man. Which I think we can all agree is what public service is all about.

"While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride."

That and years and years of adultery. But mostly pride.

Here's what I always thought I kind of missed out on as a Catholic, instead of whatever horseshit Mark Sanford practices: Self-diagnosis. When it came to sin, we didn't get to call our own balls and strikes like that.

"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."

Again, what else can we do for you, Gov. Sanford? I'm glad the taxpayers have this chance to let you improve yourself, but is that enough? Next time you're boning someone in South America, can we hold your dick?

Okay, now clearly Mark Sanford is just a twitching loon who should be locked up before he hurts someone. What's cool is that he isn't even out of office yet, and he's already talking about God opening doors.

Our former favorite disgraced Christian egomaniac, Sarah Palin, waited until the week after the election, when she told Fox News:

"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."

The open door to which they refer, of course, is from Revelation:


"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

American Evangelicals love Revelation, because it doesn't make a lick of sense and then everything explodes. Kind of like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But they love Revelation 3:8 most of all, because it sounds like God's promise that you'll win the lottery.

Evangelical business advice always comes back to Revelation 3:8. God opens doors. Like this one: Your opportunity to buy these timeshares.

God wants you to get rich working from home. The same way he opens the door to
a Palin Administration. Immediately followed by the Apocalypse. Don't say you weren't warned.

I'm not sure Mark Sanford's going to like the door that God opens for him, though. According to Revelations 21:8, adulterers and liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.

Forever.

Even if you've been to Argentina, and gotten used to the heat, that's still gonna hurt.


Zing!

An unusually thought-provoking Wednesday night, right? I had this and the Blais essay both emailed to me and thought the world should read them. One for the sheer pride and honor I take in the hometown of my memory and the second for the bat-shit craziness of politicians.

These are the things I'm thinking about when I'm not running lines.

From the Amherst Bulletin, or My Hometown

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

Stardom


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.

But I am heartened by the fact that Marlon Brando went through the same experience when he was coming up, before he became big.  

What's that?  He didn't?  Oh, man...

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Big Push


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).  

Push away!

1.  I have been working out in McCarren Park and looking for monologues at the Performing Arts library at Lincoln Center.  

2.  I've been running lines for Fight Girl on my iPod.  

3.  I've been reading up on arts philosophy and taking meetings with friends on long-distance-relationship-philosophy (After an incredible dinner with Kelli and Caroline last night making food for hours, our sink pipe finally corroded and sprung a leak this morning, dousing Kate's feet).  

4.  I've been taking care of business with Unemployment to ensure I get a good-sized check every week (Four simultaneous jobs in Q1 of 2009 = Hey-O!).   

5.  I've been getting tips from friends on how to maximize the audition experience on both ends and, of course, going on auditions.  

6.  I am updating my blog.

For a long time I think the comfort and flexibility of my day job was good, but the time to step it up career-wise came and went and I was a little too complacent in that setting to make a move.  But now the job exists no more and I am free to kick ass again.  Soul Samurai was a huge boost for me and now another door has opened with this remount of Fight Girl and I have a chance to bring the pain once more.  I am going through the door this time.  

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Republican Family Values In The News

In the immortal words of playwright Dustin Chinn:

"Oh, politicians.  Will you ever tire of whores?"


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

FIGHT GIRL BATTLE WORLD Returns!

Below you'll find the trailer for FGBW.  I stole it directly from Qui's blog.  Seriously.  I saw it there and I said, "Embed immediately!"  

Cut, paste, published under my name. 

Lee Strasberg, back me up on this:

When you steal a good thing, we say, "Good for you, darling."  
Only when you steal something that isn't worth stealing, 
something artificial that stops you or interferes with you, 
do we question it.
-Strasberg at The Actors Studio, p.45

Amen, you crazy bastard.  

It'll be at the illustrious HERE Arts Center this time around, home of Soul Samurai and many other amazing shows by smart downtown companies.   It was a great pleasure to work there this past February and I cannot wait to do it again.

Enjoy!



Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rainy, Connecticut


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.  

Wanted to stay in Rowayton (5 min from the Darien stop on the MetroNorth) to see Joanna Settle's production of Midsummer but it threatened rain and, as it's an outdoor theater, was ultimately cancelled.  The show has music by Stew, whose stuff I love, so it was a double disappointment there was no show that night.  The trip up from Grand Central was a good 50 minutes, so not too bad.  Will try and get out there again before it closes.  

   

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Life Liner


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

Reading at The Lark

Tomorrow I will have the pleasure of doing a reading with a friend from Brown, Mike Crane. He was one of the best loved and most sought after actors of my youth such as it was in college, and he was a stalwart of his class at NYU. The play is Deirdre O'Connor's Assisted Living at The Lark tomorrow at 8pm, part of the playwright's workshop reading series. Go here for the other details.

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

Links























This is Maureen Sebastian as Daisy and myself as Naruto backstage at Japan Day 2009 in Central Park.  Jon Hoche was Uruhara and Bonnie Sherman was Sailor Uranus.  We did fights that Qui Nguyen choreographed.  The other pics are on Facebook!  Blondes DO have more fun, by the way.

In other news, given my mission to disseminate word on the noteworthy and on the arts in my life, if you have a blog of your own (or a personal website) send me an email and I'll post a link to it.  I know a lot of you have them and I visit them often but I just haven't had the time to sit down and give you a tangible internet shout.  I want to do it.  As you can see from the incredibly high number of comments people have left on previous posts, I get mad web traffic so... Well, just do it.      

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Coming Up


Everything they say about Rockband is true. I stayed up until 1:30 last night rocking out to songs I hadn't heard since middle school (I got a 99% on vocals for White Wedding!), switching back and forth feverishly from drums to bass to guitar to the mic while drinking my favorite beer and shoveling kettle corn down my pipes. (Yes, I know that beer has wheat in it. I also know that sugary snacks are bad. It was Monday night and no one tells me what to do on Monday nights!) Weirdly, I kept hearing someone shouting "Fuck yeah!" every time I did something right. It turned out it was me, completely hopped up on the vibes.


A good jam session after a successful reading with friends: priceless. Thank you, Dustin!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Axe Begins to Fall



Unemployed in Five... Four... Three...
Somehow I'm super-busy and still facing down not having a job by the middle of next week. What?
In any case, come check out another reading I'm in: Dustin Chinn's hilarious play The Rise and Fall of The United States of Asian America at the Wild Project on Sunday the 31st and Monday, June 1st for FREE!

Also, Lloyd Suh's play American Hwangap is getting amazing reviews and stars some big names, also at the Wild Project. It's only running until the 7th, so definitely make it there, people!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Doin's

Okay, people, I am back to recap about four months of neglect on this damn blog. I was home in Amherst this past weekend and it occurred to me (repeatedly, as it always does when I stop being crazy busy) that the only time I update this thing is when I'm in-between projects and have some time to reflect. I had initially wanted to use this blog as a forum for discussion of art and what I was working on, but whenever I'm working on something it is usually all-consuming and thus, no posting. Are you one of the five people who was like, "What the hell is going on here? No posts since April 11th"? If you're reading this now then you probably are, actually. Awesome. Hellooooo.

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

End Days Pics


Perhaps the theater will give us access to the press photos after the run, but until then I have resorted to nicking them from the internet.  Here are two I never saw before and we're in our third week of shows!



Thursday, April 2, 2009

End Days Reviews


Here are some I was able to find just tonight:

TheaterMania
"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."



Variety
"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."


Backstage
"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.

Friday, March 27, 2009

End Days at Ensemble Studio Theatre


















So there hasn't been a post here in two months mostly because I have been busy working three jobs and resting in between each of them in a regenerative haze.  Soul Samurai was one of the most amazing experiences of my theatrical life, and I just wanted to shout out to everyone who was involved that we did some amazing shit together, all of us.  It was like sitting on top of a rocket.


















While we were performing nights at HERE, I was shuttling back and forth during the day to Ensemble Studio Theatre where I was rehearsing Deb Laufer's amazing play End Days.  It was a series of firsts for me including working on a Sloan play (plays that get grants for productions that bring science and scientists to the mainstream), working with surgical-precision director Lisa Peterson, and operating an electric wheelchair.  Oh yeah.  
















(These past months have also seen another first: me getting cut in the head with a samurai sword.  I'm totally fine, but it was a big eye-opener.  Suzette, Abby and Qui all get huge thanks for making sure everything went down smoothly.  I actually had an amazing run of luck following that incident--including booking End Days--and Kate likes to attribute it to all the attention I got from them :-)    For those of you with an aversion to stitches, humans can apparently be stuck back together with super glue.  Oh yeah.
























So End Days is in previews for the next two weeks and then we open on the 30th.  I'm playing Jesus and Stephen Hawking in an inspired dual role, and the show features great actors who have done very significant work.  Just Google any of the following names and you'll find some credits that will make your jaw drop: Peter Friedman, Didi O'Connell, Dane DeHaan and Molly Ephraim.  These peeps are kicking ass and taking names.  It's an honor sharing the stage with such theatre royalty.

We run until April 19th, evening shows are at 7pm, people!



        

Monday, January 12, 2009

Soul Samurai Interview


Hey Guys!

Qui Nguyen's esteemed blog Beyondabsurdity is featuring another interview with me about working on Soul Samurai and the artistic process.  It's about creating a character and what goes into putting the show up.  

Check it out here.