Friday, February 26, 2010


hunger directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender

This is from an interview with Steve McQueen for Eye for Film:

Could you talk a little bit about the choices of the look of the film?
It’s one of those things. It was really tough but I also wanted to do a good job. What I mean by that, is that if you think of painters like Goya, who painted the worst images of war in such a way that they were engaging. One has to make movies like these engaging but not as one sees often – and I apologise here – in most American movies, where there is violence which is pornographic or sexy. It becomes much more, what can I say, numbing, as it if it doesn’t matter to me. But if you look at violence as something which has consequences, in the way that you direct the film, is in relation to that event.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taxes and First Rehearsal

It's very late and I'm trying to get all of my deductions entered onto my tax forms for my "show up early and see what happens" yearly adventure to the Equity building and their VITA program.  This is always, always a pain in the ass because all my receipts are on tiny slips of paper shoved in a plastic bag.  I waited too long to get a bona fide appointment (again) for the free tax preparation, so now, as last year, I must venture out hours early to get onto the waitlist and see if they can fit me in before rehearsal starts at 3pm.  It's a great program, they have 8 appointments a day, and in between those scheduled appointments they take on stragglers like myself from the waitlist.  Maybe 15 are seen per day.  Ugh.

While I try and do this I will procrastinate by giving an update on Rescue Me.  We had a very warm and friendly first read-through.   The script is funny and open to a lot of collaborative contribution from the actors and the design team.  Something made clear from the beginning was that the process will be very organic and tailored to what everyone is bringing into the rehearsal room.  We're going to organically find out what we have over the course of the next few weeks and that, for me, is always a very exciting place to be.

There are a lot of music, dance, and multimedia elements built in, too.  Can't wait to see how we can play with those before tech.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring/Summer Listings of Shows in the NY Times

Qui first pointed me to this "things to look for this summer" spread in the Sunday Times, and as I read it I noticed many of my favorite companies and many artists from my cohort were represented with some really amazing shows, not least of which is Ma-Yi's Rescue Me (p.8 online).

Big Ups to:

Ensemble Studio Theatre, Lenin's Embalmers
Vampire Cowboys, Alice in Slasherland
The Play Company, Enjoy
Kristoffer Diaz and his play The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Second Stage

I am sure there are more, but these are all shows I know personally through having workshopped or read them, and I'm so excited for such a talented group to come out strong in the next few months.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Broadway World Profile

For many years I have seen shows I've done written up in press releases and articles on, but they never created a profile on me with a hyperlink to other credits or photos like so many of my friends who were in the shows with me.  This was very frustrating.  I knew there was stuff on me there but they never got around to making me legit . . . until now.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you my name underlined in red!

Also available for your perusal is the press release for the premiere of Michi Barall's play Rescue Me (A Postmodern Classic with Snacks) that will be Off-Broadway in March, produced by the inimitable Ma-Yi Theater Company.  Tickets available now.

Dance Theater, people.  Dance Theater!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Knights of the Roundtable Ensemble

A giant shout-out to a company that has a worthy mission, talented administration, and genuine love for theater and storytelling: Roundtable Ensemble.  The producers of Goodbye Cruel World and Babel Tower, this small band of dedicated people made two wonderful repertory productions happen (no small feat in itself), wrangled a ton of personnel, allowed us all a tremendous amount of creative freedom (as well as comps--Thank you, Barry Shapiro!), and selflessly brought the work to audiences from senior centers, foster homes and schools among others.

Joshua Weiss, Kelly Ann Moore and Andrea Ghersetich deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the hard work of these past two months, and my hat is off to them.  Henry Cheng, our GCW stage manager and Roundtable veteran, also gets a giant shout-out for being such a thoughtful and gregarious presence without whose commitment and energy we would all have surely fell on our faces.

Check out their website and consider helping them carry out their mission for many years to come.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Recent Movies I Liked

These are not necessarily recent movies, but movies I saw or re-watched recently that I thought deserved a shout out on the blog:

This is just an amazingly well-shot, well-acted thriller from the UK that in actuality explores a lot more than you think it does as you watch it. It's an exploration of modern urban blight, human weakness, and revenge. Really methodically paced, so you can just marinate in the performances and the cinematography. The final act is devastating.

This came out a few years ago and I caught it on the Sundance channel about three-quarters over. At that particular moment I saw a sequence where Anton Yelchin has an acid trip and the music was simply too beautiful to ignore. As soon as the light guitar started playing this hypnotic wonderful score, the narrator of the filmstrip he watches of his anthropologist father in the amazon begins talking to him about how he is a member of the tribe and it was so well done I finished the movie and then went back and watched the beginning the next night it was on. The beginning is pretty light, but the end payoff is earned and there is a lot about adolescence and longing that seemed pretty universal to me. Great performances by Donald Sutherland, Yelchin, and even Chris Evans.

Ralph Richardson really makes O'Neill's language sing in this adaptation. I read the play in college and thought, "Man, this is really long. I like it, but it's sooooo looong." Well, Richardson's character is the eogotistical theatrical patriarch of the Tyrone family and it's that imperiousness and command of language that pushes you through it. I can't wait to see some of his other work, he is a master. Watched this for research for GCW. Not so much.

What can I say about this one? Another long movie but cinematically worth every minute. The acting is top shelf and the photography absolutely breathtaking. I'd never seen Omar Sharif in anything before either and I was really impressed all around. This was Dalton's pick and he did not disappoint.

Hats off to Guy Ritchie for getting such a lovable crew of thieves together. This cast could not go wrong. I pretty much liked everyone before I saw this, but the work here pushes them each a little outside their Hollywood leading men image and makes them all really goofy. Really goofy. I can only imagine what fun it must have been to work on this. Got to hand it to Mark Strong, man. The guy can really do it. And he's starting to become a household name after Sherlock Holmes and the upcoming Kick-Ass. We'll see.

Wow, surprise movie number six that I watched this very afternoon. Had to watch it with subtitles to get all of the dialogue, but by god this is right on the line between funny and scary, mainly because it deals with the ineptitude of government and outrageous behavior in politics. Hilarious seemingly improv-ed set pieces of miscommunication and incompetence in the grand, dry English tradition. Great accent research, too. I could listen to the Scots and the British and all the regional dialects in between for days.

And now that I wrote about a funny/scary movie it made me think of this one which is actually just flat-out terrifying scary. It basically chronicles a female suicide bomber being groomed by faceless, nameless handlers as she prepares for her mission to kill herself in Times Square. Not filled with heart pounding action sequences or even a ton of dialogue, the movie is instead an intimate study of routine and stubborn humanity. The camera exhaustively follows her going through actions that are entirely mundane yet loaded with menace because of the context. A scene in which she washes her face and brushes her teeth on the morning of the deed is slowly, sickeningly heightened as she meticulously uses every item in her toiletry bag and then throws those items away in turn: face cream, followed by her toothbrush, followed by the toothpaste, never to be needed again. There is also a lot of disturbing metaphor for the process of filmmaking as a whole. Getting details correct, getting the presentation just so, hair, makeup, costume, lighting. . . all these things appear in the film in some way or another but through the twisted lens of terrorism. To say nothing of the fact that the lead woman is walked through all of these details by people of different races, frustrating the natural human desire to lump one people together as the clear enemy. A very haunting, finely crafted movie that takes its time and is all the scarier for the investment. Some very powerful New York verite location shooting, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is how to synthesize what I've been learning about on-camera work with my theatre work. Specifically, experimenting with the use of physical stillness and exploring the idea of motivated movement. That is to say, getting rid of physical and vocal "filler." My friend Maria mentioned the idea of Doggie Zen to me long ago: dogs commit fully to whatever they are doing, and the thing they are interested in is the only thing they care about. They either get what they want or they change their focus to a new thing and start over again. I want to fully invest in what is actually the meat of the scene and have my body serve my objective (and clarify it, not muddle it). Should be eeeeasy.

Looking back, my theatre stuff was mostly from the more is more school. I felt if I wasn't engaged in some bit of business then I was invisible and not doing my job. Like a shark needing to move constantly. I was interested in listening, I guess, but a kind of furtive, aggressive listening. The more I watch great performances on film and mature physically, the more it seems to me that camera technique has a lot to offer stage technique and the two are not mutually exclusive as I've always thought.

Part of the successful execution of this synthesis as I understand it is the idea of unity. When you understand what it is you want to say, all of the disparate elements of performance should align to help you say it. "Movement" in my book never included stillness yet it can be just as powerful. I am now trying to use it as a tool for clarity. For example, finding in rehearsal decisive moments to move and introduce behavior that align with what other forces are in play. If you cross at this word or that word, does that illuminate your objective or does it draw the eye away from some one else's action? Does it advance you somehow in obtaining what you want? I guess I'm saying I am understanding the importance of taking ownership over your body, owning the choices you make. Or at least making them mean something, tying them in to the script. This is probably very elementary, but it just goes to show how when you coast on impulse you can get very lazy.

A lot of people do not like watching film actors onstage because they do disappear. They generally make choices that are too small or they don't have the physical life to magnetize audiences. I've seen a number of amazing film performances that are impossible to physically recreate onstage, but the idea of imbuing a shift of the eyes or a shallow breath with so much emotional energy has got my mind whirling, trying to find ways to give a giant minimalist performance in a 99-seat theater.

For me, the only way to give small moments their due and make them big is for their significance to be tied to a turning point or revelation in the text, or something repeated that echoes a previous moment with new resonance. In film, the score will swell and the camera can push in close and most of the work is external. In theater, I think an actor and director have to draw upon the audience's entire experience of the play to earn big moments. You have to lay in repetition as shorthand for history because you've really only got a short shared time together. And once you have established what world you're in and what behavior signifies what for a character, then you have established a pattern from which you can successfully break out of for massive effect. Physically and emotionally.

So: I am going to actually MAKE choices, be sure that they are unified with the world of the play, and then exploit the actor's shared history with the audience for effect. Pretty eeeeasy.

This blog was originally intended to be a forum for dialogue on craft and the arts, so that's where this post is coming from. But where else can I shamelessly post reviews? I'm trying to balance it all out.