Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Melancholy

A lonely wheelchair in a Viennese park.
October 2013
Transition season. Likely April. My mother and I were sitting in the parking lot of Gregg's. It was a frequent haunt at the time. Its death-by-chocolate cake, which incited everything but death due to the amounts of chocolate, was siren enough to motivate wallet emptying.

We were waiting for the lunch hour. The door would be unlocked, and much pleasure would ensue. Another car sat dormant, awkwardly angled near us, not quite paralleled. Another car pulled up. Children emerged from our neighbor. The new car parked. What would likely be the grandparents skipped out of the vehicle with nigh the same spirited steps as the youngsters.

A month shy of 19, I burst into tears. This was a frequent occurrence. My mother, still, was always surprised. "What's wrong with you?" she asked. She didn't ask cruelly or judgmentally, just out of shock.

"It's so beautiful. The love between them." In an instant, I empathized with the love I shared with my paternal grandparents, imagined their lives together. Their fondness, grown deeper by clear usual distance between them.

I notice the sadness and the joy all at once. Happy memories cannot be unrelated to slight or intense pangs.

* * *

If I could use one word to describe my existence in adult life, it would be solitude. Many occasions see me walk away and into bed. I am very cat like. I relish being curled up without a book, without a phone to peruse through. I could sleep or think endlessly. Sleep and daydreaming distract me just as much as phones and Internet and conversation. Problematic? Absolutely.

I've tossed and turned throughout my young adult life wondering if it's depression, if it's a manifestation of OCD (which I actually have). I've come to a conclusion, in spite of there being no PhD to my legal or creative names. I am a melancholy soul.
A feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause:an air of melancholy surrounded himhe had an ability to convey a sense of deep melancholy and yearning through much of his workat the center of his music lies a profound melancholy and nostalgia
And, yes, sometimes I have been like Kerstin Dunst in Lars Von Trier's Melancholia film from 2011. Minus the wedding dress... and it wasn't on an estate.

The glass tapers between half-full and half-empty, always. I am hyper aware of truth and honesty. It's perhaps why I can't stand hashtags and endless serious selfies (Like, a hashtag is a categorization, NOT an explanation, THANK YOU). It's why I struggle to maintain consistent blogs of a thematic nature. Because, in reality, nothing is truly constant except existence and a work schedule, et cetera. Tangible, non sub-textual things. Creativity, life, and one's perception of its quality cannot be consistent, really. Not so consistent that I'm going to be #blessed every day.

Am I overthinking? Many argue yes. My mother most certainly says yes. I just think I am being inquisitive.

I'm pretty sure it's the reason why I spend lots of time alone. I spend more time sipping lattes with haphazard leaf designs and reading books than I do going to bars and having spontaneous adventures. OKCupid profile setups are a struggle bus because I don't photograph myself often...and selfies are frowned upon in the legit online dating world (um...I'm fairly certain none of it's legit, whatsoever).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sofia Escobar

Credit: Michael Le Poer Trench
This is a brief post, but it's about the excellent specificity of Ms. Sofia Escobar when I saw her play Christine in London on 3 September 2011.

Not only was she so wonderfully whimsical and dreamy and "head-in-the-clouds," but she was so clever with her interpretation because she acknowledged environment!

A few HUGE examples that made a world of difference:

1. When Carlotta was singing "Think of Me," Sofia played with her hair and breathed in the theatre, as if she were imagining she would one day get to do just that.

2. At the end of her singing debut on the opera house stage, and she accepts her curtain call encore (an amazing reverse perspective moment), she looked up in the direction of where Box 5 would be (based on where it is during the scene prior), where the Phantom's seat is reserved (though he is not physically seen there). This is an acknowledgement that the Phantom and the Angel are, in her mind, THE SAME PERSON. It is no shock to her that the Angel controls the opera house for her.

3. After she reveals the Phantom's identity to the audience and guards at the end of "The Point of No Return," Sofia flung herself to the ground center stage and begged to the conductor, "Help me!" then ran to the downstage left exit where the managers told her to stay with him. This is embracing the given circumstances! Because, y'know, she's spent the past hour of the show trying to break away from him in spite of her artistic ambitions, he's a seeming madman who wants to kidnap her, she's ONSTAGE IN FRONT OF OVER 1000 PEOPLE at the PARIS OPERA HOUSE. You know, things that make the scene really intense and helps us understand why she unmasks him. She wants to ESCAPE or fight back while he's vulnerable in front of the crowd. But, oops, he kidnaps her, instead.

Proof is in the pooding about her fight for independence from this Q&A"As for the [costume] which makes me feel most like Christine, I think it’s probably the first one - the Hannibal costume - where she is exactly the same as all the other girls, where she is in her world and the one she feels most comfortable in.”

That is all.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Phavorite Tracks

I have been so, so busy with my own show's final rehearsals and opening week and making major life choices, that I have been conserving the brain energies. So, here is a "fun" post...

If I could combine official cast recordings that I have listened to, and combine them to make the greatest CD, except for its lack of cohesiveness, this is how it would be...

Now, the CDs considered are: London, 25th Anniversary Cast, Canadian, Swedish, Vienna, Hamburg, Mexico City, Hungarian (though, it's not a Hal Prince replica production)... for some odd reason, I've never listened to the Japanese, Korean, or Dutch casts! What is that all about?! I should get on that.

Auction: Without a doubt, this would go to the Vienna recording. The Auctioneer has a great mix of atmosphere, yet also sounds like a person. Close second is London, though.

Overture: Vienna. The mixing, and the accentuation on the forlorn horn sounds in the second verse give me the chills.

Hannibal: Sweden ALL THE WAY. Since the Swedish CD is a live recording, the spontaneity of this scene comes through (hard to do in a studio). Plus, the musical direction for Sweden was spot on chorally.

Think of Me: This is a really hard for me, as I could listen to Hamburg, Canada, Mexico City or Sweden's versions day long. But Anna Maria Kaufmann's vocal quality, the mixing, and the LUSH orchestra from the Hamburg CD takes the prize for this close race.

Angel of Music/Little Lotte: Sweden, because it's a live recording and almost complete.

The Mirror: Oh, my GOSH! It could be a tie between London and Vienna. The latter's Phantom, Alexander Goebel, is very similar to Crawford- ghostly resonating from the nasal passages. And the pace and chilling calmness of the Vienna version really wins me over. BUT!!! The reverb on the London CD is ace, though, as are the bass sounds underscoring his "beckon" to Christine to come through the mirror. I am going to go with London, if only because of the sound mix and Sarah Brightman's jubilant "Angel of music guide and guardian..."

Title Song: Another toughie, and caught between the two German language recordings. Both had very large orchestras with unique musical direction, Hamburg's brash execution takes us on an epic adventure to the underworld, while Vienna's, with its slow, deliberate, and down-the-octave on Phantom verses grounded quality sort of sneaks into our slumber... How do I choose??? I choose Vienna, because, overall, I gravitate toward ghostly Phantom interpretations in general.

The Music of the Night- Alexander Goebel's slow, deliberate, ghostly Phantom could win, but the Mexico City cast recording's Juan Navarro has such a beautiful, resonant voice with a nod toward the ghostliness (at least vocally). I can feel the poetic imagery just from his tonal quality. He has a full bodied hookup to the words.

Magical Lasso: London. Buquet with an operatic voice. Reverb. Mary Millar. A list shall suffice.

Prima Donna: Original London would win if it had Piangi (he was later added into the scene). Canada takes the track. Personalities are well established in the scene. Just wish the mixing were a little more reverberated.

Il Muto: Vienna. Vienna. VIENNA. Can I say that, again? Vocally and instrumentally, it has unique flourishes that sound just like an actual opera performance.
Hamburg's lush full recording of the ballet sequence would step in, however.

Rooftop: Oh. Original London recording. Sarah Brightman's strongest scene on the CD. But it's mostly because Steve Barton is so gentle, warm, and earnest. This include's Crawford's reprise of jealousy and chandelier destruction!

Entr'act- Hmmm... Vienna.

Masquerade- I LOVE the Hamburg version of this song. Such intense brass and crisp diction. Forgive my ignorant discription, but it's very "beat" oriented.

Why so silent?- Mikael Samuelson from the Swedish recording. Very harsh sounding Phantom, which works really well in this scene.

Notes II- London, because the story telling is clearest here.

Don Juan rehearsal for the same reason.

Wishing You Were Somehow Here, Again- Hungarian cast recording. Her voice is clings like a bell, her acting expressive and specific. My jaw drops when I listen to her.

Wandering Child/Bravo Monsieur... goes to the London recording. It's the trio, rather than the duet it became in every other production (except Hungary, and now, after 26 years, Broadway, finally). It dramatically helps the role of Raoul have a clearer journey, even though it's brief.

Don Juan Triumphant/The Point of No Return: Original London, as I find the story telling clearest here, including the "aftermath" scene, when Mme Giry tells Raoul she can help him.

The Final Lair: Original Canadian. Colm Wilkinson is almost like a demonic beast here. It's gruff, it's raw, it's exciting. This scene is best when spontaenous, with less reverence to being totally musically sound. Of course, I expect everyone to be on beat and nuanced, but it's important for some words to be spoken, others to be sung, some to be back phrased. Great musical theatre tradition allows this.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Phantom-I had to hear it; Scott Davies & Claire Doyle, London

Scott Davies as the Phantom, 2009-present
Photo is property of Cameron Mackintosh/RUG
Friday 18 November 2011-7:30PM
Her Majesty's Theatre

Among the clearest things I learned while studying at the Globe was the idea of hearing a play being performed was even more important than seeing it. Being literally touched by the sound waves of a performer is a different experience than seeing it. And although my favorite musicals are amplified, there is such a thing as natural acoustics and intent energy filling the space.

Of course seeing an entire stage picture is a wonderful thing, but if a company is playing to the whole space, there is still a great amount of story with which one can be touched if it's not seen. On November 18, one of my many Fridays off during the London education experience, I was trying to listen to my Phantom recording to get the blues out of me. I was following on Twitter the then current West End Phantom cast and noticed that Claire Doyle would be playing Christine and Scott Davies would be playing the Phantom. She was understudy, he standby. I decided to go for a walk as show time was approaching. Not living far from Her Majesty's, I was there in a jiffy and  saw the cast board as I peaked inside the foyer- more than half the cast was out due to holidays and illnesses.

Already aware of the exquisite sense of play this company gave, I jumped at the chance to see a show filled with on-the-edge staging compromises (which would include the fabled swing track costume of the Hawaiian girl during "Masquerade!" and certainly less people on stage than usual) and a  new Phantom/Christine combo. It was something like Ms. Doyle's second ever performance as Christine. The box office went out of its way to release a ticket to me as they saw me in earnest. A 20 sterling nearly half-view seat on the Grand Circle (upper circle), house left, row C. I didn't care, because I knew I would hear them.

Claire Doyle as Christine, 2011-12
Photo by Chris Brown
Seated directly next to the house left spot light operator (who was clearly passionate about the show, evident when he rocked out to the title song and chatted with me during interval), and surrounded by other last minute purchasers, there was a sense of excitement. We all knew we would have to lean over one another from time to time in order to see downstage right. Compromise and structure that forced us to actively search for moments created joy. It even got me to talk to my fellow patrons before the show! Two gents were celebrating a birthday behind me.

There she was, Claire Doyle as Christine. I believe she had a strong dancing background, and it was more than evident in her performance. With a slight husk in her voice and an open heart chakra, Doyle was a Christine filled with faith. I saw someone who believed in God, who celebrated life! This celebration wasn't a head-in-the-clouds Christine, though. That husk and dark disposition balanced the elements. I almost want to say she was earthy.

Her full body-movement and earthy energy made it seem almost as if she was speaking text. That sounds strange, perhaps, there was this sense that every phrase ended with a energetic stamp from her physicality. This is important in classical theatre because otherwise thoughts and ends of lines get jumbled. There was nothing unclear about this Christine. This was especially effective during what some might call "sung dialogue," such as when she confided with Meg in her dressing room and in the Final Lair confrontations between she and the Phantom. The information just...just came out!

Then there was Scott Davies. Wowza. I was so thrilled to see Scott Davies for similar reasons to my excitement to see Marcus Lovett the following year in the same production. He was an "old school" Phantom, having played the part during the 90s, when casting choices were a little more classical in sound and acting. Dare I say, things were a little more edgy for the Phantom. Although Davies is the standby for the Phantom (since 2009 he has held this title, save for two months in 2010 when he was temporary first cast), he was principal in the UK Tour and West End at the turn of the century.

His classical sound was expressive, deep, and soaring. However, he wasn't afraid to sound ugly when a truthful moment compelled him. His physicality was definitely in league with legendary Phantom of the UK and Canada, Peter Karrie- very tense hands and an awkward, almost wobbling walk. When he would cry out, it was an upper register, straight tone yearn for love.

Like all West End Phantoms I have seen, his interpretation was semi-free form, while still adhering to the physical and emotional arc. During the "close your eyes" verse in "Music of the Night," Davies walked all the way to stage right and back to her, again, for example. A general note- because Her Majesty's stage is so narrow, and the house itself so intimate, actors tend to have more variance in their movements toward stage pictures.

If there's any moment of his I'll never forget, it's his exploration of Christine's lips with his hand after she kissed him in the final scene. The marching drums had started, and he brushed her lips with his hand, in such a state of disbelief. He had to remember the moment. Generally, all London Phantoms I have seen take their time during the marching drums between Christine's kiss to releasing Raoul. It must be encouraged by the resident directors. Every nuance of the Phantom's revelation lands, felt and shared with the audience.

It was an adventurous night at Phantom, and one that has left me an impression on me. Just hearing the show and working hard to see it, I felt the need to be there, and had a community around me in our little section. I felt, like Doyle's Christine, perhaps a little closer to God or the Force, or the Universe that night. My smile couldn't subside. It's that feeling- that knowledge that there is something bigger in this world than our own individual experiences that keeps me going, personally.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Phantom- Marcus Lovett

Marcus Lovett, London 2012.
Photo by Alistair Muir
Marcus Lovett's title role performance in The Phantom of the Opera is arguably the best-acted I have ever seen. In a video posted here, Lovett shared that he always left the score open in his dressing room, to ponder over new angles and meanings in the text. His constant openness to inspiration exemplified how the year-long run is an exciting opportunity to keep digging deeper.
It was some of the most effective "living under imaginary circumstances" and text/movement integration I've ever witnessed.

When I saw him play the role in London in December 2012, I wrote the following statement:

Marcus Lovett is the first Phantom I've seen to truly echo the Leroux. His thorough work shows. He has a specific physicality, and looks absolutely grotesque from start to finish. He is frightening, sexy but unsexy, cruel and villainous yet sympathetic. He truly plays a selfish, cruel figure, and his energy seems to leap from side to side of the stage as if he might strangle any one (on or offstage) at any moment. It's rare that I am truly scared during the "Red Death" sequence. Because he creates such a terrifying figure, Anna O'Byrne's Christine's seeming hatred and very clear rejection of him at the end makes clear sense, as does her empathy toward his self realization at the end.

On his Twitter, Lovett would even prompt questions with fans to analyze the text's clues of his character arc, which would lead to lively discussions. These topics ranged from figuring out inciting moments to internal motivations to new clues in the text about environment. He thoroughly engaged his mind and body with an imaginary environment, clearly supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber text and source novel by Gaston Leroux, that informed his choices to be more than reactionary- they created the illusion of a full, complicated human being.

Mind, opinions were quite divided among the online forums and tumblr accounts of Phantom fans. Many felt that he "couldn't sing." I believe one person likened his voice to a motor of some kind, a choppy lawnmower's, if I remember. Marcus was actually aware of such criticisms. He stated during his last week in the role, via his public Facebook page:
"To detractors [of my performance as "The Phantom"]...All I can say is I love you, and you are not wrong...I suspect that I am capable of singing this score more beautifully, and of making fewer acting mistakes by taking fewer risks. (And every actor I know could benefit from a bigger dose of talent.) But I will tell you here and now that while on that stage for the past year, I seldom if ever thought of singing. I almost always thought of the imaginary world, and how to behave truthfully within it. I move in a world of words and verbs, and have no interest in results. I could not care less what I am feeling on a stage, as a feeling is always a result."

It can be deduced Marcus' intent as an actor is actually to be an artist, one who serves. He definitely stated that his work was in the "service sector," and that his job was nowhere as difficult as the effort fans put in to working, saving money, and travelling distances to see him perform. I was certainly one of those people.

For me, I was transported into the illusion of a man's full life. When I saw him appear from within the mirror, something about his energy made me envision that he had come from a labyrinthine path to this spot. Lovett likely had imagined all of that, based on his research.

I can remember every moment of his performance, and yet it is difficult to describe them. His arc was very clear, and his understanding of how his body moved in space provided him with a solid base from which to create spontaneous sparks of seeming life. Hence, it is difficult to describe him in detail. It was the little vocal tics, the turns of the head, the shear intensity that could say a thousand more words in a moment than the most grandiose, generic performance ever could.

Lovett's work, because he never apologized for the Phantom's actions, but rather pursued them head on with an eye toward the arc, made his Phantom a complicated figure to watch. Instead of praising him with general adjestives backstage afterward, I told him I thought his Phantom was absolutely disgusting and cruel toward Christine initially, which led to a more effective ending, where his character learned something about humanity. He proved through action why everyone was afraid of him. Even I, sitting fourth row, felt scared that his Phantom would jump off stage and strangle me or another audience member. And it was my umpteenth viewing!

His Phantom was Erik from the source material. His physicality was toad like, his desire for Christine was self fulfilling. I believe he looked at the facts, or given circumstances: 1) he takes advantage of her vulnerability, pretending to be an angel her father sent; 2) he believes that his actions would fill in a gaping hole-that she would be his companion. I perceived him using Christine as a means to end. It wasn't until the Final Lair that head realized his follies. Understanding what love truly was came all too late.

Following his lead, this cast really played the show like a thriller, rather than playing up the romance. The romance is built into the show. By trusting that, the production soared into the stratosphere of artistic merit. I wasn't watching a love story. I was watching human beings struggle to find themselves. Performances like this are the reason why I keep going back to see Phantom.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Jane Eyre- Week 2

This is the first time I have been in a show that was previously devised. A devised piece is organically created, with guidance, by an ensemble. Its written script is a reflection of the physical and textual results. Such a work is developed through improvisation, where actors tune into the unspoken energy between them. Thus, the shapes they created together sprang from a sense of drive toward the conclusion of the show and with a physicalisation of the unspoken correlations and subtexts between one another.

This show, then, doesn't have all its lines the page. I don't think any show does, but this one more so than others! The other "lines" are the physical movements. And we can't properly play until we know where are bodies are going into the space. Perhaps we will change these physical lines as the rehearsal weeks continue, but at least now we have a direction both verbally and physically.

On a personal note- I am having so much fun. It's both challenging and not challenging as a process. The challenge is learning how to play different people with far less textual clues than the meatier roles that exist through nearly the entire string of action. But because I feel so buoyantly a part of an ensemble where each actor is serving the central thematic question and one another, I feel absolutely no stress or pressure.

I wish all processes were just so!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Phantom Phandom Celebration

Marcus Lovett as the Phantom
London, 2012 Photo by Alistair Muir
In anticipation of the 20th year since I first saw The Phantom of the Opera, I will begin to blog about the many experiences I have had with the show. Personal essays, reviews of performances and recordings, analysis, perhaps even interviews. I have a lot to say, and I feel compelled to share what this show inspires within me. Certainly, I will do a "write up" profile on each top-5 favorite actor. There should be one post a week!

For simplicity and for a "home base," here is the first master post, recording some facts and figures of my many experiences. If you ever want me to expand on a topic, please let me know!

I have seen 20 Christines, 17 Phantoms, 16 Raouls, and 12 Carlottas.

The two people I have seen in a principal role the most are Michelle McConnell (Broadway Carlotta) a whopping SEVEN times and Jeremy Hays (Broadway Raoul) FIVE times.

Favorite Phantoms
  1. Marcus Lovett (London)
  2. John Owen-Jones (London)
  3. John Cudia (NYC)
  4. Brad Little (Music Box US Tour)
  5. Scott Davies (London)
Favorite Christines
  1. Anna O'Byrne (London)
  2. Jennifer Hope Wills (NYC)
  3. Claire Doyle (London u/s)
  4. Kris Koop (NYC u/s)
  5. Sofia Escobar (London)
Favorite Raouls
  1. Will Barratt (London)
  2. Ryan Silverman (NYC)
  3. Sean MacLaughlin (NYC)
  4. Simon Thomas (London)
  5. Jeremy Hays (NYC)
Honorable mentions:
Jeremy Stolle (NYC Phantom u/s), Elizabeth Welch (NYC Christine u/s) Nadim Naaman (London Raoul u/s)

Where and When I have seen the show (underlined are top-5 favorites)
Providence Performing Arts Center-Providence, RI-November 1995
Providence Performing Arts Center-Providence, RI-March 1998
Wang Center for the Performing Arts-Boston, MA-January 2001
Providence Performing Arts Center-Providence, RI-March 2003
Majestic Theatre-New York City-December 2003
Opera House-Boston, MA-May 2005
Providence Performing Arts Center-Providence, RI-March 2006
Majestic Theatre-New York City-August 2009
Majestic Theatre-New York City-January 2011
Majestic Theatre-New York City-August 2011
Her Majesty's Theatre-London-September 2011
Royal Albert Hall-London-October 2011
Her Majesty's Theatre-London-October 2011
Her Majesty's Theatre-London-November 2011
Her Majesty's Theatre-London-December 2011
Her Majesty's Theatre-London-December 2012
Majestic Theatre-New York City-January 2013
Majestic Theatre-New York City-September 2013
Her Majesty's Theatre-London-November 2013
Providence Performing Arts Center-Providence, RI-December 2013
Majestic Theatre-New York City-March 2014
Majestic Theatre-New York City-May 2014
Majestic Theatre-New York City-December 2014
Majestic Theatre-New York City-March 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jane Eyre- Week 1

Last Monday, we began rehearsals for the Out Loud Theatre production of Jane Eyre. It's an adaptation by Polly Teale and her production company Shared Experience. This isn't your usual Jane Eyre, though. It's written as a small ensemble piece with about 10 people. Everyone except Jane and the woman in the attic, Bertha, are double cast- with rhyme and reason! This suggests the idea of duplicity. For example, I play every "religious" man- Brocklehurst, the clergyman at their halted wedding, and St. John Rivers. In addition, I also appear as complete opposites of these individuals- Lord Ingram, Pilot the dog, and a footman. In a way, Jane's memories would certainly group some oft these individuals and their qualities together.

This theme of duplicity is even more apparent in the visible relationship between Jane and Bertha. Bertha is not only herself in the attic, but also literally a part of Jane. It's a bit like the new Disney/Pixar film, Inside Out, where we see a physical manifestation of an internal element or quality. Bertha represents Jane's id. This theatre utilizing one of its major potentials- bringing visible what is otherwise invisible. And here we are physically seeing the parallels of human beings' journeys through life!

The initial week found us mostly doing exercises and workshops that build trust, bravery, and ensemble spirit. It's unfortunately rare in the mainstream theatre for playfulness like this to be consistently part of the process' structure. For some reason, team building and physicalizing subtext is thrown out the window after drama school. Mark Rylance's daily backstage games shouldn't be considered anomalies or strange in a creative environment. Theatre totes itself as sharing energy, digging deep- if a cast doesn't have a professional ability to do this, then what is the point? It's a struggle.

Tonight, we will begin staging the show. With the amount of professional trust between one another, which means a familiarity of body, voice, and intents, we are set up to play. Additionally, we've now talked at length about the show-motivations, time period.

I am really looking forward to discussing more here as we continue.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Outside and Inside

Two haikus as explanation.

A vehicle crashed
in front of this coffee shop.
Rescue in progress.

Sometimes taking looks,
but here we sit with our tasks.
Many lives at once.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Social Medialessness / De-Faust

This morning, like every morning, especially since getting a smart phone in late 2011, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and then my Twitter feed. Then I sat around feeling sorry for myself when the new profile photo of the boy I desperately loved in college popped up. Regretful thoughts seemed to physically occupy a large portion in the center of my brain. Heavy. So heavy! Lots of likes. And there were articles! So many articles to read. I must read them all, because everyone's a writer and everyone has something to say. Plus, headlines written as "[Insert Name] destroys [Bigotry] with two sentences." And Gifs of a celebrities dancing around! So many crooked-smile selfies, and...

And... I suddenly realized how much of my real life I have been wasting. Hungry for academic information through high school, and morphed into knowing tidbits through social media as an adult, what do I have now? I have a lot of time comparing myself to others' seeming success. This results in needing validation of my actions. When doing something or getting news, I suddenly needed to post it on social media, so everyone could just know. But that's not pleasing myself. That's needing 40 likes on one post, and when only 2 are acquired, I must be really disliked by others.

At the Guthrie program, there was a beautiful teacher named Morris Johnson. He was a man who spoke from such a place of self fulfillment and peace that I eventually doubted him. Youth brain. A shiny bald head, a perpetual smile and a connection to music that grounded him to the earth-those are the details most remembered. He was masculine and feminine, he was quiet and loud, he was older than he seemed. He was wise and healthy, not weary and weathered. He said to us once, and I paraphrase, "Don't tell everyone everything. Keep certain things to yourself. You must have secrets. People will be more interested in you."

I believe so much in honesty and being present with others. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I get frustrated, I get sad. I see myself wallowing and holding myself back from a potential that I truly don't comprehend.

I want to be real. I want to wake up and listen to the wind rustle through the trees, and pet my dogs first thing, and call people on the phone to set up appointments, and make an effort to search for people I have lost contact with. I don't want ideas left untended or photos kept on the hardrive of a website. I want things in my hands. I want to live the way I did in Europe in 2011, when I wasn't reachable all the time, when I looked up, instead of down, when I had a practice in resourcefulness and curiosity. That's lapsed now, because I have been permeated by the thoughtlessness of social media.

The world is more complicated than hashtags. I don't want to see myself or my friends breaking their life and their identities down into hashtags. Those reactionary "articles" that hyperbolically affect narratives of contemporary issues through the lens of righteousness don't need to be in my face anymore. If I want information, I will seek it. I will talk.

At least for the next 365 days, until my brother's 23rd birthday, I will not log into Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I will only read and send emails on my computer, never on my cellphone. My cellphone will be left at home at least 3 days a week.

The act of pulling myself away from what is in front of me will hopefully be deliberate, and not due to habit, like it is now.

I will use this blog to record my journey. To discuss what it's like to call a date rather than texting him, to not look up a fact on my phone, to use a map or write down directions from home...

The rules in a list (and now taped to my bedroom door):
  1. The laptop stays in the office, never to be used in the bedroom or the kitchen. It can be taken out of the house to a coffee shop ONCE a week.
  2. The cellphone stays home three times per week. The days can vary, but the default shall be Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
  3. The cellphone will have no apps. It will be used solely for calls and texts (text minimally).
  4. Call to make plans or catch up with friends (unless they live internationally). Especially make an effort to call dates on the phone.
  5. Go to an outdoor or seasonally indoor event every weekend. Say hello to one person you don't know, and get their phone number or email address.
  6. No Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! No more passive engagement with loved ones.
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Unemployment

Since Cabaret closed, I have been unemployed. I am not even going to call it funemployed. I have enough issues trying to be self motivated as it is, and with more than ample amounts of time, single, and fatherless, I feel ultimately purposeless. I'm trying really hard to hang onto the tiny triumphs.

Ti-Ny Tri-Umphs. So glad you asked what those are...
1. Swiping right or left on Tinder.
2. Writing a lot.
3. Actually taking steps to submit my show.
4. Sending more than three messages on a dating app.
5. Having job interviews and rewarding myself with a coffee afterward.

I'm, of course, listening to a lot of German musical theatre showtunes and Phantom of the Opera. And sitting around feeling sorry for myself..

Wait- if nothing's really working out the way I planned, then I suppose I should really be doing different things.

Instead of swiping right or left on Tinder, maybe I should go out to bars and the beach.
Instead of writing a lot with the Internet on, maybe it should be off.
Instead of taking steps to submit my show by June 30, why not by June 17?!
Instead of sending messages, why don't I call someone up?
Instead of... no, I'll keep buying coffees.

It's important to revisit and fix and improve the self often. I used to be really good at that, but then I lost faith in myself along the journey of early adulthood. I've been working on that, and have made huge strides. There's a memoir or a play or something in the story... all three forms are simultaneously evolving, and eventually will be shared.

Just blogging for the sake of blogging. Getting things down.

As the brilliant Barbara Houseman said, cameras out, not cameras in.

Objectivity Exists

Guys! Thought- We always say art is completely subjective. I think this is an over-simplification. Quick why:
1. Our personal identification with a piece is, of course, subjective.
2. But, I believe, there is an objective standard of good work. One has to contextualize the performance one sees to "get" that.
SO! I might not personally identify and feel overly moved by a show (SUBJECTIVITY)  BUT- I might be able to OBJECTIVELY understand its worth or its lack thereof.
Always trying to work on this skill. One learns more that way, I think. Should have done that earlier.
If we don't have some sort of objectivity that removes personal needs, then how we are ever going to keep standards going? Yknow?
Just putting it down...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The American Musical, Without Broadway?

Source: Trinity Rep.
Logo for Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical
I saw the second preview of Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical by Sarah Ruhl and Todd Almond at Trinity Rep, Providence, last night. This isn't a review, more of a response to what the material did for me (and, for the record, I recommend seeing it).

I am always struggling to remove myself from what I see as a conditioned desire of satisfaction-catharsis, or direct relation- when I see a show. Wanting theatre to always be about or for myself is a very limiting view, and blocks me from expanding my knowledge and objectively judging work. Therefore, let me discuss what the question the piece is tackling, and then how it led me to think about a broader situation in musical theatre.

Melancholy Play is asking why melancholy isn't a part of the social fabric today. One of the first lines, paraphrased, says: "This is a defense for melancholy." Like the show, I also wonder why it isn't as present in society or mainstream art these days. According to program notes, melancholia instigated the European Romantic movement, and regarded those with it as "having a mark of genius." These days, it's all selfies, crooked smiles, and nice hair at microphones. There really isn't room to be murky.

I felt genuinely engaged, though never shaken to my core, and that's okay. It's an oddity of a piece, and it's meant to discuss something that not everyone really thinks about, or wants to. Example, a lady in her 70s said during the talk-back, "I'd never see this if I wasn't a subscriber [to Trinity Rep]." This show was for her, and I am so happy she got something out of it.

In summation: It's small, it's weird. It's absurdist, really. And the lyrics didn't really rhyme, if ever (whatever, I like that, personally). I kept saying to myself, "How wonderful that this show has been written, and likely not for Broadway."

WHOA! Is that actually one of my initial reactions when I see a show?! Should it be?! This is the Golden Age of Broadway with less financial risk anymore, so what I am saying?!

Why is it so common that musicals are so closely linked to Broadway, or commercialism. A commercial audience in a post globalized world is a very different thing from a regional theatre in Rhode Island or Minneapolis. Sometimes, non-profit transfers to Broadway strike lightning (Fun Home is rightfully doing so, and partially because it didn't just transfer, it reimagined itself, giving one a reason to see it in the particular space within which it plays). But Broadway is ONE place that is trying to appeal to tourism. It is ONE community. It has money, it has exposure. But we shouldn't let that limit ourselves from curiosity about the equal caliber of work happening elsewhere. We shouldn't be blinded by the saturated exposure that community receives.

If there's one thing I agree with Joe Dowling about (soon to be former artistic director of my alma mater, the Guthrie Theater), it's what he said in a recent article of MSP Magazine:
"...we, [the Guthrie], don’t want to [go to Broadway]...when you talk about regrets...[I regret] dabbling in that whole development for Broadway thing, which we did for Little House (2008), and also with Roman Holiday (2012) and a couple of other things. But I have no interest in the Guthrie having a play on Broadway, and nor should anyone. And I’ll tell you why: The very foundation of the theater was a result of the feeling that Broadway was not the end all and be all of American theater. The for-profit world is fantastic when it’s vibrant and alive—but the not-for-profit world, like the Guthrie, we have to be able to speak to our community, and once you say we’re doing this show with a view to taking it to New York, you immediately start using your audience as a tryout audience, and this is not a tryout audience."
Rocky at NY's Winter Garden Theatre
It opened after having already premiered
in Hamburg, Germany.
Broadway and musicals seem to be synonymous, in spite of there being some development of it elsewhere, ie Yale Institute, Austria, France, Australia. But many of these shows still seem to have their eye on Broadway. When Rocky played New York City, its marquee didn't say "Direct from Hamburg," though it'd likely be the other way around had it opened in Hamburg afterward. This desire for New York may indeed limit what an individual musical's potential is, even if it never makes it to the coveted New York.  The 2004 PBS documentary, "Broadway: The American Musical" is titled for a reason. Tony Kushner stated in his inspiring Playbill article, "Singing of Human Success: Tony Kushner on the Importance of the Off-Broadway Musical," from July 2013:
That all musicals are born dreaming of an apotheosis on the stage of a commercial theatre in the Times Square area is still a common assumption, dying by slow degrees but alive enough to be worrisome to the kind of people who worry about musicals — about the musical theatrical form, as opposed to the musical theatrical dividends. Musicals are very expensive to produce, and someone has to pay for them, and get paid back, and there's nothing wrong with dividends. Well actually there's plenty wrong with dividends, but that's another story.
I am wondering, how can we have more musicals in our go-to canon without always speaking solely about New York City? How can we encourage more musicals to be written in response to specific communities throughout America, and with professionalism and craft? Rather than trying to create work to be commercially viable, create work to respond to a question, and if it happens to have a commercial life, amazing. It's a crapshoot anyway, so why not just keep on contributing to the theatrical landscape until something hits?

I have been considering, and now finally really being open, to taking time away from Broadwayworld.com (my preferred source for that community, by the way) and seeking out theatre news from other sources. Howlround.org is one I use, sometimes. But where else? What are some other sources?

Oh, art, you are tricky!

Monday, May 18, 2015

25

Yesterday, I turned 25.

I was more freaked out being 24 than 25. That's because, while I was 24, I was living an exciting, yet wandering existence. A few weeks before 25, I left New York City to return to my native small town in Rhode Island. I haven't lived here in 7 years, since high school ended. To southern RI for a year, followed by 4 years in Minneapolis, which included an amazing pit stop in London for 4 months. After college, I jumped around for 6 months- California, Vienna, London, back home for the holidays, then New York City.

New York City was home from January 2014-April 2015. In that time, I spent most of it working as an user at the Roundabout Theatre Company's remount of Cabaret. It turned out to be an exciting job. The honest connections I made turned out to be so genuine, that I know I have a network of professionals and friends that will last me the lifetime. It was an environment where every person, front of house, backstage, onstage, and security, knew and adored one another. Private parties, late-night rendezvous in Club Cumming (by our star, Alan Cumming), and laughs. And a love for the show itself. I worked 392 of the 423 performances.

I meant to be an actor/theatre maker, but I got distracted. Here I was, in this amazing city, but the itty shitty voices in my mind were there, and a city that, in spite of its riches, wasn't inspiring me. When I woke up in the morning, I didn't necessarily want to leave my apartment. I wasn't excited to audition, to see the sidewalks, or the lights. It all made me want to curl up in a little ball and sleep all day long.

This feeling doth not a successful artist (or, entrepreneur) make!

I was surviving-just enough. But I was sharing a bedroom, not writing, not auditioning... I never felt like I had enough time to really thrive, and the resources to create art in a way that feeds me were limited. Agentless, almost penniless, and self conscious, I felt my voice wasn't strong enough to forge through the competition. Ugh! THAT word-competition. It's a word I never associated with my career until I lived in New York City. You see, the artistic industry there is SO saturated with the trained, the untrained, the connected, the unconnected, and the NEEDED, that to really stand out, you need to not necessarily be the BEST, but be the one that CONNECTS. That could mean you're a talent that blows the roof, or you're attractive enough to some higher up... the list goes on, holding up countless folks with or without integrity.

I am not ready to be there full time. Being there full time taught me that. I have an amazing acquaintance with whom I worked on a pre-Broadway show in 2010, who isn't based in NYC, yet works there from time to time. His success after leaving New York City inspired me.

Also, seeing shows curated into New York City reminded me that I don't have to be IN NYC to do work that matters.

At the end of the day, NYC is a place. It's a place that has one way of living and one way of dealing with the theatrical industry. Equating an ability to function there as talent and worth is not healthy for art in America, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. The myth of New York is perpetuated by legend, media, and stories. The number of people who can have success on Broadway and then eventually leave the city is quite high. The arts are not a corporation, try as they might. It is a fluctuating lifestyle, sustainable for some who tap into a niche. That is FINE. That is AMAZING. But it's not for everyone. We all have different purposes, and mine is somewhere between here and wherever my passions will lead me...