Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Bard's Birthday

Today is considered to be William Shakespeare's birthday. Ironically, it's also the same day he died.

Though the exact date of his birth is not known, scholars believe it is either today - "
the date celebrated in England since 1222 as the feast day of dragon-slaying St George" - though there is also evidence that it might have been yesterday, April 22nd, since his grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall, married on April 22nd, 1626 "in honour of her famous relation." And apparently, records show he was baptised April 26th. In any case, I feel the dear Bard should be celebrated every day! pays a lovely tribute to films that have done the bard justice. I'm currently enjoying Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. Truly, Shakespeare's words are best heard, best seen, in my humble opinion, to be fully experienced.

I'm in the midst of Shakespearean studies with former Juilliard professor, Deloss Brown, who also teaches at NYU, and I must say, it is such a joy! We're working on King Lear, which blows me away because I recently worked with Alvin Epstein on the staged reading of Sin with F. Murray Abraham, and here I come to find that both Mr. Abraham and Mr. Epstein played Lear! So fascinating! How the web of life entwines!

And so, today and everyday, I hope you find your inner bard, to work, to play, to explore life and love, to hear, to see, to learn, to grow. Enjoy it all!

"There was a star danced, and under that was I born."
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, 2.1

Monday, April 20, 2009

Great Works

Coming off of last week, I feel blissfully inspired. It was my birthday and I treated myself to a lot of theatre.

Actually I started this theatre-treat even earlier than last week, seeing Irena's Vow on April 1st. It's an incredibly moving play based on the true story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a Polish Catholic girl who was forced into servitude by the Germans in WWII. She had endured all sorts of horrors by the Russians before this capture, but somehow her tenacious spirit and fierce faith got her through this hellish time. And strangely enough, her position as servant (she was housekeeper to an SS officer) afforded her the ability to save 13 Jews by hiding them in the German's own villa! It's an amazing story, and I wouldn't be surprised if it soon becomes a film.

It was heavy stuff, but I was amazed at the humor that would creep in throughout the play, especially in the character of Irena herself, brilliantly played by Tovah Feldshuh. But it makes sense to me: humor can help us get through anything.

Irena's Vow is an incredible play and almost everyone in the audience was in tears at the end. As a special treat, Irena's actual daughter came onstage after the show and answered some questions from the audience about her mother. Amazing stuff!

My next show was Blithe Spirit, which I saw on my birthday with my friends, Michael and Carl. We'd been excited about this show since we'd first read it was coming to Broadway, and so we decided to catch the matinee on my birthday. The boys took me to brunch, then we walked down Shubert Alley (even saw Jeremy Irons on his way to his show, Impressionism) and had a little Wicked fun along the way.

We had amazing seats for Blithe Spirit and the crowd went wild when the legendary Angela Lansbury took the stage! She was brilliant! I loved her as child when I first saw Bedknobs and Broomsticks on the Disney channel, and later saw clips of her Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance (how I wish I'd been alive to see her MAME)!

It was really miraculous to watch her work with the wonderful Blithe Spirit cast. To be 83 and still doing high kicks onstage... that's the life for me! :)

Then on Thursday I saw August Osage County with my friend Wayne Henry from Johnny On a Spot. Holy Toledo! What an amazing play! It raged like a rollercoaster from hell, and had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the dark humor, not knowing what was going to happen next!

The cast was phenomenal - it was my first time seeing Estelle Parsons onstage and she was simply magnetic! I had heard much of this "monster of a mother" character, but she made her Violet so human, so multi-faceted! In fact, each member of the cast was like a multi-faceted gem! They all brought these characters to life with great ease.

The set and lighting design, the direction, costumes, the writing... it was all truly a masterpiece.

And something interesting about 2 of these 3 of these plays was that 2 of the leading ladies - Tovah Feldshuh and Estelle Parsons - were tiny! And that inspired the heck out of me because I'm a tiny but mighty leading lady as well. Yet another reminder not to limit myself ever!

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Brother and Hippie Cream's "Life"

"I play for a living...Success is tied to a feeling of magic, which I can protect."
- M. Night Shyamalan

When I was 5, I asked my parents for a little brother or sister. You see, all of my friends in the neighborhood had little brothers or sisters to play with, and I desperately wanted a playmate. Well, my folks didn't fulfill this request for another 5 years. Being an Aries, and having a nephew who is also an Aries, I can understand this. We're firecrackers, for sure! But my folks were also young and trying to get it together, so I can understand them taking some time.

On May 26th shortly after midnight they finally brought into the world this amazing little fellow named Sean, and I couldn't wait to meet him!

I always tell my brother, "I was waiting for you to arrive," and boy, has he!

He's currently the drummer for a wildly eccentric band called Hippie Cream, and last week they filmed their first music video for a song from their latest album "On the Moon" in our hometown of Hemet, no less!

The song is "Life is Long" and the director is a young man named Daniel Philip Maggio. Dan, like myself, really loves Hippie Cream and their groovy tunes. He also seems to dig using his surroundings, and I'm a big fan of that. It's one of the reasons I love M. Night Shyamalan whose films tend to hover around Philadelphia, PA and its woodsy 'burbs.

Dan, Sean, and Wesley, who sings and plays fiddle, tie, and cowbell for the band, roamed about Hemet, filming the video. They had specific places in mind, and it's a treat to see the orange groves in there. That's one of my favorite things about the deserts of CA - the orange groves - and they're disappearing at an alarming rate! It's great to see them captured on film, and I hope they get preserved in other ways too!

The thing I dig about this video - and there are so many things I dig about it, but I love how it kicks my butt to get my own work online. Sound bites I've figured out and have no trouble with, but my career is an especially visual medium, and I need to get some of the short films I've done online.
"Sincerely Yours" would be a sweet treat, and I just got footage from the Hitchcock-inspired thriller, "Everyday" which is going to be shown this Friday night at 7:30 at the TISCH New Visions & Voices Intermediate Film Festival.

I also have decent clips of my work as Judy Garland in the musical Hell's Belles so I need to get crackin!

If you live in So. Cal and want to catch Hippie Cream, they're playing tonight at The Airliner at 9 PM.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Enjoying the Process

One of my friends was laid-off from his regular job right before Christmas, and he's just been starting to get job interviews lately. He's been nervous, but has been gathering his courage, putting himself out there, and I've been encouraging him to take pride in himself and his skillset.

It made me think about how much auditions are like job interviews. Instead of talking "qualifications" (and you may end up doing that if you get to talking about your resume with the director or casting director), I perform with a song, monologue, or read from the "sides" (the script for the show). And the thing I've been discovering lately - thanks to 3 really amazing teachers (VP Boyle, Karen Kohlhaas, and Deloss Brown) - is that I now really love auditioning. It's my two minutes to do what I really love to do. And yes, I'd love to get the job, but if I go into an audition with only that at the forefront of my mind, I'd be like a lot of people out there in the job market, besieged with the anxieties that come with the "get the job" mentality.

Learning to love auditioning is like learning to love your job interview
. Why not enjoy that? Why not take pride in yourself and what you have to offer? Why not enjoy the growth process that comes from every interview? Why not boost that growth rate by taking classes to nurture yourself along your path?

My friend Tina would definitely say, "Look back and applaud yourself for what you have accomplished."

It's not about "them," those people across the table, conducting the job interview/audition. I mean, they're people too, and we're all in this together. Who knows what's on their plate or what they're dealing with as they try to fill this position? We don't. All we can do is put ourselves out there and support ourselves in this brave move to "show up."

But you know what else? We can enjoy it! We can learn from it! We can let it delight us!

Each audition lately has been an absolute gift, giving me the chance to perform and connect with others in unexpected ways and giving me the chance to love and appreciate myself and my process and what I have to give!

Karen Kohlhaas taught me this amazing thing called the "Big and Slow" entrance and exit. The minute we walk into a room (and I really believe this is for any interview, artistic or otherwise), we're on display. No wonder everyone feels absolutely nerve-wracked walking into an interview room! But there is a way to deal with it, to go into the room and to exit the room "big and slow" and to create that sense that you are amongst friends. It'd be unfair to detail it here since it's part of Karen's teaching process, so I highly suggest getting Karen's book, The Monologue Audition to get the details of how to do this. Needless to say, it's a mindset. It's how we talk to ourselves before, after and during an interview.

There's also a really helpful list at the beginning of Karen's book that defines everything within your control and everything not in your control (about auditioning). It really is absolutely brilliant and I believe can be of help to people who are simply in the job interview process. Realize what's in your control and what's not and forget about what isn't. :)

There's also a really great checklist at the end of the book that allows you to give yourself healthy feedback on what you've done in the audition/interview. It helps to assess where and how we're growing and how we want to grow. It's a delicious journey!

The more I work to my satisfaction, the more I challenge myself to really bring what I have to bring to the table, and to get out of my own way, the more I am having an absolute BLAST!

I hope you are enjoying your process and find great satisfaction and success in your work.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

In Love with Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
- William Shakespeare - Sonnet #116.

I've always loved that sonnet. It has been with me since I first read Shakespeare in high school. And how much richer the words seem now!

After college, I was hired for the Shakespearean acting troupe for the PA Renaissance Faire. We were taught the Bard's language, Elizabethan history, and improv coupled with the Bard's words. Hence: Shakespearean improvisation. Very cool.

Iambic pentameter was taught to me by Vivian Hasbrouk, a great teacher and actress who ended up getting into casting. Hearing the rhythm of how Shakespeare's verse was to be metered out was such an insight! Especially since my training originated in musical theatre, I could easily feel the rhythm.

Tonight the learning continues! :) I have class with Deloss Brown, former Juilliard professor and current teacher at NYU. I began my studies with him last week, and I am enjoying every minute of it!

We're working on King Lear, and I am surprised at how insatiable I am with the material. I've always loved Shakespeare, but have tended to go more for the comedies like Midsummer Night's Dream or Much Ado About Nothing. But Lear... wow! "Lear" literally means "learning," and was olde English of "lere a lesson," meaning to teach (learn) a lesson.

Shakespeare's King Lear is filled with lessons and the tragedy of learning too late.

You'd think this would be heavy fare, but it's fascinating, and Deloss teaches with such insight and good humor. We met the royal family last week in Act 1 scene 1. Tonight we meet the villain, Edmund.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Blue Rose

When I was a kid, I used to love to watch the Family Film Festival on Saturday afternoons. There was usually some fantastic adventure movie on, and one that I loved was a story about a princess who is cursed by an evil sorcerer and can only be saved if her valiant sweetheart finds and gives her the magical, one-and-only blue rose.

Sadly, I can't remember the name of this film, so if anyone knows it, please share! :) The story was so powerful and fantastical and the hero goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations to get this magical blue rose to save his lady and his love.

Not to be a spoiler, but he gets it and just as he's about to give it to her, the rose is destroyed. The kingdom absolutely despairs, but the princess rises up from her sick-bed, and takes a white rose from the garden and says, "If you love me, then this is the blue rose!"

Sure enough, they kiss and the rose turns into a beautiful blue rose cradled gently in her fingers.

Well, today I saw a blue rose at the corner grocery. A lot of delis in NY have rows of flowers that you can buy outside their shops, and when I saw this blue rose, I just had to have it. It doesn't matter if it's "not real." In fact, if anything, the fairytale above just goes to show that any rose has the power to bloom and be whatever we want it to be. If we believe.

And of course, I've been getting comments from strangers all over town, saying, "Wow! Is that a blue rose???"

It's magic, I tell ya.

And I feel like a rose myself. I feel like I'm blooming! With each audition I hit, with each class I take, with each show I see, with each play I read, each song I sing, I feel so full of potential and possibilities.

I feel like the blue rose in bloom. :)