Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Power of a Good Book

With the invention of Kindle and other electronic book-keepers, I must stand out in the crowd, toting around the hard-cover book, Bossypants by Tina Fey. Not only is the cover an eye-grabber, but it's so different from the electronic devices most people are hunched over in the subway.

I was tempted to call this blog, "The Power of Tina Fey," because I've had more strangers ask me about this book, and it's neat because there's been no limit of age, race, or gender regarding the people who've expressed interest in this book. I feel like this book creates a sense of harmony and unity through humor. 

Two gals on the subway made my ride home very entertaining, asking me about the book and talking about the movie "Date Night." They couldn't remember the leading man in that movie, so I happily told them it was Steve Carell, who is a favorite of mine.

One gal said she wanted to read Bossypants while the other said she was more into thrillers. I should've said, "Well, Tina Fey's exploits at summer camp were definitely thrilling! Lots of teen angst!...Or the story of her getting Oprah on 30 Rock while juggling her Sarah Palin impersonation was a rollercoaster ride!" But I had to get off the train.

Still, I have to tell you, it's a very fun read! The stories from her childhood, stories of her parents, it's easy to relate to. And as a performer myself, it was inspiring to read of her growth as an improv performer with Second City to a writer/performer for SNL, and of course, her adventures at 30 Rock.

There are also some wonderful gems like "The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Bellyfat." Since I'm working on sketch comedy with The People's Improv Theatre (the PIT), it has special meaning to me:

1) AGREE and "respect what your partner has created." Can you imagine what an awesome world it would be it we all agreed to help each other instead of saying, "No, we can't do that."
2) Say "YES, AND," which means, "Don't be afraid to contribute. Your initiations are worthwhile."
3) MAKE STATEMENTS instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a surgeon who says, "I'm going to be your surgeon?"
4) THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. "In improv, there are no mistakes, only happy accidents."
And I'm going to add this one:
5) NO LIMITS! Everyone has something to contribute. Everyone has ideas. There are enough roles and enough shows for everyone. And the cool thing is, you can make your own show! So don't be afraid to play and put your work out there.

It's like climbing the ladder to jump off the high dive. Don't be afraid to jump in!

Come on in! The water's fine! :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Sings!

And so do I! :)

I really love this time of year. Everything is in bloom - the trees, the flowers - it's all so radiant!

This year my husband and I can hear the birds from our apartment on the 19th floor, and that's really a treat. There's nothing like birdsong to lift the spirits.

In fact, everything seems to be singing, so it makes perfect sense that I have some musical showcases coming up.

Tomorrow I'm singing in a presentation of new musicals at BMI's Theatre program. I've done a few performances there before, working with Andy Monroe and Jack Lechner on early songs for The Kid, and it's always a blast to hear new musicals in progress. I'm delighted to be singing a very fun piece tomorrow by Glenn Basset and Adam Cohen.

In May, I'm singing for composer Scott Frankel in a performance helmed by Alaine Alldaffer of Playwright's Horizons.

And on May 26 I'm performing at The People's Improv Theatre. I'm doing a sketch written by The Kids in the Hall. It's not a musical show, but it's comedy, and it's VERY fun! And who knows? Music might just happen there too! ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Beauty of Broadway's "War Horse"

I've seen a lot of shows in the Big Apple. I saw Michael Crawford as The Phantom, Sutton Foster as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jane Fonda in 33 Variations, Edie Falco in This Wide Night, and Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel in Wicked.

I've also been fortunate to perform and share the stage with some Broadway A-listers as well, which is beyond surreal.

The thing I love about theatre is its ability to transport an audience, to create a communal experience: a live experience that becomes emblazoned on the hearts and minds of the people who share it.

Tonight I had the privilege of sharing in Lincoln Center's production of War Horse. It was probably the best thing I have ever seen! Absolutely magical! Everything a Broadway show should be. Larger than life and moving beyond words. At least this audience member was moved!

The artistry was amazing! The horses were brought to life by 3 puppeteers per horse, and they all were exceptional. The puppets and puppeteers were truly "one." The fellow who controlled the head of the horse, for example, his face mirrored the horse's emotions. And all 3 puppeteers breathed and moved as the horse. It was astounding!

As one reviewer said, "They weren't puppets. They were horses!"

I can see why Steven Spielberg is making a film of this play based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo. The story is epic and excellently crafted. Plus it's so cinematic!

As directed by Tom Morris and Marianne Elliott, the story was brought to life onstage with an incredible cast and crew. At times the stage seemed bare, but there was this marvelous backdrop that looked like a torn page (from history, perhaps) and video pieces would play on this backdrop, adding to the depth of perception already at work.

The music was GORGEOUS! Two singers created that old English sound with a touch of Celtic flavor that was rousing to the spirit and mind.  

Adapted by Nick Stafford, the play is about the First World War as told through the eyes of a horse named Joey. Joey starts out free and unfettered but becomes a draft horse and develops a bond with a farm boy named Albert. When Albert's father sells Joey to the British army, Albert goes on a heroic journey to bring his horse home. That may sound sentimental, but it was beautiful and very effective. At one point, one of the soldiers says to Albert, "we're all fighting for something." And indeed, we are!

This production of War Horse is not to be missed! It is truly one of the best pieces on Broadway!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do Cartwheels

while you still can :)

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Tale of Two Wolves

(From Jack Plotnick's site, New Thoughts for Actors: The Power of Thought: "Focus on the Positive.")

One day, a grandfather was talking to his grandson.  "There are two wolves living inside my head," he told the boy.

Naturally, the boy was alarmed to hear this. 

The grandfather explained that, "One wolf is angry, vicious and full of fear, while the other one is loving, sweet and playful. And they are at war."

Fearfully, the boy asked, "Which one will win?"

To which the wise grandfather replied, "The one I feed."

"We all have two wolves in our head.  We all have an ego/vulture and our true (loving) voice. The negative or the positive;  which one will you feed?"
- Jack Plotnick

If you haven't visited Jack's site yet, do yourself a favor and GO! It's a treasure trove!

I love this parable, because for me it has double-meaning. Wolves are considered to be "the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas" in the American Indian culture. "Wolf medicine empowers the teacher within us to come forth and share knowledge." Also, Wolf teaches us to "see your teacher within (yourself)... Look for teachings no matter where you are."
- Jamie Sams and David Carson

This is ironic because I'm starting 2 new classes next week: a comedy class at The Pit and a musical theatre class with Alaine Alldaffer (Playwright's Horizons). I'm excited about both, and I feel that message, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

I also feel the yen to get my own work out there in the form of a one woman show and short films for YouTube. I also have a webseries I'd like to film for some friends, which will be a learning process unto itself. :)

So.... I 'm ready!

Endless thanks to Jack Plotnick for sharing so many wonderful lessons and discoveries!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lessons in Las Vegas

My husband and I went to Vegas last week. He had business, and I had the pleasure of accompanying him there.

I haven't been to Vegas since I was a kid and my folks would take us to Circus Circus. Boy, has the place changed! It was absolute decadence!

We stayed at The Palazzo, which was connected to The Venetian, and right next door to The Wynn. I'd recommend all 3 hotels, because they are GORGEOUS! Talk about living large!

We were wined and dined, and amidst all of it, I had these really cool epiphanies:

1) Live the life you want NOW.

By behaving as if you have what you want, you draw it to you. When you get hooked into longing for something, you can fall into the trap of keeping everything at arm's length. But if you imagine having what you want right now, notice how good that feels. When you play with that feeling, you are living the life you want, and inviting that deliciousness in!

2) A tale's success depends on how you spin it. A story can either be a comedy or a tagedy, depending on how you spin it. How do you want to tell your stories?

3) Celebrate Each Victory! Each step is important as you climb the ladder of success, and you can either celebrate each step or be dismissive of your progress. Why not celebrate it? EVERY step forward, towards your goal, is a victory and can be celebrated!

4) Take time to rest, relax, and recharge your batteries. Both my guy and I were working so hard in NY that we weren't taking time to stop to smell the roses. Ironically, at The Palazzo, there were butterflies made from roses! They adorned the fountains and indoor waterfalls.

I loved strolling the canals from The Palazzo to The Venetian. There was something so calm and luxurious about it all.

And THE SPA! Oh my gosh! Now I understand why people have full spa days! My husband and I discovered the joys of the Canyon Ranch Spa, and it was sheer heaven! There were all sorts of unique "suites" called Aquavana. These rooms ranged from saunas to steam rooms, jacuzzi, lounges and a Wave Room, which I adored! It was a cool blue room with chairs that lounged back, making you feel weightless.

My husband loved the Experiential Rains (above), and we both loved the Herbal Laconium, a tiled room that was so wonderfully heated. I also lounged in the Salt Grotto, which was made of smooth reclining "rocks," had a gentle, bubbling fountain and was filled with "sea air." Luscious!

It simply replenished our bodies, minds and spirits.

Viva Las Vegas! ;)

How to Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

My brother sent this link to me today, and I had to share it:

"All the world’s a stage. You need a stage and you need a costume and you need a script. The stage is your workspace. It can be a studio, a desk, or a sketchbook. The costume is your outfit, your painting pants, or your writing slippers, or your funny hat that gives you ideas. The script is just plain old time. An hour here, or an hour there. A script for a play is just time measured out for things to happen.

"Fake it ’til you make it."

And have fun! ;)

Friday, April 01, 2011

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong
man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is
marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who
comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and
shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows
great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy
cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that
his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know
victory nor defeat."  - Theodore Roosevelt

(with thanks to Gwyn from The Actor's Market)