Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comedy Tonight!

When I was a kid, I had a penchant for drama. No wonder I became an actress! :)

But I also loved to write stories! In elementary school, I didn't wait for the latest class play to surface. I wrote my own plays for my classmates and I to perform. I even got my brother in on the act!

Small wonder I've felt the call the write lately.

After college, I mostly wrote dramatic fare. I consolidated the novel, "The Phantom of the Opera," into a 30 minute playlet for The Edgar Allan Poe festival in PA. In NY, I penned a 10 minute piece called CHEER which ran with The Vagina Monologues for V-Day NY, and my last piece was a one woman show called "Love in 35 Minutes," which was wrapped around love and musical theatre.

Lately, since I've found myself consistently cast in comic roles, I've been taking sketch comedy classes at The PIT to strengthen my funny bone. My latest class has been on the basics of writing sketches. Some of my favorite actors are also writers - like Christopher Lloyd, Emma Thomspon, Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell - so I keep thinking of something my husband says: "Learning one skill can strengthen another."

From an acting perspective, I've found that by exploring the formula of a comic scene, I'm clearer on my own work as an actor. But writing it is definitely different! It's made me open my ears and hear how people talk to each other, hearing the patter and patterns, "finding the funny."

The biggest lesson I've learned is that comedy has to be honest. You can't push a joke at people, or... you can try, but then it's not as funny. Stand-up might be different, but for comic acting, I've learned it has to come from an honest place.

The thing I'm digging about comedy writing is the sense of colloboration. I also love how the halls between the studios simply echo with laughter. That is such a gift, and it makes going to class an absolute blast!

So I'm off to join my fellow artists in revelry and comic learning. :) Happy Trails!

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Have you ever picked up a book that just enchanted you?

I'm currently in the midst of The Girl Who Chased The Moon, and it is such a delightful read! I don't want to put it down! It actually makes me look forward to riding the subway, because that's when I have time to dive into this beautiful book!

It's the story of Emily, a 17-year-old girl who goes to live with her giant grandfather in the fictional small town of Mullaby, North Carolina. And when I say giant, I mean her grandfather is 8 feet tall!

It's a whimsical element that makes me think of the movie Big Fish, and like that fanciful tale, The Girl Who Chased the Moon is full of magic and the uniqueness of perspective.

There's a mysterious wealthy family who can't come out at night. There's a charming baker, Julia, who hides a piece of pink hair behind her ear (from her youth as a punk rocker). She also runs her father's BBQ and has her own story she's trying to piece together. Her refuge is in the cakes she bake that fill the book with such sweet scents. Truly, I swear I could smell Julia's Milky Way cake, or her Hummingbird Cake:

"It was made with bananas and pineapples and pecans and had a cream cheese frosting... She would make it light enough to float away."

I actually bought the book because of the Amazon interview the author gave regarding the giant of her novel:

"I remember when I first wrote elderly Vance Shelby into The Girl Who Chased the Moon. He walked into a room and had to duck under the doorframe. I knew then that this was no ordinary man. This was a giant. But how tall was too tall? When would real become unreal? It’s a fine line. I began to research gigantism and discovered the tallest man in history for whom there is irrefutable medical proof: Robert Pershing Wadlow, the Giant of Illinois. At the time of his death at the young age of 22, Wadlow was almost nine feet tall. It’s a stunning number, isn’t it? Nine feet tall. I pored over old film and audio interviews from the 1930s, trying to get a feel for what his life was like, so I could present with veracity this magically tall man in my story. What I discovered was a soft-spoken gentle giant whose legs were so long he walked like he was on stilts, whose body listed to the side like a skyscraper made of soft wood instead of concrete. But he was always smiling, accepting the stares and the requests for photos good-naturedly as he toured with Ringling Brothers and the International Shoe Company. He never hid himself away. He mingled among regular-sized people like he knew he had to savor every moment. And maybe he did know. Maybe he was tall enough to see into tomorrow.

In honor of Wadlow, I took all that I thought a young giant might wish for--a long life, a wife, a family, a place that accepted him as he was, where he was just another town oddity--and I gave it to elderly Vance Shelby in The Girl Who Chased the Moon. And as an old giant, Vance looks back on a life he always wanted to be extraordinarily small, and finds that it was exactly the size it needed to be. Which I think might be truth for us all."
--Sarah Addison Allen

If you're looking for a lovely book with small-town charm and whiffs of magic, check out this novel.

The author also has an interactive website which details parts of the fictional town of Mullaby and offers Julia's cake recipes! :)


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Benefit Concert for The Trevor Project

Last week, I had the immense pleasure of performing in a concert of original music by composer-lyricist, Andy Monroe. This concert was a benefit for The Trevor Project  (preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth) and was a catalogue of Andy's music, some of it performed by Andy himself.

Andy and I worked together a few years ago on the musical, The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun. I played the title character and won the NYMF Award of Excellence.

I sang a song from The Singing Nun and from one of Andy's other works, "Chasing Garbo," based on the 1980s film, Garbo Talks. It was an incredible treat to perform this material, simply because Andy's music is so much fun!

And I was in great company! My co-star from The Singing Nun, Tracey Gilbert, sang a song from the show, and it made me nostalgic to play these characters again. They're such sweetheart heroines!

Jeannine Frumness performed a song from the award-winning Off Broadway show, The Kid, and Matt Hardy sang the title song. Jeannine then joined Jon-Michael Reese and Raissa Katona Bennett in Andy's latest project, Drive.

Raissa had played Christine in Phantom, and I got such a thrill out of that because it was the first musical I saw when I moved to Manhattan.

Marc Beja and Kate O'Boyle Anderson sang a song from Sally Peaches, and Kate joined Tracey, Jon-Michael, Matt Hardy and Kevin Dozier for Andy's 15 minute musical The Life and Times of Joe Jefferson Blow.

Zach Berger (above right with Jon-Michael Reese) played the title role in this charming musical about the birth, life and death of a simple man who wanted to do great things. Zach was also my partner in Chasing Garbo, and it was such a delight to work with him.

The entire evening was hosted by Andy's partner, George DeMarco (far right with Kevin Dozier, David Gerard and his partner), and we ended the night by singing "Happy Birthday" to Andy. It was a gift to share so much love and music with such talented artists.

Happy Birthday, Andy! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Joy of Doing What You Love

I had an audition for a Broadway show today, and it felt fabulous! It was one of those auditions where nervousness is replaced by sublime joy and the excitement of simply doing what you love.

I could hear the pianist, creating beautiful music for the girls in front of me, and that thrilled me. There's something so delicious about the combination of a voice and a piano.

Across the hall there were male singers auditioning for "Camelot." Potential Lancelots and Mordreds were singing their hearts out.

Then it was my turn. I went in on a wave of joy, delighted to be there and to be singing a song I love (thanks, Chas Elliot)! The accompanist grooved right along with me and it felt like we were playing together, making music and having a grand ol' time.

Ya gotta love auditions like that where you're making music with someone so talented. It makes the room feel like a painter's canvas, and I get to paint the room with my song.

I love to sing, and I've been doing a lot of it lately in preparation for Wednesday's Benefit Concert. I feel so fortunate to be working and playing with such talented artists.

Every day feels lush with opportunity to keep doing that! :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Music by Andy Monroe - for The Trevor Porject

This week I'll be performing in a concert of music written by Andy Monroe, who recently won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Musical Off Broadway for The Kid.

Andy and I worked together a few years ago on the musical The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun, which also won various awards, including the NYMF Award for Outstanding Individual Performance, of which I was the lucky recipient.

Andy's music is wonderfully contemporary, and I feel so incredibly honored to be performing in this concert with such talented performers, including Andy himself.

I'll be singing songs from The Singing Nun as well as another show Andy wrote called Chasing Garbo, based on the 1980s film Garbo Talks.

Other performers include my Singing Nun co-star, Tracey Gilbert; cast mates from The Kid, Jeannine Frumess and Zach Berger (my partner in Chasing Garbo), Marc Beja, Kate O'Boyle Anderson, Matt Hardy, Raissa Katona Bennett, Kevin Dozier, and Jon-Michael Reese.

This sold out concert is a benefit for The Trevor Project.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Central Park on the 4th of July

It was a gorgeous day in Central Park today. Everyone seemed so uplifted, enjoying this fun summer day.

There were musicians everywhere! As I walked towards the famed Bethesda Fountain, I heard the sounds of Vivaldi, played beautifully on the violin. Lo and behold, there was an older woman with silver hair playing the instrument with pure passion.

I love that a statue of Shakespeare was behind her, taking in the scene.

Further down the path, there was a Peruvian pipe band, a solo saxophone player, and then a fun jazz band, which was surrounded by a very big group.

These were some sweet sounds, I tell ya! And I was heartily inspired by all the music. I went home and practiced my songs for an upcoming benefit concert July 13th. But first I continued my walk through the park.

I came upon a turtle laying her eggs near the famous lake where rowboats abound. It was so incredible to see her so close! She was protected by a low wire fence, but I definitely could have touched her if I wanted to. She was practically at my feet!

I was amazed that Turtle was crossing my path yet again... laying her eggs no less! It was truly an amazing sight!

Then I headed home, walking with a horse and carriage on my way out of the park. It was a such a lovely Independence Day. Hope yours was just as sweet.

Turtles and Travels

This past weekend, my husband and I flew out to CA to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday, and it was such a fun trip. It started with an early flight that was delayed because of a turtle crossing. I kid you not.

Over 100 turtles were making their way across the tarmac to lay their eggs on the sandy shores of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. And you know what was neat? No one on the plane complained about the delay. Everyone thought it was cool! Mother Nature at work.

I'm a descendent of the Cherokee tribe and have always felt an affinity for totem animals, so the appearance of turtles seemed like such a cool omen. Turtle "is the personification of Mother Earth." She teaches us to "honor the creative source within you, be grounded to the Earth, and observe your situation with Motherly compassion."

With this spirit in mind, we flew to CA and had a great time. It was a really quick trip - we only had a few days - but I wanted to be out there to celebrate my mom's special birthday.

As I watch my parents age, I am so mindful of how precious each day is. My mom was a little unnerved about turning 60, but my husband was telling her what an accomplishment it is to have had 60 years of adventures! And there's more to come! Plus my mom looks 50 anyway. She is still so beautiful, and I'm glad she is my mother and my friend.

Concluding our trip, my honey and I headed back home to NY. There weren't any turtles on the tarmac this time, but there were turtles on TV, and I had to smile at that.