Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion (And a Happy New Year)

"I love you more!" "NO--I love YOU more!"*

Once upon a time before I was getting a masters in devised theatre, I spent about a year as a member of Wide Eyed Productions, first running the light board on their production of The Medea, then as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (that's me above with Benedick--Brian Floyd--squaring off in the "I love nothing so well as you" scene), and again running the light board this past summer for their production of A Devil Inside. Company member Jerrod Bogard cut together a little video of three of their shows (Medea, Much Ado, and this past fall's Phedre) for grant submissions, and thanks to the glory that is Youtube, you too can hear me speak just a little snippet of pre-established (and classical!) text, and see some lights that I controlled. Also the song's awful pretty. Go here.

And happy New Year.

*Photo by Amy Lee Pearsall

Sunday, December 28, 2008


If I was a more honest person, I'd wax poetical all day and all night about the VAST enthusiasm that fills me every time I see art I really like. I'd proclaim it to the heavens, dance in the street, herald it to the masses, and probably even cry (like I did within the first ten minutes of Wall-E--BOTH times!). But I put up a front because often I fear I'll look like a child if I'm caught enjoying anything. And living in New York for a while hasn't done much in terms of making me a more openly enthusiastic person.

Well, friends, today this ends, twofold. First, I found out I got a belated ticket to Improbable's annual theatre forum Devoted and Disgruntled. My love of the theatre company knows no bounds (at least, I've yet to find the boundary yet) and ever since I dug around their website after the awe-inspiring production of Satyagraha I caught at the Met last year, I can honestly say I have been waiting for the opportunity to go to this event since April. I am so psyched! But there's a glitch: I arrive back in England the morning of the event. It starts at 10AM, and I get into Heathrow at 8:45. What is it with me and the close calls re: continental travel? Seriously, I need an assistant. Not to mention the jet lag I'm going to be dealing with those two days. Also, I never sleep on planes. But it will be worth it, I just know it!

(Hear those famous last words?)

Maybe I'll try to change my ticket. I need to stop living at extremes.

The second thing I'd like to gush about today is The Wrestler. I caught it the other night at one of my favorite smaller art house cinemas in NYC, and loved it. I hated the last Aronofsky film (HATED it) and despite my complete adoration of Requim for a Dream, I wasn't sure I could ever trust that man again. But now my fears are all allayed. The topic of the film seems almost ludicrous, and as someone who used to watch professional wrestling a lot (I was doing it so I would have something to talk about with a boy--lame I know, but who here isn't guilty of that sort of thing at least a few times in their lives) I wasn't too sure what I would gain from watching this movie. Of course, the film doesn't deal with the more recognizable, more commercial version of professional wrestling that blew up about nine or ten years ago, but the time that comes after the fall of fame for one wrestler, played with the most beautiful honesty by Mickey Rourke. For serious guys: he was really freakin' good. I haven't seen a performance like this in a while, probably not since Javier Bardem in A Sea Inside. If you know anything about Mickey Rourke's career, the film takes on an extra life beyond the screen when you watch his character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, dealing with the seeming futility of his life. (Oh, Mickey Rourke...) Clint Mansell's scoring is really sparse, and Aronofsky keeps most of the film silent, with an occassional rush when Randy puts his hearing aid on. It's a really nice choice, and makes the movie more realistic, less melodramatic or sweeping which seems to be the effect of the scores to the other Aronofsky films I've seen (never caught Pi--I know, I know, I have no integrity).

The director also made a really interesting choice in having the camera follow his subject from behind, obscuring his face for most of the beginning of the movie--this sense of following close behind Randy, joining him on his day to day journey, and also creating a sense of distance between the character and the audience by denying us his face. The proverbial "they" always talk about the psychological association that a viewer experiences when watching a film: if you see someone looked scared, you experience fear; if you see someone with a smile on their face, you feel at ease. We recognize ourselves and our own feelings in characters. It's a natural, more basic, more psychological extension of empathy, really. This is something I've brought up briefly before re: my interest in exploring how to create this effect on the body using people on stage (perhaps a little more next term) and it's really great to see such an effective example of this.

(Quick side note: I seem to be pre-occupied with adapting filmic qualities for the stage. This seems ludicrous for a lot of reasons I needn't list here, mostly because some are so painfully obvious. But the big piece of feedback I got from my peers on my final solo performance piece for the term (which you will not see here because of my fear of artistic plagiarism, but I will grant special viewings for those who request them) was that my work was very "filmic." I don't know if that was meant as a compliment, an insult, or if it was a strict observation. But that's what was said.)

But anyway, yes: great film, go out and see it today.

And now to discover the cost of a flight change...

Friday, December 26, 2008

The longest pause...

Harold Pinter died two days ago. I only found out last night from my news feed on the Facebook, of all places. <--Why is it Facebook seems to be the only way to know what is happening in people's lives? Recently, I had yet ANOTHER friend announce their engagement there before I heard it from them. What is that about? I confess to being just as addicted to the social networking site as much as anyone else, but for frak's sake people, pick a phone already. I want to hear it from you directly, not just because I spent my afternoon stalking you online.


I love Pinter, and I can honestly say that he was the second playwright to actually make me think about what theatre can do, and more specifically how text can shape an entire show/performance. I first read The Homecoming my freshman year in college, and before him no playwright had really left an impression on me other than Shakespeare, who by then I had been acquainted with for about six or seven years. Reading that play blew my mind, and for one of the first times I actually started thinking about how modern theatre could do exactly what classical theatre did for me, but in an entirely opposite way. They say that with Shakespeare the characters live on the line--most classical has this reputation, that there's no "internal life" necessarily, because everyone is running around telling the audience exactly how they feel all of the time, usually using beautiful imagery, etc. But then came Pinter and his pauses, where he showed you exactly how a character was feeling, but in a completely different way: by having them say nothing at all. Or by having them talk around what was happening, about things that didn't seem to be connected to the plot or stage action at all (which may have been one of the reasons The Birthday Party only played eight performances). Actors have to be completely grounded in those characters so it makes sense to them (and hopefully at least some of the audience) why they can do one thing on stage while saying something else. This seems like an obvious point for anyone who's had any kind of acting training, particularly when we talk about any play that we respect as having subtext. But I submit that often, especially with a writer like Pinter, this doesn't happen. Or doesn't happen fully, because he's pretty tough. (Another writer this happens with easily is Mamet, who by his own account seems to completely dismiss the actor in terms of the play, other than being a vessel for his {Mamet's} words. I think that's unfair: when Mamet's plays are done well, it's usually because the actors are smart enough and talented enough to actually understand what to do to make his text completely comprehensible to a spectator's ear. Otherwise, it could turn out to be a real mess. {Sorry Mamet, but fuck off.<--It's okay, he'd find that endearing.}) But when it does, oh what theatrical magic! What resonant moments that can happen on stage! What interesting stylistic choices! I just love it.

A more personal reason for lamenting the loss of Pinter is that this past October he was named president of Central, having also been an alumni of the institution. In a way, we belonged to him, and he belonged to the students who were running around in his old house, so to speak. We are meant to carry on the reputation of the school, part of which he established, and we thought he'd be around to shepherd us a bit. I'm sad we won't have that opportunity. I am interested to see what kind of memorial or tribute the school pays to him when we get back--he already has his name on one of the steps, so I'm sure that won't be it. I also wonder if his passing will re-inject his theatrical sensibility in any of the work my peers and I come to generate. Maybe the most fitting tribute would just be subjecting an audience to watching two characters stand in silence.

He might.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

I want to be a part of it.

Stepping off NJ transit last night, out into the flurries, out into the cold, the noise, the crisp winter air, the lights, the traffic, the tourists mucking up maneuverability on the sidewalks, the ease with which profanity left my lips when my bag would stall in a crack or someone got in my way or said something obnoxious, standing in line for a taxi and then my driver hitting on me, telling me not to let anyone else drive me up to Connecticut this weekend (I am not going to Connecticut this weekend), spending the night in some body's loft, I had to ask myself:

Why did I ever leave New York?

I went to yoga this morning (one of the perks of being home is actually subbing at my old work, which is great as I need monies and some peace of mind indeed) and someone came in right before class started and asked me to move my mat so they could fit. Instantly I was full of resentment--"Why didn't you get here earlier? Why don't you ask somebody else to move? Don't you understand the nature of New York real estate, bitch?" I'm a volatile yogini, I know. Of course I moved, but having that moment of spite for something as simple as that reiterated for me the fact that people don't change. They really don't. I'm still the same hyper-competitive, driven, incredibly susceptible to stress girl that I was when I left. I still have the same prejudices (Seriously: I hate it when people ask me to move my mat. HATE. IT.), still enjoy the same things, the same company, and still miss the same people I seem to have misplaced. You can take the girl out of New York, but...

I haven't adjusted to England yet. There are too many parts of myself that I'm not certain what to do with in terms of that city. The truth is, there I will always be an outside: an American with a different urban sensibility who talks funny. And here, well, I'm exactly what makes up this place.

Still, New York doesn't feel like home anymore. Events have happened in my friends' lives that I haven't been around for, and other things (people included) have simply moved on without me. And it's not like I actually have a home here. The biggest "Huh" moment I had leaving London was looking at my empty key ring. My parents had just moved (again) and I didn't have a key to their new home, and there were of course no apartment keys resting there, having waited months for use again. I had already turned in my halls keys to the front desk when I checked out, in an effort to get reimbursed for the days I would not be staying there. So there I was, without any ties to any place. And it was strange. New York feels familiar--like some old lover we can pick up the dance right where we left off. But it's not home. And neither is England--not yet, anyway.

And where is the art in this discussion? Non-existent it seems. Except that your surroundings influence your output, and having a place to rest is the first step to being able to think clearly. And thinking clearly helps you see, and create, and all that good stuff. I left New York because I felt stifled, artistically and in life generally. In England I feel mostly lost and alone, but on the brink of something great that I can only discover by myself (for some reason, this last bit seems to be the most true thing I know), though in part aided by others. So how do you make art that is grounded in anything, when you yourself are not? And what changes that?

I guess we'll find out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

As if things couldn't get any better...

...several friends old and new reached out to me today to lend support, an ear, a shoulder, and even offered monies. Thank you all. And the best news is:

Someone found my wallet. I should be able to pick it up as soon as I arrange a meeting place with said savior.

But thanks to my parents, to the Central staff (who I've no doubt will not read this), and to my England (not all of them English) friends who supported me through the day during a huge time of trauma. And thank you to Amy and Sean for your online support!

Just remember the Killers: "Everything will be all right..."

As if things couldn't get any worse... I lost my wallet.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"It feels like Christmas"

Truth be told, I hate December. Nothing makes me feel worse than the cold, the dark, and the holiday stress: between seeing an overwhelming amount of people, the amount of money spent (especially when one has so little to start with--will the impoverished artistic existence ever end?), and the feeling of never being able to give enough...yeah, it takes a lot for me to really savor the season, as it were.

So for me, the spirit of the season never really starts until I see A Muppet Christmas Carol for the first time. Today I went with some classmates to see the movie, which was playing at the Barbican Centre--a HUGE arts complex, placed in the middle of a strange place. The buildings that surround the Barbican creates a microcosm in the middle of London, designed in tones of Orwell. But there are flowers. Weird. But the Barbican Centre is a remarkable place, host to some pretty remarkable work, as well as a family film series. This program was the (brilliant) reason the movie was showing. I haven't seen the movie on the big screen since it came out in 1992 when I was in the third grade, but I watch it every year, multiple times, know every line and song by heart, and it never ceases to pick me up. I love that there are some pieces of art that stick with us always as something we cherish and remind us of what's really important in life, and what we can do to make our existence a little easier. It's good to remember, to paraphrase the Muppets, to carry the love we find so we're never quite alone. I hope to carry the love I've found over this past year from friends and family to make this season go by a little easier, and I hope you can all do the same.

And now, to more X-mas shopping...


Thursday, December 4, 2008

The kind of thing I can only say during my course work:

When discussing a collegue's solo piece the other day, I caught myself saying: "Well, maybe strike the dinosaur, but keep what you were doing with the orange."*
*Upon seeing the dinosaur, I hope she keeps it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Insomnia" wasn't a terrible movie...

...but it's a bitch to have.

Have been kept awake the past week longer and later than expected, continually due to, I expect, undue stress from school. We'll start Week 9 of 10 on Monday, and at the end of it we need to present our 8 minute piece. I've been worried about it, and in true fashion I've given it more importance in my life than it probably deserves, staying up late at night/into the early morning trying to figure out how to nail it. Consequently I've been exhausted most days and a little more irritable than I'd like.

I also have two other projects I need to start this week, to be presented at the end of Week 10. The first is a three minute solo piece of our own devising, where we use something we have (either on the physical body, or something about ourselves) as the stimulus. I really want to resist doing something deep and humanistic, since I believe that to be my reputation in class--though classmates told me today this is not completely true (sometimes I even funny, apparently), which is nice to hear. I thought I'd focus on something a little more flip. So far I have come up with my complete adoration of fried food ("In three minutes I will consume an entire bucket of KFC!") and my current need for David Tennant to be my boyfriend. I need a rough draft to show in class on Thursday, and so far no real revelation. So that's whatever.

The other project is another ensemble piece, this time only amongst other performers. We've been split into two groups, one of seven and one of nine. I'm in the former, and our assigned stimulus is a section of a speech from Heiner Muller's HAMLET-MACHINE:

I don't want to eat drink breathe love a woman a man a child an animal anymore.
I don't want to die anymore. I don't want to kill anymore.
(Tearing of the author's photograph.)
I force open my sealed flesh. I want to dwell in my veins, in the marrow of my bones, in the maze of my skull. I retreat into my entrails. I take my seat in my shit, in my blood. Somewhere bodies are torn apart so I can dwell in my shit. Somewhere bodies are opened so I can be alone with my blood. My thoughts are lesions in my brain. My brain is a scar. I want to be a machine. Arms for grabbing. Legs to walk on, no pain no thoughts.

We haven't started work on this yet, but should have some time during classes this week.

And now, at 4:51 AM, I going to try to go to bed. Again.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holy Homicide, Batman!


It's the third Thursday in November...

If you were wondering what I was up to on Thanksgiving, let some of that question be answered here. The North American Stronghold (the phrase I came up with to describe the massive clump of {mostly} Americans in the program who also pal around with each other) hosted a fine dinner for themselves and some guests at Bostonian Caitlin's flat. Heidi took on the turkey, and bless her, it came out so well. I baked sweet potatoes and apples in a maple syrup and brown sugar glaze, which went over very well. All in all, it was a great night with a lot of food, a lot of wine, good music, friends, and hand turkeys: truly all the things that Thanksgiving is all about.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I just wanna say/I haven't been away/I'm still right here/Where I always was

Give it up to Morrissey, sad as he is, for lyrics that made up the title to this entry. They're appropriate because they're to the song "The Loop," which is the topic of our assignment that will run for the next two weeks. Not the Morrissey song, mind, but the concept of a loop. Here's the brief:

This lab is an experiment in intermediality. It encourages participants to work collaboratively so that their processes both speculative and live can be witnessed.

The materials and the spatial conditions are prescribed so that the focus of the experiment becomes on ‘how’ materials are improvised with and structured to create sequential temporal images. Choreography and music have many models that use these techniques as methods for exploring compositional practice.

There will be 4 companies. Each company is asked to prepare 4 minutes of material that have the same start and end point- hence The Loop.

Basically, the 46 of us have been broken up into four groups and given the same space and same materials in order to complete the assignment. The playing space is set up traverse-ly (unsure of the realness of that word), with the audience on either side of a set that is structured as something that can be likened to a hallway. The objects in the space we've been given and are required to use are:
  • One minute of projection
  • 3 one minute sound cues
  • One men's suit jacket
  • Two chairs
  • One bucket of water
  • One newspaper
  • Three screens that can be projected onto and moved
Here's part of the space:

Now, look to the right:
And from the other side...

It looks almost as two playing spaces sat next to each other. I've taken pictures from either side of each "space" to show the different view points of the audience.

We have to use everything, create a piece that is four minutes long, and then repeat the piece with two different performers (hence the loop). Everything has already been set in the space for us, and it is in those original places we must leave everything at the end of each four minute segment (again, we see the loop). The second group of performers also must conduct the same actions that the first group does in their four minutes--again with the loop!

So the challenges are how to use all of these materials (bodies, objects, media) wisely and well, and create a well-rounded piece. Another idea of focus for the performers is to keep in mind how to make repetitive action distinct--is it simply a matter of making a different person/body perform that action, or are there other things that can/should/need to be applied to bring different meaning to the same moment. And can we get some text in there already--I'd like to talk on stage at some point. ("Someday!") Another thing is the relation the performer has to the audience--in a space that very nearly surrounds the actors with "4th walls" how does that change how a body functions in a space? Or need it change anything at all?

Lots of thoughts, lots of thoughts. Below is a video of some of my group members (including myself) moving around the space during a discovery exercise. Basically we were just trying to get a feel for what we could do in the space and what shapes the space could take on by deconstructing and constructing different environments. The sound you'll hear in the background are some of the cues we're meant to use. Enjoy it--I'm out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The next time you think about giving some one change...

I know, I've been away. Please don't hate--absence makes the heart grow, and all that. More will come, and soon I promise. But for now, please enjoy this.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"I know this man."

After a long week of creating and receiving stimuli, I spent Friday picking up my first day of work in this country. The school was holding an expo on "Documenting Practices," and I was able to usher for a few hours for a little cash (I am a slave to the GBP). The exhibit showcased several examples of documentation of theatre practice--not only taped performance, but pages from sketchbooks of designers, models, photographs, audio renderings of specific performances, taped rehearsals, and journals from Central students from past shows. The larger discussion surrounding all of these "artefacts" was how can one actually document a thing while not actually documenting the thing. No matter how many play texts, production notes, production histories, video recordings, and personal narrative we have surrounding any one piece of theatre, you cannot fully capture any one theatrical performance--it happens live, to and with the people surrounding it in the moment, and then never again. Part of its ephemeral nature is what makes it theatre and not another medium. So while there were different forms of documentation--some of it produced to submit for grants, some the result of the production/artistic process, and some made for the sake of marketing--these things still have some distance from whatever piece they are associated with simply because they are but fragments of a much greater whole.

Some of the notable pieces were:
1) Sketches from Rae Smith's sketchbooks for her scenic design for War Horse.
2) Theatrical models (of people, furniture) placed in various wooden boxes that you were permitted to move and arrange and then photograph. The camera available was hooked up to a computer that would save and display the image on a nearby monitor.
3) Very charming photographs from a clown workshop in Barcelona.
4) The journals of various dramaturgs from the Central/Complicite production of The Boy From Centreville.

It's this last piece that prompted this blog entry. I had remembered seeing the piece mentioned in brief on one of the several flat screen televisions mounted around school, noting past productions and alumni news, but I had somehow forgotten what it had been about. Upon rediscovering the documentation, I realized it was about school shootings, focusing mainly on the Virginia Tech massacre. Flipping through the journals, I found a couple biographies printed off the Internet about some of the victims, and suddenly I was searching desperately through all of the books attached to the shelf with fishing line. I knew Mike Pohle, he was a classmate of mine in middle and high school, and was one of the victims shot and killed that day. I finally found mention of him, but when I did, it was only on a list of names of the 32 victims. It said simply:

"Mike Pohle--23 yr.s old, Flemington, NJ"

I was so offended. There was somebody I knew, somebody who had shared part of my past in a very specific way, reduced to somebody else's stimulus. Now, I must say: Mike and I were not friends, we were acquaintances. We had a lot of mutual friends, but I was not close to him, did not know him intimately. To say otherwise would be a lie. But I knew him to be a really good guy and a great friend to the ones we shared. But I can't claim any great attachment to him, simply because I never knew him that well. But I am certain he was more of a reality to me than any of the people that actually made this piece of theatre, as was "Flemington, NJ," and I was offended. These people, these British people, they had never seen him play lacrosse, they hadn't gone to prom with him, they hadn't had class with him, they hadn't walked at graduation with him, they hadn't gone to his wake and had to tell the media they didn't think their cameras and questions were appropriate outside the funeral home on Main Street. I did that. They didn't. They didn't see his mother that day, or the pictures of him dressed up for the Halloween parade in grade school, amongst all the others of him in his youth that led up to his casket. How dare they think that they could possibly grasp what happened, what had been lost, what this human life had meant. How dare he be reduced to a statistic.

This reaction really shook me. I usually address instances of trauma as an open minded theatre practitioner. It's just where my instincts lie now. And here was a response that had nothing to do with that. Now, we can say that creating a piece of theatre about what happened to Mike allows us to reach out to others who know that kind of violence, or need to understand that kind of event, or need to know what kind of repercussions those kind of acts taken would have on people. And again, I only knew him so well. But still, I reacted completely possessively: You didn't see what his face looked in his casket, so fuck you. That was my reaction. I think I'd doubt my humanity had it been otherwise.

This is the trouble with verbatim work. We take text from a specific place or interview, and we recreate it, and try to give it a greater validation because it is "true." We say, "Well, this is Really what they said, so it is entirely accurate." But it's only ever an approximation of what that person said and what they meant. It's not the whole story, it's just an instance--especially as the text gets further and further away from the original practitioners. Such it is with The Laramie Project. Okay, we can associate with this story in that we're gay, that we've been persecuted for being gay, that we've known persecution, that we've had friends who've been persecuted for being gay. We can connect to that piece of theatre through empathy or shared experience, and it affects us. But that is very different than being Matthew Shepard's mother, or than being Matthew Shepard's best friend. It is a different experience to understand something and to know something. These British theatre makers understand what I went through but don't know. And by the same token, I understand what Mike Pohle's mom went through, but I don't know, could never know, because that life was unique to her experience and it would be a lie to say "I know."

After a couple days to ruminate on it, I guess I come to the same conclusion we do when we come to documenting practices: just as we cannot fully encompass a theatrical experience in its documentation, we cannot fully encompass a whole human life in a piece of theatre. Something will always be missed out, an accuracy that you lose in the action of re-production. It's a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you seek to speak to the universality of whatever topic you are addressing, and by the same token, you can't get the specifics 100%, ever. It's a trade off.

In any regard, it was strange, a sea away, to find that Mike had permeated that far. I'd go on, but the bottle of Shiraz I've drunk in this process tells me not to.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Well I was tossin' and turnin'/Turnin' and tossin'/Tossin' and turnin' all night"

This week we're working with Toby Jones, a great British actor, comedian, and writer, though he will be best known to most of my readers as the voice of this little guy:

Oh that's right, ladies and gentlemen: I'm spending the week with Dobby the House Elf. Weep.

(Incidentally, I keep wondering if I should offer the man a sock at the end of the week. But no, no, probably not a good idea...)


(No, no...)

Our work this week has consisted of really wonderful, fun, engaging labs hosted by Toby, whose background in Lecoq training and prominent mainstream career gives me hope. Part of our assignment tomorrow will be working with another group, providing them with a stimulus of our own regarding the concept of, "What I can't get through the night without." Initially, I was thinking about the topic in terms of what my nightly ritual is, but I realized that none of those things were actions I was necessarily dependent on in order to get through the night. Then I tried producing some by finishing the statement: I can't get through the night without snacking, I can't get through the night without drinking copious amounts of tea, etc. Then I thought about things that had been happening to me, rather than things I did, which is where I came to, "I can't get through the night without having really crazy dreams." It may be something in the food, or just an indicator that I need a little more time off to settle my mental state, but I've found over the past couple weeks I've been having really vivid, really bizarre dreams that I can never remember upon waking. That last part is a bit confusing as I used to be a great rememberer of dreams, and now nothing, just a sense that they were definitely strange. In any case, I began thinking about sleep, what that was, and for part of my stimulus I created this piece of music. The actual music track is by Max Richter, a brilliant composer I've recently discovered (and I encourage you all to get into him, he's awesome), and the text I recorded is the tenth yoga sutra of Patanjali (this version here) and the Charles Bukowsi poem, Bluebird. I can't figure out how, if it's possible, to load strictly audio tracks onto Blogger, so I just shot some film behind a blue post-it and layered the audio on top.

I hope you like it, and I hope it's useful tomorrow. And I hope the US election turns out for the best back home (it's late there, VERY EARLY in the AM here). And I hope I get to sleep. Soon.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are."

I know I mentioned in my dialogue on identity that people in my program were doing projects on Narcissus and Echo. In an attempt to help one of them out with their work, everytime I saw a reflection of myself yesterday, I took a picture. Some are interesting, some are mundane, but I'm intrigued to know how this material will be used (for in truth, I do not know to what end this will supply the means). You can check out my day--and my killer new boots!!!--here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"If we could walk like the animals"

This week's assignment was to discuss methods of devising work and create our own methodology from our findings. We actually present tomorrow, but I figured I'd post this now, as I've been really negligent lately (I have lots of blog drafts, but few posts, I know, I know). We chose a story from a book offered to us to find a topic for the piece. My group chose "How the Elephant Became." One section of the story talks about how the elephant attempts to imitate other animals. We latched onto this, and attempted to make our own elephant.

The assignment is really more about the process (which we will have to present) than the product, so I made a short film to help with our presentation of the former from footage we were able to get during the devising. Hope you enjoy it, while I toil over those other entries...

Friday, October 24, 2008

"That is a picutre of a person I don't know"

This is a little personal reaction to some work other members of my program have been focusing on lately that has brought up some questions in my mind.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the question of identity. Firstly, I have to say that many people told me I’d probably end up being a real patriot once I left America. I don’t know if I could have been categorized as either patriotic or unpatriotic before, and although I always bled a great streak of Anglophenia, I’d like to think I still came off caring about America in my way. “In my way” is the phrase that raises some eyebrows, I guess. Honestly, the idea of what composes identity has always been confusing to me. I remember an exercise for a once rehearsal where we had to think of terms or labels that we fell under, either all the time or in certain social settings, and I couldn’t think of anything past “actor.” I missed the obvious ones like, “daughter,” “woman,” “student”—they just never came to mind. I think the reason I’ve never been overly patriotic, religious, or generally extreme in any way (that last point is up for debate I suppose) is because I always felt it was part of my job as an actor to come at something from all sides, to always be available to see a situation I may otherwise find abhorrent in a positive light. If I ever get cast as an extreme, right-wing, racist politician, who is also exploitative, a coke addict, a mega-bitch, and a rapist, I better be able to not judge that character because that will diminish the honesty of playing her. Just saying. I guess that’s one reason I tend to stand on the fringes of political discussion, because one: I’m not totally aware of politics and usually have little idea what people are talking about; and two, I don’t know if I could completely identify wholly with any one party’s agenda. I like gun ownership (RESPONSIBLE gun ownership), but I also like the right to choose. What’s to be done? Often we shape our identity by knowing what we are not. But at this age, or perhaps at any age, how can we have a great enough understanding of the world to know all of the things we are not? Does our sense of identity grow over years of experience, or do having so many experiences open up the flood gates to so many options that it just muddies the water further?

There is a fear that by defining yourself by some leading characteristic, you close doors to other kinds of identity, to having opinions that differ from that main label you call yourself. People are meant to be the most interesting in their contradictions, so taught me Roger Danforth in my directing class oh so many years ago. In this time that is so ripe for personal construction, should I revel in my contradictions or try to change them? Do I throw out everything “un-useful,” or let myself hold onto some vices—everybody, in my opinion, needs one really good, solid vice to keep them human.

Sitting in the National Portrait Gallery, looking at all of these faces I’ve heard about: there’s Thomas Moore, there’s Cromwell, there’s Ben Johnson, there’s Richard III not looking murderous at all. There’s the lone supposed-Shakespeare portrait←for the record, they don’t have any historical fact to back up that’s him. There’s Elizabeth Regina, shown in so many phases of her life that by the time you see her in the Ditchley portrait, you can see history in her face, the age and wear in how the artist defined her features behind that eggshell white. Many portraits in the gallery (indeed, many portraits generally) were commissioned. The sitter wanted themselves painted at a specific time of their lives and portrayed in a specific way. You can see how aspects of their historical actions and personalities affected how they were portrayed or what pictorial elements are shown in the portrait. Nowadays people take pictures all the time and photo shop them till they get exactly what they want. It’s the same principle, even if the methods have changed. There is still a distortion of the actual subject. A photograph is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional figure (that’s why you look ten-twenty pounds heavier) and a digital image is really just a series of zeros and ones when you get right down to it. So what are we? Is there any answer to that question really?

When you look into a mirror, what are you seeing? Is that actually you or something constructed, something waiting to be constructed on and painted an inch thick? Or did something get lost in interpretation—anorexics see something vastly distorted from reality. Is a model only the image that is sold after hours of make up, lighting, lenses, airbrushing and color enhancement makes the person in the print ad unrecognizable from that person who stands in a room too frightened to eat?

These ponderings come from a discussion I had recently with a fellow classmate regarding a project she’s been working on with several other strands. The designers, the directors, and the lone visual media girl (LVMG), Connie, have been in talks about how to build a work concerning itself with the Narcissus-Echo myth. The project sounds like it will remain strictly theoretical, never actually culminating into a performance of theatrical piece—not right now, anyway. LVMG Connie was actually the person who brought up the project to me, and I instantly thought about the book House of Leaves. Within it is an entire chapter of the ‘Navidson Record’ that discusses the myth, as well as the concept of echo location. Connie recounted that identity had come up in preliminary talks—that, in terms of echo, you could never know what you were, who you were, only what you produced, said, sent out somehow whether in action, print, or blogation. (Am I my blog? God I hope the answer to that is a resounding “NO.”) In a sense, you only know what you are in how you are perceived or interpreted from those sources as well. A classmate calls me "Foreigner" every time he sees me. So am I American because I sound American? Or because I vote in American elections (yes, I have my absentee ballot, stop worrying)? Or is it because I was born there? Or is it because I like cheeseburgers and diners? And what is America anyway?

I no longer have those little touchstones that created my day to day identity so long, those basic things that made up a routine that was important in understanding who I was at a time--I don't have my job, I'm back in school, I don't take my subway route, I don't buy the Times, I don't read the New Yorker (I have found it here, but it's pricey), I don't see the same people (Heidi aside). What is it that still makes me Lea? My haircut? My sardonic sense of humor? My name? My body? Whatwhatwhat?!

Can anyone ever really know us if we can never really know ourselves? What does one have to do to be interpreted correctly, not only in terms of the context of their life and surroundings, but something that goes beyond all that? Is that even possible? I caught myself staring into the eyes of my second reflection on the tube the other day, in a window comprised of two pieces of glass creating two other visages, figures I don’t know who looked tired and transparent, and thought, “No matter what I do, I will never get close to that. I will never know who that person is, who that projection is meant to be.”

I know this rambling is a bit mad, some embodiment of the quarter-life crisis, and all these questions feed into themselves, and again we return to the idea that this has nothing to do with the topic of this blog and is far to personal for the purposes of this forum. But as someone who wants to explore American identity and existence in performance (it’s been bouncing around in my head for a bit, particularly the past few weeks appropriately), these questions also seem completely relevant. What do you kids got for me on this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Out of my reach but always in my eyeline"

(Title comes from Keane lyrics to "Spiralling" off the new album. It is awesome, just FYI.)

This week's project was to deal with site-specificity in our work, focusing on the relationship between the outside and the inside. Two guest artists who had worked in a manner similar to this came in and showcased their work, a piece that involved taking an audience of three in a car through a city, on the hunt for a whale, in a retelling of the Pinocchio tale. They themselves did not believe that their work was truly site-specific in definition, and I tend to agree with them. The key to site-specific work is the correlation between the environment (the "site") and the action--the environment informs the activity of the stage. In this very base definition, it could be argued that any piece of theatre is site-specific. But when looking at a performance, or trying to build a performance in the conditions of site-specificity, there is usually a more direct relationship between the stage action (consider the word "stage" loosely here, as site-specific work usually does not take place on a stage) and the space the action is set against. The reason the guest artists' work was not strictly site-specific was because they had less of a relationship with the outside world than one would expect in a such a work. While the car they drove had to deal with the environment and architecture of whatever city they were in (the piece was re-incarnated in several cities over a period of six years), what they were seeing in the city rarely if ever had to deal with the structuring of the plot or events of the story they were telling. It was incidental, not essential to the production. And therein lies the distinction.

Our assignment read as the following:
"Look at ways in which the audience can be unsure of what is created by the artist and what is not. Look at ways you might frame a vision of the outside or draw our attention to something outside by something happening inside, with the audience (e.g. a performer, sound effects, programme notes). Do you want to remain invisible to the outside world? Or create something strange within it? Will you add things to it outside or give the audience a way of looking at what is already there?
"Working in groups arranged by your workshop leaders, make a short work of 3-5 minutes' duration for an audience the size of the rest of the year group. The piece can be performed twice if you wish to have a smaller audience...The audience is inside, looking out of the windows."

I was in a group of six, comprised of two members of the performance strand (myself and Lisa), the only visual media artist (Connie), two members of the dramaturgy strand (Deidre and Leslie), and one producer (a fabulous Greek named Maria). I won't go into the details of the process (because why ruin the illusion and why air dirty laundry from a subjective viewpoint in a public forum), but finally we came down to the idea of affixing text onto the windows like speech bubbles. The audience would see the text in line with people we would place on the street in specific places, and depending on the floor they were on, they would get a different story. We had five phrases of text that we were going to use repeatedly and move, so that each group was told a different story in how they encountered the text. They were:
  1. Stop watching me.
  2. I've seen you naked.
  3. I'm invisible.
  4. I'm looking for a funny sugar daddy, 40+ for romantic liaisons.
  5. I'll find you and I'll kill you.
Leslie came up with the idea that they be visually worded phrases, to comment on how the audience was receiving the story. Lisa had brought in the phrase about the sugar daddy which she found in the "Lonely Hearts" section of the newspaper, and perhaps also the "kill you" phrase, though that may have been Connie. "I've seen you naked," was a reference to Say Anything, that part where the characters are talking about sex, how it changes everything, and the next time you see the person you can talk to them very nicely, but the whole time you'll just be thinking, "We had sex." Yes, that one was mine. The other two came from group discussion.

Lisa had gotten really into the idea of the phone booth having text attributed to it, so we got into talks about how to use it on one of the floors. However, later on in the day when we tried out the perspectives, it was discovered that the picture varied depending on height, and there were few options in terms of how to focus the viewer appropriately--a box was suggested so that they would be able to have a specific frame, but we couldn't figure out how to affix it to the glass properly without leaving massive tape residue, and it would have logistically been a misstep--48 people in the program, and only five minutes to exhibit, it would never have been enough time to get everyone through.

While discussing the phone booth in the hallway, another classmate, Chris overheard us. As I was passing him soon after, he asked me, "Which phone booth?"

"What do you mean, which phone booth?"

"There are two."

We had been so focused on trying to figure out what we were doing, we had completely overlooked the other phone booth in plain view near the one we had been fixating on. We had been neglecting observing our environment, the very environment that was to shape our work so fully! It was an amazing discovery, and I ran to my group and said, "Everyone! Chris has just told me: there are TWO phone booths! What if it was a love story between two phone booths, but they could never be together?!"

Some one chimed in: "Yeah, they can only have a long distance relationship."

We went from there and wrote text that we posted above the metal divider that ran through this hall of windows, full of phone puns mostly thought of by Deidre. We ended up with the text I wrote above the pictures in the previous entry (those photos, incidentally, while capturing the site our work was placed in, were taken the day AFTER the presentation, so please understand that you as online viewers of snapshots, are still getting a different experience from live audience members).

On the day of the presentation, Maria, Lisa, Leslie and myself stood on the street in various ensembles comprised of red and black, so that the audience would be drawn to us visually when reading the text regarding the different colors--though I was told later that the black did not read. Oh well. Deidre and Connie stayed upstairs in the building to act as curators in our "gallery," prepare the audience appropriately ("Flash photography is not permitted," "Please do not touch the art work."), and lead them into the hall. We had used tape to create a frame for the section of the window we wanted them to look through. This way was could further shape and control what the audience saw, and ensure that the two phone booths were in the background of every "picture" we made--little details they'd take for granted because they were inanimate objects, and because we are all trained to look for the people we know to be the actors. They would discover at the last frame that there had been a story going on the whole time, right in front of their eyes, one they wouldn't have otherwise noticed had their attention not been drawn directly to it.

It went over well, and we got accolades for keeping our presentation simple. I would not have called the process of getting to that place "simple," so it's funny that in the end that was how we succeeded. There's a lesson in that, to be sure.

To see what it may have been like to experience the speech bubble version of the project had it worked, here's an example I made of one of the stories we came up with. Set the slide show for five seconds. There are only three frames.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

We'll have no faffing here!

Hullo, all my little loves!

The past week has been beyond full, and I must beg your indulgence in regards to what will now be a very quick, somewhat overwhelming update. Masters programs are unforgiving. Ready? Here we go!

SATURDAY 4 October 2008
--Went to the Globe Theatre during their closing weekend and saw Liberty, a new play produced there this season. It was extremely timely, well written/acted/directed. It was brilliant to see a piece of theatre that was not set in Elizabethan period work in an Elizabethan structure, and somehow be informed from the space it was performed in as well as the time period it was being produced during. Heidi and I, after stopping off to the Globe shop for strange Folio inspired treats (I myself am now the proud new owner of a CD of Elizabethan Street Songs) then went to a pub nearby where it is said was the site of after rehearsal drinks for Shakespeare and Johnson and the like. We also walked briefly through the ground floor of the Tate, crossed the Millenium Bridge, sat by the Thames, and were interviewed by a Korean TV station about a floating work of art. Then home.

SUNDAY 5 October 2008
--Reading and day of rest.

MONDAY 6 October 2008
--First Day of Term. Our day started with meeting up with the whole of our program. There are about 48 of us, which seems both daunting and appropriate considering what were are meant to do (I'll describe the break down soon). We did those small get to know you games--interview the person next to you and introduce them to the group; make a circle with chairs and run around the room if you've done some specific act called out by whoever's in the center of the circle, try to get a chair, and whoever's left standing has to say their name and give another act to continue the game; etc. Then we met up with all of the other masters programs in the Embassy Theatre for one of what was to be several induction programs throughout the week. Here they took us through several aspects of Central life, broke us up into random groups, and sent us off to devise one statement per group meant to define our time here. My favorite, sadly not generated by my own group, was: "Excited to be creative revolutionary sponges, shaking the tree without faffing." ('Faffing' means wasting time--don't fret, I had to ask someone, too.) Then someone who is in charge of something encouraged us to get a cup of coffee or tea with the people next to us who we may never see again.

TUESDAY 7 October 2008
--Met with our individual strands (focus of study) in the morning, so I was with the performers in a space just beyond Central in a nearby community center. Went around with the fifteen other people and introduced myself--I think I learned more about how people introduced themselves and less in what they said. Then we made up a rule re: arriving on time for class. Then all the strands met up again in the space we've been using as our main meeting place and were introduced to our first project that was to deal with time. Then we were broken up into eight groups and sent off to work. (I will go into discussion of this project at another juncture, simply because it was so lengthy, that to put it here would be simply mad.) That occupied most the rest of our day, besides our library inductions.

WEDNESDAY 8 October 2008
--More work with our groups in the morning, and presentations in the afternoon, followed by a discussion with mixed results. The discussion was the most telling part of the day regarding our immediate student body-->personalities shined through, and it wasn't always in the best light, I must say. But hopefully that's just a matter of over eagerness on the parts of some, and things will calm down. Or they won't. We shall see. There's also a great farmer's market out front of the school on Wednesdays and Fridays and I finally found a good cup of coffee. I couldn't rightly believe it. We also sat through a talk by Mischa Twitchin, an alumnis of our program and a founder of SHUNT, who will be leading a lecture series offered to us called "Acts of Intelligence." Should be very interesting, but also very challenging.

That evening myself and four of my classmates (Heidi, new American friends Melissa and Diedre, and new British friend James) saw the Barber of Seville, performed by ENO. This is, of course, the opera company whose Improbable-conceived production of Satyagraha I continually swoon over. Alas, this production was nothing like that. Everything was fine--well trained voices, decent set, nice staging, fine design albiet some questionable lighting choices. But it was in no way exceptional. And the production itself was translated into English, a language that rarely lends itself to the musicality of Italian, so that made it a bit rough. I was not terribly impressed, and the experience has put me off opera for a bit--at least watching it.

THURSDAY 9 October 2008
--Back to the Embassy Theatre for more advice on how to write a thesis and use the library. I skipped out on the second half of the morning with Melissa, who also was pretty sure she knew how to use MLA formatting (it was a review), putzed around the main street near school, and bought a toy:
(My mother is reading this blog right now and asking aloud to the heavens, "LEA--if it's So Expensive to live over there, what are you doing buying toys?!" Alas, I live in another country now, and her cries will fall on deaf ears. {"But Mom--he's SO CUTE! And I bought him at Woolworth's--they still have them here--so he was cheap. AND HE'S SO CUTE!!! Anyway, I bet Dad understands..."})

After our skipping which bled into lunch, we were back with our program, broken up into four groups this time, and led through our technical inductions. Then a short stop off at Ye Old Swiss Cottage for a couple pints, and then a long walk to Primrose Hill, just north of Regent's Park and the London Zoo, for a program-wide picnic. I pitched in with a few others for a bucket of KFC (I am not joking) to bring along. Those particular classmates have endeared themselves to my heart. We stayed until dark, and then made our way back to the tube, some of us heading home and others going over to the SHUNT lounge. I'm saving that excursion for next week.

FRIDAY 10 October 2008
--We had a day off from school. Most Fridays will be reserved for work in our specific ensembles, but since they don't exist yet, we had off. Heidi and I went to an art opening with a friend of hers who's studying at Goldsmith's. There were eight pieces and one performance artist who wandered around the room. The exhibit was at Hold & Frieght and was part of an art exchange: last year, English students had exhibited in Germany, and this year German students were exhibiting in England. I was not a fan of several pieces, but there were two that I enjoyed, the chief one being a video project called, Ivo Burokvic--The Life of the Fake Artist as a Young Business Model, by Paul Wierbinski. Wierbinski was appalled by the greed that was running the art world--Did you know there was an artist who sold ninety cans in 1961, each containing thirty grams of his own shit? About a year ago, one of these cans was sold for 124,000 Euro. Wierbinski responded by creating a pseudonym, Ivo Burokvic (a name he felt was appropriately Eastern enough), took a single photograph of a shopping mall, photo shopped it a little, mailed it to China, paid 600 Euro for a Chinese artist to replicate the picture on canvas, and then submitted and sold it at auction for 14,000 Euro. Genius.

The weekend has been pretty lax in theatrical experiences. I did make it to the Clink, this odd little British prison museum along the Thames. But otherwise, just some forced jogging around Russell Square, some walks around the neighborhood, and MOUNTAINS of reading to do for school. So here we are. Or here I am. Where are you?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Day 2 a couple days late.

It took me forever to remember how I uploaded the last video. I don't know why. But in any case, here's my take on Day 2.

I'm going to try and update every few days, but daily stuff will be hard, so please bear with me.

Also: thanks everyone for your well wishes and reactions! It's so lovely to hear from you guys, and it really touches me that you're all rooting for me on the other side of the sea. Miss you all!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"You say 'Goodbye/And I say "hello'"

Here is a little virtual tour of my accommodations I made today. I'm a little awkward on camera. That's a bit unexpected. But it might be less awkward if I was talking about literary structure. Katie? What do you say?

Enjoy--I'm off to Starbucks. Hooray!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"...just a fond farewell to a friend"

New country, new hair. I leave in less than six hours.

See you guys soon!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

“…they don’t understand that to remain alive is more difficult than to be alive in the first place.”

The title comes from a letter Bukowski wrote to William Packard in 1979.

Flipping through some London guide book Central sent us with our final registration paperwork, one phrase catches my eyes: “Be Prepared!” Written over and over again. All these cautionary tales, read too late, appreciated after the fact : “If I had only known” “If someone had told me”—it’s bullshit. The information was there, readily available to you, only you never did take advantage of the fact, did you, just kept your head above water only just enough to pass for a respectable, clean cut young woman. Keep your nose clean. Do what you have to do to get through the day, and the next, and the next. Things run together. Days happen all at once. The summer’s over, did it even happen? Did your whole life happen, or was it just something you mimed through until you got to this point? Why will “Windmills of Your Mind” not get out of my head?

These are the things I think about sometimes. I process things better when I’m alone, I just haven’t been by myself enough lately. Too many voices, and mine hasn’t been loud enough lately. But it’ll come back—my voice will come back.

This one’s a little more revealing than usual. I am disabling the comments, because I don’t want a response to this. I wrote this entry for me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

“Why did summer go so quickly/Was it something that you said?”

I’ve been wandering the city the past few days like a living ghost—haunting places I used to know, almost knew, will never get to know. I see people who will disappear out of view soon, who will haunt me while I wander the streets of a new city, getting lost, being confused, asking myself why here, why again, will any place lead to contentment, to peace? Then I’ll ask if I really mean these things, or if I’m only posturing, the way artists do: amp the tragedy and authenticate the experience. Why do people believe that things only really matter, only really happen, when the price they pay is in their own suffering? Why isn’t celebration more celebrated? We get so caught up so often looking for the truth just below the surface, the ugliness behind the glamour, that we can’t take a moment out to enjoy ourselves. We need to see the happy people in pain to appreciate what they don’t have—it brings us ordinary folk closer to their level.

But what do these musings have to do with anything? Nothing, really. But listen: the summer has been light, airy, not full of too much responsibility, and consequently I have not been my typical “intense” self. Now, “intense” does not mean depressive, or sad, or-Hamlet like in any way. It just means I ponder, I dwell, I tend to look closely, sometimes too closely, at aspects of life I think other people forget about while they’re out there living. (Okay, it’s a little Hamlet.) Basically, I stopped being an observer this summer and started living. I had an acting professor in college who once advised us that each of us was going to have to take some time off from our work at some point and live a little; just so we knew what the fuck we were talking about when we were acting those experiences on stage. I hope that I don’t cut myself off from experiencing things for the sake of watching, for the sake of observing so that my approximations on stage can come close to the genuine article. But I’m a little too realistic to believe that I succeed in that wholly. I’m an only child, what do you want? The problem with being a watcher is that you really don’t understand what it is people get out of certain experiences (falling in love, staying out all night till dawn, being wasted, being high, feeling like an utter failure, feeling totally alone, feeling like you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread) unless you experience them for yourself. You can’t. It’s utterly impossible to analyze those things. You can categorize, devise a chart of cause and effect concerning the events, but it’s not the same. “I’m older than I was when I came here,” to paraphrase Odets. So I took the summer off, off from sitting just outside the action, and played a little. And I had a great time. But I’m ready to sit out again, I’m ready to philosophize, I’m ready to exclaim about every piece of art I see, “It was A-MAZ-ING!” and run off on tangents about the human condition. Because this is who I am, and to deny my nature is the worst I could do. Needless to say, this blog is going to get a lot more emotionally driven. Sorry kids, but objectivity is only so interesting anyway, right? “Of course ‘right!’”

The other thing is, in response or reaction to my angst-ridden opening paragraph, I still feel nothing. I sat down with Kate the other day and asked her if she was excited for her upcoming wedding, and she said that she was honestly apathetic. She just wanted it over and done already. I concur in that sentiment to my own travels. I’ve been keeping this blog since March, and I feel like the suspended limbo is just about all a girl can take. I leave in five days, and still haven’t opened a travel guide (though I did buy a map today).

I am writing this entry on my MacBook (because I am obsessed), started to on the subway, and now in a movie theater in my old neighborhood, waiting for Righteous Kill to start, and really hoping it won’t suck. With Pacino AND De Niro, you expect more, always. With London and huge life transitions, you expect more. You hope, anyway. I will miss New York, but I am ready to leave—still, not eager, not (overly) sentimental. Just ready. But that doesn’t feel like anything more than it is. And that’s okay.

I will probably forgo posting until I get over—too much to do, and limited Internet access over the next couple days. So I’ll check in with you guys when I’m on the other side of the pond. It’s a big ocean, I know, but if you kids are in town, please look me up. I’m sure by then I’ll be “feeling” homesick.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"I'm not that small an actor."

I’ve been bouncing back and forth between New Jersey and New York like a commuter with a mistress I can excuse easily to the wife (if only I was getting reimbursed for transit by my company). I was grounded for a while last week with a four day fever that finally let up the morning of my birthday. The day before the first day of my 24th year, I hopped myself up on Motrin and did a reading of a new play, All is Always Now by Robert Wray, the most acting I’ve done since my little stint as the most helpful of modern tools. It was jarring, but exciting all the same.

My one complaint was that I didn’t have too much to do—in a developing script that only stands at about 38 pages, I was in about the last three. It’s difficult for an actor to know what they’ve done when they have a small part. People mostly connect gripes regarding a mini-sized role directly to an actor’s ego, but it is, in a strictly practical way, difficult. I’ve had leads and parts that were practically walk-ons, and they’re all difficult—acting is hard—but the tough part about the smaller ones is that it’s often hard to see how your character fits in with the action, most of which has been going on without you and independent of what your character wants or needs. This is not always the case and it would be a lie to say so. But it was true in terms of this reading, though I have been told that Margo, the actress that I portrayed for the last three pages, is more developed as the story goes on. So while I think the reading went off well, and I hope Robert got some meaningful feedback to help him finish—and I assure you, my part is supposed to get bigger—I have no idea how I did personally. I can’t even make the usual self- deprecating, humbling assessment of my work, which has become my habit (though secretly or in great moments of inebriation, I do think I am the shit). I truly have no idea. But I do know that it made me hungry and ancy to get back to it—I’ve been in hibernation too long, and I’m ready to play again.

My visa came today! Hooray! One less thing to have a heart attack over.

Other than the visa and the reading, not too much else is going on here, except that I have one week left in the country. And I still haven’t packed my brand new luggage. Not one iota.

Denial, denial, denial…

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sometimes it's like that.

Obsessed with my MacBook, I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to make this video. It's footage I took sometime last summer ('07) of a mouse with a broken foot. I came across it in Central Park with a coworker when crossing from a meeting on the Westside to my studio on the Eastside. It kind of epitomizes how I feel sometimes with this whole move, and I'm proud of my amateur film, so here it is. Enjoy!

(The song is from Modern Times, PS.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

This new technology

I got a Mac!

And I have no idea how to use it.

"what they wanted I didn't have/and what I had/they didn't want."

Wednesday I received a UPS package from the British Consulate. I had assumed this was to be my visa. I was wrong. Apparently I was supposed to send my physical passport to the consulate, not just a color copy which was what I had sent off--in this day and age, the idea of letting my passport out of sight is frightening. So today I'll be getting a certified check made out for $12 (the mailing fee for the next time the BC tries to send me anything) and returning all of my paperwork, complete with actual passport, back to the BC. I'm concerned about how long it's going to take. I'm concerned about having my passport out of reach. And I'm concerned that I will get neither back in time to get on the plane at 9PM on the 30th.

Other than that, I have been trying to decide what to pack. I've talked myself into taking only five books with me, and only five movies, however I may ammend the latter and allow myself those five movies and all my seasons of Battlestar Galactica. Because, let's face it--I'll be lost without it. Here's what I have thus far:

1) Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire
2) History of the Theatre by Brockett
3) My copy of The Little Prince, circa 1943 (I like the older translation better)
4) The Pythons: Autobiography by the Pythons
5) TBA

The thing about choices 1 ,2, & 4 is that they are all weighty coffee table books. So one asks if there's much point in bringing three books that each weigh a little over a pound each. And now, the movies:

1) Trainspotting
2) Amelie
3) Withnail and I
4) Finding Nemo
5) TBD

Number five is going to be a really hard choice. Not as hard as trying to get on a plane without a passport or a visa. But I'm sure you understand.

Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!! Why can't life just fall in place already?! I am D-R-O-W-N-I-N-G here, damn it!

I've also become terribly curious of all the hits my blog has gotten lately from out of the US visitors. Who are you people? Make yourselves known, please!

Monday, September 1, 2008

"The soul intention is learning to fly/Condition grounded but determined to try"

The Central paperwork came in while I was home last week, informing me that I needed to be in county to register for classes on the 2nd of October. After some juggling of paperwork and phone calls to STA, I was able to change my flight to the 30th of September. So I'm leaving four days earlier, and missing my best friend's wedding consequently. I find it interesting that huge life changes are happening to the two of us at the same time, even though they are vastly different happenings. I'm sad to be missing Kate's day though, and my first chance at bridesmaid-dom, though I am certain this will not be my last opportunity. I got word today that I would be able to check into my housing earlier, so I'm all set those extra few days, which was a relief.

My biometrics appointment for my visa was the other day, and was done in about ten minutes. I showed up, got finger-printed, and went on my way. Later in the afternoon, while running into Jim True-Frost at the post office, I mailed the following items to the British Consulate, all support documents to my visa application:
  • A passport sized photo (that I had taken earlier in the morning at a Walgreen's)
  • A copy of my current passport
  • A copy of my expired passport
  • A copy of my bank statement
  • A copy of my acceptance letter
  • A copy of a second acceptance letter, specifying the hours I'm to spend in school
  • A copy of my plane ticket
  • A copy of my completed visa application (10+ pages long)
  • My stamped biometrics appointment confirmation paper
  • A copy of my college diploma
The sooner my visa comes, the better, and one more weight will be lifted from my mind. Also, I hear they're awful pretty.

Still, missing Kate's wedding reminds me of a fear I've had all my life: that I'll have to sacrifice people, or significant events in my friends' lives because of my commitment to my work or my life as an artist. Maybe that's just me "seeing the red lights," as some one put it to me recently: identifying my artistic sensibilities as the problem when it's really just that sometimes a person's life conflicts with another person's. But because of the significant amount of self-examination and introspection that comes with this kind of lifestyle, there is always a question of how to balance art production as a career (something that is hardly "stable") and that other thing, what some people refer to as "real life." This somewhat mythic "real life" includes things like marriages that actually function, having and raising children, some kind of mortgage or property management, possibly a 401K, and maybe even a traditional yearly vacation. This "real life" is the American dream--did I mention there's a pool?--and comes with hard work, small sacrifice, and more easily with a typical 9-5 job with an annual raise than with hocking clown pieces and doing a tap dance. (If you don't believe me, ask my mother.) So how do you do what you love and feed your soul, and still make rent, and put away for that college fund? And can you get to all those weddings in the meantime?

I have no intention of compromise. I will have my life, and maybe a mortgage too (though out right ownership is always preferred). But sometimes living your life means missing a wedding.

Take lots of pictures, Kate. I'm sad to miss it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NY Event Number Thirteen: Eating at Katz's Delicatessen

One of the things that had been added to my list a little bit ago, out of a fit of hunger one day, was to make sure I had a real New York Reuben before I left the country. It maybe prejudiced of me, but I doubt the English would understand the subtly of a good Reuben sandwich. The problem is, though, you have to really know where to go to pull this off--a lot of establishments in Manhattan sell Reubens, but few do it exceptionally. So I did a Google search before I ventured out for this one. Some notable places came up, all pricey, some reviewed poorly--rude waiters seem to be the trend at Carnegie especially. There was one, however, that peaked my interest.

During my time in NY, I have spent many an evening in the LES, drunkenly looking for a meal. This would not only ensure that something solid was in my stomach, but that the act of ingesting a foodstuff would keep me from passing out before I got to the subway. I usually ended up at Ray's Pizza (the one at 195 E. Houston), as it was cheap and I'd have little money left after whatever drunkest I was leaving. Also, there was always a curiously long line at the overpriced deli on the corner. In all those drunken nights, and any sober day that I found myself in the same neighborhood, I never made the connection of what I was passing while stumbling over to Ray's or heading out to some piece of off-off-off Broadway. It was Katz's Delicatessen--one of the oldest delis in New York City, a mecca for celebrity drop ins, and most notably the location of one of the more famous quasi-sex scenes in cinema history:

Yes, that's right: this is the place where Sally faked her orgasm. Knowing that clinched it for me--I'm a HUGE When Harry Met Sally fan--and Alex (one of the people in my life who, like Amy Lee and Lori, has made a point of trying to assist me with my list) and I set off, me for my Reuben, him for a brisket sandwich. (Despite Alex's Judaism, it would appear he's not a fan of Reubens. Strange, I know. But I digress.)

We got there at 4:45. Alex made a crack about us being senior citizens, eating dinner in the middle of the day. But thank goodness we did! When we arrived, there was a sign on the door saying that they would be closed from 6 to 10 that evening, re-opening after and staying open till their customary 3AM. I can't imagine ordering a salami sandwich and piece of cheesecake at any time past 11PM, but it's NY, so there's no doubt a market for it. We tried guessing at what it could be--a rehearsal dinner, some flight of fancy of a movie star (I quietly imagined DeNiro closing down the whole place for a nice dinner all on his own), some wealthy NY private schooled teenager throwing themselves a birthday party. We asked our waitress, a lovely middle aged woman who worked there as her second job what was going on. She didn't know, she wasn't working the party, and no one else on staff seemed to know either. She did inform us, however, that it costs $4,000 an hour to rent out the deli. This has to do, no doubt, with the reputation of the establishment, not the decor, which was nothing to brag about. But given the cost of the food, it may have been completely comparable to what the restaurant would have made that evening--my Reuben was $15.75, Alex's brisket was$14.45, and that was JUST for the sandwich, no side of fries, coleslaw extra, all that.

Our food came pretty fast, and was pretty decent--I was expecting something gargantuan, but the sandwich was totally manageable, unlike Carnegie's $21+ Reuben, which I have heard ranges around the size of an average adult male's head. We also got a plate of pickles to start with--standard fare at such an establishment--that had on it some pickled tomatoes which neither of us ventured to taste. I also got an egg cream, another NY first for myself, and only fitting given where we were eating. Overall, it was a good meal, though I still think a little too expensive.

On our way out there were cops manning the door, keeping out any would-be customers who wouldn't have been served in time before the start of the mystery party. When we were outside, Alex asked me if I'd seen the sign hanging from the ceiling with an arrow pointing down that read "Where Harry Met Sally--Hope You Had What She Had!" I totally missed it. Obviously, there's now at least one reason to come back to NY. And anyway, I don't think the British appreciate pastrami the way we do here. But that's what you get for kicking the Jewish out in 1290. Their loss!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

There's been a slight glitch in the system.

News came from former roommate and fellow London a-journey-er Heidi that Central sent us our packets regarding registration, etc. One of the first things she said: "You're going to be pissed."

It turns out that Central's registration for international students is on the 3rd. I was scheduled to fly out the 4th, post wedding and hour of cocktails. And my housing doesn't actually start till the 5th. So come Monday, I'll be e-mailing frantically to see if I can come at the time I had originally planned, and if not I'll be changing my flight, paying some kind of fee for that no doubt, and then seeing if I can get into my hall a couple days early (there is actually a chance that might happen). All in all, it sucks. But that's life, I guess--one curve ball after another. I'll be sad to miss Kate's big day, though. And I was excited for bridesmaid-dom, though perhaps foolishly so.

In suburban news, Pirate caught a bat tonight! This happening reminds me of the old adage,

"Bats are just mice with wings, little girl."

It also reminds me of what a bad ass my little Pirata is. Oh, Hai dao, I will miss you!

(Can I just say, it's quite the slow news day, when I'm reporting the prey of my cat. Just putting that out there.)

Above, the victim of Pirate's assualt.