Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Okay, but seriously now: To Stay, or To Go?

Okay, let us speak plainly. I've come to a crossroads, and I'm not sure what road to take.

In one direction: Democracy, friends, Central Park, 24-hr. mass transit, Comedy Central programing on a timely basis, and *REAL* bagels. Also in this direction are the personal demons, the baggage, the shitty winters, and fucking hipsters (FUCK. YOU. HIPSTERS.<--My hatred has only grown since my time away.). Not to mention the fare hikes that will cost the monthly Metrocard user $103 every thirty days to re-up. It makes you wish there really were MTA Service Specialists. My friend Jenna said it best, I think: "But seriously, for $103 a month I want someone to give me pretzels."

Now, in the other direction lies buildings low enough to see stars at night, culturecultureculture, easy access to Europe, fried fish (I am a sucker for fried food), the best coffee I've ever had (Jason: I love you), and a government that funds its art scene. But this direction has its downfalls, too: A subway system that closes down at midnight, sidewalks that are too narrow with ne'er a trash bin to be found, KFCs that don't have mashed potatoes or biscuits, OR extra-crispy chicken (What is the *point* then?), and fewer friends--still lovely, but small in numbers.

And then there's the whole visa thing.

As I've noted before, I can't work in this country as an actress under my student visa.

Wait. Back up. Let's re-phrase that:

I can't work for MONEY in this country as an actress under my student visa. I know what you'll say:

Well, then get another visa!

To which I will respond:

It's not that easy.

You see, to claim another visa as a "post-study worker," I would need a total of 75 points on my application to be eligible for consideration, not to mention that teensy processing fee of 800GBP. Oh but yes. If you consider that sum at the highest and lowest I've seen the exchange rate since starting out on this little venture, that's anywhere between $1,680 and $1,096 (currently, it would come to $1,146.11). Here's what the UK Border Agency has to say about eligibility:

To apply under our points-based system and be accepted into the post-study worker category, you must pass a points-based assessment.

You must score:

  • 75 points for your attributes, which are a United Kingdom qualification, study at a United Kingdom institution, your immigration status during United Kingdom study and/or research, and the date of award of the qualification; and
  • 10 points for English language; and
  • 10 points for available maintenance (funds)
The whole thing is daunting, and reeks of impossibility. But more than that: it smells like adulthood. What? Actually working for something over long term suffering and sacrifice? Seriously? Don't you know I'm an only child? I'm not into that.

But aside this being a hard process, and therefore unappealing, even after spending the money, getting a job that will help me gather the funds to prove that I can support myself to the border officials, there is still a chance that I will be rejected. And it looks like I can't actually apply until I have my MA documentation--which will not exist until December. So post Germany, I'll have at least four months of doing other things besides trying to pursue acting as my sole career, and if anything does come up I won't be able to take it if there's pay involved, because legally I can't receive any. And quite frankly, I've already done this.

The big reason to get the MA--the HUGE one--was to feel like a legitimate actor. Much of this has to do with what I always saw being the difference between myself and the actors I caught in major regional theatre productions: they had MAs or MFAs, and I did not. I once asked a former colleague of mine to see if she could get me an audition for such a gig, and she told me flat out that I had no chance of getting seen because they were only going to call in people with masters degrees. So from the time I was young (about the 11th grade), I always knew that getting an MA or an MFA was a must, because those were the kind of houses I wanted to play in, and that was the kind of money I wanted to make. Let us forget for a moment that much more of a theatre practitioner's life, particularly an actor's, is left to chance, more so than most any other occupation. So let us not waste time debating the finer points of this argument by citing (as we all can) our *one* friend who made it big on nothing more than a BA or a couple classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Let us simply acknowledge this as an established convention of casting, and move on. So you see, to me a huge part of what I wanted for my career involved working in specific houses across the country, with specific reputations. And these places also meant a specific perk: a paycheck.

Now, don't get me wrong: unpaid acting is still acting if you're putting the work in. I've done a lot of it, seen a lot of unpaid performances, and have a lot of friends who do it, and I know this to be true. But it's not what I want, not for my career, and not for my life, and gaining an MA was a step to leaving that part of the industry, only to return when between paying gigs or to fulfill an artistic desire. The wisest man I ever knew once told me:

Lea, don't be a drama slut, be a drama whore. Whores get paid.

Basically his advice was, if it pays nothing but it gives you something for your soul, than it's worth it; if it pays you a lot, and gives you nothing for your soul, except a chance to fulfil it at another time because you'll be able to support yourself for a little while, then it's worth it. But if you're not getting either of these two compensations, turn around and Run in the other direction.

I've been through the ringer. I've done a lot of theatre that gave me nothing in return except a few embittered jokes and another credit on my resume. I've had my soul ripped out and built up again and again. I won't dwell on this too long, because every actor has known pain, and everyone who has had to sit and listen to them ramble on about their pain is almost instantly bored. But I got into a rut in New York that I couldn't shake, and a large reason for the change in scenery was to get out of it--and also to try to take steps to live a little more like a whore, in the monetary sense.

So here I am, sitting next to big change, on the brink of something I have no understanding of, and because of legal reasons I'm at the exact same place I was in New York. Now, there are a couple budding artistic relationships that might be good to see through here--partly because of the work that could be generated within those relationships, and partly because of my sheer enjoyment of working with those people. And so the soul has the potential to be paid. But sitting around, generating work that would possibly have to transfer to New York to ever see the light of day with me making any bank on it--it just doesn't quite work for me. Maybe I'm too impatient. But at twenty-four and a half, I already feel too old to pussy-foot about. I'll be the first to identify that statement as concerning myself and not anybody else. But as it is my life, and as it is how I feel about it, I can't shake the feeling that that many months without having some prospect of paid work, not even an opportunity, is exactly what I don't want. And I don't think pushing a piece of chalk around the drawing board of new work is going to cut it for me.

This sudden state of crisis that I've come to with all of this was brought on by Spotlight. Months in advance of publication, Spotlight gathers its clients information, headshots, and money, in order to print a large book listing all the registered actors in the UK. And there are a lot of us. I received a notice in the mail the other day informing me that to make it into the Actresses book that would be published in October, I would have to confirm by the last week in April. The books last for a year. If I spent the money--to me it's an investment--then that is like saying I am going to try to get a new visa and stay here through October 2010, the cost and potential agony be damned! But the unknown is frightening, and not *completely* appealing, I might add. And in truth: I don't know if I want to stay.

London is fine. It's great. But I miss my friends, I miss the grid system, and I miss REAL pizza (and again, *bagels*). Maybe it's just homesickness, but this not knowing when I'll return makes it hard to decide if I should stay, too. Though in truth--New York is just as much an unknown as London is in some ways. I have nothing to go back to: not a serious job prospect, not an apartment, not even a boyfriend or some kind of distant lover I could finally culminate things with and settle down with accordingly. I don't have those things here, either, but at least in America there's already a chance I could get paid acting work, and my accent wouldn't be working against me: one of the other Americans at the ADR work I booked the other day told me that many American actors were over here hiding their accents because they wouldn't be seen for British roles if the director knew they were American. That is a stressful prospect. But it's not worth stressing about, if you can't even get an audition because of your "alien" status.

I have a bet running with a certain someone regarding the date of my return, and if I headed back before March 2010, I'd lose it. The consequences aren't entirely unpleasant, but I'm not looking forward to what awaits me if I fail. Also: I hate losing. HATE IT. But to stay in a place simply out of stubbornness over a bet seems ridiculous, and further highlights the most important part of this decision: that whatever I end up choosing, must be my choice, and not something I submitted to or felt I should do, or whatever. And once I've made that choice, I have to commit to getting it done. If it means trying to stay here, then that's what I do: I work to stay here. If it means going back to the states, then it is with the understanding that I am going to make some large changes in my life, and that I will not return to the way I was running shop before (which was fine and all, but not nearly pro-active enough).

Either direction is hard to walk in. Now it's just a matter of knowing where to aim the first step.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Get your own Poll!

I could use some help. Feel free to cast your vote. Details re: this quandary to follow at a later date.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Vacation, all I ever wanted..."

The first week of break turned out to be not very break-like, but more of a preparation for the rest of my time off from school—time off that seems like it will be pretty full, dominated by work that is going to lay the foundation for a lot that I need to accomplish in the upcoming third term.

The first few days were pretty loose and relaxed. I slept A LOT, napping more than once a day on occasion. I read the Guardian most mornings, and plodded through the web-based copy of the New Yorker I receive (thank you, online subscription). I spent a lot of time in coffee shops, trying to convince myself to go do something, then failing and not caring. One of the more productive things that hasn’t got anything to do with schoolwork: my friend Max and I have taken up jogging together on Sundays (we were at it again today). Max is a pretty big runner, and I can usually get myself out two, three times a week, but we’d both fallen out of the habit during our respective Stage Two Practices that essentially took over our hearts, bodies, and souls February onward. As one of my goals during this break was to get back into shape, having a running buddy seemed a very novel indeed, especially considering how much I loathe running. Truly: there’s nothing I dislike greater than starting running again after a long absence—but then after it becomes a routine, I start craving it like a crack fiend. Addictive, but at least it’s a healthier habit. But starting out is always so dreadful. Having company at least once a week is nice. And in all truth, we came to the decision to run together in order to “train” for a hash.

My friend Abby first told me about hashing when I visited her this summer while she was doing Doubt in Cape May, where she is huge. We got onto the topic of things I needed to do while I was over here, and suddenly she gasped and squealed out: “You have to go on a hash!” Now, before your mind wanders to illicit places, no, “hashing” has nothing to do with marijuana, though it does involve some kind of substance abuse. Essentially, you follow a path that has been laid down for you on the road with chalk markings or piles of sawdust (apparently) and you jog for quite a while. The catch is: the path always leads to a pub. So after you’ve jogged for a substantial amount of time, you drink. I think it’s genius, and all the more reason to bother with running in the first place. And I’m pretty sure Max agrees with this. Abby did tell me, however, that on your first hash, you’re meant to drink your first pint from your shoe, which sounds just awful. I’ll keep you lot posted on our progress.

In my effort to get into shape, I also registered for some yoga classes. The first day I went, I saw a London fox standing by the entry way to the studio. My deep-rooted affection for these little guys makes me believe this was a very fortuitous sign. The studio I’m going to is kind of a trip, in that the company seems to be the UK equivalent to the yoga corporation I used to work for (strange that phrase: “yoga corporation…”), which is both reassuring in its familiarity, and bizarre in some strange, almost cross-dimensional sense. “Yes, Spock—it would appear they promote the practice of yoga on this planet, too…” I hope it won’t take too long to get my practice up to snuff, and I think that the yoga will compliment the running nicely. I may even go to Pilates. But let’s not push it just yet.

But as I said, so many paragraphs ago: meetings. Wednesday I sat down with classmates Ariana, Poppy, and Loukia and discussed plans on developing work we’d started to touch on and generate during last term (a concept that is Ariana’s, so details will be scant here). Ariana is looking to have us present the piece in both London and in a couple towns in Germany this August, which means I won’t be flying home in July as originally planned. (The topic of when I’m actually going back to the states is a pretty hot one right now, but we’ll get to that in another entry.) The work that we’re doing with Ariana is new to me (here’s a hint: it’s largely NOT text based), is pretty exciting because of the newness, and I really like the concept she’s shooting for. Even the challenge of working in this manner is pretty freeing all on its own, and that’s been great so far. I look forward to more of the same over the coming months.

That evening I also caught The Lady From Shanghi at the BFI, and am once again convinced that I need a wardrobe akin to the women of Noir cinema. And a gun. Yeah, that would be good…

Thursday I met with Nick Wood, head of our course, alongside my fellow Space (in) Between cohort Mauro, to feedback on the success of the sessions, and in an effort to get The Space incorporated into next year’s first term offerings. The school is currently reviewing, revising, and re-writing the course as it stands, so there may be room to squeeze it in. Or there may not be. Either way, it was a good meeting, and it was nice to see that the head of the course would take the time out of his very busy week to discuss our findings and the possibility of adding this program to the schedule. We’ll see what comes of it.

Friday consisted of back-to-back meetings of my Stage Three Practice group, and my RMO group. In the first meeting, Chad, Maria, Hedva, Lisa and I basically discussed what attracted us to the project we’re going to be working on, and what our personal goals were as artists concerning our work for the piece. Then we generated a list of movies, plays, anything really that we knew about that dealt with a meal or consumption.

The second meeting with my RMO group was to discuss the upcoming "Great Orchidaceous Travesty," where THE BAND, our research experiment of beat-like quality, will be making its debut to an organized audience. I say “organized audience” because we always perform in public, gleaming our audience members from passers by, or unsuspecting produce shoppers, but this will be the first time we play in a venue where people will actually be watching us as part of an evening of bizarre cabaret acts. I am, admittedly, nervous. We’ve never really “performed” like this before, and will be short one group member, who’ll be replaced by another classmate who’s never seen our work and hasn’t rehearsed with us yet. It will all turn out one way or the other, I suppose. And if something does go terribly wrong, we’ll have a chance to redeem ourselves, as we perform again for a second time a fortnight later on the final night of the "Travesty." Anyway we’ll be wearing hats, so that’ll be good.

And speaking of hats, on Friday I also visited the Victoria and Albert Museum with my friend Caitlin to peruse a hat exhibit that is currently going on there. It was great, and if you’re in London reading this, please try to check it out before it goes away on June 1st.

Friday night I also caught the first half of a student production of Hamlet. I say “first half” because I left during intermission and held up in the theatre bar for the rest of the show. I may just be burnt out on the play (it is my favorite, and I even carry a miniature copy of it around in my purse—God Bless the Globe gift shop), so that may have been why I felt the need to leave. That being said, I have only ever walked out on two pieces of theatre, and this was the second. I actually have a lot of opinions on certain choices (mostly directorial) made during the time between 1.1 and the middle of 3.2 (they cut right after "Give me some light: away!"), but I’ll keep them to myself. I will say, though, keep an eye out for one George Taylor. He played Polonius and was by far the best thing up there in my opinion, and was the one actor that made me think, “Maybe I should stay...just until after the arras scene.”

The rest of the weekend was quite literally spent wholly confined to my dorm room, while I cleaned, read, and continued to sleep for a good long while, when not watching downloaded American television on iTunes. And touching on that briefly: some of you may have noted an absence in any blog entry relating to the finale of Battlestar Galactica. I have had so many random post-finale discussions, that to delve into one here just seems wasteful. Be that as it may, I will say I enjoyed it, though could have done without the coda, and that I also sobbed through the last thirty minutes or so. And no: I am not ashamed.

Rest in peace, Galactica.

This week I am meeting my RMO group to discuss how our dry run of our research presentation went, and prep a little for our final presentation. I have two meetings with the Ariana group scheduled, THE BAND will perform, and I’ll be catching the first part of Romeo Castellucci’s trilogy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno at the Barbican. I also have a couple days of transcription work at Central, typing out some research presentation or other for £££.

That was a long entry and is probably just an indicator of what the next few weeks will bring: massive fullness. But this I vow: I’ll keep finding time for naps somehow.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"...I ain't lost, just wandering."

Okay, so break has officially started, and I've decided to fall back into step as a tourist in the fine city of London. Much like the last few months I spent in New York, I'm going to try to embark on "London events." It will help pass break by more quickly and enjoyably, and will also distract from the working out I plan to do (yeep). Again, I'm open for any recommendations from people, and will report my own findings upon discovery.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"And as for me/I made my mind up back in Chelsea/When I go, I'm going like Elsie..."

I can't really believe Natasha Richardson is dead. With all the rumors flying around the past couple days, I had been hoping to discover that she had turned around and would soon be on her way to a full recovery. It was such a freak accident kind of thing, and so unexpected. I'm reminded of mine and my friends' reactions back in New York last year when Heath Ledger died, just as unexpected, and just as seemingly unfair--though more unfair, of course, to his family and friends than to the masses. Still, there is strange sense of loss to the acting world, and particularly to the world of Central, where Richardson was educated, and whose name I walk over ever time I mount the steps to the front entrance to the school (as evidenced above).

The saddest thing to me is that she was still so young. Forty-five is really nothing, and considering how much she'd accomplished in her career already, I think most of the world was excited by what she would deliver in the latter days of her life. She was also a woman not to emulate solely in her career, but in her personal life: she had a husband and two children, and somehow balanced that while working. These are things that I want for myself, and to have someone embody those ideals so well, and with so much class, talent, and poise...it's just hard to see that dissolve in a moment.

It's sad losing two alumni this academic year (first Pinter, now Richardson), and especially two alumni who did so much for the industry. As I post this, the school has yet to make any kind of formalized statement to the student body about how they will be honoring the passing of Richardson. I for one will try to be there for whatever it is they do. And until then, I'll probably be listening to the Cabaret soundtrack nonstop.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"You only live twice, or so it seems/One life for yourself, and one for your dreams..."

"Can you direct me to Mr. Craig's trailer, please?"

Sadly, I will not be featured in next James Bond movie, but that is me outside the sound stage at Pinewood Studios where they've shot several sequences for the majority of the Bond films, as well as The Fortress of Solitude from both Superman and Superman II. For a more in depth look at the history of the 007 Stage, go here.

I was at Pinewood this afternoon doing ADR work for an upcoming film, set on a New England college campus (title upon request). The movie was actually shot entirely in the UK--I'm guessing it was probably cheaper that way. For those of you who don't know, ADR stands for "Automated Dialogue Replacement." Basically, it's part of the dubbing process when making a film, and can be anything from a lead actor coming in to re-record dialogue that's audio was shaky during shooting, or to add dialogue into certain scenes to aid in continuity or atmosphere. It was for this last reason that I was hanging around Pinewood.

Whenever you have extras in the background of a shot, they are almost always asked to act silently, while the lead characters are the only ones being followed by the boom. The majority of the time, the sounds the crowd makes are added during post-production. So if you have two actors in the foreground having a plot-based conversation, and you hear from behind them, "Hey! Two beers here, please," that line of dialogue, shown through mimed action on set in November, will finally be recorded by a completely different person come March. Or, if there was an actor who had a single line of dialogue in a shot, but the sound editor hates their voice and wants to replace it, chances are they will be dubbed over as well. This was something else I did today.

I got the job through Spotlight, an online database that almost every UK based actor seems to be on. (The US equivalent in NYCasting, for those who ponder such things.) I got called because I had the right accent--finally, New Jersey pays off! Sadly, due to my student visa standing, I was unable to work for monies. Oh, but yes. You see, under the student visa, you cannot work as an "entertainer" or be "self-employed," both of which kind of describe the field of industry in which I exist and function accordingly in. Upon this realization, I called the company that had booked me to turn down the job, but they very graciously offered to let me come along and work for free. Truth be told, they were probably strapped to find Northeastern accents, but never mind it. I had never done this kind of work before and it seemed like a fun prospect, so why not gain a little experience? So now I have a credit for my CV, working knowledge, and the understanding with myself that since I've done it once, I never have to feel like I need to do this work for free ever again.

There were about twelve of us actors, mostly from America, but a couple from other countries but with accessible US accents from one of their parents. The sound technicians recorded us tons of different ways: put us in separate rooms talking and carried the boom up and down the hallway to get the effect of a dorm hall; had us walk down the hall talking; had us walk up stairs talking; had us talk and walk into a building from outside; had us run by the boom laughing, pretending to get into all kinds of shenanigans at night; had us make snarky remarks about one of the leads we saw in some footage. All of this took a little over 2 hours, and was done around various locations on the studio lot.

Pinewood Studios, showing off it's Slumdog pride.
(This parking lot was one area we recorded in, to get that outdoor feel.)

Then the lot of us were taken over to a recording stage, where we were held in a green room of sorts, and one by one were taken into the recording studio. I got led in by the sound editor who showed me a piece of footage and identified the line she wanted me to replace and ad lib after. The actress who they had filmed speaking the line had a somewhat pronounced "Baaaastan" accent, which didn't sit well with the designer at all. What happens when you dub over dialogue is you watch the footage you're dubbing to on a screen and wait for a white line to cross from one side of the screen to meet a stationary line on the other. Once the lines meet, you start speaking, and hopefully you give them something useful. If a character is moving around on screen, you move your upper body while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. This affects your breathing and how you use your voice, and generally comes off more "realistic sounding." Apparently. After about seven takes, she was satisfied, and I walked back into the green room to wait with the other actors to be called in for a couple more crowd recordings, and then we were released.

I have to be honest: I had a great time today, and since voice over work is something I've been seriously considering exploring as of late, this opportunity came at a really perfect time. And it was just fun, which is what acting is meant to be after all. Right? So upon release, hopefully in a few months time, you'll be able to hear my voice laid out over other people's bodies on film! Unless, of course, I get dubbed over by then.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day in the UK

Ah, the luck of the Irish.

St. Patrick's was pretty uneventful, but spent amongst friends and over alcohol, and therefore just right. (Above: Maria and Ronan start the festivities after a beat experiment. Maria had Ronan use his accent to get that hat. Oh, the exploitation of the Irish continues...)

When done with school for the day, I headed over with Caitlin to Filthy MacNasty's, a Scottish bar, where you could get a Guinness and a bowl of Irish stew for 5GBP, and be serenaded by a Pete Doherty look-alike, even if you didn't order that. (Sorry: Pete-R Doherty, now. Apparently the "r" is essential.) We joined Max and Heidi, who had gotten there about an hour before us, and were later joined by Ronan, who was possibly the only actual Irishman in the place (and subsequently got all his Guinnesses served to him in actual glass glasses--the rest of us had to settle for plastic knock-offs). I grabbed a cab and headed home early, and my driver only charged me for half the fare after we had a lovely chat about drama schools--he'll be auditioning for one in a couple months. I didn't see quite the widespread drunkenness that you can usually catch in NYC, but considering the Peter Doherty look-alike had been in the pub since 10AM, I'd say the spirit of the day was most definitely still maintained.

No Guinness-staches here!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents - your dinner!"

Word on the festival proposals came through yesterday. Out of the three my name had been attached to, the one I was least involved in regarding development and the drawing up of the proposal was of course the one that went through. That's life, eh? Doesn't matter, as the company at hand I'll be working with include the ever fabulous creative producer, Maria, and my friend and fellow performing cohort, Lisa, both of whom went through Stage 2 with me, and both of whom I thoroughly enjoy working with in a devising process and on a personal level. The piece has the distinction being the only site-specific offering at this point (it was the only one pitched as such, though others may develop into site-specific work if space is an issue, or if they head in that direction), and revolves around the dramatic repercussions of what can happen over dinner. What will those repercussions be? What space will we finally end up in? What will we cook up for this less-than metaphorical dinner? Who knows. All of these questions will be discovered in the devising process, and I'll tell you when and what we find (without giving too much away, mind). Some of the personal goals I'm setting for myself for this project are the following:

  • To have nothing to do with the actual act of cooking the meal (though I am ready and willing to make cocktails)
  • To have an ambient soundtrack, full of jazz standards ranging from the 1930s-1950s in recording
  • To have Maria sing a song in a very lounge acty kind of way (she does this often on her own without prompting, and it would be lovely to tap into such a natural gift)
  • To create a distinct, interesting, slightly absurdist character for the show. Think Gormenghast.

The last one is a big deal to me, as we haven't really looked at character development and it's something I'm interested in returning to for the sake of my own training and my own sense of what I want my work to be about. Since the course is so focused on teaching us how to work in a devising process with other practitioners with different skill sets, some of our own skill sets get put down or brushed aside for the sake of just creating a "whole" piece of theatre. I feel like I've done a lot of things, but if you flat out asked me if I felt I spent a lot of time actually acting (or at least what I define as "acting") then I'd have to answer you, "No." I understand dramaturgy even more than before I came here, and certain working methodologies have been introduced to me, so that's great. But fine tuning my specific craft? No. No that hasn't happened. So I'm going to try to take this opportunity to make something that really calls on my discipline as an actor AND a deviser. It won't be a French candlestick but it'll be something.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, my little blog.

I realized today that I had walked over my blog's one year anniversary without so much as an acknowledgement. Whoops. I guess it's still surprising that I started this thing at all, and have tried to keep it up as best I can. In commemoration of the one year aniversary, I have changed the image at the top of the page (you noticed, I'm sure). That little text box describing myself as a "little American girl" growing up and all that--gone. It wasn't sitting with me properly the last few months, and I'm not sure it was even accurate when I first started this thing. The "little girl" part, anyway. Growing up is something I've been doing and will continue to do for a long time. And maybe I'll never get there completely. And I'm kind of alright with that.

Thanks to everyone who's been stopping by and giving this blog a purpose, as small as it may be. Those of you in the states: I miss the lot of you most days, and am happy we can communicate even if it means over this medium. I love you guys!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just a quickie.

Stage 2 presentation went up yesterday (that's me, post showing, covered in lipstick from all the plexi sex). To add to our theme of web based communication, a couple audience members Skyped in and watched via web cam from laptops in the audience. Here's to Jenna and Amy, our fabulous audience members across the sea!!! Huzzah! (Incidentally, Amy was sadly cut off early due to a faulty connection. Don't worry, dear: I am told there will be a DVD.<--That is not a joke.) It went over well, it seems. More importantly than it going over well is it being over, leaving more time for research (which I don't remember how to do, anyway) and other things, like sleep. My sense of bodily maintenance has also gone out the window during this process, and I haven't felt this sluggish and out of shape in months. But spring is starting to take hold of the weather over here, and I have promised myself that I will, for the first time in Y-E-A-R-S, be wearing a bikini this summer, and that I will have the body to feel good about it, damn it! Life is too short to not wear bikinis while one is still young and virile and all that. Perhaps it will even be pink.

Well, let's not push it.

In any case, I plan on spending a lot of the extra time I have on my hands now (and over spring break--w00t!) trying to get back in shape. It's mostly a vanity thing, I won't lie. But by and large, it is important in terms of my chosen profession, and I respect the beast that the thing is and will play by its rules.

Word came in today that I will be involved in the Accidental Festival this year, taking place in late May. I had assisted a fellow Central student with their research regarding how they would address the process they would implement for the piece they were doing for it, and she offered me a place in the project. So I'm looking forward to that.

That, and some sit-ups.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I am lost/In a rainbow/Now the rainbow is gone

Title of this entry comes from lyrics from the band that's currently changing my life, who I'm heading out to see play live in a couple weeks with members of NASH. For a great clip from the Shelly Love (somebody else currently changing my life) film that they scored and the song these lyrics come from, please go here and enjoy. For reals.

I have felt lost lately, but not in any kind of a rainbow. The grind of school has been overwhelming over the last few weeks, and that, compounded with other activities and the lack of Internet in my room (how I survived that, I will truly never know) has obviously infringed on the bloggation of late. My apologies, but there just wasn't the time. I'll have to give a briefbrief overview of my doings, so as to not completely discredit these past few weeks.

Hotel Medea:
Headed out to the Arcola the first weekend in February for some hardcore theatre going, as evidenced by our blazoned fists.

(Photo courtesy of Heidi O'Connell's iPhone.)

The production was a six hour-long extravaganza, with three twenty-minute breaks, and a breakfast spread<--Did I mention the play started at 11:59PM? I couldn't do justice to the show if I tried to give you a synopsis here, but needless to say the sheer stamina of the performers was beyond impressive, particularly Medea who was at least five months pregnant, if not more. Both she and Jason got totally naked at one point--whoa. The production was also really great at creating an all-encompassing experience for the audience. At one point we were all taken in turn, tucked into cots in pairs, read a bedtime story while we held our own stuffed animals and sipped cocoa--we were Medea and Jason's children, overhearing our parents having an argument with our eyes closed. My friend Max died (Not really: they just used him as one of Medea's children at the very end, and we built a funeral memorial around him. His wife Amy was not amused.). We got stranded in the morning because London is not New York, and there were no trains running to the area of the city we were in on Sunday. Ridiculous. WiFi at McDonalds and Heidi's iPhone saved us. We got home around 8AM and were out of commission for the rest of the weekend.

Complicite Workshop:
Complicite is an institution in England, in terms of the top "known" theatre companies in the country. After seeing A Disappearing Number at the Barbican this past fall, I totally jumped on to the Complicite bandwagon (despite the slight over-use of projection in that production). Their last show that ran at the Barbican this past month, Shun-kin, based on a Japanese story, featuring an all Japanese cast and some puppets by Blind Summit Theatre, prompted a short workshop that introduced and instructed on aspects of said production. Basically, it was an auditorium of students, mostly high schoolers, and a handful of Central-ites, that turned up to listen to Simon McBurney (AD of Complicite, and the director of Broadway's latest revival of All My Sons--hence the projections used in said production...) walk us through the first part of the show, and then call some of us up on stage to demonstrate some of the techniques used in rehearsal, both with the actors (none of whom spoke fluent English) and when dealing with the puppets used in the show. Heidi and her iPhone were there, and caught all the action.

(That's Simon McBurney waving his arms.)

The next day Mark Down, one of the founding members of Blind Summit (pictured above in the foreground all the way to the left) came out to CSSD and did an hour lecture on puppetry that was terribly amusing and informative. The day after I caught Shun-kin, and was happy I'd been able to catch Simon McBurney the day before doing his introduction/summary. As the piece was entirely in Japanese, and I was sat all the way to the side on audience left, I:
  1. often couldn't see what was going on/being projected onto the stage.
  2. was too far back to read any of the translation text that was being projected on the sides of the stage.
Now, as I've said repeatedly before, I need glasses. This evening confirmed this fact yet again. However, there was a lot of dialogue in the show, too much even for the fully optically functional 20/20 viewing audience, and McBurney, in my humble opinion, did not make up for the fact with his staging. If you looked away from the stage, you missed part of the story for the sake of the text. If you missed part of the text, you missed part of the story in terms of the staging. And neither were totally decipherable all on their own. It was a little like a poorly staged opera that way. I will also say that I think there were one too many narrators. But I'll go no further than that. It was in all ways a Complicite production, and therefore good enough to be one of the better productions I've seen while over here.

Valentine's Day with Tom Stoppard
I spent basically all of Valentine's Day at the National at various events that all had one common thread: the playwright Tom Stoppard. First, myself and others caught a production of Stoppard's play Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, a play for actors and an orchestra, featuring none other than our very own guest tutor, Toby Jones! My only complaint was that the piece wasn't longer--I could have stayed in the Olivier for hours listening to that music and that text. After that, we sat in on a talk back with the man himself. Stoppard is everything you'd envision in a playwright, right down to the baggy, old man sweater and the slip-on suede shoes that look more like slippers than outerwear. He rolls his r's, probably left over from his Czechoslovakian roots. He reduced Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as just "a play about two courtiers trying to entertain themselves in a boring place." He owns an iPhone, which rang during the talk. He was great. Afterwards, several of us went out to dinner and then returned to the National to watch Shakespeare in Love (co-scribed {or mostly scribed} by Stoppard) from one of the terraces, as it was projected on the side of the fly space of the Lyttleton (one of the spaces in the National). Heidi's iPhone was once again on the scene to catch all the action.

It was a delightful day, full of great art, and a truly unique experience that makes it my top Valentine's Day of all time.<--That statement clearly evidences the fact that I have never had a boyfriend around that date. But no matter. For one day, Top Stoppard was my boyfriend. And I loved him.

Visit from a New Yorker
Right around Valentine's Day, my friend Jen came into town with the transfer of an opera that had just finished it's run at the Met in New York, Doctor Atomic. She had worked on that production and was over here with light plot in hand, and tourist demands. I was happy to oblige her, as I never do anything too too touristy, and it was nice to have the excuse. We spent a lovely day together, watching a busker with a giant unicycle and a chainsaw in Convent Garden, traipsing about the Tower of London, walking along a considerable extent of the Thames, and sharing in a lovely meal. A couple days later, thanks to Jen, I caught Doctor Atomic's dress rehearsal from the best seat I will ever have in that opera house--the stalls, which at this house means orchestra level seating. The design by Improbable's Julian Crouch was great (it always comes back to Improbable, doesn't it?), and baritone Gerald Finley had the most dreamy tone quality. It was far more enjoyable than my last foray at the Coliseum. The final evening I spent with Jen during her visit, we headed over to Gordon's Wine Bar, the oldest wine bar in London. It's largely underground, in catacomb like structures, and you buy a bottle and crouch under brick archways at candlelit tables that are surrounded by mismatched chairs, all the while being dripped on by erosion from above. It was delightful. Moreover, it was wonderful to see a familiar face, and to share part of this experience with someone from home. It gives this journey some context somehow, and is a reminder that there is another world outside this place, and one that's possible to go back to, should I choose to go.

The evening I caught the dress rehearsal for the opera, I was standing behind a man on the tube who looked staggeringly familiar. I tried my best not to stare or lean into him that much, but I kept glancing to him, trying to catch the side of his face, which he was clearly trying to shield. Suddenly at a stop, he turned his head for a moment and then got off. I instantly recognized his left cheek bone: it was Jamie Bamber, aka Lee "Apollo" Adama, the hottest of the hot, the CAG himself, soon to be president of the twelve colonies, and a cast member of the greatest TV show of the last few years of my life. For days I convinced myself if couldn't have been him (too short), but through Internet snooping I found a picture of him wearing the exact same jacket he was wearing on the tube, and since he's in town shooting Law and Order: UK, I have come to the conclusion that it was none other than the man himself. So close, and still so far...

And yes, I did just say: "Law and Order: UK." To be Dick York right now, I swear...

As far as school is concerned--
Term 2 is winding down in the next couple weeks. Our Stage Two Practice showcases our work Tuesday, for three performances. The piece focuses on web-based culture, activity, and identity. The most compelling part for me as an actor is a sequence where myself and my fellow collaborator Ronan perform a movement piece that's basically meant to simulate cybersex. It's really artfully done, I swear. We intend to film it, but due to intellectual copyrighting, there ain't no way that stuff is going to end up here. Also, my parents and relatives read my blog, so to save them from any possible embarrassment, I will avoid posting it. But for anyone curious (I'm seriously serious when I say it's artfully done, truly), I can figure out a way to show you the footage somehow, promise. Don't expect too much in certain areas--we are fully clothed all the time. But there is a vast amount of lipstick used.

The research group continues to plug along, performing our beat-like experiments (sorry I've still not thrown up any video), and the practice conference is fast approaching. We'll see what comes of that.

Third Term Festival proposals went in today at noon. My name is on three (I think...), and if any of them get selected--there were several submissions, but only ten will be accepted--I'll be a happy duck. Hopefully everything will work out. I will say no more on that topic, as I am a deep believer in the fates, and don't want to jinx anything.

And that's really it from here. It's a lot--I realize that was basically a month's worth of stuff I just kind of threw out there--but in reality, it feels like everything happens so fast that almost nothing has happened at all.

Word keeps coming in from New York, and none of it seems to bode well. Jobs are lost, unavailable, or tightening in terms of hours. Less Equity contracts are being issued for summer seasons (because Equity actors demand a living wage and are therefore more expensive than non-union, and therefore at times unprotected, actors), and arts funding is even less existent than it was before. Everyone keeps plugging and/or struggling along, but the realization that for several life is changing drastically is ever prevalent. It makes me appreciate the somewhat insular environment I've holed up in for the year, despite the occasionally stagnant, claustrophobic, and down right irritating nature it can be at times. Putting up with a little aggravation and being spared wondering where the next meal is coming from is a blessing in it of itself. Even if that meal is disgusting cafeteria food from downstairs.

In the coming weeks I will do my best to be more diligent in my updates. Again, I apologize for having lapsed this long. But hopefully all can and will be forgiven. Take care, my dears.