Thursday, May 28, 2009

Postcards from the Edge



I filmed this last night, but didn't edit/post till today (obviously). It's been a long week, and if I'm not completely unconscious on Sunday, it will be a frakkin' miracle. My apologies that this is such a poor quality vlog--I was barely usable when I shot it. But trust me: you don't want to see the footage I threw out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pep talk from Chinaski

Because sometimes you need to be reminded.

this moment

it's a farce, the great actors, the great poets, the great
statesmen, the great painters, the great composers, the
great loves,
it's a farce, a farce, a farce,
history and the recording of it,
forget it, forget it.

you must begin all over again.
throw all that out.
all of them out.

you are alone with now.

look at your fingernails.
touch your nose.

begin.

the day flings itself upon
you.


-C. Bukowski

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Long (Theatre) Weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend in the States, and it's another Bank Holiday weekend in the UK. So again, I have Monday off from school--whoo hoo! I should spend the day focusing on plot/script/character development for One Thing May Lead to Another (which goes up in less than a month's time), but let's be honest and up-front: I probably won't. The most I may be able to get myself to do is read a couple chapters in my Charlie Chaplin book and call it "research." (Incidentally, that was how I justified dedicating a week's worth of free time to watch all four seasons of Jeeves and Wooster. Thank goodness British television only ever lasts 6 episodes a season, otherwise I'd be way behind.) It feels almost indulgent to be neglecting work on a day that is so open for getting some done, but what it comes down to is:

I'm frakkin' tired.

Friday was twelve-and-a-half hours of theatre making (in at 9:00, released at 21:40), that basically ended with a near twelve minute devised telling of the Oedipus story. Yes, that's right: we averaged about one minute of performance per hour in rehearsal (a number that actually doesn't seem too far fetched if you really think about it). What we ended up with was still a bit raw, and clearly in a workshopy place in aesthetic and execution, but was actually a complete performance with some interesting moments of theatricality in it. Considering the length of time we had to develop the work, I'm quite proud of what we generated. The director, psychologist, and other actors were all great to work with, as was the project's facilitator Nessah. My friends Caitlin, Heidi, Loukia and Max were in the audience on Saturday, and I was touched that they came out to support me. And Simon McBurney was there, which was pretty bemusing to me.

I got a couple hours break after the performance ended Saturday afternoon, and then headed off to rehearsal at Central. I was only going in for an hour, to really catch up with what my ensemble members had done while I was gone--they had rehearsed Friday without me, as well as earlier in the day on Saturday. I arrived, they showed me some footage of scenes they'd improvised in character, we talked a little about my character and how she needs to fit in/serve the structure of the plot (which is a place of debate and confusion for me as of late) in order to justify her existence. I'm more than a little stressed about this, but more about that some other time. Anyway, finished rehearsal, went home for a couple hours, then hit up the Camden Odeon for Angels and Demons. My recommendation: It's a pass. Majorly. Unless you're homesick for Rome. And if you're wondering: no, there was sadly no melted butter to save the experience this time, though Max and I were masters the MST3K-style commentary. (God I miss that show...)

Today, after a lame jog with Max (my fault) and banging my left knee a couple times--rather magnificently in each instance I must add--I went down to the BAC to rehearse for an "event" I'll be participating in this Thursday and Friday as part of the BURST Festival. "Event" is in quotations because the artist who conceived it described it as such today, rather than calling it a "performance." It's called Handbag Scratch. I should explain something--in the UK, a scratch is basically an evening hosted for the sake of a group of artists (most often writers) who are creating new material and want to see what works and what doesn't. The BAC is big on helping artists develop new work, and the institution hosts several "scratch night" evenings to accommodate this. (For all my NY theatre peeps out there, this would be a non-competitive version of SLAM!) So the "event" is still in development, but is pretty cute as it stands. I won't divulge the details until it's done, but I will say that the women over sixty who are participating in it make the whole thing for me. It was a quick and easy rehearsal, and we (Loukia is also performing in the "event") were out of there in just under two hours. Amazing. Then tonight I headed back to Camden for the Accidental Festival closing night party with Heidi, and now am curling up for bed.

I'm sure there's a moral to this weekend, and I probably know what it is, but I'm too out of it to write it to you now. Good night, friends.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Accidental Fest

No time to update for reals (hopefully can carve out an hour or so for this over the upcoming weekend) but just to keep you abreast: tomorrow (today) I head into a twelve hour rehearsal for the Accidental Festival, 12 hours that will also generate the entire performance that will be shown on the following day from 12:30-2:30 (including a post-show talk about our process). The director has asked that I learn the two phrases for tomorrow:

"Lovely, lonely, lovely, lonely, lovely, lonely."
"I will be ruthless in my search. I am always diligent."

What does this mean? I have no idea. But: tickets are still available!

I love you all. But I wish I was asleep.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Space (the Final Frontier)!

(Had to get that in there.)

My ensemble got confirmation on its space today for our site-specific work! Huzzah! It is costing us a pretty penny (pence) and will eat a chunk of our budget, but with booking in for three evenings, as well as having access to it for rehearsal time on specific nights, it really comes out as a bargain. I feel confident that now this is sorted other parts of the production will start to drop into place accordingly.

And if you're wondering: no, I still haven't written my paper. And yes, it's due tomorrow.

Right.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another for Zuzu*


Saw these shoes on a curb outside on my way home from my puppetry class last night, and they just sang to me of America and lost youth. Also of drunkeness followed by the loss of shoes. What does it say to you?

Papers and Puppets

I'm posting before I start a paper I've been putting off for a bit that's due Friday. Basically, we're meant to present an outline (in 1,500 words) of how we plan to proceed as artists in our practice past graduation, and how we will prepare for that in terms of our research for our dissertation by stating what we will research, how and why. This work is also meant to contribute to our Practitioner Portfolio, wherein we talk a lot about a practitioner we like, how awesome they are, why they are awesome, and why someday we would like to be awesome like them, too. This paper would seem daunting--having to make a HUGE, almost blanket statement about "What I want to do as a grown-up artist and here is how I will do it" does seem a bit overwhelming--but it's really not. At the end of the brief, the following is stated:

"...Please note that we recognize that plans and research imperatives may change. You Scheme of Work does not commit you to following through exactly in the terms that you describe when you come to write up your portfolio..."

So: one could stress over writing 1,500 words, but since in the end one won't necessarily be held accountable for anything stated, surmised, or generally declared therein, one comes to care less. Which makes one feel more annoyed by the prospect of writing this paper than worried. Which, in turn, makes one procrastinate.

(My apologies for the "one"-ness of the last few sentences. I've been watching a lot of Jeeves and Wooster lately, and can only surmise that the source lies there.)

Last night, Ronnie Le Drew guest-lectured at my puppetry class. He came in to talk to us about marionettes, as well as his work on various projects in television, commercials, and film. At one point he mentioned having worked as Zippy in Rainbow, and everyone in the class let out excited gasps. I just stood there being American and not getting the reference. Rainbow is essentially a children's show with puppets, that seems to run in a similar vain to Captain Kangaroo, not quite Sesame Street, though I suspect meeting Ronnie for these folks would be akin to me meeting Caroll Spinney).

Ronnie has been a puppeteer his whole life since having knocked on the door of the Little Angel Theatre at 15, and I don't think there could be a better spokesperson for the lifestyle. He started by showing us some old footage of the Little Angel, then moved on to recent commercials he's done. Ronnie is especially gifted in working with marionette puppets, something he learned at Little Angel, and a rare commodity of specialization in the world of puppets today, where hand or rod puppets are most commonly seen. Below is some footage of Ronnie and a marionette he brought in, while he discusses operating it and his work on Animo, an Improbable show from a few years back (again: all roads lead back to Improbable).



Here's another video of Ronnie, talking about his audition for and working on Labyrinth. He introduced the topic by bringing out a beaver puppet (who had "lost" his tale). Having a beaver puppet myself, I took out my camera to catch the action. The reason this video starts with the sound of my raucous (and ridiculous) laughter is because the beaver saw me turning on my camera, became excited, and in full Muppet-like fashion (complete with flailing arms) squealed with excitement: "You're gonna take a PICTUUUURRRRRRREEEE???!!!"



No doubt, that little guy was cute, but fret not, Bobby: you shall always be the first in my heart.

We didn't do any hands-on yesterday, but it didn't matter--Ronnie was so entertaining and everyone loved hearing his stories. He'll be back next week, and we'll work with some marionettes then.

I'm going to end this entry quickly and abruptly--not because I'm dashing off to write a paper, but because I seem to have come down with a bit of a head cold, and I have to lie down before I fall over.

Toodlepip!

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Everything's as if we never said goodbye"

Hedva, Lisa, and Maria hard at work on our devised Turbulence Festival work, One May Lead to Another.

It’s a fortnight into the third term, and the day after the conclusion of my Geektastic week. Things are moving steadily (albeit slowly) along for the festival piece, One May Lead to Another. My company members are great. They really care about the work, and definitely want to not only do this production, but do it well. For the first time in a while it’s like I’m focused on actually working to create something, and that feels good. Not that I wasn’t trying to create something last term, or even during RMO necessarily, but there’s something about actually building a piece of theatre that is satisfying in a very different way than cobbling together certain pieces of experimentation, (Stage Two) or conducting and analyzing research (RMO). It feels more propelling than either of those things, and it’s something I’ve missed for a while now←I realize as I write that, the last time I performed in a play was in May of last year (Oh my God, it has been a YEAR?! {*Succumbs to anxiety attack*}), and the last time I did a reading was in September. That’s a long time to be out of the game, silent. I’m happy to be finally diving back in.

Despite this renewed sense of theatrical creativity now eeking out of my every pore (it’s pretty disgusting, actually) I’m still making a point of filling my life with a million other little things. This is pretty typical of me, and I hope I can make a point of carving out some time to really follow through with the work that I’m setting out to do and that I want to do for this piece. This weekend I’ll be going for my traditional weekend jog with Max, getting my haircut (for the first time in months—literally, the last time I had a trim was on September 30th, the day I left for the UK the first time), seeing my course tutor in a performance, catching Handa’s Hen at the Little Angel Theatre (a perk from my puppetry class), and seeing The Spy Who Loved Me at the BFI. There’s gotta be an hour in there somewhere when I can read some Stanislavski. Right?

Theatre Design Expo

My friends Max and Caitlin, both scenographers on the MA-ATP, were showing off their work at Central's Design Expo yesterday. It was a really nice event to attend, as it highlighted an aspect of theatre that doesn't get nearly as much note as it should. Let's face it: if you didn't direct something, act in something, or write something, most people outside of the world of performing art don't have a clue all the things that are taken into account when doing all of those other jobs that make a piece of theatre happen (although, it could be argued--and fairly--that those people also don't really know what it is to direct, act, or write either...). As an actor, I'm just as guilty of having little knowledge of how a designer does their job and what they try to explore while doing it, and it was a real treat to see so many examples of the process and product designers at Central had created all in one place, to allow for closer examination of those aspects the majority of the theatre-going world often takes for granted, not excluding myself.

Both Caitlin and Max showed parts of their Narcissus and Echo project, and Caitlin, who had worked on Stage Two Practice in the same ensemble I was in, showed off a lot of pictures of myself and Ronan and the infamous Perspex. It looked pretty shrine-like to me, and I took a picture to feed my ego.


Seriously, though: a couple candles and it would be complete. I wonder if a designer's narcissism is anywhere near an actor's...

No, that's impossible. Now there's something designers will never understand about acting.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Week of Geek

The Geektastic week has finally come to a close. That there’s a picture of eyes we used to practice our focus skills at my puppetry class last week. I hadn’t had a chance to post it earlier, but I wanted to make sure I got it up there. I don’t think puppetry has a reputation of being “geeky” necessarily, but it is a performance convention that tends to attract a large audience of people with very specialized knowledge of the topic, which links somehow to my idea of geekdom. Perhaps Simon Pegg has said it best:

“Geek is just a dirty word for enthusiast.”

In any case, it’s cool image, and so I posted it. So there!

Wednesday was the second (or first, if you really can’t get behind the puppetry argument) day of my Geektastic week, wherein NASH went out to see Wolverine together in the afternoon. This was an especially cathartic thing for me, as it was a few hours after having finished my conference presentation and was meant to be majorly de-stressing. Max melted butter and brought it in a plastic container to pour on our popcorn, as the British movie theaters don’t seem to have caught on to the trend of pouring melted butter—A LOT of melted butter—onto your movie popcorn and the goodness that comes with such gluttony. To any British readers, this will seem absurd (and to my mother, a health nut, this will seem especially disgusting), but to any warm-blooded American reading this, you will understand the necessity of “liquid gold,” as Heidi has coined it, on popcorn in a movie theater situation, just as you will understand the necessity of KFCs to offer biscuits and mashed potatoes with gravy! But there was Max, showing off that American ingenuity: making things happen when otherwise they wouldn’t.

What a shame the movie was so bad.

I won’t go into it, just in case there are people who are actually looking forward to seeing it, but it definitely took a lot of liberties, the dialogue was WAY hokey at times, and some things just did not make sense. The movie also could not stand alone in any way, and was totally dependent on the other X-Men movies' existence in order to justify it at all--thus leading me to believe that this would have made a fine DVD extra, but why pay 8GBP for it? At least there was butter and Hugh Jackman's upper torso, and the understanding that I am through with research conference presentations, hopefully forever.

But Three Mile Island? Come on!

Friday marked the second event of my geek-themed week, wherein I caught the London run of Waiting for Godot, a production currently touring England with a pretty ridiculous cast in tow. Simon Callow is a gem as Pozzo, but the reason this production supports the theme of the week is because the two leads, Didi and Gogo were played by none other than Professor X and Magneto respectively. Oh that's right: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen together, on stage, playing off eachother's antics. This was a geeky experience two-fold. For obvious reasons, this is comic book geeky, given these actors' portrayal of two of the most iconic comic characters in the Marvel Universe. Secondly, it was theatrically geeky: here were two of the greatest actors of their generation, foundation stones of the RSC's reputation, and artists who I've not only dreamed about working with but about being on some level (yes, sometimes I think about being a man--but only for all of the parts!). Seeing them doing their work live, and sharing the stage, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm so thankful I had it.

"How do we act so well?"

Tuesday of this week brought another puppetry class. Again, not necessarily falling into the definition of "mainstream geek," but in keeping with my earlier paragraph, I'm highlighting it again. That evening I worked with three other students to create a praying mantis-like puppet named Albert out of newspaper. Albert was pretty awesome, and if I can get my hands on some of the pictures taken of him, I'll throw some up here post-haste.

The final day of the Week of Geek took place today at midnight. Heidi and I headed down to Southbank to see Star Trek at the BFI IMAX. If you're wondering, yes: there was melted butter brought into the theater. But this time, our condiment didn't have to salvage the experience: the movie was AWESOME. Good writing, good acting, good design, nice special effects (although the vastness of the IMAX screen made some of the battle sequences too overwhelming to really understand visually). I had been really worried that it would suck, as JJ Abrams had admitted to not really being a fan of the show in an interview at some point, and that the writers on the project had no Trek lineage: neither of them had written for any of the franchise's many series. But it turned out great, and they built something into the narrative (no spoilers here!) that essentially cleaned the slate for them completely, thus reviving the timeline. I've heard some fans were upset about the goodness of the movie, because the film was actually able to make this story appealing to a mainstream audience, an audience that didn't need the "privileged" knowledge to understand what was going on in the film. I see their point, but I do think it's kind of ridiculous: at the end of the day, the chance of being able to talk about Star Trek to more people and not be openly mocked, and being able to share with people a mythology that is so dear to my heart is more valuable to me than being a keeper of knowledge. Also, there's a greater chance that this will revive the franchise, and with that will come more films and possibly more television shows, and perhaps, someday, if I'm a good girl and if I work very hard and hold on tight to my dreams, I will finally fulfill that childhood goal of being in an episode of Star Trek. Patrick Stewart doesn't even have to be on set, I just want to say that I've done that. Overall, this movie is great fun for anyone with an imagination and I highly recommend it, and not solely because of its Trek-based merits. And it was a great and appropriate way to end the week.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bank Holiday

Disillusioned with only being offered a "place at the table," many of the knights left Arthur's employ to follow Merlin, who offered not only magic, but viable real estate opportunities.

The above is something else I passed by during my journey on foot to my puppetry class last week.

It's Early May Bank Holiday here in England, which essentially equates to America's Labor Day. Meaning: I have the day off! w00t! If I had a back yard, I'd be getting ready to grill and drink the day away with friends over games of badminton while Bruce Springsteen played in the background. Alas, this is not to be. But considering the work my company and I have in front of us for the next month, I am looking forward to having a day where I can get some reading done to prepare for this onslaught of devised theatre. So today is all about me, outside, in the sunshine...with a book.

I haven't been updating too much lately as I've been having a geektastic week, and it's not over yet. I will submit a report in full, probably on this coming Thursday. Till then, you'll just have to sit on your hands and wait.

I just found out the other day that Zuzu* will be coming to town the first week of June. I'm excited to show her around the city, mostly to use her as an excuse to do even more touristy things I've been meaning to get to but have neglected. This news also came on the same day my mother e-mailed me to tell me she wasn't going to Paris this coming weekend for business as originally planned, where I was meant to visit her (damn swine flu). So it was nice to have that disappointment replaced with something to look forward to for next month.

Before I head out into the world, I just want to give a nod to my two new followers: hello, and welcome! It's lovely to see you here! Do drop by often!