Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sans Sequins

There was a dance school performing on the main stage in the park at the farmer's market today. I worked my way around the outside of the market, hit up all the veggie/flower stands, and had my hands full of goodies (lots of green!) by the time I got to the edge of the bandstand. A little girl, maybe 7 years old, was performing some kind of grindy hip hop to "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. She was all twiggy spangles and pinkness. Her classmates, who were all costumed as highly-sequined versions of the Andrews Sisters, cheered her on as she twisted and twirled.

I walked off the square in synch with the music. There's nothing better than a private theatrical moment, sans sequins.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two steps to the kitchen

You built a reality and then you tore it down to build a new one in your head. You spent so long driving the nails into the first reality so it was sound and sturdy and now it's tough to wiggle them out with the pliers. You just don't want to, but you must. So you fold up all the windows and doors, smooth the curtains, sweep the floors clean of your footprints, pack up the props. You put the script up on the shelf with all the other scripts where it will become a green stripe of words that you used to know by heart. Characters are rendered one dimensional again, pressed flat against their facing pages.

It's depressing to leave a project that brought so much joy and growth. This week is a litany of stain scrubbing catch-up. Not bad. Just preparing the way for the next project. Because isn't that what life is, really? A series of projects that you work on, doing your level best to get a bright red A.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Becoming Beth - a Diary in Bullets

  • We all gathered in Sean's backyard to do a read-through of the play today. Most of the cast members are new to me - a couple of people I almost worked with in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor last year. I think we'll all get along. Lots of laughs. While we're all sitting under the gazebo talking about rehearsals, I realize I'm the oldest one there. How is this possible?
  • Did I get the part of the passive-aggressive, overbearing, overly-cheery boss because I FIT that part? Note to self: Don't ever tell anyone that if they just take a bath and come into work it will all be ok.
  • Cast day at the lake today. Dei instructed us to all bring music that we thought our characters would dance to when no one was looking. I chose "Dreamweaver" and "Sexy Thing." We spent the morning doing all sorts of theatre improv on the lawn, then all danced to our various musical choices. Tim brought some great jazz from the 1920's. Anne brought a song called "I Hate Everyone." Perfect. Now that song is on my computer. We all swam (floated!) in the lake and then had grill food and watched people buzz around the lake on their jetskis. Good bonding time.
  • We're trying to get the first scene down so we can do a "teaser" at the studio for Third Friday. I'm wondering if the stage will work - it's a small space. In the end, it does. We all cram into the tiny office/library and use it as a green room. The audience laughs during the performance. Whew!
  • I've been told to watch "Scrubs" and think about the blonde character's delivery of her lines. My character is big, absurd, and delivers many of her lines directly to the audience. Everything Beth does reminds me of some of the bosses I've had in the past. The woman who taught me how to wash lettuce properly. "Don't tear it! You'll bruise it." I quit that job the next day. That's when I was Edna. Now I'm old enough to be Beth, and well, I am becoming her, slowly, with direction.
  • Rehearsals are getting rigorous. Set pieces are added. The performance space is really cool - rugged and concrete - a space between two factory buildings that's been framed in with a new concrete block wall with huge windows. There's a ton of dust. Marissa and Dei try to get everything swept before we start every night, but when I come home I wash my feet - they are black with dust.
  • Drink water. Get sleep. Don't strain our voices.
  • Energy was a little low to start today, so Dei had us play a game of hide n' seek. Inside the building was off-limits, outside was fine, and a base was decided. Halfway into the game, I remembered why I suck at it - I get lonely in my hiding place and eventually peek out and get caught. Wow - David can run! He was a blur as Anne and I tried to nab him. Energy level picked right up after our game.
  • Dei is taking great pains to help us polish our scenes and characters. Today Tim nailed one of his most dramatic scenes. I was sitting on a paint can in what will become backstage as he performed. He made me cry. I looked at Dei and nodded yes.
  • Ok, feeling a little anxiety today. Am I the cast member who is weak? Blar. It'll get better. It's just hard being the character everyone "loves" to hate. What if they all hate to hate me?
  • Enough reading of the script and hearing it, and I'm getting some of the craft the playwright put into this piece. Repeated lines carry over ideas from scene to scene.
  • There are bats in the space. Rehearsals are getting later and later, and the bats swoop around over our heads starting around 10. We duck and laugh, but they have to be "taken care of" before performance time. I hope this doesn't mean death for them.
  • The clothing company that is housed in the building donated some clothes to us as costumes, so we had a little fashion show today - Anne and I. I don't think I've ever tried on so many clothes. Plenty of great pieces for Beth Breath. I've noticed myself eyeing my own closet suspiciously. Is this a piece Beth would wear? Purge! In the end, the costumes are perfect. When I put them on, it helps me get into character.
  • I love theatre people.
  • Helen's been making props like mad. New pieces get added as Dei gets ideas - a pirate hat, a sword, plenty of handiwipes. She's really rallied with all this work, and done an excellent job. Plus she's liking the rehearsals, cast fun.
  • Photos today. Program will be made soon. I wrote a short two or three line bio on a sheet of legal paper. Program already? This means the performances are coming up soon. The set is shaping up now too - Mark has been driving in from Philly to paint and rehearse - he should set up a cot. He must be exhausted.
  • Dei's choice of music for the transitions is brilliant. We started blocking all of those transitions. My brain has a hard time with jumping around from scene to scene and making sense of where things happen. I know when we do a run-through it will all fall into place.
  • Warm-ups before rehearsals include some of the funniest tongue twisters I've ever heard, among other focus and physical activities:
I am a mother pheasant plucker -
I pluck mother pheasants.
I am the best mother pheasant plucker
to ever pluck a mother pheasant.

and I really like this one that Chad taught us:

She stood on her balcony, nimbly mimicking him hiccuping
and amicably welcoming him in.

  • I've learned to take afternoon naps.
  • Last night, during a exit, I had a great idea for a scene for my book. This isn't the first time working in the theatre has informed my writing. Woo hoo!
  • I love love love the improv, the opening, the ending, and everything in-between.
  • We create these little realities, live in them for a month, and then tear them all down in a day or less.
  • I've given up on modesty. People are just going to have to see my white fleshy flesh during costume changes.
  • Opening night. Tim asks in the green room if I'm nervous. I say I have caged animal energy. I explain that it starts as a chipmunk, then it becomes a weasel, a racoon, a get the picture. We all put on makeup and costumes and pace around the room like panthers.
  • There are flowers for Helen and me, from Dan. They are gorgeous pink roses.
  • We all go out to celebrate after at a local bar - lots of good feedback from the audience. Some are coming back this weekend to see the show again. That's a great review.
  • Pick up rehearsal. Warm ups. We read through the Q & A that was in The Weekender this week - Anne was interviewed about the play. She was pretty mortified by the whole reading out loud of her words, but she did a really terrific job promoting the play and just being her wonderful self in the interview. We ran transitions for lighting/music cues and then did a speed-through of the play. Hysterical. The play on, well, speed.
  • Only three more performances.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Short List of Things I Like To Do

Watching people hug, then guessing from the type of hug the relationship and/or situation. Airports are good places for this. Bus stations, bus stops, cafes.

Eavesdropping on conversations. Delicious.

Cloud watching, naming them, renaming them as they morph.

Pouring cream into coffee just for the explosion of swirls.

Playing with smoke. Incense works great for writing words in the air.

Spacing out. Just kinda staring, middle-distance, not thinking much.

Sticking fingertips into melted candle wax.

Listening. Closely.

Stopping lists short, then returning to them later. Or not.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Where She Takes It All Back and Rambles on a Bit about Humanity

I admit, I've been wrong. I've unfairly judged a book by it's first two hundred and fifty pages, and now I'm in the throes of not being able to put it down. This realization means that I now get to go back and give those other books I put away another shot. When I had this epiphany, it was closely followed by a sinking feeling that what judgment I place on books I might also place on people. I'm pretty sure I don't, but I'm keeping a keen awareness about it.

There aren't many people I don't find completely compelling, so why are some characters in books so flat? It seems unfair to humanity to write a character that seems like a cardboard cutout.

Being in any public space that you frequent, and really watching the people in it - how many have you seen before? Probably none, possibly one. Ok, now think about that. You live in this neighborhood, and you are often in that establishment...and it's filled on a regular basis with people you don't know. People who have personalities and stories. A whole new cast, every time you go there. Variety!

Yesterday I watched a woman at the grocery store browse the paperbacks. She already had two romances in the cart (I almost leaned in and told her to come by the studio for a couple of freebie books that were left in the door slot recently), along with a frozen TV dinner. Maybe she's lonely, or maybe she's a guerilla artist who takes apart the seedier parts of the novels and superimposes them on top of pages of the Bible, then projects the resulting text onto buildings and sidewalks. Maybe that's her way of getting back at the severe aunt who raised her because she never had the opportunity in her teens. Who knows - but I like to think about it.