Monday, August 31, 2009

Life Clips

Sporadic blogging for me these days with rehearsals, etc. But in the paper this morning, I read a list of, most of the movies coming out this Fall along with a one sentence description. I guess they really like Twittering in the New York Times.

I love the fall movie schedule (because many are Oscar contenders) but after reading so many short descriptions, they all seem to blend into one another, and I end reading some weird descriptions (especially before coffee):

  • A waitress traces the world's dependence on oil in this animated family classic

  • A teen pursues his dream girl, the only US Marshall in Antarctica, who is racing to catch a killer who lives vicariously through robots.
Not sure I want to see either of those flicks. But it got me thinking, how much more fun would today be (or any day) if I just planned it out like a one-line movie promo. You know, I'll just pitch my day to myself and see what happens:

Kate wakes up early to go for a run and spends the rest of the day trying to recover her lost sleep.


On her one day off, a Stage Manager has 24 hours to make her house livable for her family for another week.

Sounds so much more exciting than what I'm actually going to do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On This Date in History Boys

The History Boys rehearsals have officially started and we're off and running. And, by running, I mean running. The play is so dense, it's chock-full of references to poets, historical events, movies, songs, etc. that I wonder how these actors are going to make sense of it all.

The play takes place in a "sixth-form classroom in a boys' school in the eighties in the north of England..." So, first we had to learn about the general education system in England and what the heck a "sixth form classroom" is. A sixth form class, by the way, is where students study for their entrance exams into universities. The play itself deals with the idea of learning for learning's sake and learning in order to gain entrance into a prestigious university like Cambridge or Oxford.

But in addition to understanding the education system in England and the poetical references scattered throughout the play, the boys (and they are boys, most of them are in their early to mid-twenties) have to learn the dialect, a smattering of french, movie references, and a few songs. This is all before we get up on our feet to learn blocking and lines.

Just for fun, here's a list of some of the literary references in the play:
Today, is a typical rehearsal day: some actors are working privately with the dialect coach, others are meeting with the dramaturg to go over specific questions about what their character says, knows, etc., still others are practicing music, and then some are watching the movie scenes that their characters re-create on stage.

That's been a lot of fun, watching these guys re-enact the hokiest scenes from Brief Encounter, The Seventh Veil, and Now, Voyager.

But I love this type of play with things happening every minute and in several different spaces. Call me a total scheduling geek but I get a kick out of figuring out where and when and how everything is going to fit together. And, I love being in the thick of it all.

So, I guess I could say, on this date in History Boys, the circus came to town.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Glorious Inglourious

At first blush, I did not like Reservoir Dogs; it was the violence. But then, after chatting and chatting about it with people, I took another look and I've been a Quentin Tarantino fan ever since.

Oh, he's not for everyone and I totally understand that. There are many filmmakers that I don't like. I was never a Mel Gibson fan; didn't care for Braveheart. Of course, I feel totally vindicated about that now.

Last night, I saw Inglourious Basterds and loved it! I had that same feeling I have after every Tarantino movie: uh, um, wow, did I like it? Seriously, there is so much to digest that I'm a little dumbfounded.

Leaving the theater, I overheard another patron say, "Tarantino is back." And, I guess that's when it hit me, oh yeah, he is.

The script definitely does not sparkle like Pulp Fiction. But whereas Pulp Fiction was about the script, this movie is about, well, movies. He crams so many visual references into this film, you almost don't care what the characters are saying. In one scene, I saw references to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Godfather, Titanic and Lord knows what else.

Sure, the villain is a Nazi but I don't think he's referencing WWII Nazis, I think he's referencing cinema Nazis; that's what he's riffing on. He's not saying anything about World War II, just World War II movies (among others). He stuffs the film with so many movie references and cinemas and movie critics, it's as if he's beating us over the head with the idea that this is a movie about movies.

And he succeeds. Oh does he succeed. Yes, the violence is awful but by this time, you have to expect that from Mr. Tarantino. I feel like if he doesn't make you squirm at least once, then he thinks he has failed. The thing is, the Nazis commit only 2 of the atrocious acts in the film. The goriest violence is done to the Nazis. And true to a Tarantino movie, the villains all get their comeuppance.

There was one part I loved and I don't even know what it means. The Nazi villain, Landa, pulls a ridiculously large pipe out of his pocket near the beginning of the film, when he discovers Jews hiding at the house of a Frenchman. At the end of the film, Landa discovers that the famous German movie star, von Hammersmark is a double agent working for the Americans. To nab her, he has her pull her own shoe (found at the scene of the crime) out of his coat pocket. It's the same size and color scheme of the pipe he pulled out earlier. It's so cool when he references an earlier scene like that.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. It's a feast of sights and sounds that I felt as if I ate too much rich food at the end. But of course, like any glutton, I'm going back for a second helping.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bandslam and Bowie

It's been a while since I blogged but it has been prep week and I am trying to spend some time with my kids before I go into rehearsal hibernation. Only, I don't want to spend any more time with my daughter who is currently sitting on the couch "commenting" on my post.

There's not enough wine in this world!
Anyway, back a few hours ago, when I did like my kids, I took them to see the movie Bandslam. I wasn't expecting much but surprisingly, I enjoyed it. The lead actor is quite good and it actually has a plot. This boy, Will Burton, a loner who knows A LOT about music, moves to a new school and gets recruited by the head cheerleader to manage her new band. Over the course of the movie we learn why Will is a loner and why the cheerleader wants to hang out with him. Oh, and Will writes to David Bowie everyday telling him all about his life. David Bowie doesn't write back, until the end, of course. And the music is very good. I think some of the bands were actual bands, like The Burning Hotels (love that name) and The Daze.

But, really, I have to confess that the real reason I think I liked this film is because David Bowie has a cameo and I LOVE David Bowie. I came of age, as they say, in the 1980's, so I first discovered David Bowie with his Let's Dance album. My brother-in-law said, "Oh, no, you need to listen to real Bowie." So, that Christmas I received Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs, on vinyl of course; this was back in the day.

Soon after that, I met my friend Joe P. at a summer drama camp at Yale University. That was back when we both still wanted to act. He lived a few hours away from me so during senior year of high school, we wrote to each other (no e mail for us!). We started writing a play called, When David Bowie Came to Springfield or David Bowie Comes to Springfield, I can't remember. I can't even remember the plot of the play but I do remember we both liked David Bowie. We never finished the play but we did stay friends. He now works for SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and lives in New York City. He comes down to see all the plays I work on and my kids love him.

Isn't it amazing how David Bowie can bring people together? And, this gives me the perfect opportunity to link you to this David Bowie video from his Serious Moonlight tour. You can thank me later.
And now, I'm going to take a page from my own playbook, put on some Bowie, have a glass of wine, and check in with all my blogging friends to see what they've been up to lately.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spike Tape and Sitters and Prep Week, Oh My!

Yesterday, I began my prep week for History Boys which will start of the 2009/2010 season at The Arden. It was great to be back in the building even with all the changes that had taken place over the summer; 5 people had left to pursue other career options.

This is also the week that I panic a bit:
  • Did I line up sitters? Probably

  • Will the kids have enough to eat? It's not like I'll be in Siberia

  • Did I contact everyone about the first rehearsal? So far, so good

  • Will I be able to handle rehearsals, kids, and continue to run? Doubtful

  • Did I tape the stage correctly? This one is a 3/4 thrust so it's pretty easy (no stairs or weird angles)

  • Will I like the cast?
That last one can make or break a show. I don't have to be best friends with the actors. In fact, it's rather difficult since they all take breaks together while I have to work and I'm pretty removed them, especially during tech when they spend more time with the Assistant Stage Manager. But, it makes the 2 1/2 months go by so much smoother if we all get along.

I have worked with actors that I did not like and it's just dreadful. One time, not at the Arden, I worked on a touring show (it toured locally to schools) with just 3 other people. No one liked this one actor and the days just seemed to never end. I bet we all have stories about working with people we just couldn't get along with. My problem is when I find out that this person (that I don't like) has friends because I don't believe it. Really, someone likes him/her? I know, not very nice of me.

This is a cast of mostly young men (early 20's for the most part) and only one other woman. I don't know what it is but it's the second show I've done with mostly guys. I just hope it's a cast I can have a beer with, you know? It's also another show that's going to run about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. I swear the Arden picks a show, realizes it's going to be a long one and then calls me to see if I want to Stage Manage it.
But I am excited for History Boys. I read the script a couple of times and I don't think I really get it so rehearsal will be as much as a learning experience for me as it is a time to figure out where the props go. I keep you updated.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twittering Away at Auditions

On Sunday, I read this blog post about Daryl Eisenberg, a casting director, who, during a casting session, tweeted about the auditionees. She didn't mention any auditionees by name but some of her comments were rather snarky.

A debate ensued on several theater websites about this issues. People came down on both sides. Not wanting to be left out, I thought I'd jump into the fray, only on my own blog.

Personally, I think Ms. Eisenberg is incredibly rude to tweet during an audition. It shows complete disrespect to comment on the auditionees, even if she is doing it between auditions. Actors spend a good deal of their lives auditioning and they don't get paid for it. It takes a lot of time to prepare for an audition and get yourself there. Several actors I've worked with have had to travel up to New York, audition, then return to Philly for a show that night. Of course, the actor is paying for his/her own travel (and most working actors do not make a ton of money). Often, an actor cannot audition because of the demands of the show he/she is currently in which means he/she loses out on a potential job.

If the actor is expected to respect the time and talent of a casting director by being prepared and showing up on time and NOT tweeting during an audition, I think it only fair that the casting director shows the same respect.

Can you imagine if an actor walked into an audition or even a rehearsal and start twittering or IM'ing in the middle of it? I doubt Ms. Eisenberg would give that person a job but she's allowed to tweet? I hate double standards.

Plus, I'm a bit over the constant use of electronic devices. They are very useful in certain ways and in others, just a waste of time. My daughter has a friend who started texting someone else while the two of them were together. They're 11 years old! What could possibly be so important that she needed to text right then and there! I guess I'd have to ask Daryl Eisenberg the same question: What could be so important that you needed to twitter about it right there in the audition room?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Julia's Kitchen

I've been reading so much about the new movie, Julie and Julia lately. Everyone seems to like it, even the NY Times. But really, who doesn't love Julia? I haven't seen the movie yet. I read Julia Child's book, My Life in France, which is the basis for her section of the movie. It's such a great read, I almost don't want to spoil it by seeing the movie. But, who am I kidding? I'm sure I'll see it.

I just found this blog post on the Bitten blog about Pedro Guerrero photographing Ms. Child's kitchen; both the article and the photos are great. I know everyone is talking about Julia Child these days, I guess I just have to jump on the bandwagon.

We saw Julia's kitchen at the Smithsonian years ago and I feel in love with the idea of the peg boards that hold all the pans and utensils. When we got home we put up peg board all over our kitchen in Niskayuna. I loved it, it's the only part of that house I truly miss. The kitchen we have now, while serviceable, doesn't have the wall space for peg board. We didn't, as Paul Child did, outline our pots and pans on the peg board but if we ever do peg board again we will.

When I put up my peg board back in Niskayuna, my mom said that my dad had done that for her in one of the houses they lived in. Maybe that was the thing to do back then or maybe she watched a lot of Julia Child.

Who knows? Anyway, enjoy the pictures and if you have the space, try the peg board, it's great. I mean, Julia Child did it, it has to be good.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Theme Thursday: Festival, A Memory

How perfect that this week's theme is Festival, right at the 40th anniversary of Woodstock! I was 1, when Woodstock took place so I have no memory of it. But I'm sure I'm in good company with some people who actually attended the event and may have smoked something other than cigarettes.

I'm not making any accusations.

But I do have memories, many memories about another festival: The Champlain Shakespeare Festival, which ran in Burlington, VT during the summer for 18 years. (The poster below is for a festival before my time).

As a child, I attended several of the productions. Often, I would arrive early (usually with my mother or perhaps my Godmother) and watch the free performance that took place outside of the theater. We would read the summary of the play so we would know what was going on. I remember attending a production of Measure of Measure and not understanding it even after reading the summary. I'm still not sure if I know what's going on in that one.

In high school, I ushered at CSF during the summer and got to see the shows over and over again for free. One summer, they mounted Henry VI with both parts sort of mushed together. I'll never forget the battle scenes which seem to take place all over the stage and in audience. One night, I was closing my eyes in the lobby during the show, when an actor suggested that I go home and let the other ushers clean up. I couldn't leave, I didn't want to leave, how could I leave? I loved it there. Of course, now, I look back, after spending many, many late nights in theater and I wonder why I didn't leave.

Royall Tyler Theater:

The summer of my freshman year, I worked at the Festival as an intern. I attended UVM, studying theater, and CSF took place right there at Royall Tyler Theater. Up until that summer, I wanted to be the next Katharine Hepburn, not understanding that there can only be one Katharine Hepburn. But during that summer, I was assigned to assistant stage manage Romeo and Juliet. I never looked back. I kept thinking, I want to be the Stage Manager, I want to sit at the desk and call breaks, and be the director's right hand person, and know everything that's going on.

The rest I guess is history, as I fulfilled that dream of being the director's right hand person (although I'm still not sure that I know everything that's going on). Next Spring, The Arden is mounting a production of Romeo and Juliet and I get to be the stage manager this time. I'm tickled pink to be revisiting that play as the stage manager this time.

Sadly, the Champlain Shakespeare Festival came to end as all festivals do. But, like everyone else who attended a favorite festival, we all have our memories. Unless of course you were smoking something; again, I'm not making any accusations.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vermont Rocks!

I love to tell people that I'm from Vermont (born and raised). When I say it, the other person usually lights up and exclaims, "Oh Vermont! It's so beautiful!"

And it is. When I was up visiting last week, I kept saying over and over again, "Wow, it's gorgeous."

I pissed off an American friend of mine that I was in Ireland with years and years ago. We were standing on one of the rolling, green hills and I said, "Yeah, but Vermont's just as pretty." She got so mad.

One of our favorite outings as kids was to visit Texas Falls, a recreational area near Middlebury. (photos on left). We'd drive down, picnic, and jump across the rocks in the stream. I so wanted to re-visit it last week with my husband and kids. We packed up the car with kids and food and off we went. Then panic set in: What if it's not as much fun as I remember it? What if it totally sucks?

Ah, but it's Vermont see, so it didn't. The stream (well, river more like it) was in full force as we all tried to jump from rock to rock. Well, almost all of us, my 7-year old son gave up on the rocks and just waded in the freezing, cold water. We explored all over and found an area where other people had left piles of rocks or cairns. The piles looked so peaceful there, we didn't disturb them but added our own. And, no, I forgot my camera so I don't have a picture of our handiwork. (The photo on the left is an example of rocks to cross).

On the way home from Texas Falls, we always used to stop at the A&W Root Beer Stand which we did last week as well. I swear that stand is like Brigadoon; we looked for it on the way to Texas Falls and couldn't see it but on the way back, there it was. I guess it only appears AFTER you've been to the falls.

I probably don't have to say this but the ride to and from Texas Falls is just lovely. The traffic is light (it is Vermont after all) and the hills, the farms, the green, it's just great.

So yeah, I love to say I'm from Vermont. And there is another reason I love being from Vermont: my Republicans? Really Democrats. Seriously, Vermont Rocks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Going Home Again

I spent the last week in Vermont visiting my mother. She has not been doing well lately, having suffered a heart attack while visiting in California. So last Tuesday, I packed the kids in the car at 6 am, and we drove the 7 1/2 hours up to Vermont.

My mom lives in the same house that I grew up in and so my memories of childhood intertwine with those of bringing my children there to visit. I did a writing/theater class once and we had to describe a vivid memory of our childhood house. I found it difficult since I visit that house often and I have seen it change over the years. All my memories are jumbled and they are all vivid. The instructor likened my memories to a tree trunk with a center of childhood memories but with rings of other memories over the years.

One thing that hasn't changed is my mother's spirit. She insists that she is fine and willingly went along on our treks to the museum, berry-picking, to a play, and on a picnic. I hope I didn't overdo it but I'm just figuring out that delicate balance of making sure my kids are entertained while still having time for my mother.

She has mellowed over the years though, and it is fun to see. Back in the day, she could yell with the best of them; her motto was always, "Yell first, ask questions later." Now, nothing seems to bother her much. Oh, you spilled flour over the floor, oh well, I have a broom. And, of course, my children could do no wrong: There's no yelling at grandkids at Grammy's house. She hasn't, however, lost her edge when it comes to arguments and she spent a good amount of time arguing religion with my atheist husband. I chickened out of the conversation by cleaning the kitchen. While I think I still believe in God, I have trouble with organized religion. Another sign that my mother has mellowed: when I told her my issue, she just said, "Yes, I can believe that." This from the woman who attends daily mass.

Oh, and I ran into a woman that I knew from kindergarten, before kindergarten I think! Her mother still lives in the neighborhood and she was there and I came by. Talk about a blast from the past.

It's funny, going home again. I wonder what I'll feel like if the house ever gets sold to a stranger. Interestingly, where I live now in Glenside, is about 10 miles from where my parents lived 40+ years ago when they just had my oldest brother and sister (I'm the youngest of 7, like I said, Catholic). Maybe, my living here is really the coming home again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blogging Vacation

Things always happen at once, at least for me. Last week, I took the kids "down the shore" for the day on Thursday, then on Friday the entire family went to DC to visit friends, and tomorrow, I'm off to Vermont with the kids to see my mom.

Basically, I haven't blogged for a while and I won't be, at least for the next week. My mom is, well, you could say retro if you were so inclined; electronically that is. Growing up, we never had cable because my mother did not believe in paying for television. She still doesn't have cable. Her view is that if it's not on PBS, it's not worth watching. Unless, of course, it's Jeopardy! Then she'll watch it.

So you can imagine her Internet connection, which doesn't exist. I guess I'll be off-line for a bit but that's okay. It's rather nice NOT having a computer. It'll force me to fill the time with other things: books, conversations, Jeopardy! I'm sorry I won't be checking everyone's blog but I promise to catch up when I'm back. It'll be something to look forward to: a glass of wine and perusing blogs. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Have a great week everyone and, uh, let's hope there's something good on PBS!