Tuesday, February 8, 2011

First Day Fun

Today was my first day with the full cast of Superior Donuts.  Yesterday, I ran 11 miles (yes, I had to get that in there), shopped, baked my first day of rehearsal cookies.

See, for every show I bake these dark chocolate chip cookies for the cast and whomever.  As you know, I've been a little nervous about this show since I had to bag out of the fall production and I screwed up a bit on a show last year.  I can't tell you how nice it was to hear people grab a cookie and remark:  "Kate Hanley and her first day of rehearsal cookies, yum."  By our first break, there wasn't a cookie left.

Oh, and the artistic director of the Arden sent me a nice e mail welcoming me back.  Does a heart good, I tell ya.

It wasn't technically our first rehearsal since we've spent 3 days with just 2 of the actors.  These are the actors upon whose shoulders most of the show rests.  Good luck guys. 

It's great to work with the leads first because I can get to know them and figure out what they need.  The leads know the show rides on them somewhat, so getting to know their quirks early allows me the opportunity to head off any "drama".  You know, the bad drama not the good drama.  Sometimes all it takes is a little extra care and feeding.  Sometimes it takes more than that but who wants to go there? 

Anyway, the day started out well.  At home, I got floors cleaned, dinner made, a checkbook reconciled, bills paid.  All before I had to leave for rehearsal.  Of course then I walked out to the car and realized I had forgotten my keys.  Oddly, that gave me a bit of relief.  I knew I couldn't be that efficient:  who was this person and how could she be mopping the floor that quickly? 

The cast is great.  We worked today without one actor because the part hasn't been cast.  Well, it's been cast but the actor had to drop out and then auditions had to be held and the contract negotiated.  It's always something isn't it?  We'll know tomorrow if we have another actor so stay tuned!

The bad part, if there is one, is that this director knows the show very well.  I mentioned before that he was the dramaturg on the show since it's inception.  He has great stories.  None of which I feel I am able to share.  I know:  total buzz kill.  So most directors spend a few days "at the table."  Meaning, the cast and director sit around the table reading through the play and discussing what it means.  In detail.  In minutia sometimes.  The director of this show, Edward Sobel, said that most directors do a lot of table work at the beginning so they can learn more about the play.  But Mr. Sobel see, he already knows a lot about the show so he's not so much with the table work.  So why is this bad?  Well, I'll let you in on a secret.  It's a great time for me to listen to the conversation and play Mah Jong on my laptop.  But I guess I won't be doing that this time around.

But hey, I'm not complaining.  It's a great script.  I'm looking forward to see where it leads.  Oh and, forgot to mention, it takes place at a donut shop (uh, in case you hadn't guessed) so what does that mean?  Yeah, donuts, lots of donuts!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Swimming Like a Fish Out of Water

An LA Fitness opened by my house a couple of months ago.  I joined because it's so close (I can see it from my window), and I wanted to start cross-training.  My running had gotten stale and I was becoming increasingly less flexible. 

It's funny, when people find out that I joined this gym they always ask, "How is it?"  I never know what to say because it's a gym.  If you've seen one average gym, you've seen them all.  They don't have towel service, the classes are fine, and no, they don't do your workout for you.  It's a gym. 

Another reason I joined the gym was for the pool.  Let me first state that I am a terrible swimmer.  It took me, as a child, 4 tries to pass beginner swim lesson.  I don't think I even got wet the first time I took the course.  We grew up near Lake Champlain and I hate swimming in lakes because of the rocks and seaweed.  There, I said it, I'm a wimp.

I can swim and I know strokes but for the life of me, swimming laps is beyond my comprehension.  I've tried it in the past and swam maybe one length and was totally out of breath.  For some reason, I remember swimming during college.  I'd get up early and swim laps.  I can't believe I did that very much.  First of all it was it was swimming and second of all the "getting up early" part seems a bit unrealistic.  I probably did it once and over the years stretched it to "I swam for a bit in college."

Did you know there are DVDs and YouTube videos and articles to teach you how to swim properly?  I've looked some up but didn't do a lot of research.  See, I had some time today to "get my feet wet" so to speak and I wanted to jump at the chance.  So I just dove in.  Are we loving the puns?  I got a whole ocean full of them. 

So I swam a few laps today.  And by a few I mean 7 or 8.  And by laps, I mean up and down the pool.  I don't know what laps actually means.  I was exhausted but my ego requires me to state that I had done a Pilate's class earlier in the day.  The whole time I was swimming I felt like, well, a fish out of water, flailing about in all directions.  I was so glad I had the lane to myself.  I got out of the pool and watched the other swimmers.  They looked so graceful and peaceful and coordinated.  Plus they all had goggles and sleek speedo bathing suits.  I jumped in with my Land's End Tankini and no goggles.  I had to pick my son up from a playdate after my swim and I'm sure the parents thought I was stoned with my red eyes.

I have to say though, I felt really good afterwards and I still do.  I'm relaxed and my lungs feel, I don't know refreshed?  So I'm going to keep trying and hopefully I'll get better.  At least it's a way to get in a short workout or to do a bit extra when I'm already at the gym.  And oh yeah, I think I may invest in some goggles.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Prep Week!

So it's prep week for my next show.  My only show this season at the Arden.  I'm so very excited about it and a bit nervous.  The show is Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts who is a playwright and actor from Chicago.  He works closely with Steppenwolf Theatre there.  He was just in a production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  that the New York Times just raved about.  I actually saw him on stage when I was in Chicago a year ago.  He was in David Mamet's American Buffalo.  It was a good production probably a great one.  I'm not so sure.  I don't really get Mamet's male-angst plays, although I think he's a good writer.  David Mamet.  And Tracy Letts for that matter. 

Tracy Letts wrote August: Osage County for which he won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  So we can safely say he doesn't suck.  Superior Donuts is the play he wrote after August: Osage County.  It was a huge hit in Chicago.  It did go to Broadway, but I'm not sure how it did there.  Probably very well.  Arthur is an older man who owns a decrepit donut shop called, you guessed it, Superior Donuts.  Franco, a young black man, becomes his employee.  It's about their relationship and the redemptive power of friendship.  It's hard to describe it without going into a long essay.  Trust me when I say the script is so good.

I'm nervous.  Not so much about the show itself because once we get going, it'll be pretty simple on my end.  There's one fight, a couple of quick changes, and donuts.  The fight is between two older men who don't know how to fight so that should be interesting.  The director, Ed Sobel was the dramaturg on this show at Steppenwolf and on Broadway.  He knows the show inside and out.  It'll be great to work with him.  But I guess that's what scares me a little.  I need to be on top of my game because he already is. 

The set for this show is at an angle and very difficult to tape out.  See, for the rehearsal room, I tape an outline of the set on the floor so actors know where doors are, where the edge of the stage is, etc.  Not that it helps them a lot.  Actors are famous for getting to the real set and saying, "Hey, I didn't know there was a wall here."  It's been a challenge to tape this floor and I'm still not quite done.  I'm leaving a few things to finish with my assistant because it's easier to do with two.  I hate having things not quite done; it just adds to the nerves.

Aside from taping I've been chatting with props and costumes, e mailing the cast, collecting office supplies.  Now all I need are some actors, a director and rehearsals.

Wish me luck!