It may be April Fool’s but this book is no joke!

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Dear Gentle Reader,

I was super excited when Rare Bird Books gave me the green light to review one of their recent release books, so big Thank you’s to them for this opportunity! 👏

Seven Pillars Acting is not your typical acting book. Yes, it is incredibly informative, and relatable but what sets it apart from the others is the focus is on today’s actor. Tweaking the classics just a little so that it makes acting even less intimidating.

Sonya Cooke has taken all the major acting concepts from great teachers and directors (Meisner, Stanislavski, Donnellan and Brestoff to name a few) and distilled them down to seven concise key steps that take actors from first day of rehearsal to performance. High praise for taking this task and creating something so clear from so many different places.

The seven pillars listed in the book are as follows:

  1. Contact
  2. Circumstance
  3. Meaning
  4. Emotional Life
  5. Objective
  6. Action
  7. Physical Life

Released in January 2018, this little book of 305 pages is one of the best brush up books to keep on your shelf. When I say “brush up book,” I mean absolutely no disrespect.  This is worthy of curriculum status, and may well be, but I don’t know if it is too new for that at this time.

Dear Reader, it is a well known truth that actors are constantly returning to classes just like dancers. If, like me, it is a bit too hard to juggle in a class with current life situations, this book is something I can easily turn to. Each pillar has numerous exercises and some can be done without a partner. For the other activities, grab a fellow actor one day and have a fun informal session on a random agreed upon scene just to keep “in-shape.”

There are times when I can’t recall which of my theatre textbooks had a bit of advice that I wanted to refer to so I would dig them all out and skim through several books to find what I was thinking of.  Now, I feel that I could simply pick this gem off the shelf and refer to it rather than hunting through a full shelf of books. (What? You didn’t keep the textbooks of your favorite classes?)😄 (Is that weird?) 😳

Quick note: I honestly feel that acting is such an individual process because we are all  different and don’t learn the same way. It is helpful to take what you can from all the different styles and form your own “way.” That being said, in my personal process, I have found that I can delve even further into my character building from this book. Typically, while I work on the circumstances I try to find every variation of how it could be interpreted. I write down the likely ones and work on those but keep the others in the back of my mind. What I don’t do is to find all the variations on how the various circumstances would make me feel. I figure that would be too much writing and there isn’t enough space on some of these pages to fill in all that info. Although to be fair, she writes to focus on one. I do like this idea though and will begin including it because it offers the chance to present an even clearer picture to the audience.  Basically, I figure it should take me from regular image to High-Def.

There are some quotes and passages that I loved and here are a few of my faves:

“Once a circumstance is known to be imaginary, its potency is gone – much like being spooked by a shadow in a dark corner. Once it is revealed to not be a real threat, the fear subsides. Therefore, because of the degree of belief, the circumstances of our lives seem more real than the circumstances of our characters.” 

“…acting is all about seeing.” 

“Not only does your family push your buttons, but they were the ones who installed them in the first place.”  – Jo Spiller

“Neutral is not inactive.” 

“The nature of emotion is state-less; it is in flow e-motion, and must not be rigidly fixed.” 

“E-motion is ungraspable like water.” 

Dear Reader, I am absolutely certain that the more times I go through this book, the more info I will glean from it. I don’t know if I mentioned this at any point, but when I am in productions, I read my script everyday. I look for new insights and sometimes I see something I didn’t catch before, sometimes I don’t, but I feel like I will have new ideas the next time I pick up this book. This is a fresh streamlined process that feels accessible to anyone from the beginning actor to the experienced.  Hat’s off to the author!

Be sure to grab your copy.

Have you ever had an instructional book that you found refreshing or insightful?  What was it? I’d love to learn what others are checking out in the world. 🌏🌎

Until next time Gentle Reader…

🎼I’m Sane But I’m Overwhelmed…🎶

 

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Dear Gentle Reader,

As I was bounding back home to get to job #2 from an interview in Millbrae a few days ago, Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” showed up in the shuffle line up. I realized that this is the perfect song to describe my life. 😀

First off I have to say, I love me some Alanis! Her Jagged Little Pill 📀 still gets a full spin in my car every now and again as does her Under Rug Swept.  I love her phrasing and her vocabulary.  C’mon “There’s an obvious attraction to the path of least resistance in your life/There’s an obvious aversion no amount of my insistence will make you try tonight” For me, it conjures up such great imagery. Yes, Ironic got her into a bit of a pickle, but I don’t care.

Now, Dear Reader, what I ❤️ about this song really comes into play when you actually take a look at the lyrics. She pairs a great descriptive word with nearly the exact opposite of how it should make her feel. Most lines have a negative first word and a positive second, but occasionally, she reverses this set up.

No one ever has good days every day, sad to say even me. However, just like those lyrics I may be broke, but I find ways to be happy. Even while I may be poor, I think it is imperative to still be kind.

Well, bad days come a-knocking every once in a while, like on my drive, as I stressed myself out about whether or not going to this interview was the right move as well as the thought that I may miss my shift if traffic was not my friend during this trip.  There was no guarantee that the potential offer would match what I am making now.  What if it wasn’t? Now all the time and energy put into this would have been for naught. 😞

It turns out that traffic, Gentle Reader, was on my side so I was not going to miss any work hours. BUT! Yes, there is a but, my friends, the same struggle of getting from one place to the next on time reared its big ugly head.  Can you believe it?  What are the odds that one job would affect the next twice in one day? Not only that, take a guess as to what song popped up on the rotation, again? Yup ⇪!

Here’s the thing, though.  This time I was supposed to be heading to an audition! 😳 The tough part was I was working on a project that needed to be completed in one shot.  I didn’t have the luxury to hold off on what wasn’t completed yet to make it to my audition. That alone began to put me in a tailspin as I worked as quickly as possible. I sent apologetic messages for my tardiness and I felt just awful. It’s bad enough that I don’t like auditions, but to walk in after they have already been there for over two hours?  I felt like a heel. Thankful that I still got the chance to read, but a heel nonetheless.

The great thing, Dear Reader, is that if that gamble of an interview pays off, not only with I have just 1 job to focus on along with ALL my theatre stuff, but it frees up a crap ton of time for MORE theatre stuff!! Well, except for the audition that I was late to.  I totally didn’t get that. Which is a total bummer, but I can’t have it all. (But I wants it all!  I needs it!)  That was a train wreck and it will never happen again. I hope.

So keep your fingers crossed for me, would ya? Let’s send out the good vibes that this interview will lead to a good enough single stream of income so that I can keep on keeping on. Even if it doesn’t happen though, just like Alanis says “everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine.”

What about you, Gentle Reader? Have you ever had a song sum up your life perfectly?  Whether it be a moment, a week, a month, or for your whole life so far, music is everyone’s soundtrack. What is “your” song?  C’mon. You can share.  We’re pals.  No judgements.  Let me know in the comments below.  Who knows, I may not know the song and when I look it up, it may be the best thing I’ve ever heard👂

Until next time, Dear Reader…

Waking Up Now That September Ends

 

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This month has felt a bit like a dream.

 

I got to work on a great show with a wonderful group of bipeds.  We had some crazy hot weather in California and I hate the sun, so we all know how I feel about that. I actually was able to begin building my savings account again, even with extra bills to pay!  That’s a big one.      

🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭

 I had so much fun working on Assassins for Los Altos Stage Company!  The show got such great reviews.  I had no idea what the show was about and I wasn’t planning on auditioning.  Then I got a call from Lee Ann Payne saying, “hey I am directing a show. You should come and audition.” Of course, that wasn’t how she said it, but it was very casual. Then, a coworker explained the whole show to me. It was at that point that I thought “hell yeah! I have to do that show.” So I do owe them both credit for prompting me to audition.  As often as I could, I watched all the scenes when I was off stage during the rehearsal process, seeing how the director and actors built up their characters and told their stories.  I loved hearing the crazy things that are only said in theatre like “you’re giving the ‘fuck’ too much.” Once the show opened, I loved to listen to the scenes (especially the Fromme and Moore scenes) and chuckled at every joke that was found throughout the show.  For those of you who haven’t seen or heard of Sondheim’s Assassins you can do a Youtube search, but here’s a description from MTI:

A multiple Tony Award-winning theatrical tour-de-force, Assassinscombines Sondheim’s signature blend of intelligently stunning lyrics and beautiful music with a panoramic story of our nation’s culture of celebrity and the violent means some will use to obtain it, embodied by America’s four successful and five would-be presidential assassins. Bold, original, disturbing and alarmingly funny, Assassins is perhaps the most controversial musical ever written.

Assassins lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act historical “revusical” that explores the dark side of the American experience. From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, writers, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

Assassins requires skilled singers who are also versatile actors. This is an ideal choice for mature audiences and will challenge your designers as they try to recreate famous moments and people in America’s history.

So you see, it is something that many people don’t want to be “entertained” with, especially in light of Donald Trump’s statements about 2nd Amendment-ers “taking care” of Hillary Clinton. So some people didn’t really like the material of the show, but they did appreciate the performances though it seems like the audience is  “rooting” 👏 for Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, and the others during show, particularly at the end of each either completing their jobs or being executed themselves. The all performances were so good, from the top down the entire cast was so solid!  Some were mesmerizing like Ken Boswell as Charles Guiteau, Philomena Block as Sarah Jane Moore, Alea Selburn as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, and Todd Wright as Sam Byke.  It was a great show to be a part of and I am grateful for the chance to play with this group of actors, even if the unexpected heat did put a damper on the run.  But this is one to remember, thanks to the timeliness of it as well as its own greatness

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MY STARS!!!  It is September! Why are we having this 90+ degree weather when global warming isn’t real!? (I totally believe in global warming. That was just a joke.) Yes, yes, I know that summer ended on the 21st, and can potentially stay warm through October.  I know this academically, but I don’t wanna!  LOL. I want it to stay like it was when I was a kid. Summer was only June thru August! I have made mention many times that I don’t enjoy being in the heat, so this felt like a slow painful Wicked Witch of the West type murder. 💀 What a world! What a world. Mercifully, the costumes weren’t too heavy, and considering one of my castmates had a suit that was made out of material that felt like the heaviest grade of wool cloth a person can find, I shouldn’t really complain. The important thing is we survived! And my beard and moustache stayed on when I needed it to!  That is the real miracle here. Even if I did look a little like Mario.  Special thanks to the Assassins cast for always singing the Super Mario music when I passed by… 😜😉

   $$$$$

You know, here in the Bay Area, it takes a lot of solid, steady, well paying work in order to pay the rent/mortgage if you are an actor.  Out of all the actors I know (and that is a TON of them) I believe all of us have survival jobs.  Some of us like those jobs.  Some of us don’t. Personally, I tend to vacillate between the two.  Currently, I am grateful to have them as I know some people aren’t so fortunate.  Now this month has been rife with extra bills to pay.  Some expected, some not so much. For example, I decided I wanted to work out my brain with an anthropology class. Since I love to people watch, I figured this would be a good fit. I wasn’t expecting to cough up almost $400 bucks for it and that’s without the books. But it worked out.  Then, stupid me got a parking ticket.  $50. 💩! Then a smog and my car registration, which I was planning for.  But then, to have to fix the exhaust pipe on the car on top of all that?  Oh, I thought I was doomed. 😱 DOOMED, I tell you.  Somehow, looking at my statements, everything did work out really well, and for the first time in a long time my savings account has funds flowing back into it.  👀  I never thought I would see that day again.

That has been my September in a oven roasted nut shell.  Did you have a good month?  Or was it like Green Day’s September, where you just want to hide out until it is over? Just like with the survival job, I went back and forth on this, too.  I hated the weather. Loved the show. Hated the extra bills. Loved that I have done a bit of growing up.  Hate that I just said that.  Love that I am learning new things.  Hate that I don’t write as much. BUT Love that you, dear reader, take the time to give this the once over.  Thank you!

Tell me about your month! Did you learn something new about yourself?  Did you do anything fun relating to theatre?  I am all ears… er… eyes, I guess it would be.

Until next time!

💖

Joy and Payne…

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Dear gentle reader,

It has been 10 days since the final curtain was brought down on Guys and Dolls.

I have been struggling with a way to reflect on my experience with the Jewel Theatre Company.  As of late, being able to sit down to write has been a bit difficult as time does not always allow for such simple requests. However, when I got a little Facebook notice that it was a particular person’s birthday and that same day I opened my mailbox to find a card from that very same person, then the stars are saying I have to do it now!

This is gonna be a bit nuts, but bear with me, k? This post is gonna be wonky…

The Thursday night of our closing weekend, I had a dream. At the time it made no sense, but once I started organizing my thoughts for this post, the lightbulb finally went on.

The Dream:  I woke up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep.  I pulled up my Facebook account and immediately I get an IM from the one and only Lee Ann Payne, the choreographer for Guys and Dolls. The curious thing was that the message was a video message.  She was so excited because she was the proud owner of a violin. Not only that but she can actually play something on it.  She says, I am going to send you a video! Then she is gone.  I get a link for a video that is titled “I Just Want It To Quack.” I hit play, and sure enough there is Ms. Payne playing her violin and literally making it quack.  Like a duck. The video consists of many jump cuts as she joyfully plays her mallard fiddle and everything is lit with purple lights. (Think 80’s dance video if the description isn’t working for you.) This goes on for a brief chunk of time. Even though it is just quacks, I get a  complete story; beginning, middle, and end.  Then the dream is over.  So random! So nonsensical, but very very joyful.

I recall waking up and being full of smiles because it was such a kooky dream. Not only that, it had one of my favorite theatre people of all time in it!

I am sure that I have mentioned this a million times, but it is because of Ms. Payne that I was lucky enough to be a part of the G&D family.

This past year, I have been focused on trying to work with as many new theatre companies as possible and I can say happily that I got to work with 3 plus an independent production team that put on a world premiere opera.  Along with new theatre companies, I have harbored the secret wish of actually learning to play the violin which is my favorite instrument.

So now this is how the dream begins to morph into meaning for me.  A brilliant choreographer has in her hands something that I want, but don’t own and yet is familiar because of my love for the object which I  interpretation as that she hands me a wonderful opportunity doing something I love with with something new (people and places)!

The jump cuts seem to resemble how those 9 weeks of my life were.  Flashes of the things I needed to do at the time; work at job 1, go to rehearsal, work job 2, work job 1, go to rehearsal, etc…

I know that purple is the color of royalty, but I also associate it with magic.  There is nothing more magical to me than theatre and books.  Both take you on journeys that others have imagined, and to be  lucky enough to be able to bring those characters to life? Fuhgetaboutit!

The quacking I don’t quite get, I will admit.  I’d like to believe that it is for the phrase “lucky duck.” I always consider getting gigs like this to be sheer luck.  As I seem to have mentioned above… It could even mean something like “like a duck to water,” because from that very first rehearsal, everyone was friendly and helpful and it was just fun to be around them.  So yeah, maybe it does stand for lucky duck.

As this was a whole new group of people that I was going to work with, I was much quieter during this process than my usual self.  I had never worked with Linda Piccone, our sassy and funny, but unknown to me, director.  I couldn’t tell at first a lot of the time if she was joking or not because she has a really good poker face. Once we moved into the theatre, I finally realized that she was joking the whole time. LOL!

Taking the image of a happy lady playing a violin that literally sounds like a duck quacking automatically puts a laugh in my heart and a smile on my soul.  That, dear reader, is what the cast of G&D for Jewel Theatre did for me.  Through all the hard work, there were so many laughs.  So many times that I had tears in my eyes from all the funny that was happening.

If I were to name all the good things about the show, I could easily write a post this size for every day for the rest of the year and still not touch all of them. So I will tell you every bad thing… you ready?

 

Nothing
There was not a single thing that I would ask to change or do different.  Does that mean I never had a mistake during the show?  Oh, I did.  Plenty. Someone accidentally made me break character during the sewer scene after Sky Masterson says “… the air in the mission smells better than the air down here.” To which in the background mumbling was heard “Oh that’s my cologne, uh, my colon.”   I know! I know! I am still a 10 year old when people make poop jokes. But there was nothing bad; no divas, no drama, no problems. Just a wonderful group of hard working actors that I respect so much.

I will, however, say there are things that I will miss more:

  • The improv moments that happened nearly every night in the dressing room between two of the funniest men ever, Kurt and Chris!
  • The men’s dressing room in unity meowing Star Wars music and the exit music for G&D
  • DTK mic check performances, especially the joke about the bell!
  • Jordan’s incredible song library brain
  • Bryan’s silly funny corny jokes
  • Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat!!!!
  • The impromptu backstage interpretive dance performance by Lucas and Kurt during Adelaide’s Lament
  • Corie’s drunken stumble at the end of the “If I Were A Bell” scene. It is one of my favorite perfect moments of the show.
  • Domonic, DTK, and Lucas’ ending of the fugue.  Another perfect moment in the show.
  • David singing “Luck Be A Lady”
  • The amazing ladies performing “Take Back Your Mink”
  • Phil serving FACE during the song above.  Like serving it UP!
  • Domonic and Lucas’ nightly bantering which was always oddly inappropriate (more like naughty) but innocent in a way as only BFF’s can be and hilarious
  • Chris as Nathan Detroit!
  • Julie’s rendition of Adelaide’s Lament Reprise
  • Judith’s movie star entrance at the top of the show.  Another perfect moment, IMHO.

Speaking of Julie, when describing the owner of Jewel Theatre Company, inspiring is the word that comes to mind when you have the chance to work with her. She works so incredibly hard and at 100% 100% of the time.  How she balanced moving her company into a brand spanking new theater as well as performing such a big role at the same time, all while maintaining her sanity and her kindness, I will never know. Her drive to push Jewel forward reminds me a lot of another theatre owner down in Gilroy that I know…

Just like the name implies, Jewel Theatre Company was a gem to work for and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  To Julie James and the rest of the JTC family, thank you for the experience. It will always be a precious memory for me.

 

Dance Captain Reporting For Duty…

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And a part of me just wants to hide out in a cave until the idea passes.  LOL!

Whenever I choreograph a show, I usually assign the dancer that asks the most specific questions about details the task of being the dance captain.  The main reason I do this is because I know that they are dedicated to making the movements as close as possible to what I am asking for.  Usually this person is also technically sound and picks up steps fairly quickly… even when I don’t use counts and “boom kak whoosh” my way through a step.  I do try to use counts as much as possible but sometimes I will focus on particular sounds in the middle of the number just to confuse the heck out of my dancers.

That being said, I think that being asked to take on the title Dance Captain is a great compliment for a dancer.

You can bet your boo-tay that I am gonna be up late these next couple of days making some serious notes and possibly spreadsheets breaking down steps to counts.  But mind you, I did say POSSIBLY…  I just gotta find some time.

Anyone got any extra time that they can spare?  I need like 27 hours per day.  24 just ain’t cuttin’ it.

Welp, this has to be short, cuz… well… this kid is a Dance Captain!  Hahahaha

Until next time,

I salute you!

Not Yet. Please Not Yet…

Photo Courtesy of Edmond Kwong at Imagewurx
Photo Courtesy of Edmond Kwong at Imagewurx

If you are really lucky, you get the chance to be in productions where you wish it wouldn’t end. At least once.  I have been crazy for Crazy For You.

The reasons can be for anything; you love the role that you are playing, the show is going to Broadway, or like my case, the cast works so incredibly well together. We have celebrated birthdays for multiple people every single week of performances. We have laughed, been silly, stressed out, and danced ourselves sticky sweaty these last 10 weeks of rehearsals and performances.

It isn’t every show that I truly look forward to seeing every person every day.  I feel a wee bit sad that I won’t get to see them as much. Even though I have left the theatre at the end of the night sometimes with the need to soak in an ice bath or a tub of icy hot and bruised up, I have had a truly wonderful time working alongside such an outstanding group of people from every aspect of this production.

Every drop of sweat, every achy muscle, and every bit of glue has been well spent.  I think this little gem sparkles just right.  But just for two more performances.  Friday and Saturday…

I am going to be a sad mess on Saturday.

Maybe even Sunday.

I am not looking forward to this.

And We Begin In Three Days…

just a dream

I have always wanted to try my hand at directing.  Partly for the experience, partly because it would be different, but mostly because I wanted to see if I could tell a story in a different way.

Almost exactly a year ago, I had asked the producer of “Sugar” about apprentice opportunities for directing and she said “I will put your name on our contacts list just in case something comes up.”  I was totally satisfied with that and happily continued the rehearsal when they were ready for me to pop back into the scene.  I had asked another company the same thing and got the same answer so it wasn’t unexpected.

Little did I know that three weeks later I would be asked to present an idea to sit IN the director’s seat of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Ever since I found out it was in the season, all I thought about was auditioning to play Judas one more time.  At first, I didn’t know what to say.  Do I jump at the chance knowing that I have never done anything like this and have no training for it?  I had a little dilemma. After taking a few days to think about it, I decided “Why not?”  Sure this could mean that if this goes horribly wrong, I may never get the chance to do this again.  But if it goes right…

Rehearsals are right around the corner, and to say that I am excited is an understatement.  I have been thinking about the show for the last 8 months! Regardless of my nerves, I really think that this is going to be the best learning experience of my life.  Not only is it a chance to try something new  and in the realm of theatre, but it will allow me to strengthen skills that I can use anywhere and in any job.

Listening:  I like to think that I do a pretty darn good job of listening to people.  In any theatrical endeavor, collaborating with everyone is essential, and that means listening to everyone’s concerns, ideas, and criticisms.

Problem Solving: Taking all that information and making it useful or addressing why the information can’t be used.

Decision Making:  I never knew how much planning and questions I would have to answer even BEFORE auditions.  I am usually a “feely” kind of decider.  So if something feels right or not is how I usually decide.  With a project like this, I had to learn to look ahead and see if the decision would affect anything else in the show.

Time Management:  Once the ball gets rolling, there isn’t much time to waste  getting all the ducks in a row.  I really need to be wary on how I use every minute of rehearsal time so that the actors aren’t sitting around. It’s not fair to them to make them spend their time waiting if I can help it.   Also, I have to make sure that all the pieces are put together well in advance of tech week.  My goal is to have the show running two weeks before tech.

I can bet that the management at the nursery will love this.  It’s amazing at how many skills one can acquire and/or develop in the Arts and yet the educational system deems them less than “academics.”  It’s a real damn shame.

Like I said, I never thought I would have this kind of chance this quickly, so I am nervous about this but once we get into the swing of things, I feel like it will be SUPER!!