T-to-the-A

Posts Tagged ‘acting’

The Pain and the Itch

In The Daily Drool on August 3, 2009 at 8:43 am

I saw a tragic new play today – one that made me laugh, laugh, laugh and cringe, cringe, cringe.  It’s a tough thing writing a play that can do both so well, one that keeps you thinking about it well into the evening.  The play was called The Pain and the Itch, and it’s probably not the play for everybody, but wow did it ever get my creative mind going.

I’ve many a writing friend – each of us tackling our own artistic mountains – but it seems to me that the greatest obstacle to any writer is coming up with a great story.  I call it the “Who gives a shit” test.  If you are the only person raising your hand, it’s probably not worth your time to write.  But many writers forget (or don’t even think to ask) this question – so you wind up with piles and piles of dead-end stageplays clogging up the lit-manager’s mailbox… representing hours and hours of time spent devoted to a project built for an audience of one – yourself.  Boooo.

Plays are meant to be seen – so write something that can get people talking!  Write something that will inspire people- inspire them to laugh, to cry, to make a tax-deductible donation to the local animal shelter… But please don’t write a play unless it takes me somewhere.  Theatre needs to be active and alive!

And if you’re in LA, go see Furious Theatre’s co-production of The Pain and the Itch at Boston Court.

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Whew!

In The Daily Drool on July 30, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Well, it’s been a long week.  (I suppose you can tell that from the relative silence on my end.)  Apologies, for those of you who missed me.  I’ve been going crazy.

Remember that whole performing arts camp I mentioned earlier?  Well we went into rehearsal this week, with the resultant performance going beautifully this evening, but WOW, I feel like I’ve been running on fumes for the last three days.

I remember six weeks ago frantically trying to figure out just how I was going to manage everything – and now that I’m here I can’t believe it’s only been six weeks.  I’ve learned so much both from the process and from the kids.  They challenged me in many ways (not always pleasantly) but through it all I was reminded just how much I enjoy teaching!

This week has been all about the original performance piece we created together – and I’ve been Facilitator, Director, Sound Designer, prop maker, and Stage Manager for this whole thing.  It’s been incredible.  And terrifying.  I remember quite distinctly saying to someone on Sunday that I really wanted to hit the fast-forward button on this week so I could hurry up and get to the place where everything was working… well, here I am and I can honestly say that I’m thrilled with the getting here.  I’m so proud of these kids and the energy they put into this piece.  And I’m so excited to have helped them get here.  That’s the best part – knowing that six weeks ago we were a group of total strangers, not knowing where we were headed, and now here we are – an Ensemble.

So I guess I’m just kind of soaking it up – the relief and pleasure of this accomplishment – and I’m smiling as I think about it, about my eager students.  It’s been great, I would definitely do this again, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom again.

But first… some SLEEP!

Working hard to hand it out

In The Daily Drool on July 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Wow.

I’m tired.

There’s something to be said for the sheer outpouring of energy this camp requires.  Every day I come in, responsible for getting these kids revved up and every day I leave sputtering like a studebaker on empty.

But I can’t imagine another way of doing it.

Because I really care.  And it’s the care that gets me excited to show up every morning.  Working every day to help these kids learn about theater and help feed their passions for it is exhilarating in the exhaustion… and I’m learning so much in the giving.

The thing to remember though is to keep a little in my own pocket because they all pool around you, eating it up as fast as they can like happy little piranhas who poop rainbows… You can’t get mad at them, you just have to learn when it’s time to get out of the water.

Real Listening

In Essays, The Daily Drool on July 13, 2009 at 4:37 pm

So the kids and I have been doing a lot of listening exercises, mostly because at 15, 16, 17 years old, your head is flooded with thoughts and ideas and working as an ensemble means leaving those thoughts at the door so you can tune in to one another.   And I’ve noticed, out of these warm-ups, that to really listen- listen with your whole body- you have to leave yourself and step into that intimidating shared space between.

It’s equitable to yon castle keep – You can shout at one another from behind your walls, but it takes a strange kind of courage to step beyond the gate into a border-less landscape and look into another’s eyes.

Because walls = safety (or so we tend to think) But what wealth are we missing from behind them?  The very invention of walls if born of protection, and giving that up (even for a moment) can be frightening, dangerous… or really freaking freeing.

And we’re not talking about anything more than listening.  Because that’s where it starts.

It’s not easy.  It can be really difficult to give someone your full attention!  Not only must you send your ego/judge out to pasture, but to actively listen you can’t just tune in for every other word as you secretly formulate your next speech.  You must really engage in their telling, how they are saying it- their bodies, their eyes, their verve…

And while it’s not possible to be this attentive to every moment in real life, it’s a shame more people aren’t as aware of their own listening habits as these kids are getting to be – because the world around us is just bursting with information, energy, and answers – listening, really listening is just hard enough that we rarely have the genuine experience of ever truly hearing or of  truly being heard.

I imagine if people were walking this earth less immersed in the “Me” and more tuned in to the world, they might be amazed at what they’ve been missing/misunderstanding/ and taking for granted… In fact, taking time to stop, look, and listen might be just the ticket to feeling less outside of things.

And wouldn’t that be lovely?

Starting from Scratch

In The Daily Drool on July 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I’ve worked on theatrical pieces from many angels, many different starting points – be it actor, writer, director… but I’ve never created a piece as an ensemble before… and now, right now, I am responsible for leading a group of teenagers in this just such an endeavor.

As you can imagine, I’ve been learning a lot along the way.

It has been fascinating to get them up and talking, listening to them talk about the world around them, as it pertains to them, listening to them express their feelings about world events – both on a global and personal scale.  Their dedication to the exercises I lead them in has been inspiring, and led to some truly fantastic theatrical moments within the creative space.   We’ve learned a great deal.

I’ve also found myself shouting out things that my teachers used to shout out to me – reminding them to trust the process, to trust their instincts, and to get out of their heads.

Isn’t life a funny thing?

I think it’s all hitting particularly hard with me because I left acting like a bad rash and ran off with lusty abandon towards the Playwriting cap… This return to things left to dust has been a whirlwind of remembering, re-learning, and re-adjusting.

I just hope that we continue to trust in the work, in ourselves, and in one another as we begin to shape our final piece.  That as we take all of the exercises that have been bringing us together and teaching us about one another, and turn towards them with an eye on performance, that we maintain the joy of the discovery.  That we develop a piece the kids can feel proud of!

And then I’m taking a nice, loooong, nap.  Because all of the ringleading is wearing this girl out 🙂

While we’re on the subject…

In Essays on July 6, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Okay, there were like, ten notebooks in my little “notebook-locker” – all bearing some sort of actable fruit, but what I was NOT expecting to find was a “Map” that I was asked to make of myself in a particularly challenging One Person Show class I took at UCLA 5 years ago.  As I unfolded the crayon directive, I was floored to see so many similarities – For instance, I still carry my anxieties in my belly, and the brain could still be called “Lightening Falls” for all the mayhem contained therein.

Additionally, the exercise included a free-writing assignment in which I bemoaned the difficulties of heading into the great unknown of graduation… familiar territory.  My reactions to the post BA world are eerily familiar to those I’ve been swooning with post-MFA.

And you thought people changed!

Here I am, quite a different version of myself and I’m still processing the challenges of facing “The World” with nerves running wild… more experienced perhaps, more confident (definitely), but still working with the same basic landscaping… and there is something fantastic in the knowing of this – In the familiarity of my “Map”.  For although I do hope to quiet some of the confusion, the task before me seems to make the most of this obstacle course, to learn the best ways to use my “Lightening” – to seize upon the riches native to this body, mind, and soul, even as I continue to cultivate new ones.

Remembering… or not

In The Daily Drool on June 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

It’s been a crazy week – Finally a job, (and a fantastic one at that! ) I’m teaching!  Whew!  But after 2 months of going to bed when I want, and waking up when I want, I’ve become quite accustomed to a different clock.  Waking up every day this week at 7:30 (about three hours earlier than anyone should be expected to rise) has been challenging (to say the least) for this little body.  Not to mention that I am now also forced to eat my meals about three hours earlier than I would otherwise have done.

Let’s just say my body has been, unhappy.

Then there is the issue of all the energy I am now responsible for bringing to these kids.  I’ve got to keep them engaged for 5 hours a day!  So I head in, work my ass off at spreading the positivity and enthusiasm, then come home, stumble to the kitchen for some fuel and sit in a stuporific slump until dinner is ready and I can recharge.

But what’s been really interesting is the process of re-igniting old tools left to rust, and part of that process has meant scouring through old notebooks in search of old handouts and notes from my acting days.

Now, I’m a bit of a packrat.  Not only do I fear that in throwing out some old tattered stack of notebooks I’ll loose the knowledge contained therein, but I just don’t want to make the effort to paw through a large box of memories and try to decide what’s worth keeping and what’s just dribble.  So I’ve accumulated a fare share of these remnants from the past and they sit in a bin under my bed, or in the closet, and grown dustballs the size of feet.  Big feet.  Big, hairy, scary feet.   However, it seems that in this endeavor, my proclivity for “saving” has finally paid off.  I’ve found a wealth of information I can pull from, and pull from it I will.

But academics aside, I also found copious notes and letters I wrote to friends during an interim between years at AADA (my father had a heart transplant and I took a deferment for a year) – and as I read over these letters and notes, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder at this person signing my name to the pages.  I remember so little of the things, people, events I mentioned!

I devoted several letters to the subject of some fellow by the name of James… yet I have absolutely NO recollection of this guy. I mean, nada.  Zip.  ZERO.  I also spend a lot of time talking about drama at RT’s Black Bull, my bar of employment at the time, and yet reading over the letters felt as foreign to me as if I was reading about drama in space.  Of course I remember the place, but the time I spent there must have been dripping with fog.

And I think it’s so interesting that we can forget, or be so bogged down with life’s troubles that we aren’t really experiencing the world we live in, or whatever else is was that caused my memory bank to kick this chunk of time to the curb.

I mean, we spend a lot of time thinking about where we come from… we build whole philosophies around our experiences, and yet we’re relying on a mass of nebulous tissue and nerves that has it’s own rules of survival and self-preservation.

In any regard, it was fun to visit the old me through these letters and notes – a real cause for recollection of who and what I was 10 years ago.  Of course it begs the question, what will the future me think of me now?

Old shoes, New feet

In Essays, The Daily Drool on June 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm

It’s always interesting, years after the fact, to find a new purpose for something you thought was well past.  An old dress becomes dress-up, a forgotten photograph serves as reminder to reconnect with those you’ve misplaced… Or an old lesson left mouldering in the history books coughs up something new.

Six years ago I walked into room 102 at UCLA and sat in rapt attention as my acting teacher assigned scenes.   This week, in that very same room, I stepped into his role and tingled at the unexpected symmetry; a roomful of eager eyes looking to me for guidance.

Wow.

I couldn’t help but look back at them and see myself… blissfully unawares of all the change that would come – not knowing that I would turn focus to writing, that my combined experience between then and now would lead me here, in that very same room, a new person, a new life, a new role.

Because Life is Amazing.  We worry, we fret, we plot and steer… and it takes us places we never knew we would be.  I quit acting.  Haven’t done it in years.  But here I am, responsible for teaching a slew of young hopefuls how to break down a script on their path to acting their socks off.

Of course there is some resultant stuttering on my end – the cry of a long unused engine coming back to life – along with some serious scouring of “Ye olde, but not forgotten” notebooks of yonder years.

But here I am, stepping back into an old pair of shoes with a new pair of feet.

And they feel so good.