Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The 39 Steps

Or..."Ze Serty-Nine Shteps" as my German spy character, Annabella, would say.

This just a blog of self congratulations. I saw a notice of audition for this play. I bought said play. I made an audition appointment for said play. I rehearsed German, British and Scottish dialects for said play. I attended TWO callbacks for said play. Now I have BOOKED said play! Hoorah and hooray! Huzzah and kazoo.

I'm most looking forward to the following spokes in the wheel:

1. It is an intimate cast with only four folks - I play three characters within the play - all love interests, fleeting to slightly more involved. The main squeeze, Richard, stays himself throughout. The other two guys  tackle a whopping 150 roles combined filling in every other character in the show - at points they are playing two to three characters within a single scene.

2. Physical comedy in the round - this play moves FAST because our  hero, Richard, is running AND pursuing AND just going going going until the end. There is little room for a moment of boredom, even for the cotton-candy-haired.  Time to pull out some heroes of physical comedy and get a-studyin'. 

3. Dialects! Yeah, I know, I won't shut up about them. Well, I LOVE THEM DADDY! I LOVE THEM AND YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! (Runs away sobbing to bedroom, slams door.) Other languages can not only be fascinating but hilarious. The mouth is a keyhole, the voice a key, and suddenly there you are unlocking perfectly wild characters from inside you. 

4. I haven't done a play in over 4 years!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? That is absolute craziness. I miss live theatre horribly - oh, the stage! - and I have a feeling this will sort of purify my acting spirit.  All that distracting stuff floating around inside my head and chest? It will be shaken out and the good stuff will compress at the bottom near the diaphragm. That's where it needs to live. 

Of course I will remind everyone when this show is going up and I will personally strangle anyone that doesn't show in what will be a 5 weekend run. We open JULY 13th at the Glendale Centre Theater and run until August 17th. Very much excite! 

Here is a fun history of the theater if you are so inclined. A long-standing staple of La La and Glen-Glen.

Also, here is the entire film of the same title on which this play is based, an early Hitchcock endeavor.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Behind the Candelabra

It was Memorial Day and I celebrated by watching Behind the Candelabra - the new Soderbergh experiment. I call his films "experiments" because he has that snowglobe-director style of perpetual motion genre, never quite settling into one. He's a less masterful version of Ang Lee, but they are neighboring provinces in the game of Risk.  It is both enticing and admirable to watch a director kind of "work out" his kinks cinematically over the course of a career.  However, I have a love-hate relationship with Soderbergh because his concepts keep charming or intriguing me all the way to the box office and then I leave deflated or disappointed. The Girlfriend Experience? Please. A dump in a toilet could act better than Sasha Grey and MAYBE since the movie is entirely CARRIED by her it might be a good idea to cast an ACTRESS who has perhaps a little LIGHT behind her dead, dead eyes.  Hey, maybe she's considered the Garbo of Porn but Steven's "crossover" worked as well as a zombie and a chicken falling in love.

Also, Bubble - a super low budget indie flick starring no one, but apparently it was the first film to be available for immediate dvd purchase at the counter when you've....just seen it...I mean, maybe you wanna buy the movie you just saw loved it so much.  And you wanted to take it home TODAY.  To watch LATER.  Or, immediately again if that is what you prefer. My question is: DID ANYONE BUY THAT FILM? I don't even know anyone who saw the damn thing except myself and an ex.  It might be worth calling him just to recap our vague feelings about a film from 8 years ago. I actually remembering liking it at the time, but not enough to be a proud owner afterwards. Also, that's when dvds were like $20.

Don't even get me started on The Informant. Yes, I walked out on Matt Damon. He was sending me on a fast train to Snoozeville and I hate fading in public. And you cannot make me watch The Good German again no matter how loyal I am to a Clooney flick.  A message to all directors: never ever shoot Tobey Maguire in black and white. His eyes were so bulbous and vacant, they had a natural 3D component.

All of this sounds like a Soderbergh hate party, but it ain't. Look at his credits on IMDB - there are a ton of good films all with astounding differences and risks that may or may not have been successfully sussed out.  But he is creating, doing, pouring, shooting, writing, producing, directing his passionate little heart out with projects that obviously aren't the easiest Hollywood sells. Who, I ask you, wasn't a little bit queasy imagining Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as star-studded (not crossed) lovers in a Swarovski whirlwind that is the story of Liberace?  Well, curiosity prevailed on that one.

MAN, first I must point out that Matt Damon just gets better with time. Six-seven years ago, someone proposed a seemingly common argument that Damon was better than DiCaprio and I scoffed mightily.  But I see the wonderfully connected strains, like gleaming golden threads, in his performances.  In Behind he is subtle - almost subdued - but very, very present and also marvelously committed. Michael Douglas comes across as everything you might expect him to be except that he is LIKABLE batting those deep brown eyes like they are swimming with innocent intention and not mixed with perversity.  He is a charming Liberace, but not overly so.  He doesn't really have all the right words, he just has lots of flamboyance (period-appropriate), talent, and luxury - lots and lots of luxury.  

Matt Damon mirrors the starlet who just moved to La-La.  Drawn to but entirely unsure of this extravagant, wigged man who may indeed be genuinely enamored, but is also very old and incredibly horny. We cringe and flinch when Douglas is near because he looks like such an ancient chic freak.  Plus we all know what he really wants - and what rich, famous Liberace wants? He gets. Such is this story - and Damon is sucked into a world that changes him completely and literally.  No, he literally gets plastic surgery in this film and the make-up is just fabulous, darling.  Mad props to that department.

Behind the Candelabra successfully reveals a sad transformation at the hands of the rich and powerful. A case of someone fair, grounded, moral and good being called by a siren and slowly sailing to her shore, only to have his head snatched off in a scorpion's instant.  If you date someone famous, or at least that deep into their own career and persona, beware that you will NEVER be - or at least stay - a true priority. The self is first in this case nearly every single time.  But Damon was being pursued by a skilled hunter on the hunter's land.  In the hunter's own LAIR even. So he didn't have much of a chance coupling that with, you know, LOVE - that darn concept, always obscuring everything.

I will keep watching Soderbergh's work.  He is one of the few true directors we have today despite not always executing with greatness, but he has his moments. And those moments are available for immediate purchase or download on your itunes.  PS, in staying true to his cat's cradle of media games, Steven made this film for HBO but it will be theatrically released come June 7th. PSS, BRILLIANT casting with Rob Lowe (and in general). Nice work, Carmen Cuba.

Monday, May 13, 2013


A dream plagued me last night. Or, a specific character. Over and over again I awoke in a bothered state and looked at my cell. Thirty minute bouts of time. Each moment of waking was heavier, more tired, and eventually a throbbing deeply rooted itself in the left temporal lobe. The sun was shining but the room cried rest so a silent spell was muttered to banish its clarity.

As usual I went about my day unsure but dreamy.  I decided on the first few order of things - breakfast, yes, but then what, how about reading that play, writing that blog or cleaning the floor of your room? Since the OCD nerves are most sensitive in my feet, I desperately swept the dirt and cat hair from the bedroom floor. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Amen. 

I nestled in comfortably to read "The 39 Steps" by Patrick Barlow - a comical and staged adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock film. I have not been so thoroughly entertained when reading a play in AGES.  It wasn't just structured in perfect cleverness, it is also the kind of play one would have the time of their life performing.  Marvelous dialogue, classy melodrama with hilarious tongue-in-cheek tones - and dialects. Lots and lots of dialects.  I wound up dreaming within the reading, imagining the only female role so vividly and almost achingly, delighting in every banter and move she made. ('Why, I'd be perfect for that role!' the Actress thought)

Then the combatant mental reel turned on like a haunted radio, invading my mind not with possibilities, but possible impossibilities. Obstacles, hurdles, and skittish opportunities that appeared like brown rabbits in an autumn wood, lost upon approach. These thoughts were draining the half cup full!  Not destroying, but threatening and bullying any attempt to dream in good faith. It's strange when something we love - even an idea - is also so prone to our pain and hurt.  We lash out at our own good thoughts. Just the other night, a strange human sound wafted in from outside leading me to step onto the fire escape: was it laughter, was it tears? Protest? 

I looked down to see a man, huddled but standing against the brick wall by a dumpster, in a half light from the alley lamp-post. He was sobbing uncontrollably as a larger man moved to embrace him saying," I'm sorry, I just can't control it sometimes."  I froze, but was drawn forward to calculate and understand. I wanted to yell "Are you okay?" but there was only fear of the worst in my throat. This moment carried on with incessant crying at some sort of apology without being an apology.  Resistant embraces. Fear and love.  Words not reflecting behavior.  I silently turned and ran to call on some help.  It became apparent that these two men were lovers and were physically and verbally abusing each other. Eventually, the sob-stricken man weakly followed his boyfriend like a dying shadow down the alley and out of the light.

My heart sank. Because when you need someone THAT much - that you allow them to strike you, lash out at you and then hold you, as if they were the only thing that existed (and not just once or twice) - it is not worth it.  I do not want to NEED my dreams because that is not how they are born. They are born out of a simple love and pure desire of the heart.  They are meant to be followed with strength, optimism and personal illumination - not crawled after in shame, surrender or especially guilt. A dream should not be both your lover and your tormentor. And the harping voices that whisper-scream to jade, fade, and beat down the beauty? Don't just avoid them in the school hall between classes. Stand up to them and reveal WHO YOU ARE and who you've always been since you - the Creator - began your dream. This isn't R.U.R.

That broken man obviously felt he had no one else to turn to, but that was his delusional crux.  Understand that one cannot live on a dream alone - else it is a foolish attempt to sustain health on imaginary food while in reality the body withers away.   In the meantime, sow fulfillment in the normalcy of life - however that materializes; friends, gardening, cooking, writing, church, books,  film, cleaning (ahem) - something!  

I have to hold on to my dream every single day. I also must to add to it, but it is worth questioning what is becoming of the plant we water.  Is it a grand perennial or is it Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors?  (FEEEEEEEED me, Evaaaa!) How is pursuing your dream changing you?  Make sure it is for the better no matter what enemies lurk and grasp - physical, mental, emotional or otherwise. When you spot an enemy on the horizon - simply breathe them away. Recall a moment of joy you have had connected to that dream. Or...just say "Hey, it's a dream." And stride on. 

I want to you leave you with the words of Ang Lee upon winning his first oscar for Brokeback Mountain (Um, sidebar they are making that into a  Warning: a brief sob is possible and also perfectly okay. It should always be. This may be serious stuff but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it. 

Hopefully when I see you next, I'll have something dream-related to boast about...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Late Wanderlust

Just a lonely tail of an evening off the boulevard.  My door is open onto the balcony and cars are whizzing through my brainwaves as I sit, words taught as a tightrope over my tongue.  I hear them passing at all distances - some near, some far - but mostly a pleasant burst of crescendo-ed air and the occasional engine roar, more like a kitten than a lion. I think about having a cigarette, but it would only be an excuse (in poor taste) to be closer to the boulevard.  It seems worth it.  A smirk. I never thought about wanting to be not just literally closer to a street, but somehow spiritually, like it is a heavenly place of traffic and those machines are just clouds gliding through with sound. 

A smoke and a concrete beckoning seem like a romantic notion. I give in, not without lugging my ancient PC laptop along, the one with the poorly researched and accidentally purchased-from-ebay double battery that mirrors a sort of orthopedic shoe. Hey, it's a lunker, but it's my lunker. 

It's nearly 4 am and I slip some headphones on so that the world is a song and the cool night air is within it. Music is the ultimate expression of art, tiered and molded any way you desire because sound cannot be limited in its shape. Even a lack of conventional notes, like John Cage was wont to do, composed an audience moving, breathing, coughing, anticipating, rustling programs and squeaking their chair parts, perhaps uttering confusion or pretentiousness - all for nearly five minutes. All music is an experiment and reflects exactly that in your life. To what memory or part of the imagination does a song attach itself to? Maybe it's this late theme of transportation and open road, or the fact that this song is called Universal Traveler, or that I heard a novel critique on the radio about a woman and her motorcycle this afternoon, but a fantasy of wanderlust and freedom is caught on the line and I'm dreaming of the possibilities I have yet to encounter (which are also born in the moment of my going). 

Go. For years, my internal response has been "I can't. Not yet."  It feels like a permanent and binding chain until I one day catch some current of success and suddenly I am whisked around, though aside will be eagerly scheduling my own personal, entirely overdue whisking to lands I've only read about or experienced second hand. I'm all for second hand things (I still love a good thrift store) but to travel is to physically go. Nothing can stop you from having a first time over and over again - with land, people, architecture, food, history (a first time with history? Sounds impossible!).  Nothing can rob your eyes of the sights meant for you to behold in that moment then and there, whenever and wherever that is..

How DO other people live in the rest of the world? What is totally alien to us as Americans that is perfectly normal for just as many folks? Why do we live and die our entire lives in one location without understanding something about how humans cultivate these indigenous societies and behaviors?  I have a yin and yang of understanding.  I can't fathom being manufactured into this world without an explore button, but I get the reasoning of choosing not to switch it on. It's always fear.  Everything - literally EVERYTHING - can be boiled down to fear of the unknown.  But oh, when you are in that sweet, confident state of mind where nothing scares you at all - you can go and be and talk and snark and breathe and break a rule and just have FUN and you will find yourself in the most liberating place of all, nevermind location.

Until I can afford to control the hands of the clock (and maybe slip a large bill into one), this will be my mental wanderlust. How far into my character am I willing to discover?  How much will I reveal to the world and really, to myself? Lately, a heavyset and parallel thought I've been recycling questions how deeply I will immerse myself into this acting thing until a mentally tangible and relentless muscle develops. There are so many levels to explore and I've been wasting time.  But, I sigh it away for the night.

However, tonight I had an adventure at work. The spirit was moving among all of us because the energy was brazen and experimental and filled with humor. The joy of people shined through - and yes, it was bright but also enlightening - because the beauty was visible, but well, so is that pile of crap over there.  All, not some, is highlighted and clear.  And that pile of crap doesn't matter because it is a part of it all and that....seems fine. In fact, I don't really give it much thought. I just accept that this world wouldn't be what it is without darkness AND light. Now watch the impossible walls disintegrate and blow easily back into the great expanse of sand. No obstacle and, well, no excuse.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stone Soup

Protect your heart, Los Angeles. 

In a sea of self-saturating tongues, leaking information via the art of a trail of goodies for hungry followers (those who simply don't want to miss out!), some of us normal ones sit here. We sit and absorb the carbon dioxide of the oh-so-busy-and-verbose until we realize we are leaning against a hollow tree that faces only one direction. And oh, there is an entire forest of them that stretches past Calabasas and even into Long Beach.

In La La, it is odd and often that we update each other about our lives and careers.  Though I normally note that this other person is smoothly scrambling to paint their life as extremely busy - terribly important being implied but not overtly stated. Then, between listening and making direct eye contact (which is as rare as an albino snake crawling on your head), I notice that this person has absolutely no connection to these "current events"; they are sans emotion. There is feigned excitement, expressed through the rapidity of words and not at all in the iris. A kind of flatness - like a beautiful sound hitting a dull acoustic-less corner - overwhelms the conversation turning their news into noise.  The radio becomes static when you realize you are pulling into an underground lot, does it not? This isn't too dissimilar. Like most industry folks out here, they live little in the real world. They create their own world. And it is your choice to get sucked in or not. It is perfectly okay to poke your head in, to take a tour, but most likely you will hit a dead end in ten minutes or less.

More notes later on the tours that last for days and even weeks - aka meeting a true Hollywood Minotaur and then sniffing them out in their dark maze, simultaneously praying to leave unscathed.

But when walking away from these more everyday interactions, I wonder if what I'm doing is right or if it is productive. Do I have to fake the level of productivity in my life? What if reading Hedda Gabler every day IS my productivity? I'm not filming anything RIGHT right now. I haven't been on a commercial audition in a month, God knows why (untrue as of yesterday!). Should I be scratching away at the surface like an impatient teenager or gnawing like a mindless rat? I'm also not inflating the truth of my life to sound more desirable than it is.  But isn't that then "my problem"? Shouldn't I be talking myself up constantly like I've got the golden ticket and life is peachy keen with whip cream and I'm doing this and that and ABOUT do this and that and it's amazing and wow and can you believe it? Sure you can its no big deal. Just doing what I love (humble shrug) (cell phone rings) Hello? Yeah gimme a red camera and I like four shots in my Venti. 

Beware the silver-tongued (also the golden, bronzed and even the scrap metalled). More importantly, trust those who seek the truth, doubt those who say they've found it.  Living in Los Angeles - nevermind dating - but living here becomes truly a quest for trustworthy individuals, GOOD people, and purer hearts.  They are here somewhere - but like a pig to truffles, you've got to learn to sniff them out. And if you REALLY want to find the most excellent of the lot, this pig has got to go and get a Masters in Sociology so that he can identify levels of transparency with a scientific snout.

I remain persistent, but I don't remain without eggshells in every professional relationship I have.  A lot of risk comes in HOW we interact with people and it is driven by my own need for knowledge and also passage into the next level of the game. Can I play that game without getting my hands dirty? That's what gloves are for.

Hey, I didn't move here without first evaluating how grounded I am.  I knew this town would shake things up but, like a snow globe, I'm still exactly who I am after these experiences. I am in control of myself. I do know that I won't be spouting off nonsense like an old garden hose, but I am consciously learning to speak positively of the things that ARE churning in my industry pot. Without giving away too many ingredients, mind you.

I can say with confidence that most of what people are stirring these days is nothing more than Stone Soup.