Thursday, January 26, 2012

I dream in Yiddish?

My dreaming brain astounds my waking brain on occasion. This is why I have several dozen stories started.  Sometimes I have a dream that is just so vivid, so lifelike, and so interesting that I absolutely have to write it down.  And writing it down engages my waking brain, which is always asking 'why'; answering those whys very frequently creates the bones of a story.

Yesterday, in my effort to be productive without spending money, I worked on various projects at home while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Should Know.  I'm really behind on all my podcasts, so I was listening to October and November episodes.  One episode on antimatter got me thinking about a fantasy story I have in progress (on the laptop that is still comatose), and how antimatter might help solve a technical issue in the story--I like even my fantasy stories to be scientifically feasible where possible.

And last night I attended Fiddler rehearsal where we worked on tightening up the wedding scene.

My dream last night was initially intriguing to my waking brain because it was mostly in Yiddish. And I don't speak Yiddish. But the more I thought about it, the more enthralled I became. My brain had incorporated bits and pieces of several different podcasts (none of them having to do with antimatter) into a Jewish wedding scene, added some hand-to-hand combat (I won), a mysterious person named Crispin, and a cryptic message.  It was like I was watching a good movie and woke up just before it got really good.  And now my caffeinated writer's brain is nearly bubbling over with whys and whos and wherefores and wows.

So today I am going to try to get some housework done amidst making notes and sketching structures.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some theatre lessons are harder than others

Oy! I need to get my laptop up and running and write on stuff other than this blog!  This is ridiculous!  Updating almost daily!  Unheard of!  But writing is apparently part of my sanity-maintenance self-treatment plan.


New theatre experience last night that I need to process (aka write through): I got yelled at by the director.  And most everything she said was valid.  So it was mostly deserved, I guess. We did reach somewhat of an understanding, but I'm still stressing.  Someday I'll have more experience, and I'll know how to avoid situations like this, or at least not take it so much to heart when they arise. But as I'm still very new, still growing that thick skin, it's stressful and disheartening. Which means... I have to write.  Just the act of writing is cathartic, and ordinarily that's all I need, but I'm gonna go ahead and publish this for those who find my blog through google, looking for theatre information. Some lessons are harder than others, and maybe reading about someone else's struggle will help another newbie.

All the things I didn't, couldn't say last night...

Dear Director,
When I first thought about auditioning for Fiddler, and thought about what roles I could write in the "What role are you auditioning for?" spot, I wasn't sure I could even hope to be Yente.  Every production of Fiddler I've ever seen has had a movie Yente.  I figured it was written into the script that Yente was old and hobbling.  So I researched a bit. Google Books has the 1964 script, IBDB has information on the original production. And discovered that the role was originated by a young, able-bodied Bea Arthur and I sang 'Halelujia!'. I could maybe be a younger, brasher Yente!  So I auditioned.

AND I GOT THE PART!  And I sang 'Halelujia!' again because I thought "Hey! The directors are open to a younger Yente! Can I hear a what-what? Woo-hoo!"  I dove into channeling Bea, discovering that young, brash Yente in the 1964 photo. No cane, no age makeup.

And then... before we'd run a single line... you told me I must have a cane.

I was so disappointed.  But I nodded and said okay, and even found a cane to practice with, brought it to rehearsal.  I adjusted the character to accommodate.   Perhaps Yente didn't need a cane, but used it more as a status symbol and sometimes weapon.  Okay, I thought. No big deal.

Then you told me I needed to USE the cane more. Hobble.  And I explained that I thought my Yente didn't need a cane, but used it more as a status symbol and sometimes weapon.  You shook your head and set your jaw. Nope.

So I used the cane more. Hobbled a bit.

You told me I should 'forget' the cane when I stood up.  As directed I 'forgot' the cane when I stood up.  You got frustrated with me and told me I needed to hunch, and grab my back, "Oy, my sciatica!", if I was going to leave the cane behind.  In my head I was thinking, "You TOLD me to leave the cane behind!" as my heart was breaking a little because my Yente, the Yente I had hoped to be, was flushed down the toilet with those words. But what I verbally took issue with was the hunch. Something inane about my height. It was silly, I know. But the hunch was for me the death of a youthful Yente. So I retrieved the cane and tried to at least follow exactly the directions you had given but I was flustered and my lines were shot. You said speak up, I said I'll be miked. And bam. In that moment I could sense that I had just become 'that' castmember. The difficult one. The one who has an excuse for everything, that doesn't want to play well with others.  I choked back a sob when I got off stage. Again, silly, I know.

On Tuesday I did my best to hunch and hobble and incorporate every stage direction you'd given. Then I came off stage and my double relayed to me the message about arriving early on Wednesday to go over Yente stuff. The fact that she told me about it and not you (even though you had opportunity) alarmed me. I stressed the entire drive home. All night long. All morning Wednesday. My thoughts: I'm obviously not hunching and hobbling enough. I can't hunch and hobble and move quickly. I suck at being the 'standard' Yente. I don't want to be the 'movie' Yente!! If people want the movie Yente, they can pull her up on YouTube for free anytime they want!  People come to Plaza to see fresh, innovative live theatre!

So I sent you an email early in the day, asking you to give me the opportunity to play Yente more as I think Bea Arthur did.

And last night you were upset. Upset that I had emailed, rather than talk to you in person. I'm a writer; I communicate best with written words.  Upset that I had thrown history at you. I included some historical information so you would know that I'd done some research into it, and wasn't just asking on a whim or to be difficult, not because I thought you didn't already know.  I apologized rather than explain, because I didn't want to prove right there that I was indeed 'that' castmember.

Yes, I should have talked to you weeks ago, in person.  Should have pulled you aside and fully discussed my view of Yente when it became apparent that our views weren't the same. Instead I tried to meld our views. Because here's the thing: You intimidate me. It's not a usual thing, so I'm a little unsure of how to effectively BE intimidated. You've spent the last 40+ years on stage, running theatres, directing shows, living theatre, and raising amazingly talented theatre kids who in turn are raising amazingly talented theatre kids. You've played Yente!  I've spent most of the last 30 years simply wishing I could be on stage. Wistfully attending plays. Wistfully reading plays. I'm new to this, and still unsure of myself despite outward appearances. And when you yell at others for screwing up, I cower just a smidge inside. Outside of being costumed for Annie and working with your family, I don't know you, what to expect from you. From my view, you have very definite ideas about what you envision and what you expect. End of story. I felt it was my responsibility as an actor to meet your expectations and do my part to make your vision happen. If anything was negotiable, I couldn't tell.

I thank you for allowing me to give a younger Yente a shot, though I can tell through your expressions and body language during rehearsal last night that you are not happy about it. It's not how you envisioned; it's not how you played her. But thank you for letting me try, anyway.  After seeing the daughters mimic Yente in the Matchmaker number, I'm thinking perhaps the cane might be necessary, but more as a scepter for the uncontested Matchmaker rather than a physical crutch. Today I am working on milking the comedy while standing straight and tall. And despite the whiny, high-maintenance tone of this post (I apologize), I'm confident I will succeed, at least for audiences.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More than perfunctory!

(love that word--it's fun to say!)

Another review for The Foreigner, this one positively stellar, and I got a whole paragraph!  (The reviewer missed the 'King' on my name, but the fabulousness is undiminished.)

"Costume design by Stacey Greenawalt [King] is basic and perfect for the characters. None of the characters are "over the top" unless need be and subtle changes make for perfect accents to the production. Ms. Greenawalt [King] obviously understands the written characters and demonstrates that understanding, for example, with mismatched shoes on the "slow" character of Ellard Simms in one of his scenes. The attention to detail is shown throughout the production and executed well."  
--Reviewer Richard Blake for The Column

If Yente had her nose pierced

It could happen.  Though I think if Yente were going to pierce her nose, it would probably be a septum piercing, rather than an ala piercing...  I can see her with a ring through her septum like a beringed bull.

Fiddler opens in a little more than two weeks (I'll be in the preview cast two weeks from tomorrow, and then it officially opens two weeks from Friday).  In community theatre, actors are usually charged with doing their own makeup, so I've been playing around with age makeup for Yente if it's necessary. Hopefully it won't be. My Yente hopefully is going to be an homage to Bea Arthur's original Broadway character.  She was over 5'9" tall, and just 42 years old when she originated the role with Zero Mostel as Tevye and Maria Karnilova as Golde.  You can see all three characters in this image gallery (Bea's Yente is 4th from last). Interestingly, Maria Karnilova was 44 and wore age makeup to look 60-ish.  Bea wore no age makeup.

Now, I say 'hopefully' because the director seems to want the movie Yente, played by then 72-year-old Molly Picon, who was a scant five feet tall in shoes.  As I am nearly 5'8" and nearly 39, not to mention the fact that I hated the movie--the stage version is so much better--, Bea's Yente suits me better.  Besides, anyone can see the Picon's Yente any time--just rent the movie. They can't see Arthur's original Yente.

I'm going early to rehearsal tonight for an apparent Yente-Intensive, and I'm going to present my case for a younger, taller, Broadway Yente. Or at least a compromise, perhaps an older version of the original Yente. I really really really don't want to be the movie Yente, but that's the director's decision.

Anyway, here's a pic of me in age makeup and nose stud, in case you needed a smile.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I feel better

After seeing the cast list of The Drowsy Chaperone ( I feel a lot better about my audition.  Of course it still wasn't my best, which was my goal, but I could have nailed it with sweet perfection and it wouldn't have made a dang bit of difference.

I do want to brag on my friend and Annie castmate Caitlan Davis, who will be appearing as the Chaperone in one cast and as Trix in the other.  She doesn't know this blog exists, so I can tell you honestly that Caitlan has an amazing —AMAZING— voice.  She's like a young Ethel Merman, but better. Ethel had some annoying vocal habits that sometimes got in the way of the song.  Caitlan's voice is big and pure, and when she's got a good song to sing, displays impressive range.  She's in college to become a teacher, but I think she's got potential, at least vocally, to end up on much bigger stages.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dear future director self...

The Three Musketeers.  If I could choose any show to direct, it would be that one.  I've been re-reading the book, which I can't do anymore without picturing Chris O'Donnel as D'Artagnan, Oliver Platt as Porthos, Kiefer Sutherland as Athos, and  Charlie Sheen (patooie) as Aramis.  I loved the movie--that's when I first fell in love with Oliver Platt. *sigh* Yeah.....

Should I ever have the opportunity to direct a show (Musketeers or not), I'd want to be effective, efficient, and eloquent.  So this post is sort of a running To Do list (last updated August 2013) for my future director self, from my current actor self's point of view.

1. Know your script before auditions. I know this sounds like a gimme, but you should have read the script at least four times before auditions. Research the facts of the story. If it's set in 1948 England, know what is happening in 1948 England and the rest of the world. What historical events might have had an impact on the character's lives? Why did the author choose to tell this story, and why did he/she choose the words he did?

2. Before auditions, know the show: Have the set sketched with important pieces drawn in more detail. Have some blocking worked out on that set. Know the general feel of the costumes and the overall mood of the show. Even if you have directed/done the show before, approach with fresh eyes.

3. Make sides and detailed synopsis/history of the show and its characters available before auditions. Cold reads do nothing but make actors nervous.

4. Be on time and ready to go for auditions.

5. If anything has been cut from or added to the script, particularly if those changes are not fully reflected in the script given to the cast, a preliminary read-through is a must.  The whole cast must know what's in and what's out so they can begin to become familiar with the script as it will be presented in your particular production.  During the read-through, vocally set the scene as you anticipate it will be, so from the very first rehearsal, the cast has an idea of what you envision.

6. Share with your cast the history of the show, particularly if it's a classic Broadway script (musical or not). Give them some background on the author, about the show's stage history, about some of the various actors who have played the principal roles, and perhaps some of the different qualities each actor brought to their characters. While you are in no way attempting to 'copy' earlier productions, classic shows carry with them a certain burden of audience expectations, a responsibility to do the show justice, and every castmember must share in that burden/responsibility.

7. After the read through, encourage your principal actors to read the script again at least twice more before the next rehearsal. At a subsequent rehearsal sit down with them and discuss any character and inter-character dynamics that are necessary to the plot and/or flow of the story. Then talk to the actors one-on-one; find out their vision and share yours regarding each of their characters. Aside from specific traits written into the script or integral to the character (like Quasimodo's hunch), allow the actor some freedom to bring his or her own interpretation to the role.  If you and the actor have very different views, find a compromise and through the following rehearsals, initiate two-way communication about what's working and what isn't.  Remember that you're working with a stage script and not re-enacting the movie.  Different actors bring different qualities to their characters, and attempting to make them echo the movie character is unfair.

8. Encourage communication from the start.  Make sure actors have your email address, and let them know it's okay to ask questions about characterization, blocking, accents, etc.  Perhaps even set a consistent 'Director Access' time: arrive early to rehearsal one or more days a week, specifically to make yourself available outside of rehearsal time to discuss any issues actors may be having.

9. The cast will work better together when they feel like a family, when they feel like they are sharing in a common journey.  And they'll work better with you if they feel like you are on the journey as well, rather than dragging them all along.  Do something just for fun (team building) once a week. Where possible, include your prop/costume masters, stage manager, stage hands, and producers.

10. Even though you and your prop/costume masters may be getting paid, remember that your actors are there giving of themselves because they love what they do. Model leadership for and discuss leadership attitudes with your prop and costume masters. Encourage them to work with actors on costume and prop decisions that affect an actor's characterization.

11. Effectively memorizing lines involves more than just rote memorization. A great deal has to do with how the lines are paced in the scene, what other characters are saying, how other lines are played, and any actions that may go along with the lines.  It's a total brain thing.  At home, actors can certainly memorize lines by rote using their own tempo and cadence as a memory aide.  But when those actors are on stage in the scene and the lines are spaced differently, paced differently, played differently, and stage direction is added, the home rote-memorization can fly out the window. Block all scenes as early as possible, and run all dialogue scenes at least once a week, so actors are familiar with the spacing, pacing, and blocking of their lines and have ample opportunity to practice onsite.

Suggested rehearsal progression:
1. Read-through
2. Music
3. One-on-one character review
4. Blocking
5. Blocking
6. Music
7. Blocking
8. Blocking
9. Blocking
10. Music
12. Foam board is your friend! Work with your set designer to create a scale model of the stage area and any set pieces you envision.  This will help you, as director, work out blocking, and help your actors better envision both the overall concept and the stage 'pictures' you have in mind.

13. It's okay to change your mind. It's bound to happen as rehearsals unfold and you see that this or that won't work as you'd envisioned.  But be sure to communicate changes effectively.  It's a good idea to preface the change with "This is a change," so the actor knows.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Foreign fotos

My name is in the paper!  Just a perfunctory mention, but kinda cool nonetheless.  It's a review of The Foreigner:

And while I'm at it, here are a few photos of my costuming handiwork.  You can find a few more on Plaza's blog, and still more on their Facebook page.  I made Froggy's British army uniform from scratch, including the rank and company patches on it. Except for, you know, the boots. And the beret. And the belt.  So just the shirt and pants, then. And the patch on the beret. Modified a sewing pattern to look more 'military-ish' and added tons of cargo pockets. And I think the uniform looks fabulous.

Also made a quick-change bow-tie for the character of Charlie. No pattern, just creativity.  The sweater-vest started life as a long-sleeved sweater.  Betty's apron started life as a curtain.

Overall, I truly had fun on this project!

It's all good

As hoped, writing therapy did the trick yesterday! Despite lack of sleep, I had a reasonably productive day and wasn't overly disappointed when, as expected, I received no call or email about Drowsy. Fiddler rehearsal was also terribly productive (it's gonna be amazing, y'all--fair warning).  More telling, I slept like a log last night. Woot!

Now I'm mulling auditioning for Millionaire.  It's not a musical, but I think I could handle any of the three adult women parts.  In the Disney movie, Mrs. Drexel Biddle was played by Greer Garson, and I played Mrs. Greer in Annie.  Hmmm... Is that a sign?  ;)

By the way, this is my 100th post on this blog!  And I forgot to notify Al Roker, dangit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Where's the bar?

Somewhere around 5:15 this morning I let go of it enough to get some good sleep. For a whole hour and a half before my alarm went off.  Woke up and started to gnaw on it again. So I gotta blog about it, both for posterity and to get it out of my head so I can SLEEP.

I auditioned for The Drowsy Chaperone last night. I wasn't stressed at all. It was a learning audition. I'd heard whispers that the director already had people in mind for parts, so I had no expectations. None. There are only five named female characters, of which I have the vocal range for four, the age-range-ish for three. Lots of other talented ladies auditioned who've previously worked with this director. So while I went in to the audition intending to do my best, I had zero expectations.  I'd love to do the play, but I also wouldn't mind a bit of a breather, perhaps audition for Millionaire after all.  Most importantly, I had fun stapling feathers to my sweater and putting together a 1920's Hollywood hostess-style outfit, found some glam necklace bits to turn into clip-on earrings, did the finger wave thing with my hair.  I even sported my false eyelashes and exaggerated the big freckle on my cheek to look like a beauty mole. 

For two weeks I've been singing, singing, singing "As We Stumble Along" without music. I know the song so well I can sing it without thinking about it. I could sing it in my sleep if I'd been even a little bit stressed about remembering the words.

And all of that soon as I walked through the door to the audition room.  Suddenly I was a goofy, gawky ball of nerves.  The piano player was reasonably okay; he'd never played the song before, and I'd never sung it with piano aside from my two-finger note-plucking on my phone app.  Okay, that right there, that previous sentence?  The part about NEVER singing it with piano? That. Was. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. In retrospect, hearing the music and trying to make sure I was putting the right words with the right piano notes totally threw me off.  I messed up the lyrics not once, but twice.  And THIS is what I'm gnawing on. The zero expectations, no-stress approach meant I didn't really think it through. As a result, I feel like I let myself down. I didn't do my best, which was really my only goal.

Interestingly, while I was singing, a Fiddler castmate's 6- or 7-year old daughter popped up in the window (she was standing on tippy tippy toe on the other side) and flashed her beautiful smile at me. I grinned back and continued singing. Then there in the window was the top of her head and a stuffed cow hopping along the bottom of the window. I think I suppressed that chuckle. In Annie, we had many moments of unscripted audience participation--it didn't rattle me at all, and cutie-pie E hamming it up in the window didn't rattle me, either. It was WAAAAY less of a distraction for me than the coordinating-words-with-piano-notes thing.

So all of the following thoughts and stresses were crowding my head all night:

~ I'm afraid I came across as a diva because I don't want an ensemble role. The director doesn't know me, so what he sees is that I don't have anywhere near the experience to even consider being a diva.  But it's a 35 minute drive (which is paltry compared to some, but gas does get expensive), and I do have two kids at home.  And I'd likely have to rearrange my Fiddler performances to accommodate Drowsy rehearsals. A principal role in Drowsy would be well worth the adjustments needed.  But as tempting as an ensemble role is simply because I love this show, I really would rather watch it from the audience half a dozen times (which I will!) than commit the time and money to making the drive to rehearsals and rearrange my Fiddler schedule.

~The producer kept FROWNING AT ME! Logically I know it was probably her listening face, and I totally shouldn't have let it unnerve me.  But I've had the pleasure of hanging with her outside of an audition room, and that crinkly-foreheaded frown had yet to be directed at me. So what was running through my head during the entire audition (and throughout the night)?  "Milette is frowning. She thinks I suck. Is she looking at my getup and thinking it's too much?  No, she thinks I suck."

~I was auditioning for a comedic role.  Train wrecks aren't funny, dangit!

~I should have sung Miss Otis Regrets. I have the CD accompaniment for that, and I've sung it with piano before. Or Adelaide. Should have sung Adelaide. Or [insert name of practically any other tune here].



Another learning experience. Which is always a good thing. Another audition under my belt.  The director said he'd email, but my zero expectations are even less than zero now. Hopefully blogging this will allow me to LET IT GO. Learn from the experience, make better decisions, and do better next time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

So I'm a jackass

I'm feeling both wonderful and grumbly today. What is up with that?  I guess that might qualify as snarky?

I guess I'm just annoyed by the onslaught of quippy 'words of wisdom' in image form continually posted and reposted and reposted and reposted and reposted on Facebook. Six months ago when it was one person every other week, it was inspiring/cute/empowering/whatever.  I've even posted two myself, both in early August. Most were quotes from respected historical figures (like the Thoreau one I posted), or truisms about living within your means (like the other one I posted).  Now there are at least a dozen people in my news feed that post at least a dozen of these word pictures every stinkin' day.  Every once in a while, I admit, there are funny gems, but most of them are just silly, some even downright stupid.  Yes, I do hide some of those from my feed by hiding all photos from selected persons, but more and more people are posting them. Grr.

It got in my craw TODAY because a particularly idiotic one showed up in my feed four times. Something about haters and jackasses.  Whatever.  I sighed and skipped over it the first three times I saw it.  But the fourth time... Sorry Jeremy.  I couldn't let the fourth one slide by. Some people are haters for good reason.  I don't care how cute or rich he is, he has no business even pretending to backhand you and making you flinch.  And saying so doesn't mean I'm jealous, doesn't mean I'm trying to sabotage your relationship.  And a stupid quip equating 'hater' to 'jackass' doesn't make me a jackass.

I know it's meant as a joke.  Hahahaha. You're not a jackass whisperer. Get it? Hahahaha. OMG that's like so hilarious.


So! Today is gonna be a great day!  It's still raining, but the precipitation is much-needed, and it's supposed to clear up by noonish. We're gonna have to mow the grass! In January! Woot!  I've got a bunch of errands to run, then an OG meeting tonight, then (sshhhh) an audition, then rehearsal for Fiddler. Tech week is just three weeks away!  I'm feeling better than I have since before Christmas (hooray for clear snot!)--that alone is reason to smile.  Oh, and I'm caffeinated.  That's a bonus, too.

*singing* The halls are alive... with the sound of chihuahua snoring....

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2012 Goals

I waffle from year to year on whether setting New Year's resolutions or goals is a worthwhile endeavor.  Some years it seems like an important thing to do; other years it seems ridiculous.  Possibly has at least a little bit to do with what sorts of goals others around me set and if anyone inspires me one way or the other.    Here are my 2010 goals, inspired by my sister. Go ahead, check it out. I'll wait.....   Yeah.  Here's a two-years-later update:
1. Still can't park the truck in the garage.
2. I did find studio space elsewhere.
3. I did expand my business, but only created more bills.
4. That damned carpet is still there, as is the same gold paint.
5. Afghans still unfinished.
6. House still a wreck.

So. Only two out of six accomplished, and one of those didn't work out the way I'd hoped.

This year I have two Life Resolutions rather than New Year's Resolutions.  Both are maintenance resolutions--I'm already here, and I resolve to stay here.  But breaking them into one-year increments isn't a bad idea, so here they are:
  1. Continue to make sure my booty fits comfortably into my size 4 jeans.  Approaching 40, it's harder and harder to defy my genetic programming, but my skinny jeans shall prevail over my fat genes.
  2. Continue to find and claim my moxie.

And then I guess I have some general goals for 2012, nothing too lofty.

  1. Be more diligent about using coupons.  It's time-consuming, but ultimately worthwhile.
  2. Go for my yearly check-up for the first time in five years.
  3. Streamline.
  4. Grow out my hair.

I think I can handle these :)