My friend Mark who I’ve worked with before on After the Flood, asked me to direct his reading through BMI. It was essentially an audition to get into the final year of the program, much like the evaluations that I for one had at Syracuse my sophomore year in college. The assignment was to adapt something. The book writer, Sara Nicholson based it on a a 1950s book Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Girls. Betty Cornell leaves the book with her trio of assistants to bring glamour to our contemporary heroine. Of course this involves a major clash of cultures. The best part is that very little of her point of view is made up, it is a direct pull from the book. Favorite lyrics include “Dirty kids are cuties, but now that you are grown, its razorblade, stilletos, girdle and cologne.” and “Don’t expect your mother to make a pie and your father not to eat it right in front of you.” Conflict ensues. Betty finds that the she needs to be true to herself. Such a powerful message.

Though I kid a bit, it was actually quite touching in that schmaltzy way. The cast was great and the songs were appropriate, even as the styles were (intentionally) clashed. I see a lot of potential with the piece. More importantly, it was a lot of fun to work on, so thanks to Mark and Sara!  I can’t imagine that the piece wasn’t accepted - I was able to sneak in and watch a few at the presentation.  I was very pleased with the reception by the audience as well. I believe they will hear in the next few weeks, so best of luck.

Why did I have to dash so quickly do you ask? I have been viewing the Lord of the Rings for the past three weeks. On Tuesdays they’ve been showing the extended editions in preparation for the Blu-Ray release. Needless to say it is always wonderful journeying to Middle Earth.

 
I’ve had a few nice small steps these past few weeks. I had two big interviews. I recently learned that I didn’t get either job, but for both I felt that it was one of the first times that I wasn’t just doing my “form interview” and I really was able to speak with a firm point of view. I think I represented myself as best as I could. Like anyone who auditions, I am finding myself having to find the love for talking about myself and a new piece with new friends. I received two very nice letters, and one even gave me his personal e-mail and asked to be added to my mailing list. As I said, a nice small step I think.

I also had my first coaching session with someone who responded to my ad on playbill. (Anyone reading, please feel free to be the second J) I again got a nice e-mail afterward saying that she had a rather successful audition. I do hope I can work with her again. I’m also following up on a few other leads and hope to soon some more sessions with new clients.

I saw a good production Assassins this week. There were some truly beautiful voices. There were some definite problems with the band and the lights were very dim, which I know they were going for the “mood”, but it just made the actors have to work much harder. As a result, or perhaps not, I felt some of the performances were pushed. It was a perfect example of “Musical Theater acting”. There were some who just went for a general feeling with the work and didn’t make any specific choices. But there were also quite a few actors who did! I also thought that there were some strange choices with the costume design – but I choose to be forgiving for the most part with that since that often turns out to be a budget issue. I also noticed that where the songs were added for the revival actually felt rather flat in this production. It resulted in a bit of a lull rather late in the show. But I certainly had a good time, and look forward to seeing more of their productions. It is a shame that they often don’t run their shows for more than one week. Follow them at www.5thfloorproductions.com

For a bit of a change of pace, I went to a sketch comedy show that my co-worker Paul is in. It was absolutely excellent. The opening group was ok with a few good sections. But their group Free Love Forum, was fantastic. They were spot on with their timing, their sketches all had great form, (beginning, middle, end – imagine that…) and they had a real sense of when to throw in the extras but not to overdo it. Check them out! www.freeloveforum.com

Lastly, a little update on my new hobby. I am cooking up a storm – trying new foods and making new recipes. I highly recommend garlic scapes! They make great pesto.

 
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I had the privilege of working with an extremely talented cast on Left Hip All-Stars. It was another 48 Hour festival, with participants who were picked from previous festivals. Greg Moss was the writer, he had done the filming for “Roses”. The cast included two fellow Syracuse grads – Jess Appel and Ryan P.A. Walsh, as well as Marjorie Swartz. I had never really worked with any of them before. The session always begins with an open scene leading into an improv. After a few different run thrus we had a little performance. Truthfully it was slightly awkward, none of the choices made a lot of sense. But when I received the script I was really excited. It was the story of Janis, Jim, and Joni caught on the side of a road after a tab of LSD. They find a “magical guitar of fate” which changes their lives forever. It was a witty roller coaster. The actors made great choices. The opening night performance had a bit of a slow start but the Friday was really spot on. I have spoken with Greg about expanding the piece. It would be a lot of fun. All in all in the hit or miss spectrum, this experience was a definite hit.

Now I know that I generally only talk about theater, but I need to tell you that I’ve helped form a CSA at my day job, and we got our first shipment yesterday. It tastes so real. The eggs, the spinach, the radishes taste spicy! Everyone should do this, it’s what eating is supposed to be.


 
Dear Penpal,

Sorry its been so long since I’ve written! I’ve been busy doing and seeing a lot of theater. Its been very nice. After just about a year of not taking a show through full production, I dipped my toe back in the water and I directed a one-act written by Eugene Gryco, with whom I had worked before on the reading of his full length piece “The Birthday Party”. This piece was entitled “Graduation.” It was a powerful short piece dealing with being (or not being) closeted during the conservative 80s. It was part of a one-performance one-act gay festival. Now as a rule I’ve kind of sworn these festivals off as a whole. But working with Eugene again with a not so large time commitment made it seem worth it.

This was not the first performance of this piece. It had been done last year in the Strawberry Festival.

We did a pretty heavy set of revisions, which I think left us with a pretty dramatically satisfying arc. Eugene was pretty great about line revisions the entire way through the process. It feels very rewarding to be working someone so willing to collaborate. The entire process was very short, we only totaled about 6 hours of rehearsal over a week and a half. Line specificity was definitely a challenge throughout the entire process. But in the end they got them down. Because the festival always allows for not much more than, well, nothing, blocking is never a big concern. We rehearsed a lot by focusing on how we could express both relationship and status through proxemics and eye contact. This was especially useful since we rehearsed in incredibly small rehearsal spaces!

They had a lot to do with very little rehearsal time. There were constant line revisions, and the show got really intense over a very little amount of time. In 10 minutes (it was timed!) they were laughing, kissing, crying all over the place. And of course it doesn’t end happily. Or even that hopeful – though these kids were young, I do hope their lives got better.

I have to say in all honesty I was a little disappointed by the festival as a whole. The entire process was rather disorganized. I’m used to low-tech, but this was no tech, and they couldn’t really tell me what we would have the time of the show. Half the stage wasn’t lit. All and all that as no big deal though. The big deal really was the other shows. Not to make this about the competition, but with the exception of the show that won first place, which was an actual PLAY with CONFLICT and a STORY, the others were bad SNL skits. As an organization that is supposed to be supporting the LGBT community, they did a rather poor job selecting winners that put the community in a positive light. The second place winner was a big lispy boy talking trying to figure out if a guy is gay with his best gal pal. Turns out, he’s bi so they all have a threesome. Hooray… Is the same old tired stereotype worthy to be a “best of the fest?” Apparently. However, I’m not that bitter, we did win audience favorite ;P Unfortunately Tyler can not do this round, but we will rehearse it again in July, and it will be going up on July 15.