I applied for a job well over a month ago. I think it was close to the beginning of July. I opened my e-mail yesterday to find a very nice letter of rejection. Now of course I always wonder who got the job? What were their qualifications that were so overwhelmingly better than mine that I wasn’t even offered an interview. But the skin has grown thicker over the years, and I no longer “sit by the phone” as it were. I treat much like an actor treats an audition. I do it, think about it for the rest of the day, and move on.
But... to get an e-mail like this literally months feels to me like a casting director calling and saying to an actor you didn’t get the show that’s opening tonight. Well of course I didn’t, and thank you for reminding me.
…man I need a vacation. And then I am ramping it up. It seems like I take baby steps, and take a few months in between each one. The good part seems to be that I haven’t taken any backward, at least for a while. So maybe in the latter half of the year I can make the baby steps a little bit bigger and see what happens.
So far this festival season I’ve seen two fringe shows. I’m hoping to see at least one if not two more before I go on vacation next week! (On a personal note I am so excited, I need it so badly! My artist battery is dead – taking a break does a lot to propagate a lack of motivation.) As much as I hate the mass-produced and lack of support feeling of the fringe (they are mounting over 200 productions this year.) there is something also very alive about it. It embodies a piece of “the magic of theater”. All of this work appeared out of where there was nothing before, and in impressive venues that many of these shows will never see the like of again. All this goes through my mind before any one of these shows. There also is something inherently “fringetastic” about some of these shows. They are so off-the-wall or wrapped in current events that this is where they get off - a fabulously successful run at fringe. And every year has one.
The first show I saw just might be one of those, though I hear another show penned by my friend Steve Wargo might be as well – (Jurassic Parq - one of the two I hope to see next week). This was called Invader? I Hardly Know Her! I have to say that this piece is exactly what the title suggests. In my opinion, that is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The text is enormously clever. A number of very witty rhymes which elucidate some outrageous scenarios. A Drew Carey type average joe is dragged through space through a series of adventures with some ambiguously and some not so ambiguously gay duos and quartets, trying to save the world from the aliens from the 5th Dimension. Many of the songs are spot on, delivering the perfect amount of wit at the perfect time - the standout number being “The Other Shoe”, sung by our alien lesbonic heroine. The other being the quartet sung by the “fembots” (think Austin Powers) led by the Sassy Gay Friend Robot who are trying to turn their feminine appeal towards the creation of a trans-galactic sensation. However, in that case, the song is placed in the wrong part of the play. Which leads me to the weakness - much of the structure seems out of order. For example, we get people’s intro songs after most of the plot has been revealed, and by that point, the formula of pushing the line so it can fit the maximum number of clever pairings has gotten its full mileage and it simply is not as funny anymore. In that regard it is a bit of a one-trick pony. The play also feels like its about fifteen or twenty minutes too long. The plot simply isn’t strong enough (nor should it be, its REALLY campy) to push through two hours. Luckily the director and choreographer’s immensely clever staging keeps it moving. They truly commit to the camp factor, which is so fun to perform and to experience from the audience. From a casting standpoint, I thought a few of the casting choices odd, they didn’t quite fit the “archetype”. But on the other hand, I wasn’t thinking that there were any really sub-par performances either. The guys were all pretty good (especially the robot) and made very clever choices. The women I felt to be a little more lopsided, but again, not to the point of it being below what the piece asked for. There was 100% commitment from all, and that goes a long way with silly theater. But the one thing I really missed was that only one person in the cast could really belt, and a few of the numbers called for it, so though they didn’t sound bad, they didn’t sound as brassy as I wanted. All in all, totally worth the price of admission, and a lot of fun.
The second piece was written by my friend Zac Kline, entitled Together This Time. I haven’t really had the opportunity to watch a piece develop that I wasn’t directly involved in, so this was really great to watch. I saw this piece first at Emerging Artists Theater when I directed Before the Flood. I went back and read my old entry about this. I will say that a lot of my initial issues were resolved. It definitely felt quite a bit more hard rock. Some of the songs really took off. A few of my favorites especially since the actor playing the young fictional character Jamie had a great theater rock voice (my favorite performance of the evening). I do wish that they had made more revisions, but I know time really snuck up on them. It seemed that some book revisions happened, some of the songs no longer carried as much weight or made as much sense. There were still a few unresolved problems with the cohesion of the story as a whole. But there were definitely some major improvements, particularly in the book. There were a few casting choices that I wasn’t crazy about, and I had a few questions about some of the directorial choices. Spaces seemed amorphous, and it got hard to tell what was the “story” (its about a author and his struggle – which comes to light through the story he is writing) and what was real, long before it could have been considered a prudent choice, and other reality scenes seemed to blend together in a confusing way. The nytheatre review basically said that it was a good piece, but the work needed further polishing. I thought that statement was completely fair and accurate. In any case, I am excited to finally write something with Zac from the ground up – which he PROMISED me that we would start working on next month.
Again, I hope I get to see more of the fringe, and maybe you’ll see me doing it again next year…
I had the privilege the other day of trekking down to Williamsburg (the subway was actually for the most part in my favor!) to see my friend Claire Morrison in A Comedy of Errors. I did get off at the wrong stop so I missed the dumb show/sea shanty at the beginning so I got a little confused with the fact that they did a bit of a gender switch (Dromio to Dromia, etc.) but it was also my fault since the facebook invite was entitled “Double the Girls…” so it should have been relatively obvious. Luckily, its one of those plays that 1) I’ve read and saw a million times for one reason or another and 2) is one of those mistaken identity – zaniness ensues – happy ending plots that if you know that formula you can pick up on.
It’s such a different experience to see Shakespeare in the park. Of course not park with a capital p. Just some people performing in the shade. So much of the nuance has to be given up just for the sake of simple projection. It forces the actors to be so much more expansive, both vocally and physically. And this was a spread out audience (and surprisingly large – not even counting those who were wondering why those people were running around and moseyed on over.) so they really had their work cut out for them. But nevertheless, with little more than their bodies and a few props, they told an exciting story (that I did follow except for the gender thing at a couple points – but again, totally my fault!) They made a number of very simple, yet clever and effective choices (a person as the door a la “I am wall” for example.) And though maybe there wasn’t too much subtlety to their performance (should there be in Shakespeare comedy?) it was evident that this was a talented group, familiar with their instruments (even those that actually played - the guitar and violin I thought was a particularly nice touch) and I’d wager that I saw them in a black box I would be equally entertained. Of course, Claire in particular was amazing as usual. One of these days though I want to see her as one of the queens from Richard III.
I also want to say again how much I love Shakespeare. The power of the text does it all. You couldn’t do a contemporary drama outside. (Ok, maybe you could, but it would be a much bigger challenge) And it is so satisfying as an artist to watch something so simple do so much. The audience, myself included, were completely engrossed, and had a wonderful time. It was an invigorating afternoon. Congratulations to the group (I don’t think the company has a name.) Thanks to Melisa for the company, and thanks again to Claire for buying me a drink.
*Claire getting me drunk in no way influenced my positive blog.