Happy 4th of July and Hamilton the musical

Cranky is very fortunate to have a well-heeled friend who takes her to places that a poor actress would never go: Turkey, a spa in Mexico and best of all, the Broadway play Hamilton.

The minute the curtain went up, I had this overwhelming feeling that this show is the essence of what it is to be American.

I never really thought much about feeling patriotic. It used to seem well, CORNY. And a territory for right-wing flag wavers. Until, however, I was once abroad, and a European made a derogatory remark about the United States and Cranky was LIVID. As soon as I was alone with my traveling partner, I went off, “How dare them! What did they ever do? We invented EVERYTHING! Electricity! Hello! The car! Hello! Airplanes! Hello! The telephone, the internet, the cotton gin! Oh, oh, and JAZZ and rock and roll. (Have you ever heard French or Italian attempts at rock – sad, sad). I might have been exaggerating a bit when I said EVERYTHING, but I was in the grip of a patriotic fervor. Which surprised me. “Wow, I thought, I love my country.”

Which is exactly the way I felt when I saw Hamilton. A multi-racial cast playing our Founding Fathers is emblematic if what this country is all about and what’s great about it. I felt so proud to be an American. A rapper with swagger cast as Jefferson was genius. The line in the show: “We’re immigrants we get things done,” elicited a cheer from the audience. It was a show of support for immigrants, and a screw you to New York City’s embarrassment of a native son, Donald Trump.

“Make America great again?” Dude, it is already great in so many ways.

The Play Reading

Cranky just finished writing a play. I was invited to participate in a reading series and to have a new work read. Cranky didn’t have a new work, but said yes anyway and planned to just make one up.

A deadline is a great thing for a writer. Until, of course, the deadline comes. Cranky made up most of a play sitting on the couch in her living room. Went to places she had literally never gone before. Then it was four days until rehearsal and six days before the reading, and the ending just fell off a cliff. And let’s face it, you got no ending-you got no play. Or movie or TV show for that matter. I am still resentful that I lost so many hours of my life watching Lost. If it was all a dream go fuck yourself. So there I am. The ending hasn’t been cracked. I pace around, say a prayer and thank goodness get an idea. The next few hours I keep running to my computer to add things. I wake up the next morning and grab my computer and start typing before getting out of bed. The dog looks at me funny because Cranky has never done this before and dogs are all about routine.

The night before the rehearsal I send the completed script to the six actors. I am thrilled and love the play. The day of the rehearsal I wake up and I hate the play. I’m sure all the actors hate it too. Especially the one I am closest too, who asks me if I will have time to “talk about the play” after rehearsal. The phrase “talk about the play” will send any playwright into a paranoid tailspin. Especially Cranky. So I walk around all day in a panicked state. The thought crosses my mind that I hope there is an earthquake on Thursday so we won’t have to read the play. Or maybe I will have to perform an emergency C-Section on the play and completely rewrite it in one day. I’m sure that the fact that I wrote anything good in the past was a fluke. And that I will never write another play again. That I am not a writer at all. I’m like “Please, please where are the disasters when you need them? How about a little blackout on Thursday? That will do the trick.”

The actors arrive at rehearsal. They all look very happy to be there and enthusiastic. I am sure this is because they are good actors and they are just acting. Then we read through the play. It’s actually good. They are laughing. It’s the perfect combination of sad/funny funny/sad that I like. The rehearsal goes really really well. I’m still nervous about the “talk about the play” person. We go to a diner and she asks if she can change three words. Three words. And tells me it’s a great piece. The earthquake/blackout wish starts to fade.

But we’re talking about the wonderful world of theater were nothing is a sure thing. Ever. The night of the reading there is a full house in the event room of the restaurant hosting it. Before the performance I notice one of the actors downing glasses of Guinness. When he orders another I ask him if he can perform after drinking beer. “Oh sure,” he says.

Everybody is happy. The reading begins. The first scene comes off great. Then comes the second scene with Guinness guy. He is inaudible. I don’t mean a little bit. I mean you can’t hear him AT ALL. It looks like I stuck a mime in there with the speaking actors for experimental reasons. Cranky does not write experimental theater nor does she want to see it. I can’t explain the physical sensations of anxiety that are running through my body. I hired him because his girlfriend asked me if I had something for him. Cranky did it to be nice. And he was a child star on some television program and has been in a bunch of movies. All I can say is, “Dude, Hollywood is calling get the fuck off the stage.”

When it is over I apologize to everyone I know in the room. Some people liked it anyway. Most of them were sitting in the front row.

But alas, such is the way it goes sometimes in the world of a thespian. And when all is said and done, I have written a new play.

Shakespeare on the Screen

Cranky saw the National Theater’s production of Hamlet on Saturday. It was at the movies. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  It was amazing. I will say it is probably one of the best portrayals of Hamlet in recorded history. It is though the only one I’ve seen outside of acting class, but I love a sweeping statement and I think this performance deserves one.

But first I must talk about the audience. I sat behind a compulsive shusher. I got the feeling that seeing Hamlet was such an epic experience in this man’s life that from the second he sat down he made himself the self-appointed noise monitor for the theater. We’re talking Brooklyn Academy of Music. You couldn’t possibly get a more respectful audience for Shakespeare on the screen than this group. All those Park Slope granola, food coop, lefties. If the man had seen it in The Court Street Theater where everyone talks back to the screen, he might have had an Ophelia madness scene of his own.

The first shush came while during the Coming Attractions when my friend and I were whispering back and forth. Freak. It is totally acceptable to talk during Coming Attractions. “I want to see that. Think I’ll skip that one. Love that actor.” Are things I feel compelled to say to whomever I’m with. His shush was the first warning shot that under no circumstances would any sound be tolerated. The shushing continued later when my friend went into her bag for a mint. When someone else whispered. When I got my scarf out of my bag. The denouement occurred after the intermission when Cranky came to her seat with a Kit Kat. I knew the Kit Kat was going to be a problem. But I needed the Kit Kat. The running time was three hours and since it was Saturday, Cranky hadn’t had a proper lunch because Saturday is Pilates day. So I’m in my seat. I need to eat the Kit Kat. I decide to just open the whole thing in one big tear instead of making a lot of little noises as I go. The second I open it, I get not only a SHUSH but a turn around. The Shusher is more annoying than the noises he is shushing. Why why why doesn’t he realize that? Cranky is tempted to lean forward and start coughing near him. But I didn’t do it. After sitting frozen in my seat for the next hour, I have to blow my nose. I really do. I gingerly pick my purse up off the floor and open it to get a tissue. I get a huge SHUSH!!! Cranky has now had it. “Pardon me I need to blow my nose!!?  WTF?” I said. Crazy Shusher was then quiet for the rest of the show and we could concentrate on Elsinore. Where Mr. Cumberbatch was being an athletic/active Hamlet. No ponderous pondering . Though the issues of life and death are weighed throughout the play, it was done by attack not defense. The play was practically an athletic event. In a good way. Not one boring moment, nor a moment where the text isn’t clearly understood. Quite a feat. One of those great matches of role and actor.  And the filming was a perfect balance of movie and play. Mr. Cumberbatch will be back on the National Theater screen in October in Frankenstein and that totally cute guy from The Night Manager –  Tom Hiddleston, is in Corialanus running now. Check out the calendar: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

Inbox Rules Inner Life

Cranky is going to be part of a playwright/director’s workshop at The Actor’s Studio. Cranky is afraid.

My former acting coach, Mr. Inscrutable, took me to watch some sessions there. It was all very serious. No, really VERY SERIOUS.  Think of saying it with an English accent: VEDDDY SERRRRRIOUS. I got the impression that the place is anti-entertainment. And if there is one thing that I have attempted to do in my writing, it is to entertain. Someone once described is as a gift to audience.

But I think maybe this group might be insulated from the truth or life or death that is the prevailing mentality there.

Cranky was brave and asked an actress she loves who is on a TV show at the moment if she would work on the lead. My words in her mouth are a dream come true. Her work is amazing. I felt it was a shot in the dark with no hope of ever happening. Emailed anyway because it was what I really really wanted. And there is no point in there being something you really really want and not at least asking for it. So sent the email and obsessively checked email every ten minutes for the following 48 hours. The good thing about an IPhone is that you can check emails wherever you are. The bad thing about an IPhone is that you can check emails wherever you are. I made up scenarios in my head. Actress reads email and thinks, “I’m not even answering, it’s such a ridiculous request.” Or, “I’m on TV, why would I do a workshop?” Or, “I can’t remember who this is.” Or, “Dream on, little writer.” Every time I check my email and there is no answer, I think up a new one. This goes on for two days. Then one day there it is. A REPLY. I’m afraid to open it. I open it. “Sure, I can do that.” The five simple words I thought I would never hear. Really? Really? Two days of anxiety and there it is, “Sure.”

Then Cranky needs a director, and gets a recommendation. Sorry to say that as a neurotic artist Cranky did not learn her lesson and went through the exact same torturous scenario waiting for the director to get back to her. This time it was “She hates the play.” Or “I’m a stranger why would she work with me?” “How long should I wait before I figure out a plan B?” “Did the email go through?” “Will I look like a freak if I call her and ask?” “How long should I wait before I email her again?” “I don’t want to look over anxious.”

Then I wonder, how come these people take two days to answer an email? Cranky answers all emails immediately. And then I realize it is because Cranky is now an office hack who gets thousands of emails every day and if she didn’t answer right away, she might never reply, as they will get lost in the miasma that is her inbox. Occasionally, Cranky will leave her phone at home and go somewhere, and she feels like Django Unchained. Alas, I grew up with dreams of bongos and berets and books and now have to dress like a normal person and be perpetually perky.

Girl Wants to Move to NYC to Study Acting

Heard from Gabriella who has read my blog and still wants to move to NYC to study acting. Must be brave. She is short on dough which shouldn’t stop anybody.

Had dinner with a plastic surgeon last night who said, “Money is so arbitrary. I might as well share my arbitrary money.” And then he paid for dinner for eight people. Most of whom were struggling artists who had just put up their final show in The Fringe Festival. He was a prince. We like him. So be like him and give this Gabby gal a few bucks maybe: http://www.gofundme.com/get-gabby-to-ny

Ida- The Hollywood Version

Last night Cranky watched the movie Ida. It is a black and white, atmospheric, very European film. Spartan in dialogue. Practically every shot could be printed as a still and put in a photography book that would look like it was shot by a master such as Henri Cartier-Bresson.  It is quiet and sad, and the whole time I was watching it I kept wondering what the Hollywood version would look like. Here is my answer:

The leads will be played by Marisa Tomei and Scarlet Johansson, or perhaps Fran Drescher as the aunt. The silent meals at the nunnery would have to go (BORING!), replaced by a scene of Ida dining with her best friend and fellow novitiate (EVERY FILM NEEDS A SECOND BANANA!) played by an actress who is less attractive/chubby/funny. The friend will make irreverent jokes about the meat they are served tasting like Russian army boots. During the scene when they are prostrate on the church floor, there will be close-ups of the friend making jokes to Ida. “Is this the nun version of yoga? Does it count as penance if I fall asleep?” And of course in this convent ALL the nuns wear mascara.

They hug and shed a tear when Ida leaves to meet her aunt. Her aunt takes one look at her and says, “Oy! You don’t know you’re a Jew? What a shanda!”  while puffing on her cigarette and showing a lot of cleavage. The only dialogue they will keep from the original movie is the aunt’s line, “We make a great pair, a slut and a nun.” And the mid part of the movie will be Ida witnessing her aunt’s outrageous slut behavior with madcap hilarity. She will most likely punch the officer who arrests her for drunk driving and Ida will admire her spunk (and so will we). The graveyard scene will be breezed over. Instead we see a guy vaguely pointing towards the woods which is really enough of that. The handsome hitchhiker will be played by Zac Efron, who can’t help it, but when he plays the saxophone it is with such passion that his shirt falls off. Ida has a hot flirtation with Zac, who only has eyes for her even though the club is filled with hot young women who are not wearing habits.

When Ida returns after her auntie’s demise, she decides to get a makeover (EVERYONE LOVES A MAKEOVER!). And there is a musical sequence when she is walking down a picaresque street and spots a sign that says Salon Kosmetyczny and sheepishly enters. The beautician is happy to remove Ida’s habit while the Katy Perry song Firework is blasting.

The sex scene with hitchhiker Zac stays in the movie. With lots of shots of Zac’s sweaty, glistening abs and Ida’s pouty newly glossed lips and killer hairdo.

Just like the original, Ida leaves and puts her habit back on and returns to the nunnery. With a haunting expression and smeared mascara under her eyes. But it does not end there. Zac follows her to the convent, sneaks in, and as luck would have it, the first person he encounters is Ida’s best friend, who hides him and goes to find Ida. When she finds Ida she convinces her not to turn her back on love. Ida is afraid saying, “It is much easier being spiritual than human.” The friend counters with, “Oh come on! You’re Jewish. Jews have chutzpah! You have a chance to out of her girlfriend!” Ida then leaves with Zac and the final shot is of them kissing while the habit falls off her head revealing her still perfectly coifed hair courtesy of Salon Kosmetyczny.

Wanted: Bug Killer Who Likes Fashion Police

Cranky is experiencing the advantages and disadvantages of living alone.

Advantages:

Falling asleep in front of the TV and nobody cares.

Saturday afternoon ritual of going to gym, then eating lunch and watching “Fashion Police.” What man is going to put up with that?

Having cheese and crackers for dinner. Having watermelon for dinner. Having soup for dinner. Every man I’ve ever known wants a 3-course meal night after night.

Less clutter.

Disadvantages:

Um, ah, I couldn’t think of any until last night. Last night at 11:30pm a giant waterbug appeared in the bathroom and this is when you need a man. When I switched on the light, it ran between the shower curtain and the liner to hide. They do that. They know that when a light goes on they must hide or they will die. I hate them, but it makes me sad that they know that. How do they know that? Do they have some kind of ancestral archetypal unconscious that links to the memory of generations that have gone before? Is it survival of the fittest? The ones that hide get to live and reproduce? Or do they have folklore passed down to the younger generations by songs they sing to their young in the middle of the night while they hide in the black pipes of buildings:

Hide hide hide when they turn on the light

The sight of us gives them a fright

We do not sting, we do not bite

It does not matter, they’ll squash us on sight

So my terror was tinged with poignancy as I looked at the bug hiding behind the white translucent curtain, thinking it was safe, but still in plain sight. My elder statesmen friend on the sixth floor once watched one of them crawl out of the dumbwaiter in his kitchen and said, “What a life,” feeling sorry for this creature of the darkness living behind the walls.

But terror is more powerful than poignancy, so I immediately texted three neighbors. No answer. Which meant I would not be able to use the bathroom. Ever. Which was going to present a problem. But wild horses could not drag me in there now. I was going to walk the dog, and my backup plan was to find someone on the street or one of the busboys I see nightly and drag them home. When I lived in the Village, I once asked a waiter from a restaurant across the street to walk me home because there was a bug on the stairs. He thought it was his lucky day until after he killed the bug and I said goodnight. (Sorry Marcos!)

But then the doorbell rang. My savior. Bob. “Where is it? Do you have any paper towels?” His demeanor looked a little too casual to me considering I was in trauma/phobic mode. “I’ll try to get it,” he said, “But sometimes they just run away back to where they came from and you never see them again.” I said, “WAIT! STOP! DON’T GO IN THERE UNTIL YOU ARE DETERMINED TO KILL IT. YOU HAVE TO BE DETERMINED TO KILL IT. JUST PUT IT IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU ARE GOING TO KILL IT!” I’m feeling very Pattonlike talking to the troops.

Because if he doesn’t kill it, it will hide until the worst, scariest, moment and then come out and TOUCH ME. I know this is a fact.

Bob is in there for much longer than I expected. The bug must be employing diversionary tactics passed down through generations, but Bob emerges victorious. He even takes the death shroud of paper towels with him which is the greatest thing ever because even if it is dead I would have fears that it would somehow crawl out of the garbage and get me.

So in conclusion this probably means that Cranky might have to go on dates to find a bug killer, better known as a man. Even though Cranky considers dating an invasion of privacy.


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