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A Play Reading

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Cranky did a play reading this week. Actors are such a great lot. Sitting next to me at the rehearsal was one actor with 4 highlighters, 2 pens, a banana and a coffee. Instead of   An Actor Prepares a more appropriate title would have been An Actor is Prepared. We never know when we show up if there will be anything there for us. Will they offer us a drink of water? So we assume it is a bring your own snack situation.

One actor brought his attorney girlfriend to the rehearsal who sat down and immediately started asking actors what the did in the real world. THE REAL WORLD. I don’t know about the rest of the thespians, but to me theater is the real world and business is the land of make believe.

The day of the reading the writer was in attendance having come down from Maine. He talked a lot. A lot. Talked and talked and talked. He compared his play to The Glass Menagerie. He went in depth about many things that were not on the page. He quoted (without giving credit) Harold Pinter’s explanation of a pause. There are certain people that give Cranky instant, temporary ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER. This was one of them. The actor reading stage directions just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s spent too much time in the woods.”

During the break, I went to a little place on the corner to go over the script and have some soup. I became fascinated with a guy having an animated conversation with one of those internet pole things around the city. It’s like a cell phone without the bill.

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He looked at me and motioned for a pen. I nodded and gave him a pen and a napkin. When the call was over he came in and gave me back the pen and told me about his mother’s horrible boyfriend and how he just got out of prison and could he sit down. I said sorry I’m studying something but I would say a prayer for him and asked him his name. The waiters were starting to circle. He left just in time.

Cranky was at a table in the window. The theater had a horrible little dressing room with barely any light. So even though it is totally horrible manners, Cranky decided she had to take advantage of the great lighting at the table and apply her makeup there. No one would see me. The restaurant was empty. Location was 22nd and 8th. Who’s gonna be there? So the makeup production begins. Dump the contents on the table and take out my compact mirror and start applying. Decide I will leave and extra dollar for the time I am spending at the table.

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I look up and 3 ex-work colleagues of my ex have entered the restaurant and are standing over me. Why why why? My first concern is that I look tacky. My second concern is that this trip down memory lane will throw off the emotional life of the character I am about to read in 40 minutes in front of an audience. I make a few jokes and am courteous. I then pick up my blush brush and hold it mid-air as the makeup production must continue. It is the cue for the conversation to end. They go to another table and discuss the campaigns they are working on.

The reading goes well. There is a Q & A afterward which Cranky dreads. There are a bunch of writers there. There are questions. A five-word question is answered by a 10-minute explanation by the writer. Then the temporary ADHD kicks in again and even though I am onstage, I start rummaging through my bag. Then I check my emails. Then I make a joke to the actor sitting next to me. I can’t take it anymore and I go sit in the audience with my friend as I realize I am adding nothing by sitting onstage.

It was fun to be performing onstage again. A friend from Mr. Inscrutable’s class asked me to join him. And if made me realize, bananas and all, that actors are my peeps.

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A Letter to Mr. Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

I AGREE WITH YOU!

The electoral college is a “DISASTER”. I think your first order of business should be to abolish it and make that retroactive to the 2016 election. Thus avoiding personal embarrassment. When I saw the look on your face when you met with President Obama I knew just how you felt. I had that look on my face when I had a meeting with the president of a highly technical company I was supposed to write for. He talked for 45 minutes and I had no idea what he was talking about. I felt bad for you I really did.

If you decide not to make the popular vote thing retroactive and you do take office, I think you should learn the names of all the countries in the world, what their issues are, a bit of their history, and be able to point to them all on a map before you actually do anything. I understand this may take the entire four years of your term and that won’t leave any time for international decisions or actions of any kind, but, well, c’est la vie, that’s OK.

Another thing, if you get an idea to redecorate the White House to suit your taste-don’t– because you really don’t have any. We’ve all seen your apartment, which is a horrifying cross between a hotel lobby and those overly done wedding venues like Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, “VE MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC6AzmXrNbU

I know you think it looks “rich” but trust me it does not. Garish does not equal rich. Whatever Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis did in the White House will always be perfect, so leave well enough alone.

And do consider a makeover. Remember you called Alicia Machado fat? Well as my Irish grandmother used to say, “Well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black?” And as they say in Brooklyn, “Fuggedaboutit, who does he think he’s kidding with that hair?” Nobody. The 80’s want their comb over back. Move on.

The immigrant thing is pretty low of you. You’re a New Yorker. You know better. The people who believed the scary immigrant thing have never met one. I live in Brooklyn. I’m friends with Sammy the Palestinian, who runs the pet store, the Egyptians who run the falafel place, the Tibetans who work at the Korean deli and the Mexicans who work there washing vegetables and putting out the cut flowers. They all work really long hours and probably much harder than I ever have. They always have a big smile for me. So stop already. You know better.

This is the first election where the President Elect caused children to cry and schools to administer counseling. You actually said “Don’t be afraid.” Do you see anything wrong with that?

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


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