Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Empires, 2006

Here they are, the Empires of 2006. We had a pretty good rehearsal last night. We play a preview tonight before an invited audience of friends, who can be your worst nightmare. Tomorrow, we open.

And I'm feeling kind of sick. No, physically. One of these bums must have given me something.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Not the First TMO Publicity Shot

This is not the picture we used as our first media publicity shot for Take Me Out, but I think it's the one I would have chosen.

We were unable to use our regular rehearsal space last Friday evening, but a hotel manager gave us the use of a suite at the Louis XIV Hotel.

Way above my station.

I grant you, I don't like the doorway in the background and would have preferred a blank space; but the suite offered only wallpapered walls and one slab of a wine-dark wall in the kitchen area. This area offered the best ambient light.

I suppose I could have photoshopped the doorway out of the shot, but I am morally opposed to doing that since it creates a flagrant lie.

And I'm not very good at it.

Why didn't I think of ripping a sheet off one of the numerous beds in the suite? Why am I my own Monday-night quarterback?

I hate using football terms for a baseball play.

Happy First Katrinaversary

Parteee! Not.

Maybe you've noticed the worldwide media build up to this day. I sure have, and I'm not so sure it's been all that healthy for me to deal with, so I've avoided most of it - mainly with porn during my few free hours of the day.

We're all self-medicating these days in one form or another. I've just been too busy - and having to be too responsible - for booze.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Less Is More, Right?

We may perform Take Me Out without a set. This means it will be done like a chamber play, with black drapes, a few easily-carried props, and actors (I hope). I also hope there will be lights and sound.

I am not considering an Ernesto-induced postponement.

At the end of the play, one of the characters describes the events of the play as a tragedy. I never thought we'd go back as far as Greek drama. But if you know the play, you will know that's fitting.

Actually, when all is said and done, this is really my kind of theatre. Every time I've done this before, I've had people pestering me about scenery and costumes. All I ever cared about were the actors and the script. That's really all you need.

I guess I'm just your plain old basic macho, no-frills, fiber-eating kinda guy.

Christ, it's after ten and I haven't had my Metamucil yet.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

This Just In:

The carpenter assigned to build our set (which has yet to be built) has apparently broken his foot after dropping lumber on it at approximately 10:18 PM this evening. The play's producer is sending out a call for assistance.

This is ground control to Major Tom...

Little Epiphanies Are the Hardest to Break...

...And I had one tonight.

Sitting in the Latrine, not a National Guard john but the Golden Latrine on Royal and Barracks Streets, with this dimwit grin on my face that I plaster there to telegraph to everyone that rehearsals are going splendidly - in the middle of my seventh Miller Lite, I suddenly realized what my latest problem is.

I'm a control freak. I'm a total control freak dealing with eleven men who are not robots operated by battery-powered remote controls resting in the palms of my two hands.

In less than a week, those eleven men will step out, on their own, onto a platform in front of approximately 100 people and perform a two-and-a-half hour play, during which two-and-a-half hours I will be metaphorically jailed, bound, and gagged - and out of control.

Hannibal Lector, c'est moi.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Martinez Has Come Among Us

Marten arrived at rehearsal last night. Carlos had invited him to come and take a look-see and decide if he would be willing to stoop to our level and join our merry band as the phantom "Martinez." Little did he know that the paper I had him autograph shortly after entering the room was a contract.

No one was happier than Joe, who plays "Rodriguez".

He (Joe) reminded me of my Pomeranian, Puck, whenever I gave him a new stuffed toy.

Marten, watch your back!

As Katrina's First Anniversary Approaches, Compass Spins

From today's Times-Picayune: I am posting the entire article. Why? Because the former Chief has steadfastly avoided the limelight that so many others have sought and hogged, and because he has a story to tell we haven't heard yet. And, all right, okay, because I haven't the time to do any edits, and I think it's a good - and an important - piece.
A month after Katrina drowned his hometown and traumatized his troops, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass stood before a throng of reporters inside a downtown hotel, preparing to deliver his resignation.

By then his public gaffes and stirring monologues of a city under siege, where killers ran amok and rapists violated babies, had been debunked mostly as myth. Compass soon became a worldwide scapegoat for the rumor-mongering that had possessed post-Katrina New Orleans.

Through a series of emotional flare-ups, he had become a lamb who seemed to lead himself to slaughter. Images of his teary breakdowns would be forever seared into the city's collective memory, in ways both inspiring and troubling.

The reporters in the hotel that day would cut him little slack, punishing him with his own words.
To the outside world, Compass came to symbolize the dysfunction and exaggeration of city officials, including Mayor Ray Nagin, who after the storm had little time or means to corroborate wild claims of lawlessness both men helped spread during those chaotic days, when all standard communications had failed. The catastrophe, the relentless media coverage -- it all overwhelmed Compass, the hometown cop who had vigorously scaled the ranks of the department to become chief.

A fog of tension hung in the room that September day as Nagin strode confidently to a podium in a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel.

Compass stood behind him, flanked by a handful of deputy chiefs and NOPD commanders.

A smiling Nagin painted a portrait of a man leaving at the top of his game, quipping that Compass would go on to make a lot of money. He even requested the occasional Christmas card.

Although Compass affirmed Nagin's ruse with his own measured words from the podium, his mannerisms told a different tale. His usual jovial, frat-boy exuberance gave way to clenched teeth and wet eyes as he delivered a humble farewell.

"Since I was a little boy, my whole life, I wanted to be the superintendent of police," Compass said, his eyes welling. "In the life of every leader the time comes to reflect on his life, and I'm very, very thankful God gave me the wisdom and discernment to make tough decisions."

Compass and Nagin, who equally became heroes and villains at different points during Katrina, parted ways that day and never looked back.

But inside, Compass has been tormented by a truth he swallowed 11 months ago at that podium and hasn't spoken publicly about since: In his view, Nagin pushed him out, in the middle of the darkest hour of his career and his department's history. He believes his ouster is at least in part based on miscommunications and misunderstandings traded in the impersonal medium of e-mail.

Nagin's account differs in the details, but he now confirms he asked the chief to step aside.

In an exclusive interview with The Times-Picayune, Compass recounted his rise through the ranks, his spectacular fall, and his renewed devotion to being a husband and father.

"I never saw my career ending like this," Compass said recently over the rising din of the lunch crowd at Byblos, a Magazine Street restaurant. "It just wasn't supposed to be like this."

Mayor not pleased

The night before Compass' resignation, he got an e-mail from Nagin on his Blackberry.

The chief held the contraption in his hand that night and scrolled through several paragraphs before any of it made sense. Each sentence burned slowly into the next.

"Myself as well as many others including people very close to you started to notice very erratic and overly emotional behavior from you . . . exploding on TV," Nagin wrote.

Compass kept reading in disbelief.

"I ordered everyone not to talk to the press unless approved by myself or Sally Forman," who at the time was the mayor's spokeswoman, Nagin wrote. "Then I hear you on the Dr. Phil show and in New York on the NFL show before the Saints game. . . . This is not subtle, and deceit is very disappointing and hurtful. . . . You need to start thinking about your future," the mayor wrote.

Nagin told Compass he needed to come up with a 30- to 60-day "exit plan."

After 27 years in the New Orleans Police Department, Compass sat stunned, struggling to grasp the fact that his departure had been ordered in a few hastily written words displayed on the tiny screen he held in his hand. Not face-to-face, man-to-man, or even on the phone, but in an e-mail.

Compass read on, increasingly incensed.

"Maybe this is a transition time while you are still on top," the mayor wrote. He urged Compass to "go on the speaking circuit or run for criminal sheriff."

Finding his family

Compass wasn't surprised by some of Nagin's points. He knew at times he had become wrought with emotion unbecoming his rank.

He watched from a front-row seat as his city descended into chaos, with nothing to buoy it from a slow, watery death. His wife was 8 months pregnant and exiled in Denham Springs with his 3-year-old daughter. For three days, he said, he took to heart rumors that his 19-year-old daughter had been raped at the downtown hotel where she, his ex-wife and 24-year-old daughter had been holed up during the storm. But the story proved false. His daughters were fine.

And his soul ached over the suicide of Paul Accardo, one of his top public information officers. Compass had seen Accardo's eyes go blank in a thousand-yard stare, projecting the despair in his heart.

Compass told him to take a few days off, to gather himself. A half-hour later, Accardo sat in a squad car just outside the city with a gun to his head. He squeezed the trigger.

News of the suicide crushed Compass, setting him adrift in a sea of grief and guilt. As police chief, he knew he had to handle himself professionally, to maintain calm and confidence. But that would have gone against the core of his nature.

"Sometimes you have to give up your human side," he said, recalling the incident. "But I think because I talked to Paul 30 minutes before he committed suicide, because I was the one who told him to take a break . . . I blamed myself for giving him off and not keeping him with me."

'Just cried and cried'

Tiffany Compass, 24, and her sister, Kandice, 19, said they watched from a second-story window at the Ritz-Carlton hotel as their father, in their eyes a superhero, came to the hotel looking for them.

For days, while trapped in the hotel, she heard the same wild reports of violence that her father had.

"We just cried and cried. . . . We had no radio, no TV. I know how scared we were. . . . To know he was hearing the same stuff, and from policemen nonetheless, it must've been a thousand times worse," Tiffany said.

When her father finally rescued them, he arrived with a small army of police.

"It was like he came with the whole cavalry," Tiffany Compass said. "My sister was screaming, 'Daddy! Daddy!'. . . He just looked up and smiled and then like an entire SWAT team came rushing in for us."

But even then, she could see the sadness in him.

"I saw in his face all that he had been through, and I could see the despair in those officers' faces, the disbelief," she said.

The pain bubbled inside Eddie Compass, poured from his eyes and tumbled from his lips in front of the cameras. And there were thousands of cameras, each hungry for the next wrenching shot of the city and its beleaguered residents, or those, like Compass, shouldering the full weight of the tragedy.

Still, emotions and all, Compass said unapologetically that he left all of himself in the streets of New Orleans.

"I think I did the best that I could do under the circumstances," he said. "There are many things that the public didn't know I was dealing with at that time."

Controversial trip

Compass got Nagin's message, but he couldn't understand the motivation.

The mayor had accused him of going behind his back, speaking to the media without his consent. But the "Dr. Phil" show taping Nagin mentioned was three days before the mandate was issued. What Compass didn't know was that Nagin already had decided to freeze him out of the media spotlight. Forman, then the mayor's communications chief, said Nagin wanted to quiet Compass.

But in the case of the NFL show and tapings for an HBO sports program, it was Forman who had arranged the trip to New York where Compass performed the coin toss for the Saints home-away-from-home game against the New York Giants on Sept. 19, he said.

In a recent interview, Forman acknowledged for the first time that she gave Compass the green light to go to New York -- and never told the mayor.

"At that point I had a job on my hands when it came to Chief Compass, and I made the call," she said. "I said yes to the NFL and I did not clear it with the mayor."

Forman saw the event as a low-profile way to get Compass "out of the fray," she said, and away from the hordes of international media in New Orleans. She said the mayor wanted him out of the picture.

"I actually saw it as a good thing, for him to go to New York and get out of New Orleans, where the pressure was great," she said.

But as soon as Compass touched down, he was approached by reporters and camera crews who had been tipped off about the trip. Nagin watched from afar as his police chief again took center stage, speaking to the world audience about Katrina and the suffering in New Orleans after the storm.

Compass said he thought he had the mayor's blessing, as he had communicated through Forman.

"Sally Forman called and said the NFL wants you to fly up to New York," he said. "She said, 'If you don't, it's going to be a slap in the face to the NFL.' "

The game, at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., was considered a home game for the vagabond Saints and a welcome diversion.

Troy Henry, Compass' best friend for three decades, accompanied the chief to New Jersey, where reporters hung on his every word.

"I was shielding him from some of it. It was like he was a huge rock star," Henry said. "Once they knew he was in town, it was like a zoo."

The NFL fiasco may have exhausted the mayor's patience, but it was only one of several factors that brought Compass down, Forman said.

To soften the blow, the mayor told the public it was Compass' decision to leave.

"At the time, we all said it was Chief Compass leaving on his own accord to be closer to his wife," she said. "But there is much more to it than that. There's a whole other side to this picture."

Final meeting

A few hours before Compass stepped down, he and Nagin had locked horns in a heated argument aboard a cruise ship housing first responders that had been docked on the Mississippi River, associates in Compass' camp said.

Compass declined to discuss the details of the meeting, but said it made him realize that the relationship between him and Nagin had run its course.

In not-so-subtle terms, Compass said, Nagin offered two clear choices that day: Resign or be fired.

"When your boss tells you to come up with an exit plan, you know exactly what that means," Compass said.

Nagin's version differs. He said the meeting on the ship the morning of Compass' resignation was cordial, even friendly. He disputed the notion that he forced Compass out of office, and said that if he wanted to fire Compass he simply would have done so.

"The real deal is, he resigned," Nagin said. "We talked at breakfast before and had a very direct and professional conversation. I encouraged him to move on because I felt he could go out on top before any negative media started. . . .We shook hands, hugged, and left as friends."

Nagin said he saw Compass' emotions wearing thin.

"His commanders expressed serious concerns about him, he was on a fairly regular basis making statements to the press that were somewhat illogical," Nagin said.

At the time of the New York trip, Nagin had no idea Forman had cleared it without telling him, the mayor said.

"He then told me he was going to New York to get some rest," Nagin said. "Next thing I knew he did those two shows without directly telling me. I felt he disobeyed my order and tried to use Sally as a shield."

Nagin said recently that he would have backed down if Compass had fought to keep his job.

Compass "initially said he was not ready to go, and then after thinking for a minute told me that I was right, and he had a young daughter and needed to spend more time with his family," Nagin said. "He left very relieved, and if he would have really pushed hard to stay and agreed to my orders, I would have allowed him to continue to serve as chief. When I fire people I do not give them options."

A few hours after that breakfast meeting in September, the two men shared center stage for the last time.

Acknowledging mistakes

With the benefit of hindsight, Compass admits his role in feeding post-Katrina hysteria over rumored violence that exaggerated the thuggery of New Orleanians. The manic atmosphere slowed rescue efforts because of security concerns. And he wishes he hadn't aired many of his private emotions, feeding the public his guts on a platter.

"There is no doubt I made many mistakes," he said. "If I could do it all over again I would do a lot of things a lot differently.

"I was so worried about not being perceived as covering things up that I gave information when it was given to me, before I had it verified, and it caused a lot of confusion and a lot of problems," he said.

Tiffany Compass said her father's impassioned pleas might have been inappropriate at times, but it was just "Daddy" being himself, right or wrong but always true to his feelings.

"He's not a politician, he's not in it for the media attention, that's not his deal," she said. "He's just an emotional guy who tells it like it is and keeps it real. He has always been like that, just straight up. When he was telling what he heard, that was his reality, it was for all of us. What we knew as our reality was what we heard."

'I've been quiet'

For more than 11 months, Compass has been essentially an invisible man, purposely taking a low profile except for the occasional speaking engagement. A couple of months after leaving his post as superintendent of police, Compass took a job as a security consultant for New Orleans Fine Hotels, a collection of 11 hotels in the city's historic districts. More recently he has signed on with the chain as a community relations consultant as well.

The new gig has made for a low-key transition into civilian life. It's a bit of an anticlimax for a man who once bragged of being able to tear a phone book in half with his bare hands, and who during Katrina proclaimed himself the "ultimate warrior," fearlessly chasing down muzzle flashes in the dark and beating armed criminals.

"I've been quiet because I realized that silence can be misinterpreted, but it can't be misquoted," he said. "And I've been quiet for . . . months. But it's time, because it's not going away, and I thought my silence would make it go away."

He said it's important for the people of New Orleans to understand the truth about his forced resignation.

So he has traded his badge and bravado for bedtime stories with his 10-month-old son, Marlon, and 3-year-old daughter, Lauretta -- also known as "The Boss."

Their favorite bedtime story: "I Am a Manatee," by award-winning television and stage actor John Lithgow, a tale Compass knows by heart and can read and sing along with on cue.

"I think Eddie is very content with his current life," best friend Henry said, "with the ability for him to have quality time with the people he cares most about."

Escaping the blazing sun on a recent Monday afternoon, Compass and Henry ducked into Byblos.

A pair of old friends greeted the ex-chief with smiles and open arms, and a former NOPD district commander offered a big bear hug.

Compass took a seat at a table in the back of the restaurant. He ordered salmon, thinly sliced tomato and an artichoke and spinach dip. Now on a low-stress schedule, he has returned to the gym and watches what he eats.

Whatever happens from here, Compass remains at peace with a police career that included stints at every rank, bottom to top, over 27 good years. He served as chief, deputy chief, and before that commander of the gritty 1st District, which included his teenage stomping grounds around the Lafitte public housing complex.

Still a struggle

Looking back, those were his happiest days on the force, he said, before he stepped into the role of chief, where office politics eroded his strengths as a street cop.

"Being chief was totally different," Compass said, delivering his words carefully. "I had always been a street cop. . . . If I had to do my whole life all over again, and my career over again, I don't know if I would have taken that route to be chief."

Compass said he still struggles daily with the trauma Katrina heaped on his shoulders, particularly the suicide of Accardo.

He had paid a steep price while ascending the heights of the department. His fierce devotion to his career cost him his first wife, Fran, he said, with whom he had three children, Tiffany, Little Eddie, 22, and Kandice.

In the past year he has renewed bonds with his older children and created stronger ones with his two youngest and his wife, Arlene.

Ironically, Aug. 29, the anniversary of the disaster that signaled a forever-changed New Orleans as well as the end of Compass' police career, is his birthday. He'll be 48.

As for his legacy, Compass knows he can't control it. And he doesn't much care to.

"I don't know how history is going to remember me," Compass said. "All I know is that, in my heart, I did the best I could."

Trymaine Lee can be reached at tlee@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3301.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

C Ray Sticks It in His Mouth Again

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, confronted with accusations he's taking too long to rebuild his city after Hurricane Katrina, takes a swipe at New York's redevelopment of the World Trade Center site on a television news show.

Nagin, weaving through the wreckage in the devastated Ninth Ward neighborhood, claimed much of the debris was removed from public property, but when a "60 Minutes" correspondent pointed out flood-damaged cars on the streets, Nagin shot back, "You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed, and it's five years later. So let's be fair," according to CBS.

The program is scheduled to air Sunday night; text and a video clip from the Nagin piece were posted on CBS' Web site Thursday.

New York, America, consider the source.

The (p)Resident's Coming, the (p)Resident's Coming

Bush will spend two days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in New Orleans next week.
The president will be in Mississippi on Monday to meet with community leaders, walk through a storm-affected neighborhood and deliver a speech on the rebuilding effort before traveling to New Orleans, where he's scheduled to have dine with state and local officials and spend the night.

On Tuesday, Bush is scheduled to attend a prayer service in New Orleans and take part in a round-table discussion of an effort headed by first lady Laura Bush to restock Gulf Coast libraries.

Libraries? Libraries?!

Gimme a break.

At least, I'm off work and won't have to try to deal with the traffic.

Expert: "Katrina Cleanup Full of Toxins"

Uh, ahem, we could have told you that...(Cough, cough).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tonight Was So Good...

And I'm left so bereft.

We ran Act One. It was supposed to be a full dress rehearsal, but the baseball uniforms have still not arrived so they played in what they wore to the hall.

Carlos opened the act with an attack that declared like a trumpet that he was in control, in authority, that he had a story to tell that no one would turn away from. And everyone stepped up to his level.

It flowed. All that was left for me to do was to express my wonderment and gratitude at what they were accomplishing. They had astonished me.

I've written before that my job was to have them take the play away from me and make it their own. They did what I asked them to do.

When rehearsal was over and I sent them home, they sensed what had happened and tried to linger; but I shushed them away. I sat alone in the studio for a few minutes, not knowing what to do with myself.

Letting go sounds easy, but it is the most profound thing we ever do, and we do it twice in our lives. In our mothers' wombs, as former foetuses, we let go when the time arrives and contort ourselves through the birth canal - only to find that one day, we must do it again - through the tunnel of death, to enter heaven or dark oblivion, if there is any difference.

What's saddest of all is that we replay, and prepare for, this release every moment of our lives. How tragic that we cannot recognize those strobe-lit instances as they occur in their rapidity.

Is there anybody there? Am I alone tonight?

Tears are finally stinging my eyes. I thought I'd never cry tonight.

Good night.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It Could Be Worse

That's what I keep telling myself. We're in the final stretch of rehearsals before we begin the technical runs next week, and we are still without a "Martinez." Each of us goes out into our communities, trying to drum up Latin-looking guys - not even actors, that doesn't matter anymore - anybody willing to step into a play and say some lines in Spanish.

Every night I've come home with the hope that someone perfect (no, someone male and mobile) will show up tomorrow, only to be left stranded the next night, all dressed up for the prom and waiting at the door for the homecoming king who has slipped away with the junior-class slut instead and will never show his face again.

I know, I really know, how Carrie felt. I know it in my DNA. For short bursts of time, I feel I can radiate an energy that will hurl great objects about as if they were dust and tissue.

Then I calm down and become the "old man" who will take care of his family through this and every other crisis. What a load to rest on my back. What a load, period.

What's up there on the stage is good, although some of the guys are still struggling with lines. Tomorrow, I will remove the prompter. They will have to recover with the help of their fellow players. This is terrifying, I've been through it. But isn't every step we take in life another leap of faith?

Why can't everything be perfect? Is that so much to ask?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Where We Are Now


The cast as it now stands. Now who in his right Latino mind would NOT want to join these guys as "Martinez," the sole remaining Hispanic? We'll make you happy, Tico...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Jorge, We Hardly Knew Ye

Jorge has gone, a victim of reality. He'd been missing for a week prior to his scheduled vacation, and when we finally spoke by phone on Tuesday, he broke the news that his personal life was turning topsy turvy, but that he would come to rehearsal Thursday and see how he could work out the conflict between his crise and our production.

He didn't appear.

Now I have to look elsewhere to fill the part of Martinez or cut the role, which is an option I don't believe our producer would allow. Poor Joe, who was a late addition to the cast and plays Rodriguez, is longing to begin working with the other Latino actor because the two characters are dependent on each other. Martinez, Rodriguez, Rodriguez, Martinez, they're a team within the team.

Enter, from above, Sperm Magnet. Remember Sperm Magnet? Well, the Magnet has a new squeeze this week. The squeeze has jet black hair. The squeeze speaks Spanish. All right, he's Boston Irish, but Carlos has cut a deal with a local tanning salon, and the Irish have always had a thing for Spain. One of Louisiana's early Spanish territorial governors was named O'Reilly. The squeeze can pass.

I'll try to speak to him today. Wonder if he's heard about the shower scene?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fuckin' Eat Me Alive

Well, I'm sure it saved a lot of money and was a paragon of efficiency.

FEMA will replace locks on as many as 118,000 trailers used by Gulf Coast hurricane victims after discovering the same key could open many of the mobile homes.

One manufacturer cut only 50 different kinds of keys for the trailers it sold to FEMA, officials said Monday. That means, in a worst-case scenario, one key could be used to unlock up to 10 mobile homes in a park of 500 trailers.

FEMA officials said such a situation was unlikely, but they still moved to warn storm evacuees living in Louisiana and Mississippi trailer parks of the security risk.

"Thrift, Horatio."

Self-Examination

Jaye has written me:
How are you hanging in there? I expect the play is helping, but damnit, living in NO and living with Bush and terror and war and tons and tons of evil shit...
Makes me wonder. I have no doubt this play is self-medication as far as I'm concerned. I find myself grabbing and holding onto the cast members as if they were flotation devices. But I also know that I'm focusing on the tiny details of my life right now because I have to turn away from the big shit. Can't always take it 24/7. Especially when my real job insists I turn away from the wide reality to focus on concretizing the fantasies of a few deluded mad fools in authority. But I extrapolate.

I'll be back to rage against the machine again. I've lived long enough in my saggy skin to recognize cycles. But right now, I'm relaxing and stretching through the intermission, just me and my boys.

I love you, Jaye, but I just need this one little fix for right now...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Righteous Words from Michael Homan

Michael Homan is a fellow blogger here in New Orleans. He has been rebuilding his neighborhood in the mid-city area of town and has some strong opinions on the new carpetbaggers sweeping through the area. A good read.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dave

Dave plays Shane Mungitt in Take Me Out, and today is his birthday. Dave is a friend of mine to whom I reached out when I lost one of my other actors. He came in to assume a comic supporting role, and wound up stepping up into one of the leads. He thinks he has never acted before, but he has - just never on stage or for money (as far as I know - the money part, that is). In baseball terms, he's a natural.
Dear Dave,
I can't begin to find the words that can adequately describe what you -
Naw.
Dear Dave,
Gee, you're a swell guy -
No way.
Dearest Dave,
The day I met you, birds soared across the skies singing as the sun danced in the heavens -
My God.
Dawg, 's'awright, yo.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Play's the Thing

For the last two nights, our rehearsal space has been usurped by other groups; consequently, no advances in our work. Should I warn them that God kills people who stand in my way?

Nah.

Something's Happening Here

Stress keeps police busy in New Orleans. This kind of incident has been a commonplace since city officials first allowed us to begin to return home. It just took one high-profile incident to bring it to the forefront.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

The Hard Work Begins

The basic blocking is done on the naked baseball play, and the real work is beginning. Last night we worked on several scenes where we'd been experiencing some confusion and vagueness. The members of my cast amaze me at how quickly they pick up on my suggestions and take off. I've encouraged them to begin to make their parts their own, that the blocking I've given them is only a safety net to give them the confidence to let loose of their flying apparatuses and soar to the next port before taking off and leaping across another void to land in another safe harbor.

They're trusting me, and it's taking them out of themselves. Did you ever lie on your back in a field near a wood and watch birds fly? That's what I'm doing five nights a week.

Carlos is "Kippy," and he's the cornerstone of the cast. He's the first to do anything we need to do, and the others follow his lead. And, yes, that means he was the first to strip down and rehearse commando. I won't speculate on his motives for shedding his social armor, but he sure seems relaxed and free when he's naked. The first night he did this, he teased Jason ("Darren Lemming") by running up to him to shake his pom-poms in his face. Any mother who has had to change her toddler's diaper, only to have him slip away and take off laughing and squealing, naked, up the center aisle of church at 10:00 o'clock High Mass will recognize the sheer exuberance Carlos can display.

Jason is the actor in the cast. Serious, moody, quiet, intense, helpless to maintain his equilibrium around the teammates, thus reduced to giggles three to five times a night. He is building a Darren Lemming capable of cold-blooded manipulation. Darren is a charismatic character whom everyone loves or is in awe of, but he's also a cold-blooded manipulator. Jason isn't afraid to show this.

That's what I call an actor's commitment. Every actor starts from a position of wanting to be loved above all else and above all others. There is absolutely no other reason to ever want to climb up onto a stage and show yourself to everyone who can see you. But to decide to refuse that love in order to play the truth: that's acting.

You want an example of what I mean? Look at Jodie Foster's performance in The Accused. She plays the victim of a brutal gang rape in a seedy bar. Yet as the story proceeds, and she builds her character, you realize that character isn't "nice." She isn't "respectable" or "proper." There is, in fact, not much of anything "lovable" there. And she doesn't ask for it. Instead, she, as the artist inhabiting this role, demands respect for this woman we would all call "trash." And that is the ultimate act of courage for any performer.

More later. For now, good night.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Devastation Masturbation, or How Low Can You Go to Feel High?

I have recently become aware of an email from a Governmental Agency. It goes like this:
The Public Relations office is seeking suggestions for ways the entire department can observe the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Here are suggestions from the PR office:

Observe one minute of silence at 10:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 29. This
gesture will allow employees to reflect together.

In another symbolic to show support for the victims of Katrina we would
sell and release balloons with the word "HOPE" on them for $1.00 apiece.
The balloons would be released after the the moment of silence. The
funds raised would be donated to a hurricane-related recovery
group/organization chosen by each office.

Deadline...8-2.

Once the suggestions are gathered over the next two days, we will use the two most popular recommendations.

Thanks!
Of course, there is no mention of the manner in which this agency treated its employees who were living in the paths of Katrina and Rita. Heigh-ho, as long as it makes them happy. Smile sweet for the cameras, honey. Look nice for the newspapers. And by all means, feel good about yourselves - and your moments of silence - and your motley balloons. Don't look where you might see the rotting graveyards that were once communities vibrant with the clanging laughter of children who are gone now.
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