Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Republican Do You Have to Be?

First, the Jindal administration rejects aid for unemployment insurance, now it rejects health-insurance assistance. It seems accepting this provision would require "long-term financial obligations to the state".

Just on what the hell are you going to spend the tax dollars we drop into your bucket?

Breaking News

This just in:
NEWARK, Ohio (AP) - Authorities in Ohio say a man has been charged with drunken driving after crashing his motorized bar stool.

Police in Newark, 30 miles east of Columbus, say when they responded to a report of a crash with injuries on March 4, they found a man who had wrecked a bar stool powered by a deconstructed lawn mower.

Twenty-eight-year-old Kile Wygle was hospitalized for minor injuries. Police say he was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he told an officer at the hospital that he had consumed 15 beers. Wygle told police his motorized bar stool can go up to 38 mph.

Wygle has pleaded not guilty and has requested a jury trial.

A motorized bar stool? A motorized bar stool!? There is such a thing as a motorized bar stool!!? I have to say I want one of those. No, I need one of those. Man, chicks will click over a motorized bar stool!

But ... how does it run if its engine is deconstructed? Was, like, everybody drunk and just imagined it crashed? Or were they so drunk they just imagined it was motorized? I mean, people fall off bar stools all the time. Is this just a planted lead-up to a new light beer commercial?

My head is getting tired.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Childhood Sucks

We should, all of us, have been spared having to go through it.

99.9% of us were ordinary kids, not special or pretty in any way, but, seemingly, surrounded by masses of Barbie's and Ken's - who were really only 0.1% of our short population.

It sure didn't seem that way back then.

I mean, there you were, six years old, standing on tiptoe in the boys' room, trying to lift your little pee-pee over the cold lower porcelain of the urinal - you glance over to your left, and there is Ken, standing tall, urinating like a racehorse, all ease and elegance. Of course, trying to zip back up, you invariably let fly a recalcitrant stream down the right inseam of your school-issued khakis. That was what you had to wear as you made your back to your arithmetic class with Sister Frieda who you could clearly see saw your stain.

Every nine months for the next eleven years the same old song played its constant refrain. "Never big enough, never good enough, upstairs, downstairs, all fall down."

You grew and learned and accomplished things you'd never have dreamed of achieving, but, man, that Ken ... he was always pissing right next to you.

And that little insignificant kid - he never crawled away and died.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Curtain

I woke up this morning with no metaphorical cage constricting my chest, no knots in my stomach. I've been walking around emitting contented sighs.

The Glass Menagerie has ended its run.

No other production I've worked on has more aggressively exhibited the dichotomy of the tawdriness and the transcendence of the theatre as this one has. Every day presented us with some new and unforeseen obstacle to thwart, from illness to absence, from negligent management to (am I being paranoid?) outright sabotage.

But our company fought on, and in the face of all the bad things, something wonderful happened. Our audiences loved what we were doing. They seemed to be unaware of the random technical glitches that could and did occur in each night's performance, or they simply didn't care because the actors were so right for the play, so good in their roles, and each one of them luminous.

We filled the house each night we performed until, finally, we had to turn people away since there was no longer any standing room available.

I'm proud of what we accomplished. It probably really was good.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Our Newest Review

Pardon the hyperbole - Mr. Shea can get a little carried away - but I can't find many points of divergence with what he has to say here:
By now, the theatre-going public knows Tennessee Williams’ most popular and most performed play, THE GLASS MENAGERIE. Said to be Mr.Williams’ most “identifiable” play, it tells the story of Tom, the emerging writer and his wounded sister, Laura, living in a shabby St. Louis apartment controlled by his sweet - yet domineering - mother, Amanda. As Tom’s sister Laura is so deeply shy, into this unhappy mix arrives “The Gentleman Caller” who they hope will rescue them from a future of unhappiness.

One of the reasons why THE GLASS MENAGERIE rings with such truthfulness is that young Tennessee Williams lived much of it himself. As great a play as THE GLASS MENAGERIE is - and even though it remains so popular on Broadway and, especially, in community theatres all over the world - it is not an easy or sure-footed play. It requires a cast and a director who can deal with the fragile qualities of Mr.Williams’ hurtful script. Happily, the Marigny Theatre has [a] gifted director and a cast of talented actors exactly right for each realistic role.

[This] director ... never “pushes” his actors into histrionics – instead, he permits the action and the high emotions to flow easily and naturally.

Keith Launey is ideal as Tom, the Tennessee Williams character, about to abandon his contentious mother and his crippled sister Laura, played by the ravishing Liz Mills (who never makes a false move on stage). Leon Contavesprie, as the Gentleman Caller, the only healthy minded-character in THE GLASS MENAGERIE, provides the easy charm and strength his role requires.

But this play is dominated by Amanda, the saccharine mother who rules her children like a drill sergeant. Although I have seen THE GLASS MENAGERIE many times, I cannot imagine an actress more comfortable in the role than Lyla Hay Owen. Her southern charm drips like soft candy, but so does her power and determined intent. Ms. Owen’s brilliant performance cinches this GLASS MENAGERIE as the best ever seen.

The proof of the production’s magic is that you can hear the audience’s sniffles at the close.

The director’s skillful handling of the emotional mood music punctuates the tagline every theatrical company longs to hear: “A GENUINE HIT!”

Don’t miss THE GLASS MENAGERIE at the Marigny Theatre through this weekend. Let’s pray that it will be held over - and over.

Top Rating: 4
My Rating: 4

WYES-12, New Orleans' Public Broadcasting Station

And, no, we will not be holding this baby over.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trudging On

Wednesday night was a hurtful and disruptive night, the worst I've experienced in the past three years. And doing theatre in New Orleans is hurtful and disruptive on a good night.

I don't intend to write about that here. I don't want to keep it in my memory.

What I want to preserve is an encounter I had after our pick-up rehearsal was over, and I had driven back into the Quarter, parked the car, and stopped in at the Golden Lantern for some supportive company and a breather.

I was there for only a few minutes before someone came up to me to tell me how much he had enjoyed The Glass Menagerie on its opening night.

He knew the play, he said. He knew it well and loved it, but seeing our production had revealed new things to him for him to revel in. He'd walked home afterwards wrapped in thoughts about what he'd seen. He'd woken the next morning with those thoughts still undulating in his brain. Even now, a week later, the play was still with him.

Our interpretation had changed his life, he told me, as simply as he could.

It is rare when one's own words are handed back to him.

I've believed for some years now that any work of art succeeds insofar as it induces positive change in the person viewing it, and here was someone echoing, and fostering, my own belief.

I've seen a lot of plays that have not wrung a change in me. At best, they've allowed a little time to pass, during which I might have been engaged in some self-destructive behavior. To tell the truth, I have not seen that many plays because I've come to distrust their promise of change, but, oh, there have been those special few that have fed my faith to such a degree that I trudge on in my craft in the face of frequent disappointment.

The audiences that have viewed this Menagerie have, for the most part, been the kind of audiences I have always sought: people who are self- and world-aware, people who participate in the experience being shown to them, people who engage in mental conversation with the playwright and his text, people who are willing to be moved and somehow altered.

Those people are becoming rare as our theatres submit to the idolatry that razzle-dazzle is a desirable end unto itself, that simple-mindedness can be counted on to entertain, that showing off with a wink and a grin is sufficient for the masses.

Until we throw the gauntlet down and challenge the best that is in us and our audiences, the best we seek to reach will not respond.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blow Out Your Candles, Laura

The final three performances of The Glass Menagerie are tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.

Slouching towards Bethlehem

New Orleans continues its descent into the primordial ooze.

Last night, another blogger and I, neighborhoods apart, watched the same television-news report on the city's use of only 3 million dollars of the 16 million funded by FEMA for reparations to our public playgrounds. I was reminded of this essay I had read earlier in the day when the head of NORD (a black man) exclaimed in exasperation, “I can go out and champion against (sic) everyone and be unemployed. I have a family. I love doing what I'm doing. For me to go against my superior or employer, where will that leave me? ... I've sat with Mayor Nagin and expressed my concerns.”

It was sad to realize that those being hurt by having no place to gather together and play were the black children of New Orleans. How will you deal the race card in this instance, Mr. Mayor? Or is this just another brown paper bag test?

While your cronies dance barefoot in rooms full of dollars, our children must maneuver around nails and shards of glass. If it were ever in doubt that your actions since Katrina have been intended to radically alter the face of this city by driving its underclass out, it is becoming clearer and clearer with each passing day.

You seem to have no conscience. You clearly have no shame. A man would stand up and do the right thing, but you have been neutered.

By whom, and for what, sir?

I took as my title for this post the alternate title for The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats. Here is the poem:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Still a Hoss

The fever began to break early last night and has continued unabated since then. I'm a sweaty mess, but some might find that attractive. The chills, which were nearly unendurable, are slight and fleeting now and rather pleasurable in the way they cause my nipples to pucker. The nausea never resulted in spews of bile, and my gastro-intestinal tract is burbling less vehemently this morning.

This old dray horse of a body can still draw a load.

I may even cruise me some Internet porn.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ain't It Always the Way?

I woke up this morning with stomach cramps around 3:00. By 7:00, the diarrhea had kicked in. Nausea followed at 9:00, chills and fever at noon.

I'm a wreck.

Send me flannel pajamas and a heavy robe. I'll make it worth your while.

Until then, pity me.

Important

Read this. Go read it.

Facade, Detail, the Junque Shop, #2

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From ... To

A Face in the Wall?

Gate Lock

Free Tattoo? Look Again

Facade, Detail, the Junque Shop

The Patio Bar, Molly's at the Market

Resting in Peace

While the mythical New Orleans Theatre Community has avoided The Glass Menagerie this week as if it were a steaming pile of dog shit on the edge of the sidewalk (or on the floor of our venue's dressing room - or on the audience floor stage right, for that matter), thus maintaining its status as "the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for", others have not been so stand-offish. Elegant ladies of a certain age from the Uptown and the Garden Districts have made their way down to the depths of the Faubourg-Marigny. Young people, their arms shod in ink and their feet in flip-flops, have sat attentively throughout. A rainbow of the kind of people who populate New Orleans today have come to visit us and stayed for the duration of our entertainment. Afterward, they've given us every indication they'd enjoyed our offering.

Only one couple - out of four performances - has left at intermission, and the "he" of that couple was a friend of three of the four actors and only left because he was feeling ill. Whether or not they are are all still speaking to one another this morning, I do not know. Even some people who despise me and everything I do and represent have come and stayed in order to not be entertained, although one, I know, was depending on the transportation of others.

Today we rest. The show is put to bed until Thursday, and I have nothing to do. I anticipate that void with serenity.

I may even do laundry instead of buying new socks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Water into Wine

I haven't been my normally happy and confident self for the last few weeks. I've felt as though I were huddled up in a ratty old bumper car stalled on the bumper-car floor and thus an easy target for all the other bumper-car drivers to ram. You feel pretty lonely and vulnerable in that position.

In spite of my despair and air of hopelessness, we went ahead and opened our production of The Glass Menagerie last night, and it lit into my depression like a hard, wet slap across the face.

At 8:00 PM, the curtains parted, and that perennial sack of guilt, Tom Wingfield, wobbled across the stage in a sideways shaft of light to sit at a little barroom table where he unscrewed a half-drunk bottle of cheap rum, downed another shot, and began to tell his story one more time. As the lights began to rise on our tawdry set in a gimcrack venue, my shame at not having been able to provide better for my actors was itself shamed by their passionate conviction and their simple belief in the text.

I saw music in the stage pictures we had made: rhythms and tempos, repeated motifs, sardonic riffs, and tearful melodies.

I may have let them down with my attention to my own inadequacies, but they had tricks in their pockets and things up their sleeves. They turned water into wine, then to beer, then to whiskey - Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Magic.

I could only sit there in wonder, tears wetting my cheeks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Slept Last Night

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I haven't been sleeping much lately. I've been under some stress. Not serious, important stress like caring for an ill loved one or trying to rebuild a flood-devastated neighborhood or dodging a bench warrant, no - more like frivolous theatre stress, which shouldn't be stressful at all because theatre stuff isn't that significant a bump along the long and winding highway of the human race's agonies.

Try telling that to an actress.

Now, before I cause offense or anguish, let me define some terms.

(Believe me, I have no intention of using this blog to say mean and hurtful things about anyone who has done mean and hurtful things to me. The blog is public, and I can be too easily tracked and run to ground.)

But back to a definition of terms:
  • A male who can act and take direction is an actor;
  • A male who likes to look pretty and ignores direction is a twat;
  • A female who can act and take direction is an actor, too;
  • A female who likes to look pretty and ignores direction is an actress.
And an actress will rip your neck open and drain you of all your precious bodily fluids if you let her.

As a director, I have one great, glaring flaw. Being the kind of person who gives free rein to creative actors and technicians, whenever one asks me for pointers or notes, and I give them ... well, when that person then argues with me over what I just said and objects to my direction, I turn my back on them. I focus my attention on the people who want my input and leave the other to her own devices. It's a fault. I know it is.

Well, no, I don't. I'm a grown-up, working with other people whose ages indicate adulthood, and in this gathering, I'm the Godfather, and they need to behave, dammit.

I'm not pointing any fingers here, believe me. I'm just saying that when one gets involved in a theatrical enterprise, the world turns topsy-turvy, and one often finds oneself hanging by one's heels high above the center ring. When gravity inevitably yanks you down to the ground, the resulting thunk can be a relief.

I hit the ground last night, and a couple of hours later, I slept.

You see, the force that jerked me from that flying trapeze was that of a young lady who appeared at our rehearsal and announced she was there to be my lighting and sound guy.

"Huh?" I asked.

"I'm going to run your lights and sound."

"What?"

"Your producer hired me to run your lights and sound."

"He did?"

"He didn't tell you?"

"No."

"Do you want to run them yourself?"

"Oh, no!"

And thus a new relationship was born.

She took my script and deciphered my cues.

At the end of the first Act, I approached her and whispered, "I am not worthy."

At the end of Act Two, I prostrated myself and asked her, "What can I give you? Rich, jeweled raiment? A diadem bright as the star that shines at noon? Shall I fill your belly with sons?"

"You come near my belly, I'll have your balls."

"Noted ..."

"What time's my call tomorrow night?"

"Whenever you want it to be."

"I'll be here 'round six-thirty."

"Okay."

What else could I do after that but sleep?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Karma's a Bitch

I'm an aggravatable kind of guy. I don't like to readily admit that, but it's true.

It doesn't come from my mother's Sicilian side of the family, either. She was the placid one of my parents. No, it comes from my father's Cajun/Alsace-Lorraine line. Listen, my dad could go off like a snapped rubber band that flies right into your left eye.

Don't get me wrong. He never hit anybody. At least, he never hit anybody once I came along, anybody that I knew of. He was all bluff and bluster and profanity.

I like to flatter myself as being placid like my mom, but anyone who knows me will tell you that's for shit.

I'm an aggravatable kind of guy.

Hell, I spent all day today aggravated.

I'm not going to go into details here and now cause what I have to say might get some personal possessions of mine vandalized, and I need them for the next two weeks. But I'd like to take a moment to proffer a little lesson in life to a certain someone who might get some use out of it right now.

Son, I realize that, at your young age, you believe you know more than I could ever learn about how things are supposed to be and how they're supposed to run. Christ, you tell me so every chance you get.

The trouble is, when you talk so high, you'd better walk straight and be ready to do the right thing. Don't expect the people you set out to teach to come along and humbly pick your shit up off the floor after you've gone out to make your rounds.

You see - I'll tell you a secret - not one of us is so important that everybody else can't get along quite nicely once we're gone. Some goodbyes are easier than others, even if they are just as final and irrevocable. And the fact is, at bottom, we're all going to die, we'll all be forgotten, and nothing we did while we were alive is going to matter. I'm not Jesus, and you're no Hitler. We're both as common as crud, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can just start being decent and helpful and carry your own weight.

Now play nice.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Reverie

A short rush of rain just splashed down over us here in the Quarter. I left my desk to walk through the French doors overlooking the patio where I could watch it and feel its damp breeze insinuate itself across the nape of my neck.

I'm putting off work I should be doing for our play, grasping at any distraction that can lure me away from things that need to be done. We're taking today off from meeting and rehearsing, from having to be near each other. We can't stand having to be in the same room together right now. Nothing out of the ordinary, just process.

Tomorrow we'll move into the theatre and start setting our stage and hanging our lights. A day of drudgery we all are dreading.

As for me, I'm afraid of having to tackle this technical aspect on my own. I may be able to tell you what I want to see onstage, but I no longer have the physical stuff to climb and bolt and lift - all the things it takes to make a set look like what it is I want to see.

Available members of my cast, my crew of one, and a friend will all be there to help with this. My design is simple, a minimum of the essentials necessary to stage a play, any play, this play.

I'm longing for the day, not far off now, when I can walk away, take comfort in my home again, sleep with abandon, and preoccupy myself with the myriad of insignificant things that fill our lives and shape them.

Friday, March 13, 2009

By George, I Think She's Got It ...

Just when you think things can't get any worse ... well, the clouds break, the sun shines bright, flowers bloom, and all the little children rush out of their houses and start singing happy songs from Annie.

Last night's rehearsal for Menagerie was a turning point. It has to have been. Suddenly, the actors seemed secure and assured. They rolled - with the punches, with each other, even roughshod over the lines when they had to to get to where they needed to be.

It started to move and flow.

They lightened up and played with each other, playfully, spontaneously. It was impossible not to watch them with closely with expectations of the next surprise.

We will have a show.

Now, if I can only finish up my prop-shopping list.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lugging the Carcass

Man, nothing like a few kind words to dry you up. I've had writer's block ever since a lady named Calamity looked my way. I've done a little work putting up a new template, still not sure if I klike it, but these third-party XML's can go crazy when you load them into Blogger. Still, weeding through them gave me plenty to do to kep my mind off my worries.

I'm exhausted, drained, not sure how I'm making it from moment to moment, and the sparseness of this new look matches my mood.

Putting on this play is killing me. The people who used to be around to take up some of the slack are not around this time, and I'm finding myself doing things I'm not prepared, and probably not equipped, to do. Like, for instance, setting lights, and programming the cues. I've never done that before, and the manual which could show me how to do it seems to have left the building.

And nobody cares.

People close to the production are predicting large houses for the performances, but I'm not seeing much in ticket sales. Theatre in New Orleans is a social event above anything else. Nobody wants to go to a play. They want to see that girl who can carry a tune play Liza Minnelli in Cabaret cause she's just gonna be so much better than that other girl who played Liza in Cabaret at that dinner theatre across the lake last year. They've never heard of Sally Bowles.

I have to keep reminding myself that I always get this way around this time, close to opening. And everything will work out fine, you'll see.

But the thing is, nobody ever gets to see what it is that I saw before the reality of mounting a production put three-dimensional bodies on a drably-set stage with insufficient lighting and with tacky music piped through an overused sound system.

And probably nobody cares.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

...

So ... um ... I decided to take the advice of my reviewer and find a better template ...

Ain't done yet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I've Been Fucking Torn Apart

I didn't ask for this.

Well, maybe I did, after stumbling back home following one of those moonless nights of dirty martinis. The memory, if it's real, is vague.

I admit I was expecting worse. These critters, when they get the scent of blood, rush into a feeding frenzy, but I seem to have some redeeming qualities. The charm still works.

One note to my reviewer: I don't much like the template either. In a week or two when I have some time to myself, I'll work on it, I promise. The EventBrite doohickey hasn't done a damn bit of good. It's gone.

I have to say I can't believe you spent 2 hours, six minutes, and nine seconds (with 96 page views!) reading this thing. But thanks, I needed your kind words. If you're ever back around this swamp hole again, let me know. We'll pass a good time, cher.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Interrogation

I was charmed this past Saturday to receive an email from a young lady named Colleen, who wrote, "I am a student in high school and was wondering if I could interview you about your job as a director. It's an assignment for my drama lit class and I would love to ask you a few questions. Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you."

I wrote her back, "I would be delighted to have you interview me. You're the first person who has ever asked."

I didn't expect the caliber of questions she would level at me. Here is the interview:
1. What are the major responsibilities as a director?

First and foremost, keeping the actors from scratching each others' eyes out. No, I'm joking.

Obviously, a director's first responsibility is to the script he's going to try to put up on a stage. He has to come to know the play the best he can. He must attempt to understand what the playwright is trying to say with this particular story and how the playwright is trying to say it. Is the playwright sincere, is he being playful; is his outlook tragic, or is it antic? This will direct the director in finding his appropriate approach to mounting the play.

(I'll give you an example: I'm presently working on The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Once this play goes into production, I will begin working on another play, an original play, for the Cripple Creek Theatre Company. When I first started to read an early draft of this play, it didn't seem to make any sense to me, but very soon it began to seem to me like a Commedia dell'arte script. When I mentioned this to the playwright, he disagreed with me. Imagine how I felt when I read the second draft and found that it now more closely resembled a minstrel show. Who knows, at this time, what it will turn out to be when it opens in May?)

So, obviously, I visualize the play as I study it.

The next major responsibility is to cast the best actors for the roles in the play. And, to be perfectly frank, this is where one has to be ready to start making compromises. I have a vague image of each character in my mind, and I try my best to find someone who approximates it. This is almost never 100%. No, I take that back. It is never 100%. The thing to do is to start taking stock of what each actor has to offer. What does she look like, how does she sound, does she project a serious demeanor, or is she a cut-up? Can she take this part which I perceive in one way and turn it around to her own advantage and make it something different and perhaps - no, probably - more interesting than what I've been imagining? If my answer is, "Yes," that's the woman I will cast. I am always ready to mold my initial concept to the actors who finally come to play the roles.

Care also needs to be given to sets, costume, lighting, and sound. I confess, I don't pay much attention to these (except for sound - why? - I don't know, go figure). I'm not big on sets. I'm not nearly as big on costumes as my actresses are. I guess I'm not too keen on realism or naturalism. I prefer essential theatre. Essential theatre needs only a script, an actor, and an audience that can be swept away by imagination.

2. What kind of training do you need to become a director?

I think one has to start with DNA. I really do. Any art requires a predisposition to the medium.

That being said, the kind of training I would recommend requires a close study of theatre history with a consideration of cultural differences. Japanese Noh drama is different from Shakespeare who is different from Chinese opera which is nothing like Chekhov. I believe a director should know as much as possible about all of this because where else is he going to steal from?

You need to also know the history of acting, the different historical styles, the schools and methods. Although a director doesn't need to know how to act, he needs to know what it is that makes an actor tick.

A director should make a study of the theatre-design arts: sets, costumes, lights, sound, etc. I know I already said I don't pay much attention to those, but I do know what they are and how to use them. Along with the design arts, I think it helps if the director knows something about the theatre-crafts, as well, if for no other reason than that he will learn never to yell at the carpenter who will, invariably, have his hand on, or near, a hammer.

In other words, never yell at a man with a hammer.

Other essential elements in which a director should be trained are part and parcel of corporate career training (or, at least, they once were when I was a part of that corporate world):
  • Communication,
  • Stress Management,
  • Anger Management(!), and
  • Supervision.
3. What attracted you to this field?

As a kid, I dreamed of being an actor. There was nothing more I wanted out of life. Until I became an actor and discovered that it bored me.

At the same time, I realized I really did love making theatre. I made theatre in whatever work I was doing. I just did. It was my nature. If I was kneading dough to make biscuits, I found myself doing it pictorially, doing it in a way that would make it interesting to an audience that might be watching me or an actor doing it.

I found I had ideas that my directors didn't necessarily share. Maybe I disagreed with their blocking or their concept of the character I was playing. To be perfectly honest, most of the directors I worked with as an actor didn't deserve to be directing.

I found myself sitting there, thinking, "Hey I can do that."

4. What criteria do you cast actors on?

I wish I could say talent, talent, talent. But talent alone is not enough, and talent is at a premium when it comes to acting, especially living as we do today in a reality-TV world. It seems everyone is comfortable performing in front of an audience. They may have no technique, but any hack director can weed out what they do that doesn't work and make these performers palatable to an audience.

I'm drawn to actors with a personal stage presence, some characteristic that travels across the space from the stage into the house. I like actors who are drawn to the exploration of a character rather than those who just learn the lines and the business and "get off" on performing for an audience of friends who can always be counted on to be there. The kind of actor I am always looking for is the kind who can sit onstage and not do much of anything, but who, by doing so little, can rivet the audience's attention and bring them to a level of sharpened concentration.

My actors are my collaborators in building a production, and I have been fortunate in working with a few gifted ones, actors with whom I do not have to finish a sentence when giving direction because we know each others language.

5. Do you make your money only as a director?

ROTFLM*O! Sorry, what I mean to say is, "No."

I usually find myself losing money, even though I'm not a producer on the plays I'm directing. I invariably start shelling out bucks for things I want onstage that my producers are unwilling or unable to provide me with. On my current show, I'm actually paying for rehearsal space out of my own pocket.

For the record, I'm retired (with a decent pension) from my "real" job - although I am on the younger side of death. So far.

6. Do you have any responsibilities during the actual running of a performance?

I would like nothing better than to open a show, then go off to the beach for the duration of the run (see the post below). But in the real world of what I call Downtown Theatre, that isn't feasible. I may have to double as the light man or the sound man. I may have to sell tickets in the box office. Once, I even stage-managed one of my own shows and hope never to have to do that again. It was a short two-character play and had no need for me to be sitting backstage doing nothing for 85 minutes. It was both boring and terribly lonely. Besides, the show was very good, and I was missing every performance.

7. What are some of your experiences as a director?

I probably shouldn't answer this question. Maybe if you rephrased it ...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Glenn Tempe

I'm hearing from my one and only local cousin that a friend has passed away.

In the old days, Glenn used to frequent Jewel's Tavern near our apartment. After a while there, he would need a break from all the commotion and would often come over and visit with us. He'd come into the living room, sit, and put his Scotch-and-water down on the floor and play with our Pomeranian, Puck.

Puck adored Glenn, because he knew Glenn would soon forget his tail-wagging presence and concentrate on us. That was Puck's cue to surreptitiously take sips from Glenn's drink. As much as he might have adored Glenn, Puck craved his Scotch even more. After a little more time had passed, Glenn would head back out, and Puck would sleep the night away contentedly.

Rest in peace, Glenn. You did good during your time down here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oops, I Almost Forgot

Our little downtown troupe of players has accumulated a smidgen of recognition this week from both the elite and the proletariat. You can take a perusal here.

Congratulations to all the nominees. They are well-deserved. You were always winners.

I'd also be remiss in not sending well-wishes to my friends and colleagues Richard Read, Keith Launey, Liz Mills, Leon Contavesprie, Bob Edes, Jr., and Frederick Mead on their nominations for other shows and performances. (If you want to know for what, you'll have to look it up on your own. I'm tired.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Inadequacy in the Male

Sitting through a line-run last night, my phone rang. I rushed out of the theatre to take the call. It was Lisa. She'd been skimming through her emails and found one from [drum roll] "THE GAMBIT" [crashing chord]. Lisa has found herself in the enviable position of having received a nomination as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for Gertrude Stein and a Companion, and [drum roll] "THE GAMBIT" [crashing chord] needs her to send them some photos. Since I had shot the pictures [drum roll] "THE GAMBIT" [crashing chord] required, she was calling to ask me if I could send them to [drum roll] "THE GAMBIT" [crashing chord].

I refrained from mentioning they could probably go to their own archives and find the pictures I had sent them when the show was running, but maybe [drum roll] "THE GAMBIT" [crashing chord] doesn't hold onto old graphic files they had previously required. I also refrained from mentioning that they probably won't use the photos anyway since they have rarely published the photos they've required of me in the past. But, no matter. I told her I would send them, and I sent them this morning. Lisa has that way with me.

A few minutes later and back in the theatre, my phone rang again. This time it was Karen - who actually was Gertrude Stein last year. She sounded unsure of herself as she explained that she was calling to, like, offer any help I might need in mounting this production of Menagerie. I started getting all teary-eyed as I wondered how she could have possibly intuited that I was feeling overwhelmed. Of course, I couldn't think of a thing she could do at the time, but promised to sleep on it and call her back today. I'm still not sure what tasks I have left that I could heft onto her shoulders, but I sure could use her presence now and then to just, kind of, like, hold my hand every now and then. Karen has that way with me.

As for the cast and their line-run, they did better than they expected themselves to do, but afterwards I was all officious and directorial as I told them to go home and study their scripts and to go home now.

That's an old directing trick when you want to scare your actors into working harder than they've been working in the weeks just past. It's also a signal that the time has come to start the separation process, the time when the actors take possession of the play away from the director and move out of the house, as it were, to start making it on their own.

They've done some heavy labor putting this play on its feet, and their performances are turning into something as delicate as spun glass and as fragile.

Or maybe I'm just a sucker for real actors.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We Have Unicorn!

Turns out, I may be a naturally-gifted shopper.

First stop yesterday was at a certain crafts shop in a strip mall in Metairie. Nope, no unicorns here, but try the Hallmark store a few doors up.

Sorry. What about a swan? Or a long-necked cat? Hey, why not, a little more set dressing can't hurt, can it? And there are always uses for a long-necked cat. Oh, and here's a card for a Christmas store up Veterans' Boulevard a ways, check them out for your unicorn. Will do.

As we're driving, Bobby notices a Kids 'r' Us, and pleads for me to stop, oh, please, please, please. Okay.

Once inside, I ask a nice lady if they carry unicorns. Nah. Okay, what about little horses? Maybe we can make a horn. Sure, we have horses. Go down that aisle till you get to that other aisle, take a left to the end of the row, then a right, a left, another left, then about seventeen feet ahead, you should find what horses we got.

Being a guy, thus being good with directions, I soon found our destination and was admiring the little horses and trying to decide which one would look good with suggestive headgear when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glittery wink and turned to look into the pink-rouged face of none other than Miss Una Kahn, all decked out in flouncy mane and sparkling hooves and more than ready for her close-up.

Or so she thought. There was one test she would have to pass. She would have to survive a drop to a hard stage floor for six performances, plus a preview and a matinee.

I flung her to the floor!

Miss Una Kahn, being the classy drag queen she was, proved herself to be indestructible.

"Stick with me, baby, and I'll make you a star," I whispered as I carried her aloft to the checkout counter and out to the car.

Now it was time for lunch, and Bobby had been desperately wanting to try the steaks at Applebee's since catching their commercials on TRU-TV. A side note to the carnivores among you: Applebee's may be okay, but it is not a steak joint.

Next, we were off to Hancock's Fabrics for my black paneling material.

I have to confess to you here that I've never been in a fabric shop before in my life. I put those places on a par with your higher class of lingerie departments. I just don't have a clue about what I need to be looking for.

But, I'll tell you what, chicks really dig big lugs, clearly out of their element, asking stupid questions. Brings out the mother-side of them. In no time, I had one serving me, getting the right fabric (at $2.99 a yard! That's good!!), cutting me eight panels at eight feet each, and - I swear - giving me an extra hidden discount off that $2.99. I have a killer smile, can't help it.

I ended my spree by hitting a nearby Lowe's for CPV or CVP ... plastic pipes. Do you know you can get that shit for less than a dollar a stick? Yeah.

Coming home, I have to admit, I was feeling my manhood. I had hunted and gathered and still had money in the bank.

What more do you need in this life?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm Grabbing the Bull by the Horns Today

No, Bobby hasn't woken up feeling frisky.

My trusty pension check hit the bank yesterday, so I'm bundling the old man into the car and heading out to the parish to do some shopping. Menagerie's theatre needs black panels to mask the wings, and Tom Wingfield needs some wingtips for his feet. Is there anywhere around here you can find 1930's replicas of the St Louis Post Dispatch? I'll know by this afternoon. And just where the hell can I find the fucking unicorn?

In olden days, this would not have been problem. Time was, Aeschylus made do with two actors, a chorus, and daylight. In less olden days, over here, there were people willing to step forward and do the grunt work. Not now. I find myself on my own.

I've already created the sound design. On Sunday, I found out I'll have to design and set the light cues as well, something I have never done. Since then I've searched for the light board's manual but haven't had any luck. It doesn't seem to be in the theatre.

In the meantime, I need antimacassars. I need a magician's scarf. I need, need, need, need, need!

Maybe I should just put the four actors up on the stage with a few chairs, a table, miming the props, and all of them lit just enough to be visible. It would work. They're that good.

But, no, New Orleanians want thick icing on their cakes, heavy cream in their coffee, and I may be freelancing after this, so the play needs to be attended.

That Aeschylus though ... man, he had it good.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bone Tired and Good for Nothing

I am physically exhausted and emotionally drained. I may be burning the candle at both ends, but it ain't giving off much light as far as I can see.

I'm dividing my time between care-giving at home and care-giving at whatever space the Menagerie crew is finding to rehearse in. I have to say the work the actors are doing seems heartbreakingly beautiful to me, but I don't much trust my judgment right now. I'm feeling pretty inadequate to the task at hand. Too much of the technical responsibility is falling onto my shoulders, and I think I may be too alone and too sway-backed to see it through.

I wake up each morning around 12:55, then again around 1:55, when I finally give up and get out of bed and meander to the computer or down the stairs to try to plan what still needs doing.

Lately, I'm making the re-acquaintance of that kid who felt misplaced and friendless back in the early 1950's in that small Louisiana town.

Does he ever go away?

So much of me wants to turn my back on this play-making thing I love so much, this thing that usually fills me with a sense of celebration and belonging, but which has - lately - seemingly turned its back on me.

Of course, I won't. I can't escape what I am. I will emerge from this well of self-pity in another day or two.

But it's hell while it lasts.

Boy, somebody sure does need a hug.

And - if you're cute - maybe more.
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