Friday, February 27, 2009

In Sickness and in Health

My voice lessons have been put on hold until I can shake the allergies/cold/hacking cough/complete nasal blockage that are screwing with any ability to produce sound or resonate. I would try to work through it, but I don't know how and I'm afraid I would only make it worse and hurt my voice by trying to sing through it. So, in the meantime, I'm eating Ricola and vitamin C drops like candy and drinking Theraflu like (insert what you will). Ricola Elderberry. Do it.

This isn't about theatrical singing, but I think the principles are the same, nonetheless.

As I read, I realize that I'm screwed for this season and simply have to suck it up and prepare for next season. Prevention is key, so I'm told, and, alas, I have yet to discover why I get delightfully sick every six months on the nose. Could be my mold-filled dorm ("repulsive," as V said so elegantly), could be anxiety, could be anything. Citrus, water, rest and a healthy outlook on life for the coming year to start whipping this body into shape to make it do what I want, when I want.
That website seems to be the go-to place for information about performing and sickness, and I must say it's very well written. I wish I'd read it thoroughly prior to getting this cold, but if wishes were fishes, you know?

This one addresses more than just a cold, so I'll add it to the list for future reference.

I've begun doing yoga on a very regular basis now, and my very out of shape body is quite aware of this and isn't too happy about it yet. But the more limber I am and the more I work out, the easier it will be over time, and once the weather starts being a little more cooperative I can get right back to being healthy and start training my body the way it needs to be trained. Despite being a coughing machine right now and having a few very sore muscles in places I forgot actually had muscles, I'm feeling good about starting this routine. Again, I know it's a little after the fact what with this being the second time I'm sick this year, but better now than later.
Going to NYC tomorrow to see Phantom. About time.
Congrats to V. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I've begun voice lessons again with a professor of mine - and I'm grateful that she isn't condescending and snide and useless like my last voice teacher - but it would help if I managed to not be sick every time I sang a note while at school. Hooray for allergies and colds. So far all I've really learned is that I have "potential" and that I have to relearn everything I've been previously taught about breathing properly while singing. There's a lot I have to relearn about a myriad of things.

I saw the national tour of Sweeney Todd for the second time last night, and they were wonderful, yet again. I've just been reminded yet again how badly I want to be onstage. It's ridiculous. I'm going to see Phantom in New York on Saturday as well - it was a birthday gift from my parents.

I could have (and probably should have) auditioned for a summer touring theatre troupe (paying!) on that Saturday, but seeing as how my health is rapidly deteriorating it might be for the best that I opted not to this year. I'm having a slight crisis of the self as well, which isn't helping me make any sort of decisions at all. I decided not to because I'm still only 19, I need to work this summer to pay for school, and there's a part of me that isn't quite ready to bid my old life goodbye. I don't think I'm ready to start looking at real life yet - I want to, I need to and I should, but I feel like this is the last summer I may have to truly spend at home with people before we all have to start separating. Those may be bad reasons not to pursue something like a New England tour, but they're my reasons right now. Input would be much appreciated.

I'm going to be in a small production of The Vagina Monologues, which should be interesting, so I'll keep updates on the progress in that.

And if you have not read it, I highly recommend Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. One of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching pieces of theatrical literature I've ever read, and I would do anything to be a part of it someday. With any luck, it'll happen, sooner or later.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ceci n'est pas un pipe

I just erased this entire entry and am going to start over. Completely.

Class today - I don't know about anyone else in the class, but I rediscovered something inside of me that I had entirely forgotten was there. We were experimenting with being entirely within our own senses, experiencing everything fully, right there, the smell, the feel, the sound, the taste. As I listened to the brick wall and felt it's pockmarks and dusty nuances, I looked up at it and realized I was honestly delighted and surprised to see paint marks smeared above me, something I'd never seen before. There was this childlike joy in seeing everything, really seeing it, really knowing what was around me and finding something new in the mundane.

We went outside and did the same thing, and I was initially overwhelmed with everything I'd always known was there and never noticed. The dirty snow piles that remained felt like painfully cold little marbles, the sound of my shoe splashing lightly in the mud was such a happy sound, there were soft, tiny bird feathers entwined everywhere in the ivy gripping the walls, the leaves smelled damp and alive. Each tree was like a different page of giant braille. Everything smelled cold.

But what really struck me about everything in class today was that I honestly found joy and excitement in staring at the details, noticing things I'd never seen, exploring in a way I hadn't since I was very small. I want that enthusiasm about everything. I couldn't stop smiling, even while we got wierd looks from the "normal" student body.

The purpose for us wandering around like children was this: To play experience and truth onstage, once must live experience and truth. If you're playing a scene on the deck of a boat, perhaps sailing across the ocean, you have to be able to remember and feel again the movement of the floor beneath you, the smell of the ship and the sea, the wind on your face, just edged with a bit of salt spray, whether the wind chilled you or the sun warmed you, if the air tasted like fish or like salt, how the water wrinkled and sparkled out in front of the boat, how it foamed and roared behind. If you live that truth onstage, the audience will believe you.

So actors need to live the moment, be aware of everything at all times. Be constantly at work in some state of being, observing, living, noticing.

Break a leg to V, again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I said I would continue my ROCTT lesson from several posts ago (I did the O, with Observation, but never continued), and I want to complete that train of thought before I go barrelling along into my most recent discovery, known as The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit by Bella Merlin.

ROCTT (pronounced ROCKED) was a concept developed by my high school director (probably just a mutilated version of the theatrical basics) who also happens to be the most awesome high school drama coach I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of high school productions, and most of them pale in comparison to the level of dedication he puts into them.

Take risks onstage! "If you're going to fall on your face, make it big! If you make a mistake, make it a big, awesomely fucked up mistake so we can see it, laugh, know you tried, and find something else that works." Taking risks lets you push your limits and develop yourself as an actor, to figure out what you can do and to figure out what works with you and your scene partners. To take risks requires both of the following T's, however, so read on.

See my blog post entitled "Imitation." Observation, in my humble opinion, is the best way to learn anything.

I honestly can't remember which C this applies to, but both of them are essentials, I think. Commitment is necessary onstage all of the time - if you aren't committed to every action you perform onstage, you will not feel or appear authentic to your audience. Concentration is kind of the same thing, only not quite. A sense of focus and concentration on the moment you exist in and everything about yourself while onstage is absolutely necessary. Concentration and focus allow you to remain sharp and on your toes in every situation that arises onstage.

You must trust yourself and your fellow actors onstage or there can be no truth to anything onstage. If you aren't comfortable taking risks with yourself or the people around you, there can only be awkwardness or falseness. Casts of actors are the closest teams that can be imagined - they must work as one smooth unit together, as little parts of a working machine, to create a fully functional group onstage. Chemistry is created through trust.

See Trust.

I know that high school lessons may wind up being a little outdated, and I've already been told that I need to start forgetting everything I learned in high school, but I think these things are part of a foundation that all actors should know. These are less about technique than just theatrical bases. Tell me what you think - high school lessons: useless in the real world? How did your first mentor introduce you to the necessities of the stage? Comment it and let me know. :)

Reporting for Duty

Back in New Haven - back to work, back to school, back to headaches. But KCACTF was one of the best experiences of my life, and I'm so happy and honored that I got to go.

I meant to blog a bit while I was up there, but I didn't have any downtime - I was always about to go somewhere or it was 3 in the morning and I was about to pass out. I will, however, fill you in now.

I got to the Four Points and was shockingly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who were there, but I managed to check in and dump my stuff and get to orientation without too much difficulty. They gave us the runthrough of where we'd be sitting and waiting and when to go in and how to come out and told us to relax and have fun, and I was so stoked. The majority of everything that took place at the Festival was in the hotel we were staying in, so they were in board rooms on the first floor. Danielle and I were number 5 in group 2, so we had an hour or so to wait before we had to go compete. There were hundreds of people competing, and it was a little overwhelming, but the fact that I was so young and still able to take part was so thrilling.

When we did compete, it was our Agnes of God scene, and I think that for a pair of 18 year old freshman competing in our first Festival we did a pretty good job - I was proud of it because despite the fact that I knew we weren't even close to being as good as everyone else there, we were definitely better than some of them, and I did as well as I could be expected to do. Hooray for us. :)

That night we went to see a the first production brought to the Festival to compete, called 451: The Musical. I don't even want to talk about it. Ray Bradbury and Thespis are rolling in their graves at the insult to literature and theatre that was performed on that stage.

I did a workshop with Jim Beauregard of Dean College on stage combat with unorthodox fighting instruments, and I got to work with Danielle and two people from my school who I didn't know all that well, Tory and Mysti. They'd done serious stage combat before, so we choreographed a really cool fight sequence involving shoves, a punch or two, a knee to the face, a great over the hip flip, a pull, and a phone cord used in funky ways. At the end of the week there was an epic photograph on the slideshow of me flipping Tory over my hip and it made me look so badass. I'd love to learn more stage combat - it's really really awesome when done well. The festival gave me a really cool taste of a lot of different things, and just really added to my desperate need to be onstage. It scared me too though, because of so many people there who were so much more talented than me who also want this as badly as I do. It scared me but also made it easier to say "hey, I've got to freakin' bust my ass every day of my life for this now."

And my buddy Josh ran around the hotel in pink fishnets, a red silky bra and a scarf half the night. Hooray for way too much wine. :)

Thursday was the day of the Irene Ryan Semi-finals, so we watched our fellow Southerner Kiel compete, and he did very well. He was the only nominee from our school who went on to the next round, so we were really proud of him. He and all the other semi-finalists were very, very good, and it was clear why they went to the next round. I was sad for the seniors who didn’t get to advance, since they’d worked so hard for so long, but what can you do. Kiel and Mysti did a scene from Fat Pig first, then from The Importance of Being Earnest, and unfortunately their second scene was a little lacking. They did not move on to the finals, but we were proud of them nonetheless.

I saw two more shows that day, a modern play written by the director at Dean called Public Speech/Private Thought which was incredibly awesome and words cannot describe how amazingly well it was written and performed. The one that evening was Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband as performed by Bridgewater State College, and though I adore Oscar Wilde, this play was a bit dull - the school did not use the pace necessary to keep Wilde's writing sharp. It was enjoyable, but not nearly as good as the one earlier.

Friday we watched the SSDC (Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers) award nominees present their scenes, since one of our students was directing a scene. His scene was the same as another group’s scene, but his was much, much better overall. He didn’t win though because the scene before his was absolutely brilliant and deserved to win hands down. It was from a show called Quake, and I would love to get my hands on the script one of these days because it was so intriguing, even the five minute snippet I got to see.

In the afternoon I went to a workshop with a professor from our school, Larry Nye, entitled “What Would Fosse Do?” and got my first taste of the sort of dance classes I have to look forward to, and though I threw my back out a bit and was entirely ungraceful (out of the necessary “triple threat” status, I am seriously lacking in the dance department :P), I still had an absolute blast and amused myself with my own inability. Most of the students from my school attended just for kicks, so that was highly entertaining.

After that I saw another play entitled Pope Joan as performed by BU, which ultimately won the award out of all the plays performed, and it won for good reason. It was a beautiful script about a woman who disguises herself as a man and becomes pope but has fallen in love with the only person who knows her secret. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and I would love to see it again. Later that evening was Keene State’s The Matchmaker, the play on which Hello, Dolly! is based on. It took me until intermission to figure out that it was Hello, Dolly!, and I felt like a bit of a fool. They did a fun job with it, and I certainly enjoyed the show, though it made me anxious to get back onstage. All of that week I realized how badly I wanted to get back onstage and how long I’m going to have to wait before I can.

I went to yet another stage combat workshop with Jim Beauregard. I couldn’t help myself – none of the other workshops available in my time frame were anything I could find use in at my current level of ability or my concentration (Design-Tech Portfolio and Resume Reviews wouldn’t be much help to me, unfortunately), and I’d had so much fun the last time that I had every intention of learning more. This workshop handled more basic moves this time, focusing on proper form and creating the illusion of violence successfully. Jim walked by as we were practicing and said I had a really good punch. Ego boost. :)

After that I went to watch the Tech Olympics, a series of mini events that techies are supposed to be able to do proficiently. Screw blocks of wood together, hang and focus a light, hem a skirt, sew a slip stitch, tie certain types of knots, help with a quick change, read a set blueprint, et cetera. I did not participate, seeing as how I didn’t even know how to do half of those things, but I enjoyed watching the others. At the awards, my university swept the competition and won all three places in the Olympics. We sort of rocked the technical awards this year. It was totally cool.

That evening was the Irene Ryan finals, which were incredible to watch because everyone was so amazingly talented and I want to be just like them – I want to reach their level and then just keep going. As insanely hard as that is going to be, sometimes, giving up isn’t an option if I want to have any respect for myself in the future. They had excellent scenes and monologues, and next time around, if there is a next time around for me, and I can only hope, I will keep them in mind and work my ass off so much more than I did. It’s a lot of work, but I’m okay with that.

Later that afternoon there were a series of ten minute scenes, most of which were entertaining, and after that the awards ceremony, where all winners from all competitions were announced. A very good friend of mine is going to the National KCACTF for his work in sound design, so there was a bit of insanity about that, haha. Our school represented fairly well, which was wonderful to see, our little state school cranking out such talent.

And Sunday we departed. So here I am, typing this to you, knowing it does not translate how awesome the week was whatsoever. I was almost constantly doing something or about to be doing something – I desperately want to go again, and I just need another opportunity to prove it to the department that I’m good enough to go again. Somebody cast me, I know I can do this!

Break a leg to V is for… on Saturday for his college audition at Marymount Manhattan – you’ll be brilliant, I know it. :)