Possible Story Theatre show

March 23, 2011

Thanks to my tax refund, I was able to make Nell’s Story Theatre workshop Saturday at Janiece’s. It was invigorating as always. Everyone wants moremoremore. Meryl wants us to do a show (“Hey kids, let’s put on a show!”), maybe in July, maybe at Rachael’s Café. I love the concept but fear the execution. I mean, it’s one thing to be up in front of people, improvising, in a small room where the crowd is hand-picked and pre-disposed to love you. It’s another thing entirely to be up in front of strangers who may get hives in the presence of performance art. Plus I’m always afraid I’ll run out of stories. Horror of horrors, what if that happened 5 minutes into a 20-minute set?? Horrid Dada-esque stumblings about would ensue. Ack!

Nell and I have a separate thread going about a possible Story Theatre intensive for a hand-picked crew, possibly in May. I’m not sure my tax refund goes that far. But I do know that I seriously want to develop artistically in this form. And Nell’s got the goods! She changes what she teaches at every workshop, so there’s always something new happening. My challenges include staying in my body, using similes, and using sound instead of words. If I could get those to be more regular denizens of my creative toolbox, I’d be much more effective as a performer.

So much art

May 24, 2009

Nell’s class

What a week. Started another round of Nell’s classes on Wednesday. Good group of people. I hurt my back while doing an exercise called “architecture” and was very bummed to have to sit out until we switched the form.

“Architecture” shows how little you have to do onstage to be interesting. You just pose your body using straight lines. Like standing upright and holding your arms bent at the elbow at 90 degrees or lying with your back on the floor and extending arms and legs upward. Three of us went at a time, which created fascinating relationships and negative space. She’d stop us periodically and have the viewers name the current tableau.

Auditions for Vintage Scenes
Right before Nell’s class, I scooted over to the BPP for Vintage Scenes auditions. This is a collection of short (3-page) scripts that are some of the favorite mini-plays from years past. I’d rehearsed 3 of the 6, so of course the ones we got asked to do were parts I hadn’t worked on.

I’d spent the day traveling and in high-stakes business meetings, so was completely fried. No idea what I wrote on the audition form. Wasn’t fully present. That contributed in part to my lack of nerves, which was disappointing. I need more auditions where I’m nervous so I can get used to that. It also helped that I was better than my partner—that doesn’t mean I was good, it just means I was a bit better! That helps build confidence. I left feeling disappointed that I hadn’t given my best.

I got the email next day that I’ll be playing a Southern lush in one of the plays (what non-typecasting! :-)) and “C” in a funny scene where A is trying to kill himself and B is just trying to smoke a cigarette—on the 30th floor. I’m looking forward to getting started.

Deadbird—almost done
That was Wednesday night. Friday I met Kevin and we recorded the latest iterations of Deadbird—oops, I mean Redbird. It’s not perfect but it’s close enough for the songwriting contest we’re entering. I really like working with Kevin—he knows So Much. The song has come along nicely. Hard to believe how depressed I was when I wrote it.

Saturday morning was Goddessdaughter #2’s blessingway, done at the UU church by Bill Breeden. It was a short and simple ceremony, but sweet enough to make me all weepy. (This bit obviously doesn’t count as performing arts, but I want to throw it in.)  I gave her her gifts, but of course her favorite thing was a bundle of bread, salt, and coin that she could carry around. I love the ring I got for her. I hope she will, too, someday.

Staged readings
After a “I’m so stuffed” blessingway lunch at Opie’s, I burbled off to the BPP again for the staged readings of some of the plays for the ’09/’10 Bloomingplays. I read the part of Daisy in The Good Daughter.

It was interesting because I’d rehearsed with the voices of the 4 other characters in my head, but of course those parts weren’t read the way I’d heard them internally. So some of my stuff didn’t come out right, because I wasn’t reacting quickly enough to what was given me. It was a lot of fun though—theatre’s a helluva lot easier with a script in your hand!

Bob Berry of The Actor’s Workshop in Indy came up afterwards to ask me to read a part in his play, which will be read in August. I was terribly flattered and got a nice big bloated ego over it until I found out he’d asked 3 or 4 others, too! 🙂 A good come-uppance for me.

The final play was Kindred, the one I co-wrote with Lori. Margot read the part of Pam really well; much better than I could have done. It was so interesting to hear these parts that I’ve spent 4 years writing come out of the mouths of different actors. They find different things than I intended, which is a great experience for any artist to have. You let your creations out into the world and they take on lives of their own!

A group of us (rather raucously) went for drinks afterwards (which translates to “water” for me). Had a really good time with Gabe, Holly, Heather (in from NYC; I’d heard her do cabaret at Nell’s Midsummer Night’s Romp), and Rich. I feel like I want to get as much time with Rich as possible before he leaves in August.

This morning a larger group of us met for brunch at the Uptown. More hilarity, but with that bleary-eyed quality that comes from too many late nights. Gabe’s mom told a “I will embarrass you now” story about how he was born with bruised testicles. Perfect conversation for breakfast.

Robin Hood
I wrapped up the day with a viewing of Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood at the Buskirk-Chumley, accompanied by Hesperus. The advertising said the event was free but tickets were actually $25! I thought it was outrageous but paid anyway, since I’d so looked forward to it.

It was great fun to see him on big screen and especially to hear people hissing when the bad guys came onscreen and then cheering when The Hero Gets The Girl. The picture wasn’t filled with as many stunts as I expected, but it was good fun. I was also impressed with how much Errol Flynn’s version was clearly influenced by this version. What pressure there must have been, trying to walk in Douglas Fairbanks’ footprints!

I had to nap when I came home and then have quiet time with a book to calm my jittery brain. Now I’m off for some movie-watching, though I’m really in the mood for playing a game with friends like Scrabble or something. I get tired of trying to fill the hours but oh well. (Today’s another day where I think I might be depressed but the damn meds have altered my symptoms.) Onward!

The family photo

April 19, 2009

Another entry inspired by Nell’s IMT workshop.

We sit at the dinner table, the three boys on one side, the three girls on the other, pater at the head and mater at the foot. We sit up straight to avoid the shame of having a yardstick put down the back of our shirts. We keep our elbows off the table lest we receive a sharp jab with a fork.

Shannon trots happily around the table. A Shetland Sheepdog, she is convinced we are her flock. Her nails click-click-click on the floor as she goes around and around. To break the monotony, one of us will quickly reach down and shove a hand in front of her muzzle as she comes around. She pauses a moment, puzzled, then turns and immediately resumes her click-click-click in the opposite direction.

The table is long and heavy. The walls are patterned with huge blue flowers. The tablecloth is noisy and patterned with blue. Macramé plant holders hang from the ceiling. The polished china cabinet, almost the length of the table, holds the special spot where today’s mail is deposited, next to the chair where pater sets his briefcase. 

Everything in its place.

Above it all presides the family photo. It is renewed every year like a promise to ourselves. We are dressed in our polyester best—the boys with wide collars and loud stripes, the girls in mater’s fine home-stitched double-knit hand-me-downs. Boys, girls, mater, pater. Positioned against the Olan Mills mottled blue-grey background, Sears smiles on our faces. A happy family.

One year I break tradition and appear with a Han Solo half-smile on my face, looking slightly deranged. But in the next year, and the next and the next, the old smile is firmly fixed in place. 

The photo is our idol, our talisman. It protects us against consequences. Consequences of arguments that turn into fights that turn into something twisted and toxic. Consequences of threatened abuse, of terror, of Terrible Secrets that we all ignore. Our mantras give the talisman power: “Well, at least he doesn’t beat me.” “At least none of our kids are on drugs.” “At least no one’s divorced in our family.” Like blood sacrifices to a thirsty god, we recite the “At Least” prayer to give the talisman power. Power to protect us against consequences.

I’m fourteen and the photo is nagging me. Someone’s missing from the family photo. I count the inhabitants of the frame. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. I must be wrong. I count again. Someone is missing. I can’t figure out who it is. Someone is missing—and I suddenly realize that someone is me.

No matter how many times I count the members of the happy family, I cannot find myself in the photo.

At least.

There are lesser photos, of course, like saints that intercede between us and the talisman god. Every festive occasion has candid and posed portraits. But these images allow some cracks to show: sullen teenage faces, cotton blouses with long sleeves, eyes filled with steely boredom. We call these “bad pictures” but we hold onto them nonetheless.

We no longer take family photos. Of course, there are the holiday pictures of grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, but there is no photo of the boys, the girls, mater, and pater. That talisman broke long ago. I can no longer recall if it shattered in one devastating blow or crumbled through neglect. I suspect it broke into pieces each time I spoke The Truth.

Improvisational Movement Theatre (IMT)

November 22, 2008

AKA Improvisational Story Theatre, 2007-present. Taught by the not-to-be-missed Nell Weatherwax. What the heck is IMT? Nell begins a summary with “You allow your body to remind you of a memory that leads to an image that becomes a story.” It’s performance art, but not the tedious, self-absorbed, angst-ridden sort (unless you like that sort of thing). As a performer, it’s one of the greatest creative highs you can have. Especially when performing with others! If you get a chance to take a class, go!