Thursday, April 30, 2009

How I Spent My Easter Vacation


This is a little late. but at least it's a post with photos, right?

As you know, I went to Boston for the Boston Burlesque Expo over Easter weekend. You know most of the story there. What you may not know is that I spent my Easter Sunday with my college pal, Andy. Andy has a theatre company in Cambridge. When he picked me up from the airport that Friday, we compared notes on our companies. Sunday was playtime.

As tired as I was from the competition and party the night before (more on that later), I still had a great time at Andy's annual Easter egg hunt. We hid eggs early in the afternoon and barbecued later. He said it was very competitive so we had to hide the eggs really well. So I started hiding them under smashed beer cans, inside the barbecue grill, in the opening of a 5-gallon water jug and under the drink mixer cups. The barbecue and party portion of the day were fun. I ate so much food. Andy burned a hole in the back porch because the coals were still hot and I guess he abandoned them for the party. It was fun. I wish I hadn't been so tired all day.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Turned Table

I rarely direct. I'm usually on the actor side of things. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to direct Andrew's latest play, Tracing Sonny, for Theatre Unleashed. As tends to happen with his work, I've known about the project from the start (2006) and have watched it grow into a full-length script that is at the last stages of workshopping, hitting the stage the first weekend of June.

It's no big secret that I love actors. I've learned so much from sitting in auditions as a reader, choreographer and producer. Something I've noticed as a director is that the audition is all business. The actors come in with perfectly polished monologues. Of course, they've spent lots of time with those monologues and should know every nuance from performing it so much. The audition is all about the game face. The actors keep their game faces on as they do their monologues and fumble through the cold readings, all very business-like. With all this business going on, it's a challenge to see the vulnerable artist and weigh how your creativity as the director will blend with theirs. But they tend to be pretty damn good at the audition.

Then you get into rehearsals. That's where you get to see the vulnerable artist. The actors don't have the same familiarity with the material that they have with their monologues. They make weak choices, wrong choices or no choices at all. They stumble through the words and do their best to connect the director's arbitrary blocking notes with the script. I'm not complaining; this is part of the process and I recognize this as both an actor and a director. The important thing is to give the actors the opportunity to find their way with the material so it's as familiar as those audition monologues. I know I have to give them the chance to get good, just like I want directors (and choreographers) to give me the chance to get good.

So if you find yourself in the position of director, choreographer, producer or supervisor, give the folks on your team a chance to get good. You brought them on for a reason, and chances are that they won't disappoint if you do your part to set them in the right direction and give them the space to make mistakes.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Convention

Yeah, I know I used it as an infinitive verb. I'm a genius so I'm allowed to make nouns into active verbs and create my own terms. :)

I've been to a couple dance conventions. Here are the things I recommend to anyone attending a dance convention, and these things are totally applicable to other conventions as well.
  1. Always have business cards on you. Give them to anyone who wants to know more about you, anyone you share more than a few words with, anyone who will take one. Don't be annoying about it, but have them ready. I have a business card case that I fill, and I carry a box with plenty of extras in my luggage.
  2. Always network. What I mean is make friends. I had trouble networking as an actor because I felt like a fake, like I was just supposed to talk to people with my industry goals in mind. I find that making genuine friendships is far better than just making connections. You have no idea where the next job is coming from and you don't want to seem needy or pushy. Just make friends with people, get to know them and you'd be surprised what can happen.
  3. Take all the classes, seminars, workshops you can. If there's a class offered at a convention, take it. I learned so much from the handful of classes I attended in Boston. Take advantage of the concentration of information that might not be available to you elsewhere.
  4. Be generous. Help people. Use good manners. No need to be pissy with people. Again, you have no idea where the next job is coming from.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

One Gram

I made a burlesque blog! Go check it out.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Push Button Excitement

I have a co-worker who called me with this idea that's supposed to make us both lots of money. It was a cell phone call so it cut out a couple times. I was also in the middle of something else when he called.

Bless his heart, he expected me to automatically be excited about this thing. It's something that involves me doing more work and getting more potential pay, but there's no agreement in writing and I've gotten the Joan Collins special before in situations like this.

I told him I'd probably get more excited if I could see it in writing. When you tell someone to put something in writing, it makes it more official. It proves that the originator cares enough about that thing to take the time to put pen to paper. It shows that there's some commitment to the idea. It also safeguards against Joan Collins specials regarding that thing. That's how to get push button excitement from me -- write it down.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Thought We Were Grown-Ups

I'm taking a ballet class this semester because I've always admired ballet. I took a semester in college ages ago, another six or eight weeks last spring, and now I'm back doing it again. Something happened yesterday in my class that embarrassed me greatly, and I wasn't even part of the incident. After one-third of the class straggled in after class started, a student argued with the teacher because someone cut her off in the floor work. Specifically, we get into groups when we do turns, jumps and large steps so we all have room to move without running into other dancers, and she was in one group and someone took her spot. This led to the teacher sitting us all down like children at the end of the class to lecture us on good behavior. Fortunately, I've been in dance classes weekly for over three years. I know what's expected and I behave like it.

This post is for those who just plain don't know, need a refresher, or want some validation for doing it right.
  • Show up 15 minutes before class starts so you can warm yourself up. Even if the studio is locked or occupied, you can do some stretches while you wait. It also shows the class is important to you.
  • Give other dancers space. Don't move in front of someone when you can already see yourself in the mirror. Don't crowd up on other dancers. Make room to accommodate people where you can.
  • Help others without stealing the focus of the class if you can. Sometimes students catch on slower than the teacher teaches. When appropriate, help them get the moves down.
  • Dress for the class. The teacher should be able to easily see how your body is moving and correct it. Wear what is recommended for that particular style of dance. I had a jazz dance teacher who insisted we wear black tights for jazz class and said pink tights only for ballet. She had a reason.
  • Don't disrespect the teacher. If you have questions or concerns that don't have to do with what's being taught, don't be a damn drama queen and start to walk out because you were bumped from the second group. Deal with that later. When you disrespect the teacher, you disrespect your fellow classmates as well.
  • If you can't stand the heat, get the hell out. If you don't like a teacher, don't want to put in the work to get it right, or hate everyone else in the class, go do something else.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's Snood With Me


The great thing about conventions is the gathering of vendors in one place with merchandise geared to a specific public. There was a lot of cool stuff at this convention but I didn't have the time to go back and buy everything that caught my eye.

The one thing I was sure to pick up was a snood. I've wanted a snood for some time, especially since I've been sporting the vintage 'do at so many shows. There are several things great about the snood I bought. It's handmade. It was only $15. It also cradled my curls from the time I took out the hot rollers until I was in costume and ready to head for the stage, keeping those curls intact. I highly recommend you get yourself a snood if you can.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Competition Lowdown

I know those of you playing along at home want to know how the Boston competition went. Neither of us Los Angelenos brought home a prize. However, it was a great learning experience. Here's what I learned, in hopes that my experiences will help others be more prepared:
  • Focus more on the love of performing than the competition. I was more concerned about making a good impression for my city than I was just having fun. I know I'm a better performer when I just play. The act was the tightest it's ever been and I'm proud of my performance, but it wasn't the same kind of joy as hitting the local stage and that's because I had attention on being judged. Fellow performers, if you take this point to heart and apply it fully to your own lives then your competition performances will be more fulfilling.
  • Watch as much of the show as possible. The venue was a little strange -- the green room was a partitioned part of the ballroom and we had to walk through the kitchen hallway to get backstage to enter the ballroom to perform. It was a great venue, but it was tricky for me to watch most of the show. I wound up checking off performers on the lineup so we all knew where we were in the show since we couldn't hear terribly well in the green room. I'd pop out to watch a number or part of a number but I didn't get to see many of my competitors. We had to be backstage and ready to go on three numbers before our own and we couldn't watch from backstage. I saw a few things in dress rehearsal, maybe three complete acts and a handful of glances at other acts.
  • Be cordial and helpful to everyone. I didn't have a problem here, but I did see a little crabbiness at fellow performers. You never know where the next job will come from, and you don't want to look like a suck up when you're crabby with someone before they win and fawning over them after they win.
  • Celebrate the wins of the competition -- those of others and your own. A really delightful troupe that invited me to perform in their own festival won. I was so happy for them because their number was great. (I saw that one in dress rehearsal.) Another act I saw in dress rehearsal and got to see in the show won a title, and I was sure to congratulate them. I didn't get to see all of the winning acts but what I did see was great. I also had my own wins. I performed for a nice-sized crowd in a non-bar setting with real lighting on a real stage. I did my first competition and didn't screw up. I got to dance for a beloved teacher from New York and a dear friend from college. And I got to dance for a whole group of potential new fans.
All in all, it was a good competition experience for me. While it would've been nice to come home with a prize, I still had some good wins and realizations.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Waiting

My plane is delayed. I hurried to get here just to wait. I managed to get everything packed in time. I even had dinner before I left. Of course, it would've been nice to hang out on the couch a few more minutes before leaving.

I did a short play Saturday, theatre meetings Sunday, and a show Monday. I got sick Monday night. I had theatre meetings, a play reading and a fever Tuesday night. I booked a show last minute for last night. I'm still coughing and have lizard skin on the sides of my nose from the drainage, but I'm well enough to compete. I hope to get some sleep on the plane because it's going to be a full weekend.

Quick

I'm packing for Boston, flight is tonight. Too much to do before I go, but I promise to dance my butt off.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

One Day Play Festival

Our little project from last year, Theatre Unleashed, had its first birthday as a corporation this week. To celebrate, we held a one day play festival. At 7 pm Friday night, four writers got topics for short plays along with boy-girl ratios. Their scripts were ready at 10 am yesterday. Then four directors got those scripts and drew for cast members from envelopes. At 10:30 am we began rehearsing and we put the shows up at 11 pm last night. We took lunch and dinner breaks so our brains didn't totally turn to mush.

I was one of the actors. It was interesting to go through the entire cycle of rehearsing and putting up a play in a little more than twelve hours, four and a half of which were used for meal breaks. My name was drawn by Susie Myrvold, a friend of Theatre Unleashed who has directed for us before. I was paired up with Lauren, a friend who has done a few shows with me so we didn't have to g0 through that awkward 'getting to know you' phase of rehearsal with each other. The script, by Carolyn Morse, was about a lady with Altzheimer's having a birthday. We read through the play a couple times, Susie decided how to cast us, and then we set to learning lines.

I have a certain way of learning lines that involves going over the material many times and seeing what I retain. I learned something new from Susie. She had us go line by line and learn them that way. Lauren would learn her line, I'd learn mine and we'd meet in the middle. We'd then go back and cover the full page we'd learned, then pick up the page before and the current page. With the big speeches, she'd have us start with the last line first, then pick up the preceding sentence and so on. It was very effective. We had our seven pages memorized in an hour.

We came back after lunch and started solidifying our blocking and working with props. We pulled the show that was prop heavy out of the four plays. We worked on our character relationships and ran the show over and over, tidying up more each time. Susie is a very gentle and validating director, so that made the day go very smooth. We ran the show twice in the theatre before breaking for dinner.

The show went up at 11 pm last night after our mainstage show. All four shows were great. It was amazing how fast everything came together. We got home close to 2 am and passed out. I was so productive all day that I forgot about everything else.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Hot Off the Press

The 2010 L.A. Burlesque calendar is ready! Huzzah! Of course, this is all I've seen.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wetness


We went to Disneyland yesterday since my school had a holiday. We're getting close to a bunch of blackout dates with our season passes, so we took the opportunity to get our fix. With the weather warming up, we were finally able to hit Splash Mountain without fear of shivering to death.

We hit the ride as soon as we arrived at the park, close to 1 pm. Since it was the middle of the day and the sun was shining bright, we stood in line for just over an hour to ride. The family of five in line before us had one of the young ones chicken out at the last minute, meaning I was ushered to the front of the boat. The first drop soaked me down to my undies, and I got some log ride wash in my mouth. I looked like a raccoon since I wore mascara to the office earlier in the day. Andrew was barely wet and he was the one who has wanted to ride Splash Mountain the past three times we've gone to the park.

Alas, I got my revenge. Cresting the big drop, I shouted out "This isn't fair!" Then I ducked as we hit the water at the bottom. This means Andrew got a face full of log ride wash. Aaaaaah.

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