Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dracula quote list

In which our Diva records the lighter backstage side of her last theatrical endeavor

Missing my Dracula peeps tonight. It really was one of those special casts. And how can you not miss people who say stuff like this...

Dracula Quote List
GreenMan Theatre Troupe, Fall 2008

You're like his pocket Vixens.
-- That's the only time I've ever been referred to as anyone's pocket anything.

The necks on her mark are gone!

Can I have both of them?

What'd you bring us from England, Daddy?

But you've mastered your fear. Jedi vampire.

You are for the ages.
-- He says that to all the girls.

I have experience stripping people that fast.
-- I heard that about you.

Be right with you, Sewie.
-- Soo-ee!

The complacent man!

I see. A gift from an ancient enemy.
-- *beat* Yes. It is.

Vampire domestic violence yay!

Don't worry. You're perfectly sane here.

So it is a cross in his pocket.
-- And he's not at all happy to see her.

Get used to that sofa, Jonathan.

I seen it with mine own toon eyes!

I am not... going to... keep talking.

You're probably gonna give him a creepy stare. And then you'll run away like a little bitch.

Stunt Lucy!

In the name of the Father.
-- *silence*
-- And of the Son.
-- *silence*
-- And of the Holy Ghost.
-- *beat* Oh, I'm sorry. *unholy shriek*

I just call it his bag of tricks. God knows what he's got in there. Van Helsing and his bong.

There's a clown loose in this room with a knife!
-- Disguised as a pen!

That is disturbing.
-- Jonathan "Hara-Kiri" Harker.

You ought to talk to Bluebeard about that locking-us-up thing. It never ends well.

Crash. Bang. Lighting effect.

Wow. You have read ALL of the Sparkle!Crack. I applaud you.

I don't do body fluids.
-- And yet you're in this show.

Every time I do this, I injure you.

I mean, he can just use his Jedi mind trick, and there goes the door.

NOOOOOOOO!! ... Sorry.

Maybe it's sort of crablike.
-- We're going to be everything in the animal kingdom by the time this show is done.

Have not his outbursts coincided with Miss Lucy's... whatever?

There we shall cut off her head and stuff her mouth with garlic.
-- How about driving a stake through her heart first?
-- THEN we will cut off her head and stuff her mouth with garlic.
-- There's no garlic.
-- Do you want some garlic bread?

The tools, Mr. Harker!
-- Power drill.

Now you can procure a ship, Seward.
-- I'll procure a ship and... be a sailor. Line.

I wear the pants in this relationship.
-- Which makes us the garter belt.

And you must be... Mmmmmmina. *squeak* I suck!

I have baby in my hair.

Let's take it from the Seward toss.

Go, Christina!
-- Now we know what this show is about.
-- Where's the riding crop?

So, Mina, we'll hook you up to nobody here. It's a magic transfusion.

He's just a wanton toddler with a violin.

I knew there would be a place for me in your kingdom, a holy *kak*.

It's like I'm catching you and throwing you, all with one hand.
-- Catch and release.

That can't be right. I haven't been to Budapest.

You've got a soup bowl there.
-- I do?
-- The big gold thing.
-- I thought it was a chamberpot.

With what power do you lure the living shit?

Is that what happens? You die, go to heaven, and become a Vixen?

Let's hope you're down in there, so I can go without going.
-- Go without going. Let's not pursue that thought too far.

I wanna bite you.
-- Please?

Can I have some crypt movers?

I'm having fang envy. Yours are bigger than mine.

No more projectile fang incidents!

You mean you don't have three hands?
-- I could do it with my foot. Then we'll see how coordinated I am.
-- It's like rubbing your tummy and patting your head.
-- And chewing gum.

Does she look naked to you?
-- Not naked enough.

There's going to be stuff in that rat. Try not to get it in your eyes.

It's as close to real blood as you can get and still be edible.
-- Real blood is edible.

What flavor are they?
-- Christ-flavored.
-- I can't believe it's not Christ.

And the Vixens give "baby wipes" a whole new meaning.

Can you try to stand steady while the cross is burning?

I feel like we're giving blood. Except I don't get a cookie, dammit!

I'm singing lullabies to the tortillas. That's really all I can do.

Welcome! I am pantsless! *evil laugh*

I give you full permission to do whatever you want. And I don't say that to many men.

I can store everything in here. It's the breast place for it.

There's a whole new meaning to "sucking chest wound."
-- It's more licking.
-- Slurping.

You let someone see your ass?
-- I let him touch it. I didn't let him see it.

You are weak now, but here is roofies.

She can slip me anything she wants.

Who am I kidding? I'm the most anti-deadpan guy I know.
-- Are you undeadpan?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Elgin Opera Festival of Singers is back!

In which our Diva is once again singing for her supper

Every Sunday in December, 6-8 pm, Villa Verone Ristorante Italiano 13 Douglas Avenue in downtown Elgin.

Come out and enjoy a great Italian meal and classics of opera, Broadway and the holiday season with artists of Elgin OPERA. No cover, but reservations are recommended - call (847) 742-0263.

I'll be missing next Sunday, the 14th, but will be performing at the rest, as well as emceeing on the 21st.

Great food, great music... What more could you want?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Random tidbits of Hollywood Midwest

In which our Diva's illustrious movie career moves a step up the ladder with Cyrus

In no particular order:

  • Patricia Belcher is down-to-earth, professional, and an all-around class act. I am now officially a fan, and am privileged to have spent a day on set eating stone cold hamburgers with her.
  • I know "interior" does not necessarily preclude "freezing frickin' cold." I KNOW this. Next time I neglect to pack longjohns? Shoot me.
  • SAG "ultra low budget" (which has a specific definition that determines requirements for pay levels, how many non-union actors you can employ, etc.) is still "way more resources than almost anything else I've ever been in." Which is just...so much less stressful a way to work, I can't even begin to tell you. For a zillion little completely practical reasons. I could totally get used to working in that sort of environment, lemme tell ya. I don't need some big wasteful blockbuster loaded with superstars with a zillion frivolous riders on their contracts. Just a nice professional set with a good day's work to do.
  • Favorite moment: Brian Krause (who was directing second unit while I was there; he plays the title character in the present day) bounding into the talent trailer announcing "I just made a hamburger on camera!" Which was immensely cool because "usually they hand you the stuff already done, but I don't think I ever actually put food together on camera before. This is so going on my reel!" (I, of course, was thinking "Well, maybe if Piper hadn't been quite so possessive of her kitchen..." Because I pride myself on my professionalism, but I will never not be a geek on the inside.)
  • Runner-up favorite moment: While getting my makeup done, listening to a conversation between an assistant director and the SFX makeup guy that started with "We need to kill someone with a pitchfork," and wended its way through "All the extras want to get killed." -- "Wouldn't you?" to "One guy wants to be decapitated" and everyone in the trailer cracking up. Yes, there are limits to the magic, folks, at least on location on the spur of the moment. Sad but true.
  • I missed Lance Henriksen by about three hours, which makes me sad. My current wishlist involves some sort of premiere party where I will get to shake his hand and think "Dude, I am IN A MOVIE WITH LANCE HENRIKSEN." Because that's just not going to stop being cool anytime soon.
  • Though of course the people I actually worked with are no less cool, cast and crew alike, and I would work with any of them again in a heartbeat under pretty much any circumstances. I wish it had been for more than one shooting day!
  • Joel Castleberg is, like, the complete opposite of the Hollywood producer stereotype. He was right out there with us in the cold, always upbeat and personable and just plain nice.
  • When I took my leave of the wrap party (which, judging by the pictures, I'm really sorry to have missed most of on account of having to drive back early the next day), the director, Mark Vadik, thanked me for "making my job easy." Considering the company I was in, I can't think of anything better for him to have said. If there's anything I want to get a reputation for, that's it: I do my job, do it well, and don't create bumps in the road to getting the day in the can. That's the thing that will get me hired again, and just incidentally the way I actually enjoy working all day. And his saying that helps me believe this wasn't just a fluke, and motivates me to keep putting myself out there for more and better.

There's probably stuff I'm forgetting, but mostly I'm just happy to have felt so at home and felt like I did decent work. It just felt like the right place to be working. I learned so so much, but wasn't so green I didn't belong. It was perfect.

Dear Universe: More, please?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Requiem for a dreamer

In which our Diva remembers a friend gone too soon, and refuses to gnash her teeth

Penguins and Johnny Cash. La Femme Nikita and Britney Spears. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Facts of Life theme. Abby's eccentric body of fannish music videos certainly doesn't say everything about her by any means, but somehow it seems like the right place to start.
I'm not the first to say I don't remember for sure when I first met her in person, though I'm fairly sure it was before MediaWest*Con in '98, with her attitude-dripping Cordy impersonation in our Buffy skit for the masquerade, and the chorus of beep beep beeps warning bystanders every time she backed up her chair. If that was the first time, it didn't feel like it, as so often happened with Sunnydale Slayers or FORKNI-L folks. As Merlin Missy so eloquently reminds us in her newest column, the bonds in the fandom community are about far, far more than our shared love of a show or book series or movie.

I don't remember the name of the author or the book that introduced the notion of modern Western women forming "tribes," or which of the Horsechicks of the Apocalypse pointed it out as applying to us. My "tribe" is around the intersection of college friends, fandom, and acting, with the Horsechicks a solid chunk of it. When apocalyptic designations were being claimed (I'm still not sure how I got away with Madness all to myself!), Abby dubbed herself the Stable Girl. And for all that she was rightfully known for her wicked and wacky humor, occasionally leading to the nickname being altered to (Un)Stable Girl, she was about as stable as it got. That sense of perspective -- not that the "little things" never bothered her, or that she didn't gripe about them once in a while, but she knew how to keep them in their place. As an old Reader's Digest anecdote I dimly remember put it, she knew the difference between a problem and an inconvenience. (Check out the articles she and her mom wrote following the Apocalypse that descended upon Las Vegas to celebrate the 30th birthday everyone once assumed she'd never see.) And a problem had to be a real problem to qualify, and the inconveniences just weren't worth energy that was better spent elsewhere. We should all be so wise.

That double meaning of "Stable Girl" led to a ridiculous mental cartoon image I've had for years, of the whole giggling gaggle of us piled in an inverted human pyramid on her chair, careening through an unsuspecting crowd, possibly in the dealer's room at a con. (It's only the number of passengers that's ridiculous in that scenario. Just ask Perri.)

Like others, I see her now, standing tall, striding strong, dancing as she always dreamed. But I have to think she also has the fastest, most maneuverable, most badass hot-rod of a power chair EVER to play with sometimes. Just for fun. And an excuse to beep.

"And then Teal'c took off his shirt."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Character whiplash

In which our Diva is back from the wild hinterlands of Hollywood Midwest and really freakin tired

Timing worked out. Hair is purple. Two very different characters in three days are in the can, w00t!!

And I am off to collapse on the couch now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Staying a step ahead of circumstance

In which our Diva is grateful to be of an adaptable nature

Weird, weird week, driven mostly by two different shifts in the Cyrus shooting schedule. The second of which (due to a late-breaking emergency for an actor being flown out from LA) occurred too late for me not to drive to Michigan on Monday afternoon. Ah, well. At least I got to meet pretty much everybody, including the guy playing the younger version of Brian Krause in my scene, so I'll feel that much more at home when I go back to actually shoot on Saturday. That's more valuable than it might be in circumstances where the crew haven't already been there for almost a month, and most of the other actors still there have been for a week or two.

So, no stories yet, except that the motel is oldish and cheapish and really freakin cold -- it took my room several hours to warm up the other night with the heat on full blast! The people running it are nice, though, and seem to be having fun with the outpost of Hollywood Midwest that has essentially taken over their second floor. The town is also smallish, but as it has actual businesses and stoplights, I'm trying not to snicker aloud at a few dyed-in-the-wool city folks who are fairly convinced they have been consigned to Hell. (They're mistaken; it's actually a fair bit east and a little north of our location.)

Meanwhile, one of my zillion recent auditions got instant gratification -- I was the last person reading last Saturday for a student film at Columbia College, and the guy offered me the role on the spot! It's a punk girl grieving for her boyfriend, and I was actually kinda looking forward to having purple hair for a couple weeks. With the schedule shift, though, it's looking like we might need to downshift to clip-in extensions, because various people's schedules may result in my shooting one short scene Friday morning before I head back to Michigan. And Tanny is not the purple hair type, to say the least. I'm jazzed about filming as such radically different characters so close together, but wasn't banking on it being quite such a game of Schedule Tetris! %-}

Monday, November 17, 2008

A brief observation...

...from the wild hinterlands of Hollywood Midwest:

I love an environment where "I have to go make blood" is a perfectly sensible statement.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

REEEEEEEEEPO-Man!

In which our Diva waxes long and spoilery, and demonstrates that she should probably not be permitted to meta on insufficient sleep

Thumbnail checklist...

Characters: Appealing and/or interesting
Performances: Excellent (yes, including Paris Hilton)
Music: Solid
Lyrics: Straightforward but mostly uninspired
Thematic resonances: Many and potentially rich for mining
Narrative structure: Problematic
Visuals: Yum
Overall: Flawed but worthy achievement. Worth seeing.

The long and spoilery version...


Running on 3 1/2 hours of sleep. Totally worth it. With the caveat that it's a bit more thanks the the "event" atmosphere at the Music Box last night than to Repo! The Genetic Opera itself. Needless to say, the "Repo Army" were out in force, with a number of well-done costumes, including one Repo Man, and it was just a fun atmosphere from the start.

The movie is far from perfect, but by no means a waste of time. In the cold light of morning, it struck me that I'm reacting to it like a workshop performance of a show with a lot of exciting potential, but which still needs some serious work to get there. Which is a deeply weird way to respond to a movie, and certainly not applicable if they do achieve a wider release, but I think it might be the optimal way to approach it. Like, "this is an experiment, let's see how they do." I'm actually more curious to see how these guys and/or others might build on the results than excited about Repo itself.

That said, there is a lot to like. The comic-book intros were beautifully done and well integrated, though I think the first one might be a bit overlong. It set the tone for the broadly archetypal characters and plot elements. Which are also definitely the most genuinely operatic aspect of the whole thing, even more so than the fact that it's through-sung.

Which I need to take a moment to appreciate. Yes, Virginia, recitative will play in a movie, and someone finally proved it. That was one of my cardinal annoyances with both PotO and Rent -- that the former forced the actors to speak big chunks of lyrics awkwardly over the orchestration, and the latter converted them to straight dialogue.

That said, I really wish the lyrics for the full-out numbers had been stronger. There are a few flashes of poetry, but for the most part, they're literal and straightforward, often to the point of going *thud* when the music and the passion of the performance isn't quite enough to carry them. Which, to be fair, is also not an uncommon trait of opera -- heaven knows some of the texts I've sung were not the most scintillating poetry, in or out of the original language. And of course it's equally attributable to the punk portion of the score's colorful pedigree, but even punk has poetry, at least at its best. There are also a couple numbers, most notably "Chase the Morning," that never quite get developed into fully fledged songs and deserve to.

Be prepared for stylistic whiplash. The veer into full-throttle camp with the first appearance of Largo's obnoxious children, and the continued over-the-topness of those characters, is jarring as hell, as is the suddenness of Shilo's fantasy sequence (complete with Joan Jett backing her up!) on "Seventeen." I did eventually get used to the gear switches, but never enough that it didn't feel a bit patchworky at all times. Which is the price of their very deliberate eclecticism (as Darren Bousman put it at the Q&A afterward, "Sarah Brightman and Ogre in the same room! Who expects that?"). I think the transitions could have been smoother, but there appears to have been a conscious choice for them not to be. I respect that, but don't entirely agree.

The singing is pretty uniformly strong, with Anthony Stewart Head (unsurprisingly) rather handily walking off with the thing. He rips through his numbers with more power than I think I've ever heard from him before, and the flips from overprotective dad to vicious eviscerating monster are nothing short of stunning. Terrance Zdunich (also one of the writers) runs a very close second as the Grave Robber, a Greek-chorus sort of character with buckets of charisma and a passing resemblance to RiffRaff in RHPS.

Speaking of evisceration... Somewhat to my surprise, this is not a horror movie. Even a hybridized one, really. It is, however, a brutally violent dystopia, and has its share of gore, though actually not as much as I expected. And the effects, while undeniably gross at times, are just this side of truly realistic. It's like a top-notch haunted house -- the props are very detailed and gooey, but all the while you're thinking "the body doesn't work that way" and are close up enough to tell they're not the real thing. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find out most or all of the assorted body parts were purchased ready-made in a Halloween store. (Given that the whole thing was made for $7M, and Bousman specifically stated in the Q&A that all the costumes were either bought ready-made or provided by the actors, it actually seems pretty likely.)

It fits in well with the unapologetic theatricality of the whole enterprise, really -- it's like Baz Luhrmann's "Red Curtain," but (artfully) torn and bloodied.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Best cast prezzie EVER

Our Lucy's hubby drew this masterpiece, and everyone got a copy on closing night:



It would take me DAYS to explain all the in-jokes. Suffice it to say we were all helpless with laughter for quite a few minutes when they were given out.

(If you didn't already guess, I'm represented in the bottom left corner.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

When you're hot...

In which our Diva ponders her sudden apparent popularity, but certainly isn't complaining

Overall, I'd estimate I get asked to audition for about 10% of the projects I submit for.

In the last three days, I've submitted on a dozen or so, and have now been asked to audition for four of them.

I suspect this is because we're getting about a dozen replacement windows installed next week, and need to find time to move a bunch of furniture around, including large bookcases. And people think the Universe doesn't have a sense of humor!

Meanwhile, don't forget the final weekend of Dracula at GreenMan Theatre! Special Halloween curtain time tonight at 9 pm...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Multitasking, Diva-style

In which our Diva does double duty as vampire and opera singer, and hopes the traffic gods will smile upon her

Heads-up to anyone planning to come to Dracula today: I'll be ducking out before curtain call to change like the wind and book it back to Elgin in time to sing at Elgin OPERA's annual benefit dinner.

Count this as my "Thanks for coming!" and a raincheck for hanging out another day...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vamping it up in Elmhurst - don't miss it!


In which our Diva is opening TOMORROW!


GreenMan Theatre Troupe is set to open “Dracula” at First United Methodist Church in Elmhurst. The production opens Oct 17 and runs for three weekends. Tickets are still available, but seating is limited for this popular show, so make your reservations now. “Dracula” is the first show of GreenMan’s 2008-2009 season. Performances start at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, 3 pm on Sunday. There is a special ‘late night’ start time of 9 pm on Fri, Oct 31. The First United Methodist Church is located at 232 S. York Rd. Parking is free. Tickets for “Dracula” are available by calling GreenMan at 630-464-2646 or visiting the theatre’s website at http://www.greenmantheatre.com/. There will be post-show discussion with the actors after the Sunday Oct 26th performance.

“Dracula” is the classic Bram Stoker tale, pitting the lead vampire against Van Helsing, Harker and Dr. Seward, as they attempt to prevent Lucy and Mina from falling prey to the Count. Steven Dietz’s script also includes the lunatic Renfield, a patient of Dr. Seward’s, who finds a way to help the vampire. Fans of the book will be sure to recognize many key scenes from the novel. GreenMan’s production team has transformed the intimate space at the Methodist Church into a flexible stage to take the audience on an exciting journey to London and Transylvania. Due to the nature of the story, the production is not recommended for anyone under 12. For more information about “Dracula” call the theatre box office at 630-464-2646.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drac's Angels

It started with "What did you bring us from England, Daddy?" and got sillier from there...



Three days to opening -- don't miss it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"...adequately serpentine but not altogether gorgeous"


In which our Diva is giggling like a giggly thing

Over on LiveJournal, the ever-resourceful angevin2 has posted some notes given by Sir John Gielgud to the cast of his 1964 production of Hamlet.

They make way more sense than many notes I have been given in my time, and are altogether hilarious.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Festival of Singers - LAST CHANCE!

Chicagoland peeps! Come on out to Villa Verone (13 Douglas Avenue in downtown Elgin) from 6-8 TONIGHT, September 28, for the final installment of Elgin Opera's Festival of Singers! Beautiful singing, scrumptious Italian food, a casual atmosphere and no cover -- what more could you want?

LOLfangs!

In which our Diva is having entirely too much fun in her current show

Y'know how I mentioned the other day that this cast has an unusually high geek quotient? Well, we can add Jonathan Harker LOLcapping some of the promo photos to the list of evidence...

(click to embiggen)











Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fun with the undead

I just booked a voiceover gig for animated zombies this Saturday. *beat* Err, animated as in cartoon, not as in REanimated. That would be redundant. As I understand it, the overall project is a computer game of some sort, but the scenes are hilarious on their own.

Meanwhile, over in The Land of Vampire Domestic Violence Transylvania, the Vixens are spending far too much time off to the side giggling amongst ourselves. No good can come of this. Mark my words, and watch this space...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dracula promo photos and other fun


Ported the selection from GreenMan's Facebook group over to MySpace here. (My profile is set public, so you shouldn't have any trouble.) And the GreenMan website has been updated with some more.

We have a great cast, and are having a great time. Not least because of the unusually high geek quotient: Mina does SF and horror reviews and interviews for online video and radio, Lucy is a LARPer and costumer, Seward and Van Helsing are having an ongoing comic T-shirt duel, and pretty much everyone has participated in breaktime discussions on comics, Star Wars, and LotR topics.

Poor Drac got a quick-and-dirty fang fitting for the photo call -- not what will be worn for the show! -- which led to a forlorn and murky "How are you guys doing that?" when Lucy and I were chatting merrily away because we had each brought our own. I'm sure she's had as much practice as I have with articulating more on the tip of the tongue (not that the suggestion meshes well with the dialect he's still refining), but I also reassured him that he shouldn't have to deal with as much stuff behind his teeth as he had that day. One of those things you don't think about until you have to do it! You'll often run into people who say "Oh, this is how they do it for the movies." Which sounds fine and dandy, until you remember that pretty much all the dialogue you hear when someone is vamped out onscreen was done in ADR. We, er, don't have that option in live theatre. It's a bit more of a challenge! :-)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And another horror classic heard from...

In which our Diva continues to approve of Chicago theatre getting into the Halloween spirit nice and early

Just got an email on this one... Chicago peeps? If I can figure it out around Dracula and opera schedules, this one might have to be a group outing. What say you?

Will Act For Food is frighteningly pleased to announce our upcoming
fall production, Clive Barker's Frankenstein in Love.

Just in time for the Halloween season, Will Act For Food is thrilled and, yes, a little terrified to be bringing this play to Chicago.

Revolution and chaos.
Monsters and mutants.
Good and evil.
Life and death.
Blood and guts.

A heart-wrenching love story.
Literally.

Want the gory details?

Frankenstein in Love by Clive Barker
A Will Act For Food production
Directed by Gregory Gerhard
At Chemically Imbalanced Theater, 1420 W. Irving Park
September 25- November 1
Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30PM
$18 general admission
$15 with nonperishable food donation (you won't have much of an appetite
anyway)
$10 Students/Seniors

For reservations, please call 773-327-9725 or visit http://www.willactforfood.com/
All food raised will benefit Lakeview Pantry, Will Act For Food's partner in community service.

Don't be scared. Come see us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dracula Does Chicagoland (now in at least four flavors!)

In which our Diva flies her fang-geek flag

Not that they don't spring up like mushrooms this time every year, but (a) the variety of adaptations on the local theatre scene this year seems unusual, though that may be simply because (b) I have connections to three out of the four I know about.

  • The Building Stage (9/18 - 10/18) opens first, and is also the only one to which I have no connection. Original adaptation. I'm always skeptical of the Drac-as-misunderstood-hero angle, but the multimedia approach sounds promising. I've been curious about it since I saw the audition notice a couple months back -- this seems to be another group joining the burgeoning physicality-heavy theatre scene, which has been rapidly gaining traction with the success of companies like the House and Lookingglass. I've been watching the trend with no little interest, and it would not displease me in the least to see it become as identified with Chicago as improv is.
  • Theatre-Hikes (9/27 - 10/26) is where I did Shrew this summer. It's TheGodawfulHamiltonDeanePlay, but I have faith in Frank's ability to make something watchable out of it, and actually suspect that the hike format will ameliorate some of my structural gripes with that script. Also, there is no such thing as a bad reason to spend a couple hours in the amazingly gorgeous Morton Arboretum.
  • First Folio Shakespeare Festival (10/1 - 11/2) has opted for The Passion of Dracula, a tongue-in-cheek take that premiered in the late 70s. I've read it once, years ago, but never seen it produced. Tricky script -- either too much camp or too much seriousness will smash it flat. I haven't actually seen anything Alison Vesely has directed, but I've heard good things about how she handles Shakespeare comedy, which implies she knows how to trust the text. So it should be fun. Plus their Mina is a friend of mine from a couple past shows, and they're about ten minutes from Office of Doom (in the opposite direction from the next one on the list).
  • Last but of course not least, GreenMan Theatre (10/17 - 11/2) takes on Steven Dietz's 1995 adaptation, which I like more every time I read it. And you'll all be sick of hearing about my Fun With Trying To Eat Jonathan Harker soon enough, so I'll leave it there. *g*

Thursday, September 4, 2008

All systems go

In which our Diva loves theatre people who know what they're doing

If this show turns out half as awesome as what the director has in mind? We are gonna knock some serious socks off.

And from what I've seen/heard about their previous shows, and how solid the production staff seems to be, it's gonna be that awesome. I've been in my share of shows where the vision was fabulous but just couldn't be realized because the tech and admin support weren't there. All indications thus far are that these folks do not have that problem. Hallelujah.

Costume designer to Vixens at last night's rehearsal: "You guys are sex." *cackle* Doesn't get much more succinct than that...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sometimes a girl just has to vamp it up

In which our Diva loves Halloween in theatre-land

Just accepted an offer from GreenMan Theatre Troupe to double as a bride (or, as this particular playwright has dubbed them, "vixen") and sanatorium staffer in their Dracula. Mina or Lucy would have been nice, of course (Mina remains on my short list of all-time favorite literary heroines), but all in all it looks like it's going to be a blast. First off, just from what he said at auditions, I really like how the director thinks. And it's the Steven Dietz adapation, which I've heard pretty much all positive things about -- definitely liked the bits I read, and approve wholeheartedly of how he handles the ending. Vastly superior to TheGodawfulHamiltonDeanePlay (yes, that's been all one word in my head for many years). Throw in fun movement stuff ('cause, y'know, bride) and I think I'm going to enjoy my fall.

Bonus: rehearsals and performances are conveniently about five minutes from Office of Doom. Of course, there's also two hours between the end of the business day and the start of rehearsal, which is just exactly the right amount of time to make it pointless to go home. But I can hang out at Panera or Barnes & Noble with my shiny new wee!baby!laptop and maybe actually get some writing done, so it's all good.

Crossing my fingers that the fall opera benefit on October 26 isn't too early in the evening, as I'll have a 3pm matinee that day. I hated having to miss last year's because of Horror Academy, and Solange wants me to do "This Place Is Mine" as a parody of her. Gotta love an artistic director with a sense of humor. :-D

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why did the redheaded soprano cross the road?

To get away from Larry's emcee jokes. But we love him anyway. ;-)

From this past Sunday at Villa Verone...

Moonfall (978K mp3)

This Place Is Mine (1.5M mp3)

How Glory Goes (1.4M mp3)

I won't be there this coming Sunday because I'm going to see Shrew that day -- really need to do it once before going on as understudy next weekend, and Saturday is out due to an audition. Next up for me is September 7. But don't let that stop you from enjoying great music and great Italian food, every Sunday evening through September!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chicago Tribune Online video piece on World of Faeries

In which our Diva is briefly visible in a winged purple form

I was going to be all fancy and imbed it, but their code is a bit annoying and I don't want their commercial starting automatically on my main blog page, thanks. So I'll link to it instead.

Hoping to have pictures soon. I had spirit gum in the crevices of my ears for two days, man. And the gig paid, but not that well. I deserve good pictures!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chopped liver

In which our Diva experiences the occupational hazard of feeling a teensy bit dissed

Well.

Nothing like doing what you think is a pretty darn respectable audition on Saturday...and then seeing what's clearly the same role reposted by the same people on Monday.

Subtle, guys. :-P

Normally I'm good at the "treat it like a performance and let it go" thing, but this makes it a bit of a challenge. Bah.

On a happier note, we were collectively on at Villa Verone last night, and I got some great comments on "How Glory Goes" in particular. I know for a fact that I do not suck. So there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Singing for my supper

I bolluxed the recording on "My True Love" this past Sunday, which is a shame, because it was probably the best I've ever done it. Plus the new arrangement of the restaurant has reduced the background noise a lot (although there is still the occasional "Ah, they're shaking something with ice at the bar" -- gonna see if I can find a quieter corner this week). Ah, well. I did get the other two, with the usual So Not A Professional Recording caveats...

How Could I Ever Know (1.1MB mp3)
The Simple Joys of Maidenhood (1.7MB mp3)

Program for this Sunday (August 17):

  • Annamarie Schutt (South Elgin)
    Once Upon a Dream (from Sleeping Beauty) - Lawrence
  • Valerie Meachum (Elgin)
    Moonfall (from The Mystery of Edwin Drood) - Holmes
  • Meghan Smeenge (Elgin)
    Memory (from Cats) - Webber
  • Paula Mrazek (Cary)
    Why Can't You Behave? (from Kiss Me, Kate) - Porter
  • Dave Carmona (Roselle)
    Canta pe' me - De Curtis
  • Anne Dolik (Arlington Heights)
    Dank sei Dir, Herr - Ochs
  • Laura Doherty (Roselle)
    How Could I Ever Know? (from The Secret Garden) - Simon
  • Sofia Fuentes (Chicago)
    Batti batti o bel masetto (from Don Giovanni) - Mozart
  • Victoria Narayan (Elgin)
    Without You (from My Fair Lady) - Loewe
  • Larry Brook (Elgin)
    'O sole mio! - Capua
  • Meghan Smeenge
    I Don't Know How To Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar) - Webber
  • Annamarie Schutt
    Tomorrow (from Annie) - Strouse
  • Dave Carmona
    Vesti la giubba (from I Pagliacci) - Leoncavallo
  • Valerie Meachum
    This Place is Mine (from Phantom) - Yeston
  • Paula Mrazek
    Habanera (from Carmen) - Bizet
  • Sofia Fuentes
    Poor Wand'ring One (from The Pirates of Penzance) - Sullivan
  • Laura Doherty
    Vanilla Ice Cream (from She Loves Me) - Bock
  • Anne Dolik
    So In Love (from Kiss Me, Kate) - Porter
  • Victoria Narayan
    Intorno all'idol mio - Cesti
  • Valerie Meachum
    How Glory Goes (from Floyd Collins) - Guettel
  • Sofia Fuentes
    Se tu ma'mi - Paristossi
  • Annamarie Schutt
    You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile (from Annie) - Strouse
  • Dave Carmona
    E lucevan le stele (from Tosca) - Puccini
  • Larry Brook & Paula Mrazek
    People will Say We're in Love (from Oklahoma!) - Rogers


I would be remiss in my shameless plugging if I didn't draw attention to two of the young singers on this week's roster. Annamarie is nine, and won the youngest division of our voice competition in the spring, but she's probably more excited about being a finalist in the Cubs "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" contest. Way. Too. Cute.

Victoria, meanwhile, is all of seventeen and already quite the artist, and was one of the singers selected from among the Opera Institute for Young Singers participants to perform on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in July. You can even watch the performance on their website -- it's listed under July 14 at their archive.

Come on out to Villa Verone from 6-8 this Sunday to enjoy great Italian food and the voices of Elgin OPERA!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Villa Verone program for this Sunday

In which our Diva sings out, Louise!

What:
Elgin OPERA and Villa Verone's Festival of Singers
When: Sundays through August, 6-8 pm
Where: Villa Verone, 13 Douglas Ave in downtown Elgin
Why: Great food and great music, what more could you want?
Pictured: Paula Mrazek rocks the "Habanera" from Carmen

Music, music, music...
  • Jim Hinton (Elgin)
    Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja (From Die Zauberflöte) - Mozart
  • Solange Sior (Elgin)
    Ebben? Ne andrò lontana (From La Wally) - Catalani
  • Valerie Meachum (Elgin)
    My True Love (From Phantom) - Yeston
  • Kimberly Albrecht (Barrington)
    Quando m'en vo (From La Bohème) - Puccini
  • Anne Dolik (Arlington Heights)
    Dank sei Dir, Herr - Ochs
  • Paula Mrazek (Cary)
    Why Can't You Behave? (From Kiss Me, Kate) - Porter
  • Annamarie Schutt (South Elgin)
    Once Upon a Dream (From Sleeping Beauty) - Lawrence
  • Larry Brook (Elgin) & Paula Mrazek
    People will Say We're in Love (From Oklahoma!) - Rodgers
  • Solange Sior
    Regnava nel Silenzio From Lucia di Lammermoor) - Donizetti
  • Jim Hinton
    Old Man River (From Show Boat) - Kern
  • Valerie Meachum
    The Simple Joys of Maidenhood (From Camelot) - Loewe
  • Kimberly Albrecht
    Mercè, dilette amiche (From I Vespri siciliani) - Verdi
  • Paula Mrazek
    Habanera (From Carmen) - Bizet
  • Anne Dolik
    So In Love (From Kiss Me, Kate) - Porter
  • Annamarie Schutt
    My Favorite Things (From The Sound of Music) - Rodgers
  • Marilyn Maurer (Winfield) & Paula Mrazek
    Sous le dome épais (From Lakmé) - Delibes
  • Jim Hinton
    Bella siccome un angelo (From Don Pasquale) - Donizetti
  • Valerie Meachum
    How Could I Ever Know? (From The Secret Garden) - Simon
  • Solange Sior
    Caro nome (From Rigoletto) - Verdi
  • Larry Brook & Kimberly Albrecht
    Time to Say Goodbye - Sartori

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well met by sunlight

In which our Diva has a full weekend ahead, outdoors and close to home

Friday: I'll be joining other singers from Elgin OPERA on the main stage at FoxFireFest on the banks of the scenic Fox River in downtown Elgin at 6 pm tomorrow evening.

Saturday and Sunday: What with Shrew taking up all my time and brain, I've barely mentioned it this year, but I am performing again this weekend at the World of Faeries festival in South Elgin. This is their fourth year, and it's shaping up into a fun outing. Quite an eclectic array of vendors, good music on the stage, and the street cast has tripled in size from last year with some fun and entertaining stuff planned. Yours truly is Larkspur, the flower-faery village crier and gossip-monger ('cause I gotta have news, even if it means making it up!).

Check out last year's highlights video, in which I wander through a couple times as the blonde lorelei blowing bubbles or playing my bamboo flute:



Local folks take note!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

They like me! They really like me!

In which our Diva wins a metric heap of stuff 'cause she likes to make pretty clothes

I'll probably pay for it in sleep over the next week in order to get everything done for Shrew, but taking a few days to drive over to the lovely city of Toronto for Polaris was well worth it for many reasons, not least to show off the "clockdroid" (based on the Doctor Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace") in a major competition. Not that I wasn't happy with the Best in Shows from two previous, much smaller events, but it's vaguely embarrassing when you're the only one in the Master division. In a jawdroppingly-well-run masquerade (kudos to Barbara Schofield and her crack organizational team!) that always attracts at least three or four Master-level competitors as well as the best and brightest of up-and-comers, it's a whole different ballgame.

So I was pretty stunned to walk away with Best in Show for workmanship and Best Master for the on-stage presentation, as well as one of two special awards from the International Costumer's Guild with an attending membership to next year's Costume-Con. I've been to one CC before, and picked up all kinds of nifty new techniques in various seminars, so I'm all kinds of stoked.

And now it's back to Padua.

(For those interested, my much more geeky-fangirl overview of the weekend is on my Livejournal here and here.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Great food, great music

Café Magdalena is now the newest location of Villa Verone, and Elgin OPERA will be back with the newly-christened Villa Verone Festival of Singers every Sunday in July and August from 6 to 8 p.m at 13 Douglas Ave in downtown Elgin.

Come on out and enjoy classics from opera and Broadway in a fun, intimate cabaret setting, with FABULOUS food and the best voices in town! (I'll be missing July 13, August 3, and August 31 due to other commitments, but there are plenty of other fantastic singers slated for those nights.)

No cover, though donations are, of course, always more than welcome. Check us out on the Downtown Elgin Top 10! The young lady in the picture is Madison, one of our children's chorus members and a frequent soloist at these evenings.

I'll look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Big in Japan

In which our Diva appears opposite foam-rubber monsters and has a blast

My knowledge of kaiju and its fandom is, generously speaking, scanty. I've seen the original Godzilla and whichever movie has the teeny little sparkly twins, and probably bits and pieces of some others, many many many moons ago. I think I might be able to identify three monsters on sight.

So how, you may very well ask, did I end up on a panel at G-Fest yesterday afternoon?

Well, about twelve years ago, I answered an audition listing in the Columbus Dispatch, and wound up with my first on-camera experience in this little movie. When I say "little", I mean "these guys give 'guerrilla filmmaking' a whole new meaning." This being before a middle-class joe could pick up a digital camcorder at Best Buy without taking out a second mortgage, they shot entirely on VHS (no, they don't do that anymore!), in Austin's living room, his aunt's basement, and (thanks to a very tolerant management accustomed to hosting Marcon and Origins) various locations around the Hyatt Regency Columbus.

It was a lot of craziness, a lot of fun, and the end result -- obvious production-value issues aside -- was surprisingly not too bad. (I would also like to note that Austin is the one and only filmmaker I've ever worked for who came through promptly with both my copy and my contracted salary.) But until yesterday, I believed that nobody who wasn't involved in the production had ever seen it.

Bzzzzzzt! Turns out this weekend is the tenth anniversary of its first screening at G-Fest. And not only have people seen it, they liked it. A lot of that is because Austin is pretty well known in American kaiju fan circles for building really cool monsters. Also because he and Jeff have spent a lot of time and trial and error learning (and inventing a few of their own) lighting and how-to-use-found-objects tricks for making miniature sequences work. But also because there's just something about the way they do things that seems to capture the spirit of what people love about the genre. The con chair is very supportive of TG2WAC's endeavors, and plugs their stuff right in there with the real Japanese classics and the far-better-funded fan films.

So, on a very small scale, I got to be a movie star for an afternoon. I even had a couple kids ask me for autographs. And I'm in the Raki booklet! Even though it comes with a later movie (the only one the guys have available on DVD so far because it was their leap into digital) it has details on all four, and notes that I'm a "highly accomplished stage actress" -- hee! -- and that I "eagerly" contributed to the fight work. Which is quite accurate. Fun times, man.

I think I might actually head over for a full day next year. I'm kinda sorry to miss meeting the original man in the suit.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Play dead!

A couple days back, Marc Grapey offered this sage advice on the Steppenwolf blog:

1) Acting is re-acting. It’s true. Don’t react to anything on stage. You are dead.

2) All great actors listen to their scene partners. You can listen, but you can’t hear. Once again, you are dead.

3) Pee before you take the stage.

4) Use the 3 seconds of blackout left after you get on stage to find the most comfortable position possible.

5) If you have an itch, tough. See rule number one.


Sounds like he's out there for a looooong time. Man. I thought five minutes or so in Horror Academy was tough. Of course, that also involved the whole "stuff struggling chick in barrel, freak out about chick with gun, get shot in head and then try to be very abruptly dead with blood running down my face" thing. Possibly it would have been a bit easier under other circumstances. ;->

Still, that show -- with two characters who died very different deaths -- was the only time I've ever been pleased with how I pulled off a skill that every actor has to use sooner or later. I do not think of myself as someone who, as the phrase goes, "gives good dead." I'm curious how things will be the next time I'm called upon for it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Whoops.

In which it's possible our Diva has a few things going on

I managed to completely forget the Tonys were last night. *headdesk*

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The surprise of Rize

In which our Diva sits still for a couple hours, watching people who never seem to

Having worked my way through the "costume dramas I missed" portion of my Netflix queue, I've hit the "dance movies I missed" portion, which means that this morning I watched Rize. By which I mean that I -- contrary to my intent of watching the dance and paying half-attention to the interview segments while doing some work on my laptop -- couldn't take my eyes off it.

I expected that of the dance, of course. I know krumping is old news, and I'm sure there's some current street dance movement I know nothing about, but it's not going to get less impressive any time soon. I was aware of the basics: the dancers' conscious use of it as catharsis, channeling the frustrations of inner-city life into creation; the jaw-dropping isolations of popping that have been with us since the 80s, but now performed at anatomically improbable velocity (there's a disclaimer at the beginning of the film that none of the footage has been sped up, and it's a good thing to make clear, because holy CRAP); the confrontational style of two or more dancers interacting that looks eerily like rioters' violence. But I knew nothing at all about the hip-hop "clowning" movement that grew out of one man's grass-roots youth program, or its relationship to the krumping phenomenon.

I don't know if the former students of Tommy the Clown who implied krumping was their creation, evolved out of the clowning style, were stretching a point, but it's at least a primary ingredient. It's hard to tell how much of the trash-talking between the "clowns" and the "krumpers" is competitive ritual and how much is genuine antagonism, but the angry words about cheating (from both dancers and family members) after the BattleZone competition make it clear that there's at least some element of the latter. It's definitely not all warm fuzzies. But there's nothing but positive in the kids' passion for what they're doing -- one young man asserts that "this is like our ballet," and I came away with the impression that they may very well spend more time honing their skills than a pro-track ballet student -- and awareness of and gratitude for it as a shield against the destructive lifestyles around them.

Things that really struck me: the intercutting of dance sequences with footage of the Watts and Rodney King riots, and later with archival footage of traditional African dancers. The latter was particularly riveting for a couple reasons. One, because it so brilliantly matched shots of both preparation (application of face paint, warmups and camaraderie) and movement vocabulary. And two, because it came just a few minutes after some of the dancers had been explaining the evolution of one of the key movement elements of both clowning and krumping from what they called "the stripper dance." They couldn't say where the move had originated, only that it had suddenly been "the dance everybody was doing" at parties and such.

My jaw was on the floor that they were calling it that, but not because of any kind of general shock that a dance trend would be borrowed from strippers or anything like that. On the contrary, it was because I recognized it as anything but. They're talking about what's now a staple of hip-hop dance: wide stance, knees bent, balance back of center, rapid pelvic contract-and-release from lower abdominals. Which, until this morning, I had assumed to have been borrowed by hip-hop dancers from West African traditional dance, via the same heritage codified by Katherine Dunham. Because that was where I've known it from for years. And I know only the broadest strokes of Afro-Caribbean. But a move that, to my eye, says power and pride and warrior's prowess? These kids are calling "the stripper dance"! And yet, in the way they're performing it -- boys and girls alike -- it speaks exactly the same way I expect it to, and has nothing of the stripper in it at all. It just seems to me there's something very wrong when the middle-class white chick recognizes a piece of African heritage that the African-American kids apparently don't.

Other threads in the interviews include family relationships (conventional and otherwise), church ties (several of the kids are also involved in liturgical dance, and one boy's mother has some eloquent commentary linking the way her son's dancing "comes out of the spirit" to her own connection with her church, and asserts that she "gets krump for Jesus," and if you know anything at all about my opinions about art and spirituality, you can guess how happy that made me!), and the kids' very matter-of-fact knowledge and firm rejection of the violence in their lives. There's not a boring second.


Definitely worth the watching, especially if you have any interest in dance, physical prowess in general (my knees and hips were aching just watching these kids!), and/or people living real day-to-day lives in neighborhoods usually presented to us only as places to escape from.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I've moved! Except I haven't really.

Yesterday I got around to taking advantage of GoogleApps, and switched my wiliqueen.com webmail over to the Gmail system. I've been using the wiliqueen@ Gmail account for everything for nearly four years now, with the valerie@wiliqueen addy forwarding to it. Now I've just reversed that, so nobody should notice any difference unless you're particularly observant and see that everything will be coming now with the reply-to as the latter. But I'm posting this just in case anyone encounters any hiccups.

Importing all my archived mail via POP was easy as pie, but four years' worth? Took all day and well into the night. %-} Man, do I send and receive a lot of email.

I know I've been a bit scarce lately; June is bustin' out all over. I got slots for about half the general season auditions I put in for, which isn't too bad. One down (Marriott), two to go (New World Rep and Adventure Stage Chicago), plus New Leaf sent out an email saying they're booked up but will try to squeeze in walk-ins if you want to give it a shot.

I will NOT send a resume to Bailiwick and try to convince them I can squeeze understudying Tell Me On A Sunday in around my other projects. Not.

Today I have the terrible burden of hitting thrift and fabric stores for Shrew, World of Faeries, and Polaris purposes. Woe, woe is me! *dramatic hand-to-forehead* (If I'm not back by midnight, send in the rescue dogs...)

Friday, June 6, 2008

And if you call me 'Emma baby' one more time, I will scream

So. Bailiwick is looking for an understudy for Tell Me On A Sunday. Which I adore and which nobody ever does.

"Must be able to rehearse the last two weeks of July and participate in tech the first week of August."

Y'know, exactly when I'm in the final blitz to have everyone dressed when Shrew opens July 26. And of course the show runs through the weekend I'm covering the Widow/Servant.

I hate linear time.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

No rest for the wicked

In which our Diva has a few irons in the fire

Three-day weekend FTW! Will no doubt want another when it's finished, as I will be using it to Get Stuff Done, but at least I have it do that in.

Stuff to Get Done includes as many costume renderings for Shrew as possible. I was hoping to have them all done by now, but the real drop-dead date is the first rehearsal in mid-June. Will probably be sketching madly away while socializing with company today.

Tomorrow will be all about studying new scene for acting class, brushing up on audition monologues and songs (everyone and their dog has general season auditions in the next couple weeks -- also need to put in for slots for those!), and getting mailings together for agent queries and a couple auditions that require snail mail instead of electronic submissions. Also need to order prints of new headshots.

Search for better-fitting day job continues apace, with sod all to show for it. Suspect at least some of them are getting filed in the "overqualified" (i.e. "she's going to want too much money, isn't she?") category, while others are looking at my rather eclectic work experience and going "Bzuh?" Sent a snail mail resume for one last week that I would really love to get; not saying any more 'cause I don't want to jinx it.

Dear AEA: Your Contract Associate job sounds faboo. Whywhywhy do you have to say "Employees of Actors' Equity Association are not permitted to perform in or stage manage any Equity or non-Equity production"??? [emphasis mine] I do not love you. (Not that this is particularly news.)

Monday is for housecleaning and car shopping. Car shopping is a necessity because (a) the one-car household thing is getting OLD; (b) the one functioning car does not have functioning air conditioning, and I'm so not doing that another summer; (c) better mileage plz!!; and (d) need new car before driving to Toronto in July for reasons (a) through (c). Have been looking very seriously at the smart car now that they're finally available in the U.S. If you've ever parked in the North Side neighborhoods where most of Chicago's storefront theatres are, you will immediately understand the appeal.

Evenings are for writing. Was writing an action scene yesterday (um, yeah, for the Lizzie project. Sure. *sheepish g*), and getting up to walk through the moves (to make sure they made sense in real space as well as in my head) made me realize how much I miss fight work. Good thing there's a Babes workshop coming up in a couple weeks. (For which registration is another thing on my to-do list this lovely holiday weekend.)

So, still lots going on, but all of it worth the doing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

For one brief shining moment

TiVo is a marvelous contraption, for it caught Sunday's Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of the NY Phil's semi-staged Camelot, which I had no idea was happening on account of life-on-spin-cycle. Last night I decided to take an evening to sit down and watch it and decompress rather than try to Get Stuff Done, with the result that I think more Stuff might well Get Done tonight than might otherwise have last night and tonight together. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. *nodnodnodnodnod*)

While it was far from an ideal Camelot, it had its moments. Most of them provided by Nathan Gunn, who is, if not the BEST LANCELOT EVER, a ludicriously close second to Richard White. Yes, the opera star with (I'm given to understand) no musical theatre credits? Put everyone but maybe Marin Mazzie to shame. Serious whoa.

Christopher Lloyd as Pellinore = well, of course. Also, I'm reasonably certain there was some ad-libbed color in the description of the Questing Beast, among other things. Stacy Keach was a perfectly serviceable Merlin.

The book was shuffled oddly in a few places ("Before I Gaze" in Act II? Srsly?), and I remain convinced that if you're cutting anything, the entire Morgan LeFay scene should be the first to go (thus rendering the casting of Fran Drescher a moot point). It just doesn't fit. Hateithateithateit. (Probably doesn't help that I imprinted hard on the 1982 revival. But they were right to cut it! And wrong to cut "Fie on Goodness," which this one did too. I don't know if people don't want it to look like Mordred corrupts the knights too easily or what, but dude, that's the point: the Table was ALWAYS fragile. It represents change that's incredibly hard to implement, and incredibly easy to backslide from.) Haven't decided yet what I think of Goth!Mordred -- the whole production is an odd mix of contemporary and pseudo-period design, and there's a way in which it makes sense, but he's perhaps a bit too jarring.

Gabriel Byrne seems like a no-brainer for Arthur in theory (even if he hadn't started his movie career as Uther!), but in practice, errrrmm. Speak-singing still needs to have a bit more relationship to what the orchestra is doing. He plugged along pretty gamely, but he was the one you could really tell was underrehearsed and out of his element.

Which was a pity, because for the bits where the singing was taken out of the equation, there were some solid "oh, yeah, that" moments. Not that my heart doesn't break for any Arthur during Guenevere's aborted execution -- the scene is constructed to be pretty well cast-proof -- but you could see Mordred's lines ("Let her die, your life is over; let her live, your life's a fraud!") hitting him and cutting deep.

And of course I will never not get chills during the "Resolution" speech that closes Act I, and never not cry at the knighting of Tom of Warwick. Do justice to those, and you're allowed to be Arthur. (Even if Byrne did drop "not a man" after "I am a king," which gives me a cramp in my sense of rhetoric.)

I love that speech so very, very much...

Proposition: If I could choose from every woman who breathes on this earth, the face I would most love -- the smile, the touch, the heart, the voice, the laugh, the very soul itself, every detail and feature to the last strand of the hair -- it would all be Jenny.

Proposition: If I could choose from every man who breathes on this earth -- a man for my brother, a man for my son, and a man for my friend, it would all be Lance.

I love them. I love them and they answer me with pain. And torment. Be it sin, or not sin, they have betrayed me in their hearts, and that's far sin enough! I can see it in their eyes. I can feel it when they speak. And they must pay for it and be punished. I shall not be wounded and not return it in kind. I demand a man's vengeance!

Proposition: I am a king, not a man. And a very civilized king. Could it possibly be civilized to destroy the thing I love? Could it possibly be civilized to love myself above all? What about their pain? And their torment? Did they ask for this calamity? Can passion be selected? Is there any doubt of their devotion to me, and to our Table?

By God, I shall be a king! This is the time of King Arthur, when we shall reach for the stars. This is the time of King Arthur, when violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness. We are civilized!

Resolved: We shall live through this together, Excalibur, they, you, and I. And may God have mercy on us all.


Chills, man. I know a lot of people who really hate the show, and I will never ever understand.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Still alive (despite the weather)

Okay, who stole spring? I object. Strenuously.

Acting class continues to be Of The Awesome. Pre-class chitchat revealed an unusually high geek quotient in the room, which I always appreciate. There are never as many fannish types in theatre as you (or at least I) think there should be. Also, I appear to have been permanently dubbed "Red" by our coach, which is fine but amusing. Last week I was Red for the first hour and Victoria a couple of times, then he settled into Valerie for the rest of the evening, so I know he does in fact know my name.

Scenework is proving to be a great push for figurative muscles I haven't been working nearly enough lately. Once my scene partner got hold of the out-of-print play we were assigned a scene from, that is. Some things really aren't just getting in your own way! %-} It's A Cry of Players, which, now that I've read it, I'm kind of amazed I'd never heard of. There are thoughts formulating in my head that I want to blog about in addition to the stuff going directly into the scenework itself, but I'm not sure yet what form that'll take. Except a glancing amusement that I would be given Anne Hathaway Shakespeare as my first assignment, after my recent babble touching on the playing-a-historical-person thing. Scene partner is awesome and open to pushing himself and risking. Not to mention willing to alternate coming out to the burbs on Metra with me going into the city to get together and work.

In the area where Actor Val intersects with Fannish Val, beginnings of an interesting discussion this morning on the LiveJournal Slings and Arrows discussion comm. (Spoilers galore for all three seasons.) I really need to rewatch that whole series. Y'know, in my copious free time...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I am actress, hear me snore

First class at Chicago Actors Studio last night. Like the coach, like the atmosphere, like the other members, and think it will be just the right kick in my slightly stagnant pants for this moment in time.

It's a good sign that I didn't realize until I was in my car that the ostensibly 7:00 - 10:30 class had run past midnight. Really it is. Getting up this morning, however... *YAAAAAAAWN*

If they continue to have 17 people attending the Monday night class, it's going to be an interesting 10 weeks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No, you cannot has Puccini. (Not yours)

In which our Diva is abruptly operaless

No Suor Angelica. :-/ For a variety of reasons beyond anyone's control, not least of which is the necessity of Artistic-Director-of-Many-Hats going to Montreal to be with her dying dad.

At least I have my Thursday nights and my first couple weeks of June back. *sigh*

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chemistry, baby!

And I don't just mean the kind that happens onstage. Met with potential costuming assistant for Shrew, who is no longer potential. Got along like a house on fire, and she lives about five minutes away, thus relieving most of the usual logistical headaches of delegating. The fact that she doesn't just have sewing skills, but serious theatre costuming skills, pretty much relieves the rest. \o/

Now I really gotta get some sketches done before next meeting with director next week, as I would like to continue getting along with her like a house on fire...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chipmunk Girl has left the building!


Or mostly, anyway. There's still a little puffiness around my jaw, but I only notice it because I know my face. Also, hooray for being able to open my mouth all the way! Should make it a heckuva lot easier to have a voice lesson tomorrow. Also means I can see where the wisdom teeth came out from, and man was I right about there not being enough room in my jaw! I don't know where the heck four more teeth were anchored! Am both apprehensive and excited about seeing an orthodontist once it's all healed. I've had this traffic jam in my mouth for so long, it's going to be strange not to have them so crowded that I slice through dental floss at least three times before I get them all.

Meanwhile, I have a completely irrational craving for a chili cheese dog. *facepalm*

Curiously, hurting more today than it has the last couple. Mostly stitches pulling, I think. Which makes me very glad the Vicodin doesn't loop me out to speak of, because I have stuff to get done, darnit. Have been itching to sing, and planning to give it a shot for a while tonight. The poor voice is like "Okay, cold and then sinus infection and then wisdom teeth... Are we DONE with all this stuff now? Can we get on with business plzkthx?" I really wanted to be in solid vocal shape before we started Suor Angelica, darnit, but that just wasn't in the cards. Ah, well.

Also need to start sketching for Shrew. And must go over to Chicago Actors Studio and get registered early next week. But those are for after BigBabyBrother's wedding this weekend, which, yay!

Next week. *deep breath * Next week will be NORMAL craziness. ;-D

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Um... No, thanks.

Dude. I dunno if it's just a seasonal cycle thing or what, but the preponderance of reality shows on the casting breakdowns the last couple weeks is downright creepy.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays

...are at least not snowy days. But still Mondays.

I've been meaning to hit the Midwest Independent Film Festival some first Tuesday or other. Networking yay! Was too sick last month, but am totally going to haul my finally-getting-better butt into the city tomorrow night. (Yay, Zithromax! Yay, sinuses no longer attempting to secede through the front of my skull!) The offering scheduled happens to be one that others might also be interested in, a docu about women's body image called America the Beautiful. Tickets are $10. Chicago peeps, if you end up planning to go, let me know!

In opera news, apparently we're doing Tosca next year. Went to Solange's bel canto recital yesterday afternoon, and she did "Vissi d'arte" (of all things...fach shift much?) as her encore and mentioned that. First I've heard. And actually, this time last year she was talking about The Merry Widow, which ended up morphing into Elisir, so we'll see. I did a bit of a doubletake at the public mention, tho.

Also, now that the former Café Magdalena is officially launched as the newest location of Villa Verone, our cabaret nights there are coming back! Looks like they will now be Sunday nights, and early word is that they'll be Sundays in May and July. I'll keep you posted as details become available.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Moral of the story: Take the bloody stairs!

My dreams tend toward the seriously batshit bizarre, especially when I'm doing a show. Atypically, I've remembered very few dreams of any kind in recent months. However, there was one I woke up from about 1:30 this morning with quite clear recall, and no small amusement.

I'm traveling to some sort of meeting -- the impression I retain is that it was in downtown Chicago, and theatre-related -- using an extended arrangement of escalators heading up and down and all around, either inside one large building or connecting several, I'm not sure which. But it goes a long way. I do have a crystalline-vivid image of an almost Escher-like descent through a red brick archway up ahead, when the whole shebang becomes a traffic jam with people jammed solidly the width of the escalator, as far as the eye can see. The crowd pattern behaves exactly like creeeeeeeping gridlocked traffic, although the locomotion is still coming from the escalator.

Eventually, just as I throw my hands up and climb over the wide-but-far-from-impassable half-wall separating the escalator from the stairs that have been next to it the entire time, word makes it back that the backup is because some guy set his boss on fire way up ahead. I continue into the building on the stairs, my path unobstructed, only slightly annoyed with myself for waiting so long.

I can't imagine where anything like that might have come from. :-)

Monday, March 24, 2008

:: vibrates in place ::

I'm having one of those GET ME OUTTA HERE kinda days. The demands of Office of Doom are actually more manageable right this moment than they have been for most of the past three or four months, but that doesn't help.

I want to be somewhere that is NOT HERE, doing work I actually CARE about. I don't want to not work, I don't want to play all the time. I want to WORK. Work that is not this work, because I Do Not Care about this work, no matter how hard I try.

Knowing that I'm pursuing all available avenues to do something about that helps only slightly when I'm in this mood. Probably makes me even more restless, in fact. In the starting blocks, waiting for the damn pistol to fire already.

*deep breath* End of lunch hour. Focus. Other people do care about this stuff, and deserve to have it done promptly and well.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have no ambition. I know enough to know I wouldn't want it, but I'm still curious what it's actually like.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Belle of New Hampshire

Last night we attended Sarah Vowell's reading/talk, which was all kinds of cool. Really must read her books. Though I don't think it will be quite as fun as her reading them aloud. :-)

She chose a Lincoln-assassination-related passage for the first reading, prefaced by an entertaining tangent about how dumb it was from a PR standpoint for Booth to pull the trigger on Good Friday. Something to the effect of "thus ensuring that a President half the country hated on Friday would, by Sunday morning, be eulogized in every Easter sermon." Which is a really, really good point, and one I don't remember if I ever thought about before.

If I did, it would have been while I was devouring research getting ready for These Honorable Men, and that was 1995, so it's a little fuzzy. I read about the whole topic, of course, but mostly I was focussing on any mentions I could find of my character, Booth's "secret fiancée," Lucy Hale. (The linked article just happened to be the first Google hit I got this morning, and is really cool, but has the same oddity from my perspective as the one I'm about to explain...)

Those aspects of my research are less fuzzy, despite it being thirteen years later. So the passage Vowell read last night got to the part about how Lucy's father was keen on taking her with him to his new assignment as Ambassador to Spain, thus putting as much distance between "his pretty daughter" and Booth as possible... Well, that's all quite accurate, except for the part where everything I read indicated that she was quite the social belle, and regarded as having an "air" or personal charisma, specifically in spite of not being considered a beauty. Even my hubby (who, granted, had to live with me while I was living with Lucy, but still, thirteen years!) chuckled at that. And noted in the car on the way home that her long list of suitors, including Robert Todd Lincoln, could probably be at least partly ascribed to money and connections. Which, yeah, probably true. But since she's one of two historical figures I've played (and it's questionable how much one can count Catherine de Valois as written by Shakespeare in that reckoning), I choose to believe it was charisma. ;-D
IIRC, neither of the good pictures I found of Lucy online this morning is the carte de visite Booth had in his pocket at the time of his death. (The actual one is in the museum in the basement of Ford's.) It might have been the one at the top of this post, but I don't think so. But my favorite -- the one I photocopied and taped to the front of my THM script -- is this second one, mostly because it's the one that reminded me so much of my maternal grandmother (seen below modeling her brother's Army coat) as a young woman. Grandma Wieging was a lady and a tough broad, with nary a speck of cognitive dissonance between the two, and is without a doubt the root of what my mom raised me to be.
There ended up being some of Grandma in my Lucy because of that picture, which worked amazingly with the way Doug wrote her -- young and sheltered and not without vulnerability, to be sure, but no hothouse flower either. Such a gift that she was written for me! That'll always blow my mind.

We actually had some remarkable resemblances in that play, some of them not even discovered until we started doing research after it was cast! The standard comment was "Except for Val, because she's prettier." Which still amuses the heck out of me, as my one experience with the typical "more glamorous version of historical figure" thing. Since I'm not usually more glamorous in, well, general. And of course I was amused by the definitely-more-glamorous Jean Louisa Kelly in the TV-movie The Day Lincoln Was Shot a couple years later. I distinctly remember making note of that. (And also feeling particularly unglamorous myself, as I was watching it with a big knot on my forehead, having whacked myself with a dryer door in the laundry room half an hour before.)
It's a curious thing, that people seem to find it essential to characterize such a person as a beauty, even if she wasn't. Which feeds tangentially into the Lizzie project, as one of the threads I'm playing with is how she started out being perceived as quite plain and/or odd-looking, but became defined as the Pre-Raphaelite stunner. Complete with a certain amount of revisionism going into the story of her "discovery" by Walter Deverell, who was looking for red hair and a girl who could be convincing as a boy (i.e. Viola-as-Cesario). All pretty much because Rossetti said so, and saw her that way, and painted her that way.
Funny all the things popping up lately that resonate with that watershed year. Maybe just me, or maybe the Universe trying to tell me something. :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Two degrees of Chicago theatre

Possibly one and a half. I really don't think there are any more than that. Seriously, I'd done all of two shows here before it was impossible to go to a theatre-related function without bumping into someone I knew. Which is just a lovely, welcoming thing. Have I mentioned lately that I should have moved here five years sooner? Because it's true.

Today's edition? Promo photo call for Shrew. Our Kate's fiancé was the photographer. He arrived and we both said "You look really familiar." Someone mentioned Babes with Blades about fifteen seconds later, and determined that he had seen me in Horror Academy last fall, but were both convinced that wasn't it. We then worked our way through GenCon and Origins to arrive at Ohio Renaissance Festival.

At which we were both dance guild (and frequently partners for the Cumberland Reel) in NINETEEN NINETY-FIVE.

There followed reminiscences of the Great Flood of 1572, declaring war on the mud, and the student day when the Tudor Rose stage was set on fire.

You can't make this stuff up. Or at least I can't.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Work what you got

In which our Diva and cameras continue to have an uneasy relationship

I now have in my hot little pixel-stained hands the two headshots I picked from my shoot with Beth Cummings at the end of January. (I would have had them a lot sooner, but her original email fell into the ether and I just now got around to asking after them.) Beth is one of the kickass women of Babes With Blades, with whom I had the long-aspired-to privilege of performing in last fall's Horror Academy. She just recently launched her business, and I totally recommend her to anyone looking to update. She does some really innovative things with angles, while still fitting into the stylistic expectations of the Chicago market.

In a fairly typical scenario when I'm the subject, out of about 200 shots, I managed to find one...



...I actually like, and one...



...I picked because I'm entitled to two, and it has something that drew me, but also things that bug me.

The biggest thing that bugs me I can do something about, and need to just get around to it: I swear my teeth get crookeder by the day. I have the oral surgeon and orthodontist referrals. I will call on Monday. *determined face* (Short version: Never bothered getting wisdom teeth out. Not enough actual room in mouth. Traffic jam.)

The smaller thing is that "deer in headlights" thing that I've always had. Just ask my mother -- I don't remember when she didn't point out that the distinctive feature of even my baby pictures is that "you can see the whites all the way around your eyes!" Which is cute and funny when talking about baby pictures, but not terribly useful as a first impression for a serious adult actress, y'know? But I always have to really concentrate to keep it from happening pretty much any time I'm trying to hold still.

I'm working on tipping that love/hate relationship with photos a little more to the "love" side. It's a challenge. This is my calling card, my knock at the door, my little 8x10 package of "This is me, and you want to see more." The challenge for me in judging and picking them has always been to try to approximate a first-impression eye, instead of being drawn immediately to the familiar flaws. (Yes, flaws give you character. However, there's only so much character they want, especially from a woman who reads as under 30.) I've always considered myself reasonably attractive (barring the occasional hormone-driven bout of "OMG give me a paper sack STAT!" that everyone has), but that's in the real world. There's only so much water it holds in an undustry with truly surreal quantities of pretty wandering around.

My criteria are simple: I want it to (a) look like me, and (b) look good. That's a lot harder than people who know me in real life tend to expect. Poor Beth got me on a cranky evening after a cranky day at Office of Doom, when the luck of the draw just meant I was having a helluva time letting go of the tension of the day. So the fact that she managed to take any pictures I like is a minor miracle.

I'm not a model; I have no expectation that posing for still photos is ever going to be a large part of my work. But it is always going to be a part, and it is usually going to be what people see first. For better or for worse, things are structured such that I'm being assessed out of the gate on something that is a weak point for me. So sometime in the next year or so, however long it takes to get my teeth closer to where I want them, I need to learn how to be better at it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Working smarter, not just harder

In my "get this damn career thing together already" mode, various thoughts that have been whirling through my little diva brain, gathered here for some semblance of order and to have them in one place as a reminder:

Yes, I'm in more or less the same place I was ten years ago. Yes, that would probably not be the case if I had made some different choices along the way. Yes, that is frustrating as all hell. Own it and let it go. It does not help my mental health. It sure as hell does not help my work.

I totally grok the "biological clock" thing in a way I never thought I would. Only mine isn't ringing "Aaaagh! Must have kids now or it's not going to happen!" (That would also be nice, but it's not what the lizard brain is screaming about.) It's "Aaaagh! Must get career momentum now or it's not going to happen!" And yeah, there's some truth to it. But I'm no less likely a leading lady at 38 than I was at 25.

Which is to say, quite frankly, not all that likely. Most of the actresses I love and follow because they've created and inhabited characters that really spoke to me aren't the huge household names, largely because I tend to develop that attachment most strongly with TV series characters. That's a mode of storytelling and way of living with a character that I would dearly, dearly love the opportunity to experience, and one I'm most likely never going to. Even if I were in the right place -- if I had been born in Canada like most of my favorites, or if I had moved to L.A. a decade ago when I was sorely tempted and could probably have taken good advantage of some tenuous connections -- I am, as the song goes, not that girl.

My friends are probably sick to death of my glib "I'm a stage actor for a reason; cameras and I don't get along," and it's really only half true. I hate most still pictures of me -- always have, probably always will -- but have surprised myself by enjoying and generally being pleased with the little bit of film work I've done. But I'm still not someone people look at and think "leading lady material" the way they do with someone like Amanda Tapping or Christina Cox or Gina Holden. There's not really a way to change that, and I'm still evolving a strategy for finding the place where I'm what they want.

One of my other glibs is that I want to be Emma Thompson or Catherine Disher when I grow up. That's maybe a little closer to the mark. But I'm still working on the growing up. And it's a weird schizo thing, because with 40 not that far off on the horizon, people still look at me and see 26 or 27. And however much we wish differently, 26 or 27 is supposed to be gorgeous first and everything else second. And someone else is always going to come in with more gorgeous.

All of which leads me to conclude that, far from time running out, I am in fact not old enough yet for hotness to become a secondary consideration, and for what I do have to get people's attention.

I do not suck. Of this I am (usually) certain. That's not always an easy thing to hold onto, when it's impossible not to gauge your worth as an actor through others' eyes. A writer or painter or sculptor or even musician can do their work on their own, any time. Sharing it with others and having it appreciated is of course important, but they can do the actual work. Acting is entirely collaborative. There's an extent to which you can make your own opportunities, but when it all boils down, it cannot be done without someone, somewhere saying "Yes, you can do this work, and we will do it with you." And then when you get to do it, it must be done on the group's terms and according to their schedule.

That? Will make a person crazy right quick if they're not careful.

I've been very restless lately because I haven't been getting to really do the work. Horror Academy was fantastic -- oh, how I cherish that people not only believed when Lula died, but cared! -- but it closed four months ago. Auditions are fine as far as they go, but that's maybe five minutes of engaging with a character I've just met, and it just doesn't cut it. The roles I get in opera are necessarily limited by my vocal development -- cardinal irony of remaining an actor first and foremost!

Ergo, time to revisit the thought I had months ago about taking a proper acting class. It's been a long time, and right now it's my best option for really engaging with character work. Plus I think I've been stagnating a bit. I may even take a break from voice lessons for a while. I know it will slow down my development there, and my teacher will be frustrated, but she also knows singing is always going to be secondary for me. Training the last several years has been about all sorts of wonderful side areas -- singing, stage combat, and yeah, after Barnum I was giving serious thought to going back to the Actor's Gymnasium to do the regular aerial course -- but I haven't gotten back to basics in a long while. And with what I've been up to lately, back to basics with an on-camera emphasis is what I need.

It's also been waaay too long since I set foot in a dance class, and I want to get back into that habit. But that's a second priority. And since the Elgin Park District doesn't even have any ballet classes on the spring session schedule (WTF?), it may mean looking into private studios when the time comes. One thing at a time. Which needs to be the mantra, really -- trying to do everything at once is accomplishing nothing!

So. Plan of attack for this weekend:

1. Check out classes in Chicago (there are a couple I know a bit about), get registered, and get back in training.
2. Start getting mailings out to agents. Was going to wait until my new headshots and reel were ready, but both of those are taking longer than I'd hoped, and my current headshot and resume could be enough for now. I can get in the door now, and give them more and updated material soon.
3. Strategize the hunt for a day job that will keep me alive without eating my life.

Yay, plan!