Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A little witch in every woman

I have Practical Magic on DVD -- it's been one of my standard comfort movies for years -- but right now it's on ABC Family in my living room because the hubby happened across it as background noise for both of us working.

Different things jump out at me when half-watching something (especially something familiar) than when I'm giving it my full attention. Tonight I happen to particularly notice how much I love Stockard Channing in this movie. I love her in general, and I love pretty much everyone in the movie, but for whatever reason it's Aunt Frances who's getting the love tonight. That no-nonsense attitude, completely at odds with how most people would approach such a fanciful character... love it. The delivery when she asks Sally, "Do you have any friends?" Just kills me.

This is one of two movies where the book disappointed me when I read it later. That doesn't happen very often, but it does happen. (The other, for the record, is Girl With a Pearl Earring, and one of these days I should post about why. The short version is that the movie is much more complex and interesting than Yet Another Romance, and the novel... is not.) I've tried for years to articulate why. The closest I got was that I didn't really like the characters in the novel, so I had trouble rooting for them. But I don't know that the movie characters are really any more likable. Gillian is still needy and self-destructive, Sally is still hiding from everything... I don't know. It just didn't grab me the same way.

Maybe one of these days I'll read it again and see if I can figure out why. :: ponders To Be Read pile :: But probably not any time soon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And I heard her exclaim as she drove out of sight

In which our Diva wishes a merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

I would be headed up to my brother's house right now to meet my Shiny New Niece. Unfortunately, the common cold had other ideas -- I'm coughing and sneezing WAY too much to be anywhere near a nine-day-old baby!

Instead, I'll be spending Christmas Eve snug at home with my hubby, then my parents will arrive tomorrow afternoon. It'll be a low-key one, but I'm planning to enjoy the heck out of it. Sunday night I'll be singing at Elgin Opera's annual holiday party. Then next week starts a fresh round of busybusybusy, with more auditions, then gearing up for the Holiday Leftovers variety show and the pilot for the new webseries My Cousin Radu, from 812 North Productions.

I hope you're enjoying your holiday season, and will leave you for the moment with the latest gem from Muppet Studios:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The puzzle of "plain"

In which our Diva does not think Miss Lucas so very plain, but then she is our particular friend

When playing a historical or literary character, there's both a blessing and a curse in the easy availability of other people's opinions about that person. I understand -- intellectually, at least -- why many actors avoid those opinions. (Some with a fervor generally reserved for, say, Barney the purple dinosaur.) Especially when there's a breadth of opinion available, it takes a little doing to take them objectively, with particular care needed to deal with the most thoughtful and the most forceful.

Even before my recent few months of living with Charlotte Lucas, I'm pretty sure I would have rolled my eyes at some of the criticism I've seen. I've always had a soft spot for Charlotte. But that little pang of taking it a bit personally, that's new. Kind of fun, though, if you keep it in its place.

In my various reading around for that show, I rediscovered something that I really already knew: Even more than "the one who marries Mr. Collins" (whether out of simple pragmatism or outright gold-digging selfishness depends on whom you ask, and I'm not even going to touch the blog post I ran across that accused her of duping Collins into thinking she loved him -- as if love and marriage had any bearing on one another in HIS thinking!), she's always "the plain one." Not quite so repetitively as Mary Bennet, perhaps, who has the misfortune to be lost in the middle a sparkling set of sisters. But it's certainly a defining characteristic fixed in people's minds, giving rise to perennial debates as to, for instance, whether Lucy Scott in the 1995 miniseries is "too pretty" for the role.

Which is why one of the first things I noticed about Christina Calvit's script is that the word is not used to describe a person even once.

The closest thing to it in reference to Charlotte is Mrs. Bennet's dismissal of Bingley's having danced first with Charlotte at the Meryton Assembly: "But he did not admire her at all -- nobody can, you know." Nor is her age -- twenty-seven, the Austen point-of-almost-no-return that she has in common with Persuasion's Anne Elliot -- specifically mentioned, though that "She will finally be married!" near the close of the first act is crystal-clear. "The only recourse for a young woman of small fortune" was nearly out of her reach... why?

By the same token, I've seen praise for versions like the Keira Knightley film for showing Charlotte as "actually plain" -- which apparently means dowdy clothes and careless hair. Which, to me, makes very little sense. It seems to me to be projecting onto her the modern idea of an intelligent woman who rejects the trappings of beauty as frivolous. It seems to me, though, that her very intelligence and pragmatism dictate that she make herself as attractive as possible. She's the firstborn daughter of a man with a title but relatively little wealth, and her stated and confirmed goal is to secure her future by marrying well. She's not going to accomplish that by looking like she's given up, and she's too smart not to know that.

My Charlotte, then, was perhaps a little awkward. A little self-conscious of being not as pretty as Lizzy or Jane. Whether that self-image is factual or not doesn't matter. Red hair wasn't terribly popular then, so that was to my advantage, as was the simple expedient of using less makeup than I normally would for stage, resulting in a generally washed-out impression. I didn't have to be a mess for the audience to believe the eligible male attention would be fixed on those younger friends.

So that solved my approach to what "plain" meant for this particular role. But the expression itself? That's a bigger question.

I remember studying the illustrations in fairy-tale editions of my childhood, searching for the oddly elusive meaning in context of that very simple word: Plain. While its usage in the stories told me it was some sort of contrast to the "beautiful" heroine, it was obvious even to my eight- or nine-year-old mind that there were nuances I found murky, which were probably crystal clear to the readers/audiences of the time in which the tales were written down.

That time, I know now, was mostly the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, and sure enough, it's in the literature of that age -- Austen, the Bronte sisters -- that I found more instances of this linguistic enigma to ponder.

During rehearsals for P&P, out of curiosity, I took an informal poll of my online friends and acquaintances. What emerged was a pretty equal balance of two basic interpretations, with a third clocking several votes as well:

One, that it's genteel code for "ugly," reserved for people (mostly, but not entirely, women -- Austen in particular applied it to several male characters) whose class and/or breeding made it taboo to openly describe them as such.

Two, that it refers to someone who's neither beautiful nor ugly, but somewhere in between. There's division within this one on whether it means that the person is entirely nondescript, or that they could have some distinctive features that would disqualify them from "beautiful." (Which merges at the edge into the first interpretation, depending on how narrowly the standard of beauty is defined and how little deviation is tolerated before a person is considered outright ugly. Told you this was complicated, didn't I?)

The third, less common interpretation had less to do with a person's actual physical structure, and more with their demeanor and style -- that a "plain" person was one who did not stand out, but with more glamorous trappings and confidence they might be considered beautiful. One answer in this category equated it with "Hollywood homely," and there's another word -- "homely" -- that one could puzzle over for ages!

Though the first two are the ones that have always played tug-of-war in my head when I ran across a "plain" character in a story, it's this third one I find intriguing me the most. And the one that just might be the most accurate after all. Even if you've never heard that "Hollywood homely" phrase above, I'm betting you knew immediately what it meant: Take a perfectly attractive (if not outright gorgeous) woman, add insecurity and an unfashionable hairstyle and/or clothing, play down every feature a makeup artist is trained to play up, and top off with optional glasses. Boom! Instant "plain."

Real-life women who don't consider themselves attractive (which is, sadly, the vast majority in our society) are then supposed to identify with this creature, but there's a problem: They see right through it. Or they think they do. It's a trick, they say. Under all that stereotype is just another knockout actress.

Sometimes they're right. Sometimes -- usually in cases where the character in question goes through an ugly-duckling transformation (or, as they call it over at TVTropes -- which I will warn you right now is one of the most time-suckingly fascinating sites on the entire Internet, so proceed with caution! -- "Beautiful All Along") -- the actress in question is someone with the kind of flawless physical structure that might make her jump at the chance to have a different image (however silly we all pretty much think it is these days) for part of a movie, in hopes of eventually, somewhere, getting something that will allow her to stretch the chops she's trained for.

(Yes, I know drop-dead-gorgeous-without-a-speck-of-makeup actors -- even guys -- who have to live with that. No, I will never, ever say, "Gee, we should all have such problems." I've seen how much harder they have to work to be taken seriously, especially if they were *gasp* models first. But that's mostly another topic.)

An awful lot, though, I see the "Hollywood homely" label applied to people like Judy Greer or Janeane Garafolo, who've spent much of their career playing best friend to one freakishly gorgeous lead or another. (Yep, we're totally talking about my type here, so I probably think about this more than most people.) And so often I see comments to the effect of "Yeah, but she only looks plain next to THAT. She's perfectly attractive by the standards of the real world."

Which is true as far as it goes... except when it comes from women who I would consider to be equally so, but they don't believe that. They may or may not have realized that, with the careful styling, makeup and lighting going into every frame of film we see, we would ALL look that good. And even if they do, chances are good that they wouldn't be able to see themselves in that light if they tried. Thank you, modern Western culture! *raspberry*

Meanwhile, on the other side of that equation, a lot of the stars I think of as "acknowledged gorgeous" weren't always considered so. Not everyone who captures the public imagination is a flawlessly structured freak of nature. An awful lot of them weren't regarded -- or even cast -- as All That early in their careers, but as they became bigger stars and appeared in more glamorous images, the established opinion shifted. Don't believe me? Look at Jennifer Aniston. Gillian Anderson (the glamorization of Scully over the seasons as The X-Files gained audience is a textbook case). Cate Blanchett. Brittany Murphy.

Not a one of them started out as a bombshell. Now the captions on the red-carpet photos sanction every one of them as gorgeous.

This isn't anything new, of course. Raise your hand if you guessed this winding path would eventually lead back to Lizzie Siddal. (Hey, at least I'm consistent!) Who was, contrary to the romanticized version of the story you run across a lot, discovered because Walter Deverell wanted a Viola for his Twelfth Night painting who could look like a boy. Early letters and other papers of the Pre-Raphaelites indicate that most of them initially regarded her as -- you guessed it -- plain. Her height, angularity, red hair, all worked against her according to the standards of mid-nineteenth-century England.

(I crack up every time I read William Holman Hunt's description of her as "like a queen, magnificently tall." Dude. It's 1851. Your queen is FIVE FEET TALL.)

But the point is, fast-forward a couple years, and Rossetti and the boys have established Lizzie as the archetypal "stunner," and basically nobody admits ever thinking she was anything but amazingly beautiful.

I don't know exactly what the magic formula is of style, confidence, good press, and the herd mentality of the public. But at the end of the day, an awful lot of it really is smoke and mirrors. (Even before the spectre of the airbrush figures into the equation!)

I've wandered rather astray from the "plain" question, though of course it's all related and interlocking and scrambled. One thing that did strike me in the course of this little quest was, while I had assumed it was basically an archaic usage, people actually do still use it! And not just in historical romance novels! I'm suddenly noticing it in movie reviews, casting breakdowns, even several times on that TVTropes pages I linked earlier. People use it like any other word, with the implicit assumption that people reading it will understand it to mean the same thing the writer is thinking.

And the thing that still interests me is that I'm not sure that's ever been the case.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The power of the story

In which our Diva finds new reasons to believe in people

You hear a lot about the "dark side of fandom," about unstable people who go beyond love of a shared story, sometimes to the extreme of threatening or even harming the storytellers.

If you're even casually around the virtual water coolers centered on TV shows or movies, you're also aware of the harmless bulk of fannish activity, the discussion and sharing of delight, and of creativity in the form of fan fiction or visual art or music videos.

What you probably don't hear enough about is the brightest side of all, the fans who harness that energy to make the real world a better place.

I was a smart kid. I'm a pretty smart adult, for that matter, and there are still people who think I'm wasting that gift in a frivolous profession. (They're just usually subtler about telling me so than they were in college.) Smart kids are supposed to cure cancer. Solve our energy problems. End hunger.

Save the world.

Here's the thing: I can't imagine spending my life doing any of those things. I'm not cut out for saving the world. What does hold my passion, what I wake up every day itching to do, is telling stories about people who do.

I'm the audience for a lot of those stories. Most of them tend to take place in worlds not our own - in the far-flung future, or across galaxies, or in secret underworlds of primal magic. But the challenges faced in those worlds are not as different from our own as you might think.

And some people, maybe even some of those who are cut out to save the world, look at those stories and decide they want to be like those characters. They want to face down that evil and defeat it -- not in the created world beyond the glass of the TV screen, but here and now. Sometimes it's a one-off -- fans of Blood Ties drumming up eyeglass donations to the Lions Club in honor of its vision-impaired heroine, blood drives by fans of every vampire show ever, and so on. Sometimes it's a little more ambitious.

Not a Doll is the newest such effort to come to my attention. Whatever you might think of Dollhouse -- and much as I love it, it's controversial for good reason -- for these fans it's an opportunity to educate about "the very real issues of human trafficking, poverty, oppression against women and children, the loss of self, and the negation of human rights." Sure, they're starting small. Writing a few articles and designing a handful of T-shirts might not seem like much. But the people who read those articles and find their eyes opened, the established organizations that receive the proceeds from those T-shirts? I don't think they're going to argue. And the site has just begun.

You might think this sort of thing would be a short-lived diversion, fading when the show that inspired it is no longer the flavor of the month. You'd be wrong. Just ask the folks at the Stuffy Guard Project Association, who've coordinated donations of thousands of stuffed toys and thousands of dollars for children in need since 2000. Inspired by Stargate SG-1 star Teryl Rothery, and embraced by her and her colleagues -- the show and its stars are associated with several children's charities, including Make-A-Wish and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and various episodes focused on the effect of injustice on children -- they're going strong and continuing to grow.

This is just a tiny sampling. There are plenty more examples out there -- some were featured in an article on Firefox News a while back -- and more power to them all. I'll support them as I can, and keep dreaming of being involved in a project that inspires a save-the-world drive of its own.

Song for today: "Stranger" by Lili Haydn. I know I mentioned it just a couple weeks ago, but I can't think of anything more perfect today. "Goodness brings a chain reaction."

Saturday, December 12, 2009


In which our Diva is finally getting around to playing with vacation videos from September

If you're going to be there, check out Big Island Eco Adventures. Definitely glad we did!

Suzuki Shakespeare

In which our Diva figures this is one kid who won't be afraid of Shakespeare in high school

This is brilliant and utterly adorable. I've always respected Brian Cox, but I think I just became a big fan.

Monday, December 7, 2009

On Beyond 40

In which our Diva settles into her seat at the grownup table

Lately I've been hearing a lot that "40 is the new 30." Just in time for me -- casting-wise, at least, I haven't had much in the way of 30s. I was still playing 19 at 32, and it's only in the last year or so that I've been getting tapped for moms. It's kind of ridiculous how much fun I had at an audition the other day, watching half a dozen preteen girls chatter in the waiting area, considering which of them might be plausible as my daughter.

I come by it honestly -- when my parents were my age, I was a junior in college! But when I look at a family photo from that year, my mom doesn't look any older to me than I do now. Which one friend recently summed up succinctly as "No WAY you're 40!"

But I am, for a whole month now. As an actress, conventional wisdom says I should be depressed, if not outright terrified. Conventional wisdom says my career might as well be over.

Except for the part where it's just really getting into gear.

I love that they look at me now for a mom, or a professional. Or even a wacky neighbor. Wacky neighbors are never in their 20s for some reason. In your 20s, the roles out there are at least five hot babes (not me!) for every quirky best friend. With my castable range finally firmly in the 30s (just as I'm leaving them behind in real life!), there's actually a lot more open to me, and there still will be when I'm actually getting cast as 40. (All while not giving up on my ambition to play a woman who died at 32. But that's for stage, where the illusion is that much more elastic.)

Oh, I know it's not all roses. Leading ladies are still expected to be hot first and everything else second. The industry's idea of women's stories still tends to be frustratingly limited, and older actresses still routinely hit stupid walls. But for now, for me, things are looking pretty bright.

And maybe I'm just noticing them more, but it seems like in recent years there have been more 40-and-beyond actress footsteps to follow, on more and varied paths. A few of my favorites...

During her time leading the CBC series Snakes & Ladders, Catherine Disher said in an interview that she welcomed the kind of characters opening up to her now, having "always been a character actress with ingenue eyes and hair." (I totally relate to those first two, but have coveted her hair since 1992.) Audrey Flankman on that series, and her current role as senior-agent-cum-den-mother Maggie Norton on The Border, are unapologetically the age they are and undilutedly awesome.

Have I mentioned that I got to play sidekick to Patricia Belcher in Cyrus? Oh, right, umpteen times. But it doesn't get any less cool, so please forgive me. Her recurring role as no-bullshit prosecutor Caroline Julian is one of the best reasons to watch Bones, and her resume includes drama, comedy, commercials and standup. There is no mistaking this lady for anyone else.

Emma Thompson is, well, Emma Thompson. I've been hooked since what she refers to as her "good women in corsets phase," and the work just keeps getting better.

Cate Blanchett
is shaking her head at the people who think she seems too young and glam for Blanche DuBois, whom Tennessee Williams' stage directions describe as "about 30." Which either substantiates that "new 30" thing, or supports my hunch that "that old" is often not as old as we think it is, and that maybe what we're confusing for seeming/looking younger is really just being comfortable in one's skin. Oh, and did you notice her on the cover of this month's Vogue? 40 belongs anywhere!

Back to TV (and Canada), Amanda Tapping was my favorite thing about two different Stargate series. Now I get to see her front and center of Sanctuary. Helen Magnus is, of course, well over 40 (over 150, in fact), but there are paranormal reasons for that. This is what 40ish looks like too.

There are plenty more I could mention - Mary McCormack, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, Helen Mirren - but you get the idea. Bring it on, life!

Song for today: "Hold On" by KT Tunstall. Because I woke up with it in my head this morning, and the world will indeed turn if you're ready or not!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Or not

In which our Diva is a bit under the weather

I've been excited to get back to Villa Verone for the Festival of Singers, but I'm going to have to wait a little longer, as the flu has caught up with me. :-(

My initial response was to be bummed about the timing. But on the other hand, if I'm going to get it (and pretty much everyone is right now -- if not "THE" flu, at least a flu), there's no such thing as a good time, and this is actually way better than a lot of times. There are several wonderful singers still on tonight's program, and I'm still scheduled to sing on December 13. (We're skipping a couple weeks due to other events at the restaurant.)

So today I settle in with hot liquids, warm blankets, and fun TV, and put my energy into getting back on my feet. All the better to give them my best at upcoming auditions!

Song for today: "Moonfall" from The Mystery of Edwin Drood, because it's ridiculously beautiful and I don't get to sing it tonight. (Pardon the background restaurant noise; I couldn't find a linkable pro recording that I liked, so you get my little digital recorder at Villa Verone last summer instead.) It's fun to mention when introducing it that it was written by Rupert Holmes, the guy who did "The Pina Colada Song" in the 1970s. People are always full of surprises!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Return to Festival of Singers

In which our Diva hopes she still remembers how to sing

What with all the pride and the prejudice, it's been a while since I showed my face at Villa Verone for Elgin Opera's weekly "Festival of Singers" cabaret. I'll be back this Sunday, November 22, and also December 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. It's a great, relaxed atmosphere complete with to-die-for Italian food and free live music. What more could you want? Reservations are recommended; call (847) 742-0263.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Video diary: Pride and Prejudice

In which our Diva chronicles ringlets, Bennet sisters rocking out, and meat-on-a-stick

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What I'm into right now

In which our Diva has some recommendations

See: The Men Who Stare at Goats. Every time I saw a trailer or commercial, I said "I have to see that movie." I was prepared to be disappointed, because what lives up to its trailer these days? This does. Funny and earnest and irreverent and poignant and crazy in the best possible way. I don't know if they set out to make a modern-day Don Quixote on purpose, but they succeeded brilliantly.

Read: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. If you didn't know that you find a lot of the best fantasy in the YA section these days, this is a great way to find out. I picked it up totally at random because the cover design caught my eye and the jacket blurb held it. I'm a sucker for even halfway decent Victorian gothic; this is that and so much more. Not least of which is a refreshing break from the relentless tyranny of the romance. Sure, there's a boy, but he's far from the center of the (wonderfully realized) heroine's universe. The friendship of girls, in all its fierceness and flaws, is what it's all about. I just picked up the second book the other day, and can't wait to start it.

Listen: Lili Haydn. I pulled out her self-titled debut album for the first time in a while last weekend -- after the (fabulous!!) Emilie Autumn concert whetted my appetite for rebellious violin -- and fell in love with it all over again. "Stranger" particularly rocks my world.

Eat: Four-cheese mezzaluna with sausage at the Olive Garden. Grab it before it goes away. OMG.

Watch: Dollhouse, before it goes away too. I'm still surprised it got a second season, but thankful. Perfect it ain't, for a million and one reasons, but it's never been less than interesting, and occasionally brilliant. Joss Whedon isn't really God, but he and his team tell a mighty fine story nonetheless, and I for one will miss it. (Also, it's possible I have a wee bit of a girlcrush on Miracle Laurie.)

Come and see: Public reading of The Last Daughter of Oedipus at Prop Thtr in Chicago this Saturday. Final sneak preview of this fantastic new play before it opens Babes With Blades' next season, with wailing (where there is Jocasta, there must be wailing), grim determination, a few laughs, and of course snacks and a talkback. And did I mention it's free?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"No" list update

In which our Diva wasn't going to post any further on this topic, but must express her relief

When I posted the "No" list, naming industry professionals who had made public statements indicating that the petition to release Roman Polanski did not speak for them, I deliberately did not comment upon any particular individual who had chosen to sign it. While I remain dismayed that it exists, and that its position is seen to represent the film industry as a whole, the simple truth is that I do not know these people, and I cannot know their individual reasons for signing.

I personally cannot imagine putting my name on a statement unless I agree with everything it says, but that's a choice. Another perfectly valid choice is, for example, to support a statement because you want the outcome it is intended to achieve, even if you don't necessarily agree with the entirety of the position as stated. And there could be a hundred other reasons I know nothing about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, for their own reasons; it's only when they're in a position to force that opinion on others that we run into trouble.

None of which kept me from feeling like I'd been kicked in the gut the day I read that Emma Thompson's name had appeared on the petition. If I had to name a single favorite who inspires me as an actress, she's it. I took a deep breath, reminded myself of everything above, and moved through my day with that ache in my stomach.

Caitlin Hayward-Tapp didn't stop there. She's a regular at the consistently inspiring feminist blog Shakesville, and she decided to make full use of that resource, and of an upcoming opportunity to meet Ms. Thompson at a conference, to ask that she reconsider.

Long story short, she succeeded. And it is with a frankly embarrassing amount of relief and encouragement that I have updated the list this morning with Emma Thompson's name.

I'm not in love with the celebrity culture we live in, but we're pretty stuck with it. Various sociological studies have indicated that it seems to be human nature. And even those of us who roll our eyes at it -- at breathless, mindless adoration and TMZ scandal-mongering alike -- aren't always immune to feeling things personally when we have no rational business doing so.

And so, to Emma Thompson, who does not know me from Eve and has no obligation to care, I send out my thanks. For remembering that what we do in the public eye has effects we can't predict or even always see, and taking responsibility for them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fury, shade, priestess

In which our Diva trades in Austen for Sophocles

I've been missing the ever-awesome Babes With Blades something fierce lately. There's been so much crazy in the last couple years (starting not too long after I had the privilege and fun of acting with them in Horror Academy, come to think of it), and every time they invite me to a workshop or fight jam I always have something else already booked.

This time, when the call came, I had the chance to answer in the affirmative, and I grabbed it! Ensemble member Jennifer Mickelson (one of my HA buds!) has been honing and refining her play The Last Daughter of Oedipus through the Babes' New Plays Development Program, and I get to be part of it! I'll be playing Tisiphone (one of the Furies), Jocasta (!!!), and a priestess of Apollo in a staged reading next Saturday, November 14 at 1:00 p.m. The public is very much welcome to join us for this exciting sneak preview before the play has its full production in the fall of 2010.

Jo-freakin'-CASTA, people. My little classical-theatre heart is going pitter-pat! Jen has done amazingly cool things with all the story threads Sophocles left lying about. If you're in Chicago, you really must come check it out!

Song for today: Rose Red, by Emilie Autumn. Because I'm celebrating my big four-oh at her concert tomorrow night, and that's the song that started it all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Overheard behind the scenes of Pride and Prejudice

I had no idea what a big deal Darcy was. I put it on my Facebook status, and five minutes later there were comments from sixteen women saying "I'm so there!"
-- They do know we're not dunking you in the pond, right?

That is just what I say.
-- But a great deal shorter.


I come on soon as a young military officer. Get Kitty all hot for me. Not sure how I'm going to pull that off.

I hope, ma'am, that a mistrage for my parsonage...

Actually, I guess I'm the heel, but whatever.

If you'd just put yourself out there. Like me.
-- Yeah. To everyone.

I don't want to ruin Darcy's entrance.
-- No, don't do that.

Self-esteem, on the other hand -- hey, this is very important!

Is he not the most something sort of man you ever met?
-- No. Where are we?

How to end a party: Invite Mary to make a speech.

From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, why are you walking away from me?
-- Nobody respects Dad.

And bow. And then the whole dance repeats.
-- *collective groan*
-- You and your damned balls!

Winnie-the-Pooh, XXX version.

Put the 'R' in the jar.

Mr. Bingley. Mr. Collins. Jane Bennet. Charlotte Lucas.
-- Double rubber!

I wasn't here.
-- I have a line on 42. I wasn't anywhere.
-- I have a rock.

What's your line before you talk about me?
-- Depends on whether I get it. It might be "Line."

Escape from Netherfield. It's going to be a Michael Bay film.

Isn't the stink-eye Darcy's default?
-- He made that face and it really froze that way.
-- His mother told him that would happen.

What about the swan? Moo?

The company was delighted to dance.
-- *wrong music*
-- But not to that.

Hey, baby, wanna go out in the back of my high-perched phaeton?

Except you have opposite feet, Larry. Your feet are different than Emily's.
-- Yeah. They're much bigger.

We're sacrificing you to the Jane Austen gods.

What's in a Tom Collins? Vodka and...?
-- Something.

How many drugs do you do?
-- None at all, surprisingly.
-- You should start.

I'm not going to get into a theological debate with you.
-- Not on the Sabbath, in a church. I mean, not any time, but especially that.

Courtney's sick! Don't touch her!
-- You mean I can't poke her like that?
-- *cough*
-- Apparently not.

There are refreshments over there.
-- You baked?
-- I heated.

Since we haven't done the opening in about a year...

Come Liz-- um, what's your name-- Come, Kitty!
-- Now you know she's a mother.

We follow you upstairs and downstairs and upstairs and downstairs.
-- But at no time are you in my lady's chamber. What's up with that?

She's Eeyore!
-- And Lydia is Tigger. The De-Bouncing of Lydia.
-- Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, flirt-flirt-flirt-flirt-flirt.

And Mr. Darcy, of course. As long as he does not use that particular finger to rub his eye.

My infections are unchanged.

People who bring donuts on Saturday will be well loved.
-- On Sunday.
-- Well, Sunday is food too...

No yawning! There's no yawning in theatre.

What are you thinking? What will you look like when you get there?
-- Well, I won't be fit to be seen...

It's the same. Netherfield, but muddier.

Lovely. Now do it without upstaging yourself.
-- D'oh!

"Double rubber" is one of those lines you really don't want to take out of context.
-- It sounds like very, very safe sex.

Style in the aisle!

I see London, I see France, I see Val's...
-- Jeans.

Larry you need to move more than your head. You look like a chicken.
-- You're not a bobblehead doll.

It looks like a Simpsons couch trip.


Vahstly, vahstly, VAHSTLY happy to oblige you.

What happened?
-- I don't know.
-- Did you take a wrong turn at Albuquerque?
-- Apparently this was Chris' solo.
-- So the answer to "Can you chew gum and dance at the same time...?"

I am never getting up again. I am going to replace my entire living room with these. And possibly my bed.

The militia regiment was a recent arrival in the neighborhood, and was to remain in Meryton the whole winter.
-- Okay.

Right now it's a little threatening, like "I'm gonna get you! And your little dog too!"
-- To the moon, Elizabeth!

Eee! Eee!
-- And suddenly Kitty is a monkey.

I get to go in front of you!
-- Are you a married woman?

The topiaries are most seriously displeased.

...and you must go in second, because I am a married woman.
-- Okay.

Don't I run away? With joy?

Everybody's very unhappy with my butt.

Kitty and I are going to sit in my dressing room. Or dress in my sitting room.

When sugar is the cause and the solution to your problems, life's pretty good.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Pirates

Or princesses. Or pandas. Or poodles. Or, of course, zombies.

Chicagoland peeps: Discounted tickets for P&P this Saturday night, October 31, if you come in costume! That's $5 off the already-reasonable $15.

Don't worry, you get the same show from us. (Alas, the constraints of scheduling, budget and intellectual property law guarantee that the ongoing jokes about the P&P&Z midnight show on Halloween must remain jokes.)

One more weekend, and they're going fast - make your reservations today! All the details are here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Coming soon?

In which our Diva is thinking happy distribution thoughts

will have two screenings at the American Film Market, November 5 and 7. Wouldn't it be an awesome birthday present to hear that it got snapped up? Stay tuned!

Song for today: "Good Behavior" by Plumb, just because it's been running through my head the last couple days. Probably something to do with last week being hella stressful on the day-job front, just in time for P&P tech week! But the show is going great (two weekends left - have you bought your tickets yet?), and strategies for dealing with the recession-fueled craziness are kicking into gear. And I have high-energy cathartic music running through my head. So it's all good.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pride and Publicity

In which our Diva isn't sure three years qualify as "many," but isn't looking a nice writeup in the mouth

Eight days to opening night! Buy your tickets here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The "No" list continues to grow

One week ago, I posted a list of film industry professionals who had publicly stated their thoughts on Roman Polanski, and who did not subscribe to the petition and presumed Hollywood party line calling for his release.

As of this morning, there are 45 names on the list. And that's being pretty strict about keeping to people who work directly on the production films and TV shows: producers, writers, directors, actors, crew. chrissmm's more comprehensive list of public figures is growing at a proportionally similar rate. Meanwhile, Melissa Silverstein at Women & Hollywood has linked to blog posts by women in entertainment, and invites those who don't blog to voice their thoughts in the comments.

When I heard on the news last weekend that Mr. Polanski had been arrested, my immediate thought was "About bloody time." I then foolishly expected to not hear all that much more about it. Sure, I expected some people to wish it hadn't happened, simply because it's inconvenient for them. What I didn't expect was that a whole bunch of them would make a public stand about how shocked and disturbed they are because it's so very wrong.

If that hadn't happened, I'm the first to admit I wouldn't have posted a word on the topic. Why? Because it should not be necessary to explain that I don't think a confessed and convicted felon who skipped the country prior to sentencing should be let off the hook just because.

And that's leaving completely aside the nature of his crime and the apparently desperate need of some people to call it something else.

I truly believe that the people on this list are exceptional only in that they have specifically and publicly spoken on the topic. I truly do not believe for a second that the sentiments expressed in the petition and by certain individuals' public statements are the rule.

I certainly won't claim that the entertainment industry is the shining beacon of virtue in the modern world, but I don't believe it's an actual circle of Hell just yet. Thanks to everyone on the list for helping to demonstrate that.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In their country fashions

In which our Diva plays dress-up

Got my first glimpse of P&P costumes at fittings last night. Can't wait to see them finished, of course, but all indications are that we're going to look pretty darn good.

Non-profit theatre being what it is, I'm amused that Charlotte's day dress is a makeover of Lucy's striped dress from Dracula (second photo in linked gallery). And that David (director of both shows), Carl (Drac last year, AD this year) and I all came up with the same "Wrong redhead!" crack independently.

Obligatory Shameless Plug: Pride and Prejudice opens October 16 for a three-week run. Call GreenMan Theatre at 630-464-2646 for reservations, or purchase tickets online.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This is not the post I was going to make tonight.

I was looking forward to taking advantage of my evening off to give you a nice Crunchy Process Goodness post that's been brewing in my brain about Pride and Prejudice. Then, this morning, I read this article about the petition demanding the release of Roman Polanski. I'm embarrassed for my industry. I'm embarrassed that this statement is being perceived as our collective position on the subject.

And make no mistake, it is being perceived that way. Type Polanski's name in the search box on Twitter or in a Google Blog search, and watch the derisive comments about the industry as a whole scroll by. Who can blame them, given the growing list of signatories, individuals and institutions alike?

I'm exactly nobody in this business. I have no illusions about that. After all, that's the reason I don't post about contentious subjects here. This blog is a fun place to yammer about the work I love, with the occasional shameless plug or YouTube video that makes me happy. The last thing my modestly growing little career needs is for somebody to Google me and be offended by my spouting off on a contentious subject.

This subject should be anything but contentious.

I'm nobody. So maybe it means nothing to anyone but me that I declare, definitively and on my public blog, that this document does not speak for me. Or maybe it will mean something. I don't know.

There are so many things wrong with the statements in that petition: The characterization of Mr. Polanski's offense as "a case of morals," as if he got caught skinny-dipping in a hotel pool. The implication that an outstanding warrant should somehow not count simply because of its age, and the failure to acknowledge that he is not merely a suspect but a convicted felon.

And then there's this: By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for film-makers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.

I have the greatest respect for the tradition of presenting works by filmmakers who face genuine political persecution, who struggle and risk to create in the shadow of oppressive governments. I applaud festivals for doing whatever they can to get these people there safely and get their voices heard.

That the text of the petition equates Mr. Polanski's situation with theirs, when his arrest is the consequence of actions that have nothing to do with his work, is disingenuous and deeply insulting.

I'm nobody in this industry. But that's not to say nobody in the industry is standing up to dissent.

Kirstie Alley. Allison Anders. Alison Arngrim. Patricia Arquette. Adam Barken. Roseanne Barr. Ed Bernero. Luc Besson. Carrie Brownstein. Drew Carey. Beth Chamberlin. Noel Clarke. Paul Cornell. Michael Cudlitz. Jamie Lee Curtis. Sarah Fain. Lexa Doig. Jesse Eisenberg. Darren Ewing. Elisabeth Fies. Neil Gaiman. Martin Gero. Melissa Gilbert. Christopher Gorham. Javier Grillo-Marxuach. Greg Grunberg. Hart Hanson. Lore Hartounian. Salma Hayek (on Access Hollywood, link pending). Aviva Kempner. Sue Kramer. Lisa Kudrow. Robert Llewellyn. Joshua Malina. Denis McGrath. Ashley Edward Miller. Tom Morello. Rosie O'Donnell. Mo Rocca. Chris Rock. Michael Seitzman. Sherri Shepherd. Kevin Smith. Zack Stentz. Kurt Sutter. Alison Sweeney. Emma Thompson. Bo Zenga.

Honorable mention to a former Hollywoodite, because, well, the people of California did elect him Governor and all.

It might not be a very long list, but it's a start. And I'm sure there are more I don't know about. I'll add them as I become aware of them.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled babble.

Edit, 10/1/09: Thanks to yinyang for the comment pointing me to chrismm's post. I'm borrowing from her list (and the suggestions of her commenters) to expand this one, but also recommend you head over there. Partly to congratulate her on a job very well done, but also to check out the additional public figures -- authors, journalists, musicians, etc. -- whom I haven't added here only because it's the film industry that's primarily being perceived as calling for his release as a monolithic entity, and I want to do my little bit to demonstrate that isn't the case. She's also more thorough than I am with multiple links and descriptions. Generally awesome, please check out!

Edit, 10/3/09: I've now seen (and added my name to) two counter-petitions online, one at Care2 and another at Big Hollywood. The latter specifically calls on industry professionals.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last Daughter of Krypton

In which our Diva plays catchup and flouts the Edna Mode "no capes!" rule

This blog was supposed to happen a couple weeks ago, but it didn't quite get squeezed in around Pride and Prejudice rehearsals (which I'm loving and will post about soon) and Hawaii (which was absofrickenlutely AMAZING and will be posted about soon).

I love serious acting. I love Shakespeare and edgy new works and digging in deep to tell meaningful stories.

Know what else I love? Walking around a stadium in a cape and flippy skirt with an S on my chest, interacting with kids and signing autographs as Supergirl. I'm a soprano of a certain physical type with a dance background, so it's inevitable that I've done my fairytale princess time in children's theatre, and the best part was always meeting the young audience afterwards. Being Cinderella in their eyes was priceless.

But being Kara Zor-El? A hundred times dearer to my geeky little heart.

I'm both a superhero girl and a princess girl. Always have been, always will be, and I'll never understand why people think they're somehow mutually exclusive. Only grownups, though. Little girls get it. Just ask my young friend in the pink over there. (If that makes you blink, you haven't seen the pink Batgirl costume made by the same company!)

If you looked at my actual comics collection, you wouldn't necessarily peg me as a Supergirl fan, but she's the natural first choice for a family event appearance. She's who I would have looked for when I was the little girl who went to her grandparents' house and read through piles of her her uncles' and aunt's comics for hours at a time. (Yes, Virginia, girls read superhero comics and always have. No matter how often people seem to think it's news.)

Maybe it's because she's a little bit of a princess girl herself. Not in the needing-to-be-rescued way, but then that's never what I cared about in fairytales either. Certainly her story could be a fairytale in the blink of an eye: Once upon a time there was a young girl who lost her home and family forever, and traveled alone to a strange new world...

And that last part is important, the main reason she's not just a female copy of Superman. He grew up entirely on Earth, and for all that he honors his heritage, he'll always be more Clark Kent than Kal-El. Kara arrived here as a fifteen-year-old girl who saw everything she knew destroyed. She started from scratch at an age that's hard enough for kids who've lived here all their lives, while simultaneously learning to deal with extraordinary power and the responsibility that comes with it.

Over at Marvel, you get Spider-Man's Uncle Ben telling him "With great power comes great responsibility." The DC equivalent (well, sort of, since it applies to a narrower set of characters) is the concept of what it means to "wear the S." The family crest of the House of El, now symbol of the fusion of Kryptonian power and Ma and Pa Kent's homespun values. The badge of the Big Blue Boy Scout (an actual nickname pinned to Superman by more cynical Justice League colleagues).

And of his cousin, whom an essay I read recently described as "the original indestructible cheerleader." (Now that they mention it, there is a whiff or two of Kara about Claire Bennet, isn't there?)

I'm rambling. A lot. Maybe I should just cheat and direct you to this excellent blog post about Supergirl-as-icon, and why she's really irreplaceable for little girls in particular. Go ahead. I'll be right here when you get back.

Done? Cool. I have even better news: That blog post is a couple years old, and the problem she's talking about toward the end there? The Supergirl she couldn't give to the girls who came into her store? Things are looking a lot brighter these days. First came the Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade limited series, and just recently, the main title got a big dose of sanity in the portrayal of Kara by Renato Guedes and then Jamal Igle. Look! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a plausible teenage girl!

Since I'm not actually reading the series at the moment, I discovered this development via news of the tempest-in-a-teapot "controversy" over Igle's drawing her with bike shorts under her skirt. (No, really. People got very riled up about this. It even got a news mention on NPR. I blame Ed Benes, because it never would have occurred to anyone that she didn't at least wear cheerleader-type spankies if he hadn't perpetrated this. *beat* Okay, it wouldn't have occurred to anyone with a lick of sense.) And what with the reversal of the Incredible Shrinking Top and Skirt, I'm gradually warming up to the current costume.

But for my family-event icon, I'll stick with the classic. Call me old-fashioned. *g*

Or, better yet, come on out and meet the kids with Gotham's Finest.

Song for Today (way too long since I did one!): What else? "SuperGirl" by Saving Jane. I'm actually fonder of their previous single, "One Girl Revolution," but this one's a lot of fun too. Best known as the theme song of Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin. Who seems to have more than a little Kara Zor-El in her too.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Transition time

In which our Diva does her best to stay connected

One more shooting day on Connections. Mixed feelings, as always when any project ends. Sad to see it go, excited for the next thing. Pretty much everything I've done this year has been whirlwind, with little time to get to know my colleagues, and this one has been a little longer and settled in a little more. I've gained some valuable friendships even on the small ones, though, and am that much more appreciative of the tools available to us online to keep in contact.

I understand where people are coming from when they worry that communication online is too superficial, too impersonal. And it's true that it's no substitute for real human contact. But it's a heckuva a valuable supplement to it, particularly for actors or anyone else who works on a project basis. My best intentions notwithstanding, cast contact lists of phone numbers and email addresses sit in folders in my hard drive gathering virtual dust. Meanwhile, five minutes on Twitter or Facebook will give me a snapshot of what's going on with people I might not have seen in person in years.

It also plays into something I've frequently tried to explain to friends, that growing up on Air Force bases with a constantly shifting collection of faces in the classroom and in the neighborhood makes it seem perfectly natural to me to operate that way as an adult. I don't go in much for big goodbyes, or fretting about making sure ties of friendship are tended to -- arguably to a fault. In my head, it makes perfect sense to run into someone after a week or a month or a year or a decade, and essentially pick up wherever we left off.

In between, I do miss them, in the sense of "Oh, so-and-so would have loved to see this." (And how much do I love being able to see something online and share it with so-and-so with a few clicks?) But I've gradually come to understand that it's not the same thing most people mean when they say they miss someone. The intensity, the acuity, of that is something that I still work hard to grasp. It's certainly an important thing to understand about human nature, which is of course what I'm all about as an actor.

This Wednesday, I'll say goodbye to my first TV series (a final count of three episodes is still a series!) experience, with all its ups and downs and the challenges of a very small-time environment. Goodbye to Michelle's desk, with all the little details it acquired. But the people involved are still there on my Facebook friends list, to see where they go from here and where we might connect up again.

First, though, I have the first read-through for Pride and Prejudice today. A completely different show, a completely different environment, with some of the same people I got to know during last fall's Dracula. I can't wait to find out which ones (I don't know all the casting info yet), to pick up with them where we left off, and take part in the alchemy of creating something new with them and with others I don't yet know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A truth universally acknowledged

In which our Diva returns to the page and the stage

I've been loving the crazy last year-plus, with the rapid-fire succession of characters to create in various projects, but lately I've also been craving the in-depth experience of a full stage production. (Seven Plays in Seven Days, as awesome an experience as it was, definitely doesn't count.)

So when I heard that Greenman Theatre Troupe, home of last fall's gorgeous Dracula, would be opening this season with Pride and Prejudice? You better believe I was there!

Being really too old for Elizabeth Bennet, the first character on my wish list was Caroline Bingley. The second was Charlotte Lucas. The call came today, and Charlotte it is! (Thus further cementing "best friend" as one of my primary types. *g*)

Time to reread the novel, which I haven't actually done in probably 20 years. It's not as dear to my heart as it is to many of my friends', but I do love Austen's crisp and observant voice and the characters she created. There can't be too many better ways to spend the next few months than bringing them to life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Only make-believe

In which our Diva is resigned to a certain reality, but it still gets under her skin once in a while

In a conversation I had yesterday, I mentioned that the reason I was making up Office of Doom hours after 11 Sunday night was that I spent Saturday at Chicago Comic-Con and Sunday filming a short.

The response? "Oh, but that's fun stuff."


Walking around in a superhero costume, posing for pictures and meeting people whose work I like (including childhood heroines Nichelle Nichols and Margot Kidder)? Absolutely "fun stuff," albeit exhausting.
Filmmaking? It has its fun too. It also has spending a very long, very hot day outdoors. In makeup. Waiting, waiting, waiting, being ON!, waiting some more, being ON! Changing into a long-sleeved heavy satin wedding gown in my car (did I mention very hot day?).
I love acting. Love it beyond all reason. You have to in order to do it. Because you don't get to do just the fun parts. Gina Holden estimated in an interview I read recently that 2% of your working time as an actor is actually being in front of the camera acting. It sounds like an exaggeration. It's not. You spend the rest of your time waiting, studying, researching, marketing, handling business. All so you can get that little fraction of time -- the time that is seen by everyone else -- to inhabit the skin of the character whose story you're telling.
Because it's all they see, most people think it's all there is. Which is how they can say things like the comment above.
Like "Well, I want to stay home and read, but nobody's going to pay me for that."
Like "So you have a real job too?"
I commented not long ago, on a blog post by (sometimes curmudgeonly, always brilliant) TV writer Denis McGrath, that the problem for artists is that most people just can't wrap their heads around something they consume at their leisure not being produced at ours.
And the truth is, they're mostly never going to. I have yet to see a single solitary person on a film set for the first time, no matter how well-informed, not be abjectly shocked by the sheer amount of time and work, by the sheer number of people, it takes to produce just a few minutes of what will be seen on screen. It's nearly impossible to explain, unless you understand how the process works, that it's not because of disorganization or laziness or inefficiency or whatever. It's because that is the only way it can be made. You can't just have an idea and point a camera at it, and hey-presto, you have a film. Imagination is only the starting point.
I joke that my life's work is playing make-believe. At its purest, this-is-what-we're-here-for heart, that's true. That's how stories get told.
That, and a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of work.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Connections, Week Two

In which our Diva is officially a vlogger

It's shaky and dorky, but it's mine. Hope it doesn't make you seasick.

I do intend to get better at this. In the meantime, check out Cami's blog about the living Peeps and the video she was watching on her laptop. (And no, I am not condoning the dyeing of baby chicks. Just boggling at the fact that people do it and at how darn cute they are.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Up, up, and away!

I know I'm late to the party, but I would just like to note that Up is completely charming and sentimental in the best possib-- SQUIRREL!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Connections, Week One

In which our Diva breaks a promise

So here I am, all excited to cut together that video diary I promised on Twitter the other day. Then I went to download the video files into my PC and discovered that the two I needed most... hadn't saved properly. I'm guessing it's because they were too long and overran the available memory. If that's the case, the problem should be solved by the fact that I finally cleared off the Christmas morning videos. *blush* It's also possible that I hit I wrong button somewhere.

The shiny shiny toy in question was an early holiday present from my hubby, in response to my saying I really wanted to get a camcorder for recording auditions, etc., but was leery of spending several hundred dollars for a serious one. I wouldn't make a feature with it, but it's certainly sufficient for my needs, and I've been meaning to make more use of it, thus the video-diary-from-the-set idea.

So, next week. In the meantime, I'll tell you I'm having a blast. Our set -- the office of a fictional (and rather dysfunctional) social service nonprofit called "Positive Connections" -- looks, well, like a rather dysfunctional office. The cast is terrific, and everyone brought *ahem* positive energy to our first episode. Not too surprisingly for Chicago, most of my fellow actors come from an improv background, and the green room chatter featured a lot of interesting "tales out of school" from Second City.

Columbia College's TV department must be teaching people right (the show is for their on-campus and online channel Frequency TV), because the crew -- all Columbia students -- were as focused and on-the-ball as those I've seen on professional film sets. It does mean they'll be handing off duties in a way you don't usually see on pro gigs, which will be interesting to see as we go along. For instance, Cammie, the script supervisor/set manager (whose pleased reaction to my dubbing her "Goddess of All Things" was unfortunately lost with one of the bum video files) for episode 1 will be directing ep 2. She looks like Eliza Dushku's long-lost little sister, is super-organized, and will most certainly pick up admirably where ep 1's director, Joe, leaves off. Can't wait to get back on set!

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's a small, small world

In which our Diva's TV adventure has begun

I'll make a proper post this weekend, but in the meantime, here's a sneak peek at my character Michelle's wardrobe for the first episode of Connections.

Guest star: "You look like a doll escaped from the Small World ride and grew up." He's... not wrong.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Theatre express!

In which our Diva heads back to the stage in a new way

Check out n.u.f.a.n. ensemble's Seven Plays in Seven Days one-act festival! One week from audition (last night) to performance (next Monday, July 20). I'm playing Jackie in "Triple Salami to Go," an eccentric little two-hander by David Kravitz, directed by Thirsa Hodits. Get more details and buy tickets here.

And yes, this is overlapping with Elgin Opera's "Comedy Tonight!" -- concerts Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon, then 7 in 7 Monday night, with rehearsals slotted into the nights between now and then.

And yes, still shooting that scene for One Night overnight between Saturday and Sunday.

What can I say, I embrace my crazy. Come check it out!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And I feel the calling of adventure, and I hear the ringing in my ears

In which our Diva learns to sing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" with a lump in her throat

Broadway Night concerts were a blast, and I love that the less-well-known numbers went over every bit as well as the classic favorites. Our middle-American suburban audiences aren't afraid of opera, and they're not afraid of Sondheim or Jason Robert Brown or Adam Guettel either. Put that in your "lowest common denominator" pipe and smoke it!

Of course, our real secret weapon was the five talented kids in the cast, aged 10 to 17, who couldn't have avoided charming everything in their path if they tried. And I know for a fact I wasn't the only one crying by the time they finished "So Long, Farewell," though the audience didn't then have to get up and sing with them!

The old "never work with kids or animals" cliche notwithstanding, it's amazing to work with kids eager to take full advantage of the kind of opportunity that wasn't around (or if it was we didn't know about it) when I was their age. Especially the ones who've just discovered that it's there. Watching a jawdroppingly gifted and mostly-self-taught 17-year-old baritone soak up everything around him, in an environment that some would take for granted... just awesome.

Yeah, I have a soft spot for the scrappy ones. Can't imagine why that would be. ;-) I suspect that lump in the throat has as much to do with that as with a Pavlovian response to a certain holiday TV tradition.

Song for today: "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" from Songs For a New World. Kendra knocked it out of the park this weekend (hooray for grownup new recruits too!) and I'm a little bit obsessed right now. Can't learn it just yet, though -- another crazybusy week underway!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Opening night!

In which Broadway comes to Elgin tonight and tomorrow

Broadway Night! will be presented on Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 at 8:00 PM. A variety of singers, including Solange Sior (Elgin), Susan Dennis (Bartlett), Robert Jastrebski (Arlington Heights), Charles Martin (Elk Grove Village), Valerie Meachum (Elgin), Kimberly & Brittany Albrecht (Barrington), Jori Jennings (Chicago), Kendra Wieneke (Barrington), Lindon Warren (Round Lake Beach), Marianna Adaire (Evanston), Nicole Teram (Chicago), Tatiana Ranallo (Gilberts) , Annamarie Schutt (South Elgin), and Gabriella Stocksdale (Elgin) will perform excerpts from Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Porgy & Bess, The Sound of Music, Annie, Show Boat, South Pacific, Songs for a New World, and The Light in the Piazza, and music by Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Kurt Weill.

All Events and Performances will be held at the Kimball Street Theatre, located on the first level of the new Rider Center, on the Campus of Elgin Academy, 261 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120. (Visit our website at for map and directions.) Tickets are $18 for Adults and $15 for Seniors and Students. Discounted prices for members of the Elgin OPERA Guild.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

And the beauty is, I still meet people I know

In which our Diva is holding breath and keeping fingers crossed

Posting on the fly. If I stop and think about how much I have going on through the rest of this summer, it's enough to make my head spin! So I'm just being in one place at a time and loving it. (And not thinking too much about how my house looks kinda like we were raised by wolves.)

The first concert of Elgin Opera's first Summer Music Festival is this weekend's "Broadway Night." Download a PDF of the festival brochure, and come join us!

There are a million things I want to post about right now, and no time to put them into words! Remember, if you ever want to know where and when you can see me performing live, check the events calendar on my website.

Song for today: "The Beauty Is" from The Light in the Piazza, which I get to sing in this weekend's program. I love Clara's sense of wonder and adventure, finding commonality with a foreign place and people. I hope I always remember how to approach the world that way.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

One night to get it right

In which our Diva climbs aboard yet another electronic bandwagon

The nifty little widget you see above is generated by IndieGoGo, a site where independent filmmakers can promote and get grass-roots support for their projects. This particular one leads to the page for One Night, the project I start shooting next week as Sheila the waitress.

If for some reason you don't see the nifty little widget above (I know not all browser settings are created equal, even if a lot of designers these days don't seem to!), click here and support independent film!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Serial box

In which our Diva steps into a new medium

For six weeks this summer, from the end of July to the beginning of September, I will be a regular cast member on a TV series. It's a sitcom (title TBA), created by a grad student for Frequency TV, the on-campus and online station run by the TV department at Columbia College. And even though it's only six episodes, and isn't a multi-million-dollar production with a network pickup, I'm ridiculously excited.

There's a very simple reason for that: I love TV. It seems like a weird thing for an actor to say, but it's true. As an audience member, I love television more than I love movies, and... well, differently from the way I love theatre. Inside -- and not too far from the surface -- I'm still the little kid who lived through every week in delicious anticipation of what would happen next to Jaime Sommers or Wonder Woman or the Doctor and his companion. Heck, when the BBC revived Doctor Who in 2005, that little kid was right there on the surface.

A handful of times in my life, I've been so impressed/energized/inspired by an actor's performance that I had to tell them so in an actual ink-on-paper fan letter. Almost all of those actors were on TV series, adding new pieces every week to characters who grabbed me for one reason or another. At any given time, there are three or four series running that I will not miss. At the top of that list right now is In Plain Sight. It's an exception for me -- the number-one slot is almost always occupied by a sci-fi or fantasy show -- but Mary Shannon is a heroine tailor-made to hook me in, with a heart of gold, will of iron, tongue of snark, and a full subscription of thorny personal issues. If someone asked me the old-standby interview question about my dream role, that would be it: A character like Mary, or Vicki Nelson, or Sam Carter, or Sara Pezzini.

And while the quirky office manager on a six-week sitcom might not seem to have much in common with those world-saving ladies, it's my chance to taste the creative side of a mode of storytelling dear to my heart. To live with a character over time, in a story that keeps going.

All of which is my very wordy way of saying "Wheeeeeee!"