Monday, April 27, 2009

By the company I keep

In which our Diva did say she probably wouldn't blog again before opening night

There's at least one moment at every rehearsal where I'm just struck by the fantastic performers I get to work with in this show. A few of them have material online to show you what I mean...

Teppei Kono was our Belcore last year in L'Elisir d'Amore, and he's back with us as Papageno in The Magic Flute and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus. If I had to name only one person I know who should be a star, this guy is it. Gorgeous voice and superb actor, all in one easygoing and totally professional package. He has some audio and video clips on his website, and for a change of pace, I ran across this clip on YouTube of a classic song from the Philippines:

Solange Sior, our beloved Artistic-Director-of-Many-Hats (and my voice teacher) loves to tell how, when Paula Mrazek joined the Opera Training Ensemble, she was bowled over by this gorgeous mezzo voice coming out of the group, and had to all but force its uncertain owner to take on solos. That was then, this is now, as I'm sure you'll agree when you see her Prince Orlofsky. She's no slouch with musical theatre either, as she demonstrated at our fundraising dinner last Halloween (the song starts just before the two-minute mark):

If you come by Villa Verone for our Sunday evening cabaret performances, you might be treated to a tableside serenade by Jeorge Holmes, who likes to take arias like "La donna e mobile" and "Che gelida manina" on walkabout through the dining room. On other occasions, you might catch one of his solo programs, featuring his best selections from Elvis and Sinatra alongside all that Italian. And while most of us have day jobs to work around, he has just a bit more than that as pastor of Highland Fellowship Church. I couldn't ask for a better waltz partner.

And that's just the tip of the talent iceberg. Solange is never anything but amazing, and her Rosalinda is no exception. Paul Scavone has comedy chops to spare as Eisenstein. Susan Dennis' Adele is adorable. Matthew and Heather Giebel are the loveliest of young lovers in Flute, and Kristin Johnson is an exquisitely scary (scarily exquisite?) Queen of the Night. And Katherine Dalin is wearing more than a few hats herself, keeping the office running, stage-directing Flute, and turning in a darling Papagena.

Love & Fairy Tales runs this weekend only, May 1-3, bringing you close to the story on three sides in the black-box space at the Rider Center, on the campus of Elgin Academy. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Objects on calendar may be closer than they appear

Whew!  I can't believe it's only a few days to tech week!  Rehearsals are a blast, but busybusybusy, so this will probably be the last moment I grab to blog before Die Zaubermaus... er, Love & Fairy Tales opens May 1.  We're doing a school matinee of just the Magic Flute half that day too, which I'm equally excited about.  Almost like doing children's theatre again!  Which most people seem to think of as one of those things you have to live through on the way to being a Real Actor, but I've always loved it as its own thing.

At this point, I have the show music running through my head constantly -- good thing I like it!  Oh, and the "champagne toast" from the Fledermaus finale keeps segueing somehow into "The Night They Invented Champagne" from Gigi. Which, y'know, how can you go wrong with Leslie Caron?  She was my number one idol for a while there when I was about eleven, and I still love her to bits.  So elegant and whimsical all at the same time.

But I think I'm gonna want some rock 'n' roll when this thing is done.  *g*

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shiny things for your Thursday

I have decided that "Love & Fairy Tales" is an okay name, but we should have called it Die Flederflöte. Or Die Zaubermaus.

Watch: Harper's Island, premiering tonight at 10 Eastern on CBS in the US and Global in Canada. I started out looking forward to it because it means Gina Holden on my TV, and she blogged a bit about it during filming. Now I'm looking forward to it because it looks really nifty in general, and in particular because I love that a major US network is experimenting with the British model of telling a full-season story with a definite end.

Read: The "Hollows" series by Kim Harrison, starting with Dead Witch Walking. We're up to our eyebrows in kickass urban fantasy heroines these days -- not that you'll catch me complaining! -- but Rachel Morgan is easily my favorite (at least of those whose authors haven't moved on to other worlds). I have a thing for protagonists who really really really want to do the right thing, but who need to be grabbed and firmly shaken on a fairly regular basis. Rachel is definitely that, and Harrison's universe is a seriously nifty place to tell stories in.

Listen: The Secret Garden. Still the most shimmeringly gorgeous score ever composed for Broadway, with an amazing cast including Mandy Patinkin, Rebecca Luker, and (pre-Hedwig) John Cameron Mitchell.

Eat: Southwestern BBQ Chicken Salad from Portillo's. Yum!

Thus endeth my plugging for today. :-D

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hell the King trailer

In which our Diva loves the not-quite-instant-but-still-pretty-darn-fast gratification of DV

First glimpse of Intrepid Reporter Tara Kyles in action!  :-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Almost more awesome than the "Dragostea Din Tei" ballerina

In which our Diva cannot stop grinning

There are a bunch of cynical comments on the YouTube page about its being an advertising stunt, as if that ruins it somehow.  Let me get this straight: Some phone company decided to spend money on something really fun to witness.  And the problem with this would be...?

Join the opera!

It's sort of like joining the circus, only not.  :-)

Elgin Opera needs supernumeraries (don't trip -- it's just the opera term for extras) for scenes from The Magic Flute and Die Fledermaus.  Adults and children are needed for performances May 1-3.  If you're in the Chicago area and you're interested, please contact the office at (847) 695-5014 or  These are volunteer positions with a minimal rehearsal commitment.

Rehearsals have been a lot of fun, and it's shaping up into a great evening.  Hope you can make it!

I actually get a bit of a breather this week -- church gigs are a staple for many of our singers, and Holy Week keeps 'em hoppin' like Peter Cottontail, so it's not practical to schedule any rehearsals.  So I have a little time to scrutinize my headshot proofs, do some updating on my website, spend some quality time with my very patient and supportive hubby, and maybe even do a spot or two of spring cleaning.  The first quarter of 2009 has been insanely busy, even by my standards, so this is very welcome indeed!

Song for today: "Beauty" by Shaye.  For the many, friends and strangers alike, walking in the toughest of places.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Little Toy Gun

In which our Diva reflects on her day as Creepy Mystery Woman

Random waking-up thought of the day: "Acting is what happens inside the curves."

No clue, but it sounds kinda profound, huh?

Great day on The Storm yesterday with a whole new set of cool Chicago film people.  Thanks to the two JRs of JR2 productions, Whitney the Clark Kent of directors, Nate the action man, Stephanie the chess goddess, and the whole crew.  I had a longish day, but everyone else had two VERY long days, and they're all champs!  (Hopefully they're all safely sleeping in right now!)

I think (hope?) Blue will surprise you when you see her.  She's all stillness and economy of movement, which is a challenge for perky-fidgety Val!  The stillness made it all the more important to find her default posture, and I was having a little trouble with that at first, until I tilted my head down a little bit to peer through my hair.  (It was a big deal in their concept of the character that her hair partially obscured her face, which was another challenge.   Not just because of what bits of expression might be lost, but because having my hair anywhere near my eyes drives me nuts.)  And *click*, there she was!  Funny how sometimes all it takes is the tiniest adjustment.  From the reactions of people on set, I think (hope?) she came across right.  Did I succeed in making real someone so very different from me?  We shall see...

Once again, forgot my camera, and I was doubly kicking myself for it when I saw what an awesome location Michael Reese Hospital is.  It closed last summer, though apparently it's connected somehow to other buildings that are still open.  But it has parts that look maybe a little dated but could be cleaned up easily enough to look like a working hospital... and parts that look like the zombies are waiting to grab you if you step off the elevator!  Chicago location scouts, take note!  (And get it while you can.  Apparently the property is slated as part of the Olympic Village if we get the 2016 games.  Which I want mostly for the proposed augmented public transit service in the burbs.)

It seems obvious to me, but people always seem surprised when I tell them I've done a little bit of target range shooting in addition to stage-combat firearms basics.  I have no interest at all in ever touching a real gun anywhere but on a range under qualified supervision, but it's such an incredibly valuable experience to have.  Ninety percent of convincing gun handling is not being afraid of the prop.  Which you can get from a stage-combat class firing blanks, along with valuable sense impressions like just how loud it really is, and how heavy it really is, and the smell of the metal and how stays on your hands.  (I don't even have a very good sense of smell, and that's a key thing for me.)  But when there's an actual projectile coming out of the thing and that force kicks back into your arm or shoulder, when "Don't point the barrel at anything you want to keep" is Rule Number One for much more immediate reasons, everything feels completely different.  If you're an actor (or a writer, for that matter), find a good basic class and take it.  There is no substitute. 

Also, I have big pieces of paper in a box around here somewhere with holes in them that say "Look! I can hit things with a .38!  And occasionally with a 9mm!"  Which is really very cool.

Also also, shoulder holsters are very uncomfortable.

I was off to the side during a shot setup, wrapping myself up in Blue's music, when one of the PAs (who's also an actress) asked what I was listening to.  She and another girl seemed surprised/impressed that I'd made a playlist just for the character, and they're going to keep it in mind.  So yay, I shared one of my favorite tools with other people!  And a nice reminder that what other people learn from you doesn't have to be any great stroke of genius, just something useful that's new to them.  I know it's true of some of the things I've learned from other people, when I gush at them about it and they give me this look that says "Um, yeah, okay..."

Here's Blue's playlist on MySpace.   (It's an imperfect way of sharing these, since I have a lot of older and/or obscure stuff, so something is always missing.  In this case, three or four songs, plus one substitution -- my preferred Snake River Conspiracy cover of "How Soon Is Now" isn't available, but t.A.T.u.'s is.  But it gives you the general idea, and it's convenient.)

Give it a listen, and then think about going from that person to operetta silliness for Die Fledermaus rehearsal this afternoon.  If Prince Orlovsky wants to keep from being bored, he should try that!  :-D

Friday, April 3, 2009


Blue has a biker jacket.  It's polyester, not leather, but should read okay on camera.  I was hoping for a nice beat-up one, but I went on my lunch hour yesterday to my best beloved thrift store and it's GONE!  :-(

With opera rehearsal last night, that left me running around like a crazy person this evening, and discovering no jackets to speak of at the thrift stores near my house.  I found one I really liked the looks of at H & M, but even a couple sizes up the sleeves were just too tight.  Blue is a practical kinda girl, and I need to be able to move!  So I got the windbreaker one at Forever 21, which ought to do the job.  (Sometimes I work for people who have budget for wardrobe.  This is not one of those times.  This is one of the times when my own skills in that department come in handy.  Such is life.)

Song for today: "Strange Little Girl" by Tori Amos.  Creepy mystery woman tomorrow, sassy operetta diva at rehearsal Sunday... Guess you could call that pretty strange!