Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday greetings of a... different kind

From writer/director Travis Legge and the whole Plastic Age Productions team. Not content with being up to his eyebrows in final post-production on Travis' debut feature Raymond Did It, we shot this short just last weekend, and the crack team had it completed and online for Christmas morning.

I love these people. And you're pretty darn cool too! Have a very merry Christmas, and/or a blessed (if belated) light-filled winter holiday of another tradition.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How I spent my Christmas vacation

Or rather, the weekend before it. To wit, shooting this heartwarming tale of holiday togetherness:

If I thought a camera could capture what I see looking out my window right now, I'd snap a photo. Snow and fog, just at the edge of twilight. Magical. But I think a photo would just end up looking dreary. So ephemeral, these things.

Blessed Solstice to all and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The tightrope and the net

In which our Diva just doesn't want to be perfect

I saw Black Swan the other day. Like pretty much everyone else, I was blown away. Like Roger Ebert, I almost immediately wanted to rewatch The Red Shoes, something I haven't done in several years. That's partly because, though it's one of my all-time favorite films, it is -- for some of the same reasons as Black Swan, albeit not as intensely -- not always easy to watch.

(Here's where things get a bit spoilery, despite my best efforts to avoid it. If you haven't seen Black Swan and want to avoid preconceptions, stop reading and come back later. The post will still be here.)

As Ebert's review notes, Black Swan harks back to The Red Shoes in ways large and small, almost certainly deliberate, and not least among them the ending. There's a critical difference, though: The Red Shoes' Vicky Page has a life -- romance, interests, independence -- and the film follows the domino effect of choices she makes to sacrifice all of that on the altar of her art. Black Swan's Nina Sayers, as the film makes painfully clear within the first few minutes, has never had such a life. She seems barely conscious that such a thing is even possible; her entire world is the theatre, the apartment she shares with her mother, and the subway ride in between.

In a way, Vicky has been fragmented into two characters: Nina and rival (?) newcomer Lily. I put that question mark there for a reason, one that I'm not seeing discussed very much. There's rumination aplenty on Natalie Portman's performance, complete with deconstruction of the sociopolitical ramifications of what she put her mind and body through to achieve it. There's commentary on the creepily controlling mother and domineering artistic director. And all that is undeniably interesting, and I could get into it, but I'd mostly be saying stuff that's been said elsewhere.

What I haven't run across, what I'm finding myself thinking about more and more in the day and a half since I sat staring, slightly stunned, at the closing credits, is this: Lily is the "black swan," the glamorous, insidious threat, because the drama playing out in Nina's mind -- and everything we see is through Nina's eyes -- requires it. And the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes to me that not only is Lily ill-cast in the role, but that she is in fact the one and only person in Nina's world who is not trying to co-opt her life.

To the extent that we can separate the actions of the real Lily from the hallucinatory construct who sometimes wears Lily's face and sometimes Nina's own (and there's a point or two where that remains ambiguous), the worst we can say is that maybe she wouldn't be making such an effort to befriend Nina if Nina weren't the freshly-anointed star. But it's also perfectly possible that she really just sees a colleague who's lonely, terrified, and in desperate need of a friend.

Lily's no angel, and we may well disapprove of her casual attitude toward drugs and sex. But while the "girls' night out" seems wild and utterly out of control from Nina's (and therefore the audience's) perspective, it doesn't take much thought to realize that she can't be doing that every night. She shows up reliably to work, dances well, seems to get along with pretty much everyone.

There are repeated assertions in the dialogue that Lily is charismatic and sexy because she's slightly "dangerous." This serves the point Thomas is trying to make about what Nina needs to bring to her Black Swan (and I find it curious that Odette and Odile are never referred to by name, but that's a ponder for another day), but I'm not convinced it's accurate. Lily is confident, healthy, secure. In a circus of extreme personalities, she's the unlikely poster girl for "everything in moderation." A concept so utterly beyond Nina's grasp that, through her increasingly fractured lens, it makes sense for Lily to be out to take away everything she has... which, at the end of the day, is pathetically little.

Nor does Lily have any need to do so, and it's this that Nina is particularly unequipped to understand.  The shape of the drama requires that Lily be named the alternate. But it says something else, too, something that gets overlooked but which is critically important in my world: She has achieved a level of professional success very nearly on a par with Nina's without sacrificing the rest of her life. (Whether she did it without resorting to the casting couch is an open question, answerable only by knowing the sequence of events outside of Nina's perception and whether a particular event within her perception actually took place.)

The myth sold to Nina all her life, the one that's been romanticized in fiction as long as we've had fiction, is that true art is possible only through sacrifice to the point of abject misery.

It's a lie. You can be an artist and be happy. Lily is living proof, embedded directly in this latest iteration (and, to a great extent, subversion) of the classic storyline.

As for the other principal figure required by this play of archetypes, the tyrannical, abusive genius pulling the strings? He's a lie too, not because he doesn't exist but because he isn't necessary or excusable. And there are clues in the characterization of Thomas that we're meant to take some subversion away from that too. It's not as clear, maybe, but I don't think it's an accident that it's Lily -- that same voice of moderation -- who states matter-of-factly that he's a prick, and voices directly to him her concerns about how he runs his rehearsals.  (Worth noting here are the stories Natalie Portman has been telling in interviews, about how Darren Aronofsky attempted to play her and Mila Kunis -- who've been close friends for years -- off as rivals, keeping them separate in ballet training and telling each that the other was "looking really good." But there's something in the amusement with which Portman relates this that makes me think Aronofsky knew perfectly well they would get together and compare notes, and that the whole thing was an oddly ironic game for all parties.)

Both of these myths -- told over and over again, and widely taken as truth by audiences -- are incredibly dangerous and damaging if an artist takes them at face value. Yes, we absolutely have to take risks. We have to sacrifice personal defenses and let strangers in where we fear to admit even those we love most. But there's a contract on both sides of that transaction, that the place we're taking that risk -- the studio, the stage -- will form the boundary of the storm, and that it need not rage beyond that boundary to wreck the rest of our lives. We have to trust those riding out the storm with us.

No genius, no results can excuse betrayal of that trust. There is no result that cannot be equally effectively achieved without such a betrayal.

All of which has tangentially reminded me of one of the reasons I adore Slings and Arrows, the acclaimed Canadian TV series about a beleaguered fictional Shakespeare festival. At the center of the series is artistic director Geoffrey Tennant, who knows a little bit about risk and loss in the name of art. That'll happen when you fall off the metaphorical tightrope and have a psychotic break in the middle of a performance of Hamlet, precipitated by failure of the two most critical strands of his net, his director and his girlfriend.

Seven years (the first several of them institutionalized) later, he winds up back at the same festival, inheriting in midstream the direction of another Hamlet. His Ophelia is a curious character named Claire, whose presence in the company despite her glaring lack of ability is never explained beyond "I think she's someone's evil niece." No one likes this woman, nor is there any particular reason they should. She's pretentious, gossipy, and smarmily duplicitous. If there were ever a situation where the audience would forgive a fictional director for launching a tyrannical tirade at a fictional actress, this is probably it.

Geoffrey does eventually reach his breaking point with her, and this is what he does:

Keep your spoiled-brat Lermontovs and Thomas LeRoys. I'm not impressed. This, my friends, is how the grownups do it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Building blocks

In which our Diva is settling in for a long winter's homework session

If you're keeping score, you know I have three very different women living in my head this winter.  One died 148 years ago, nine years younger than I am now.  One is nearly 400 years old, and has lived most of that time under a curse and in the midst of violent circumstances.  One... well, she has to wait a bit longer before you hear about her.  All require me to brush up my knowledge -- ranging from decent to cursory to nonexistent -- of several very disparate subjects.

I love research.  It's a running joke (albeit not a thigh-slappingly funny one) that if I couldn't be an actor, I'd want to be a dramaturg. For which, of course, there's even less demand!

Part of it is just that I'm a geek, and the bottom line is that I like to know stuff. But that's just a happy coincidence that meshes well with my firm belief in building as complete a mental foundation as possible of who a character is and the world she inhabits, so that by the time I actually step on stage or in front of the camera, I'm free to just go. To push the technical stuff (hit this mark, say these words, don't lisp around the fangs) to the back of my mind, connect with the people and events in the scene with me, and let the character live her life as honestly as can be.

It sounds utterly simple, and when it's really right, in that moment, it is. It's the stuff leading up to it that's complicated. All that stuff you hear about with the mysterious-sounding names -- sense-memory or substitution or Laban movement work or Linklater voice technique or whatever -- is just building a toolbox for making it that simple when it's time to do what we came here to do. We learn them and drill them and integrate them into our bodies and minds, with no shortage of conscious thought and effort, so that they'll be available when they're what we need and when the last thing we want to have to do is think about them.

It's like anything else: You make it look easy, because in that moment, it is. It's everything leading up to it that wasn't so much.

Doing my job right means, among other things, actively contributing to the misconception that it isn't really work. Chew on that one with your Cheerios. ;-}

Edit: Thank you to StudiesinLight for reminding me of the how this last notion played out in the comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane. It involves a ballet dancer rather than an actor, but the principle is the same (though the public is somewhat aware of the physical rigor of dance, and thus slightly more inclined to comprehend it with the label "work"), and is summarized nicely in this blog post, albeit with the blogger drawing a stereotype-reinforcing conclusion that makes me roll my eyes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


In which our Diva is polishing her holday repertoire

Yesterday I was asked on Formspring what was the most challenging song I've learned to sing. I answered that it was a tossup between the Gounod Ave Maria and "The Finer Things" from Jane Eyre, but as I think about it, it's really no contest. That Ave Maria just fills my heart and makes me cry every time, if it's sung right.

And oh, it's that "sung right" that's the kicker. The deceptively simple melody -- based on a keyboard exercise from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavichord -- leaves the singer completely exposed, with nowhere to fudge in the slightest on breath control/support and placement. Its tessitura calls for the most support, smoothness, and control right across the passagio of my particular lyric soprano voice.

In less technical terms, there's a killer ab workout going on that the audience (ideally) never sees.

You can sing it without feeling like you've done fifty crunches, and it may very well even be pretty, but there'll be something missing. (I'm looking at you, Hayley Westenra, much as I love a lot of your stuff. Though you get closer than some.) But when the mind and body and heart are in tune, and the natural instrument is Kiri Te Kanawa's, you get this.

I haven't sung it since the Elgin Opera holiday party last December, when I had a little bit of a support issue (there's only so much I can convince those gut muscles to do what I tell them when they want to clench up because I'm cold) that led to a little bit of a pitch problem, but made my mom cry anyway. December has rolled around again, and I'm singing at Villa Verone on the 5th and the 19th, so I'm working on getting it back up again.

All my adult life, the word "resonance" has been very personal in a rather literal way -- all about the bones and spaces in my body and head, and how sound spins inside them and out into a performance space. As you can see in my previous post, my relationship with the word is growing, to encompass not just the exciting project I've gotten involved in but the principle of physics that gives the project its title.

Which is, of course, the exact same thing as that personal sense I started with. The continuum of microcosm to macrocosm, in scientific or mythic terms, has always been a fascinating concept to me, and a mental image that winds through all my creative endeavors in one way or another. So when I ran across this awesome Flash toy illustrating the scale of the universe, I thought it was the coolest thing I'd seen all month. You might or might not be as childishly gleeful about it as I was, but you should definitely check it out and play with it. Slide the control and see what those words you've heard for units -- and maybe some you've never encountered -- look like in clear, cartoony color.

I've been pulling it up to play with at least once in a day, just because it makes me smile. And in a weird way, it'll be in my mind when I'm directing breath and muscle and magic to resonate from the small spaces in my body and out into the restaurant.

Song for Today: Self-evident, of course. My all-time favorite recording is Michael Ball's. It's not perfect, or even necessarily the closest to the ideal I have in my head (and there is a very clear ideal in my head, one that no real singer has ever quite sounded like), but my emotional attachment to the piece began with his performance on the 1990 holiday album recorded by Broadway and West End performers as a benefit for Save the Children. It's interesting to me that my ideal is a purely classical soprano, but I prefer Ball's rendition to those of straight-up operatic tenors.

Dunno what that means. But I know what I like and how it makes me feel, and that's knowledge of value too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Surprises, secrets and serendipity

In which our Diva alliterates, ruminates and collaborates

In modern popular culture, our modes of storytelling, and of talking about stories, place a high premium on the element of surprise. We're all about the twist, the stunning revelation, the "everything changes." Creators of hotly-anticipated projects pile safeguard on safeguard to keep their story details under wraps, the spoiler mill works even harder to get the scoop on leaks, and some fans eagerly snap up those leaks while others are hard-pressed to avoid them.

With all this going on, it's hard to remember the twist isn't everything. (Even when people think it is. I seem to be the only person on the planet who liked The Village on other merits and didn't care that I saw the "twist" coming a mile away.) Not every story  is "ruined" if we know or can easily guess what's going to happen. Sometimes it's just as rewarding to watch how it gets to a place we fully expect.

And sometimes it really does matter. Sometimes there's a mystery, a puzzle, a picture best built gradually, piece by piece.  When you're part of telling that kind of story, you get really good at keeping your mouth shut, at keeping track of what you're allowed to tell whom and when.

For the second time this fall, I've been all cryptic lately about a new endeavor. The cryptic will be with us for a while, but I can at least stop typing Sooper Sekrit Project. (As amusing as that may be, if only to me.) Resonance isn't a whole lot shorter, but it does sound cooler. And, courtesy of a serendipitously-timed email I wasn't even sure anyone was going to read, I'm now part of its development team.

For the moment, that's all I can really say. But I was excited about the possibilities of the project before I was ever in contact with anyone involved in it, and now I've found them very much kindred spirits. I'm in, not quite on the ground floor, but certainly the first floor, of something that promises to be pretty huge. Perhaps more to the point, it's something I can't wait to see, and I get to help make it happen. Does it get any better than that?

Lots to do in the coming months, but before you know it we'll be asking: Will you help?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The persistence of poppies

In which our Diva follows a flower through a labyrinth of meaning

This week marks Armistice Day, more commonly referred to as Veteran's Day here in the US, and Remembrance Day in the UK, where its specific reference to World War I tends to be more noted than here. Digital poppies have been scattered through my Twitter feed for a week or more, adorning the userpics of Brits and Canadians, many of whom are presumably also wearing fabric ones in real life.

I didn't know until I was an adult that the tradition originates with John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Field," and it wasn't until a couple years ago that I learned of the alternate tradition of wearing a white poppy, signifying hope (specifically for peace) rather than sacrifice.

All I knew when I was a kid, living in England from ages 7-10 when the Air Force stationed my dad at RAF Lakenheath, was that the British poppies came out around my birthday and were manufactured completely differently from the wire-and-crepe-paper ones I was familiar with thanks to the American Legion.

Legion and VFW poppies come out for Memorial Day (end of May, for those not in the US), which originated with the Civil War, but which in my lifetime has tended to emphasize WWII. Perhaps especially in my experience, which included, at age 5, riding in the Memorial Day parade, on the back of a red convertible generously decorated with those crepe-paper poppies, as Poppy Queen for my WWII-vet grandfather's Legion post. It was quite the day for a little girl already inclined to show off, and I still have the red pageant-style sash, long white dress, and little white gloves. (Tangential factoid: I was quite small for my age until age 13, at which point some weird biochemical switch flipped and I shot up a whole foot over the next five years. Both dress and gloves -- which I clearly remember wearing for Easter and Memorial Day that year -- look impossibly tiny now.)

The American Legion figures prominently in many of my memories of Grandpa W. I even have my original membership card for the Legion Auxiliary, issued shortly after my birth, when I was among the first granddaughters admitted to the organization when the eligibility rules changed.  The point was rendered moot within months, when my dad's number came up and he became a Vietnam-era veteran, eligible for Legion membership himself.

The poppy-wearing tradition, at least in my adult lifetime (probably earlier, but I have next to no frame of reference for the civilian world during my childhood), isn't as ubiquitious in the US as in Britain and Canada, a fact that surprises me over and over again. (It shouldn't by now. It gets harder every year to find a Legionnaire to buy one from.) It happened again this morning, in a Twitter exchange with film writer Neal Romanek, an American living in London who was mystified by the poppies all around him this week until it was explained to him today.  And, though almost exactly two years older than I and the child of a Vietnam vet himself, he wasn't aware of the American poppy tradition at all.

As a small child, I was perennially puzzled by the Wicked Witch of the West using a field of poppies as a weapon to stop Dorothy and her friends from reaching the Emerald City. "Something with poison in it," she crooned to the captain of her flying monkeys. I'd never seen a real poppy before we lived in England, but I knew they existed, and I knew some plants were poisonous if you ate them, so that potentially made sense. But just walking across a field putting everyone to sleep? I have a vague recollection of asking my mom about it, around the same age as my pretend-royalty-for-a-day experience. I don't remember what her explanation was, only that I didn't really understand it. In retrospect, I suspect she was at a bit of a loss for something that would make sense without recourse to L. Frank Baum's turn-of-the-century vantage point, when opiate-based medications were still freely available but their hazards widely known. Fifteen years passed between the publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and John McCrae's battlefield composition, and it's the latter that invokes the common European wildflower rather than its potent cultivated cousin.

None of which I knew when we moved into our housing unit at Lakenheath, with a lawn that was covered with tiny daisies in spring and early summer, and with wild poppies in late summer and fall, so thick that friends and I would run through them over and over again toward an imaginary Emerald City.  That profusion is the image invoked by Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine in his account of the famous opening of Lizzie's grave to recover the poems DGR had buried with her seven years before: "fresh poetry and new poets arose, even as they now arise, with all the abundance and timeliness of poppies in autumn." Even so, as Stephanie Pina notes in today's blog post on, the choice of metaphor is striking in reference to Lizzie, for whom the cultivated opium poppy, processed into laudanum, brought relief, addiction, and finally death.

DGR painted three oil versions of Beata Beatrix. In the first, housed at the Tate Gallery in London, and the second, which I visited this summer at the Art Institute of Chicago, a red dove delivers a white poppy into Beatrice's open hands. In the third, completed by Ford Madox Brown after Gabriel's death and now in the collection of the Birmingham Museum, the colors of bird and flower are reversed.

It would be half a century later, on the other side of the war whose technology irrevocably changed what war meant in Western culture, that those colors would come to denote the hope and sacrifice I mentioned at the top of this post.  What they meant to DGR when he conceived the painting(s) is open to interpretation and debate. Beata Beatrix is often referred to as his tribute or memorial to Lizzie, but the more I think about his repeated execution of the design, the more it feels like an attempt to make peace with her spirit. Metaphorically speaking. (Or mostly; there are those seances with the Brownings to consider.)

But it's the inside of Lizzie's head I'm trying to explore these days. There's only so far I can or should try to puzzle out Gabriel's too!  (It was a pretty scary place for a while there. I don't envy him inhabiting it.)

Song for Today: When I bought Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles, my teenage mind was completely blown by the lyrical continuum from WWI's "lost generation" to the modern lives destroyed by the drug trade. Today, 25 years later, war and the drug trade occupy the same space, where opium cultivation appeases the Taliban and puts food on the family table.

Poppies for young lives. Bitter trade indeed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so

Insighful, thought-provoking post over at Hoyden About Town on Ophelia, violence, and what is and is not in the text: On Ophelia, Who Never Got to Be a Hoyden:

There is no indication in the text that Hamlet harms Ophelia physically in this scene, no stage direction and no line that specifically requires such an action for it to make sense. If anything the text suggests a Hamlet who is trying to remove himself from Ophelia’s company, not run her to ground. He says ‘farewell’ three times, as well as repeatedly saying ‘go’, ‘go to’ and ‘go thy ways’. Nevertheless, the scene is often staged with Hamlet tipping over from verbal abuse of Ophelia into physical.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November already?

In which our Diva wonders how the heck that happened

Halloween down (and much fun -- my first one in this house without a show, so I finally got to hand out candy and freak out the neighborhood kids as Zombie Tinkerbell), Election Day nearly done, and birthday just around the corner! This fall has flown.

Realized I forgot in my last post to mention one of my favorite moments in the Divine Comedy reading. In Canto 26, where we encounter Ulysses and Diomedes, Virgil turns to Dante and says, essentially, "They're Greek. Better let me do the talking." Seriously, I'm barely even paraphrasing there. I was sitting next to Racole Fisher, Storefront Shakespeare's executive director, and we looked at each other and (silently) cracked up. And nobody else seemed to get it! Yes, even in the Eighth Circle of Hell, there are geeky giggles to be had.

This coming Sunday I'll be back at Villa Verone with fellow Elgin Opera singers for our periodic casual cabaret evenings. Not sure yet what other Sundays I'm going to do, but we have six of them coming up: all through November and December, with Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends off.

Meanwhile, I'm hunkered down and bundled up (getting chilly out there, and trying to keep the ol' gas bill under control), making slow but reasonably steady progress on the Lizzie project and doing various electronic housekeeping.  Promo materials for Scarlet X are in the works; I'm excited to see  and share them. And as always, there are other potential projects swirling in the offing, and I'll keep you posted as any of them solidify.

I know that winter is inevitably on the way, but I'm holding tight to fall, with a little assistance from another animation Daryl made from the "Cemetery Girl" photoshoot.  Enjoy the pretty leaves while we got 'em!

Valerie - Cemetery Girl from Daryl Darko on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

O lasso!

In which our Diva had a serendipitous week

Or most of one, anyway. First there was the reading of excerpts from the Divine Comedy, in the original Italian by classical actor Gian Paolo Poddigue and in the Longfellow translation by Storefront Shakespeare artistic director Nora Manca, who directed me as Titania last summer. I arrived to the reading a little late -- Benedictine could use a few campus maps! -- catching the first (English) pass through Canto V just as Dante and Virgil met Francesca da Rimini. I'd have been disappointed to miss that, not just because I didn't want to walk in on Nora's performance any later than I had to, but because the wallpaper on both my netbook and my Office of Doom computer is Rossetti's three-panel watercolor illustrating that very passage. (Perfect for a widescreen monitor! Lizzie's self-portrait works better on the 4:3 monitor on my home desktop.)

Something I read recently (can't recall at the moment what it was; I've long since passed the point where all the research sort of runs together in my head) asserted that DGR missed the point, that Paolo and Francesca weren't really in love, but just gave in to momentary lust, and were actually being punished by being trapped together in the second circle with the rest of the lustful. I thought at the time that that didn't seem quite right, but it had been too long since I encountered what Francesca actually says. Which certainly doesn't sound to me like it tracks with this person's opinion, whether in Dante's words or Longfellow's translation! Maybe they didn't like the idea of true lovers being damned just because of that pesky adultery thing?

I got to meet Gian Paolo briefly after the reading, and attempt to chat in my poco poco Italiano, but it's a bit too poco for much of a chat. It's enough to follow a bit of poetry with context or, better yet, a translation fresh in my head, so it was a lovely evening all in all.

In a similar vein, on Saturday I scored a side-by-side edition of Vita Nuova on clearance at Half Price Books for two bucks. \o/ Hopefully the translation is better than the one I picked up a few years back, which I was unable to read due to its being BORING AS LINT, and which went in the donation pile after three attempts.  Of course, if this one isn't better, I can jump to the Italian for a challenge.  It joins the gorgeous blank book, bound in red paisley brocade, that I picked up there on my last trip for Lizzie-related jottings and sketches.  It's been christened with a few of the former, but I haven't quite attempted the latter yet. It's been ages and ages since I was drawing regularly, and I need to get back in the habit.

The final bit of serendipity came this morning on Twitter, when I unexpectedly heard from Lucinda Hawksley.  She's the author of the biography of Lizzie that languished on my Amazon wishlist for about four years before I happened on Stephanie Pina's interview with her on, and discovered that it was available under an(other) alternate title. I was having a brief conversation over there the other day about the one-woman show project, and guess the mention of Lizzie's name came up on Lucinda's radar. So chalk up another interested -- and interesting! -- party looking to see what this thing becomes. Keeping me honest and keeping me working!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Live from Sour Apple

In which our Diva appears on a talk show in a very small, very cute car

Life has been so busy recently, I completely forgot about this until I looked at Derek Dow's blog this morning. Live From Sour Apple is not actually live (as you can tell by our summery attire!), but was recorded in "Sour Apple," as Derek christened the Fiesta he drove as one of the promotional agents Ford selected in a nationwide competition. Sour Apple has returned home now, but Derek's clever talk show lives on, with a number of installments still on the schedule, featuring a variety of Chicago entertainers and creative folk.

He's a dizzyingly busy guy, seizing every opportunity for an up-and-coming filmmaker that comes his way, with his biggest project right now being a master's degree at USC Film School. Looking forward to seeing him become a big-name director!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Study in Scarlet

In which our Diva finally spills the beans

With the blessing of creator Derry Sexton, I'm excited to announce that I'm playing the vampire heroine known as Scarlet in the upcoming urban-fantasy webseries Scarlet X.

As it turns out, I'm one of the final pieces put into place, so last week was a whirlwind of wardrobe shopping, learning lines, and going straight into filming with a cast that has already been working together for a while.  (A long while, in some cases. Derry first conceived this universe in 2002, initially as an animated project, and has been workshopping the live-action version for several years, with a good chunk of the same team.) I'm grateful that they made me feel welcome as I jumped in with both feet.

Luckily for the circumstances, this first webisode initially establishes some of the key relationships of the series, notably between Scarlet and the young girl with the Great Big Destiny whom she's been charged to protect. Shaolin is a great kid, and I felt at home right away with her and the rest of the ensemble.  (Saturday began with five women gabbing away in an SUV while the last stragglers made their way through some hairy road-construction delays. Love it!)

I have a nifty-looking sword, some formidable enemies, 380 years of complicated to play with, and an open-ended world for it all to play out in. If you know me at all, you can guess how happy this makes me.

It's an ambitious project, to be sure, being realized by a small team with not a lot of money. So we're starting fairly small, with a three-section season that will take us through the end of 2011. This first section, which will be divided into three 8-to-10-minutes webisodes, is wrapped and in post-production, with a rollout planned near the beginning of the year.  The second will be filmed in April, and the third in August.  And then, we'll see from there...

I'll definitely keep you all posted on promo materials as they become available, and beg you shamelessly to pass them on! This whole mode of storytelling is still in its infancy, and heaven knows any new project needs all the grass-roots support it can get.  This thing has the potential to be a pretty big deal, and I'd love to see that happen.

Friday, October 8, 2010

October happenings

In which our Diva has a busy fall on tap

Posting on the fly, as I learn lines and get my set bag together to shoot on location in the woods all weekend. This is the exciting new webseries project I've been cryptically babbling about (shush! babbling can too be cryptic!) on Twitter all week, and I promise to give you all the details just as soon I can! In the meantime, I can tell you it involves quite a few of my favorite things: Playing with swords, urban fantasy, history, a story driven mostly by an array of awesome women, and a rich, complex character I can really dig into. I'm loving every minute, and can't wait to tell you all about it.

In the meantime, I can tell you to come check out Elgin Opera's annual benefit dinner and performance on Sunday, October 24. I'll be singing with the ensemble in several numbers, and enjoying the costumes (I love anything that extends my Halloween), the amazing artists joining us as soloists, and the unfailingly scrumptious Italian food at Villa Verone. Check out the website for all the details, and I hope to see you there! We're also still gladly accepting items for the silent auction, so if you'd like to contribute in that way, please call the office at (847) 695-5014.

Fall in the Fox Valley is gorgeous, with lots of old-growth trees turning amazing colors and shedding their leaves. Last weekend I went out to the nearby Bluff City Cemetery to work with photographer Daryl Darko on his ongoing "Cemetery Girl" project. Check out this cool animation he created using over 1600 photos from the session!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


In which our Diva is all for a bit of blood on one's hands

Some of you lovely folks follow the horror blogosphere, but I think most don't, so you may not be aware of the buzz around this weekend's watershed release of Hatchet II.

What makes it watershed, as discussed in more detail in this article over at Dread Central, is that it marks the first theatrical release of an unrated horror movie in over 25 years. If the experiment proves financially viable for AMC Theatres, it could pave the way for commercial release of more envelope-pushing independents, with their content intact, on big screens.  The current discussion is centering on horror, obviously, but the ripples could be felt in other genres as well.

Now, maybe none of this is your bag. Maybe it makes no difference to you whether that edgy film with the niche audience turns up for a day or two at an art house if the filmmakers are lucky, or just goes straight to DVD... or maybe, just maybe, occupies a showing or two a day on one of the 20 or 30 screens in the typical suburban multiplex. And that's just it: If you don't want to see a movie, it makes no difference where you don't see it. But for those who do want to see it, and for those who made it, that single screen for a few hours a day makes all the difference in the world.

We're not talking about blockbusters here. We're not talking about tearing down Western civilization as we know it. (Though I'm sure it'll be about 45 seconds before someone takes that position, if they haven't already.) We're talking about one more little chink in the homogeneity of an industry dominated by international conglomerates whose corporate hive minds only comprehend numbers in the hundreds of millions.

Travis Legge, who directed me in Raymond Did It this past summer, is one of those filmmakers watching the developments with keen interest. He's lost a lot of sleep in the last few months, making apparently arbitrary edits, just to get the all-important MPAA green band for a trailer.

I had the opportunity to see Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer at last weekend's Chicago Horror Film Festival, but it didn't occur to me until later in the week that we're probably in the same boat with that one. No rating was mentioned at the screening, and I don't know whether it's been submitted for one, but to my eye it's on the edge of what makes the R grade. Our Mark Vadik took home the festival's award for Best Director, and mentioned during a brief Q&A that we're now an Anchor Bay property, with release expected early next year. It remains to be seen what form that release will take, but you can bet the company is keeping a very interested eye on what develops from this Hatchet II thing.

Which brings us to a bit of a kicker: Everybody goes for the R because everybody knows it's financial suicide to release NC-17. Thing is, I remember when NC-17 was the "respectable" relabeling of the X rating, which had been thoroughly appropriated by the porn industry. (If you've ever run across the fact that the MPAA has trademarked their ratings, and wondered why, that's the reason.)  All either rating ever meant was "No children under 17 will be allowed in to see this."  Every other bit of associated baggage has alchemized out of the collision of conservative culture and marketing.  (You could get another whole article about the advent of PG-13 in the 80s, and whole books have been written about the Hays Code, for which the MPAA was designed as the forward-thinking, filmmaker-freeing replacement!)

In the long run, in the best case scenario of what indie filmmakers are hoping for, "unrated" will eventually become the new NC-17, and we'll have to play this game all over again. But in the meantime, maybe some films that deserve a life beyond the video shelf will get one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

When the sun is shining differently

In which our Diva seeks musical inspiration yet again

A friend recently pointed out a curious thing about the Pre-Raphaelites as a group that should have been obvious, but which had never occurred to me: None of them really cared a fig about music. They drew or painted people making and listening to it, and DGR drove people nuts by humming constantly while he worked, but they didn't think of it in the same artistic terms as the disciplines where they made their mark: painting, poetry, design.

Which hasn't stopped a variety of recording artists from being directly or indirectly inspired by them. The second half of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love is a mini-concept album called The Ninth Wave, with a secondary album "cover" intentionally based on Millais' Ophelia. Broadway star Rebecca Luker's last album features a lovely setting of a Christina Rossetti poem. And if you've ever seen or heard Loreena McKennitt, well.

The voice of my Lizzie is coming more easily as I write, and as with many characters I've played, I've assembled a playlist for her. Because unlike the PRs, I am very much a musical creature! Like the show, the playlist is a work in progress, and will probably shift a lot by the time I'm ready to put this baby on stage. (And suggestions, if you have them, are always welcome!) But for now, this is what I'm writing to.

I didn't set out for quite so much of it to speak to her relationship with Gabriel, since part of my intention has always been to bring out her own point of view, which history has tangled so inextricably with his. But then she did that herself to a large extent, and I'm finding my way more to acknowledging and dealing with that, while keeping the story very much hers. It remains to be seen if I succeed.
  1. Loreena McKennitt ~ Stolen Child
  2. Idina Menzel ~ Gorgeous
  3. Sarah McLachlan ~ Fear
  4. Plumb ~ Better
  5. Sarah McLachlan ~ Stupid
  6. Anne Buckley ~ Our Wedding Day
  7. Evanescence ~ Going Under
  8. Sarah McLachlan ~ Ice
  9. Jewel ~ Foolish Games
  10. Emilie Autumn ~ Opheliac
  11. Rebecca Luker ~ Remember
  12. Loreena McKennitt ~ The Lady of Shalott
 At least one of the above is equally applicable to the Lizzie and Gabriel of the BBC's rollicking and gorgeous Desperate Romantics, as evidenced by this fan-made music video. Inspiration abounds!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shiny new reel

Eventually I'll hire someone to do this who's better at it than I am, but in the current economy, it's good to be a geek. :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fairies and cannibals

In which our Diva has rather a wide range of projects

Ooops! I really didn't mean to go nearly a month between posts, but I got really busy with auditions and geekiness. The latter involved getting ready for and attending Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con and Dragon*Con, both of which were ridiculous amounts of fun.

Now they're done, and I've emerged from my sewing room to find that Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer will be screened at the Chicago Horror Film Festival, September 24-26. The movie will be shown on Sunday evening, and is up for several festival awards. After all the pouting I've been doing about not being able to make it to the other events where it's screened (okay, I'm still going to pout about London!), I'm seriously stoked to get to see it on a big screen locally! If you come out for it, I'd love to chat at the event.

With other projects taking precedence, I've only just now finally edited my video diary for Storefront Shakespeare's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream this past June/July. If you thought that bunch was crazy onstage...

Special thanks go to the lovely Emma Wallace for kind permission to use her song "Pet (Helena's Lament)." I discovered her through our director, Nora Manca, and just love her "modern ragtime" style. Be sure to check it out! And don't miss her blog, where she frequently offers free "song sketches" to fans.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cyrus does Atlanta

In which our Diva wishes she could be there, and hopes you can

As I noted in passing recently, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer is the closing feature at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, tonight at 9:30. I'm a bit bummed that I can't make it, when I'll be in that very city three weeks from now for Dragon*Con!

But such is life, and I hope a bloody good time is had by all!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yeah, what he said

In which our Diva borrows another's perspective for a moment

I talk a lot here about the physical aspects of acting, of developing and being aware of my body and what it can do in the course of telling a story. I was a dancer first, so that thinking is second nature to me, which makes it difficult to articulate what's so important and valuable about those aspects of our craft.

Enter Ben Hopkin, of the consistently thoughtful and useful Acting Without the Drama blog, to spell it out from the more cerebral vantage point.  It was an eye-opening read from my very movement-oriented perspective too, illuminating the thought process behind some actors' dismissal of or resistance to what I've always considered to be a key portion of the toolbox.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Paintings and poems and passion

In which our Diva has all sorts of inspiration

Look what I finally went to visit a couple weekends ago!

If you're not able to get to the Art Institute (which I highly recommend if you can), you can get a much better look at the painting on their website. For the benefit of those not mildly obsessed with the Pre-Raphaelites, it is of course Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Beata Beatrix, famously regarded as a posthumous tribute to Elizabeth Siddal after a long engagement, a shortish marriage, a lot of drama, and an early grave.  The one here in Chicago is actually the second of three versions in oils, and the only one with the additional panel at the bottom. There are also at least one watercolor and a charcoal sketch. (The significance of his returning to this image so many times -- not that it's the only time he did that, but it's probably the most consistent -- is an open question tackled by many a biographer and art historian, and well beyond the scope of this post. *g*)

If you've been around this blog a while, you know that I've been trying to write a one-woman show about Lizzie for... kind of a ridiculously long time, actually. If you have no idea what I'm babbling about, click the "lizzie" tag to catch up.

One stumbling block I keep hitting in my progress on the project (which has actually kindasorta been progressing recently, albeit in a few rather stream-of-consciousness chunks that remain light-years from performable) is that I have very limited patience for sitting and reading poetry.  Dunno why, exactly, but it's exactly like trying to sit and read Shakespeare. Which is to say, mostly pointless.

So the other day it finally occurred to me that what I needed to be doing was listening to poetry. There are lots of bits and pieces of various people's poems -- Lizzie's own, Gabriel's, a few of Christina's, plus the Tennyson and Blake and Shakespeare and Dante that constantly hung in the air at Chatham Place -- that I know how I want to weave into my script, and I know there are lots more waiting to fire the right synaptic connections.

I would just like to take this moment to point out that LibriVox is AWESOMECAKES.  Not that I didn't already know that, but I have discovered it all over again, and now I want to send all the volunteer readers pie.

Not quite as useful, but deeply cool in a spooky sort of way, is this YouTube channel I stumbled upon called Poetry Animations, where someone has digitally animated vintage images (mostly of the poets themselves) to readings of all manner of poems. They're less freaky than the talking baby on those e-trading commercials, though in some cases only slightly less so. F'rinstance, this one that uses Holman Hunt's portrait of Gabriel, which I've always found slightly freaky anyway. (Though I rather suspect the actual subtext happening on the day was less the apparent "I am looking right through your soul!!" and more "Bored, bored, for God's sake, are you done yet? BORED.")

All in all, I've had quite good luck... with everything except Lizzie's own poems. If anyone has recorded them, I can't find it. Looks like I'll have to do it myself. Woe. ;-)

In the process of my hunting, I had the idle thought that the BBC could probably make a bundle with an audiobook of Aidan Turner, who played Gabriel in their Desperate Romantics series last year, reading his poetry. Then I looked at the official site and discovered that they sort of figured that out, only they just put Turner on a windowseat in costume and filmed him performing six sonnets, one for each week the show aired. Like most BBC web media, alas, the videos are not available outside the UK, but if you're there, check 'em out.

The series has just come out on DVD Stateside, and I love it to bits in all its completely irreverent and historically-cavalier glory. I was already a fan of Turner's work on Being Human, and his Gabriel is highly entertaining as well, but it's always been the women of the Pre-Raphaelite circle I found most interesting, and the three primary ones in the series -- Lizzie (Amy Manson, who has since been great fun to watch as Daisy, the free-spirited and pragmatic vampire introduced in Being Human's second season), Effie Millais (Zoe Tapper, who had me at Nell Gwyn in Stage Beauty), and Annie Miller (newcomer Jennie Jacques, who could not be more adorable if she were made entirely of puppies) -- don't disappoint. I know some of my fellow PR-ophiles have insurmountable issues with it, but if you take it for what it is, it's a rollicking ride. And not without its moving moments too, genuine in spirit if not in the letter of the facts.

My favorite is unquestionably the montage near the end, after Lizzie's death, with Hunt and Millais contemplating their studies of her as Sylvia and Ophelia respectively, while Gabriel feverishly pulls Beata Beatrix from a blank canvas. I don't even care that the reproduction is pretty dodgy, bearing little resemblance to either the real painting or Amy Manson. (Mind you, the real painting is generally regarded as not a terribly accurate likeness of Lizzie either, so that sort of works in a weird way anyway.) I cried like a big ol' sappy sap, and don't care who knows it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sorry, wrong redhead

In which our Diva was planning to blog about something else entirely today, but...

First, the good news: As mentioned in this Fangoria interview with director Mark Vadik, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer will be the closing feature at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival on August 15.  There's a bit of a kicker in the fact that it'll be in a city where I'm going to be (for Dragon*Con) just three weeks later, but it's still pretty cool.

Google Alerts are really handy for letting me know about things like that article. Then there are the... less useful links it turns up.  On today's interwebz, pretty much as soon as you have an IMDb page, you start turning up on all kinds of goofball "celebrity" sites. The one with my horoscope and biorhythms and stuff is particularly entertaining. Mostly, though, they're clutter.

In any case, most of these things are automatically generated, including the ones that pull bits of text from various places -- say, random celebrity names and assorted porny keywords -- and splice them together into bogus metadata to lure you to a page and infect your machine with malware.  At first, I thought the link that had my name and "show her left tit" in the same sentence was one of those. Then I realized that (a) the sentence made sense, and (b) it was describing a particularly intense scene in Cyrus.  There's just one... no, actually, there are a number of problems with that. But the first one that sprang to mind was that I'm not in that scene.

The link checked out according to my virus-protection software, so I let curiosity get the better of me. And yep, it was exactly what it sounded like, to wit, a site (I trust you'll excuse me for not linking it) collecting video clips of nudity or near-nudity from assorted sources. (It's apparently the updates from a particular day, which I assume explains why it randomly runs the gamut from an actual porn star's artificially enhanced full toplessness to a few frames of a Doctor Who companion's upper thighs under her fluttering nightshirt.)

Now, we all know The Internet Is For Porn. I think about that every time I hear or read a comment from an actress about how she chooses whether to do nudity in a role. The most common litmus test is whether it's integral to the story.  (Which is perfectly reasonable, if unavoidably subjective. I'm not saying there's no such thing as a story that can't be told effectively without it, but I personally think they're rarer than people tend to think.)

That reasoning is solid as far as it goes, but it only goes as far as you can rely on the story to remain intact. And these days, that's until about 24 hours after the pirated DVDs hit the streets of Bangkok or wherever. After that, congratulations! Your bits have almost certainly been yanked out of context and thrown up in sloppily-constructed virtual galleries for the convenience of any bored guy with an internet connection and a roll of toilet paper. Which is a very, very different transaction with the audience from the one you had in mind.

Thus it is that, in this particular instance, an actress who worked her ass off in an emotionally and physically exhausting role has one of its most disturbing moments amputated, its significance reduced to a glimpse of aureola. And, just to top it off, labeled with a caption identifying it as someone else entirely.

Funny thing -- Jill Sandmire was the one to note that there were four red-haired women among the principal cast: herself, Anne Marie Leighton, Patricia Belcher, and me.

Four quite distinct women, or so we concluded during that idle conversation between shot setups. But apparently we're interchangeable to some virtual voyeur who's only interested in our bits.

Stay classy, pal.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Quote List

A Midsummer Night's Dream Official Quote List
Storefront Shakespeare, Summer 2010

Is it gonna be a wall? Like, a wall wall... I am so tired. Proceed.

I will sacrifice my body if I need to.
-- But we need your body!

So there's a frog and an alcoholic chainsaw-wielding princess.

There will be audience everywhere. You'll be tripping over them. But don't actually trip over them.

I have anointed an Athenian's eyes. And so far I am glad I did... sort.

Believe me, King of Shadows... What's happening? Oh, I'm scared of him.

Ho, ho, ho!
-- Santa?

Tim, be gentle with her hair.
-- It's my real hair.
-- It's her nice clean real hair. Look how shiny it is.

I have a reasonable good ear in music. Let's have some Ace of Base.

You look so awkward.
-- Maybe that's because I'm 17 and she's 24.

The rite of May is basically to fornicate.
-- Fornicate among the flowers.
-- It's midsummer, so they're a little late.

Take a moment. Say, "Hi! Hi! Hi! I'm not a donkey!"
-- You jerk. You didn't even call!

And ladies, take your places.
-- Take your places, ladies.
-- Take your places, ladies. Get steppin'!

We don't have time to explain it to the audience.
-- You're dead. Shut up.

Racole will be here soon, and she's bringing toilet paper, and paper towels, and a dog.
-- One of these things is not like the others.

I thought we were getting a robot dog.
-- This is the understudy.

Doesn't a regular warm-up include ice cream?

This tulle presenteth Athens.

Were we just having fun?

Do not interrupt the Duke macking on the future Duchess.

Come, my Hippolyta. What cheer, my love? Where art thou?

On whom I might approve this... What?

You're enjoying this too much. She's hitting you. Stop smiling.
-- Oh.
-- Is there something we should know, Demetrius?

Look how I go, swifter than arrow from Tartar's bow! You guys are in my way!

Do I need to go get ice?
-- No, it's okay.
-- Can you fall on me without hurting yourself?

With Bottom around, I need a drink, man!

We're using Bandit because he's such a quiet dog.
-- A very gentleman-like dog.

To make our sides lit... Oh, that's not it.

Believe me, King of Shadows, you should slap me.

No throwing against the wall, or you'll plaster it.
-- I will!
-- Do you know how to plaster?
-- I'll figure it out.

Manly man.
-- Put a stick up your butt.
-- Yeah, that's basically what I mean.
-- I got a stick.

And crowned with one -- I have a question. Can they be somewhere else?

Okay, go back. Start picking up your monologue.
-- Oh, jeez.

No, that part was acting. I was fine until he stepped on my hair.

And then you storm off.
-- Aww.
-- No, wait! Let me change something!

Merry and tragical? Tedious and brief? Did I just fuck that up?

How many characters can the stage manager play tonight?

I'll try not to almost grab your thingy.

Why are you walking away? I'm talking to you! You don't love me!

This tickles my funny... funnily.

Thou! Thou! Thou hast no cause to break character!

Stand forth... *beat* *beat* Demetrius.

Messengers of strong...
-- Prevailment?
-- Prevailment.

Slowly. Very slowly.
-- Until you feel like an idiot.
-- I'm way past that point.
-- That's acting. If you feel stupid, you're doing it right.

I am a really bad stripper. I get paid in quarters.

We were out there and we were trying to sell ourselves. But, y'know, not literally.

Gina. Gina. Gina. Gina. Gina. Gina. Gina. PUCK!!

I'm like the Girl Scout from Hell.
-- Buy my cookies or die! You will eat these Tagalongs and you will like them!
-- But I'm allergic to peanuts.

What's the sugar for?
-- It has fun in fire.

S'mores in five.
-- Ooooh. Sugar and fire.
-- The perfect combination.

It's an air cannon. It's not dangerous.
-- That comes under famous last words.
-- Or a challenge, if you're the MythBusters.

To eat makes our speaking English good.

The bacon! MY the bacon!

I can't disobey Nora. She's the director. That would make me a diva.
-- Aren't you already one?

Russell, where's your lightsaber?

Ossifer, I'm home. Take me drunk.

Can we paint on my abs?

The counselor was like, "When he flexes you can see his abs?" Oh. Awkward silence.

X is for Ecstasy, which I smoked before I did this show.
-- You smoked Ecstasy?

Okay, why does the bathroom have a sign that says Careful, there may be a squirrel in here?

Lisa used to make me scream like a girl, and I liked it.
-- I think that's too much information.
-- I was Christmas Past.
-- I had to wake up with her in my bed and pretend I didn't like it.

Gina, you need to stop hitting on your stage manager.
-- Stop looking so sexy!

Ben, I love you! Why can't we be together?
-- You know why!
-- I'll turn you straight!

It's not recognizing your face. It's recognizing your boobs as a face.

No one's judging you. Put your clothes on.

Theatre in the round. More like orgy in the round.
-- Promenade theatre: Where the actors touch you. And you like it.

What did I say? Did it make sense?

I'm not coffee-smart.
-- What kind of smart are you?

You found a Walgreens?
-- I found a 7-Eleven. Gotta love the quality of a 7-Eleven. I think I'm bleeding.

I'm smelling that menthol.
-- I don't have to cough anymore, but I want a cigarette.

You've got sticky stuff all over your pants.
-- That's what they all say.

Agh! You're fifteen. Stop looking like you're not!

Nadia, I promise not to injure you today.

It should say Fairy Blaster 9000, because Hippolyta would totally have one of those.
-- Be vewy, vewy quiet. We'we hunting faiwies.

Armed. And legged as well.
-- Especially in those boots.

Tim, there's a bunch of people that look like you outside.

That's okay. You can't break character if I accidentally shoot you while you sleep.

You have to suffer for your art.
-- I did! I got dropped!

Dog crushed by stripper boots. No, sorry, dominatrix boots.
-- No, remember, I got them at a store that caters to drag queens.

Be careful on the ladder.
-- Jackie Chan does some of his best stunts on ladders!
-- Jackie Chan has broken every bone in his body multiple times.
-- I'm not Jackie Chan!

We should really do the fairy free-for-all dodging of the cars.
-- Storefront Shakespeare. In front of the store.

I do have multiple personalities. No, I don't.

Danielle, would you like a sucker?
-- Ooh! Caramel apple apple stuff!

Gina, you have to do the play naked.
-- Then it's A Midsummer Night's Wet Dream.
-- That's the after-show.

I dare you to put that whole wad of noodles in your mouth.
-- It's bigger than your head.
-- It's bigger than Bandit.
-- Can you eat the dog in one bite? If not, don't try it.

My greatest altruistic act is not having children and not cloning myself.
-- I have yet to meet a child who made me regret my vasectomy.

Marky, you should totally ask Nora if you can wear that in the show.
-- Uh, hi, Nora.

Okay, now they're having a slap fight over the hot dog costume.

I call everybody sweetie, honey and dear, which half of them haven't realized is code for dipshit, moron and asshole.
-- And the other half don't care.

Are you bringing sexy back?
-- Honey, I brought it. I used it. I'm tossing it aside.
-- Oooh, sloppy seconds! I'll take it!

Has anyone seen my clothes?
-- That sounds like me after too many wild nights.
-- Sounds like something you'd hear after Rocky.

I haven't slapped you!
-- Yet.

Russell, there are no more naked women, so you can get out your computer.
-- Why would you let the naked women stop you?

I've got ice in my butt.

I don't want to leave when I hear farting problems.

Man, if I were a klepto, this place would be awesome.

-- Yeah, I think there might be a lightning bolt. Or a bus. Or it might pull a My Name Is Earl on you.

Russell, did you spend the night?
-- Not intentionally.

Guess what? I just took, like, a ten-hour nap.

Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my hot dog and won thy love --
-- Doing thee... Those weren't injuries, dear. It was a cocktail weenie.
-- It was cold out!

I have Tourette's that comes and goes when it's convenient.

What did you do to Tinkerbell?

*koff* Hey, babe. *koff*

It's harder to storm upstage.

What the ever-loving fuck is going on out there?
-- I don't know. I was there, and I don't know.

One night to get it right

In which our Diva is a snarky waitress named Sheila

The feature I worked in last summer, One Night, is now available on DVD! I've seen my scene, but not the whole film, and I'm excited to check it out. I really loved the script.

It's a sort of postmodern romantic comedy in the vein of Garden State or The Pompatus of Love, and was very much a labor of love for the writer/director, Sebastian Howley, who's a great guy with all kinds of big dreams. I hope he achieves them all.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Going, going, gone!

Last chance to see Midsummer tonight!

It's been a wild ride sometimes, but I wouldn't have missed it. I do rather miss our Geneva space, but yoga studio (which is where we are now) = amazing bower.

The quote list is EPIC.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Babes With Blades beginner workshops!

In which our Diva encourages you to get violent

For anyone who's wanted to dip their toe in without committing the time/money/risk-of-intimidation for a full college course or what-have-you, the ever-awesome Babes have just the ticket!

Stage Combat Basics For Adults

Sunday, August 1
10 am - 1 pm
Interested in playing with swords onstage, but never had a chance to take a stage combat class?

Well, here's your chance!
We're going back to the basics - all beginners (over 15) welcome!
$30 - minimum age 15.
Under 18 - signature of parent/guardian required for participation.

Stage Combat Basics for Kids

Sunday, August 8
10 am - 12 pm
Beginner class for kids - $25 - open to ages 10-16.
Signature of parent/guardian required.

If parent/guardian cannot be present the day of the workshop to sign the permission form and waiver, give us a call - we'll try to work something out!

Both workshops will be at Chase Park
4701 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

Call to register: 773.904.0391

or go to

Questions? Want to hear about the next one? Please email

Song for today: "Cross the Line" by Superchick, because it makes me want to get my swords out and play!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The history books will clean it up

In which our Diva celebrates independence in a musical way

Love this movie so, so much. Of course, TCM is starting it fifteen minutes after I have to leave for the theatre! Only a matinee today, so that we can grill and gawk at fireworks with our families. (Remember, six more performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream!)

Yes, it's about a bunch of landholding white men squabbling amongst themselves. Make no mistake, what they made in that hot room in Philadelphia was a beginning. It's still a work in progress.

And so long as that work continues, it's worth celebrating. Have a safe and happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day!

In which our Diva wishes a safe and happy one to north-of-the-border friends

Last time I was there for the occasion, it was in this form (in the Windsor parade).

Needless to say, the blue spangly outfit doesn't fit anymore. But I can still twirl my tiny baton for you!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Titania's tunes

In which our Diva shares her musical inspiration

The playlist I compiled for this rehearsal process...

1. Invocation ~ Loreena McKennitt
2. Love And Anger ~ Kate Bush
3. Summerland ~ Gypsy Nomads
4. Beauty Has Her Way ~ Mummy Calls
5. Stolen Child ~ Loreena McKennitt
6. Sweet About Me ~ Gabriella Cilmi
7. Elan ~ Secret Garden
8. Siren ~ Sarah Brightman
9. Endless Dream ~ Conjure One
10. The Mummers' Dance ~ Loreena McKennitt
11. Possession ~ Sarah McLachlan
12. Moon Dance ~ Enaid & Einalem
13. Gorgeous ~ Idina Menzel
14. La Luna ~ Sarah Brightman
15. Bard Dance ~ Enya
16. Into The Fire ~ Sarah McLachlan
17. Beyond Imagination ~ Opera Babes

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens TONIGHT! Visit Storefront Shakespeare for details and to buy tickets online. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I am a spirit of no common rate

In which our Diva outlines the particulars of how this summer doth tend upon her state

Storefront Shakespeare presents
A Midsummer Night's Dream

228 S Third St, Geneva, IL:
  • Friday June 25th at 7pm
  • Saturday June 26th at 3pm and 7pm
  • Sunday June 27th at 3pm
  • Thursday July 1st at 7pm
  • Friday July 2nd at 7pm
  • Saturday July 3rd at 3pm and 7pm
  • Sunday July 4th at 3pm
  • Monday July 5th at 7pm
2035 S Washington St, Naperville, IL:
  • Friday July 9th at 7pm
  • Saturday July 10th at 3pm and 7pm
  • Sunday July 11th at 7pm
All tickets are $10.

I know I'm usually Babbly McPosterson during theatre rehearsals but haven't been this time around, and I'm not sure why that is.  This Monday I'll see the Geneva space for the first time, and our set will be coming together in it over the next couple weeks. Very excited about that!

Song for today: My Titania-inspired playlist is just about where I want it to be, and I'll be posting it here and sharing it with my castmates soon. I missed doing this for Pride & Prejudice, but for that the purpose was really served by the music in the show, especially since I was involved in two of the dances.  The right mix of music really helps get my head and heart in the right starting place before a rehearsal or performance.

This Midsummer has a contemporary fantasy sensibility, and that's reflected in some of the decidedly contemporary songs that felt right to put in the playlist. Idina Menzel's "Gorgeous" is one of them -- a great fit for Titania and Oberon's tempestuous relationship!