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!