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.