Friday, March 19, 2010

The List

I have a list. It's a mental list, it's not actually written down, but it is a list none the less. It's a list of names and faces. It's a list you don't want to find yourself on! It's not a long list and the honor of being placed on that list requires a lot of work. This list contains the names of people, mainly actors, that I will never work with again, will never recommend to anyone and depending on the severity of their crime may go out of my way to tell other people not to work with them. I know that sounds a bit harsh and perhaps it is. But I'm a very patient person and it really takes a lot for an actor to find his or her way onto my list. Once you do though I'm afraid there is no amount of smiles, gifts, kind words, or compliments that will get your name crossed off the list. If you disappoint me, if you disappoint others, if you intentially make a decision that sacrifices a production you will be on my list forever.

Now I'm a reasonable person, if your reasons are good, things like family and health they always come first, no one should ever put a production ahead of their families or medical issues, ever. I will be the first one to tell you that we'll be okay, please go and take care of what needs to be handled and we will welcome you back when you can come back.

I really do have a ton of patience. I used to teach kindergartners and a long time ago I realized that actors are like kindergartners. I say this out of the utmost love and respect. (I should say that 98% of my closest friends are actors and I wouldn't trade them for anyone else in the world.) Here are the parrellels:

You often need to ask both Kindergartners and Actors to pick up and put away their toys or props.

You need to reinforce the ideas of inside/outside voices or stage/normal voices.

You find yourself bandaging cuts knees and cleaning out wounds for both groups.

You need to tell both Kindergartners and Actorswhen to arrive, when to leave, when to go to the bathroom.

And there are moments when they return from the bathroom when you want to ask them if they've washed their hands.

Both groups need and thrive on a lot of love. They both have a lot of love to give, they are insanely creative and slightly eccentric. This is why I love them. They have this wonderful ability to make me laugh, show me that life goes on and will be alright. They are remarkably supportive and genuine. My kindergartners that I used to teach and the actors that I have the honor of working with and being friends with continually enrich my life and I am a better person for knowing them.

So when one of them does something that disappoints me, it is not something I take lightly. When you make a decision based on a whim in your head and that decision hurts a cast, company or a production you, my friend, you will find yourself at the very top of my list.

I have a few things I can promise you will recieve just for being on my list:

1. The guarantee that you will never be cast in a production that I am directing, stage managing or production managing.

2. I solomenly promise that the next time someone asks me for a recommendation for a role that you might be absolutely perfect for, your name and face will flash through my brain and I will smile, look at the person and say, " I really can't think of anyone."

3. I can also assure that if someone asks me about you, I will without guilt, tell them what you did that made you end up on my list.

4. Finally you should know that in any future encounters we may have I will be cold but professional, we will not hug and catch up, I reserve those activities for people not on this small but very important list.

I do not put anyone on this list on a whim. You will never leave the list. So please think about your actions, think about the consequences and don't make me add you to my list.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happiness In A Jar!

There are moments in life when you get to experience pure happiness. Sometimes it's a fleeting moment and other times in lingers. For me I can usually find it when I get the chance to put my ipod on and go for a walk to the park near my house. There is usually a moment when I find myself almost giggling at absolutely nothing, at that same moment there is this overwhelming sense of calm inside me as if my mind, my body and my spirit are all coming together to remind me to enjoy this and that everything is and will continue to be alright. Those moments are a bit like a drug, once you get them you want more of them. I find myself trying to find more opportunities for them to happen, but you can't force them to happen. Forced spontaneous happiness just isn't quite the same thing! Please don't think I'm not happy most of the time, I am, quite happy, but these moments I'm talking about are the completely care-free, no other thoughts in my head, moments of freedom. They are glorious.

Once they have passed and I'm left in the after glow of a spurt of uncontrollable happiness I'm usually left to think about what caused it. Was there something particular in my life that spurred on that moment on that particular day? To my growing surprise the answer is normally no, in fact most of the time they come unexpectedly on quite ordinary and normal days. They come as reminders to me to look for opportunities, to take risks, they serve as reassurances that at the age of thirty something maybe I've started to understand just a tiny, minuscule portion of my place in the universe and that the roads I've chosen and the doors I've opened are the right ones.

I wish it was something I could share with people, bottle it up and give it away, "Uncontrollable Happiness" in a jar. Guaranteed to make you smile, push you forward and give you a warm fuzzy feeling!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What do a dialogue between the moon and the sun, a man talking to a gun in a frozen russian post station, a live volcano, references to vodka and drunk peasants stuck in an inn over night have in common? -- They are all bundled together in the works known as The Comedies of Chekhov. And it is my good fortune to be directing two out of the five of them for Theatre Unleashed's next main stage show.

I have to admit a bit of panic at first. I read the scripts and then I re-read the scripts and then I think I read them once more and then I thought to myself what in the world am I going to do with them. I went into my first rehearsals completely unprepared, I had nothing, no inspiration, no ideas, just sheer panic. And then a magical thing started to happen, I let my actors give voice to their characters, the words that I had been reading on the pages suddenly came to life and I could see it unfolding before me. As they read blocking ideas, comedic timing plays all begin to emerge, in my head the panic gave way to excitement.

This is why I love actors, they can take something that on a page may seem a bit dry, a bit dull and they have an innate ability to bring it to life even during a reading of the play.

While Chekhov goes into rehearsals Torrid Affaire continues its run for another three weeks. Audiences have been good and people seem to be enjoying themselves. I still get nervous when people I know come to see it. Each time I want to remind them I'm new at this, this was my first attempt, please don't judge me to harshly. And yet each time they come out with compliments, I owe that mostly to the writing of the piece and to the actors on the stage. Those two components made it very easy to direct it!

I am truly fortunate to be a new directing with one play up and another in rehearsal. This is a journey I never dreamed I'd be on and yet here I am. Amazing :)