Sunday, March 27, 2011

Incapable of Making a Mess

You may remember that nearly four months ago my roommate gave me a book titled Wreck My Journal, you also may remember that way back in January I was having a hard time completing one of the assignments, "Make a mess and then clean it up." I haven't moved forward in the book because I couldn't figure out what kind of mess to make, how to make it, when to make it and then when I did get an idea it would seem overly messy and I wouldn't do it.

So yesterday while preparing to celebrate Theatre Unleashed's third birthday I made 72 cupcakes, that seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a mess. I have no decided I am incapable of making a mess. I tried, I really did try to make a mess. This was as much of a mess as I could let myself make...pathetic I know.
It's not even really that big of a mess, but I'm going to have say that my task is complete. I have made my mess, or at least as much of one as I can actually make. So having crossed that off the list, I will now nervously open to another page.

My next instruction is to climb up high and drop the book. That seems easy enough. I have an odd desire to climb exceptionally high and drop it, but then I worry I might hit someone or never find it again. There are other factors to consider, I don't want to hurt it and I don't want to drop it in dirt or mud. I don't like dirt or mud and I don't think the book will wash well. After all when it took its' shower it was double wrapped in plastic. So now the question becomes where do I drop it from? I could take it with me to the theater, climb a ladder and drop it from the top of the ladder to the stage, I could drop it off a balcony of an apartment, I could go to Griffith Park and drop it off a cliff (odds of recovering it are low on this one), I'm afraid I won't find a place that is both high enough for a good drop but safe enough to not hurt the book.

This book is tricky. It's instructions seem simple but when you go to do them they require thought and planning. Or maybe that's part of my problem, too much thought and planning. Perhaps that's the point of the book, forget plans, go with instincts, just go for it, just drop the book off of a high place and see what happens. Thinking or not thinking, I promise I will drop this book off of something this week!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reflections on Being Three

I don't remember my actual third birthday. I'm sure my mom could tell me about it. I'm guessing there was some sort of celebration, especially since I'm an only child, the only grandchild on one side and the youngest and only girl grandchild on the other side, knowing that I'm guessing that my own third birthday passed with some sort of recognition. Today, I have the honor of celebrating a third birthday all over again.

In just a few hours, Theatre Unleashed will celebrate our third year of existence. We have made it three years. Three incredible years. We have sweated a lot, worked a lot, been accused of having too much gregarious fun at times, probably actually had too much fun at times, consumed many libations, both alcohol filled and non alcohol filled, and put many productions up on stages in Los Angeles.

Our actual day of birth occurred in a Denny's in Hollywood. Birthday one we celebrated the fact that we actually made it, that we we survived a year and managed to produce three plays. Birthday two was a celebration of continuing on, producing more, and introducing our late night series. After our year two celebration titled "Acting Our Age: The Terrible Twos" we did perhaps move into a slightly terrible two phase, I think all toddlers go through it. It's that time of discovery, time to figure out what to do with yourself now that you can walk and you are tall enough to reach more than the sofa cushions. It's a time to try new things figure out what you like, what you don't like. People start treating you like a mini person, babies get smiled at, patted on the head, told they are cute, toddlers get asked questions, they also throw temper tantrums, it's all part of toddler life.

And then year three hits. I think by this point you are starting to really understand the toddler know where you fall in the world, you know who you trust, who makes sad and you begin to realize there is a much bigger world out there waiting for you.

That's the exciting thing about being three, that understanding that there is so much more out there for you to explore, to learn and to do. That is where we are now, like most toddlers we are ready for preschool, we are ready to play with other companies at Fringe Festivals, we are ready to learn from the "big kids" at theater gatherings and most importantly like all confident toddlers we are ready to explore that big world that is waiting for us.

Happy Third Birthday Theatre Unleashed!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tying Up The Boys

It's Friday night. In just a couple hours I will be getting out my zip ties and duct tape and begin the process of tying up three of the actors in The Birthday Boys. I've become quite quick at it. I can proudly say that I can tie them all up in six minutes, it used to take fifteen but over the past six weeks I've managed to shave off nine minutes, pretty impressive right?

Now at the beginning of this whole process the three of them would willingly lay down on the floor and tell me they were ready. As we approached the end of the rehearsal process that willingness started to disappear a bit, but they didn't really fight it. It was more of a "tie someone else first" attitude. This philosophy may also be partly survival as inevitably the first one tied would have to endure odd guy pranks things like throwing a ball of tape towards their crotch or attempts to sit on their faces and if the tied one was really lucky one of the other two would shall we say add a different scent to the environment near the bound one's head. Boys will inevitably be boys!

So to counter all of this and actually get one of them to let me tie them up first I instilled the "first one in is the first one out rule." Now I don't think that actually lessened the pranks pulled on the first one restrained. All it really did was give that guy the entire show to think about what he would do in the precious 2-4 minutes he had of freedom while the other two were still restrained. Hence we end each night as we begin with the throwing of tape balls to the crotch area!

Now that we've moved into performance it's becoming even harder to get them to lie down. I find myself walking around with duct tape, zip ties and scissors begging them to let me tie them up. I find myself saying sentences like "Greg, I need to do you now!" I get the feeling I'm possibly turning into part dominatrix, but with a nice side because I always ask if things are too tight.

We've established a routine and they are very particular about the way they are restrained. I've come to the conclusion that none of them would do well if captured by real kidnappers. We usually tie Jim up first. He lays down backstage, head towards the bathroom, feet towards the dressing room. Jim puts his blindfold on while standing and then freaks out anytime someone moves around him. He also then has to find his way to a seated position on the floor so we can finish the binding. I often wonder why he doesn't sit first and then blindfold himself, but as I've come to realize actors are creatures of habit and so I let him do it his way. We always do feet first. That involves lots of duct tape wrapping. Then the hands. For him we do right hand first zip ties angling away from him, then the left, then we link them together. We tend to tighten all of his zip ties after they are all fastened. I cut the extra tips off of the ties. Finally we go to work on the hands. Jim has a bit of thumb claustrophobia and so we wrap his clasped hands together, going around the base, but leaving one thumb free to poke out and move. Once he's secured I'm off to find Greg.

Greg lays down unblindfolded just off stage. Because the space is so narrow, I lay the scissors and zip ties on his chest while I wrap yards of duct tape around his calves. Then we bind his arms. Greg requires six zip ties where the other two only need three. Every binding for him his doubled because he's able to break through on just a single tie. He likes his zip ties angled the opposite way as Jim. We tend to tighten his ties as we go rather than all at once at the end. I cut the ends of his zip ties and leave him for the moment. I'll be back to tape his hands, he sweats too much during the show and his tape tends to lose adhesive to we try to wait to the last possible moment to give it the best shot at sticking for longer. When I do come back to him he also prefers the clasped hand method. We wrap the tape around and around his hands and finish with just a couple strips over the top. The other two guys like to really be wrapped in with the top, but Greg likes the top a bit more open.

Then it's time to find Sean. Sean and I have the luxury of the stage when I tie him. He is the first one on and needs to be closest to the door, so we use the stage. He is the only one who doesn't giggle bit when I straddle him to restrain his arms. I'm not sure if that's maturity or if he honestly doesn't know I'm straddling him. We do the feet first. After the first duck tape wrapping I back up and he wriggles and writhes about the stage attempting to loosen it. Then we wrap another layer around his ankles. Sean like Jim likes his zip ties angling away from him. As I put his wrists in the ties, he grabs them and pulls them tighter then I ever would, (which probably explains why he typically has more red marks then the other two guys). Once he's tied in we add the duct tape to the hands. Sean prefers the praying hands rather then the clasped hands. He seems to prefer that I wrap him almost tight enough to cut off his circulation and so we wrap and wrap and wrap. When we're done. I'll pick up my stuff and call for another cast member to come help him hop off stage.

All of this takes place in less then 10 minutes, assuming I can get them to lie down on time!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just As Sweet the Second Time Around

In September of 2009 Theatre Unleashed received it's first "Go!" from La Weekly. It was for Friends Like These, a play that eventually went on to the New York Fringe Festival and is now gaining a life of its own outside of Theatre Unleashed. I wrote then how excited I was for that team, the cast, the directors, the writer, they all truly deserved the accolades. I believe I also wrote that I knew there would be other "Go!" headlines in the coming years and while they would each be special the first one would always mean the most.

I was wrong. I don't say that too often, but I was wrong. Yesterday Theatre Unleashed's current show, The Birthday Boys, written by Aaron Kozak, received a "Go!" The script's first go, Theatre Unleashed's second one. To my surprise this one is just as sweet and just as special as the first one.

I've said from the beginning that this show was a special one. There are certain productions where you can feel it way before tech or preview or opening night and certainly way before the critics barge in to throw down their opinion. With this one we knew were creating something extraordinary from the start. I try not to place too much stock in reviews, good or bad they are just the opinion of one person on one night. It does feel good though, hearing from the theater community, not just LA Weekly but others as well that this show has a purpose and place in the Los Angeles Theater Community.