Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Look Over There

I’m trying to keep consistent about blogging this month, but I’ve really done no writing whatsoever except for when I was in New York. I journaled like 40 pages that weekend, and it’s the calmest I’ve felt in ages. Here are a few snippets of journal entries. Partly ‘cause it’s really all I’ve got, and partly because it’s very much a portrait of the way my mind works. These are disjointed snippets of things I heard or read or thought, or figured out and found resonant.

On the train:
I just passed some horrible slummy looking neighborhood, and I thought, as I very, very often do, that there but for the grace of my mother – and of a college education - go I. I could so easily have wound up like that – like so many of my family before me. I half expect it – the single mother balancing multiple low-paying jobs, with my scrappy, shabby children under the eyes of predators and scoundrels all the time. Truly, there are few days of my life that pass where I do not remember this. Choices and sacrifices were made to ensure I did not go there. I chose to marry a man who will not leave me…especially not leave me like that. Instead, here I am, on a train, heading to see four Broadway shows, with To Kill a Mockingbird in my bag beside me and a five-bedroom home with neat husband and clean children to return to on Sunday. Thankful, Thankful.

My 70’s radio playlist on Pandora…
Bless the Beasts and the ChildrenI love you Just the Way You Are: “You always have my unspoken passion…” Barry Manilow’s Weekend in New England…remembering Elise and I howling with laughter as “Mandy” blasts in our hot tub room in Northampton…Air Supply, Jim Croce, BJ Thomas…”I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining…”

Later, in my room…
I’m eating a turkey club sandwich IN bed, on a table-cloth covered tray that someone wheeled into my room, wearing silky pajamas and drinking a pina colada while watching a Meryl Streep movie…I love my life!

Thursday, the first morning of the workshop…
It’s incredibly hot in this theater. Our director just called our experience “a site-specific rendition of 110’ in the Shade.” Only like three other people laughed with me. This proves I am a tremendous nerd.

“Why do we sing on stage? Because the character feels so much something that mere words are not enough. They have to sing it." (to paraphrase Joshua Logan.) I feel that way a lot – it’s why the most important moments of my life always have a soundtrack.

As they are setting up for this workshop on technical theater, the mic chords are too short. Four of Broadway’s finest technical theater professionals all look at each other blankly, no clue what to do. The program director swoops in and takes care of it herself.

Broadway theaters all rent their sound and light equipment. I did not know that! If you’re going to purchase your own for your theater, make sure it’s all of equivalent quality. Don’t buy an expensive board and then shitty body mics. “It’s the weakest link in the chain that will always fail you.” Ain’t THAT the truth of life?

The sexy sound guy who looks like Jack’s dad from Lost has a beautifully chiseled chin. He just said, “plug that into my dimmer rack” and now everything he says sounds dirty.

After lunch, Presentation from the creators of the Ragtime Revival…
On deciding to direct it: “They called and I agreed, then I wanted to back out. I got scared, and generally when I get scared, it means I should do it.” Good advice. She saw Ragtime as a ballet, and thinks it’s the best, most important theater piece from the second half of the 20th century. I totally agree.

As an actor, to draw upon personal experience is to examine your wounds with scabs, not the newly formed, festering ones that hurt too much to face just yet. If an actor is lost in his own pain, and crying, then the audience is not crying. You need to remember the feeling, but not be lost in the feeling.

“Back to Before” is sung barefoot on beach. The ocean is in the accompaniment, rolling and relentless.

“As a director, I need you upstage left on this line. It’s your job as the actor to figure out why you decide to go there.”

Later, a presentation by a famous playwright…
Yeah, this lady is a wack-job. She just explained a play she wrote about a pool – that takes place IN A POOL – where nursing mothers complain that they keep leaking milk into the water. I would much rather be sitting in the hotel bar right now.

“What is the blazing moment you want to explore? THAT’S your play, right there.”

Midnight, as it turns my birthday…
In a fabulous secret bar, drinking Prohibition Punch. If this is what 39 feels like, bring it on.

Friday morning, at the theater…
I’m wearing my new, very expensive shirt, and I’m having a good hair day. I started the day with phone calls, a bazillion Facebook birthday greetings, a vanilla latte and a chocolate croissant. I’m feeling kind of sparkly and glowy inside. Now I’m starting my MTI workshop, where I am determined to win first prize in the trivia contest for the third year in a row. This day is already kicking ass. (Then, two hours later…) Holy shit. I totally won the contest again.

Later that day, William Ivey Long…
(First of all, he’s amazing. Google him.) He’s like a throwback from a 1950’s supper club era, pinky up and pin-striped suit impeccable. He says Hugh Jackman and David Hyde Pierce are the nicest men in show business, and that Robin Wright is the most beautiful woman he’s ever met in real life. I learned a great deal about lighting and scenery from his presentation…amazing, since he’s a costume designer! (Seriously – Wikipeida him!) He’s completely in charge of everything about the way the actor looks, head to toe. Wigs, makeup, everything. “I’m the one the directors yell at, that’s how I know I’m in charge.” Also, he lived with Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Joy in the Morning) for like three years! That’s an amazing connection. “I love actors. They’re magical. They have been touched by the gods.”

Craig Carnelia, Acting teacher and author of many songs in Working
(I write a lot during this presentation, things he said and did, but overall, I was just riveted to his energy) “Your acting has to DO something, in your song, you must be DOING something. Don’t just swim in the pool of your feelings…use the feelings in the preparation and then make it specific. You don’t want to sing in vague sorrow, and you don’t want to be in reverence…you want to be blatant. What do you want to get through these words?” Oh, I could be a good theater teacher, given the chance. I’ve never had the chance. I get it, though, and I know I could teach it. Then…Oh, my god, he’s going to play and sing the Mason Song, right here, four feet from where I sit. I LOVE this song! Best. Birthday. Ever. And that message, being blatant. The life lesson I have been striving most to learn for 30 years.

Later, sitting in the theater, waiting for the show to start:
Really loving today. I feel happy and uplifted and jumpy and relaxed, and like I can hear my own voice for the first time in ages. I need this trip each year. I need it as the best potion for all that which sometimes ails me. I am glad to know that this escape holds that key for me, and I am grateful that in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t even so very much to want. It’s big enough to keep me working my ass off all year to be worthy of it. And from the work, everyone wins – my students, because I’m a better teacher when propelled by the energy I store here in my reserve. I can be more patience and inspiring with them. My husband, because it allows him to enjoy his time away without his guilt or my resentment. It adds so much balance to the force. I am a broken record of appreciation.

At La Cage…
So, count all the loves who will love you from now
Till the rest of your life.
And when you have added the loves who have loved you before…
Look over there! Look over there!
Somebody loves you more…

No comments:

Post a Comment