Monday, July 16, 2007

Not Bad for 40

On Saturday I turn 40. Traveling to Seattle for the official day, but basically celebrating now thru the next 2 weeks. Feel pretty good about 40. Feels to me like my "powers" are coming together. Mental concentration, writing, confidence. I'm healthy, got a new boyfriend, theatre's treating me well. And I'm writing with more fluency than ever, especially on the novel. I'm very happy I moved to New Orleans, and I think I look pretty good for my age. At least Striking Southern Gentleman thinks so. Ok, I do too. My friend and occasional director, Glenn Meche, took this photo of me. I like it, and hope he knows how much his actors and models appreciate him.

Spent the last 48 hours with Striking Southern Gentleman at his home in the French Quarter. Sigh. We're pretty smitten. He asked me if I'd be his baby. I asked if I could call him Daddy. He's taking me to a birthday dinner at Muriel's on Jackson Square.

Here's some theatre news:

Out Comes Butch. Director Michael Martin and I met for lunch last week and decided to move forward with the production of Out Comes Butch, a one-man show written in the 70s (I think) by a writer in San Francisco. Over the course of a 45-minute monologue, I transform into five different characters, with cut-away costumes, wigs, etc, but mostly through changes of voice and physicality. Something I can sink my teeth into. There's more to discuss, but right now it looks like October at a theater near you.

Aunt Tilly Goes to Town. Went to Metarie with my friend Carlos Gonzales to see another friend in the play, Aunt Tilly Goes to Town. Can't say that I loved it, but I did like certain aspects, such as my friend Taryn Vinet, who is always good on stage. And despite the blatant racism of Wayne Daigrepont's "china man" character, he was utterly funny. Small budget production, in a high school gymnasium; but the set was impressive for their budget. Mixed bag of talent. One of the elder statesmen of local theater was clearly reading lines from his notebook, and at one time was rescued by a younger actor when he forgot a cue.

The Titanic Adventures of the Love Boat Poseidon. Also enjoyed this farce by Running With Scissors theater company. The Shelly Winters swim scene alone was worth the price of admission, which in my case, was free. They're funny folks, those Running With Scissors people. And they can pack a house. Comedy sells.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Wish Fulfillment

Did not get the lead in Pillowman. Ouch. Really wanted that one. It's wanting that fucks us up. Call that a Zen realization. God damn wish fulfillment. Oh well.

Striking Southern Gentleman gave me some straight talk on Sunday. He told me "you need to move on." Which is great advice and totally true. Although it was hard to move on without any definite word, when there was still the possibility, still the hope. Ugh. Hope. But I got the official word tonight. Ah well, I am moving on, but part of moving on is accepting the loss, feeling the grief, then waking up ok tomorrow.

I am going to appear on the Le Petit stage some day soon. Look how much progress I've already made in New Orleans. And I've only been here 8 months!

I just contacted another director, Michael Martin, to see if he'll still have me. I think he will, the question is when, either in August or late Fall. We're having drinks on Wednesday to talk. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Good to Have Goals

Closing Night of Sugar Babies. Been a fun ride, backstage pushing sets and pulling ropes. Mostly it's been work. I did meet Striking Southern Gentleman, who I'm obviously quite smitten with. I did talk with a couple people I admire, like Bob Edes, an actor I would enjoy working with on stage some day. And I made at least one new friend, Ed Bishop, a newbie in town like me, a director who's relocated from D.C. And it's been fun listening to crew gossip on the headset.

My earlier complaint about poor backstage behavior still stands though, slightly tempered. The principal actors have warmed up to the crew finally. They talk to us and some even address me by my formal name, Mister Mead. Somebody must have read my blog. Now it's only the hot, young male tap dancers who cringe at eye contact. I said hello directly to a boy last night, and he turned his face away, playing the "I don't hear you," game that used to push my buttons in Seattle. I repeated, "Hello! I said hello to you!" but he kept walking.

Tonight is my last time backstage with Dane Rhodes, who still says nada, nada, y pues nada about Pillowman, although posters have gone up. At this point I assume I did not get a role, but he says nothing, which is DRIVING ME CRAZY. Tonight I'm going to ask. Not letting this last opportunity to talk to the director pass without closing the loop. If I don't get a role, at least I'll know. I'm also curious to know how Dane can rehearse and play the lead in a Southern Rep production while also directing a Le Petit production simultaneously. And why 2 plays by the same playwright, over the same weeks?

Mark my words: I'm going to appear on the Le Petit stage some day. Soon! It's good to have goals.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Striking Southern Gentleman

Striking Southern gentleman invited me onto his friend's boat for the 4th of July. Lake Ponctchartrain with view of multiple firework shows around the rim, from Zephyr Stadium to Chalmette. I could see the "Dueling Barges" on the Mississippi River, which fired up synchronized explosions of identical colors and identical special effects. I like fireworks. I'm partial to "saturn" explosions, the sphere-within-a-sphere, and long golden tendrils. Plus I like the zig-zaggy spermatazoas.

Striking Southern gentleman's friends are very gracious, the owners of a famous landmark cafe in the French Quarter and a corner apartment in the Almonaster-Pontalba house on Jackson Square. They are not at all snooty. Not at all. The women offered me 7-layer dip and hot dogs to go with the 3rd degree. "How did ya'll meet? How long have you lived in New Orleans? Where did you go to high school? What do you do?"

Striking Southern gentleman took me to his French Quarter condo afterwards. We talked, and kissed, and had wine, but that's all. He asked if he was going too slow. "Are you used to having sex on the second date?"

What second date?

We have a third date set for next Tuesday, dinner at my date restaurant, Adolpho's on Frenchmen Street. But will probably see each other sooner, over the weekend at Le Petit Theatre, where we met. We've talked every day since. I don't think we're going too slow at all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Stage Presence

I make it no secret that I'm no fan of musical theater. You'll rarely, if ever, hear a recommendation from me for a musical. But I do go to musicals often, as a member of the Big Easy Awards nominating committee. Ironically, my bias may lend me some "objectivity". I'm not star-struck by the personalities or enamored of the form.

Little Me. On Preview Night of Little Me at Tulane Summer Lyric, I saw most of the other committee members and a majority of the working stage actors in New Orleans. There were more actors in the audience than on stage, and it's a big cast. The committee members and actors I talked to afterwards RAVED about Little Me. But even factoring in my bias against musical theater, I do think RAVING is excessive. The second act is glacially slow. Ricky Graham's voice grates on my nerves after the first 2 songs. The production values are high (not as high as Sugar Babies at Le Petit), choreography was interesting and occasionally surprising. Aside from one lighting gag, repeated often, I don't remember the lighting other than a continuous wash of white. The ingenue was the true highlight, the true star of the production.

Toy Camp. It's children's theatre, produced by NORD, New Orleans Recreation Department. Since Katrina, NORD has become a summer "charter school" for theatrically inclined children. One boy stood out from the other 20-something young actors. At first I thought he was loud and overbearing, but then only in comparison to the clumsier kids. He had stage PRESENCE, could sing on key, had rhythm, and stayed in character the entire time. The kid with top billing and the shiniest costume had trouble staying in character whenever another actor was talking, and was obviously giving the other kids "notes" on their performances, during the performance. Definitely the highest production values I've ever seen in children's theater. And the kids do an entire run, 12 performances, more than most adult runs in New Orleans, which are usually 9. My hat's off to the kids and director Dennis Monn for rising to the challenge.

The Third Degrees of J.O. Breeze. Not a musical but a play. It's a difficult play, hard to form the phrase "I liked it." I did like it, but "like" is too weak a consideration for this work. What you notice most is the writing. The language is heady, the dialog emotionally contrived, both because of its highly-charged content but also because it challenged believability. To "like" this play, I had to suspend my disbelief, and accept that so-called desperate characters (who frankly, did not seem all that desperate to me) would tolerate verbal abuse from a midget clown and from a rapist. But I commend Michael Martin for taking risk, and for staging challenging, contemporary work. I did appreciate one very fine performance by the only woman in the cast, who was alive on stage, continuously in the moment.

Regarding my own acting career, I'm aching to hear back about my audition for Pillowman at Le Petit. I actually ran into director Dane Rhodes at the theater yesterday (I was meeting my afternoon date, the striking Southern gentleman I met backstage). Dane was still auditioning actors a week later, he said, out of "fairness" to other actors who could not audition on the Monday-during-standard-business-hours that I did. But I hear there's competition over scheduling dates at the theater, and suspect that's more likely the real delay. And in the meantime, Dane's continuing auditions with the hand-selected few he really wants to hear. That makes me nervous. I'm happy with my audition, but curious to know who else read.

Not a word from Actor's Theater of New Orleans about Ordinary People. I was excited about the project, but after I auditioned, less so. I don't see myself as the physical type for the psychologist, the "Judd Hirsch character" in the film. That's OK if I don't get cast. I'm confident I'll work at Actor's Theatre and with director Rene Piazza some day.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blinded by Structure

I keep tapping from outside, tap tap, looking for an entry point. Circling around, tap tap, trying to gain access. But perhaps I'm anticipating structure too soon, in new material that needs a certain amount of incoherence to ring true. I may be blinded by my need for structure.

The Bobby chapter needs to satisfy two narrative criteria: dream-like, yet with a solid framework. There are 2 interwoven threads, told via scenes in dreams and the present. Scenes in the present form the framework, following an arc that advances the story of external events, and advances the overall plot of the novel. The dreams, however, tell an internal story. There is progression, but not necessarily an arc. Yet the dreams set the stakes for the point-of-view character for the rest of the novel.

Hmmm...something is offered in the Unconscious, but Bobby makes a Conscious choice. Tap tap.

Sometimes a single, 3-syllable word can be the golden key that opens many doors. A single word that hearkens back to a pivotal scene of an earlier chapter, reinforcing a major theme of the novel. A single word that clarifies the purpose of Bobby's chapter. A single word that also segues neatly into the very next scene. Tap tap. An entry point.