Friday, August 24, 2007

Heavy Stuff for Child Actors

Ordinary People
Not sure who said it first, but I agree: Ordinary People was ordinary. I was rooting for the teenage actor, but I don't think he was quite up to the material. Ouch. I'm sure he has a long acting career ahead, and this role was a great break for him. But I wasn't buying the sincerity.

Tim Bellows as the wise-cracking psychologist is very good. I auditioned for that part, but have no complaint about director Rene Piazza's casting decision. Tim is funny, sobering, mildly authoritarian. Randy Maggiore as the father was also good, and handsome.

Soulville II
Written and directed by Anthony Bean and produced in conjunction with NORD (New Orleans Recreation Department) Summer Theatre, this VERY large-cast production (75 children!) covers a lot of emotional terrain. Written in vignettes that depict children calling a "teen talk" DJ.

The vingettes are affecting, disturbing occasiaonlly. The children describe scenes in the lives of post-Katrina black youth, many disillusioned, angry, grieving. Heavy stuff for child actors.

75 child actors, some tantalizingly good but then gone after a single vignette or song, if even that much. Hands down, the quality of the dancing and singing was better than other child productions I've seen in town.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Good and the Wincy

A Different Woman
Veronica Russell performed this one-woman piece at the NY Fringe Festival, to good review. Back in her hometown though, Katrina was blowing audiences away. Very few New Orleanians knew of Veronica's New York success. Those who do know, have waited with anticipation for Veronica's homecoming. A Different Woman, 30 Years of a Texas Girlhood, is strong material, performed with confidence.

As a storyteller, Veronica develops distinct voices for her various characters. She inhabits her entire space, moving continuously. At times her gestures did seem rehearsed, and the pacing was off. At hour one, I wondered why we were still in her character's childhood. But throughout, the original author's own cranky-wise voice speaks clearly through the material.

Lieutenant of Inishmore
Last week, a man in line at another theater warned me that by the end of Inishmore, the entire stage is covered in blood. He's right. Everybody and everything, a gleeful bloodbath such as I've never seen on a stage. During intermission I noticed the metal rail at the edge of the stage to catch the run-off.

This laugh-out-loud dark comedy by Martin McDonough, an Irish hunk of a playwright who's a current Broadway darling, makes a statement about senseless violence through senseless violence. That doesn't usually work for me. But I laughed out loud.

Also written by Martin McDonough, this play is slower-paced, moodier, and genuinely spooky.

Excellent set, if for no other reason than that it's different. Kudos to handsome carpenter, Chad Talkington, and kudos also to him or whoever else is responsible for the German Expressionistic design.

Brian Belu plays fear and anxiety well. He fades during the storytelling. I auditioned for his role, banking on my own storytelling ability. So of course I'm judging him from that particular prejudice. In storytelling, he did not seem to love his words, which are supposedly his character's own writing. He misses cadences, and needs to project. But there's no doubt Brian Belu's a fine actor, and easily passes as Leon Contrevesprie's smarter brother.

Cobalt Blue
There is a lot to like, but some things made me wince. Both the writing and the acting, both good and wincy. There are sparks of life, some solid scene-work, a lot of promise. The soliloquy at the end is Cobalt Blue's clearest appeal to the emotions of post-Katrina New Orleans, a message of sorrow, outrage, yearning, and a prayer for healing. Delivered from the lip of the stage under a single spotlight, it was actor Shannon Williams' shining moment. He was up to it.

At times however, the production was histrionic, a criticism I fear for my own writing, so I don't use it lightly. The over-the-topness of Act 1's situation combined with the over-the-topness of the lead actor (who plays anger in only one volume: rage). I think Williams is a better comedic actor, especially in the opening of Act 2. I could see him do sitcom.

Glenn Meche lit up the stage. Maybe it was my fondness for him, his bright eyes, or the red tie, but the play really began for me when Glenn entered, the mysterious stranger ala the Grim Reaper (or perhaps the voodoo deity Gedde.) Glenn and Lisa Davis were object lessons for the other actors on natural delivery, being in the moment, restraint, and nuance.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

OKC is OK by Me

I'm in Oklahoma City, teaching bankers how to use the new Office 2007 softwares, 2 days to cover Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook, then another 2 days with a second group. It's a great gig, not necessarily altruistic, but I like teaching, hell, I love it. The students are motivated to be here, and it pays me very well.

About frickin' time too, cuz I've been living under a financial state of siege since the day I arrived in New Orleans, small bits of cash floating my way from a combination of Web stuff, editing, temp office work, cleaning houses, performing, and oh...just about anything I can do for cash. Just ABOUT anything. I've never hustled for cash or joined the military, although I've seriously contemplated both in my lifetime. Fortunately, I'm now too old for both.

But the teaching gigs come at a much needed time, when my cell phone is about to be disconnected, with the constant threat of a lien against my property still in storage back in San Francisco. SO-O-O ready to get my stuff shipped down to New Orleans and really finish the move.

When I get back to New Orleans, I pick up some admin work at the Gambit Weekly newspaper, which will be on again/off again through Mardi Gras. And then of course, in the winter I portray John James Audubon with the Living History Theatre Company, historic characters who walk around the French Quarter between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and hold "salon" in hotel lobbies. I'll be in very good company, with some of the most-often employed actors in town, and it pays perty damn well. Let's just say it pays the most I EVER expect to make as an actor, since I have no interest in film. Not so much.

Next time I check in, I'll add my thoughts about 3 recent plays I saw: Cobalt Blue, Pillowman, and Lieutenant of Innishmore.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Where Y'At?

This is the longest I've gone without an entry since I started this blog. Haven't written much on the novel either, replied to emails or voicemails, or done laundry. Aside from sleeping with Striking Southern Gentleman, celebrating my 40th, and teaching a computer class, have not had much time to do anything else. Not complaining. I'm very happy. Had a great birthday, I have a sweet boyfriend, and got some good paying work. I have been busy.

Seattle was fun.
It rained the whole 4 days, but that was such a reprieve from 96 degree New Orleans heat that I did not complain. Had the birthday I asked for. Old friends at an old Seattle dive bar called Vito's. They gave me drugs, bought my drinks and meals, took me to see the Harry Potter movie, and gave me the new Harry Potter book for the return flight. Very fun, a page turner, especially on Vicodin.

The celebration in New Orleans was milder by comparison. Delighted for the few friends who showed, but disappointed by the folks who did not.

In the meantime, Striking Southern Gentleman and I formed our own clique. I look outside our bubble and realize I've been with him, dreamily, almost non-stop, except for the recent work and the occasional return home for clean underwear. I need to do laundry. We're very much in love, in a short time too. He practices piano all day, while I nap, or work on the computer, or play with the kitten, who I've renamed. We eat in the French Quarter, 2 or 3 meals a day (he never cooks or buys groceries other than bagels and bananas.) I adore him.

The computer job lasted only a week, plus a week's worth of prep, but I earned a couple month's rent. I taught Microsoft Word certification to school teachers. They actually already know Word, some even teach it. They came to my class for the certification exam, in order to get funding for their classrooms, and in some cases, a raise. Talk about motivated students. They kept me on my toes, but I had some wizardry to teach 'em, from deep in the bowels of Word where few ever venture. QUESTION: Why would anyone ever design Web pages in Word? Just cuz you can, doesn't mean you should.

I also did another revelling gig for Carl Mack Productions. Wore the giant king head again, and helped stage a mini-Mardi Gras parade for conventioneers, complete with high school marching band, confetti. Later that night, the conventioneers got fireworks over the Mississippi River. Not a bad little gig.

Tomorrow, back to Goodfriend. Frederick, you sit your ass down and write that novel. Thank you, Goodfriend.