Sunday, September 30, 2007

A New Record

Taming of the Shrew
The second audition at Tulane Shakespeare went well. Today was the callback, a much smaller pool of actors, the most-likelies. Some prominent local actors in that room, and I'm grateful I was among them. I feel very good about my preparation and delivery. Pretty sure I'm in, probably the character Hortensio, which is not a large part in number of lines. But of course, there are no small parts, right? Whatevs. I'll accept just about any part in this production (almost any part) because I want to be inside the Tulane Shakespeare organization for future productions, foot in the door. Also, Tulane and Southern Rep are the only New Orleans theatre companies that earn an actor points toward Equity Union membership. I need 50 weeks, and Taming of the Shrew earns me 6. Gotta start somewhere.

Voices of the Big Easy
Sadly, I did not perform as well last night. I was in the line-up for a spoken word variety show, Voices of the Big Easy. Chuck Perkins, marine-turned-troubadour, invites accomplished performance poets and other writers to participate in his variety shows, usually in bars and cabarets. He also invites Jazz musicians and even an authentic Mardi Gras Indian. It's very "cool". Chuck is a break-out talent, humbling even (and a smokin' hottie). He travels with an over-the-top group of talent, and I'm honored to be included, even if I did die on stage last night.

Ok, maybe not "die", but I had a myocardial infarction. I rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed. It was my own material, and I'm happy with my delivery, except for the part where I FROZE. Completely blanked on the next line, had nothing in my head to grab onto, suffered an eternity of stage time clearly lost. Of course, the strategy should be, "Breath". But I was way too nervous. Instead, I whispered into my mic, "Uh, I gotta look at my script." But before the script was even out of my back pocket, there it was, the next line. Not my worst performance ever, but not the greatest either.

Sadly, my roommate and friend, Sean, had his ass handed to him. He also performed, actually, work very similar to mine in content (about Baptists). But the audience did not care for it (I didn't either, honestly). He asked me via email for feedback this morning, and while my instinct is to merely say "it just didn't work, Buddy," instead I'm sculpting a response, more along the lines of "how to make it work next time." He says he values my feedback, and I'll honor his respect.

Eat Pudding and All Night Service
Thursday night I appear on stage again, Opening Night of a couple one-act plays written by Brian Sands, a theatre reviewer for Ambush Magazine, and I think, a peer, if I may presume. We're both on the Big Easy Theatre Awards committee, both writers, and have both presented work this year at DramaRama, an annual performance art festival. Two plays, one a vignette about French Quarter hustlers and another a comedy about Egyptian vultures. Fun cast, especially Lisa Davis, a spritely vixen I've worked with twice before. I hope we have an audience. There's been zero promotion, and we open in 4 nights!

Before rehearsal tomorrow night, I also have an audition for Valhalla, a comedy written by Paul Rudnick about "Mad" King Ludwig of Bavaria, the castle builder, who built (among other confections) the fairy tale castle that Walt Disney used for Sleeping Beauty and the Disneyland theme park. It's a mightily "operatic" script, very funny. I'm going for Ludwig, but may also read another part if the director's interested. I very much like working with Glenn Meche; he's an "actor's director", and I expect a fun cast. I'm crossing my fingers that I get in, and that a couple other actors I know also get in.

Any wonder I blanked last night? Let's see, that's FIVE scripts in my head at once. That's a new record.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sopranos, the Opera

Had a breathless audition this weekend for Tulane Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. I say breathless because I was quite nervous, despite a great deal of preparation. I flubbed my first monologue, a comedic scene from Merchant of Venice. The director, Ron Gural, was basically dismissing me with a thank you when I asked to do my second monologue, a dramatic scene (THE dramatic scene) from Antony and Cleopatra. At the end of that monologue he clapped, and asked if I was available next weekend for callbacks. SNATCHED from the jaws of death! Not a certain part yet, but I'm in the running. And I do want to do Shakespeare again. Love the poetry. Growing up on the King James version of the Bible, I'm comfortable and enamored with the period language.

I've also got my eyes set on an audition next week, which I hear via the director's blog may not happen. He prefers another script, and seems to have already cast that one in his mind. I'll audition if I have the opportunity, and I'll prepare my little heart out as best I can.

Here are some recent productions I've seen:

The Breach
It's difficult to discuss The Breach without comparison to other hurricane Katrina-themed works, especially Rising Water, the other K-themed play commissioned by Southern Rep Theatre. We in New Orleans just had the 2 year anniversary, and a number of K works are being mounted. I've heard the complaint a few times already, "please, no more Katrina stuff!" But this is the time, I think, for Katrina works to surface. Writers have had this 2 years to develop some perspective, to find an entry point into this multi-layered, emotionally-charged topic. In fact, I had a near argument with a woman beside me during Intermission. She took offense to the depiction of New Orleans race relations, which I thought was dead-on.

The Breach will certainly get folks talking, and I'm sure it will travel as a cultural ambassador for New Orleans. I for one liked it. Three playwrights wrote separate short pieces that are interwoven. One of the pieces, described in the program as the most "human", was too long and ran out of steam. In my favorite piece, comedian Bob Edes truly rose to the occasion (pun intentional) as a paraplegic trapped by rising water, who swam to safety, nearly drowning numerous times while arguing with a female actress, the personification of Katrina. I cried every time Bob was on stage.

I especially liked the set, which was designed by the same person who did the clever roof-top set in Rising Water. Three quarters of the stage surface is under water, with only a tiny roof for actors to huddle on. An ingenious use of metal edges around the lip and black plastic lining made a reservoir for about 3 inches of water, through which the actors splashed, fell, and occasionally drowned.

The Beignet Plays
Produced by cute young, Andrew Larimer of NOLA Project fame, the Beignet Plays are 8 play-lets, all set in the famous Cafe du Monde. Most comical, some dramatic, the play-lets use the cafe as a springboard for their storylines. Most were very good. Even the weak ones were helped by the setting, a much loved local institution.

After the 8 play-lets, we saw 1 of 3 winners of Cabaret Le Chat Noir's one-act play competition. The winner I saw was a one-woman piece called The Shoebox Lounge. Jennifer Louise Pagan won big points with the local audience for the range of local accents she could imitate. The writing was solid, affecting, humorous. Would have been stronger for me if she'd memorized the entire script and worked off book. An actor holding a black binder on stage causes me to lose confidence. But that's a minor complaint compared to the strength of the work and her performance.

A Scandalous Affair
Did you know that American sweethearts Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were real-life lovers? Hardly scandalous. But according to this musical review, the MacDonald-Eddys were prevented from marriage by MGM Studio mogul, Louis B. Mayer. Ok, I'm willing to go along with this thin excuse for a musical review, except that the man singing the part of fair-haired Nelson Eddy should be singing the part of Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero in an operatic adaptation of The Sopranos. Now that's a musical I'd pay to see.

A Scandalous Affair is really a vehicle for husband-and-wife team Hallie Neil (who "wrote" the storyline) and Theodore Lambrinos, both aging opera singers in the twilights of their careers. She is a voluptuous coloratura, unlike Jeannette MacDonald, "the iron butterfly" of Hollywood.

I was BY FAR the youngest person in the audience. In fact, I was the only person with dark hair, other than "Nelson Eddy", whose hair was dyed so black it sucked light out of the universe. I choked on my butterscotch when Big Pussy came out wearing the red Canadian Mountie uniform for the famous duet, Indian Love Song. "When I'm calling you-hoo-hoo-hoo."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Semblance of Structure

Finally finished that difficult chapter of the novel. I've struggled for 5 and a half months on this one chapter alone. The novel writing always moves at a glacial pace, but this chapter was an Ice Age. I don't usually have this much trouble, but I started from scratch 3 times.

I struggled because I have a driving instinct for structure, and its structure eluded me. It may still. This chapter is told in memories, dreams, and hallucinatory visions. To write this chapter with any semblance of structure, I had to imagine an ivy growing up the rungs of a ladder.

I also struggled because of who the character is, and what he may represent in my psyche. This child-man, Bobby, the mystical child, is not only my aspiration to be an artist. He also represents my failure as an artist, as a man, or my fear of failure. He is not the hero of this novel, but its tragic character.

And I struggled because this chapter is the merging of the two main story threads, the Buchanan clan in pre-Katrina New Orleans and Gu YuHuan's search for wisdom in ancient China.

Tall order, huh? I don't never do nothin' easy.

Well I'm done with it. At least for now. Printing out my 2 copies, one for the black binder and another for my writing mentor. Dorothy's in Georgia now, teaching at Emory. She's the one who told me, "take the time it takes to write your novel." That advice requires a sort of Zen. But lately my Zen is challenged, and I'm dissatisfied by the pace of things, the writing, acting. Blah blah, bitch and moan. At least I finished the damn thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In a mood...

Not sure what's triggering it. Maybe because I'm out of pot, and craving. Or because I've had a summer cold all week. But feeling under-loved again, hypersensitive to slights, imaginary or otherwise. Bleh. Not a fun mood.

I'm wrapping up a writing session at Write Club. Just read somebody's comments on a chapter I showed him. Funny thing, I wasn't asking for comments, but he gave them anyway. Mostly questions. A big negative on my tendency toward preachiness. Ha. Preachy, me? The Kung Fu Evangelist?

Last night I read a different excerpt from the novel to a group of Radical Faeries. They responded favorably; some were surprised even, I suspect. I may read/perform the same excerpt in a couple weekends at Bacchanal, a wine store in the Bywater, the neighborhood where I live. Bacchanal has an outdoor cabaret in back.

Lately trying to re-plug into the local literary scene, especially since I'm not getting cast in any theatre roles. There are quite a lot of writers in New Orleans, but not much of a "scene". Writers don't tend to get together. The literary events here, as in most places, are not for writers per se, but lovers of writers. Could stand some external inspiration to keep writing, instead of always relying on my personal motivation.

Ugh, I'm feeling professional jealousy, wanting, grasping, craving. Hmm...
Just got home from Soul Rebels Brass Band at Le Bon Temps Rouler. MUCH better mood.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bury the Dead

Bury the Dead is an exciting script, thoughtful, poetic, with a clear anti-war moral. I agree with novelist John Gardner that artistic work should have moral content, that is, work that actually has something to SAY. I do not mean "moralistic". Rather, I mean "substantial", "significant", "meaningful".

My 3 friends were good, one more than most in the cast. Keith Launey is always strong. Although I'm convinced he dislikes me, I admire the work.

As I've said before about Cripple Creek Theatre Company, they're well intentioned, but awkward. They work with large casts, many young actors, perhaps from UNO department of theatre, inconsistent in their development. There were other strong performances besides Keith, but some embarassing ones also. I always appreciate sincere intent, and Cripple Creek goes for the moral heart of matters. Kudos. But perhaps smaller casts, drawn from a more mature pool of talent. Regardless, they're definitely a theatre company to pay attention to, with something to say.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dance with me big daddy...

I'm still sore from my first-ever ballet class this week. New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) and New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD), with a grant from HUD, offer free dance classes, mostly to low-income kids, but also offer a free adult ballet class once a week. I'm the only male. Every Thursday night from 6-7pm until Christmas, I'm taking ballet. Yay!

I love it, and especially loved the jaw drop at the end of class when I told the instructor this was my first-ever class. She said "if we had gotten ahold of you as a child, you'd have a career in dance today." And I replied, "yeah, 40 is a bit old to begin a dance career." I loved the second jaw drop when I mentioned my age. Hee hee.

But I do feel my age today, in my calves.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

30 Something White Guy

Had the strangest audition on Sunday. Strange for a few reasons. First, this audition was not for a play, but for new hire training. A man from Seattle uses Improv theatre techniques to stage workplace scenarious, sometimes with the participatioin of the new hires. Pays incredibly well, more like my daily rate for software training. The audition included 18 actors, about a third I know from New Orleans stages, and the rest were probably film hopefuls. The film hopefuls dressed to impress, heavy makeup (even the men), but the stage actors were dressed to move. After an impassioned 45-minute presentation, the man from Seattle grouped us into pairs, gave each pair a one-paragraph scene summary and 15 minutes to prepare. And then we all watched everybody's scenes. The scenes were actual training scenarios, most with highly charged emotions.

Emotions? In the workplace? Turns out, the new hires in this case are the brave folks who approach a grieving family within the first 24 hours after a death to request organ donation. Talk about emotionally charged work! Thankfully, the actors are not training how to collect organs, merely how to ask. Unfortunately, the consent rate is low. The man from Seattle claims that his Improv theatre training technique increases the consent rate from 2 or 3% to as much as 55%.

So we Improv'd scenes in which a dead person's ghost returns to thank a family member for consenting to donate their organs, ostensibly giving some meaning to their death. Or a person who received an organ thanks the family member who consented. In my case, my partner and I were a married couple who could not afford an expensive birthday gift for our child. The purpose of the exercise seemed to be about active listening or non-judgmental communication. I feel very happy about our scene work, in fact, think my partner and I were one of the strongest pairs. There were some other excellent performances by Randy Maggiore, who was compassionate and handsome in Ordinary People recently, and by Angie Joaquin, who I only know by reputation.

In the end, I did not get a "part" because the man from Seattle (director?) said he does not need my "particular demographic". (?) 30-something white guy? Do I mention that I'm actually half Filipino? He did hire my beautiful friend Eric Rosengren, who gave a heartfelt performance in his scene with Angie Joaquin but is also a 30-something white guy. Maybe man from Seattle only needs one. I don't know. He did RAVE about my performance, said I was "animated, sharp, real" and asked that I be on his list of actors for future trainings. I consented.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Continental Drift

So I think Striking Southern Gentleman and I are done. I write "think" because we have not actually talked about breaking up. Commmunication has really broken down. Recently, we had a difficult 2 week separation, and then he had surgery, so we've had no opportunity to really talk. Since the surgery, it's just been chit chat, how was your day, no ackowledgement on either part that we're drifting.

After 3 weeks of drifting, I think we've just drifted apart. I'm still up for occasional dating with him, but not if we don't talk about important stuff.

They're unrelated events, but Mobile Man drove into New Orleans for Decadance weekend, and stayed the night with me. We had a LOVELY Sunday morning. Our relationship is very much about friendship, affection, and sex, but not much more. He seemed disappointed when he left, but I'm not interested in a serious romantic relationship with Mobile Man. He's not a substitute for Striking Southern Gentleman, who when he was good, was wonderful. It was nice to host Mobile Man for the night. Helped me snap out of my funk over Striking Southern Gentleman.