Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
I know that my complaints about actors have consumed perhaps too much space on this journal, but the amount of what a friend of mine called "Drama-Queen crap" that even the most humble of actors gives sickens me (and I'm going to go so far as to say "literally", since I am recovering from a cold).
Last night was the final dress rehearsal of "The Land Southward" (playing at the Hunger Artists Theater April 1st through April 24th...shameless plug). Now throughout this week (affectionately known as "tech week"), actors have been replaced, blocking has been refined, and the timing, order and placement of the one hundred-plus light cues has been toyed with several times. As such, our light board operator was not as quick with the cues as I'm sure she will be in performance.
However, one of the actors in the show felt it necessary to, while asking a question to the director, criticize her at length in front of the entire cast and crew. It was biting, insulting and unnecessary (and also surprising, since this actor is usually laid-back and should know better).
I have worked with this lighting person on two prior shows. One was "Madame Guignol's Hellhouse" (which, as a series of one-acts, required multiple light cues) and the other was "The Gog/Magog Project" (which had the most complex and difficult lighting cues of any show that I have ever been a part of). In neither project did she let me down, and I have complete confidence in her with this show. She is one of the hardest workers I have ever known.
Now, egos I can handle. Pretentiousness I can make fun of. But if there's one thing that drives me up the fucking wall, it's actors who are disrespectful to the tech crew of a show. As I constantly say (and should put backstage of every theater I work at), acting is just playing pretend. Even if you're working hard, you're working hard at pretending.
The tech crew, however, actually works. They are usually there before the actors, and usually leave afterward. They're building sets, hanging lights, making sure every costume and prop is in its place, and supervising the entire show. While us actors are sitting around joking and whining, they are working their asses off.
Fortunately, knowing the actor, I think they realized what they did. At least I hope so. We all have our moments of frustration, and I think that's all it was. I just don't appreciate when it's directed at someone who does not deserve it.
So go see "The Land Southward" if you want to see what I'm sure will be excellent light board operation.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Here are ten reasons to see "Princess Marjorie" at South Coast Repertory, playing through March 27th:
1). It's the best show I've seen in a long time.
2). The two lead actors who carry the show never hit one wrong note.
3). It features a ukelele solo that is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking.
4). It breaks the fourth wall to an extreme I've never seen before (two of the actors go to Burger King midway through Act Two).
5). It's extremely funny, but with subtext and depth infused in the story.
6). Something flies in from the wings at the end (and as anyone who's seen a Broadway musical can tell you recently, you have to have something dropping from the ceiling to have a good show)
7). It's an accessible story to anyone who once fell in and out of obsession with someone else.
8). It was written by Noah Haidle, a 26 year-old playwright who is one of the hottest emerging voices in theater.
9). It's the greatest piece of theatre about the power of imagination since "Fantasmic!" (yes, SCR, you can quote me on that one).
10). It comes at a time when most of the shows that are out there are either morality plays that scream their message to the audience at the end (something "Princess Marjorie" quite literally refuses to do) or are pieces of entertainment with very little meat in the broth, which makes its fusion of art and entertainment all the more refreshing.
And now, here are ten notable things that happened to me while attending the OC Weekly Theater Awards on Monday:
1). Winning a special award for "Best Solo Performance". Let's get that one out of the way now.
2). Performing a monologue from "The Gog/Magog Project" on the "Princess Marjorie" stage in front of 200 representatives from various theaters around the county in which I told them all that theater was dead.
3). Almost falling off the stage while performing the monologue due to my standing on a chair...on a slanted stage...after having a vodka tonic.
4). Seeing Joe Smash enter right at the end of my acceptance speech and go, "What???"
5). Watching Brett Cain perform "Land of Opportunity" (I like that guy)
6). Feeling immense guilt at butting in on a conversation between Kelly Flynn and a very kind elderly woman who ended up getting shut out of the conversation.
7). Running into a couple of people from Laguna Playhouse who saw "American Way" when it went up in L.A. (perhaps because I like to lead a double life, I tend to keep my acting in O.C. and my writing in L.A. So when they converge, it is always a little frightening to me).
8). Seeing one particularly pretentious actor that I've worked with before arrive to the event exceedingly overdressed, complete with bowtie and cane.
9). Steven Lamprinos' grateful face and subsequent speech after deservedly winning Best Supporting Actor for "Roscoe Spitzer is Afraid of Dying"
10). FREE VODKA!!!
And finally, let me just get this out of the way: Terri Schiavo, feeding tube, Supreme Court. Sorry, it's just that being someone who writes for others to see, I am required to say those three key terms, just like anyone else who is halfway connected with the media. All I'm going to say on the matter is, right or wrong, the decision needs to be left out of the hands of Congress. I believe in a separation of feeding tube and state.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Are there other people out there who get post-anxietal euphoria? That's my sounds-like-an-official-term term for a feeling of an unmotivated happiness proceeding a motivated bout of anger, exhaustion and/or depression. In the case of yesterday, I was feeling all three, and as if to compensate for my previously foul mood, my demeanor today is more happy-go-lucky on the level of a Cockney bum in an English musical.
I found out on Sunday that my great uncle died. The news was surprising, but not really shocking, if that makes any sense. He had been having trouble throughout the past year, but I did not expect his passing to be this soon. He was a really cool guy, and refreshingly low bullshit. If your joke wasn't funny, he wouldn't laugh at it, which made it all the more satisfying when he would laugh. He was easy-going, good-natured and always a joy to be around.
The news of his passing made me unhappy, to be sure. But more than that, it made me frustrated at myself. Everyone else that I was talking to was sounding like one does when a close member of the family has died. And yet, I felt I was only affected mainly because everyone else around me was. Is that heartless of me? Can I possibly justify it by saying that it's simply because I was told of his passing, and that if I had actually been there it would have affected me more?
I can't pinpoint the last time I cried, but I know that it no less than four years ago. The last time that I cried over someone dying was in high school, while attending the funeral of one of my dance teachers (who died in a car accident in her early twenties), and I attribute that mostly to the secret crush that I had on her.
These thoughts came swarming back to me yesterday, and made me feel less than human. Like a zombie, or a robot, possibly a zombie robot (also known as a "zombot"). If the passing of a relative doesn't fill me with sadness, I don't know what will (other than the notion that I never get filled with sadness anymore).
This came at the same time as my mounting frustrations at work (Slow computer + outsourcing of work to India + co-workers who stupidly think that I'm somehow famous = Crumpled soda cans in my trash bin), the exhaustion of working on three shows at the same time (with a few other projects sitting around, coughing politely) and the fact that, through circumstances out of my control, I hadn't been able to shower in 48 hours. Needless to say, I was not in the best of moods.
But this morning, I woke up feeling refreshed. I showered thoroughly, as two days of stink is hard to scrub off (that's a good name for a book. "Two Days of Stink"), and contently drove to work, bouncing my head to the sound of the incredible band The Arcade Fire blaring through my car speakers. I looked at the goals that I need to achieve for my theatrical projects (review lines for "Land Southward", listen to songs for "Rocky Horror Show", rewrite music for "Marat/Sade" and submit "Orange Alert" to South Coast Rep), and realized I am able to achieve these goals with minimal stress. Maybe I should continue my exhausted, bitter mood, but I just can't. I'm truly in a good mood.
That's post-anxietal euphoria. It's my mini-rehab from my mini-breakdowns, and its me at my best.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Theatre is my number one passion in life, don't get me wrong, but the amount of pretentious bullshit (also known as p.b.s.) that I hear from the mouths of actors that I work with is absolutely staggering.
My sister is currently in a production of "The Diary of Anne Frank", and after opening night, they had a talkback with the audience. Giving actors a chance to speak to an audience after they have just performed a "very important" play like that one is never a good idea. Sure enough, according to my sister, the p.b.s. ran rampant throughout that theatre, to the point where one of the actors said, "I've given up a NORMAL life to do this." Apparently, a "normal life" consists of not being a pretentious dick.
Seriously, what the fuck is so great about actors? Being one myself, I can tell you that we're nothing to give two shits about, and the less praise you can bestow on us, the better. The best actors I know are the ones who don't listen to what people say about them, and who don't take themselves seriously.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Acting is just playing pretend. That's all it is. I hate when I hear actors use the words "technique", "important", "review", "award", "motivation", etc. Every time an actor says that they were "born for this role" or that they are "a serious actor", I want to punch them. Talkbacks, interviews and program bios annoy the shit out of me.
I think the theatre community as a whole would be so much better if the actors involved kept the p.b.s. to a minimum. They need to quit giving a shit about what anyone except for the director thinks of their performance. They need to realize that nobody really cares about them, and that talking about themselves if they weren't asked only puts people off. And most of all, they need to realize that they are playing pretend for people who have enough money to attend theatre, and that there is very little that is noble or important about it. I also have to make sure that I make sure I don't do any of those things, now that I think about.
And then, no less than fifteen minutes after finding out about that talkback, I had one of my co-workers walk up to me. He is one of that select group of people who believe that they know all about theatre because that one person in his family was in a production of "Bye Bye Birdie" at some crappy theatre that has the word "community" in its name (if you haven't read a script or seen a play that was written in the last ten years, then you don't truly know what's going on in the world of theatre. Please stop reading now and pick up a Neil Labute or a Sarah Kane).
This guy comes up to me and tells me that someone at the office has a rubber skull on his desk, and that I should do the soliloquy from "Hamlet". I thought he was joking, but no. He actually wanted to see me perform "Hamlet". Not only is that the most obvious thing to do with a skull (how many "Hamlet" spoofs have we had in our time? And how many, beyond "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", are any good? I rest my case), but it's just plain stupid. I said I wouldn't (after all, I'm a serious actor...D'oh!), and he said that he wanted to see what a "professional actor" would do with it.
Okay, now what about me spending my day sitting in an office going through foreclosure reports makes you think that I'm a "professional"? If I were a professional, would I be here? Wouldn't I be snorting coke off some crazed fan's ass next to my pool in Beverly Hills, instead of living in a house with four other middle-class artists in Anaheim? That is exactly the kind of comment that pretentious actors take to heart. That's right, I AM a professional actor...who just doesn't get paid and is seen only by blue-haired subscribers or other members of the theatre community. But I did that Ross commercial and that guest spot on "She-Spies". Yes, I am an ac-tor!
We need to stop praising actors. Instead of giving awards for the best performance, we should give out awards for those who have potential but need improvement. Who knows, if we stop giving recognition to these people, they might actually up their game. We do not learn through praise, but through criticism. Once we start cutting down the egos of the p.b.s. actors out there, then maybe we'll actually start having good theatre on a regular basis. One can only hope...
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Every now and then I have to question just how "adult" I am. Have I lost too much of my childhood innocence? I don't feel that I am as eccentric as I used to be. I used to give absurd fake names when I ordered drinks at Starbucks, and I'd order food from a drive-thru in a foreign accent. I'd dance around in public and pose motionless next to mannequins when my family was trying on clothes at a department store.
I've found that I've either cut down on doing these things, or just stopped doing them altogether. And then I watch Brey, who walks around in a way that is almost balletic in its fluidity and Keatonesque in its innocent humor, and I wonder if I've lost a bit of joy inside. Am I the kind of people that I used to find sad? The people that walk around, trying so hard to be "grown-up"?
Yes, I do crazy things on stage. I swivel my hips and scream Italian and act like a twelve year-old and conduct the audience as a pretend orchestra. But that's all within the context of a piece of art/entertainment. I don't seem to do the weird things for myself anymore. I used to get such enjoyment out of ordering a coffee under the name of Ghris (complete with the sigh of having lived your life with a name that's "Chris but with a G"), but now the thought doesn't cross my mind until after I've ordered, and I feel a pang of disappointment at picking up my drink as plain old Jeremy.
There's still the possibility that I can recover that part of me that I am sorely missing. I still do the Elvis hip swivel when left to my own devices. I still avoid cracks so that I can save my mom a hefty hospital bill (fixing a broken back isn't cheap). I will do the infamous "herky jerky" upon request. Still, I don't feel it's enough. I need to ignore more of my First American self and reconnect with more of my Seltice Elementary School self. Give me my juice box and "Remains of the Day" lunchbox!
*CRAPPY TRANSITION ALERT* Maybe it's because I'm not getting enough sleep. Hey, speaking of which...
I have become horribly addicted to car naps. Being given two fifteen-minute naps at my work, I have found that I make the best use of this time sleeping in my car. This accomplishes two things. First (and most basic), it gives me an extra fifteen minutes of sleep during a time in which I'm averaging only about five hours of sleep (which is not nearly enough for me).
But second, and most importantly, I have the best dreams during this time. I've been notorious for several years for not having interesting dreams. I will actually go and watch a movie in my dream. How absurd is that? During a time in which I am fully at the mercy of my subconscious, and can go anywhere and do anything, I sit on a couch and watch fucking "Moulin Rouge"? Which I've already seen?
However, sleeping in my car in the middle of the day is another matter altogether. Suddenly, my dreams are wild and frantic, filled with recent events and amazing imagery. I think the reason for this could be that, with my very busy schedule, I have several different things on my mind. And while I shut my brain down at night, I am still thinking with all cylinders during the day. So the subconscious, already working overtime, suddenly goes into sixth gear when I abandon the real world.
The most astounding part, however, is that I go on adventures that last several hours, in which many things are seen and done, and then I wake up in my car to find out only ten minutes have passed. Apparently, my mind is packed with so much to think about that it somehow slows down time when I have my naps. It's really quite amazing.
On a somewhat unrelated topic, let me just do a couple of shameless plugs and talk about what could be the best one-two punch of Orange County theatre since "Assassins" and "Gog/Magog Project". The rehearsal process for Darcy Hogan's "The Land Southward" has been among the smoothest of any show I've ever done. The script is fantastic, the cast is really on their game and we could open next week if we wanted to (not that we want to). It's a fascinating piece that definitely should to be seen by anyone and everyone.
Then after that, it's "Marat/Sade", one of the most brilliant 20th century plays ever written in my opinion. Only problem is, it's also talky and rather pretentious. But the Hunger Artists Theatre asked me to rework the script, and I think it's definitely an improvement. Auditions are going to be this Sunday, and you KNOW that I'm gonna be all up on that sucka. Knowing the director and some of the other actors who are planning on auditioning, this is going to be a really great piece of theatre.
So if you're not doing anything from April 1st through May 29th, go see a couple of shows.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Since I haven't made a list in a while (I keep wanting to talk about "things". What's wrong with me?), here's one just to lighten the mood of this journal (which has been really "the point is..." lately. Sorry about that).
Here are the ten shows that I would go to see if I had a ten-night trip to New York and a buttload of money (New York theatre is expensive, dude!).
DAY 1: MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT - A musical adaptation of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" starring Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria. I don't really think I need to say anything more than that.
DAY 2: THOM PAIN (BASED ON NOTHING) - What better way to follow up a big Broadway musical comedy than with an off-Broadway one-man show in which an ordinary man muses on life? The writer Will Eno was called "Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation" by the New York Times and this show - which has been described as stand-up existentialism - is supposed to breathe new life in the fictional one-man show (a genre I've taken great interest in after "I Am My Own Wife" and "The Gog/Magog Project").
DAY 3: SHOCKHEADED PETER - I am not typically one to see a show made for the whole family, but this does not sound like a typical children's show. In Tim Burton/Lemony Snicket manner, this bizarre-sounding show consists of a ghostly-faced M.C. telling us stories of rich Victorians who meet their maker for their sins and crimes. I can see this one getting a "Nightmare Before Christmas"-style cult following.
DAY 4: HURLYBURLY - I only know the bare basics of David Rabe's Hollywood-skewering play, but its incredible amount of acclaim, along with a cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Parker Posey and Wallace Shawn, definitely make me drool theatrical slobber (Note to self: "Theatrical slobber" is a good band name).
DAY 5: DEMOCRACY - If there's anyone who can blend theater and politics, it's Michael Frayn. His follow-up to 2000's "Copenhagen" focuses on the world of 1970's German politics, which is apparently a lot more exciting than any of us ever thought. This was a big hit in London, and is subsequently doing well on Broadway.
DAY 6: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE - The latest musical from the creator of "Falsettos" is going to transfer to Broadway later in the year, but I'd rather see it on a more intimate stage. The show, as the title suggests, centers on a children's spelling bee, as we meet the contestants and see what brought them there. It's supposed to be a very funny and very touching look at the need for competition in our lives.
DAY 7: THIS IS HOW IT GOES - Even if his writing is not necessarily up to par (as with "The Mercy Seat"), Neil Labute is great at creating characters who may have money and an optimistic nature, but conceal a real terror that manifests itself in horrifying ways. Plus, Ben Stiller, Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright playing an interracial love triangle sounds intriguing enough as it is.
DAY 8: THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT - Stephen Adly Guirgis is one of the most promising emerging voices in theater, and since his latest (about the courtroom trial of God and the Kingdom of Heaven v. Judas Iscariot) stars Sam Rockwell and Eric Bogosian and is directed, as usual, by Philip Seymour Hoffman, this one looks most promising, indeed.
DAY 9: AVENUE Q - Winner of three Tony's, it's a musical comedy that takes the ideas of "Sesame Street" (puppets living with humans in a lower-class neighborhood) and turns it on its head, showing what would really happen. This one has puppet nudity, a song about Internet porn, people killed by falling pennies, closeted homosexuality and Gary Coleman. What more could you want from a show?
DAY 10: DOUBT - I'd round out my trip with what I hear is the strongest piece in the bunch. John Patrick Shanley has been around for a while, winning acclaim for plays like "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" and Oscar-winning screenplays like "Moonstruck". But many people say this piece, about a nun who suspects the priest at the grade school she heads is molesting a boy, is his best work yet.
This is one of the few times in recent memory that I've actually found ten shows that I'd be enthusiastic about seeing in New York. The place has been dead for a long time (and indeed, normally dependable writers like Donald Marguiles and David Mamet have been giving us less-than-average fare this year), so it's nice to see these shows (along with other promising-looking fare coming up like Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman", Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia", Jose Rivera's "Massacre (Sing to Your Children)" and "Jerry Springer - The Opera") trying to bring back the edginess and importance of New York theater.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Last night, I was browsing the information superhighway, looking for a particular short cartoon that I remember making me laugh. While going through the list of titles on the host website, looking for some keywords to tip me off, one particular piece struck me. It was named "Disney's Hitler".
Being a Disney enthusiast, and a fan of all of the untrue things said about his life (no, he is not cryogenically frozen, despite what Penelope Cruz tells you in "Vanilla Sky"), I thought that it was some piece of propaganda about the rumors that Disney was connected to the Nazi party. Well, it turned out to be propaganda, but of a different sort.
The name of the cartoon is "Education for Death", and it is a ten-minute anti-Nazi cartoon that details the raising of a Hitler Youth from infant into an adult, where he joins the Nazi party. The boy is Hans, a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who is good at heart, until the Nazi regime breaks his kindness and turns him into a goose-stepping soldier who marches, almost literally, into his grave.
There are some of the typical Disney touches. In the middle of the cartoon is a funny but equally chilling section where Hitler, dressed as a screaming, scrawny knight saves "Germany" (who is represented by a Goering-looking woman with a viking hat, like a stereotypical opera singer) from "democracy" (represented by a scraggly witch). But for the most part, it is a detailed, well-researched and very serious look at how the Nazi regime was able to brainwash their youth into following Hitler.
Other moments abound that I think will forever stick in my memory. The choice to have the characters speak entirely in German, with an English translator telling us what they're saying. The line of boys heiling Hitler. The shadowy superman yelling at the kindly German mother trying to protect her sick child.
But one scene in particular struck me. The class of Hitler Youth had just been shown a cartoon on the chalkboard of a fox chasing down, cornering and eating a rabbit. When asked what they learned from the cartoon, Hans shows sympathy for the rabbit. He is given a dunce cap and shoved in the corner. And while the other boys yell about domination and making the enemy submit to your will, Hans watches them, eager to fit in. When the teacher turns back to him, he starts yelling, tears in his eyes, about how he hates the rabbit, and how the fox was right to eat him. I don't know who the animator or the voice actor was for that particular moment, but it is one of the saddest and most haunting pieces of animation I have ever seen.
The cartoon had a great emotional effect on me in 2005, so I can only imagine how people responded to it in 1943. In a time where most of the studios (including Disney) were putting out pro-war shorts that were meant to unite and inspire, for this one outing Disney decided to inform. To show an unflinching look at the Nazi propaganda machine while remaining understanding and sympathetic to the German people (Hans' parents, just trying to provide their son with a good life, are the only attractive adults in the entire film) while avoiding any sort of "rise up and buy bonds" patriotism was a bold move for the Disney animators.
It is also an indication as to the importance of art in society. I realized that there are several things that I have learned from movies, cartoons, TV shows and plays. Programs like "Schoolhouse Rock" and "Sesame Street" were some of the most effective learning tools that I and other people my age had growing up.
This reliance on the entertainment industry to educate me worked its way into my adulthood as well, I learned about the development of the German nuclear program from Michael Frayn, and the effects of United States nuclear bomb testing from Darcy Hogan. I learned about the massacres in Rwanda from Don Cheadle, and the encampment of Australian Aborigines from Kenneth Branagh. My interest in the Holocaust in junior high can be equally attributed to Art Spiegelman and Steven Spielberg.
So I have great respect for those artists that seek to enlighten the best way they know how. For those of us who don't actually like to read, we salute you.
Speaking of Darcy Hogan, I just want to say how exciting it is to be a part of "The Land Southward" (a new play by Ms. Hogan opening at Hunger Artists on April 1st...Shameless plug). Having seen each member of the cast in action during rehearsal, I can safely say that this is honestly one of the finest casts I've ever been a part of.
We have Abbie, who portrays the strong side of Liz without comprimising her vulnerability. Joyce's May is truly heartbreaking for those on and off-stage. Michael's instincts are almost always dead on for The Man, as are Jason's with the character of Joe. Erin, as Maggie, gets better and better every time I see her, and Cheryl's The Girl never ceases to crack me up. So please, please go see this show in April. Okay, shameless plug done.