Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My favorite Fantasy Films

So, it is finally time to complete the troika started so long ago. We've talked about my favorite Horror and Science Fiction films. Now we get into that murkier category, Fantasy, under which Horror and Sci-Fi are often lumped. I contend that all fiction is fantasy, but who am I to say? Taken in it's more limited definition, Fantasy films are about quests; ogres; giants; fairies; gnomes; dwarves;, elves; orcs; wizards; warlocks; warriors; knights; damsels; dragons; flying monkeys; princes and princesses; evil stepmothers; magic potions; poisoned fruit; talking mirrors; flying carpets; magic lamps; talking animals; flying nannies; flying automobiles; magic candy factories and a brave young hero(ine) who saves the day. Quite a list of criteria, don't you think? Even excluding Horror and Sci-Fi, there are more Fantasy sub-genres than you can count. So, how do you pick a favorite? I suppose by the ones that make me smile most. In no particular order, here are my favorite Fantasy Films:

The Princess Bride Rob Reiner's 1987 adaptation of William Goldman's novel (he also wrote the screenplay) is just as fresh and funny and quotable as ever. The equally gorgeous Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn are perfectly cast as lovers bound by destiny. Mandy Patinkin; Wallace Shawn; Andre the Giant; Peter Cook; Christopher Guest; Chris Sarandon; Mel Smith; Billy Crystal and Carol Kane all contribute to one the 80's best ensemble casts, ever. If the ROUS's don't get you, and the six-fingered man doesn't suck most of the life out of you, and if you have the tiniest of romantic bones in your body, you will love this movie as much as I and most of my contemporaries do. "Have fun schtormin' the castle, boys!"

The Thief of Bagdad Fellow Hungarian Alexander Korda's 1940 version of the 1001 Arabian Nights story is populated with a cast made up entirely of white people, with one exception - Indian actor Sabu (whose performances many now consider as racist as Amos 'N' Andy) in the title role. But the story is pure fantasy and the special effects by Lawrence Butler, are phenomenal for their time. Directed by five mostly uncredited men (including Korda's brother, Zoltan) The Thief of Bagdad may seem silly by today's standards, but it still holds up and inspires a sense of wonder when taken on face value. The villain in the piece (Conrad Veidt) also served as the model for Disney's Aladdin villain, both of whom are named Jaffar.

Enchanted Speaking of Disney, they finally managed to poke fun at themselves (albeit only after Dreamworks did so wonderfully and sharply in Shrek -- but more about that in a moment) with this tale of an animated fairy princess who suddenly finds herself thrust into the "real' world of modern Manhattan. When Princess Giselle (Amy Adams in a brilliantly hilarious and dead-on performance) runs afoul of Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon having the time of her life), she finds herself banished to modern day new York, where she is taken in by kindly lawyer, Robert (hottie Patrick Dempsey). Pursued by her Prince Edward (equally hot James Marsden) and Narissa's evil henchman, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), Giselle inspires music and mayhem wherever she goes (the scene where cockroaches, pigeons and sewer rats clean Robert's apartment is just pricelessly funny). A sweet, funny and romantic musical for the whole family.

Moulin Rouge And speaking of musicals, Aussie auteur Baz Lehrman practically reinvented the genre with this 2001 romantic fantasy about bohemian ideals in the late 19th Century. Gorgeous Nicole Kidman and breathtaking Ewan MacGregor are star-crossed lovers Satine and Christian in fin-de-siecle Paris. Genius character man Jim Broadbent is The Moulin Rouge's ambitious owner/producer Harold Zidler; funnyman John Leguizamo is Toulouse Lautrec and Richard Roxburgh is the slimy Duke who wants Satine for himself. Combining a plot as creaky as an old boot, music from some of modern rock's geniuses, original songs and spectacular visuals, Lehrman creates a unique and stylized vision of a Paris that never was. A lush, romantic and gorgeous film, Moulin Rouge is as much a fantasy as any movie on this list (it even has a fairy).

Stardust I first read Neil Gaiman's novel on the afternoon train home from New York while appearing as Louis XIV for NYC Ballet's education department in the winter of 2000. I'm not much of a modern comics fan, though I was aware of The Sandman and the tremendous following it had. I loved the book and have since become a fan of his other "adult" novels such as Neverwhere and Anastasi Boys. So I was excited to learn that Stardust was being adapted for the screen. I wasn't prepared, however, for the goregous, funny and nearly perfect fairy tale that director Matthew Vaughn created. Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfieffer are hilarious while Clare Danes and Charlie Cox make an irresistably adorable couple. One of my favorite films of the new Millenium
Pan's Labyrinth Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece is both thrilling and horrifying. The story of a young girl living with her step-father (a brutal General) under Franco's reign of oppression who escapes to a fantasy world where she is actually a long-lost princess is so powerful, it makes me weep. And the cheek-suturing scene makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. The first true Film Masterpiece of the 21st Century.
King Kong (1933 & 2005). the 1933 original is the movie that made me fall in love with movies. Peter Jackson's amazing 2005 remake is an homage to movies from a man who obviously loves movies. Dino DiLaurentis' bizarre 1979 version deserves (and gets) no respect.

Krull Director Peter Yates' bizarro sci-fi/fantasy is a wierd mix of Knights and Stormtroopers, featuring a bunch of actors most people never heard of again (it always puzzled me as to why the simply gorgeous Ken Marshall never became a star). It's fun and silly and loaded with then (1983) state-of-the-art effects. The kind of movie you either love or hate, Krull isn't a masterpiece by any means, but I always seem to enjoy it when I catch it on cable.

Titus Julie Tamor's adaptation of Shakepeare's first play, Titus Andronicus is a mix of genres and styles jumbled into a black comedy about revenge, amputation, rape and cannibalism. High drama in 1480 - bizarre fantasy in 1999. Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming and a young Jonathan Rhys Meyers have a high time chewing the scenery and the score by Tamor's husband, Eliot Goldenthal, ranks among my favorites. A striking and original take on a dark and gloomy tale.

Shrek Yes, it has spawned two terrible sequels (and a third is on the way), but the original is hilarious and a valuable lesson on tolerance. It pokes fun at Disney all the way along (it was produced by DreamWorks), has terrific voice cast headed up by Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow, and it makes me smile, a lot. And they lived happily ever after...

Well, I guess it's time to move on to other genres, now. I think next will be Comedy. And as soon as "The Skin of Teeth" closes, I'll be back to revieweing movies (yay!)

As always, more of this anon.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Some Writing of My own

Other than blogging here, and sending emails to my cast, Stage Manager, Producer and Tech Director, I haven't done much real writing in a while. I have a musical that's about 3/4 finished, that I haven't even looked at in months. That gets first priority, now that the show has opened. And I think that as the cold winter nights approach, I'll be working up another screenplay. I've got a huge list of ideas, but something's been crawling around in the back of my head lately (and trust me, that can be a very scary place and just about anything crawling around back there).
At first I just caught steely glints of it as it would turn a corner. Then I caught sight of what might have been a tail, for lack of a better word (or maybe it was grotesque tentacle - not that tentacles aren't grotesque enough as it is). Last week I thought I saw its eyes, but I could have just imagined it. Most recently, I heard its mournful and plaintiff cry, and it's getting louder. I still have no idea what it is, but I know it wants: it wants to get out and feed. It's so very hungry.
Well, was that weird enough for you? I know at least a dozen other writers who would describe the process in almost exactly the same way. If you are interested in reading some of my previous screenplays, they are available at www.scriptbuddy.com The titles are: Army of the Dead; Comatose Joe; Eye Witness; The Forsaken and The Cow Says: Moo!
Alright - enough blathering. Off to serious writing...
More anon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday Night & YouTube

My first embedded video! I think I may actually be getting the hang of this.

Anyhow - Saturday night saw a slightly larger, though considerably less vocal crowd. I sat closer to the stage so I could look back and judge faces - everyone seemed attententive and many were smiling. No one has said "I hate this crap!" or walked out. The show was fine, but a few days of simmering in their brains and souls will make a huge difference. Stew is always best after it sits in the 'fridge for a day or two.

I spent the day doing the mundane; catching up on the fall season (does everyone else LOVE "Fringe" as much as I do?); laundry and cooking a lasagna for my mother's birthday. We'll talk more about movies and TV, soon. I promise. In case you haven't noticed, I've been a bit pre-occupied, of late.

More anon.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Finally, Opening Night!

Opening night was good. We had about 60, which in this theatre looks small, but is a huge crowd for the company's usual venue. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. They laughed at a lot of the stuff and even the people who said they didn't fully understand it (it's a very weird play) said that they still enjoyed it. A lot of people were surprised to see the bird was actually real, which was funny, And they loved the puppets. When it got intense in Act III, you could have heard a pin drop. They were a very good opening night audience. Next weekend's houses are shaping up to be much fuller, so this is good that they'll get to build up to it. Was it flawless? No. That's nearly impossible. But it was damned tasty. We'll see what happens when people have off from work and school tomorrow and have a chance to rest before the show. Tonight they were tired. They had a long week of late rehearsals. But they pushed through and had a very solid opening night.
The show will continue to grow and they will continue to find funny things to do and say, which I love. I have such a great mix of older, more experienced and younger, fearless actors who feed off of each other in perfect balance. Given room to play, the younger folks did, and when the older folks saw how much fun they were having, they started to play, too (though truth be told, one or two of them were playing right from the start). Gladys did a new thing with her hair in Act I tonight that was just hilarious (she looked just like Cindi-Lou Who). My Fred Bailey continues to make the most of his smaller roles and has several of the funniest moments in the show. Henry's propeller-beanie is absolutely brilliant, with a very shiny SP propeller, and the extra goggles, glasses and hats I bought make a huge difference, epecially in Acts I & II.
I need the extras to be more natural, especially in Act II, where the traffic pattern has grown increasingly bizarre and cartoonish. The show is cartoonish enough without having people looking like they're circling O'Hare, waiting for fog to lift. The animal shadow puppets still aren't quite right. There should be two of each and the students who made them didn't realize that three elephants, trunk-to-tail were inappropriate. Or that a whale would not need to board the Ark. And the extras puppeteering don't realize that the animals should be walking to the ark, rather than magically floating in slo-motion toward it. Still, it has its surreal charm. Hopefully, by the time the conference attendees see it, we will have fixed the problems with the extras. Their costuming bothers me, as well. We need to throw some vests and hats on these guys. Oh well, all notes for my producer and extras wranglers.
I'm tired, but glad the show has opened and my love affair with most of my cast continues.
As always, more anon...

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Almost Forgot

We're on YouTube:


Slingshots, Livestock and Final Dress

Wow! Where did seven weeks go? We finally open tonight. My cast is ready, though my running crew is still a bit rough around the edges. I have to hand it to my young and inexperienced Stage Manager - he's doing his best and his best will be better every time we run it.
I had an adventure in shopping today. My first stop was a local Halloween shop to look for a propeller-beanie. "No, but you're the second person this week to ask." I was told. "No, don't have anything like that," at the second place, though I did buy a bowler, an interesting top hat and a pair of goggles there.
Next was a trip to Pets Plus, to look at their bird selection. No canaries, though their cheapest birds were Zebra Finches at $19.99. I went to PetSmart, where the canaries were $39.99, but the Zebra Finches were $16.99. Guess which I bought. "Zebina" is joined by an as-yet-unnamed Black-Molly fish (also purchased at PetSmart) as the newest members of our company. Zebina's presence is known when he/she/it occasionally flits about the cage, chirping it's curious call. I will probably end up with Zebina after the show - a living reminder of one of the best things I've ever done, and certainly the first show I have directed which featured livestock. It flies and "peeps" whenever I go near it, so I am sure it despises me.
My last stop was my old faithful, Trenton's own The Costume Scene. Not only did they have the propeller-beanie, they also had all of the specialty make-up I needed. Then on to the theatre!
My TD and I took the birdcage and the box in which Zebina came, into the production office, where the bird promptly escaped. My TD went for a net, while I vainly tried to tempt the terrified creature with food. We finally wrangled the poor thing into the cage and then set the fish to temperature acclimation. Both were alive and well when I left the theatre. Both come with a 14 day guarantee... hopefully neither will need replacement before the end of the run.
Final dress went mostly well. As I said, my cast is ready. It's the crew that needs work and hopefully, my SM will be able to spend some time running cues, rather than just talking them through.
My work (with a few minor exceptions) is basically done. It's out of my hands, now. I hope my SM takes good care of it.
I am so happy to be finished and so sad that it will only be five performances.
More of this anon...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's Almost Soup

Tomorrow (tonight , actually) is our final Dress Rehearsal. Hopefully, all of the missing pieces will come together and The Skin of our Teeth will be the sensation it certainly has the potential to be.
I have an odd (to say the least) shopping list for tomorrow, including a live fish and a live canary; steel ball bearings; materials for a Steam Punk slingshot; collodian; a switchblade; a propeller beanie and goggles. Hopefully, I can get it all in four stops or less (not counting the bank).
The exhaustion continues. They don't call it "Hell Week" for nothing.
Hope to see some of you there. http://www.shakespeare70.com/
And make sure you listen to the Skin of Our Teeth podcast at http://www.mponstage.com/
As always, more of this anon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Photos, Costumes & Q2Q

Got up early on a Sunday (for me, anyway) to meet several cast members and drive them up to Flemington for a photo shoot for the Act I slide show. The costumes were gorgeous and the location was perfect. It was interesting to see the cars on Main Street slow down to see what was going on. Henry, adorable as ever, even more so in his schoolboy uniform. Gladys hates her costume, but looks great in it. Mr. & Mrs. A looking fab and Sabina's maid costume is one she wore previously in The Clean House (a fabulous play by Sarah Reuhl).
Back to the theatre for a costume parade. The remaining costumes are wonderful. We still need minor items like vests for the puppeteers and a unitard for Sabina's Act II costume, but all-in-all, it's going to be gorgeous.
The Cue-to-Cue rehearsal was long (they always are, especially with a big show like this) and some cues (mostly sound --- arrrgh!) were missing, but it was a relatively smooth and painless event. Went for drinks afterward with my SM; my TD; Mrs. A.; Henry; Gladys; The Fortune Teller and one of my multi-role actresses. A fine time was had by all. I am nearly exhausted and still have 7 million things to do, but as we get closer to opening, I am confident that all will be well.
Enough. Time for bed.
As always, more of this, anon.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Music Woes

Okay - I use music a lot when I direct, and this production is no exception. I have everything I need for Act II, the Act II Intermission and the Act III slide show. But I find myself frustrated to death with finding Pre-show music, Act I Intermission, Act I & Act III incidental music and a curtain call piece. Everything I have that's remotely appropriate for the show's weirdness is also much too dark for a comedy. I have listened to well over 50 different CDs and nearly 1000+ tracks and I still haven't found the right pieces. Maybe I need to re-think the stuff I'm listening to. Tomorrow is my last full day before hell week begins, and I'd like to have as much in place as possible before the Cue-to-Cue on Sunday (sigh).
As always, more anon...

8 Million and Counting

The show opens week from tomorrow and there are still 8 million things to do. I'm missing several key sound cues, and I still don't have all the music I need. And there are about a dozen or so practical hand props that are missing. Most of the set is up, and while there is still some facing and painting to be done, it it very beautiful. I made the cast come out into the house after rehearsal tonight so they could see how beautiful it is, and give a round of applause to my amazing TD and his very cool set design. There's still a lot to be done, especially for the Act II set, but I must admit to being especially thrilled with the shadow puppet dirigible - it looks particularly cool.
I'm tired and wired at the same time. Yikes! So much to do.
As always, more of this, anon.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Acting Break-Through

My Henry... my beautiful, beautiful Henry had an amazing break-through tonight in his Act III breakdown monologue. I was so happy, I ran backstage to meet him as he came off, pulled him aside and kissed him. I knew he could do it. I was so proud, I had to blog and crow about it. I thank the gods for the day this amazing and fearless young actor came into my life three years ago. Bravisimo!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sound FX, Guns, Jewelry and My Giant Sausage Fingers

I had every intention of spending time on prop and jewelry making this weekend. I also still had a ton of sound work to do. I managed, with two simple purchases, to remedy much of the sound work. I like finding my own sound FX and music cues and I'm pretty good at it. But I don't understand how they chose the tracks that appear on sound FX CDs. I needed some pretty common things: storm and winds; bugle calls; a factory whistle. The storm stuff was easy. That's all that was easy. One CD was called 1000 Essential Sound Effects. There were literally 1000 tracks on three discs. Not a bugle call or a factory whistle among them. But if I wanted "Jungle Sounds" or "Hobo Vomiting in the Alley" or "Telemetry" or "Laser Beam" or "Explosion," I was covered. Now really, I ask you: Who the fuck is doing science fiction plays set in the jungle featuring nauseous vagrants vomiting while robots wage war against one another? Have the creators of these CDs any idea of the kinds of sound FX modern theatre requires? I was looking for a roaring cheer and boisterous applause. I previewed the tracks labeled "Crowd 'Yeah!'" and "Crowd 'Ooh!!'" and "Crowd 'Whee!'" They were completely generic, false and listless; just many people with the same inflections and tones and about as realistic as the plot of any given episode of 24. "Wild Applause" and "Large Crowd Applause" were both anemic and hollow, sounding more like polite applause at a chamber-music concert in an Emily Bronte novel. Yeuch! So, the search goes on.
Then comes prop-work. Props I know. I can almost make anything, or modify something else to suit my needs. And i have made some pretty strange props, costumes and even wigs in my time, so I was confidant I could handle the guns and jewelry. After an unexpected errand, I got a later start than I intended. I had repaired reconfigured the ray-gun for Henry and Dale had finally made the plastic pistola accommodate the gauge I'd rescued from my old pool filter, for Mr. A's gun. So I sat at my kitchen table, tools, paints, glues, and putties in place, ready to make a fabulously Vernian gun.
The rubber tubing, which had worked so well for Henry's gun, wasn't right for the pistola. I even bought wire and inserted it, trying to make it coil the way I wanted it to, but it was having none of it. Then. I had an idea of using a stainless vertical roaster to exaggerate the muzzle and add more real metal. The opening n the roaster was too small to accommodate the pistola's slightly flared barrel. Sigh.
So, I set it aside and went to work on jewelry. I had all these great gears from clocks, but they were all attached to their rods, with no way for me to remove them without a vise and hacksaw, neither of which I own, being the handyman genius that I am (NOT!). Okay, they are useless as jewelry. But, I happened to set one down near the pistola (no doubt a souvenir from Disney World) and notice that it's construction left holes for the screws holding it together and got an idea. After a few hours of modeling, gluing, drying, re-gluing, painting, and re-drying and the pistola is a thing of Steam Punk beauty. I must get pictures of it so I can post it here and on the company's site.
Back to jewelry while the first stage dries. I get out all the stuff I bought and start to play. I made a kind of cool pin out of part of a locker clasp, but it's messy and not exactly what I wanted it to be. I am going to try another version of it, later. My huge sausage fingers just get in the way and things get smeared and finishes muddied, even using tools like pliers and tweezers. I need a vise! Maybe I'll take everything to the theatre shop next Saturday and see if working on it there helps. Of course, anything could happen between now and then. Aye-yi-yi!
As always, more of this anon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Run-Thru That Wasn't

Let me start by saying that this is in no way a negative post. I am actually very pleased with our progress. The furniture and props have ben delivered and it's actually starting to look like an approximation of a 'real' Steam Punk house. I can't wait to see it with the walls and everything else.
We were supposed to have our first full run tonight. We also added new elements like using the black-out curtain and having some of the music and some experimental lighting. Our Henry was missing, but we knew that. The big impasse toward finishing tonight was the massive set change that takes place between acts. Choreographing the first one took almost half an hour. It was quite a while before we started Act II. I gave them notes after Act II and sent them home. I have so much to do, myself, that I cancelled Saturday afternoon's rehearsal and gave them the whole weekend off. They are doing well and they worked hard this week so they deserve it, anyway.
My weekend will be spent shopping, visiting with a family member for her birthday and craftinig weapons and jewellry for the show. And hopefully finding time for two weeks' worth of laundry! Yikes!
As always, more of this, anon.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Furniture, Gas Masks and a Bruised Head

Back to Flemington this morning to Anything But Costumes for furniture, props and set decoration. They had almost all the furniture I wanted. No rocker for Mama, though. We did get a rather nice set of red and white striped armchairs for both of them and the gorgeous red SP sofa I saw online. The very cool nautical thingy we saw on line was much too expensive. I can certainly live without it, but it would have been perfect on that set. We did find some very interesting things to place about the stage, including one of the strangest wood, leather and brass decorative vases I've ever seen. I handed tagging duties off to my producer after knocking my noggin and being frustrated by my giant fingers and tiny safety pins.
Combined with the costumes I saw yesterday and Dale's walls and roof pieces, all should add up to one very interesting to look at spectacle.
Left there to attend our first JTMF (James Tolin Memorial Fund http://www.jtmf.org/) meeting for the 2009 benefit show, Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Not much to talk about, really. Lunch with some chit-chat. That's not until June. Let me get through one show at a time, please.
Oh - last night my producer emailed me with a suggestion for particular piece of music I'd been looking for. What she suggested wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but close enough for government work. One more thing to cross off the ever-increasing list. I cross off one item, and two more take it's place.
I guess that's it for now. As always - more anon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Costumes, Jams & Pie

My Producer, Technical Director (who are married to one another) and I, all went up to Scaramouche (the costumers) this morning. Our appointment was at noon, which meant I had to leave my house at 10:00. This, with the eminent tropical storm Hannah looming along the east coast. It was a dreadfully humid, grey morning and the drive to their house in Flemington was a bore, but I filled up on relatively inexpensive gas along the way, and certainly enjoyed the company for the rest of the day.
Scaramouche is one of several businesses run on the grounds of a farm owned by two life partners who have taste, money and talent. Mark, the partner I met and dealt with today, is a genius. He plucked the idea for Sabina's Act III costume right out of my head without me having to tell him any details. We managed to find most of the pieces for the main cast members and several for supporting roles. Those pieces we didn't pull, Mark assures me he has, and I trust him completely, especially after the Sabina skirt ESP. We hope we can costume the extras with stock at the theatre (or their own clothes). In addition to the costume rental and construction business, The Boys (as my producer calls them) also run a farm, orchard, country store and bakery, complete with the most amazing home-made pies and pastries, soup and pancake mixes, honey, jams and preserves. I bought jams while my co-horts bought a "Harvest Pie" which we had as dessert to our late lunch (one of the most amazing burgers I've ever had) at the California Grill in Flemington.
Back at their house, my TD and I finally finished out paper-tech (over pie!), which was far less painless than either of us anticipated. Then we took a look through the on-line catalog of the prop house we're visting tomorrow morning. If they have everything I saw and wanted (and we can afford them), I will be a very, very happy director.
The storm proved to be a mountain out of a molehill, and while my drive home had one or two intense moments, I made it back in one piece and can spend the night in my own bed, with my special pillow and my fan for white noise (not to mention being able to stay up as late as I want to blog and what-not...).
Bonus - my producer suggested a music source for a piece I had been searching for and fretting over, and it turned out to be bloody near perfect. Yay! I am off now to work on more music. Feeling better and better about the show as it progresses.
And did I mention the pie? Yikes, was it good!
As always, more of this, anon.
More as promised: I have completely replaced my Act II Intermission music. So happy. I still have several things to play with, but am very happy at my progress.
More anon, again.

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Feature!

Right below "My Blog List," you'll now find "My Site List." These are either sites I visit everyday(IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes), or some of the favorites I like to share to make friends laugh (Goat Trauma) and a few I visit several times a month (Engrish, Empire Online).

I've also added several new blogs to "My Blog List." Visit them and encourage their visitors to visit mine. I may not be too fancy (yet), but I'm getting there. Once the show is over, I'll have all winter to play around with this thing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"The Skin of Our Teeth #9"

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? My day job shift change started this week and there hasn't been much drama (thank goodness) with the show, lately.
Rehearsals are going quite well, actually. My very smart cast is usually able to answer my most-used question: Why? Why do you do that? Why do you say that? Why did he write it that way? Usually, I don't care what the answer is, as long as they have one. And when I do want a particular answer, it's been relatively easy to guide them toward it. Of course when all else fails, I just have to come out and say what I want, though that seems to be a rarity, especially among the more experienced cast members. Tonight we ran act one with both of "The Extinct" puppet frames. The ensemble has to learn to get out of their way, but the "family" seems to be interacting with them quite well. One of the puppeteers still doesn't get it and often appears bored, but I hope that I can find a way to motivate him into being a living presence. Wow - how artsy-fartsy does that sound? But it's true.
I have found that two or three of my (relatively) older cast members are quite strange ducks, indeed. Two of them have begun to annoy me to no end, but they have minor roles and I only have to deal with them minimally, thank God.
And speaking of God - being a devout agnostic, I find myself having issues with the religious overtones of the play. The opening lines of Genesis are quoted no less than three times over the course of the play. And Mr. & Mrs. Antrobus are obviously Adam and Eve, while Henry is often referred to as "Cain" and Gladys appears to represent the Virgin Mary in Act III. How does a director who believes that "God" is unknowable, reconcile himself to obvious Christian metaphors? I suppose I must (as I have been) approach the issue as academic, rather than dogmatic. My core beliefs often coincide with traditional Christian mores, though being gay and considering myself rather modern and erudite, I am conflicted when it comes to the play's approach to religion. And many reports indicate that Wilder may have been a closeted homosexual, himself. How did he deal with these issues? He probably didn't, as a product of the early 20th Century, when such things were discussed in whispers and gays were forced to hide their proclivities from the rest of the world. Of course, there are no gay overtones in the piece, though I think I might be able to make a convincing argument for Henry being gay. I just have to find a way to convince the gorgeous actor playing Henry of that. He has played gay roles for me twice in the past (and is set to so again next summer), and while he insists he is straight, I have my doubts. Needless to say, while I will always try to find a way to promote LGBT rights and issues in everything I direct, this show may prove challenging to do so.
OK - time for bed. As always, more of this anon.