Thursday, August 28, 2008

Real-Life Backstage Drama, Part Deux!

Oh, how I hate that it's a week later and there is still Real-Life Drama going one. Different drama, but real-life, none the less.
We worked with the shell of the Mammoth puppet for the first time the other night. It is massive! They had to enlarge the door - it now looks like that gate the guards the Skull Island natives in King Kong (which is exceedingly cool and dramatic and I love it). Upon seeing the basic frame on stage, my immediate thought was "Oh, God! With two giant monsters on stage, no one will see my actors!" Then I found out the puppets couldn't sit down and had to be at their full height all the time. Then I realized that they couldn't do any of the funny stuff I had already blocked for them. So I went to speak with my Puppet Master who is a dear friend, to talk about adjustments. Somehow, neither one of us understood what the other was saying, and it led to heated tones and I, not wanting to escalate, walked away. He took that as me shutting him down and both of us were pissy and stupid in the way that only good friends can be with one another. My sent-from-heaven producer (and a mutual friend of the Puppet Master) went to talk with him after rehearsal. I got home and immediately sent a very apologetic, and fully explanatory email. Needless to say, we met today and all is well. We ironed everything out, both of us agreeing on the adjustments to both the puppets and my blocking.
The Sabina issue is no longer an issue - I love her and she'll give me what I want and need from the character. All is once again well in Directorland.
More of this anon...

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Feature!

I've added my first new feature: My Blog List. You can see it just to your right. I know, there are only four blogs listed there, but I set it up rather quickly and added the ones I happen to frequent the most right now, first. More to come soon, I promise.

I'll also be adding a My Sites List, soon.

Keep watching.


Real-Life Backstage Drama!

Whew! What a bizarre and amazing two weeks (I can't believe it's been two weeks). I've just been getting home from rehearsals so late and have had so much to do, I was just too tired to blog.
"Skin of Our Teeth" is certainly a daunting show to direct, and I'm still getting to know most of the members of my cast and finding out how soon I can start pushing them to literally play. I do know all of their names already, though. The two I do know well, are holding back, waiting for almost everyone else to catch up. My leading man is fun and good and cuts quite a figure on stage. He's a good match for his co-star in many ways. And his co-star is the single best and most dedicated actress I know, and my personal longest and dearest friend, Vera Charles... oh. No, not really. But she really is all of those things, and her interpretation is based a lot on her own mother, or at least infusing her mother's values into the character. Their children are both terrific. One I know well and love, and the other I met just last January and she's adorable. When the scripts go away, I am going to have pure "steam-generated" electricity (ha!).
Now, I suppose, is the time to address the true-life backstage drama that has had me sleepless all week. My leading lady was having some issues with the show. She didn't understand it and she didn't trust me to enlighten her sufficiently and get her to where she needed to go with the role. On the second rehearsal of the second week, no Sabina. She called no one. She emailed no one. She didn't answer her phone. We left several messages. I went home and wrote a very sweet email, begging her to call me. She spoke with the producer briefly. "I can't talk right now, I'm at work. Can I call you at lunch?" She never called. The next night was a "family" meeting with the 5 main characters and myself - basically, a table session over drinks. We met at 8:00 at a local bar/restaurant - got a quiet table on the patio. 8:08. No Sabina, but instead, a wonderful surprise. My dedicated "Henry" shows up, unexpectedly. The project he had been asked to take part in had fallen through and he was now available. He could have stayed home, but he came to play instead and he gets many gold stars. But Sabina is no where to be seen. All was far from lost, because before the family meeting, I met with the producer and our contingency plans we're identical. The family meeting was pure brill and we all get it and all agree about how they seem to relate to one another, and then we had another hour or so of just BS that went all over the place. We laughed a lot and left with a feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie. But still no Sabina!
At noon the next day (yesterday), I make a final decision to execute "Plan A" and give the role to another actress in the show. The young lady accepted, very happily and and we move on. The new Sabina, (that being the only time she will ever be referred to as 'new') is a little spitfire and will bring an entirely new dynamic to the role that should be very exciting. The former Sabina finally emailed a rambling and apologetic ("I'm soooooooo sorry and sooooooooo embarrassed... Please don't hate me...") email about her boyfriend and some other nonsense I didn't understand. I wrote a pleasant, but unapologetic email, explaining that she had let me down and had been replaced. That was at 1:00 AM this morning. Haven't heard another blessed thing. But, all is well and we go on. So, hopefully that is the end of the first and only episode of "Real-Life Backstage Drama!"
Many of the ensemble are very young (younger than I was when I first read and loved this play), and they don't get it yet. They don't get it's significance, I think. They still see something old and quaint, rather than groundbreaking. As they see the tech stuff come together, they'll start to get excited. It is going to be fucking cool to look at, if nothing else. But I am so very confident that it can be so much more. I sent them all links to "Brass Goggles," one of the best Steam Punk blogs on the web: , and several of them came up to me and said, "Oh, I get it now. I loved such and such..." "That elephant was so cool, I understand what our Mammoth puppet will sort of look like, now" (I'm paraphrasing here, but it was good to see them starting to figure why I'm doing it the way I'm doing it).
Breakfast meeting/paper tech tomorrow with my tech director (who is also a dear friend and Mrs. A's real-life hubby). I am excited to getting my hands working and building some props and jewelry and the TD tells me he has some art-students as staff whose eyes went wide when he mentioned "Steam Punk," so they can build all sorts of toys for us, too. I do need to get into both prop resources and both costume resources, soon. This week for at least one of each. After breakfast, I am going "parts" shopping!
Until next time...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"The Skin of Our Teeth #8"

Our first blocking rehearsal was interesting, to say the least. I still haven't received a floor plan from my set designer, so we only had the vaguest idea of where some things (like the front door) will be. I have found that one of my younger actors may have some issues overcoming some inherent speech patterns, and one of my older actors has no frame of reference for '70's pop-culture. It's interesting that several of the younger folks can't seem to differentiate between "Miss" and "Missus." I suppose it's a product of modern lazy speech. I'll break them of it, though. It was also interesting to work with a large cast again - it's been a while since I had to 'direct traffic.'

Still, we got further than I thought we would, and only stopped where we did because I was missing a few cast members, due to prior commitments we already knew about. Oh, and I lost a younger cast member because of his high school marching band commitments, though there will be no problem in reassigning his roles to others.

Off to a good start, I think. Tomorrow night we have off, so I'll be blogging about movies again.

"The Skin of Our Teeth #7"

Well, the first read-through was quite a success. Despite an MIA actress (who we actually knew would not be there), everyone seemed excited by the both the play and the Steam Punk design concepts. As with any show featuring a larger cast (I have seventeen actors playing almost 40 roles, plus extras), some people were obviously stronger than others. But with seven weeks of rehearsal (an almost unheard of luxury, even in community theatre), I think I can get everyone up the level of performance this show needs.
Tomorrow we start blocking (placing and moving the actors on and about the set in a way that makes sense). Hopefully, this will take no more than six rehearsals for all three acts, and then we can really dig our teeth into the very rich meat of the material. My five "leads" will all be wonderful, though I may have to spend a little extra time with one of them (though I am confident I will able to get the performance I need). I haven't been this excited about directing a show in a very long time, and I wish I could spend all day, every day working on it. Alas, real-life intrudes and I do have to make a living. I'm so so happy to have each evening to look forward to.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Favorites Addended

I didn't realize how long it had been since my last post. I kind of got caught up in pre-production for "The Skin of Our Teeth," I guess. But now, with the show's first read-through tomorrow night, I have a few minutes to finally post something new. Well, almost new.
Actually, I wanted to add two films to my prior "Favorites" lists, which I can't believe I forgot in the first place.
First, I am shocked that I forgot to add A.I. to my list of favorite Sci-Fi movies. Spielberg's masterful re-telling of Pinocchio, started out as a collaboration with the late, great Stanley Kubrick. After Kubrick's death, Spielberg went ahead and made the movie, which divided critics and audiences. Personally, I think it's one of his best works. Based on the short story, "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss, A.I. tells the story of David (Haley Joel Osment), a robotic child purchased to ease the grief of Monica (Francis O'Connor), whose own son is languishing in a persistant vegetative state. When her son surprisingly recovers from his coma, David proves to be inadvertently dangerous and is abandoned by his "mother" (in one of filmdom's most heart-wrenching scenes). Left with only Teddy (a robotic teddy bear in the Jiminy Cricket role, voiced by Jack Angel) to guide him, David must make his through a world where many have come to despise the Mechas (robots), despite being quite dependant on them for everything from domestic chores to sex. David eventually meets up with sexbot-on-the-run, Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) at the Flesh Fair - an event where robots are elaborately destroyed as entertainment. Joe helps David in his search for both his real father, a scientist (William Hurt) who modeled David after his own deceased son; and the Blue Fairy (voiced by Meryl Streep) from Pinocchio, whom David hopes will turn him into a 'real' boy. A.I. was derided as overlong (146 minutes) and too dense, comments which never would have been made had Kubrick made the movie. But it is dense subject matter, which requires some time to cover, and Spielberg does so brilliantly. With two astounding performances from Osment (I dare you not to cry when Monica abandons him in the woods) and Law (his sad, yet resigned Joe is probably the most human character in the film); a very funny voice cameo by Robin Williams (as the Einstein-inspired, holographic Dr. Know); stunning robotics from the late Stan Winston and a very distant future populated by sentient machines, A.I. may well be Spielberg's Sci-Fi masterpiece. While writing movie reviews for the now-defunct, I chose it as the Best Film of 2001. I stand by that choice, today. And I have to give at least an honorable mention to another Spielberg masterwork, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I first saw in Paris with French subtitles. As a high-school Junior, it set my imagination on fire. When it was re-released with an extended ending a year later, I was even more excited by this awesome 'what if?' movie.
The other omission occurs on my list of favorite Horror movies. Neil Marshall's The Descent is the first movie since Se7en to actually creep me out. A group of adventurous women meet each year for a wild and dangerous week of fun. A year after a whitewater rafting trip, which ends in a traumatic accident, they meet in the American South for a caving expedition. They end up lost and trapped in a an unexplored cave system, only to finds that they are not as alone as they think. Writer-Director Marshall (Dog Soldiers; Doomsday) sets up a claustrophobic scenario from the get-go, trapping the women deep underground as a cave-in blocks their return route. But he then ups the ante by adding a tribe of cannibalistic humanoids who are stalking our heroines as they make their way through the dark and foreboding underworld. When I first saw this film, I found myself feeling trapped and having some breathing issues. But with the introduction of the monsters, I found myself on the verge of panic as I tried desperately to see what might be lurking in the dark. Featuring strong female characters, hideous monsters and increasingly claustrophobic dread, The Descent is surely one of the best horror movies of the last 10 years. If you haven't seen it, make sure you rent the original British version, which features a very different (and decidedly darker) ending than the American cinematic version.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"The Skin of Our Teeth #6"

The scripts are in. Our Associate Producer delivered mine and my Stage Manager's to me tonight. She did a beautiful job, creating enlarged versions in three-ring binders that are separated by act.

This past weekend, I met with my Scenic Designer and Puppet Master, both of whom had some very exciting designs to show me. And I am meeting on Wednesday with my Stage Manager and Dramaturg to go over some minor changes in the text and set the rehearsal schedule.

The first read-through is still almost a week away, but I am getting very excited and can't wait to get started.
By the way, Ihave decided against posting the cast here. Those interested should head on over to

Back to movies in my next entry.

I Took the Weekend Off

It's somewhat overwhelming to post everyday, so I took this weekend off. More to come on Monday night.