Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rehearsal for Tamed

I went to Florida for Thanksgiving. My mother and I made dinner for twenty-four family members and friends. Although I don't think we will attempt anything so ambitious again, it was a lovely gathering, especially when each of us at the table took a turn to say what we were thankful for. One of my mom's friends from college, Dan, brought pictures of my parents with me as a baby in the backyard with a group of their friends in all their hippie glory. For that alone, I am very thankful. 

There were two children at the feast, one the son of my cousin and the other the granddaughter of my mother's childhood friend. Both are four and entertained us with all the songs from High School Musical. Then we played Roar. That's where you say "Roar" with a clawing motion, kids go screaming and then you do it again.  After the fifth time, when one wants to go back to having a conversation with a grown-up, you may just toss off a "roar" with a half-hearted claw, but the kids will still run for their lives, shrieking with glee and then come back for more. 

This is what I learned: If frustration ever arises in a rehearsal or performance because "the other actor isn't giving me what I need", I will remember that is none of my business. All I need is to have belief in the circumstances. 

I am now in rehearsal for a staged reading of an adaptation of Taming Of A Shrew. It is called Tamed, written by Sheila Garson and directed by Richard Hinojosa
a fellow reviewer at

I play Kate, a radical leftist who is the daughter of a politician who used to be a principled conservative, a "maverick", but who is now selling his soul to get elected. Sound familiar? She is "tamed" by Patrick, a lobbyist who is also a sexual dominant. What I like about this adaptation is how it explores domination and roleplay as a way to free oneself not only sexually but emotionally through absolute trust and mutual consent. BDSM may not be my thing, but I absolutely respect Garson's use of it in this play to illustrate themes of personal freedom and giving up defenses and even comfort for greater self-awareness. It goes up on Dec. 15th at 9pm at the theater under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place at 1st. Ave. The event is free.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


                    Tiny little shot of everyone celebrating at the Brick
                    photo: Ian W. Hill

   On Tuesday night after the show, the cast, crew and guests watched the returns on a big screen in the theatre. Although I had a good feeling that we as Americans would do the right thing, I was nervous. It was a wonderful gathering, catered by Gyda Arber's parents, thank you!, and I felt so blessed to be with friends. I thought, tonight we either dance in the streets or...I didn't know what I would do otherwise. 

  When the results were announced, it was a moment of pure joy and possibility. We spilled into the streets and strangers were hugging, high-fiving and waving to honking cars and trucks. We yelled and cheered, O-bam-a! O-bam-a! and Yes We Can! I felt proud to be an American.

 Which made me think. It felt good to chant and be part of a group. It felt good to have "pride". It's not something I've ever felt right about when I've seen it at rallies or even sports events. I always felt that chants of "U.S.A! U.S.A!" or whatever were expressions of hostility against others outside the group and it gave me the creeps. It made me think about the potential  for violence and fascism in identifying with ideas and myths. 

 But in doing it, I felt only positive for myself, my family, friends and my country. I know that our collective happiness came from relief that an eight year (!) nightmare will soon be over, but how quickly did we all start yelling the same thing from a feeling of total conviction in our beliefs and  faith in one leader?

 I am thrilled still and have faith, hope and optimism for the future. I do believe this is a turning point for our country and that the right realizes we will no longer be swayed by fear. I guess that in doing this show with its themes and experiencing "group victory" for the first time, it made me think about how identification with something larger than oneself may be part of human nature and can be used for good or evil, but it always seems to come from a place of positivism first. Nobody comes to power, dictator or messiah, by making people feel bad about themselves.

 "Lord Oxford" got a very thoughtful and positive review from Ms. Amelia Granger of the Greenpoint Gazette. Thank you! We had a fabulous and responsive audience last night and I so look forward to the rest of the run.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's been a while

             Me as Natalya, Gyda Arber as Greta and Iracel Rivero as Lucia

So I thought I'd be able to write a pretty thorough blog about the rehearsal process and I have not.  It's a lot harder than I thought to articulate the daily work that goes into creating a character and being part of a show. We had a good opening weekend with friendly audiences. The cast is fantastic and it is very exciting to be on stage with a live band for the first time.

One of the most challenging things in doing this play is the different levels of reality. It is a show within a show, a play about a live TV show taping in the midst of a revolution. I and the other actors are playing actors who have stock characters and then break out of those characters to communicate with the audience. Actually, we interact with the audience as our "character" characters as well. The stock characters based on European ethnic stereotypes are quite broad but not out of the realm of possibility-the "wild and crazy guys", caricatures of Eastern European men on SNL years back, come to mind.
It's interesting to see the audience's reaction to what the characters say, some of it quite racist. Lucia talks about being victimized as a Spaniard by the "so-called Mayans".  The first two nights there wasn't much of a response, but the third night I heard nervous laughter and "ooh, wow".  Iracel Rivero, the actress playing Lucia, says it with such sincerity and sweetness that you don't pay attention to what is said, but how it is being said. Afterwards, Patty O' Pattycake, the Irish orphan says to the audience, "She is so pretty."  

To me, that is very frightening and true to life.  More attention is paid to the style and charisma of speakers and leaders and what they are really saying gets lost or is less important. The audience also gets emotionally involved with the characters' sentimentality and identifies with being a victim or a member of an oppressed group. That's a great basis for creating propaganda and getting people to follow a leader, using myths, stories, songs, slogans, etc. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the run.

Tomorrow, I'm doing a one night only performance of "Lisa Ferber's An Evening With Molly Hadafew" at Manhattan Theatre Source for their Estrogenius Solo Voce Festival.

The character is taken from Lisa Ferber's extremely funny mystery musical noir Oh Mr Cadhole! produced about three years ago. I played Molly, a secretary who sings "I Like A Man Who Treats Me Bad". My inspiration for the hair, by the way, was not Betty Grable but my great Aunt Sally who lived with my mom and me when I was six. She wore a fake hairpiece that she would put in a box on her nightstand every night. As she got older, the piece would wobble on her head because she didn't do so well with pinning it down so I used that to make Molly's hair wobble when she walks as well. Plus, finding shoes that make me walk with an exaggerated swagger (the heels hurt so I look like I've had a bit of a rough night for the past twenty years) add to the hair having its own life. The script is very fun and how could I not love singing "You Left Me For A Tranny (And I'm Still Drinkin')?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yay, for the village tech idiot

I figured out after five tries last evening how to add links.  So, I also want to list the NYTimes review of  fellow castmate Gyda Arber's production of Suspicious Package, now playing for an open-end run at The Brick, where Lord Oxford Presents will be as well.  I have not had the opportunity to go yet, but everyone who's gone and to whom I've spoken has said how fun and original it is.  

Monday, September 22, 2008


My last rehearsal for Lord Oxford Presents was the 18th and the first time working with music for my song. It is very Kurt Weill in style; gritty, cabaret-esqe and ironic. At the same time, Nataliya, my character, is singing about her family, her identity and the treatment she has received in this country. The challenge is to be true to the style without diminishing the thought and emotion that compel her to sing.  Moira Stone, our director, suggested I look at Marlene Dietrich as an actress to study, specifically her performance in Blue Angel. Also, interestingly enough, Mick Jagger, two masters of self-image.

Nataliya is a consummate performer who has been in "show biz" all her life. She comes from a circus family and knows how to work a crowd.  She uses her talent to manipulate and control an audience, but there comes a break when she releases her anger and emotion to demand dignity for herself and her people. 

The plot of Lord Oxford Presents is a "what if" scenario where England won the Revolutionary War and America is still a colony of the Crown.  African slaves were freed by the British and given the lands of their owners, elevating them and their descendants to the status of "Southern Lords", part of the present day ruling class along with white Loyalists of European heritage.  The European descendants of the rebels and immigrants not loyal to the British are suppressed and perform all the menial labor including entertainment.  The circumstances mean to show the nature of propaganda and how history is truly written by the victors.  In the world of this play, George Washington is not a hero. He has gone down in history as a traitor and war speculator. Sally Hemmings is a national hero for killing Thomas Jefferson by slitting his throat. 

This interests me not because they are "facts" in the play, but because they are stories and legends taken as fact in order to create a national identity, much like the stories we have today. We really go to war to preserve freedom? George Washington really couldn't tell a lie? The signers of the American Constitution, being the wealthiest land owners in the colonies, really only acted out of the need to create a new country with liberty for all? 

I am very fortunate to be part of such a great cast. Audrey Crabtree and Lynn Berg, playing Pattie O' PattyCake, an orphan playing an Irish stereotype and Winston Berg, an American Loyalist (or is he?), respectively, have been performing their hysterical Bouffon Glass Menagerie at the Dublin Fringe Festival in Ireland.  Below are their fantastic and well-deserved reviews here and here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Start of Rehearsal

Yesterday was the second day of rehearsal for Lord Oxford Brings You The Second American Revolution, Live! being the necessary and appropriate response to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's suppression of the freedoms and dignity of the European-American settlers and their descendants in the Royal Eastern American Colonies and the inordinate conferring of special favours and privileges on the merciless Indian savages and the former Negro slaves, in the year Two Thousand and Eight. 

Yes, that is the title. 

Once, in a fit of ambition, I went to a "seminar" with an agent who asked us to look at our resume and think about the person reading it and what impression they would have of us and our work. Skimming some of the play titles Tupperware Orgy, O, Holy Night MotherFucker, An Evening With Molly Hadafew, Temptation, O Mr. Cadhole!, I thought, "Well, a person may think I'm an insane pervert and that could be a hindrance to booking a commercial." Industry Schmindustry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Congratulations to Vampire Cowboys for eight New York Innovative Theater Awards nominations for FightGirlBattleWorld! It was one of my favorite shows this year and I am thrilled for everyone involved. 

Spell, the play I'm currently in, has three more performances, tomorrow the 20th at 8pm, Sat. the 23rd at 4pm and Sun. the 24th at 8pm at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 575 Metropolitan Avenue. It's directed by Ian W. Hill and assisted by Berit Johnson of GeminiCollisonWorks. It's about an American woman named Ann, played by the fantastic Moira Stone, who has committed an act of terrorism. Or is it an act of patriotism? Is violence ever justified and if so, when? The question my character is most interested in as her interrogator is, however, why? Why did she do it? 

In the week after 9/11, I think it was Newsweek, or maybe Time had a cover story titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" My initial reaction was,  "Who cares what the reasons are? What could justify such a terrible and destructive act of violence? Just find out who did it and make sure it doesn't happen again." It's been useful in the rehearsal process to remember that feeling, because it was a feeling based on emotion, not an intellectual response. My character, however, has the responsibility to sublimate her emotions and use her intellect and training to get the truth.  For more information about the show and the two other GeminiCollisonWork productions running in rep with Spell, check out Ian's blog

 I've seen both shows, Harry In Love and Everything Must Go and highly recommend both.