collisionwork: (sleep)
In the past year or so (maybe back to the August, 2008 season), I've begun having a kind of recurring dream as I get to the "stress point" in the production of a show I'm directing/designing -- it's never the same, but it's the same kind of dream:

I'm driving my car, and someone else on the road is making a horrible mistake that will result in them hitting me if I don't suddenly do something defensive and correct -- they may have made a wrong-way turn onto the one-way street I'm driving down, and I'm suddenly heading into their headlights, or they're trying to merge into the lane right where I am, or whatever, but always I have a car coming at me and I have to dodge with care and precision. These aren't exactly nightmares, as I always do avoid the other car, and I'm never woken up by some horrible dream-crash, but whenever I eventually wake up, I don't feel so terribly rested. Quite the opposite, I feel quite tense and fearful. It takes a good rehearsal to pull me out of the feeling of dread that hangs over me after one of these.

As Trav S.D. said when I mentioned this to him after Kitsch rehearsal last night, these dreams don't exactly need much in the way of interpretation here, it's all pretty much on the surface (and I should mention that these dream near-misses ALWAYS occur on roads I know well and have to drive to and from rehearsal of whatever play I'm working on -- yesterday's nap-dream-accident occurred on Houston Street just West of the FDR Drive).

That said, Kitsch, which opens in less than a week, is coming together okay. We'll be fine -- I will have some serious stress in the next few days in getting the lights, sound cues and projections together, but I'll get it done (not as fast as I'd like, but in time to run them enough before opening). I'll be seeing David Brune, the set designer, and Karen Flood, the costume designer, at the space today as we all go through the stock at TNC to find what we can pull and use for our show and I learn a bit more about the lighting setup and what I have available to me that way.

Tonight we'll run the thing from top to bottom again, as we did on Wednesday. Monday we ran Part II twice, and Tuesday we did Part I twice (with some skips in each case for actors who weren't there). On those days, the two individual parts looked in good shape, but when we put them together on Wednesday, it didn't quite sing as much, but I think it was just an off-day, and people are still struggling with the lines at times, which doesn't help. Last night, I worked the staging of 7 of the song sequences with the singers of those songs (there are 9 songs in the show), and focused them and made them clear, so we're all happy with those now. Trav also cut several of the longer songs down, which was needed -- the songs were great on their own as songs, but as pieces of a larger piece of theatre (pieces which I had asked for, as Trav had cut them from the play for a bit, but I thought they would really add to the whole work overall), a couple of them stayed with us a beat or two too long.

In any case, I'm now suddenly rushed to get myself together to run errands and get to the theatre (and hoping that the earlier Yankees parade hasn't screwed up traffic TOO much in getting to TNC), so I'd better finish this up as fast as I can . . .

Here's this week's Random Ten from the 25,101 tracks in the iPod, with associated YouTube links so you can hear the song there, or something else by that artist (there are some quite good video links in here this week, I should mention, and songs that, if you don't know them, are worth getting to know):

1. "The World Spins" - Julee Cruise - Floating Into The Night
2. "Dick Tracy" - The Chants - Get Back Up Again 3
3. "Matzoh Balls" - Slim Gaillard - Laughing In Rhythm, #1 - Flat Foot Floogie
4. "Midnight Showers of Rain" - Willie Nix - Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958 vol. 3
5. "You Let A Love Burn Out" - We Five - You Were On My Mind & Make Someone Happy
6. "Strange Weather" - Marianne Faithfull - Strange Weather
7. "Nenen Corta Essa" - Erasmo Carlos - Rato's Nostalgia Collection 1
8. "You're My Best Friend" - Queen - A Night At The Opera
9. "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" - Shonen Knife - The Birds & The B-Sides
10. "The Director Never Yelled 'Cut'" - Sparks - Exotic Creatures Of The Deep

And as for weekly cat-blogging, here's a recent picture of Hooker "helping me" at the computer, while I'm trying to get work done:
Hooker Helps Me Read Blogs

I'm looking forward to a brief, slightly "relaxed" day tomorrow, where I'll be working a little more with one or two singers in Kitsch on the last two songs, and then doing the improv theatre performance (and screening) with David Finkelstein that I hope some friends will show up at (check the link for details, folks).

Then, back to Kitsch full-time on Sunday . . .

And now, back to work . . . I'm going to put on some Mike Nesmith now to work to . . . excellent "chill-out" music . . .

collisionwork: (goya)
We've been continuing to rehearse Kitsch every night, though we've wound up with some unexpected nights off as we've lost the people or space we'd need to rehearse. Frankly, this one is tiring enough to put together that the nights off (and we get one tomorrow, hooray) are probably more productive for me in giving me some rest and time to consider the work.

Still, we're actually a little bit ahead of where I thought we'd be at this point, mainly because the actors are picking things up fairly quickly, though I'm going to have to constantly be vigilant about everyone's timing in this precise farce (a pain, when it appears at this point that we will NEVER have the full cast of 19 together at any one time until the ONE night before the show opens . . . {sigh}).

Up until recently, we've mostly been rehearsing in the chilly basement of Theater for the New City, amongst old props, costumes, and set pieces. Here's Josh Mertz and Avery Pearson as Violet Vogelbaum and Heinz Bruderlieben, having a lover's spat in the Klub Katzenratzen:
KITSCH - rehearsal - Violet & Heinz

And here's Roger Nasser, Esther Silberstein, Josh, and Avery from the other side, as another spat between Violet and Heinz is watched by Klaus Hanswurst, busboy, and Schwamm, the Klub Katzenratzen singer:
KITSCH - rehearsal - Klaus-Schwamm-Violet-Heinz

This past week, and hopefully for most of our remaining rehearsals, we've moved upstairs to the actual space the show will be in, the vast (for me) Johnson Theater. Here's Berit (can you spot her? she's actually standing in the same "place" of the set as Esther in the picture above) in the midst of our rehearsal set . . .
TNC - Johnson Theater with Rehearsal Set

That's a lot of space to fill, but it's looking good thus far. Sounding okay, too -- I was worried about echo making the lines muddy, but it's not too bad, and once the back curtain is pulled and our set is in there (and, hopefully, an audience) the reverb should be decreased to a perfectly fine level.

Tonight, Sunday, and Tuesday we're supposed to be in this space, and I've called as much of the full cast as I can for those days (which means 10-14 people, depending on the day) so we can put the pieces of the show together -- but there's always the chance at TNC that we show up and need to be moved to a smaller space (one night, as I noted, we wound up in a hallway), so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get to keep working in the Johnson, as it makes the show a lot clearer.

So . . . we're okay on this, but not so much that I can relax.

Meanwhile, back in the iPod, here's today's Random Ten (with assorted links) from the 25,580 tracks in there . . .

1. "Hope" - Kristin Hersh - Strange Angels
2. "The Director Never Yelled 'Cut'" - Sparks - Exotic Creatures Of The Deep
3. "Speak To Me" - PP Arnold - The First Cut
4. "That Is Rock & Roll" - The Coasters - Fifty Coastin' Classics
5. "Peekaboo! (muzak version)" - Devo - E-Z Listening Disc
6. "Sinners" - The Cramps - Flamejob
7. "Anybody Seen My Baby?" - The Rolling Stones - Bridges To Babylon
8. "Devil In Disguise" - Elvis Presley - Beat of the Pops 02
9. "If I Didn't Love You" - Squeeze - Singles 45's And Under
10. "You Should Know" - The Sevens - The Sevens

And yes, some recent pictures of the kitties . . . Berit having some cuddle time with a sleepy boy . . .
Berit & Sleepy Boy

And Berit tried to get some late night reading in, but has some friends that won't quite let her . . .
Night Time Reading with Cats 2

Okay, and now I have to get myself ready for our first "full cast" (11 out of 19) stumblethru tonight -- still figuring out where everyone goes much of the time . . .

collisionwork: (Great Director)
Phew. Rehearsals every single day for Kitsch. Getting tired, but there's work to be done.

And today, a day late (as yesterday was taken up with reorganizing last night's rehearsal due to cast member illness), I finally get to the Random Ten (out of 25,580) from the iPod, with links to associated YouTube videos where available . . .

1. "Skin Deep" - Stranglers - Aural Sculpture
2. "Valerie" - Amy Winehouse with Mark Ronson - Mix Disk - Dad
3. "Rubberleg Twist" - The Isley Brothers - Twist And Shout
4. "Percy's On The Run" - High Broom - Psychedelic Archaeology Volume 8
5. "I'm On a Boat" - The Lonely Island (feat. T-Pain) - Incredibad
6. "Little Bianca" - The Bitter Poet & The Sound of Angst - Rocket Red Fingernails
7. "Funny Anymore" - The Heartbeats - East of Croydon
8. "Super Good (Parts 1 & 2)" - Vicki Anderson (as Myra Barnes) - James Brown's Funky People (Part 2)
9. "You Better Get a Better" - The Beatstalkers - Decca Originals: The Freakbeat Scene (1964-1968)
10. "Cruisers Creek" - The Fall - 458489 A Sides

Work proceeds on the production of Kitsch: Or, Two for the Price of One, which opens in . . . whoa . . . just under four weeks. Yeesh.
Kitsch Poster

More info on the show HERE

Rehearsals have been a lot of fun for this show. I'm getting to pull out anything and everything I've ever learned from movie comedies of the 30s and 40s (and a few things from Warner Bros. cartoons as well). Double and triple-takes, slow burns, slapstick, comic sound effects . . . they're all showing up.

Theater for the New City has been a somewhat enjoyable place to work. I like the space itself, and the feeling of community you get there, which has been welcoming to me in faster order than I figured it would. Of course, with the easygoing atmosphere, you also get the kind of laissez-faire attitude that results in showing up last night to find the rehearsal room double-booked, so that we wound up rehearsing in a hallway. We still wound up doing perfectly good work that I was pleased with, but as the hallway was next to the bathrooms, we had to take an extended break from work and discuss blocking for another scene when a show upstairs broke for intermission and our working space became a corridor again. The work was still excellent.

Still, I am enjoying the feeling of "going to work" in a theatre that I'm not on staff at for a change, as well as visiting an old neighborhood of mine every day. I used to live around the corner from TNC on 10th Street, and I've been revisiting some of the restaurants I used to go to regularly for take-out while there (the food at Paquitos, where David Mcintyre and I got burritos every night while we were writing Even the Jungle, tastes exactly the same 18 years later). A lot more Indian and Ruben's Empenadas in the diet than usual. The area's a lot more gentrified, of course, but not as much as I had figured, actually.

So we're pretty good on this show, but I'm still a hair concerned about having all the design elements and music set in time without last minute craziness. I'll catch up on that on Monday (which is now a "day off" from rehearsal, but not from the show).

And as for today's cat blogging, here's a shot from last week of how I prefer Hooker to join me when I'm on the computer and trying to work or just enjoy myself -- this way I can pay attention to both the computer and the cat . . .
Shoulder Kitty

And, from this morning, here's how he likes to get attention from me while I'm on the computer, where he makes it clear that he is more important than whatever I'm trying to do online . . .
H Wants Attention Again

Time to begin psyching myself up for tonight's rehearsal . . .

collisionwork: (vile foamy liquids)
We're two rehearsals into Kitsch now, and it's been a good start. We've staged about 26-27 pages of script (out of 101 total) and the tone is becoming apparent. There were concerns about a few things, and whether they'd work or not -- will it work for this farce, which takes place in Berlin in 1989 after the Wall comes down, for some of the characters to have "stage-German" accents and for others not to? Yes, it will -- that are being answered as we try things.

There are still tonal things that need to be modified and worked out -- how far exactly to go with those accents; how far to go with the "swishiness" or not of the gay characters (in this farce, it seems right to go to almost Mel Brooksian levels, especially to contrast one gay twin from his straight brother, but there IS an offensiveness line that can be easily crossed); there's a lot of Brechtiness in the script, but how much Weimar/Brecht/Weill do we bring in vs. how much actual 1989? -- but we're only two rehearsals in with 24 to go, so we have some time to work things out (not too much, though).

Simple scenes thus far, for the most part. I was a hair stymied by the brief exposition transition from the prologue to the first scene of the play proper last night, when an idea came up that I hadn't considered before that looked to change my whole view of staging the section -- I had a visual gag planned for the scene, but a bit of prop handling I hadn't fully worked out led to the creation of a different gag, which was a less "sure" gag than the first one (that is, it could REALLY work or REALLY fail as a piece of humor, and the first one was a fairly definite laugh, or at least chuckle). So I had to decide between a gag that would work that I had planned, or one that could either work better or fail miserably, but which would also solve a problem of getting some props offstage (a major pain). An offhanded suggestion - more a joke about it - from Josh Mertz led to a solution that combined both gags into a better one, albeit one that's still unsure of a laugh (and brings up the question, when you throw a baby offstage, is it funnier if it's just tossed, or if you hear the sound of the baby going "Waaaaaaa!" as it arcs away?).

Monday will be a sudden jump in difficulty staging-wise, though, as I'll have almost the entire cast there for the climactic scene of the farce in which everything comes together. This involves 16 to 18 actors (not sure yet) with a whole lot of extremely specific blocking which must look chaotic, including the use of four "fake shemps" disguised as half of the four sets of twins the play centers on (it's basically The Comedy of Errors with two extra sets of twins, broken up in infancy and sent to either side of the Berlin Wall, all finally meeting up and causing confusion on the night it comes down - a nice classic farce, with a pedigree that goes back over 2000 years).

In any case, it's underway and won't be stopping now.

Back on the iPod, here's today's Random Ten (and associated YouTube links) out of 25,552 tracks:

1. "Dilated Eyes" - The Gregorians - You Deceived Me: USA Garage Greats 1965-1967
2. "Joey's On The Streets Again" - The Boomtown Rats - The Best Of The Boomtown Rats: The Millennium Collection
3. "King of Comedy" - R.E.M. - Monster
4. "Last Dance" - The Mekons - Fear and Whiskey
5. "The Picnic" - Johnny Mandel - The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea soundtrack
6. "Love Me" - Koko Taylor - What It Takes: The Chess Years
7. "30 Seconds Over Tokyo (live 1993)" - Pere Ubu - The Late Show
8. "CBS Marijuana Special" - Radio Promo - Rock'n'Roll - The Untold Story Vol. 6: The Jivin' Novelty Party Record

TV ANNOUNCER: "See a CBS Special on marijuana, 'Get the Habit' -- stay tuned to this channel!"
9. "Rots-O-Ruck" - Richard Marino - Ultra-Lounge 18: Bottoms Up
10. "I Shall Not Be Moved" - Johnny Cash - Unearthed

And a couple of new kitty photos from the last couple of days . . . Hooker, who has become a NEEDY attention hound of a cat since our last time away, here with Berit on the couch . . .
H & B Couch Hug

And, just a few minutes ago as I write this, nudging me in the face and pawing at me for attention, jealous of the computer . . .
Wanting Attention

Maybe I'll get some new photos of Moni for next week; she never seems to stand still long enough for a good photo, though.

Tomorrow we have a day off of rehearsal for Kitsch (one of only two we have between now and opening weekend, the other being Halloween), which B & I will spend going up to Darien, CT - just a bit north of my ol' hometown - where my dad, Nils Hill, is in a group show with some pretty good company, to say the least (he's a painter, in case you didn't know, as is my stepmother, Ivy Dachman). I'm looking forward to the small day trip up into the home state.

Also, in other events, there are 2 shows opening this weekend from friendly creators and spaces you might check out:

1. Titus Andronicus from Danse Macabre Theatrics at my homebase The Brick (looks to be Frank Cwiklik's usual intoxicating and overwhelming blend of staging and media); and,

2. Marc Spitz's new comedy Up for Anything at The Kraine, which I was in a reading of not long ago -- it's hysterically funny, like most of Marc's work (I've directed/acted in two of his plays, The Hobo Got Too High and Marshmallow World, and loved it), and has a really terrific cast (including CollisionWorks favorite Alyssa Simon).

And a first notice: Some of you may have seen my show Sacrificial Offerings this August, the text of which came from improvisational work by myself and David Finkelstein, who has been doing this kind of work for years as Lake Ivan Performance Group.

The play also contained a video by David called Marvelous Discourse, which was based on the videotape of the same improvisation that created the text of the play (David's notes on the video are HERE).

Well, there will be a screening of that video, along with another video of David's, Terrifying Blankness, created with a different improv partner, at CRS on Saturday, November 7 at 8.00 pm.

And most excitingly for me, David and I will also be performing a live 15-minute long improvisation that evening. I have been refreshed and rejuvenated in many ways by the work I've been doing with David this year, and the idea of doing some of this improvisatory theatre work live (the first time, for me) is something I very much look forward to. Details are at the links above; more info as the date gets closer.

Okay, time to leave the computer and prepare for tonight -- just found out I'm short an actor I expected, so revisions to the schedule must be made . . .

collisionwork: (crazy)
Well, here I am, a day late on my weekly posting, and here we are, Berit and I, with two more days of rehearsals to go, today and tomorrow, one rehearsal each for each of the four August shows. Today, Sacrificial Offerings and then Blood on the Cat's Neck, tomorrow, George Bataille's Bathrobe and then A Little Piece of the Sun. We open the first show two weeks from yesterday.

Everything with the shows themselves is going well. All of them will now get one more rehearsal (which means anywhere from one to four run-throughs at that rehearsal), two tech rehearsals, and a preview before opening. That's more time, and runs, with shows this ready, and opening this far away, than I have ever had. I'm still occasionally freaking out. Of course.

Looking back, this is almost the same entry as last week. Well, actually, I'm less freaked now. A lot. Still . . .

The first techs won't be 100% complete. I'm still rushing to have most of the sound cues ready. Tonight's my one and only real time to get a lot of that work done, and it's slow going most of the time (sometimes just as I wait for multi-track files to be mixed down in GarageBand). I have all the music set for Bathrobe and Blood, but now I have to pretty much compose Little Piece's sound score. Things will get a lot simpler a lot faster now.

Berit has built a little scale model of the set from pipe cleaners and foam core, and actually looking at that makes me feel like the dreaded construction process on Monday won't be so bad. I'll have some photos of the funny little model and some other prop stuff soon (I'd have 'em now, but I left my camera in the car).

Oh, better get the Random Ten done. Here's what comes out of the 25,578 in the thing today . . .

1. "Your Heart Out" - The Fall - Dragnet
2. "The Cross" - Laibach - Jesus Christ Superstars
3. "Budweiser's a Friend of Mine" - Billy Murray - Victor-16049 78 rpm
4. "That's Pep" - Devo - Freedom of Choice
5. "Rhumba Chillen" - Albert Williams - Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958 vol. 4
6. "Push Push" - Sunset Love - The History Of Texas Garage Bands In The '60s Volume 6: Psychedelic Flower Power with Sunset Love
7. "Your Love Is Burning Me" - Thane Russal & Three - Voyage Through The Sugarcube 1
8. "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" - Yoko Ono - Onobox 4: Kiss, Kiss, Kiss
9. "El Mundo (Is A Weirdo)" - The Wayward Youth - El Mundo 7"
10. "Time Rarely Stands Still" - Guv'ner - Spectral Worship

Hooker gives not a damn for our work and stress; he just wants to know why Berit and I are never home anymore . . .
Hooker Wants Attention

And time to rush out the door and over to The Brick now. I think if I get all the stuff done between now and Friday that I'm supposed to, I'll be okay. Okay?

collisionwork: (lost highway)
We officially open the first show of our four August productions three weeks from tonight.

As we're incredibly ahead of schedule on several things and a bit behind on others (no more than usual, but still, behind), I'm variously either strangely euphoric or hideously depressed moment-by-moment all the time right now.

The casts are in pretty good shape, and one is in much more than that. Now I'm just all panicked about the tech stuff. Here's a picture of my breakdown of the sound cues for George Bataille's Bathrobe, which I've only scratched the surface of finding and creating:
GBB - laying out the sound cues

There you can see cues A through OO -- the breakdown goes up to cue NNNNN, that is, 118 sound cues in a 75-minute-long show. Whee. And I still have to record, process, and mix lots of those cues. Blood on the Cat's Neck is a bit better -- just 101 cues in 80 minutes, and most of them are just straight music needle-drops, with no additional elements.

Next, the incredibly complex Little Piece of the Sun soundtrack/score, which will be like composing an almost wall-to-wall underscore for the two-hour show, transforming samples and sound fragments into musical themes or at least tonal drones (and possibly also adapting some of the themes/drones for electric guitar as well, if I have the time).

So, as I may have mentioned before, I'm incredibly happy with where the actorial/performance elements of the shows are (though all need work, in different ways/at different levels), HOWEVER, the tech elements are making me unbelievably nervous to the point of paralysis - exactly NOT the reaction needed. I may just relax about it through the weekend if I can (not much time between now and Monday to do anything anyway, with rehearsals tonight, and both Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening) and then just dig in first thing Monday morning.

Oh, right, I also need to get my lines down for Little Piece At least, having done the show 8 years ago, they seem to be coming back quick, and I've already been off-book for sections of rehearsal.

Here's three shots from this week's rehearsals. First, a large-cast shot from Little Piece, as a vision of Issa Kostoyev appears to young Andrei Chikatilo at Stalin's funeral:
LPOTS rehearsal - Kostoyev Appears

Most of the cast of George Bataille's Bathrobe is visible here (two of them obscured) as Frank Norris prepares to smash his glasses:
GBB rehearsal - About to Smash the Glasses

And a shot from Blood on the Cat's Neck that features the whole cast:
BLOOD rehearsal - Lover and Girl

A whole big album of rehearsal shots can be seen HERE. I'm pretty well done taking rehearsal shots now, I think, except for some more Little Piece ones, as I'd like to get a few with the entire cast in them.

And here's today's Random Ten from the 25,594 on the iPod (most of the additions since last week being the Nino Rota cues I'm using to score Bathrobe and the Ennio Morricone cues scoring Blood):

1. "Psychedelic Pill" - The Tyde - Gravel volume 5
2. "Pesadelo" - Patife Band - Corredor Polones
3. "Cry For Fame" - Dieter Meier - Cry For Fame 7"
4. "Bad News Blues" - Grahame Bond - Love Is The Law
5. "Gimme Some Lovin'" - The Spencer Davis Group - The Finer Things
6. "Toybox" - The Geraldine Fibbers - Butch
7. "Here To Here" - Peer Pressure - S/T 7" EP
8. "Civil Defense Spot: Excellent Chances" - Groucho Marx - Atomic Platters: Cold War Music From the Golden Age
9. "See Emily Play" - David Bowie - Pin Ups
10. "Past Is Past" - The Dishrags - Past Is Past 7" EP

I've taken too much time here today as it is when I need to get back to work on the shows, but here's some pictures of our sweet little kitties from this morning.

Hooker appears to be deep in thought (hah!):
Deep In Thought?

And Moni enjoys her cave amongst a pile of old props, fabrics, and supplies:
Moni Haz a Cave

And here's a couple of videos that have kept me sane this week.

First, a very SERIOUS PSA that is a bit FAIL because some celebrity spokespeople just don't work doing these kinds of things . . .

And sometimes, you just need a Scopitone of 1960s French interpretive dance to pep yer spirits up (and yes, the song, "Psyché Rock", by Pierre Henry and Michel Colombier, is the one Matt Groening gave to Danny Elfman as an example of what the Futurama theme should sound like, and someone on WFMU has used it as a sound bed for years). Here's Les Ballets Jackson with "Fiesta Hippie" (NSFW):

Back in a week . . . if not before . . .

collisionwork: (vile foamy liquids)
Waitaminit, it's Friday!

Boy did THAT week pass quick. But, luckily, productively.

We are now into less than a month before the shows all open, and, fortunately, they're all in pretty good shape. All need work, and in different ways, but it's happening. From now on until opening, Berit and I have at least one rehearsal a day for a show -- on Sundays (and Saturdays after tomorrow) we have two rehearsals for different shows.

It's tiring, but actually worth it -- at least I feel more like it is this year than I have the last two, where I've spent a good deal of the month asking myself if the ultimate reward of the shows was worth the work and exhaustion of this month before they go up. Yes, it always is, but at least this year I can feel that way in the hours outside of the rehearsal room (I'm always happy when I'm in rehearsal, but more and more often I've been spending the hours before rehearsal dreading the work to come and just wanting to quit this whole process; this has, for some reason, not been the case this year).

Me last night, directing:
BLOOD rehearsal - IWH Directs

So every day Berit asks me "which one is it today?" And I check to be sure myself and we grab the correct script or scripts from the pile and go off to either The Brick or Brooklyn Arts Exchange for rehearsal (in the past, we've also been at Champions Studios or The Battle Ranch, but except for one more time at the latter, we're down to just the two locations now).

Here's what I was directing last night in the photo above -- half of the cast of Blood on the Cat's Neck, at BAX (two others were there, but not in this shot):
BLOOD rehearsal - Half of the Cast

That's Rasheed Hinds, Gyda Arber, Shelley Ray, Roger Nasser, and V. Orion Delwaterman, in the middle of the opening "monologue" section" of the Fassbinder play.

Here's a shot from two nights ago at The Brick, rehearsing the "racetrack" scene of George Bataille's Bathrobe -- our first night together with the full cast (which we're fortunate to have for the rest of the rehearsal process, amazingly), and here's 6/8ths of them -- Bob Laine, Sarah Engelke, Liza Wade Green, Bill Weeden, Justin R.G. Holcomb, and Timothy Reynolds (with Berit's hands and stage manager script lower right):
GBB Rehearsal - 6:8ths of Cast

More recent rehearsal shots can be found HERE.

We've now had a chance to stumble through each of the shows a few times, and what needs to be worked in each one is more and more apparent. Bathrobe just needs to be gone over start to finish as much as possible with the full cast, now that we have them, so that everyone can remember the dream logic of the play that links the bits together -- people keep forgetting what's happening and why, as we haven't been able to connect the bits of this fairly abstract play together too well as yet. I think repetition will help (French for "rehearsal," I'm told: répéticion). The pattern needs to be felt in everyone's bones.

Blood is in the strongest shape of the three now, and is at the stage where it's all about lots and lots of niggling little notes to the actors about pace and word emphasis. And this will keep up all the way through tech and after into performances, I get the feeling.

A Little Piece of the Sun needs aspects of both the above to be worked on, but not to the extent of the other two shows -- the pattern needs to be felt more in everyone's bones, and I need to fix the tone of many little bits. Just not as much of each as in the above shows.

Actually, pace will be the continuing problem, I think, as it ALWAYS is for me (I get physically ill when the pace is off in my shows; it upsets me more when it's "wrong" than almost anything else). I know it's been drilled into actors more and more that "faster is always better," but it's not true, and especially in my shows. Cue pickup is usually meant to be quick (and if it isn't, I'll tell you), but too often I'm asking the actors to PLEASE slow the damned lines down for chrissakes! When you do shows that are fairly meditative, many beats need to have time to land and be thought about for a moment before the next one rushes in, but more and more I'm really having to demand that actors slow the hell down. I don't want milking of lines and moments, but I want the impression sometimes that what is being said is being thought about before, during and after it hits the air.

We have another 6 or 7 rehearsals for each show, followed by two tech days each and a private invited preview before proper opening, and I think all will be set fine by then.

And the 4th show, Sacrificial Offerings is going at its own, slower, pace as it's a short, easier show (we start our tiny rehearsal process in a couple of weeks). I just cast the fifth actor of eight in the cast -- Ben Robertson, like me a graduate of the Northfield Mt. Hermon School, Class of 1986! I think we last acted together at the age of 15 in Lanford Wilson's The Rimers of Eldritch at NMH. With him in that show and Aaron Baker (NMH '86) in Little Piece, I'm now directing 2 people I've known over 25 years in two different shows. Weird.

David Finkelstein last night gave me the draft of his video version of the same text - now called Marvelous Discourse - to be used in the middle of my play version. It's unfinished, but quite wonderful, and will work well for what I need it to do in my stage piece.

Tonight, Little Piece at BAX. More little things to fix. Whee.

And so, this week's Random Ten from an iPod now full of 25,570 tracks (with links to the songs or something similar):

1. "Monks" - King Missile - Failure
2. "All Messed Up" - Jess Hooper - Tennessee Rock 'n Billy 1955
3. "Heroes And Villains" - Brian Wilson - Smile
4. "Surfari" - The Boardwalkers - NPR's International Beach Ball
5. "Dreamer" - Joyce Harris - Domino Records Story
6. "Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Them" -Tommie Young - Soulin' Vol 1
7. "Didn't I Do It Right?" - Gary Glitter - 22 Of The Best
8. "Don'cha Know" - Bill Cosby - TV Characters Sing Just For You, Vol. 1
9. "Wurlitzer Jukebox" - Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth
10. "Roadrunner" - The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra - Like A Breeze

And, yes, some newer kitty pictures of the little monsters.

Here's a drowsy Hooker kitty napping on the sleeping Berit:

Drowsy Boy on Momma

And here's BOTH kitties napping on the sleeping Berit (these are the easiest times to get pictures of the brats, when they're curled up and sleepy, which usually means they're sleeping on top of one of us humans):

H&M Wait for Mommy to Wake

Now, time to get laundry and nap before rehearsal. More shots from the rehearsals soon . . .

collisionwork: (tired)
Oh, the joys of insomnia induced by a combo of nervous active cats, being unable to achieve a acceptable temperature, and half a mind that decides to start racing while the other half is trying desperately to enter torpor.

But I am up, and it is time for updates and thoughts.

All three shows are under way, rehearsal-wise. All primarily blocking right now -- nuts 'n' bolts work, starting, as I do, from the point of the physical structure of the piece, the big strokes, and moving inward with more detail. As long as I get where people move right, most of the rest falls into place just fine.

Two rehearsals (post first-readings) thus far for A Little Piece of the Sun, and one each for George Bataille's Bathrobe and Blood on the Cat's Neck (I also just got 100% confirmation yesterday on the rights to the latter two, in emails from Mr. Foreman and the people who handle Fassbinder in the U.S. of A -- that's a relief, though now I need to be sure I have the money ready to pay for the Fassbinder rights by the due date in a month; time to send out the donation request email to my list . . .). Going well, with some frustrations, as to be expected.

Oddly, Little Piece, with the cast of 14, is the one where I can generally get most of the cast at every rehearsal. With the others . . . well, it's a struggle.

Little Piece has been a surprisingly fun rehearsal process despite being one of the most magnificently depressing shows in theatrical history (personally, by the end, I find it a HOPEFUL work, as I believe Daniel, the writer, does, but we seem to be in the VAST minority on that one). Maybe it's the unremittingly unpleasant subject matter of genocides, nuclear accidents, and serial killing that causes me to be a little lighter, breezier, and more on my toes and trying to make sure everyone is having a good time working on the play than usual. There are lots o' jokes 'n' laffs on this one from me and the cast, many of them at the expense of the horrible subject matter. Perhaps it's to avoid crying or screaming.

There was still a slight chill last night as we ended rehearsal with the staging of Andrei Chikatilo's first, horrifying, murder and violation, that of nine-year-old Lena Zakotnova. A mix of clinical and messy. A recent re-reading of From Hell was more inspirational than I had figured. Ick.

Foreman's George Bataille's Bathrobe has a great cast I wish I could get all together at one time (actually, I'm still waiting for one person I'd like to do it to confirm he can), but that'll have to wait for a while. One blocking rehearsal that was a good start, and, as always when I'm doing Foreman plays, immediately started clarifying everything, and all kinds of new, interesting ideas came up that will make Berit's and my lives harder as we now have to make or acquire more and more oddball props.

Unfortunately, I had fewer people than I had expected for the first rehearsal of Fassbinder's Blood on the Cat's Neck, and it was almost silly to work on the blocking (though it was nice working outdoors in Gyda Arber's back garden on a pleasant Spring night), but it wound up being a good start that will come in handy, and then the half of the cast I had and I retired to Ms. Arber's living room to watch Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel, which has been inspirational for me in thinking about the play. If we have another night like that, or a rain date, we'll go on to the Bunuel-influenced Merchant-Ivory film Savages, written by Michael O'Donoghue and George W.S. Trow. The Fassbinder will be a more problematic play in a few ways -- it's made up of lost of interesting bits that don't have a major dramatic pull forward until very late in the play, which is somewhat broken up into three main sections: a series of monologues, a series of two-person scenes, and finally a full-cast scene. The middle section is rather long compared to the other two, and weighs down the two ends quite a lot. I'll have to use a fine hand and some directorial magic to make the whole thing feel like one solid work moving forward, and not overburdened in the center. Some serious sprightliness needs to go on there.

And here's this week's Random Ten from the rapidly being-cleaned iPod that now has 25,598 tracks in it . . .

1. "Ban Deodorant (Skydiving)" - unknown - Psychedelic Promos & Radio Spots, vol. 7
2. "Suzie Q" - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Suzie Q
3. "Winners and Losers" - Iggy Pop - Blah Blah Blah
4. "Professor Nutbutter's House Of Treats" - Primus - Tales From The Punchbowl
5. "Blue Train" - Cibo Matto - Stereo Type A
6. "Ginny In The Mirror" - Del Shannon - Hats Off To Larry
7. "When I Was Cruel No.2" - Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel
8. "Do The Residue" - Kontakt Mikrofoon Orkest - CherryStones: Word
9. "Doctor Wu" - The Minutemen - mix disk - Daniel
10. "Woman's Gone" - Brainbox - Nederbeat The B-Sides 4

I have no new cat photos, so here's two old favorites from a night when a combo of flash and ambient lighting caused some strange distortions I havebn't been able to replicate . . .

Moni in a Flash (distortion 2)

Hooker in a Flash

I miss the days of truly awkward and odd promo films for songs (pre-"music videos"). Here's one (I suspect it's an actual Scopitone by the style) for The Tornados (of "Telstar" fame) doing "Robot," a Joe Meek production:

And here's a 1967 Italian cover of "Hold On, I'm Coming." Any ideas WHY this setting? Scarecrows?

I love how bored and unenthused Italian pop stars always seem to be in the clips I see . . . what, are they going through with this so they can wear nice shoes or something, and they're far too cool to bother actually performing?

Hey, it's a day off. Now what?

collisionwork: (Great Director)
The Magnificent Ambersons is going both well and with great difficulty. The show proper - story, acting - is working well. I have to keep tweaking, but it's mostly there. The stuff around this is now the big concern, and the show really relies on these elements: sound, lights, costumes, projections, complex set movements.

The actors have been trying to stay on top of the latter of these, but we have to keep going over and over the moves - especially as we never have everyone there (last night we had 18 out of 20 actors, a record). We lost an actor this week, and I had to split his part up between four other actors. We gained our last actor (FINALLY!) last night, Josh Hartung, who stepped in quickly and got right to it, even with being thrown all of the "now you move the screen, now you move the box" directions.

We had two 6-hour rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday to try and get all the movement down. Berit had her game board next to her to keep track of the people who weren't there.

This is the setup for the start of the immense ball scene (22 pages out of a 104-page script; took us three hours on Saturday to work out):

Game Board - Start of the Ball

Here, Berit is either listening to a question from an actor or is watching someone screw up the blocking and is about to jump in to fix it (at rear, Roger Nasser, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Scot Lee Williams):

AMBERSONS - Berit Plans

Perhaps Stephen Heskett (George) has a question about the placement of the screens (built, but without fabric yet) or the seating boxes (not built when the photo was taken, built yesterday) for the vigil scene in the hallway outside Isabel's room. Walter Brandes (Jack) also is interested, while at rear, Sarah Engelke (Isabel) goes over her deathbed lines:

AMBERSONS - rehearsal - Walter, Sarah, and Stephen

So Berit tells them what to do (fortified by Diet Mountain Dew, dried fruit, jelly bellies, and some kind of icy beverage):

AMBERSONS - Berit Assistant Directs

(for years, there has been a joke - I think started by Maggie Cino - that in 80 years time Berit will be the subject of a feminist theatre scholar's Master's thesis, which will put forth the idea that B was the true brains behind much of the creative work of myself, Edward Einhorn, Daniel Kleinfeld, and Frank Cwiklik - the above photo will be Exhibit #1 in the text of Berit Johnson: The Squelched Voice)

Here's the actual director, as he looks toward the end of a rehearsal (Berit, my stylist, also mussed my hair up more to make me look even more harried):

Ian Is a Tired Director

Still to do for Ambersons:

Fabric in the screens.
Paint the set boxes.
Get or build props.
Get costumes.
Make the projections.
Make the sound disks (with edits, etc.).
Build light cues.
Send out email blast.

We open Sunday. Whee.

Also, as Brick TDs, B & I have to go over and get the whole space ready for techs and the Film Festival itself. And we're supposed to go down to the Kings County Clerk's Office today to get our dba for Gemini CollisionWorks taken care of.

So I have to get the hell out of here now . . .

collisionwork: (Selector)
A happy, productive, tiring week.

Rehearsals have been going very well. Good productive work. Generally I feel in a damned good mood about everything. I had a bad depressive period in the afternoon the other day, the black cloud taking over, but that's just screwed-up brain chemistry coming out as it does, and I rode it out into the evening, when I could use rehearsal to direct me away from it until it faded away, unnoticed.

Last night I didn't call the full cast of Ambersons (or, rather, as much of them as I could get, which would have been maybe 11 out of 20) as I had planned, but just called the members of the central families who were available. There was more than enough work to do with just the six I had: Stephen (George Amberson Minifer), Ivanna (Fanny Minifer), Vince (Wilbur Minifer), Bill (Major Amberson), Walter (Jack Amberson), and Shelley (Lucy Morgan) - I couldn't even get to some of the scenes I'd planned on. We did the big ball scene twice (it's 22 pages out of a 104-page script, so a lot gets done when we plunge into that), as well as the post-ball hallway scene, and onward with various configurations so I could gradually let more actors go as we went later, and wound up ending with the Lucy and George duo scenes. I have to find some time to go over the Aunt Fanny/George scenes some more . . .

Ambersons has a wide range of actors in terms of the ways I need to direct, maybe wider all around than usual, even with such a big cast. I have the actors who need to talk a lot about intention, and the ones who just want words like "faster," "slower," "more," "less." I have the ones who will keep coming up with more and more interesting options each time we do a scene, and the ones who will get it ABSOLUTELY PERFECT the first time in, who I have to hold back to doing it that way over and over from then on without getting bored and keeping it new and fresh. And there are the ones who are get a scene about 85% "right" immediately, and getting that last 15% is like adjusting a watch very delicately with very fine tools. And the ones who have absolutely nothing right the first time they do a scene, and you wonder at first why you cast this person, but with some simple directions and several runthrus (and sometimes just by getting off book), they're right on the money.

I put a lot of trust in my instincts when casting, more than what I see in a reading or monologue. I just want to know if they can speak clearly and with intention, and the rest is whether I just think the actor can handle the part. I got a big education in this when doing a show back at NADA in 1996 - at the first script reading, the lead actress, who I'd never met before, was such a bad reader you'd have thought that not only was there no way she could act, but that she could barely comprehend the English language. I know the playwright was concerned, as I certainly was since most of my scenes were two-handers with her. Turned out she was just a stultifyingly bad reader, and, once off book and on her feet, one of the most amazing, incandescent performers it's ever been my joy to work with. I directed her in a couple of shows later, and she remained a terrible, TERRIBLE reader, and amazing onstage.

So I don't trust cold readings or first script readings too much, but they can give you a good idea of what kind of actor you have and what you'll need to work on with them. This week has reached the point where it's getting more fun because you can see you show beginning to come through the work. The work is still there on top, but it's getting more and more translucent. By June 1, it has to be transparent.

Anyway, today's rainy day fun Random 10, out of 25,557 in the iPod:

1. "Missione Segreta" - Ennio Morricone & Bruno Nicolai - O.K. Connery
2. "Solomon Grundie" - Eric Morris - Intensified! Original Ska 1962-1966
3. "The People In Me" - The Music Machine - Turn On
4. "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" - Dr. John - Mos' Scocious: The Dr. John Anthology
5. "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" - Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti
6. "Something In Love" - Art Zoyd - Lost Sixties Delights Vol. 1
7. "All Men Are Liars" - Nick Lowe - Party of One

I'd never heard this song before, I think -- some lyrics that caused me to have to stifle a big laugh (Berit is sleeping), made funnier with the recent RickRolling fad:

Well, do you remember Rick Astley?

He had a big fat hit, it was ghastly

He said I’m never gonna give you up or let you down

Well, I’m here to tell ya that Dick’s a clown

Though he was just a boy when he made that vow

I’d bet it all that he knows by now

(chorus) All men, all men are liars

Their words ain’t worth no more than worn out tires

Hey Girls, bring rusty pliers to pull this tooth

All men are liars and that’s the truth

8. "Necromancy/Grave In The Desert" - trailer soundtrack/Sebastian Peabody - Wavy Gravy: Four Hairy Policemen
9. "Tropical Hot Dog Night (live 1978)" - Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band - I'm Going To Do What I Want To
10. "Bullet Proof Lover" - Rich Kids - Ghosts of Princes in Towers

Well, on this cheery day (he said sarcastically, looking at and listening to the dreary rainfall out the window), we could all look on the bright side of life with Darth Vader and his son . . .

Darth Vader Got The Blues So Bad )

And here are the best cat shots from this week - first a nice closeup of Moni, asleep on the couch next to Berit:

Sleepy Moni Face

And Berit crept in while I was taking a nap the other day, and had been joined by Hooker, so she could get a shot of "her boys:"

IWH and Hooker Have a Nap

And Michael Gardner showed me this at The Brick yesterday - one of the most impressive bits of animation I've seen in a while. It's all over the web this morning, but if you haven't seen it, here it is - seven and a half minutes of impressiveness:

MUTO by Blu )

Enjoy. Back to work here . . .


Apr. 14th, 2008 10:31 am
collisionwork: (tired)
I am so damned tired.

I have been on the go almost constantly since last Sunday, when I was up bright and early to record a podcast, followed by about five hours of observing Babylon Babylon rehearsal to figure out the lights, followed by six hours of driving to Maine. The following day was mostly relaxing, true, with a dentist appointment in the middle of it (and I couldn't get the work I wanted done - I need an oral surgeon - but I got prescriptions and some other minor help that will handle the problem until the work proper can be done).

Tuesday, another six hour drive from Maine right to The Brick to continue observing the show.

Then, Wednesday through Sunday have all been work days at The Brick of at least 13 hours each day (and up to 16). Mostly, it's been getting the lights all set for BB, with a first rehearsal for Spell early Saturday morning, and one for Penny Dreadful yesterday from 9 am to 4 pm followed by an Ambersons rehearsal from 6.30-10.30 pm. And I wound up having to run the lights for BB at the opening preview when Lindsay, the (excellent) stage manager got seriously ill.

The good things were that the time has been tiring, but almost entirely enjoyable, surrounded by fine people doing hard worthwhile work and having a good time at it, and also I got in a new shipment of contact lenses on Friday and have been enjoying some glasses-free time again.

So, today I ain't doing much of anything. I have to arrange some rehearsal space, but apart from that, nothing much else. I will watch some movies. We should clean our home (um, it's actually getting kinda smelly, and not just from the cat box), but I'll hold out on that for another day.

But, to expand a bit more on bits of the above:

The podcast was recorded for New York Theatre Experience's, and featured myself, Jeff Lewonczyk, and Jon Stancato in a conversation about theatre that is in some way influenced by/connected to cinema, moderated by Trav S.D. It came out well, I think (the tech is a little dicey - they're not used to dealing with four people at once, really), and can be accessed HERE.

Babylon Babylon had its first open preview performance on Saturday, and it went pretty well. There are still a few elements missing that will be in for next week, and I have a handful of little fixes and additions to make. Went well, though the first audience didn't find it nearly as funny as I did, and I don't know why (well, maybe I do - it doesn't really start funny, and there are very few "clues" to let you know it's supposed to be funny, thankfully - and, also, it gets really dark and unfunny here and there as well).

It's a good show, and worth your time and money. See it. The website with info is HERE - though, um, it still lists the original light designer instead of me . . . have to remind someone to change that . . .

The next episode of Bryan Enk & Matt Gray's Penny Dreadful plays this Saturday and Sunday at The Brick - it's the "season finale," and we'll be on hiatus with that show until September (though there might be a one-off, standalone episode sometime this Summer). This episode is "The Earth Shook, The Sky Burned" and is mostly set around the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It features myself as George Westinghouse, Tom Reid as Thomas Edison, Bob Laine as J.P. Morgan, and Roger Nasser as William Howard Taft, with Joseph Ryan and Randall Eliot in several roles, and . . . well, you'll have to see. This one is directed by Brick co-founder Michael Gardner, and Berit and I, as always, are handling the light design and some other technical matters.

The Brick's page for the show (with ticket info) is HERE; the general Penny Dreadful site, with information about the series and synopses/videos of past episodes is HERE.

First meeting for my original show Spell, which will be going up in August, on Saturday. All but one of the 12-person cast was present, and we talked about the show and the issues that have come up in its creation. I played some of the music that was inspirational for the show. New avenues of approach were raised and discussed. Characters were slightly more defined. I laid out the set and put the cast on it in patterns that seemed "right," had movement happen, and scenes appeared from this start. The ending to the show appeared and was vaguely staged (to Brian Eno's song "Just Another Day"). Now I have a scene to work towards and have to earn.

The original intent of the show was to be a look inside the splitting mind of someone who has done a terrible, destructive, murderous thing, and then attempt to understand what makes someone do something so horrible. It has now moved, though, towards being more about The Violent Act that has been committed and a debate over whether there is ever any possible excuse for such actions. This is a continuing debate I have in myself, so I'm trying to settle it in some way through a splitting of myself into these characters.

It is now a more delicate and dangerous show than I anticipated, as there is more chance for failing in the task set out - I can't let it be shallow and pat, and yet it has to be theatrically compelling and go somewhere, and feel satisfying at the close, though there is no way of truly achieving closure with this story.

The cast is terrific - Moira Stone, Fred Backus, Alyssa Simon, Jorge Cordova, Iracel Rivero, Rasha Zamamiri, Jeanie Tse, Gavin Starr Kendall, Olivia Baseman, Sammy Tunis, and Liz Toft - and game. It'll be a joy to work with them. I hope I live up to it.

And a second blocking session for the June Ambersons production last night. I was scheduled to do just a few sections of the big "Ball" scene (and a few other little bits), but I decided to just go ahead and set the blocking for the whole damned difficult scene, at least for the principals in the sequence (as the entire rest of the cast is constantly flowing in and out during the sequence as party guests and servants, and I have to set the main line of flow before I can add in the additional eddies).

So we went ahead and damn if we didn't get through the whole sequence, which is 22 pages long - 1/5th of the entire script! So that was a nice chunk. I also blocked two simple scenes, with very little movement - Jack and George's argument in the bathroom and Eugene and Isabel sitting in the garden. I hope this keeps moving as quickly, with as much fun - this is one of the jokiest casts I've ever had, with suggestions for anachronistic behavior coming in constantly (which never gets old).

This week, more Ambersons and Penny Dreadful, but first, a day of rest. Pardon me, I must get started on that . . .

collisionwork: (philip guston)
Good screening of Ambersons for cast and friends last night. Having done a first reading of the full, original Welles version, the cast members were somewhat aware of what was shortened, cut, or reshot, and I could hear and see the small, angry, disgusted reactions around me - when it ended, someone, I think Natalie Wilder (who's playing Mrs. Johnson), called out "Bring on the boarding house scene!" - referring to the beautiful original final scene of the movie replaced by the awful hospital scene. I was a little surprised that the scene that everyone noticed was cut and was upset about was Major Amberson's final monologue before his death (which is faded to black about halfway through the uncut length) - nice to see that scene makes an impression.

Good discussions all around, and much appreciation of the fine acting in the film - except, as always for the performance of Tim Holt as George Amberson Minifer, which always splits people into those that love it or hate it (I think it's a fine performance by a good actor of a character that needs to be both horrible and likable at the same time - an almost impossible line to walk, which can only be done through casting a naturally likable actor in the part, and Tim Holt is a cold cold actor who does a great job of playing a real shit).

Tonight, more work on Everything Must Go. It's usually been a rule of mine for years now to always avoid rehearsing on Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday evenings, but with all these shows and the actor conflicts, there's no way to make that work this year.

from LP Cover Lover, again:

The White Family

collisionwork: (prisoner)
Last night's rehearsal went great. {phew}

I wound up with only four actors plus myself, but we set up the basic set, played the music, I described what ideas I had at that point, and immediately new, good ones began appearing, as the piece began to come clear.

Good discussions with the actors as well, and I'll have to be on my toes and keep up with them. I had planned one scene that took place out of the office setting where the rest of the show takes place, but had always been disturbed by leaving the setting for just the one scene - I figured it would work anyway, as the sequence is kind of a big, exciting, flashy one. I got called on that by an actor last night, who noted the structure and feel of the piece seems to demand the unity of staying in the office the whole time. And, yeah, he's right. So I have to rethink that scene. Dammit. The assembled came up with several good suggestions for that, but just starts in the right direction, no solutions.

My nerves have pretty much abated on this show - it opens way off on July 30, and in a few hours last night, I solved maybe half of the confusion in myself about what was going to happen in the "blank spaces." I also discovered I need to find two more songs to put in to make transitions work, and one other song I have in there may not work.

Now I'll see if I still have all the actors I thought I had for this show. I could do it with the ones I know I have now, but it's a bit heavy on the female side onstage right now, and that doesn't work right for this show.

25,597 tracks in the iPod - here's a Random Ten for this morning:

1. "Blue Velvet #1" - WFMU - station promos
2. "Fotomodelle" - Piero Umiliani - Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso
3. "I'm Gonna Dance All Night" - The Equals - First Among Equals - The Greatest Hits
4. "Walking Down Madison" - Kirsty MacColl - Galore
5. "Fiabla Bolero" - Franco Ferrara - Music Scene: Musica Per Radio - Televisione - Films
6. "Satellite of Love" - Lou Reed - Transformer
7. "Let's Go Away for a Mashup" - Totom - Bastard Pet Sounds
8. "Code Monkey" - Jonathan Coulton - Thing a Week Three
9. "Sequenza Psichedelica" - Piero Umiliani - Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso
10. "Crazy Sally-Ann" - Sit N' Spin - Enjoy The Ride

What th-? Real random, iPod. Two tracks from the same 60s Italian movie soundtrack? (which I think is some kind of softcore "study" of Sweden) Well, I guess that will happen on random.

And in the land of cat photos, here's Hooker and Moni curled up together last week . . .

Pile O'Kitties

And here's one from the last half-hour - Hooker has been sweetly curled up against and around my feet since I got up and got on the couch and computer, purring and making happy grunty noises and mushing his forehead into my toes. So I grabbed the camera to try and get a record of how adorable he was and can be. He stopped being adorable the moment after I took this and took a big chomp into my foot. Ow. I think you may be able to see the transition happening here from sweetness to BAD KITTY . . .

About To Chomp

Tonight, we show The Magnificent Ambersons (final 88-minute version, of course) on the big big screen at The Brick for cast members and friends who want to come by (if you're in the latter group and I neglected to email you, let me know). Tomorrow, more making stuff up on Everything Must Go. Looking good.

It Starts

Mar. 27th, 2008 12:19 pm
collisionwork: (red room)
Last night I went over to The Brick to see a bit of a rehearsal of Babylon Babylon, which I'm now designing the lights for (original designer couldn't do it).

I need to see a few more rehearsals to figure out how to make it work - I can do it with the instruments we have, sure, but I need to really buckle down on what to put where - can't be wasteful at all with instruments on this. The Brick is pretty much all opened up, with rows of seats against the walls, as Frank Cwiklik did with Bitch Macbeth in January.

Babylon Babylon in rehearsal

There's a low central platform, a big stairs/dais piece (the "holy ground") at one end (with projection screen to be bisecting it) and 16 small areas where people have a kind of "home base." Jeff tells me there's really just about 8 real areas to deal with isolating, which helps. I have 26 source-4s (two with I-Cues, two with color scrollers), with 3 others that are broken but fixable (I have the parts), 1 PAR can, two working birdies on floor stands (maybe another one or two fixable), another floor stand for the PAR or a source-4 (and I can always make more if I need them), and basically 31 dimmers (+1 for the house lights). I can make it look good, I'm sure, but I need to see how the whole show moves before I figure out how.

Babylon Babylon in rehearsal 2

23 out of the 32 listed cast members were there last night, including many friends and frequent collaborators. It'll be fun coming by to these rehearsals and seeing everyone without having to direct them or act with them for once.

So tonight is a first meeting for one of my August shows, Everything Must Go (Invisible Republic #2).

This show is to be "a play with and in dance," and is being built around the actors, so I don't have very much to it yet. A vague structure and setting, some visual, scenic, and choreographic ideas, and the characters I think the 13 actors will be playing -- assuming I have all 13 actors - some haven't replied or said anything to me since agreeing - sometimes vaguely - to do the show. Tonight I'm expecting 8, maybe 9 of the actors. Maybe. I'll see who shows.

I think the show will be about 75-95 minutes long, in one act, in two defined parts that take place in the advertising agency setting - either two days or one day split in half by lunch. I hope I don't lose any more actors (and I keep the one who's still checking schedule to see if she can do it).

Oh, and I have some music for this. Probably most or all of it, some may be added, some may be dropped. I like these songs basically for their sound, the way I feel movement flowing to them, and the emotional rise and fall of the action in the show as a whole as I see it - the only problem is that they are songs, with lyrics, and while the intensity and feel of the song as a whole is exactly what I'm looking for, sometimes the words are distracting, and would seem to impart meanings to the scenes they're intended for that aren't supposed to be there.

But I don't have anything better as yet for those scenes, so these songs will stay until anything better comes up (unlikely). I spent some of the morning burning CDs of the music to be able to give to the cast tonight. Here's what's on them:

1. "Anthology" - The Kay Gees
2. "Listen to the Band" - The Monkees

SHOW, part 1 (morning to afternoon, or maybe day one; I don't know yet):
3. "Jimmy Carter" - Electric Six
4. "Slug" - Passengers
5. "Down at McDonnelzz" - Electric Six
6. "Dry Bones" - The Four Lads
7. "Laughing" - Pere Ubu
8. "Transylvanian Concubine" - Rasputina
9. "Shannon Stone (mashup)" - Mark Vidler/Go Home Productions
10. "Not Yet Remembered" - Harold Budd & Brian Eno

SHOW, part 2 (afternoon to evening, or maybe day two; I don't know yet):
11. "The Coo-Coo Bird" - Clarence "Tom" Ashley
12. "Paradise Flat" - The Status Quo
13. "Maybe" - The Chantels
14. "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" - Roxy Music
15. "Uptight Maggie (mashup)" - Mark Vidler/Go Home Productions
16. "Episode of Blonde" - Elvis Costello
17. "Theme One" - George Martin
18. "Back of a Truck" - Regina Spektor

19. "Money Changes Everything" - Cyndi Lauper
20. "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" - X

I have no idea yet if this odd jumble of styles and sounds will mix in an interesting and ultimately coherent way, or simply seem scattered, disparate, and unfocused. I think it'll work the way I want it to, and unfortunately confuse some people, which I'd rather not do, but whatever. You can't make it work for everyone.

Tonight I'll play the music and watch how people move (several are trained dancers, of various styles, some are musical-theatre people with some dance, some are actors who move well, and there are a couple that I have no idea about, but they seemed to be needed in this world and I'll choreograph around however they move). Maybe set them up in patterns and see how they work visually. Think about words they look like they should be saying.

So much of me hates working this way, making it up as I go along, but I just know I have to do it this way right now.

From today until the August shows are done - 151 days - Berit and I will have a total of 27 days without a rehearsal or performance of one of our four shows - and never two days in a row except maybe between Ambersons performances in early June. And most of those 27 will be filled up with work to get the shows and space ready (as well as working on Babylon Babylon, Penny Dreadful, and The Film Festival: A Theater Festival). And then the two days after the shows are over will be spent getting The Brick spiffed up for this year's Clown Theatre Festival, followed by another 33 days straight of techs and performances for that festival (and Penny Dreadful again).

We finally get some time off September 29-October 17. Until then, we're pretty much busy every day on shows.

We're fucking nuts.

collisionwork: (sign)
The Pretentious Festival has opened. Look on Our Works, Ye Mighty, and despair!

Now I have a week and two days to get Ian W. Hill's Hamlet ready. Well, we're pretty much okay. I have lots of things to do, but time to do them in, pretty much:

The postcard (mostly in Berit's hands now - we have the image, she has to do the processing/layout from my design, then I do the typography).

Building the platforms - I thought more shows in the Fest wanted to use them, but it seems like it will only be mine and Q1: The Bad Hamlet unless others grab them (Q1 is wonderfully reciprocating by letting me borrow an Ophelia coffin and a Yorick skull) - I'm making two new 2x7' platforms and reusing the 6x3.5' top of the Temptation bed and putting 2' legs on them (though I'm making the legs removable for storage purposes and so other shows can leg them at different heights; I'm making legs for Q1 of 8" on one platform and 18" on another).

I have to go through the potential music I've put aside and settle on certain music for certain scenes/transitions and get the sound effects together - some stock, some to record (I need to have the music settled for the dumb show by Monday, when we rehearse it again to put it to whatever music I pick).

Get the last of my lines down - I'm almost there.

Get the fencing foils, masks, jackets, gloves (and the fight choreographer) in.

Charts and diagrams for the company for the scene transitions (lots of platform, chairs, and desk moves).

Props that we don't already have must be acquired.

I'm sure we'll think of other things we've missed. Hopefully, well before tech.

Oh, yeah, and rehearse it some more . . . We have four more runthrus - Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and next Monday (tech). And that's it. Some work tomorrow at The Brick (dumb show) and maybe next Sunday, but that's it.

Luckily, it's looking good as of yesterday. The previous run, on Thursday, was logi and lacked momentum. It wasn't helped by the fact that we were focusing on the transitions, and so there was a long pause after each scene while we worked out who was moving what, but even taking that into account, it just kinda lay there like a lox. Once upon a time, it would have worried me, but I could see the work we'd been doing underneath the blah-ness. The thought was there, the smarts, the levels, just not the energy.

So I wasn't worried, and rightly so, as it turns out - yesterday's run worked very nicely indeed, despite (or maybe helped by, actually) being in the small room at Studio 111. A hot, confined space, and there we are, doing Hamlet (and it wasn't even all 18 of us; just 14). I wanted to laugh, sometimes, seeing us do the great big Famous Work in this little room. We had to skip sections due to actor lack, but the show was mostly there, with marked blocking at many points. The intensity, drive, and focus was back. We did good.

I was a wreck after, though. I need a little more fuel in me before I do Hamlet, and water around offstage. My engine was running on fumes right after. But a trip over to The Brick to see Art Wallace's Between the Legs of God was a nice warm-down (hysterically funny, with a few old classic in-jokes from Art's and my days at Nada). Followed by a screening of Art's DV-Movie from a few years back, Melon of the Sky (in which my performance did not embarrass me so much as I thought it would - not nearly as bad as I remembered), and a few hours of Berit and I hanging out at the space with friends, eventually closing down the place with Aaron Baker, Gyda Arber, Tom X. Chao, and Michael Criscuolo. A nice evening of theatre talk and bitchy dish (like there's a difference). Just what I needed.

Ah, just spent time on a show announcement I just realized should be it's own entry. Coming up shortly.

collisionwork: (GCW Seal)
I think I come on here and post videos as relaxation from all the rest of the time being spent on Ian W. Hill's Hamlet. When I get home from another rehearsal, I don't feel all that much like recapping it here, though that's supposed to be a big part of the point of this blog. There is a point where you can't say, "another good rehearsal, some problems, worked them out, got stuff done, got more to do" any more.

I know this is a big weekend for people going away, but I'm still a little stunned that no other companies in the Pretentious Festival are rehearsing in The Brick this weekend. I'd think with all these shows about to go up, starting this coming Friday, at least a couple would be able to be in town and working in the space. I can't have large cast rehearsals, as I'm down a great number of people, but I have a cast of 18! No one-person to five-person or whatever shows around? There's one rehearsal in after me tonight at 6.00 pm (a one-person show), but no one else has been in since Friday afternoon. Huh.

Yesterday we did scenes with the soldiers (Francisco, Bernardo, Marcella), Horatio, and Hamlet. Lots of talk and working things out. Difficult scene now, the opening. I cut it down severely - I might have cut it altogether, as I've now seen a couple of productions do, but for the fact that the Fortinbras material is so crucial to this production, and all of that is set up here. But the scene has all kinds of awkward in it, and my cutting, unfortunately, maybe makes a bit of it worse - I'm not sure that The Ghost has quite the feeling he should. He needs to have a bit more awe and respect around him. Now, he seems more important as merely a creepy omen that something is rotten in the state of Denmark rather than also having the impact of "Holy shit! It's a fucking ghost! And it's our dead king! And he's dressed for battle! This ain't good!"

The conversational and colloquial aspects of the scene are working beautifully. Just a scholar and some soldiers, cold as hell, sitting around chatting worriedly.

The scene where Horatio and the soldiers tell Hamlet what they've seen went well, though my own performance was off. Usually, I find it easy to direct myself - I've done it for long enough and often enough to be used to it - but Hamlet's another case. The director in me keeps telling the actor in me to hurry up when that's not always the right choice, and I don't seem to be getting scenes right unless I'm going into them from other scenes. I'll be a lot happier when we get into just doing runthrus and I can feel the whole arc. Right now, I spend the rehearsals of some scenes trying to imitate what I've done in previous rehearsals that has worked without actually filling it or expanding on it.

Did I say this before? I'll say it again. I haven't had stage fright as an actor in many years. As a director, yes, every performance of mine that goes up, sure. But as an actor, no, not in over 15 years. I'm nervous about my Hamlet. I think I'm doing the right thing, and what I want to do, but I can't shake the nervousness.

I had two dreams recently. I almost never remember my dreams but these stuck with me. One was a nightmare where as I was waking up yesterday, I completely believed that it was the opening day of the show, and we weren't any more prepared than we were yesterday. Not pleasant. I had several minutes of terror as I was positive that we had a show that night, with a sell-out house waiting, and nothing nearly like a ready show.

Another dream started nightmarishly, then took a completely opposite turn. In this dream, Jessi and I were doing the Hamlet/Ophelia scene, and right after a bit at the start of the scene, where something rather nontraditional is done, some of the large house began booing and hissing. Then a shoe was thrown at me. I dodged it and kept going. Then as I got to the "indifferent honest" bit, the same person threw their other shoe and clocked me in the head (woman's shoe, a high heel, hard and sharp, from the fourth row, house right). I stumbled and caught the shoe as it bounced off me, made eye contact with Jessi and got across between us that we were going on with the scene, and went on, angrily using the pain and twisting the shoe in my hand as part of the scene.

Here's the oddest part . . . the most "nightmarish" aspect of this dream was that I was aware that I was giving a crowd-pleasing but bad performance at this point -- that my anger and pain was causing me to overact in a way that was impressing the audience, but destroying the show. Just one note of impressive violent anger - something I can turn on very easily that blows people away but is just impressive in its awesome size rather than for anything rich or deep about it.

Then, in a part of the dream that felt . . . well, the opposite of "nightmarish," triumphant, I guess, I continued the scene, yelling the lines as I walked up the aisle and to the front door of The Brick, taking a pause in one line (I don't remember where) to exit the building, run halfway across an empty Metropolitan Avenue (only possible in a dream like this) and toss the shoes thrown at me into the vacant lot across the street, then return quickly to the stage to finish the scene, to the audible approval of the audience.

The show happened in fast-forward after this point, and the dream ended in confusion at the curtain call as I was left wondering if I had done the right thing or not in using the disruption rather than ignoring it. I was aware that the audience was cheering and applauding wildly at the end because of the extra energy the incident had put into the performance, but I was also aware that we had done a shallow, easy show that had played to that aspect of the audience, and not the deeper, richer aspects of the play we're trying to plumb. We were being rewarded for being brazen and supposedly "heroic" rather than for anything truly virtuous. I awoke disturbed and confused.

In the real world, after scene rehearsals yesterday, Christiaan Koop dropped by to have a detailed character meeting about Voltimand.

Yes, Voltimand. Interestingly, but understandably, I'm having more and longer discussions with the actors in the "smaller" roles of the show. The "main characters" all talk a lot and explain themselves and you can get where they're coming from, but everyone who stands around a lot and listens? We've been having many talks about them, what they're doing in this world, their positions, how they feel about the incidents of the show, etc. etc. They are so crucial to the feel of the world of this production (people are always around, people are always listening, people always have opinions), they've been taking up a lot of the rehearsal process. So we pretty much filled out the whole backstory of Voltimand, and what she goes through over the course of the show. Worked well.

Then Berit and I did the photo shoot for the postcard. With any luck, we'll have some images from that up here soon. We leave for The Brick shortly to rehearse scenes with Claudius, Laertes, Gertrude and Hamlet. I need to get my lines down for the closet scene a lot better. More soon.


May. 22nd, 2007 07:22 pm
collisionwork: (Great Director)
Rehearsals continue for Ian W. Hill's Hamlet. All goes well. The slogging time now -- things get better, but aren't there yet; scripts are still mostly in hand; practicalities are being worked out as original concepts prove unworkable.

We've been lucky enough to be in the space a couple of times recently, and we'll have a couple more chances to do so before tech. As we work in the actual space, we are freed in certain ways, and become aware of what we can use, and also fall into bad actorial habits that need to be struck down quickly -- everyone starts projecting properly, good, but with that at first is an accompanying quality of overemoting, bad, and I have to bring back the conversational tone I've been working towards here.

My original concept and image for the finale of the show, a very important one, was impractical and had to be modified. The original involved the dragging of dead bodies from all over the place to center upstage, but as it turns out it will take way too long and be way too difficult to get done in any reasonable amount of time with any reasonable efficiency, so I had to fix it and go another, acceptable way. It won't be as effective in certain ways as I'd hoped (especially, I fear, for the back row, who will have too much of a view of something I'd rather they don't), but I'd rather go with an almost totally successful compromised image rather than a completely failed attempt at a perfect image.

In those times when people have mostly been off book and everything has been smooth, I am quite happy. The work lives, it has reason and purpose.

Other times I despair and wonder why the hell I'm doing this at all. Is it still, despite my desire to do all I can to make this play a living, breathing, relevant dramatic work, an old chestnut, and who gives a shit?

But then, there's almost never been a show I've directed where I didn't just want to walk away from it at right about this part of the rehearsal process.

I've been simultaneously reading two books specifically about 1960s productions of Hamlet -- William Shakespeare's "Naked" Hamlet - A Production Handbook by Joseph Papp, Assisted by Ted Cornell, on Papp's 1968 production (with Martin Sheen as the Prince), loaned to me quite some time ago by David Finkelstein; and, Richard L. Sterne's John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet: A Journal of Rehearsals, an edited transcript of the tape recordings made by Sterne (secretly) of the rehearsal process for the 1964 production - this book a gift from Christiaan Koop, Voltimand in my production. I probably would have hated each of these productions - well, I saw the video of the Gielgud/Burton and it was indeed laughable, but it was an inferior video of a live stage performance, and not fair to judge - but the books are quite valuable for insight, either in support of some of my thoughts, or as something to react against (as were books by Charles Marowitz and Steven Berkoff). I needed a bit of this today.

Pleasant interview today for The Brooklyn Rail about the Festival and the show. Went well, I think. Pretty low-key.

Today was mostly a day off, the only day for quite a few before and after where I did not have anything I absolutely HAD to do, so I didn't.

Back to it tomorrow.

collisionwork: (GCW Seal)
So, the fact that I'm sitting here in Brooklyn writing my third post of the day, and not in Petey Plymouth on my way to Maine (as has been intended for weeks) is a sore point right now.

I had an appointment with my dentist in Maine (and I go to a dentist up there for a number of reasons, not worth going into now) for this coming Saturday, which would have involved some work that would have led to my teeth being completely fixed by the opening of Ian W. Hill's Hamlet on June 12. It was a pain in the ass to arrange this - my dentist was going to be out of town most of this week and I could see him either this just past Monday - which would have meant canceling three rehearsals, no way - or Saturday - which meant moving a 3 pm rehearsal to 7 pm that very day, and getting in the car after leaving the dental office and driving six hours from Maine to NYC to just make it to that rehearsal. But this was the only time I had free to handle this before opening, so I picked the latter, which then also became more of a pain and meant losing the only full cast rehearsal of the show that I could have before tech on June 11, as one cast member couldn't do the later time.

But it was important to me to have the teeth done (and several other people close to me felt it was important, too).

The dental office called yesterday and canceled the appointment - the doctor will still be out of town. "Maybe June 2nd?" Uh, no, won't work.

Which appears to make it a no go on getting my teeth fixed in time for the show. And means I moved everything around for no good reason and lost my only full cast rehearsal. Great. Just fucking great.

So I'm in a funk. I'm going to call the office back today and see if there's anyone there that can at least do the impression for the partial piece - the main thing that HAD to get done now - even if they can't do the other work. And if so, drive up tomorrow. If not, I'll just have to live with it.

Which will, at least, make things easier for me as Tech Director of the Pretentious Festival, as I'll have some more free time now to get in The Brick and clean and fix things up well for the Fest. The cast member who couldn't make it is going to try and see if she can get out of her conflict for the Saturday night rehearsal, but I'm not assuming she will (nor pressuring her; it's my own damned fault).


On the other hand, rehearsals are going wonderfully. I feel like I should go into them in a bit of detail, but I'm still so pissed off and depressed that it's hard to think straight about them. Working with Gyda, Jessi, Adam and Bryan last night at least kept me positive, while the work was going on. Afterward, back to feeling shitty and stewing in my own frustration, wanting to punch something.

It's getting easier. The world and tone of the production seems clearer to everyone, and we fall into it faster. Scenes we're working on specifically in detail for the first time come together faster, scenes we're doing for the second time just need a few runs and some tweaking (thus far . . . harder scenes are to come, again).

The character relationships get clearer and richer. Many are changing from my long-held conceptions as the world is filled out differently by the actors -- that is, the world of the play I've been picturing for many many years is staying the same, my specific view of Hamlet, but the way that world functions as a piece of drama is changing and being made richer from the inclusion of everyone now in it.

We've gotten to finally work on a couple of the scenes that were the first things that came into my head as to why I wanted to do this production. Notably, the Horatio/Hamlet scene between the graveyard and Osric's entrance and the finale and entrance of the English Ambassador. It's weird, having pictured myself doing the former scene with Rasheed for 7 years now, to be standing in a rehearsal room with him and having it happen, and happen pretty much the exact way I imagined it and wanted it to, with all the subtle little things going on underneath their words.

It was this scene, in a version of the play directed by a friend in 1989, that made me start thinking about the play as a director. That director, like me, has positive feelings about Horatio, but couldn't come to grips with Horatio just standing by while his friend Hamlet screws up so badly and heads pretty obviously to his own destruction.

His bold solution was to write a new speech himself for Horatio, explaining his motivations. Bold, yes, but . . . kind of cheating, to me. So, how to make the point work with the actual text? It came for me in playing another level to Hamlet's speech to Horatio about having no qualms sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths.

That is, under that speech, Hamlet is saying to Horatio, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were my friends, and I loved them. But they betrayed me, and got in the way of my necessary revenge. So I killed them. You, Horatio, are my friend. And I love you. Don't get in my way, please."

And we did it that way and it worked like gangbusters. Nice to see a nearly 20-year old idea actually happening and working.

Which was also the case with the English Ambassador and the ending, which we worked with Gyda last night. It involves a very specific sound cue and a rather radical way of ending the show (though it's somewhat influenced by Ingmar Bergman's take on it, which played at BAM with, I think, Peter Stormare as the Prince) - one of the earliest, clearest, and most specific ideas I had about this production. We did it with the sound cue, and me standing in for Horatio, a few times last night, and it just kept reducing Berit and I to giggles with how perfectly it's going to work and do what I want it to. Oh boy, am I looking forward to having this in front of audiences. You have no idea . . .

We also did a couple of Polonius clan scenes last night - the farewell to Laertes and Ophelia telling her dad about Hamlet acting cuckoo. Better and better and better. I think I'm kinda happy with this (I'm never happy with anything, especially in rehearsal; it's always a compromise, and I'm a miserable bastard, but I think this will work).

So, good, thinking about what's working has cheered me up considerably. Okay, onward, bad teeth or not . . .

collisionwork: (Moni)
Hey mothers, hey others, Happy Mothers' Day to you and yours.

Well, it's been a calm Sunday morning. As always, I began my day uneasily, waking up early without enough sleep and immediately wondering what the hell I was behind on and what I had to rush and get done, and eventually realized that there was nothing to do right now.

The rehearsal schedule is worked out, the first run of press releases have gone out, all emails to people I needed to email have happened, we've done what we can at this point on sets/props, and there was nothing to do until after noon (to call the parents) or when Berit got up (to set the tunes for the two Ophelia mad scene songs, which we have to teach Jessi today).

So, I got to play around online for a bit. Not much happening. Added more songs to the iPod (bringing it to 21,280 songs), then started dropping them (got to 21,170). Tried to deal with a ridiculously needy cat - Hooker has become more and more attached to me and won't leave me alone, which is nice sometimes but not ALL the time. He gets yowly and bitey and clawey as he demands for me to hug and hold him. Not pleasant. Eventually he gives up and plops down on top on sleeping Berit and is happy again.

After a few hours, Berit got up and we just spent the last hour working on the songs, finally settling on the tunes. Called the parents for Mothers' Day, left messages, got a call back from Mom. Rehearsal tonight at 6, leave here at 5 or so . . .

Ian W. Hill's Hamlet is moving right along. Friday we staggered through all of Act I, then blocked the finale. We started late, and worked long - in a very muggy rehearsal studio. It was tiring but good to see. Beginning to feel out the whole show. Saw what I have to work on more and more.

Almost everyone still has scripts in hand at least some of the time, but more and more it seems that people are in the same boat as I, holding the script and knowing 80% of the lines, just having to look down to catch a word here and there. I've asked everyone to be off book by the 19th, and should be there myself. As it is, being still partly on-book is wreaking havoc on cues and pacing - I have to keep on top of that and make sure no bad habits stick. Act I felt basically good, but didn't feel like it got GOING until the Hamlet/Ophelia scene. Of course, we really hadn't worked a number of the scenes prior to that yet.

So I figured out what to work the next few days late Friday night (well, early Saturday) and we did the Gravedigger and Osric scenes last night. About 90 minutes on the first and 45 on the second, and both wound up in excellent shape by the end, though I will keep refining them.

Tonight we work Ophelia's mad scene, Claudius' first entrance and talks with Laertes and Hamlet, and Polonius and Voltimand talking to Claudius and Gertrude. One big scene and some fragments that need work and focus.

Not exactly drudgery, getting through this part of the process, but close. Things that have to be done and dealt with now that are still unformed and almost painful to watch now which will be correct in a couple of weeks' work.

So, work tonight, a movie or IntarWeb surfing after -- maybe another night of YouTubing, link-to-link.

Tomorrow I'll deal with things that have gone a bit by the wayside as show work has been going on -- doing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the catbox, returning books and videos to the library -- and write up the second press release. Gaby at Q1: The Bad Hamlet has made the excellent suggestion that we do a joint release apart from our own ones, promoting both Hamlets together, so I'm making up the basic release, leaving space for Gaby to fill in about their show.

Oh, I guess I should look over the part of the Ophelia mad scene that I cut, since I've added in part of it happening silently upstage, and want to be ready with it tonight. OK, that's something productive to do with the afternoon . . .

Oh, and here's a video I found on YouTube last night that I remembered to look for, which I had never seen in full, and only that many years ago -- Wall of Voodoo (with their second lead singer Andy Prieboy) covering the Beach Boys' "Do It Again," in a video featuring Mr. Brian Wilson himself (not entirely at a great point in his psychological health). Enjoy:

collisionwork: (GCW Seal)
Busy few days. Not only rehearsals for Ian W. Hill's Hamlet, but I've been having to put together and run techs for The Tiny Theater Festival in my position as Facilities Manager for The Brick.

As always, being one of the Lord God King Worriers of the world, I spent a good deal of Sunday night sure that I would be worn out and dead after the next few days, but everything wound up going pretty smoothly and, in fact, enjoyably.

Berit's always telling me, "Don't borrow trouble!" But especially after years working in theatres on the L.E.S. for a boss who never seemed to worry about things that needed to be worried about, with me in a constant state of stress and depression, worrying for the two of us and the theatres themselves, doing everything I could to make sure the theatres remained a going concern (and failing, though not-at-all entirely due to any lack of effort from me). I can't help but live, it appears, in anything but a state of assuming at all times that the worst thing that could happen, will happen, and I have to be prepared somehow to clean up the mess.

(Berit says that the worst insult I ever directed at her was calling her by the name of that former boss recently when I was in a funk about something I was sure was going to go wrong and she was trying to stop me brooding about it -- it's true, and was DEEPLY unfair!)

Monday day I went and got supplies that I was going to need to put together the cage for the Festival -- it's a festival of theatre done in no more than a 6'x6'x6' space, so we decided at The Brick to actually build a cage of those dimensions for the pieces to happen in -- well, we thought we all decided on this; it turns out that different people involved had different ideas about what was being discussed (some thought it was to be just a 6'x6' wooden frame downstage), but the cage is what wound up happening. So I got electrical conduit and connectors to make it, and primer to paint it white. Then when I stopped at The Brick to drop off the supplies, I discovered that Berit still had my key from when I was away. Oops. So I left the stuff in the car near the space, and trained up to the U.W.S. to rehearse at Edward Einhorn's place.

The building Edward lives in has a solarium as a public place for residents to use on the top floor. This has come in handy for Edward in rehearsing his shows, from time to time. Unfortunately, they're about to redo the room, which means the rehearsals I was planning to have there this next month are screwed (and Edward will probably have more problems in future working there, as the nice renovations will make the room more popular).

Daniel showed up, and the three of us (and Berit) went over all the Rosencrantz/Guildenstern/Hamlet bits, which were fairly simple tonally, but a little harder than I expected physically -- not easy to block the exact kind of "casual" movement of these three friends around each other. It's mostly there now, in shape, but can't really progress until we're all totally off-book. The movement needs to feel tossed off, easy, but still be rigidly planned.

The arc of the friendship through the scenes became clearer as well -- talk and speculation about their friendship, etc., establishing the whole history for us. The progression of them from two good friends trying to help out an old buddy who's acting weird to two angry members of the court trying to catch a dangerous, murderous madman works well.

Bryan showed up and we did all the bits with R&G and Hamlet and Polonius, together, or near each other. Simple work - first instincts mostly right, just needed focus and specifics to clarify.

Another actor scheduled to show had been working off an old schedule, and couldn't make it, so Bryan and I went on and did the Polonius/Hamlet scene, and then we were able to run a whole nice big chunk, from Polonius telling everyone to get lost, though his meeting with the annoyingly-weird Hamlet, through his leaving in disgust and R&G coming in, though Polonius coming back in to announce the players (and, skipping the players, to the end of scene exeunt of all but Lord Prince Garbagemouth). A good evening's work.

(Sometime I'll explain the whole Lord Prince Garbagemouth thing -- someone refers to Hamlet that way in William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration -- as it's how I've come to think of the snotty little rich boy, as that or, for short, LPG).

So then, Monday night after rehearsal, back to The Brick (with key this time) to set up for the Tiny Theater techs the next day. Jakob, one of the TT directors, was nice enough to come by and help me with the cage and curtains (there's a permanent, and fragile, set by glass artist Megan Biddle in there for the show The Present Perfect, and it has to be curtained off for the TT shows) - a big help, thanks Jakob! - and I was out of the space by midnight.

And back the next morning at 8.35 am (Bryan gave me the exact time - he lives near the space and saw me opening up as he was going to work) for techs all day to 6.00 pm. And, an easy, fun day it turned out to be, despite all worrying. Three techs, all smooth as silk. And looking to be good theatre, too. A happy productive day doing what I like doing. Can't ask for more than that.

Except a good rehearsal in the evening, which I also got. After worrying like crazy about making it from The Brick to La Tea by 7.00 pm, what with evening traffic and finding a parking space, I was there over a half-hour early.

Then, I worked with Jessi on the big Hamlet/Ophelia scene. This is a difficult one, and we will be continuing to do more and more with it. It's VERY sensitive tonally, and with all the ranting Hamlet does in the show, can't just be another one (well, none of them can be "just another one") - there's a delicacy to the emotion here, even in high shouty anger, that must be conveyed and dealt with.

Jessi and I had some serious discussion about the feelings of the two for each other, but mainly about Hamlet. As in, does he actually love Ophelia? There was some slight dissension there, but in the end it came to a good understanding, I believe. I don't think Hamlet is capable of true love, but I think his feelings for Ophelia are just about as deep as true love, his caring for her, but he's so stunted and sick in some ways -- unable to deal with the combination of the perfect lovely image he tries to keep of her in his head, and his wretched, maggoty disgust of sex itself (and he's certainly slept with her) -- that his ultimate feelings toward her (especially combined with his new paranoias) are CONFUSED and NOT GOOD.

So we got to a good place to proceed from, but I'm still walking a line of not making it too similar to the Hamlet/Gertrude confrontation that we've already staged -- a lot of the same internal ugliness comes to the fore there, and actually finally explodes there. So this has to be a particular climax for Ophelia, a huge break for her, while being a step on a larger road emotionally for Hamlet that ends in his mother's closet. I had not wanted to manhandle Jessi in this scene, just physically threaten her, saving the grabbing and throwing for Stacia/Gertrude, but in the end, it just didn't seem to work unless I pushed her around a bit (Jessi really wanted to go there, and seemed to need it, and, yeah, she was right). Ugly. And a start. Yes, a hard scene.

Bryan and Adam showed up, giving us the whole Polonius clan, and we did the farewell to Laertes scene, which I've set at dockside, with people bustling by, jostling the conversation. Polonius has to rush through his speech as the ship horn blows, then he and Ophelia have to shout some of their lines to each other as they wave goodbye to the (LOUD) departing liner. Very nice.

I have had a very clear idea in my head for years about the tonal qualities, pace, and attitudes of this scene, so there was some detail work immediately involved. And there will continue to be. The family dynamic was starting to be there by the last repetition.

Adam left and we did the little bit of Ophelia coming to tell her dad about LPG's odd behavior, a deeper and richer bit than I had figured. We got a lot out of it.

I've been thinking about this play as "a director" for 18 years, and thought I "had it down," but the moment actors are up there doing it, entire other levels become apparent.

Especially with Ophelia. She has remained, for years, the biggest mystery of this play for me.

Okay, I could go on, but I have to get back to The Brick and paint the cage white and rehang the curtains properly before the 4.00 pm tech.

I've made up a CD of house music for before, in between, and after the four pieces on the Tiny Theater program. I chose songs that came up in iTunes based on searches for the words "square," "box," "cage," and "tiny." I'll see how many people notice who didn't read that here . . .


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April 2017

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