30 December, 2007

Auld Lang Syne



May 2008 bring you every possible happiness. Contentment, refreshing walks, warmth, comfort, laughter, meaningful conversation, and lots of fresh fruit.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


Happy 2008.

Pride & Prejudice


All 6 episodes.
With Tash. (i.e, Chava)
And a table full of gorgeous organic food.
Shamelessly indulgent!
What a way to bid farewell to 2007.

We had to rewind a few times so we could watch Colin sit. (He has a very special way of flaring his his coattails elegantly and gliding into a chair...mmm...) And Tash was very patient and appreciative with the audio-commentary (I love to add little "somethings" to every televisual viewing: subtext, inner monologue, witty quips, etc. I'm sure it's an acquired taste in viewing, but we had a grand ol' time). I highly recommend the marathon.

Mr. Darcy: Do you talk by rule, then, when you're dancing?

Elizabeth Bennet: Yes, sometimes it is best. Then we may enjoy the advantage of saying as little as possible.

Mr. Darcy: Do you consult your own feelings in this case, or seek to gratify mine?

Elizabeth Bennet: Both, I imagine. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room.

Mr. Darcy: [drily] This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I'm sure.



PS) In case you were wondering, yes, D's similarity to Darcy has already been noted...

23 December, 2007

10 December, 2007

Domestic Happenings, Episode 2: Christmas Tree Debacle

[At rise: Al and Damian at Wilkinson, a local home goods shop, to purchase this year's Christmas tree.]



A: What?! 3 feet or 6 feet. Those are the only options?
D: Looks like it.
A: 3 feet is dinky and stupid. 6 feet is ridiculous.
D: Yes.
A: What do we do?
D: I don't know.
A: Let's get a real one!
D: I've never had a real tree before!
A: That settles it then.
A & D: Excellent!

[They march out of the store with newfound Christmas Purpose]

***

[A street market on Wood Green High Road. Make no mistake, Wood Green is dodgy. Questionable in too many ways to articulate. But it's Christmas and this corner is selling pine trees. They smell beautiful. Like Michigan.]

Dodgy Wood Green Tree Seller: Right. You 'ave the 3 foot ones in the pots for £14, or the 6 foot ones 'ere for £18. The needles won't fall off either [pronounced "ee-vuh"].

[??!! Fantastic.]

A: Right. That's helpful. [Square One. My favourite place.]
D: Well... I mean, at least it will be real. And we can replant it afterwards.
A: [to Tree Seller] Can we LOOK at the small trees without the net?
TS: No.
A: Really?
TS: 'fraid not.
A: Uh huh...
D: Real trees love the earth...?
A: ... and we're supporting our local community by buying from this woman on the street...?
D: and we can replant it in January...?
A: ...but we can't LOOK at it.
D: Right.
A: Right.
D: Let's just get this one. [indicated to dinky potted tree.]
A: Okay.

[Money exchanged. Awkward journey home with ethical potted mystery tree.]

* * *

[At home. The Spot selected. Arrangements made. Mystery Tree is placed on a small side table, the one it will majestically stand on for the next few weeks. String net is removed, branches flattened. A pause.]

A & D: [Silence]

[They stand there side by side. Arms crossed. Examining the tree. It looks like a mangled stray dog. It looks worse than a Charlie Brown tree. It looks like they bought it from a dodgy street market. It looks awful. But can they say it? What is the other thinking? Do we love it anyway or tell the truth? If we tell the truth will we crush the others' hopes?!]

A: Wow.
D: Mmmm.
A: It will be great.
D: Mmmm.



* * *

[Lying in bed later that night. The darkness brings out the truth...]

A: Damian...?
D: Yes Al.
A: Damian, I-- I--
D: --hate the tree?
A: I HATE THE TREE!!!
D: I ALSO HATE THE TREE!!!

* * *

Today we bought the socially unethical, environmentally unfriendly, highly dependable, fake tree.

The real one it outside, waiting to be planted. Our mitzvah.

08 December, 2007

Sometimes I say stupid things...

This is one of those unfortunate situations where I cannot name names really. The names would MAKE the stories in many ways, but suffice it to say that these people I have made myself an idiot in front of, are important. At least in my particular line of work. So a few names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Scene 1:

At rise: Swanky London Theatre Do. Very loud. Very crowded. Very posh. Cameras, canapes and drinks.

Exchange between myself and an eccentric, but very swanky member of a Theatrical Royal Family. I have made an idiot of myself in front of this man on many occasions, including one where I was singing 'Matchmaker' with a very free spirit indeed, and wearing an outfit that did very little to salvage my dignity. Another time I accidentally caught him out misquoting Shakespeare. Needless to say, many of my interactions with this person, ever go over well. Anyway.


Him: Hello there Alexaaaaaandra.
Al: Hello.

[Al notices this man is dressed head to toe in velvet, including his shoes. Takes a moment to process this...]

Him: Did you phone me a few weeks ago? I erased it by accident, I am utter crap.
Al: I did, about my UK Visa. It's fine. I didn't really expect--
Him: How are you dahling?
Al: Fine. Things are fine. [Insert Snow Day story here] Looking forward to the holidays.

Him: You look gooooorgeous my love, really fierce. It's always lovely to see you at these "DOs"
Al: Ah, thank you, uh, likewise. How are you doing?
Him: [Hands to forehead] Oh... well you know how it is. Busy busy busy as usual. Never any time for frivolities.
Al: Uh, indeed.

[Al doesn't know what to say at this point, not much has been said thus far. Do you engage in more small talk or launch in to an artistic dialogue that could lead to dangerous paths of Bard misquotation and possible humiliation? Or does one just gracefully leave? In a panic, Al decides on none of these, and instead, blunders. A messy and gruesome few seconds ensue. She places her hand awkwardly on the jacket lapel of Royalty Man, and says the following:]

Well here we are! And look at you! Well, well. Huh. YOU... Just.... well somebody sure loves velvet!
Him: ... Well... Yes ...I do in fact...

[HORRIFIC. SICKENING. PATHETIC. FAILURE. ]

Scene 2:

TV Interviewer: Mind if we interview you for XYZ TV?
Al: Not at all.

[Al is thinking 'Oh God.']

TV Interviewer: Just look straight at me, and relax.
Al: Alright.

[Now Al is thinking 'WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T USE THE PHRASE "AMAZING JOURNEY." Only idiotic, lame scrambling artsy types say that. Only people that have nothing to say. DON'T SAY "AMAZING JOURNEY!" DON'T SAY IT... SAY ANYTHING, EVEN "F*%k" BUT NOT "AMAZING JOURNEY"...']

Al: ...Well it's just been such an amazing journey...

[Whist continuing to speak utter rubbish, Al is thinking: 'Fantastic.']

07 December, 2007

Homemade Marshmallows...

Homemade marshmallows are an exquisite delicate candy. With a full vanilla flavour and a melt-in-your-mouth texture to die for; they like little clouds of sweetness that are easy to eat, go perfectly with coffee, flavored coffee drinks and of course hot chocolate; as well as being crucial for the creation of the glorious S'MORE. They are also surprisingly easy to make, and very impressive when you bring them out to serve your guests.

The only real drawback is that you really need a stand mixer to make them (it has a very large whisk--as opposed to the slightly less efficient beaters of a hand-held mixer). I recommend using vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean crush instead of plain vanilla extract because the tiny bean specks really look fantastic in the finished candy, as well as tasting gorgeous.

Homemade Marshmallows

.75-oz unflavored gelatin (3 envelopes of Knox gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    Line 9 x 9-inch pan with plastic wrap and lightly oil it. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for about 10 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and boil hard for 1 minute.

  • Pour the boiling syrup into soaked gelatin and turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, add in the vanilla extract beat to incorporate.

  • Scrape marshmallow into the prepared pan and spread evenly (Lightly greasing your hands and the spatula helps a lot here).

  • Take another piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap and press lightly on top of the marshmallow, creating a seal. Let mixture sit for a few hours, or overnight, until cooled and firmly set.

  • In a shallow dish, combine equal parts cornstarch and confectioners' sugar. Remove marshmallow from pan and cut into equal pieces with scissors (the best tool for the job) or a chef's knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar mixture.

  • Store in an airtight container.


Makes about 40 large marshmallows, depending on the size you choose to cut them.

Enjoy... mmm....

05 December, 2007

Snow Day!


The revolve broke. So they cancelled the matinee.
And the screaming in celebration was phenomenal. It shook the building. The boys upstairs in 18 pounded the floors until the ceiling cracked. I think I hit a note that nearly broke the mirror. Frances danced on the spot. Tash simply fell to her knees and genuflected. Tomm and Damian blasted in to our room and we all jumped up and down in a group embrace. It was delirious, exaltative insanity.
The break from the routine.
The knowledge that something is greater than the power of the show, and it ruling our every breath and heartbeat. It was a good moment. Like a Snow Day.

01 December, 2007

'The Quiet World' by Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it in to my ear
Without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

-- Jeffrey McDaniel

29 November, 2007

A bad night in the theatre...

What DOES a bad night consist of?

A ticket to a West End show costs £55-60, well over a hundred dollars. I think for that amount of money, you should be guaranteed a flawless performance with the entire original company. (In fact, I think for that amount of money, you should get to go home with the ensemble member of your choice, but that's ... not up for discussion...) The fact is, however, that you're not guaranteed much, other than a hopefully-not-too-uncomfortable amount of legroom, and in London, you don't even get a free program. 

The Leading Man might be off, a piece of scenery might get stuck, lighting cues might get missed, Fruma Sarah may not fly, the principal (or in our case, ONLY) violinist might get stuck in a scooter accident on his way to the theater. You still spent over 50 quid, but you are not getting what you paid for.

That being said, most of the shows that I do, and most of the shows I attend, go off without a hitch (or at least, without a hitch that I notice), but this post is about the inevitable night when things go very, very wrong.

* * *

In the run of Fiddler the following things have gone terribly wrong:

1. horrendous lighting cue mic ups, resulting in the wedding being lit by the the dream lighting state. Bad.

2. The revolve BROKE. No plan B. Show cancelled.

3. As a result of there only being ONE understudy for the three leading daughters, we had to cancel two saturday performances due to myself and Tzeitel being unable to perform (Franny was bedridden, I had an allergic reaction to a face lotion I put on my eyes: see picture, above...)

4. Fyedka (the new kid on the block, 21-year-old Welschman Michael) responds to Chava
Fyedka: Would you like to borrow this book? It's very good.
Chava: No, thank you.
Fyedka: Why? because I am JEWISH? [stunned horror on everyone's face. Michael has just ruined this entire plotline in one foul swoop.] Um... do you feel about...[scrambles] non-jews, they way... they feel about YOU?
Chava: [Exhasperated Natasha voice] I don't think we should be talking this way.
Fyedka: You're quite right. [totally humiliated expression.]

5. Chava basically forgot to put her microphone on... it was funny...

6. We had to begin a performance without THE FIDDLER (who, if you do not know, plays the very first line of the show as an unaccompanied solo... so that was great...). We had to put a capo on the cello and press on. It was already 7:45.

7. Understudy Tevye and 3rd conductor both on for the first time... it was a real low.

8. Another beautiful Fyedka Foil was the following:
Fyedka: We cannot stay amound people who do such things to others.
Chava: We wanted you to know that. Goodbye Papa.... mama....
Fyedka: Yes we are also leaving. [Michael TOTALLY BLANKS... and then makes it up...badly...] Some go.... because of others.... Us.... [points dramatically... perhaps to make up for the severity of the blunder] by...you....

I mean, Oh my God.

But nothing quite compared to WiW; the five magical times the electronic background video stalled, and eventually turned into a Microsoft™ screen, with moving mouse arrow and eeeeeeverything... Fantastic.

* * *

As I said, most of the time, it all goes smoothly. Actors are amazing at covering themselves; even when things are completely insane, most actors won't show it, they'll just start instinctively modifying what they're doing to solve the problems. Musicians are equally brilliant at adjusting on the spot; jumping, or adding beats, or transposing on a dime if something starts to go off. AND, if I may say so, it is to all-of-those-people-exposed-on-the-stage-every-night's credit, that most audiences have no idea how much goes wrong during even an unexceptional, normal performance. Enjoy.

PS) Any other good stories out there?

25 November, 2007

Condensed Film Scripts: Catwoman

Ostensibly based on the DC Comics character and starring Halle Berry, the film resembles next to nothing of its source material ("Catwoman In Name Only"), which is most definitely not for the best.

In this "piece," Catwoman has super duper cat-person powers, (which she lacks in the comics), and her lycra catsuit is replaced (though sparingly) with slashed leather trousers, a bra, and a mask-cap---thingy. She leaps from rooftop to rooftop in stiletto heels, and we watch on (in simultaneous wonder and disgust) as her costumes get skimpier as the movie progresses.

One of the choice fighting scenes makes use of a face beauty cream that when applied gives the wearer invincibility.

There are so few words, but the most apt would be: “ Me-ouch! ”

* * *

Part One

Patience: Hi, I'm Patience Phillips-- a shy, sensitive artist woman who can't seem to stop apologizing for my own existence. I work as a graphic designer for a mammoth cosmetics company on the verge of releasing a revolutionary anti-aging product run by two evil people. Sorry if that was long. Sorry. Really sorry.

Part Two

(Later, at THE MAKEUP FACTORY, Patience is delivering her artwork. She stops suddenly! Accidentally overhearing the following...)

Health Inspector: this anti-aging product is UNSAFE!

Sharon Stone Evil Makeup Corporate Person: What do you mean?

Her Evil Husband: This is a very very dark secret indeed Health Inspector. No one must know! WAIT!! WHO IS THAT LURKING IN THE CORNER?!! PATIENCE PHILLIPS?! That shy, sensitive artist woman who can't seem to stop apologizing for her own existence? GET HER!

Sharon Stone Evil Makeup Corporate Person: PATIENCE PHILLIPS MUST DIE.

Patience: Oh no! I am in the middle of a corporate conspiracy!

(Patience runs into a large waste water pipe, where she is trapped, and they flush her into the river, where she drowns. This is where we all hope the movie is over but then...)

Part Three

Egyptian Mau Cat: I have been watching you for DAYS Patience Phillips, and for some unexplained reason, I coincidentally knew that you were about to die and luckily made it here just in the nick. I have "special" powers that are given only to a few deserving potentially sexy women after they die... most of these woman are more confident and successful that you, but you will look great in the outfit.

(Patience is reborn with new sexy catlike powers.)

Part Four

Catwoman: What a mystical twist of fate! I now have the strength, speed, agility and ultra-keen sexy senses of a cat.

Egyptian Mau Cat: Yes. That is the idea. You see, I am a cat... so... hence, the powers... right.

Catwoman: Patience and Catwoman are two completely different people, yet WE ARE ONE.

Egyptian Mau Cat: How confusing...

Catwoman: I seek sexy sexy REVENGE for those who murdered Patience. Meow! Hiss!

Egyptian Mau Cat: Steady there.

(With her newfound prowess and feline intuition, Patience becomes Catwoman, a sleek and stealthy creature balancing on the thin SEXY and yet again SEXYTHIN line between good and bad...very bad...)

Part Five

(Her adventures are temporarily and shallowly complicated by a burgeoning relationship with Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt), a police detective who has fallen for Patience but cannot shake his fascination with the mysterious (and highly sexy) Catwoman, who appears to be responsible for a string of crime sprees plaguing the city.)

Patience: Catwoman's wild side is beginning to have more influence over me!
Catwoman: Now I will begin to follow my own sexy rules.

(Look out world, sexiness has never acted so badly.)

18 November, 2007

Injured Bad...

I don't even know how to begin to articulate the joy and pleasure I and so many others have received from this brilliant clip.



Yep. Well I just got out the shower, have 20 minutes to get readyl, and I've now watched it 7 times! It's the look of death on his face as he says it... beautiful...

17 November, 2007

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
I love it.
Love it love it.

The food is a feast, and all of it easy to cook (in general, I am stove and grill lady. Everything on the stoveTOP is usually a disaster of some description...). It is a day shared with friends, family, and "chosen family." It lacks the pressures of Christmas, and it's sole purpose is to reflect upon and remember the things we have to be grateful for. It's our time to express gratitude, feel comforted by the simple joys the world has to offer us, to literally give thanks... From easy-to-cook turkey/stuffing/gravy, to the thousands of fortunate moments, the multitude of blessings that we receive each year.

I have had a Thanksgiving of some description every year I have lived in the UK...
2002: Murano Street Student Village pot luck held in a hired conference room with florescent lights. We were still thankful. This was also the beginning of JNF's delightful recounting of The Story of Thanksgiving. "Tradition!"
2003: We hired the Chandler Studio Theatre in Glasgow, it looked like a Pilgrim Nightclub, and grew in numbers!
2004: JNF and I host The Day at the beautiful 29 Westbourne Gardens (our cozy flat), The numbers tripled and even our South African upstairs neighbors joined us. Saying our "thanks" took over an hour. We ate on the floor, there were children who squashed stuffing into the carpet. Brilliant.
2005: Ellie organizes the decor and Zoe cooks THE WORKS. The entire company of WIW sing America's National Anthem... in English accents, and feast during the interval.
2006: Turkey Day in Sheffield. Fiddler cast gather at Henry's digs for a full on festive feast. This was my best turkey, and there was much game playing and cast bonding in the middle of what felt like nowhere.
2007: A quiet, intimate dinner and giving of thanks with loved ones, in a place that finally, after all this time, feels like home.

Every year this stuffy old tradition is a hit with the often reticent Brits. It is not that the Brits are thankless or lacking gratefulness. No, no. They are simply a reserved being. A creature of frequently repressed emotion. And emotional expression, I'm afraid, is what Thanksgiving is all about.

But it isn't about the event for me. It's about the ceremony. Stopping. Taking a proverbial breath from the hamster wheel of life and looking around. Seeing the gifts.

...Something has just occurred to me. I feel like I might be Britain's Thanksgiving Fairy. Yes. I am the self-appointed Thanksgiving Fairy of Her Majesty's United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland). I spread joy and have a magic wand that not only fills you with the sprit of Thanksgiving, it also blesses you with a momentary whiff of pumpkin pie.

So. Happy Thanksgiving, Reader. I am thankful for many things, but I am also thankful for you...

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
-- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

07 November, 2007

YES-vember!


Ahhhh autumn. My favourite season. The colours, the smells, the quality in the air. So often people view autumn in a negative way: the end of long, light-filled days, and the beginning of dark, impending cold.

I see more! Autumn ushers in some of the most glorious, fiery foliage; crisp, brisk air; warm, delicious jumpers, and the heartiest food of the year. Mmm! It is also a time of nostalgia, reflection, and change. Autumn summons tremendous positive emotion within me, and I encourage everyone to bask in it's MAJESTY...
...Bask...
....bask, i said....
...um, are you basking....?
Good.

So farewell summer loves. Hello autumn. Hello you!

Autumnal Notes:

  1. Find THE jumper to get you through the winter

  2. Make chicken stock once a week. It's essential cold battling equipment, and the best nutritoius warmer in the world!

  3. Order logs

  4. Love your root-veg! (Remember the basic rule of thumb: anything that grows above ground you cook in boiling water, anything below ground you start from cold water).

  5. Start planning your winter dinner parties (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hogmany, [Robert] Burn's Night)

  6. Dust off the FONDUE SET!

  7. Renew your search for the perfect baked potato. Is it King Edward, Maris Piper, or the Mighty RUSSET? (High starch content is apparently the key to a good baker...)

  8. Try Grouse or pheasant. Why not?

  9. To celebrate autumn, get a chunky jumper on & go and cuddle someone. If you are going to cuddle them for a long time, and they are a work colleague, ask permission first!

  10. Make PUMPKIN PIE! And PECAN! And Chicken and Mushroom! In fact, make all the pies!

  11. Bye bye Museli, hello porridge!

  12. Make the seasonal herb swap. Out with summer herbs (mint, basil, chives) and in with more robust cousins (thyme, rosemary, sage).

  13. Bulk up on beta carotene (pumpkin, squash, sweet potato) to set you up for cold!

  14. Bring on the baking! Nothing like walking in to a warm kitchen smelling of cake.

  15. Make sure you're eating well and your digestion is good, because that's the root of your immune system strength. (Autumn food is hearty: squash, apples, beans, beef, lamb)

  16. Nostalgia often reflects the mood of autumn. I know everyone has their own way of exercising nostalgia trips. I like looking through old letters, albums, music, photographs. The other day the light hit a certain way and a wave of nostalgia hit me reminding me it was autumn. A little bit of "retrospection" does the body and soul good.


And finally a word or two from Keats to his friend Reynolds after enjoying a lovely autumn day…

“How beautiful the season is now--How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather--Dian skies--I never lik’d stubble fields so much as now--Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow a stubble plain looks warm--in the same way that some pictures look warm--this struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.”


Have a lovely Autumn...

05 November, 2007

Whatsonstage.com Awards 2008


These are the only awards in London that are voted for by the public. So use your voice! Submit your nominations today!

(Pssst! Don't forget to vote for your favourites in Fiddler!)

"The nominations phase in this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving to be decided by the public, opens today, Monday 5 November 2007. The annual Awards, now in their eighth year, have firmly established their place in the theatrical calendar with over 12,000 people voting last year alone.

Throughout November, theatregoers can log on to nominate their favourite performances and productions for Awards consideration across all 24 categories. Amongst these are standards including Best Actor, Best Actress and Best New Musical as well as less conventional fields such as Best Ensemble Performance, Best Off-West End Production and Theatre Event of the Year.

The full Awards shortlists will be announced on Friday 7 December 2007. After that, the race is on to decide the eventual Theatregoers’ Choice Award winners, with voting continuing for two months from Monday 10 December and results announced in mid-February 2008."

31 October, 2007

Domestic Happenings, Episode 1: Scene From City Life

Scene 1:

A: morning...
D: w38*^%9uh#$&*^klj!)#*(df&$#^%&*!@n...

Scene 2: 

(At rise: D thoughtfully, and with intensity, searches the internet...)

A: Hello... (A looks on with an expectant smile and figety demeanor. Pause.)
D: ...Hello.

(A makes a few feeble attempts to garner praise and attention. 'Why must the internet be so INTERESTING?!' she thinks. More is required... how will she scheme...? 'Ah...' she thinks, 'the attention DANCE!' Slowly, and with a certain joi de vivre, she begins...[INSERT ATTENTION DANCE HERE]...)

D: uh... huh. Um... do you want some attention...?
A: (breathless, attention dance ceases)  Um... well... yes please.
D: Pfft... (head collapses in simultaneous frustration and delight)

Scene 3:

A: Do you think I deserve a bath?
D: I will not answer in words, but in actions. 

(Bath run, with candles... yum.)

Scene 4:

(At rise: D & A approach the pizza shop 'Pizza, on Demand!'...)

D/A: We DEMAND PIZZA! (both struggle to smother fits of laughter...)

(The Pizza Man is deadpan. He either speaks little English, or is utterly unamused. If The Pizza Man does speak English, he is thinking two things at this outrageous display: 1. 'These two people are making fun of the name of my store.' 2. 'This is simply not funny.' If he does not speak English, he is probably thinking something along the lines of 'What?!')

Pizza Man: Yeah. So... what kind of pizza...? 

Scene 5:

D: (shoving several Caramel Hobb Nobbs in his mouth...) These cookies are terrible...
A: Really?
D: (mouth full) ... uh... yeth...

Happy Halloween


In celebration of this ghoulish day, I decided to have some festive fun. First, I bought some pumpkins. Then, I played around with a past life website. Random, yes. Fun, also yes.
My results:

You were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern South China around the year 1075. Your profession was that of a digger or undertaker.

Psychologically you were a revolutionary type. You inspired changes in any sphere - politics, business, religion, housekeeping. You could have been a leader.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation: You are bound to solve problems of pollution of environment, recycling, misuse of raw materials, elimination of radioactivity by all means including psychological methods.

Do you remember now?

I am sorry to say that I do not, in fact, remember my glorious days as local revolutionary Chinese undertaker; but you all know how I love the earth! And anyway it is worth a whirl...

Perhaps you desire the pleasure of remembering your own "past?" Find out who you might have been here.

Happy Halloween.

23 October, 2007

Feelin' Blue?

You feeling blue, a little heartbroken, a touch rejected, or perhaps just flat out grumpy?
In need of a perky pick-me-up, a touch of inspiration?

Well. Look no further.

Put down your tissues my agitated friend!
Turn off Bridge Over Troubled Water!
Pack up your sorrows, lift your weary head and just think!

YOU COULD BE THIS KITTEN:


There! Doesn't that feel better?!

18 October, 2007

Yogurt. Covered. Things

Almonds... Oh the wonder...
Cranberrys.
Brazil nuts.
The savoury and sweet sensation of the yogurt covered cashew.
Your average raisin variety.
The slightly more exotic pineapple or apricot.

What can I say?

My love for them is deep
... and it is real.

15 October, 2007

Nick Bantock Workshop

...images that feel like a magic carpet ride...
In need of adventure. In need of creative energy. In need of inspiration...

So I have this list of people.
People I would love to meet, talk with, be in the presence of, etc.
Some I wish I could resurrect from the dead (a long Salinas Valley drive with John Steinbeck, or afternoon tea with E.M Forster would, for example, be faiiiiiiirly thrilling).
Some I would simply like to meet ever-so-briefly before I die... or before they die. Or both.

Danny Kaye. Bill Murray. Ages DeMille. Houdini. John Steinbeck. Gogol. Chekhov. Mark Rylance. Rasputin. Howard Barker. (I've actually already encountered a few people from the Living List-- Judy Collins, Sheldon Harnick to name two... not bad odds really...) And Nick Bantock (artist, author, 'imaginator'). He is, in fact, at the very top of the Living List. 

Look at my list of "Books." Go ahead, take a peek there on the right hand sidebar. Yep. They are peppered with Bantock's work. The Griffin & Sabine Trilogy, The Forgetting Room, Capolan, The Museum at Purgatory. I almost hate to sort of admit this, but I do suppose I collect his work ...No I really mean it, I am making this discovery rightthissecond. I am currently in the middle of realising that I go onto eBay and actively look for the rarer gems amoung his work and purchase it, even if it is simply for the joy of basking further into the intrigue and mystery and flat-out beauty of his books, his art, his postcards, and his address books as if they were remnants of some sort of ancient shipwreck or mythic treasure hunt.

It is difficult to articulate. Perhaps I even sound slightly unctuous and over-reaching. But in truth there have been very few experiences in my admittedly brief lifetime in which a person's work anonymously reached out from beyond the page, canvas, footlights, etc., and greeted me in such a disarming manner. Not simply because of it's content per se, but because of the effect the content had upon me.

Within the pages of the prose and gravity of the images, (and, truly, I dare not even assume such a grandiosity), I feel I recognise the person behind it all somehow. I am not saying that I know him, or even that I feel that I do on some secret level, that would be far too glib a thing to say (read: also far too teenaged and/or far too Sleepless in Seattle). No, it is recognition. That, even if it be a small similarity, in some key, important way a like-ness just may exist. It makes me feel sort of hopeful. [She pauses, aware that this all sounds odd but frankly doesn't really care]. Who knows. It is just an instinct, but I think the reason NB occupies this slot at the top of my Living List is because I would love to know if that instinct is accurate; and, indeed, if any of it is real. (And why not drink wine and make collages in Malaga while I'm at in, no?) This is not a high-stakes desire. It is calm. Certain almost. Just a curiosity. There and real and possible.

So.
One might say that to have the opportunity to actually meet him, shake his hand, to have him possibly sign my copy of The Museum at Purgatory? That would be more than adequate for a lifetime, but the chance to work with him for a week in idyllic Spain? It seems beyond anything I could dream up...

Look what a casual internet search can do:

A WORKSHOP in SPAIN
with Nick Bantock

‘Delivered by Accident in Twilight—The Art of Collage’
28 April to 6 May 2008


This is no ordinary workshop—we promise!
Set amongst the sweeping olive grove hills of Southern Spain, midway between Granada and Malaga this soiree is held at the beautiful restored mill, ‘El Molino’ and is, in truth, an excuse to relax, eat, drink and learn about the essence of creativity.
Hosted by Mike and Hillary Powell, “Delivered by Accident…” highlights both Nick’s mischievous creativity and Mike’s culinary genius.
The daily sessions focus on making two and three-dimensional collages from found materials as well as Nick’s usual mix of stamps, maps, documents, paint, and other ephemera. Participants don’t need to have a high level of artistic skill, though creative experience won’t hinder.
In addition to the art, the swimming pool, the magnificent Mediterranean cuisine, the unlimited supply of wine, and Nick’s bedtime readings, we’ll also be taking excursions to the Alhambra and Ronda.

"From collage to assemblage and from the accidental mark to storytelling, creativity is no more than invention and a permission to play. Whether artistically experienced or a curious beginner this course is designed to help you expand your vision. In books like Griffin and Sabine and The Forgetting Room I married art and narrative and in Urgent 2nd Class and The Museum at Purgatory I teased and toyed with part-found objects, I learned a lot. I learned that there is a trick to seeing out of the corner of your eye and making art from accident. If I can, I hope to teach you how to sneak up in twilight—surprising yourself into creating a different art, something half you and half Andalusia." -- Nick Bantock


Bantock: here comes Silber.



More on Nick Bantock:

12 October, 2007

Today I am...

Who am I today?
Or rather what label, what category, is preferable?

"The actor" is very in at the moment.
"The American" is all the rage!
Or how about "The one who is never on time"?
the female?
the liberal?
the realist?
the aquarium hater?
the one who with the "crackerjack" vocabulary?

I'm asking: what does any of that mean?

I have unpicked my brains for this.
I have glided along the thoroughfares of spiritual banality, the cobblestone alleys of indifference an arrived Nowhere: a town like any other.

But once, way back, I tasted the flavor of a star spangled sky; brief and fleeting, and not to be found in any store claiming thirty-onederful flavors; only in a country momentarily brought to its knees by darkness. Oh pure and unassuming sky, better than any carb-free sandwich, you allow us to fathom a night without power; terribly alone with only our inflexible and intolerant personalities for company.


'Little Word, Little White Bird' by Carl Sandburg

by Carl Sandburg
an excerpt

(for dad... today. to remember the day this was read with such sorrow; and to rejoice that feeling "washed clean and strong inside and out" is nearer every day...)

And it won't change anything
it won't wipe away what has been
or alter what is to be
if you hear me saying
Love is a little white bird
and the flight of it so fast
you can't see it
and you know it's there
only by the faint whirr of its wings
and the hush song coming so low to your ears
you fear it might be silence
and you listen keen
and you listen long
and you know it's more than silence
for you get the hush song so lovely
it hurts and cuts into your heart

and what you want
is to give more than you can get
and you'd like to write it
but it can't be written
and you'd like to sing it
but you don't dare try
because the little white bird sings it better than you can

so you listen
and while you listen you pray
and one day it's as though
a great slow wind had washed you clean and strong
inside and out

and the little white bird's hush song
is telling you nothing can harm you,
the days to come can weave in and weave out
and spin their fabrics and designs for you
and nothing can harm you
unless you change yourself in to a thing of harm
nothing can harm you.

I give you the little white bird
and my thanks for your hearing me,
and my prayers for you
my deep and silent prayers.

30 September, 2007

Meeting Sheldon Harnick... again...

Sunday.

I just returned home from a The Jerry Herman Gala Concert at The Prince Edward Theatre in Soho. Larry Blank was conducting (he did the orchestrations for Fiddler, and my new friend).

I love Jerry Herman's music. I actually cannot think of a song that moves me more than Ribbons Down My Back. In fact, the beauty of Hello, Dolly! rings so true, and I cannot help but see the beauty of a show that for me is about people choosing to live-- some chosing to start living, others starting to live again. A young man and his best friend who are worried life may pass then by before they experience the joys of life and the world. Two vivacious widows, totally gripped by the loss of their remarkable husbands, and how they decide to live again. It's about begining; and beginning again, and the remarkable courage it sometimes takes to simply "join the human race."

I have a personal affinity for Hello, Dolly! but naturally Mack and Mabel and La Cage Aux Folles are triumphant pieces of theatre as well, and arguably some of the most influential of the 20th Century.

It was also a nice way for Damian and I to "join the human race" as well. We get so few opportunities to have civilized nights out. We enjoyed a lovely Japanese meal before heading to the theatre.

That said, the concert was a very disappointing (terribly under rehearsed, with some very disappointing performances from some rather famous tele-visual personalities and west enders), but the orchestra and Larry were astounding, and the after-show party was worth the entire evening.

The room was filled with lovely familiar faces, and low and behold there were Sheldon Harnick and his wife Margie, and they remembered us from the previous Tuesday evening! They came right over and we spent the whole evening chatting with them. What a treat. What a pleasure and honor.

Margie is a brilliant woman. Vivacious, exuberant, curious, endlessly interesting, and endlessly interested in everything. She is one of those people that makes you feel important. Leaves you warm with her wisdom, her stories, and her interest in yours. She asked about everything. Adventures, Glasgow, London, living and working with Damian.

"That's a hard one. It's all about balance and communication. You have to... share things, be passionate about, love, the same things..."

She looked away. At first off in to the distance, and then her thoughts led her to Sheldon's laughter across the room. Her eyes twinkled. He was talking with a group of people, and when he caught her eye he smiled and raised his glass a little. Margie nodded and looked back at me,

"He is my best friend."

* * *

We talked about the Midwest and about creativity. I asked him if he every felt a need to restructure any of his words, ever felt a desire to update them, improve them.
"Yes and No," he replied. "Sometimes I know that a lyric will never be 'just right' and I know I will have to live with it forever, always niggling at me. But other times, a lyric 'LOCKS IN.' I just know that it is the perfect description, the perfect expression. And I know that I was meant to find it, and that I have achieved something, however small."

He was so kind and interesting, and very sentimental. I told him about the importance of She Loves Me, and it's unparalleled significance to my life. And I mentioned the memory I have of my father's face at Interlochen, sitting in the back row of The Harvey Theatre, watching him sway and smile to during Days Gone By. I will never forget the look on his face, the pure childlike joy, and the pleasure I knew all of it was bringing him.

"Is your father no longer with us?" he asked softly.

"No," I said "... a few years ago."

"I find that very moving..." he put both hands on his chest and became very quiet. "You know, my father never got to see Fiddler either... and he never knew his father. He came over from Austria-Hungary when at just fifteen to find his dad, and he never found him..." he trailed off and looked down for a moment. And then,
"How difficult the train station scene must be for you..."

I nodded. I shifted. I really didn't know what to say.

So he touched my shoulder, and nodded back.

...

We walked them back to their hotel.
I hope they travel safely.
I hope they somehow know what this evening meant...

20 September, 2007

Hodel...

...Sometimes I really feel utterly overwhelmed by how much I love her.
It is a difficult thing to describe. I shall endeavor to try.
I feel she is a faraway friend, one whom I visit daily (sometimes twice daily), albeit only in my imagination. I know everything about her. What she thinks of her family, what she is and isn't good at, every like and dislike (she dislikes cooking [Tzeitel and Shpritze are the cooks] and is quite the fastidious cleaner).

All characters endear themselves to you, all of them are a part of you, but few weave in and out of your soul with such spirit and zeal, take you over, win you, until you can scarcely tell the difference or detect the line between the emotional truths of one and the other. She's me. She's just me, in a different world. And sometimes I wish I could meet her, and hold her, and thank her for all she has given me.

It's around this time of year that I begin to miss home so much. ("Michigan seems like a dream to me now...") I am after all, pardon the expression, quite far from the home I love...and this time of year I suppose it feels extra far away.

Autumn arrived today. 13º and grey. A peaceful grey though, not too dark.
Time to rearrange the clothes. Insulate the house.
Prepare for cozy.

18 September, 2007

Meeting Sheldon Harnick

Tonight a 8.
No, not really.
Tonight at about 10:45.
Really.

What an incredible blessing to meet a man whose words have come to mean so much. Words that have literally orchestrated my entire life. I don't know how to describe the feeling and do it justice, but it was something like simultaneously thrilling and ...right. Like it was meant to happen. And it was moving and significantly meaningful.

He told us remarkable stories. Imagine being there at the beginning! Imagine. He told us they had no idea they had created such a global phenomenon. He told us when it opened for the very first time (previewing in Detroit at The Fisher Theatre!) It was very long and reviews were very mixed. The night before they were set to move the show to Washington DC he was awakened by a violent crash. Startled, he instantly rose and checked his apartment for intruders. The crash was caused by a picture on the wall that had fallen down and the glass had shattered into a million pieces. The picture was of Sholom Aleichem talking to Tevye. Utterly afraid, he got chills. He phoned a friend in New York:

"I don't know if we should take this is Washington, I think we should abandon this project, this is a very bad omen."
"Are you kidding?" said his friend, "It's a SMASH!"

This man is like a sculptor.
The sculptor can see that somewhere deep within a slab of marble, lies an incredible work of art. The sculptor is the only one who can see it, recognize it, bring it out, reveal it to the rest of us.

For a lyricist like Sheldon Harnick, it is exactly the same. The songs are out there, they need to exist. He discovers how to share them.

"Will wonders never cease...?"

Mabelline mascara



NO CLUMPS OR YOUR MONEY BACK.

... I want my money back.

"Maybe she's born with it..." Or maybe it's just made of LIES.

16 September, 2007

That thing

That thing. That feeling.
The one where you are so unutterably happy, your inner glow so far beyond description, and all because you have just witnessed someone you love succeed, and you love them so much, it feels like the good thing happened to you... yeah. It's nice. It seems so basic but it absolutlely fills me with wonder.

Damian performed in a concert in Kensington last night. When he sings, your heart swells. I'm not alone with the swelling heart thing; he makes music soar.
He's made of magic.
...Just had to get it down.

12 September, 2007

Theatre Rant

People are often asking me about my theatrical tastes, the best theatre I have "ever seen." I have not had the privilege of living in a highly theatrical city for the majority of my life. Detroit leaves much to be desired in that area. New York, London, Minneapolis, Glasgow, to name a few, have a much higher density of theatrical ventures... But. I shall try to oblige.

Also note that many of my choices perhaps strike so deeply based solely upon my specific aesthetic tastes (I have a certain penchant for Carnival grotesques, and for physical theatre styles both classical and contemporary).

But before this list begins, however, I must add that without question the most impressive and viscerally engaging theatre I have ever witnessed has been from a Minneapolis-based company called Theatre de la Jeune Lune (Theatre of the New Moon). Here is there credo:

THE JEUNE LUNE CREDO

We are a theatre of directness, a theatre that speaks to its audience, that listens and needs a response. We believe that theatre is an event. We are a theatre of emotions - an immediate theatre - a theatre that excites and uses a direct language - a theatre of the imagination.

COMING FULL CIRCLE

Our name - "Theatre of the New Moon" - reflects our commitment to finding theatrical sustenance by looking for the new in the old. The name comes from a little poem by Bertolt Brecht:

As the people say, at the moon's change of phases
The new moon holds for one night long
The old moon in its arms.


The strong and tender care that the future shows for the past describes the dialectic that informs all of Jeune Lune's work: striving to link a past heritage of popular performance traditions - from circus and classical farce to commedia dell'arte and vaudeville - to a present function within the local community and the larger international community of cultural production. While embracing the 'old moon' of theatrical tradition, Jeune Lune seeks to create an entirely new kind of theatre that is immediate, high spirited, passionately physical, and visually spectacular.


Now, without further ado, here are the few choice selections.
These are the best evenings I have ever spent in a theatre...or er, a warehouse....

1. Tartuffe
Theatre de la Juene Lune
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Religious hypocrisy, zealotry and absolutism underpin the story of Tartuffe. Wealthy Orgon is a good man who lives like an ascetic in a sparsely furnished but grand house. He is convinced that the erstwhile vagrant Tartuffe is a man steeped in pious devotion. Tartuffe has ingratiated himself and his two henchmen into Orgon's home and has so convinced Orgon and his elderly mother of his religious fervor that Orgon no longer makes any decisions without first consulting Tartuffe. Orgon, blinded by his absolute zeal for Tartuffe, inadvertently helps him at every turn. Everybody else in the household is acutely aware of Tartuffe's blatant hypocrisy, but they cannot open Orgon's eyes.

To demonstrate he is even closer in his walk with Jesus, Tartuffe labors under an over-size cross. But he puts it down when he tries to bed Orgon's wife. Such is the life of this most famous hypocrite, a self-anointed guardian of God's wishes on Earth. And with its awesome performances, magnificent stagecraft and contemporary resonance, Theatre de la Jeune Lune's "Tartuffe" created a theatrical masterwork of the classic comedy, and was told with fluidity and engrossing verve. It struck more strings than a harpsichord as it revealed, in its stylized ways, that a 17th-century cautionary tale about faith and fraud could be so urgently current.

In our time, when the mix between religion and politics has grown so increasingly volatile, David Ball's sharp translation cut like a paring knife. His writing sometimes bounced us out of the story -- for example when he used rhymed couplets in select parts of the play. The rhyming, which tuned our ears in anticipation, reminded me of the playwright's art, not Tartuffe's artifice. The net result was very moving, girded by deft direction and the masterfully-crafted performances.


2. Fuerzabruta
The Roundhouse
London, England

From the same group of ferociously creative minds that brought us De La Guarda, this was a jaw-dropping blend of aerial acrobatics, cutting edge performance, and dance. Fuerzabruta means ‘brute force’, and this sexy, playful and daring Argentinean production lived up to its name. In many ways an assault on the senses, it's unlike anything else you will ever encounter.

The performance oscillated between passages of tension and moments of release. A solitary figure in a rumpled cream suit, collar and tie, walked purposefully on an accelerating treadmill that advanced into the heart of the audience, bursting through the obstacles that appeared in his path. Later, a man and a woman clung to opposite sides of a vast, circular sheet that gyrated furiously overhead, at times resembling a giant sail, at others a lunar landscape. Then a huge transparent pool containing sportive water nymphs slowly descended on the audience.

There was nothing resembling a narrative. “No one knows the meaning of the work, because it doesn’t have one” assert its creators. But it was possible to discern a pattern. Stretches in which men and women in suits and skirts stoically engaged in seemingly futile, Sisyphean endeavours (the stuff on treadmills, for example) alternated with outpourings of elemental play as figures tumbling through the air or sliding through water. Was a point being made about the constraints of civilisation versus the freedom of nature? It didn't really matter when a show was as joyful and exuberant as this.


3. Lost Ones
Vanishing Point
Glasgow, Scotland

Lost Ones was a surreal, fantastical adventure about a man whose unusual past is coming back to haunt him. Strange creatures are emerging from his body and disappearing through a hole in the skirting board. Each carries a bag in which something valuable is being smuggled to the void on the other side. It all goes back to an incident at the top of a mountain, a class outing years before. A group of extraordinary children at the notorious academy, St Peter's On The Hill, are taken on a day out by their teacher. Only one child comes back, but what happened on that mountain? And why has it come back to haunt our hero now?
Based on a series of extraordinary short stories by Matthew Lenton, Lost Ones was a strange, beautiful and ever so slightly twisted piece of performance, with an extraordinary design and anarchic live music.


4. The Description of the World by Marco Polo
Theatre de la Juene Lune
Minneapolis, MN

Marco Polo's famous book The Description of the World is a fabulous monster of a book - a travel guide, phrase-book, meditation on nature, political tract, recipe collection and a wholesale pack of lies. Regardless of its truth, it opened spectacular new vistas to the medieval mind - and the mind of Kublai Khan, who was so enchanted by Polo that he held him a virtual captive for years, just to hear his stories. Polo's fabled tales of travel and adventure served as backdrop for this flight through sideshow oddity, visual splendour, and inventive cultural perplexities.


5. De La Guarda
Daryl Roth Theater
New York, New York

"De La Guarda" was more than a show...it was an experience. Upon entering the renovated Union Square Bank building, you were ushered downstairs to the social area for drinks, and a chance to check your coat and mingle with other guests. Five minutes before show-time, the staff gives a shout to head back upstairs where the festivities begin.

The lights go out and you are standing in a crowd of strangers when the show literally falls from the sky. De La Guarda has a certain rhythmic vibe created by the beat of the drums, the stomping of feet and screams as the cast flies across and down, to interact with the audience (which stands and moves throughout the 70 minute show). Performers run along the ceilings in unison and you cannot help but look up and follow them with your head cocked back. You got kissed, danced with, undressed, and even taken up into the sky for a ride. Amazing.


6. Pyrenees
The Tron Theatre
Glasgow, Scotland

In a nearly empty hotel a man who has lost his identity and a British Consular official try to work out who he is. He speaks a form of English. Anna a nervy young diplomat - not being an expert - isn't too sure where to place him geographically speaking. The Man hasn't the foggiest, he was found in the snow on the Pilgrims way in the Pyrenees. Using the infinitely talented David Grieg's sparse dialogue, on Neil Warmington's excellent louvered doored hotel balcony set, with beautifully toned lighting and Nick Powell's original sounds; this delicate and beautiful play explored identity seen through the fuzzy boundaries of relationships and nationalities.


Thoughts and comments welcome...

31 August, 2007

70th Birthday

In your absence, we celebrated what would've been 70 years.
A lovely night at The Ivy with dear, caring friends.
We spoke of you, told stories and anecdotes, glanced at a few photos and ate exquisite food in your honor.

Happy Birthday Dad.

"Papa, God alone knows when we shall see each other again."
"Then we shall leave it in his hands."

17 August, 2007

Recording Fiddler

Islington, North London.
Brilliant Studio.
Monday morning. 11 am.
My first cast recording. Pretty thrilling.

Began with Tradition at 11, Henry in the booth, the rest of us outside with the band, singing into four strategically placed microphones. Hardly anyone was awake at the very un-theatrical hour of 11 am, but the excitement and pride soon gave us the necessary boost. After about three-ish takes with a few stops and starts, we all (including the band!) piled in to the sound booth to have a listen, and it was remarkable. What a powerful vocal company we have, and what a brilliant band! The arrangements came to life, the sense of pride and celebration rang from the speakers!


Observing everyone's faces... such a quiet pride, a swelling of the inner oceans, were evident in everyone's eyes. It is a beautiful piece of theatre, a glorious triumph, and we could hear it. My inner ocean swells recalling it.

We returned to the studio to record The Dream and Sabbath Prayer, and the women were released for an early lunch while the men recorded L'Chaim. After lunch we returned to tackle Sunrise, Sunset, and it was soon time to head off to the theatre. What an exhausting and exhilarating day!

* * *
Tuesday morning.
Bright and early.
10 am, in to record the solos. Yikes! (I'm not exactly a prima donna but that is one early hour to record for posterity...)

First Now I Have Everything which Damian licked in two takes. (He really, quite seriously, got it in one take, but they did a second for good measure). Amazing.

Frances and Natasha then arrived for Matchmaker which took a bit of time to adapt for a "radio" audience. We had to play around with the dialogue, the reactions and laughter, tone down the Yiddish accents slightly. It was fairly complicated, but we found it. Incredible the difference having to act for the microphone creates. I suppose the big lesson here is that one cannot act directly with the other actors in the room, the performance rings untrue, sounds too large and falsely theatrical. One has to act with the microphone itself, communicate with it as you would the people you are speaking to, whilst also viewing the microphone as the ear of the listener. It takes practice, especially with the dialogue.

I have to say it. Recording Far From the Home I Love was one of the most harrowing experiences of my professional life. As a perfectionist, I have been plagued for weeks by the idea of "eternity," and picturing students, professionals, and critics in years to come playing this recording on some history of musical theatre radio program; comparing it to the Original Cast Recording, to the Revival Cast Recording, to the Japanese Recording, etc. I had a vision of a younger version of myself sitting on a bunk bed at Interlochen listening to it and dissecting it, forming opinions-- just like I did with the likes of Audra McDonald and Barbara Cook.

It has been pretty intense inside the head of Al Silber.

So Larry Blank (our amazing arranger, and also director of the recording), sensing stress, took me aside before we began, and told me to just do it. "Just do what you do..."

... And so it was done.
Without too much stress.
And I wasn't unhappy with it, though it will never be THAT performance... you know the one... the perfect one inside your head...? That's the one.

Henry embraced me afterwards (in his usual full bear hug...a little misty may I add), and whispered, "you break me every time, girl...Well done." From him, from the man who "topples Topol", and from one perfectionist to another, this moment floored me. I don't know how else to articulate it.

So here it is.
The 2007 Cast Recording of Fiddler on the Roof.
On sale at Dress Circle and from the theatre.
Have a Listen And do let me know what you think.

20 July, 2007

Affinity

Heartsick about my book, (Affinty by Sarah Waters). I cannot even describe how palpabile my disappointment feels. I was finishing the book in bed when the sky opened up rather phenomenally. Torrents of rain pelted down onto the hot London rooftops creating steam!

The thing is, I fell in love with the book. I highlighted passages, I copied them into my journal. I read them aloud to myself. I wandered around London lovesick; intoxicated by it's pages. It was shaped and formed my days, created a quickening in my mind.

And there was a sting in the book's ending. A real sting. An unwanted twist. A double cross I wasn't expecting, but moreover, I didn't want in the least. The book made me believe in magic, you see, it made me belive in true love and in a world beyond our own. It named my grief. It was personal.

And just as Sarah Waters had me, she took hold of my trusting heart and squashed it like a bug. I was crestfallen, and felt genuinely abused by her insouciance. As if she was saying to me "haha silber! magic and true love and the spiritual world don't exist! But I really had you didn't I? I really comforted you and made you believe. What a fool you are. Who else but a fool would invest in 300 pages of rubbish? Gotcha."

The sky reflected my feelings perfectly.

So I feel London has turned against me today. London... The Big Smoke... it has stubbed me out like a ciggarette. Perhaps it is just a matter of taking up a non-fiction...

It has become increasingly remarkable to me how constant dissatisfaction is in life. And to add insult-- sometimes I feel as though the MORE one has "everything" the more empty the feeling... but perhaps it is merely that these "everythings" don't hold the all powerful positions you once imagined they would.

It is also remarkable how yearning takes us over. But I suppose it is what personally drives me to accomplish most things, this yearning.

I am just sorry Sarah Waters has stomped on my heart.

17 July, 2007

London Still

Reading the most extraordinary book! Affinity by Sarah Waters. Waters, who has so touched my heart before, has reached right down inside me and tugged, squeezed on, and pulled open my heart. I marvel at how the pages seem to fill my days with beauty and meaning and sorrow and tenderness.

... So many things play upon my mind lately-- keep me restless at night! I have come to the Embankment gardens to search out clarity, perhaps recognition of the swarming in my head, so i might ease it. But as usual, I am faced with so many distractions, and not enough down time in which to fully explore.

I feel dreadfully isolated and simultaneously cramped. London. Perhaps... but how unfair of me to be cross with London when it has been so good to me, offered me a place to thrive.

Just now I felt the rumble of the underground beneath my body here on the grass! It has made the trees throw pollen as if in celebration.

A peculiar man has approached me to ask if I am an artist. I tried to be very kind and gracious but felt desperate for him to leave me alone. I think an earlier version of myself might have viewed him more histrionically. I might have made him a living angel, a messenger, a guide. Now I don't know what I think.

Ah. There is that rumble again. This time more ominous.

05 July, 2007

The Zoo

A birthday treat...

It is important to know the difference between a pelican and a flamingo. 
This is key.
... Disappointment is a bitter thing... 

video

04 July, 2007

Twenty Four



This has been a strange year. Being 24. Twenty Four. The same number of hours in a day. This has been the first year I have experienced the sensation of AGE and time passing by. Hello smile line. Hello there. You are NEVER going to get fainter or smaller, you will only get deeper. You signify 24 years of smiling. Hello forehead. When I raise my eyebrows (often), you used to bounce right back. Now you don't. You will never bounce back again.

There comes a point where being young is no loner an excuse one can use (with others or with oneself) for ignorance, for incompetency, for emotional outbursts. There is a point when asking for guidance from "grownups" is no longer appropriate, because you are now also an adult... when did that ol' swticheroo occur...? And I realised just the other day, that I have reached this point, and it really frightens me. You are really on your own, and accountable, forever.

I suppose I am simply mourning the loss of childhood for good. (And I guess I'm also a little peeved because mine was cut so short by the Dad incident, and one never gets it back...) It's just a long spread of adulthood ahead, filled with unknowns, anti-wrinkle creams and possibilities... I haven't come to terms with any of it.

17 June, 2007

Theatre.com Interview

Check it out at:
Theatre.com Interview

A wonderful, rich and rewarding conversation with Matt Wolf. So satisfying to discuss theatre and life with such an intelligent and inspired man. I hope I get to meet him in person someday.

Enjoy.

04 June, 2007

Ask Al: The British Drama School Experience


A few months back I received an email from a totally lovely, eloquent and hopeful high school student named Matthew. He was curious and crafty enough to do his research and he randomly found and contacted me through my website to ask me a few questions about training at The RSAMD. This got me thinking: if Matthew is out there, and has questions I can answer, perhaps my answer to him could serve to help others out there with similar concerns and queries. Thus! I have decided to start a new serial entitled Ask Al; in which I post a real-life question and answer correspondence (edited for privacy of course), in the hopes of helping, enlightening, or perhaps merely entertaining, other inquiring minds out there. Enjoy. And Ask Away!

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Dear Alexandra,
My name is M. I am an aspiring actor at the high-school level and was wondering if you would be kind enough to share with me your impressions and thoughts about your training at The RSAMD? I would be very grateful. Thank you so much for your time.
Sincerely Yours,
M


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Dear M,

All British training is different, yet for the most part follows the same principles. For example, most Drama Schools begin the training with a study of Naturalism, and devote the entire first year of study to what most consider to be the most truthful and basic style of acting. (The dictionary defines Naturalism as "a movement in theater, film, and literature that seeks to replicate a believable everyday reality, as opposed to such movements as Romanticism or Surrealism, in which subjects may receive highly symbolic, idealistic, or even supernatural treatment.")

But all this being said, every drama school is always evolving, and I can only speak to RSAMD's methods, and hope that it serves a good enough example to ask appropriate questions of other schools.

RSAMD is very encouraging with their students, but they are also quite realistic and at times provide more "tough love" than nurturing. I personally like this. No soft stuff for me! I feel that life is too short to go through it with delusions, and RSAMD instructors provide a decent balance of inspiration and realism.

Example of nurturing inspirational teaching would be The Voice and Movement Project-- this comes in the middle of your second year as a culmination of your voice and movement training up until that point in the course. The instructors leave you alone for 3 weeks to work with your group of 4 or 5, and create a piece of 30 minute theatre based loosely around a theme. The parameters require each member of the group to perform two contrasting pieces of text within the piece (prose, speech, song, a duologue with another member of the group, etc) and to use their movement training to the height of your capability. The instructors leave you alone to create, but check in daily to both encourage and stimulate your development.

Example of tough love would be around the final year acting showcase for agents in both Glasgow and London. The advisors are VERY clear about making sure you are as both world aware and self aware as possible. What I mean by this is A) that you understand the nature of an incredibly difficult business to break in to, that you understand that you are performing in that showcase not to show off, not to display what you are fully capable of, but to get an AGENT. And the only way to do that is to show yourself excelling in what you would be cast in tomorrow. (for me, at RSAMD, I always played the BIG lady parts-- things I won't do professionally for 20 years. Since I've left, naturally I have been hired to play young ingenues.... that's how life is. Despite the confusion of some of my classmates, I showed off my ingenue-ness in the showcase and look at where I am now. My other classmates were not so lucky). They make it very clear what you are good at, and what your weaknesses are. I think that is helpful. I always want to know where I can continue to make improvements. But they aren't exactly soft about it.

As far as acting methods go... the training for the most part is based (and I mean that in the purest sense of the word) on naturalism-- stanislavsky, etc. The first year final productions are usually Russian realism plays (Chekhov, Gorky, etc), and the styles advance from there. I suppose the theory is the same as singers or dancers: a dancer who trains in ballet can dance any style, a singer who trains in classical music can usually sing any style... the theory holds for classical acting too.

But saying that, the training is largely process-to-production based. There are units of work that slightly alter annually. First Year is Realism/Naturalism (Chekhov, Ibsen, etc), the Second Year begins with Ancient Classics (The Greeks), followed by New Writing, followed by Shakespeare/Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre. Third Year you study more advanced theatre styles: Theatre of Alienation (Brecht), Theatre of Catastrophe (Howard Barker is a favourite at RSAMD), Theatre of the Absurd (Ionesco), a bit of New Writing, and some light film and TV studies. It is a theatre course, don't be fooled. I did my first film last year and was CLUELESS (it actually came out in the USA yesterday, it's called 1408).

If you are concerned about pretension, RSAMD's INSTRUCTORS are the furthest thing away from that. I cannot guarantee what one's classmates could potentially be like. We had a few GEMS in my class. On the whole, I think the school benefits from being away from London, from the heart of the BRITISH theatre scene. There is less pressure, less of a show-biz feel. It is really just about great training. And the Scottish theatre scene is vibrant and beautiful in a very real way. The down side is that one isn't always as prepared as one could be for the "real world" of being a professional (most likely out of work) actor. It's a tough life, even when you are doing well.

Best of luck! I hope that is helpful.

Sincerely Yours,

Al x

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