29 December, 2008

Domestic Happenings: Episode 6, Damian Explains Why It's Funny...

D does this thing that I have to share with you. It is so dear. It is so deliciously endearing and simultaneously insanity inducing. No, it has nothing to do with socks on the floor or vacuuming left undone; and to be fair to this poor boy whom I am about to publicly eviscerate he is a very good roommate indeed.

No. D possesses a sense of humour one could only ever describe as DEAR. Comic timing? You betcha. Quality of material? ...Not so much...

So what is this THING you ask? Well. My favourite thing D does in the whole of the world is the following:

1. He will tell you a joke that is not even REMOTELY funny, in fact it is probably pretty stupid.


3. He will repeat the face.

4. His face will fall slightly because you did not laugh at the joke.

5. He will collect himself slightly and prepare to be VERY PATIENT with you.

and, wait, here is the very best part of it all...


7. His face will fall even further when you explain that you both heard and understood said "joke" perfectly well, and simply did not find it funny.

The process goes something like this; this is a dramatization based on actual events:

[D & A pass a poster for Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray]

D: He's a REAL DARK fellow...
A: Who?
D: Dorian GRAY...[Wink-wink proud of myself face #1]
A: huh. [Unamused face.]
D: Dorian GRAAAAAAAAAY [Extra emphasis Face #2]
A: Yes.... I...
D: Um... Al? [Disappointed face #3]
A: Yes?
D: [Collects himself] You see, Dorian Gray is the main character's NAME in the piece, and the word GRAY is not ONLY his last name but also like the COLOUR gray, which is DARK... so you see... that is why it is funny... it is a play on words... sort of thing...
A: Yes. I understood. I just... I'm so sorry... I didn't think it was that funny....
D: [Fallen face #4]

The End.

28 December, 2008

'Wild Geese' by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

25 December, 2008

"Why, it' Christmas Day"

All is calm, all is bright. A lovely, completely relaxing holiday. I hope your was too.

Here is a recipe for Peppermint Bark that I love... (consider it my Christmas gift to you??)

Merry Christmas.

01 December, 2008

Ode to Raspberry Jam

I love jam. While I am currently indulging in Marks & Spencer's beauuuutiful Blueberry, I have, and always will, nurture a love of Raspberry.

One of the perks of the chillier seasons is enjoying the heart- and soul-warming foods of winter: hot roasted vegetables like kale, brussel sprouts, parsnip and potato, as well as soup soup soup.

BUT, among the simplest and most versatile of these winter warmers is the classic TOAST. And on my toast? Well, It has to be peanut butter preferably Skippy™) and Raspberry jam. I just ate two slices RIGHT NOW. And! I did that thing where you get the laaaaast little bit of jam off the empty plate...without shame...

Now before you go on a second longer thinking "RASPBERRY?!!" let me just say this: Some jams are easy to love. Strawberry and Grape? They're no-brainers. Strawberry and Grape are like those popular girls who wear skimpy tops with nothing left to the imagination.

But Raspberry? My, my. Raspberry is like the smart girl in school, the one with her own sense of style. You think she’s too weird for you, you'll never understand or accept her... But when she starts talking, and you find out she’s amaaaaazing, and she doesn’t even give a damn if you like her? Suddenly, she’s leagues more attractive than skimpy t-shirt girl.

Rock on Raspberry.

(...go on... lick it off the plate... you know you want to....no one is looking...)

05 November, 2008

Today: The Election

This is going to sound overly sentimental and I am aware of that.
But. Today.
Today is the beginning of a new world.
And though I missed that magic stateside, I was able to participate in an entirely different American experience: witnessing the international community rise up with overwhelming fervour for an Obama victory.
It was magic over here in an utterly different way.

So, that being said, I decided to purchase a copy of The Times for my children.
I don't know if I will have any, or if I do, how many I might have.
But I wanted to freeze this moment of hope, joy and almost unendurable pride I felt for the country I walked away from so many years ago, traveling the world in an attempt to discover a place that would match my ideals, ethics and deepest desires.
I thought I had turned my back on these ideals, but to refer to a passage I wrote earlier this year:

"A traveller. Perhaps that's it. Though my travels hardly feel worthy of comparison to those of the greats-- Rosalind's full circle to and from Arden, Bilbo Baggins' There and Back Again. I am no explorer like Vespucci, not romantic enough for a gypsy nor pious enough for a pilgrim. Ahh America. How I had forgotten you, and how I longed to remember. Was blind but now I see, (as they say). And though I know I am no great traveller of Shakespearean or Historical proportion, I share with them and with us all, a cardinal desire: all I have ever wanted is what we all long for-- a place in the world. A home."

The thing is, I wanted to be able to say to those children  
I was there that day, 
     I remember it. 
I was so proud to be alive to witness it. 
This copy of The Times marks it; 
     it was very very special 
and you are holding a piece of that day in your little hands.

The cover of The Times is a photograph of Barack Obama and the title reads "A New Dawn," and I bought it because it symbolises for me the thought that anything is possible, that the pursuit of a dream is not just a futile notion instilled in us to get us through the difficult hours of our days. That, to quote President Elect Obama himself,  
"we've proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth; but from the enduring nature of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."

... and as I thumbed through the edition, I came across another image that moved me.
It was an advertisement for Carousel, containing a photograph of me from the production.
Right there,
     in the same edition of The Times.
The very paper I had saved for my future children to show them that anything is possible contains a photo of their mother;
who, with tremendous, unutterable gratitude, pursues her individual goals and dreams,
     and will someday teach them that

They really can.

Today: The Election

This is going to sound overly sentimental and I am aware of that.
But. Today.
Today is the beginning of a new world.
And though I missed that magic stateside, I was able to participate in an entirely different American experience: witnessing the international community rise up with overwhelming fervour for an Obama victory.
It was magic over here in an utterly different way.

So, that being said, I decided to purchase a copy of The Times for my children.
I don't know if I will have any, or if I do, how many I might have.
But I wanted to freeze this moment of hope, joy and almost unendurable pride I felt for the country I walked away from so many years ago, traveling the world in an attempt to discover a place that would match my ideals, ethics and deepest desires.
I thought I had turned my back on these ideals, but to refer to a passage I wrote earlier this year:

"A traveller. Perhaps that's it. Though my travels hardly feel worthy of comparison to those of the greats-- Rosalind's full circle to and from Arden, Bilbo Baggins' There and Back Again. I am no explorer like Vespucci, not romantic enough for a gypsy nor pious enough for a pilgrim. Ahh America. How I had forgotten you, and how I longed to remember. Was blind but now I see, (as they say). And though I know I am no great traveller of Shakespearean or Historical proportion, I share with them and with us all, a cardinal desire: all I have ever wanted is what we all long for-- a place in the world. A home."

The thing is, I wanted to be able to say to those children  
I was there that day, 
     I remember it. 
I was so proud to be alive to witness it. 
This copy of The Times marks it; 
     it was very very special 
and you are holding a piece of that day in your little hands.

The cover of The Times is a photograph of Barack Obama and the title reads "A New Dawn," and I bought it because it symbolises for me the thought that anything is possible, that the pursuit of a dream is not just a futile notion instilled in us to get us through the difficult hours of our days. That, to quote President Elect Obama himself,  
"we've proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth; but from the enduring nature of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."

... and as I thumbed through the edition, I came across another image that moved me.
It was an advertisement for Carousel, containing a photograph of me from the production.
Right there,
     in the same edition of The Times.
The very paper I had saved for my future children to show them that anything is possible contains a photo of their mother;
who, with tremendous, unutterable gratitude, pursues her individual goals and dreams,
     and will someday teach them that

They really can.

19 October, 2008

Domestic Happenings, Episode 5: Acting it Out

Oh. DEAR. So D and I do this thiiiiing that goes a lot like this:

D: [Insert stupid thing here]
A: [pause] Uh... I'm sorry what?
D: [Stupid thing again]

One thing I really love about D, and I mean I really love it, is that whenever you ask him to do something again he not only does it, he does it at again at 100%.

A: Okay okay let's do that again!! Okay YOU be the X and I'll be the Y and we will ACT it OUT!
D: Okay okay!
Sometimes it is a scene from a film.
Sometimes from a little amusing anecdote from our lives.
Sometimes it is a little scene we have made up ourselves....for fun...
But regardless, when we say we are gonna ACT it OUT, we DO.

At 100.

Love it.

03 October, 2008

24 September, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Tech Week

Images from the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.

From Wikipedia:
Technical week (also called tech week or production week) refers to the week prior to the opening night of a play, musical or similar production in which all of the technical elements (such as costumes, lights, sound, and makeup) are present during rehearsal for the first time.

Prior to this point, the actors may have been rehearsing in a separate rehearsal hall, or on the stage but without all technical elements present. At this point in the rehearsal process, it is expected that the creative aspects of the production are ready. Actors have their lines memorized; lights, sound, scenery, and costumes have been designed and completely constructed. If the production is a musical, then the orchestra has rehearsed the music completely, and any dancers are prepared with their choreography memorized. During technical week all of the various technical elements are fully implemented, making the rehearsals very similar to the actual performance.

The purpose of tech week is to rehearse the show with all technical elements in place. This allows the actors to become familiar with the set and costumes, the technical production crew to iron out unforeseen problems, and the director to see how everything comes together as an artistic whole. Tech week is when practical problems with the implementation of production elements are discovered. For example, an actor may report that their costume restricts their movement or that a hand prop is overly cumbersome. A set door that performed fine the week before may bang shut too loudly now that there are live microphones on the stage.

Rehearsals during technical week generally start just after lunch and often run until midnight or later. The first few rehearsals are characterized by the frequent stopping and starting of scenes so that the technical crew can practice their necessary duties (such as executing their cues or scene changes correctly). That the director will make major changes to various artistic elements during technical week is the rule, rather than the exception. Everything that goes wrong during a rehearsal is expected to be fixed by the next day.

The repetition and the long hours make tech week boring and tiring for the actors. For the technicians, it is the most hectic part of a show's run, as they are forced to do a massive amount of work getting timings and cues correct, often without having seen the scenes in their entirety. Tech week is a very stressful time for all involved in a production. As the week wears on, sleep deprivation increases and tempers often wear thin.

Once the show is running smoothly, the last one or two rehearsals of technical week are often dress

rehearsals open to the public in which the play is performed completely, sometimes with the audience purchasing discounted tickets.

* * *

This is one of the most exciting stages of creating a piece of theatre: watching everyone's weeks and months of hard work come together over a week of twelve to fifteen hour days to create the three hour musical you see when you come to the theatre.

The crew and stage management team will show up around 8am (if not earlier) to set up all of the props, furniture and set pieces they have already collected from the property designer and creator the night before. They create a stage right and stage left prop table (or in our case, a props shelf), complete with labels detailing every single prop and it's location. The crew has already been building the set for over three days.

Around the same time, the Wardrobe department receive the costumes from Angels, the costume builders, and label and deliver every costume to the designated dressing rooms. They prepare to iron, sew and alter and discard as needed throughout the day.

The lighting team has set up their lighting board and has begun to assess the set and what lights are available, and they begin work immediately. In this particular production, there was a real challenge with lighting due to the projections.

The sound team are setting up the sound board, testing and setting up the speakers, the fold-back, the orchestra mics, and then labeling and distributing company microphones, colouring mic cords, preparing hair clips and elastics.

The cast arrive at 10, and get in to costume, microphones, make up and hair, ready to begin from the top of the show at 11. (In our particular instance, the orchestra did not arrive until the second day for the Sitzprobe, because the prologue takes the entire first day of tech, which we do with a rehearsal piano.)

We then take the show, moment by moment, detailing every single technical aspect until it is just right, only moving on when we are all happy with it. There is tremendous pressure to do it quickly, because it is always important to remember that the first preview is Friday evening.

There are multiple concerns in a musical: can you dance safely on the floor? is it too slippery? too tacky? can we hear the orchestra? can we hear ourselves? Can we see backstage? Can we make that quick change? Can we get to the other side of the stage in time to make our entrance? Will this hairstyle withstand The Ballet? Can I breathe and sing and dance properly in this corset? Where should I exit? Who is the best person to set the table in this scene? Do the costumes look right in this lighting state? How will we handle this scene change?

The theatre is a tremendously complicated thing, but it is a series of delectable and sometimes maddening problems to solve, all in the name of art. It is always fascinating to think about what has gone in to creating the finished product on the stage.

"The drama is not dead but liveth, and contains the germs of better things."

William Archer, About the Theatre

21 September, 2008

Come ride the Carousel

Carousel Collage

"The World belongs to you as much as to the next fella. 
So don't give it up..."

Having recently completed the final week of rehearsal I can safely say that you will not be disappointed, and that it is gonna be pret-ty gosh darn good.

Dark. Gritty. At times quite graphic.
Romantic. Evocative. Incredibly sensual.
Uplifting. Cathartic. Soaring.

Lindsay*, Adamº and David˚˚ have created something absolutely incredible, and I feel so unutterably honored to be a part of this beautiful production of an already exceptional piece, skillfully wrought by two of the greatest talents in theatrical history, and considered the "Best Musical of the 20th Century" by no less than Time Magazine. 

...See you there.

* Posner,  º Cooper,  ˚˚ Firman

30 August, 2008

14 July, 2008


Hello there,

I have recently returned from the states, helping my mother clear out my childhood home (she is moving West very soon), and low and behold, in the musty depths of belongings, lay a pile of National Geographics circa 1926-1937. My eyes widen, I oggle, I gasp (one from the dust, two from the magazines) and select a copy at random: "1929" it declares in vintage font.

I peruse the contents, opening the pages unsystematically (this is how I traditionally read anything that isn't fiction - I select a page at random, usually near the back, and "read" it backwards... perhaps the in Jew in me...?), and what should be starring back at me but a full spread of Old Ronda looking exactly the same. I gasp again, this time inhaling a mouthful of dust, sending me in to a double frenzy of excitement and wind constriction! When I finally get settled once again I dive back into the pages, only to discover the entire 1929 issue devoted to Spain, with forty or so pages dedicated solely to Andalucia. Stunned, mouth agape at the seeming coincidence, I poured over every delicate, brittle page. From The House of the Moorish King, to the bullrings, to The Alhambra, every image is as evocative, haunting and spiritual as the memory, (with an incredible sprinkling of time). The image of The Alhambra, in fact, appeared identical to my memories, with the very fine exception of a singular moving ghost of a woman dressed in white period attire moving through the distance. Magic. And to think that "1929" had merely lay, anticipating perusal, all this time.

You know, it is funny, when we say we return it naturally implies we've been somewhere else. But thanks to a collection historic National Geographics, and a handful of packing away one's past, I have more than returned from Michigan, I have returned from Somewhere Else, (which I like to think of as a town like any other). Back to London with it's soot and cloud and distinct lack of summer. Yes. It may still be Monday in the middle of our lives, but we are not who we were when we began. Italo Calvino puts it brilliantly in
Invisible Cities:

"...what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in waiting for you in foreign, not-yet-possessed places."

And of course, I suppose this is largely how I felt upon return from Spain, and therefore have not been in touch sooner. Return presented me with a second quest: the search for words to articulate the experience. So much returning, ha! Funny how one is never prepared for the same ritual that occurs every time: being propelled back into the mainstream and challenged to bring what we learned into the busiest corners of our lives. The world immediately begins to forcefully intrude. The ability to settle into silence evaporates like fog. Ready or not we are presented with new tasks. And of course, the outer trappings of our lives still appear relaively undisturbed, while internally tremendous change has taken place. Post-Spain I was Rip Van Winkle (sans beard): a mystery to myself, walking around the kitchen muttering "how did I get here?" Looking in the mirror to find a familliar stranger looking back.

All that being said, I do hope since our time together your lives have been full, and that the warmth and colours of Spain have not yet worn off. I feel it's breezes every now and again and I do feel contented. How was the remainder of your trip? I thought of those who remained peacefully behind while I was being plunged into an array of concerts and auditions, (there was one, particularly amusing meeting in which I had to be a blind Victorian socialite being viciously eaten by an CGI invisible werewolf to be played at some point by Benicio Del Toro...I don't know how a person is supposed to do that really...). Anyway, I hope the summer has been kind to you.

I begin rehearsals for
Carousel in a few weeks, and have been taking time to enjoy the calm before the storm. (You certainly have a pair of house seats at The Savoy with your name on them if you are ever in this neck of the woods.) And speaking of necks of the woods (??) I am hoping to be in the Northwest someday soon (L and A extended a lovely invitation, plus a new West coast base for my mother should get me out there post-haste) and I will certainly let you know if that ever comes to be.

In the meantime, please know I think of you often, and do hope our paths cross again someday soon.

Sending the fondest wishes from across the sea,

Alexandra x 

09 July, 2008


Well here go. It's real and it is happening. And what a joy to share it with all of you. Today the official announcement for the West End production of Carousel was posted on Playbill, as well as The Stage, Broadwayworld, The Official London Theatre Guide.

The UK National Tour commences in Bromley at The Churchill Theatre on 26 September, the venues are as follows:

Churchill Theatre, Bromley (26 Sep - 4 Oct)
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (6 Oct - 11 Oct)
Milton Keynes Theatre (13 Oct - 18 Oct)
New Victoria Theatre, Woking (20 Oct - 25 Oct)
Theatre Royal, Plymouth (27 Oct - 1 Nov)
New Wimbledon Theatre (3 Nov - 8 Nov)
Opera House, Manchester (10 - 15 Nov)

And then the production finally settles in to

The Savoy Theatre, London (22 November - 25 July)
... home sweet home....

Detailed tour information, as well as online booking can be found at the Official Carousel Website.

Oh reader! I have seen the t looks like it will be a very special production indeed. Finally,

Of all the conditional love songs, the defining example, for me, is “If I Loved You.” ... The distance they travel in the course of this sequence, from strangers who are hot for each other through the slow dawning in each that this time it's the real thing, is not just a great lesson in theater writing. The window into their souls is humbling to witness, adding immeasurably to the pure luxury of melody. And the catch at the end, after that magnificent crescendo in the penultimate line… the circumspection of the lyric and music on the last line is, well, so human that is simply breaks my heart. As if the “if” will somehow protect them from heartbreak. As if the “if” is the out they can always exercise, except for the undertow of love that has already pulled them under.
- Rick Elice

... See you there

05 July, 2008

"Bad Crime Drama"

Now. Let me just explain something. I LOVE CRIME DRAMA. I don't know how it happened, I don't know why. But I love it ALL. My love for crime drama is RAMPANT. From the truly incredible to the truly atrocious, it doesn't matter. Bring it on.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that one has to use their brain a little bit, they have to do a little bit of thinking, it isn't idle "grazing" it is active and engaging. Sometimes it mixes crime with science (CSI), sometimes with math (Numbers), sometimes the focus is on trauma (L&O: SVU), and sometimes on missing people (Without a Trace).

OR perhaps it's because at it's best you get to see some pretty decent (sometimes utterly excellent) actors in circumstances involving very high stakes (or, in the cases of both Dr. Quincy and Jessica Fletcher, the stakes are VERY HIGH ALL. THE. TIME. with the exception of the first and last two minutes of every episode, culminating in a frozen frame of said characters laughing with appropriate light-hearted music to accompany the feeling that even though murder follows these people around like a stray dog, life really is okay).

The "chunk chunk" sound associated with Law & Order is so divine it creates a Pavlovian reaction in me. I drool for a good re-run with the wonderful Jerry Orbach! I luxuriate in the vintage glory of a Sunday afternoon Poirot on ITV3, and Without A Trace on every day this summer on Channel 4? Better than ice cream or sunshine or kittens.  

CSI: Miami is so bad it's good. I laugh at CSI: Miami more than I become intrigued or moved or genuinely interested. But one has to admit, on the whole, Miami is an incredible setting for crime. Miami is twisted. It's truly creepy. What with the heat, the sultry, sweet, sexy, Southern thing, the voodoo-ish subculture, the crocidiles, and the connection to Latin America and it's subsequent language, social and religious barriers; the truly twisted nature of it's plots far exceeds the general prostitute and gambling crimes of it's predecessor, and could never match the stories we've heard on every other New York based crime show. (I don't like CSI: New York, and wish it were CSI: Chicago).

Plus, David Caruso works the one-liners and specs. And he works them like they’ve never been worked before. What a facial tic is to Robert DeNiro, what a cane was to Charlie Chaplin, sunglasses are to David Caruso. In uniting his limitless repetoire of placement and removal with his unmatched ability to deliver the cutting and dramatic one-liner, this video has perfectly showcased the entire range of Caruso’s talent in less than four minutes. Is there an Emmy for Best Sunglasses Snap? ... No? Well, there should be.

But OH! Ohhhhhhh the joys of what I like to call"CSI Regular"! The gutters of Las Vegas provide the most eloquent background for stories of gambling, alternative underbelly lifestyles, dead prostitutes, aging showgirls, escapist holidays gone awry. It is fast-paced, dark and humorous. It delivers well-acted and well-constructed characters, truly vivid gore scenes (that still manage to be scientific) and wonderfully twisty plots that leave you gaping with awe. All of these are evidence of a brilliant television show and THE EVIDENCE NEVER LIES my friends! So give in to the inner forensic dork you've been hiding from all your friends! I love CSI and I AM NOT afraid to show it.

SO. All of this unbelievable ranting being said, Can you imagine my reaction when I got an audition for one of the above television shows? Well, I just nearly flipping died. I actually did a little dance. 

Television Audition

* * *

[At rise: a church basement serving as an audition room.]

[Al enters the audition room and realizes she is overly dressed. She uses this moment to think about how her agent suggested she look attractive again, and what this might mean about her personal appearance. She shakes hands with the director and writer and casting director. Greetings and all that.]

Director: So. You are American?
Al: The real thing
Director: Yes the real thing indeed. So how are you here?
Al: Um...
Director: ...I meant specifically how are you here, in this country....? [she pauses] working.... legally?
Al: Ah yes, I have a Visa. I am a "Highly-Skilled Migrant." I like it, it sounds like I pick grapes really fast. John Steinbeck, you know?
Director: [unamused pause] Indeed. [next order of business beat] So. What did you think of the script?

[As the Narrator I have to interrupt here. I want to mention the readers that I hate this question. I think this question is really unfair. What are we supposed to say? "I thought your script was utter rubbish and the dialogue, while being trite at best, is hardly as atrocious as the story as a whole. I am only here auditioning because my agent forced me to come." Would that win hearts and minds?? One might as well say "well, the thing is, I didn't have time to read it all because I was just released from Pentonville Prison yesterday, having served 90 days for an assault charge which by the way that b#%*& had coming, and I had to sort a few things out."]

Al: I thought it was super.

["Super"?!!! A beat for lameness.]

Well, the truth is, I absolutely LOVE Bad Crime Drama. 

[OH.MY.GOD. I used "BADCRIMEDRAMA" as a blanket statement again... and THIS WAS NOT THE MOMENT. NOT AT ALL. Save it!

I mean... not that THIS is "bad." Bad Crime Drama is a sort of blanket category I give all crime drama.... I use it to describe the genre.... as my own... little... joke.... with myself... because of my love... of it... 

[There is an utterly horrific moment of shock and horror from all three people behind the table. She attempts to save it one last time...]

I mean of course that it is guilty-pleasure crime drama. The sort of "I really should be doing the washing up, but CSI is on" sort of thing.... [getting worse.]. If you see.... what I mean.... [total. heart crushing. failure.]

Director: ... Well. Thank you so much... we'll be in touch.... 

[...with either your agent or a hospital, she meant to say...]

* * *

Um.... I did not get this job. 

02 July, 2008

Quarter of a Century

25 Years.

No longer able to use the excuse of "youth" for silly mistakes, anxiety attacks or plain simple stupidity; 25 is the age when a person can rent a car without a hassle, is the average age for marriage, and is considered quite bad luck in Thailand. Great. I think it is important here to let you know that I still plan on excusing myself from many a folly and passing it off as youth, and do not in fact have plans to either rent a car or marry in the near future. I also plan on never believing in luck. So, with that... I can't tell you how much I want to tell you all that I don't own anti-wrinkle cream. But I do. In fact, I bought a new jar of Olay Definity™ on Tuesday to celebrate.

Yet, all of this being said, I have a decidedly better attitude than last year. Last year, I didn't want to admit I was actually freaking out pretty substantially. I was starring in to the abyss and the abyss was saying things in Jack Black's voice:

"Dude, you reeeeeeeally need to lighten up. Even The Abyss is less serious than you. You know how that NIETZSCHE dude said "when you stare in to the abyss, it stares back at you?" Well, Dude, I am here to tell you that This Here Abyss is starring back at you and it is something DARK, man. Starring back at you is like a psychotically out of control downer, and you are depressing The Abyss, man. You need to get in touch with your totally awesome awesome-ness and chill the f@%# out. Rock on."

So I tried to listen to the Jack Black character in my head, and to a certain extent it worked. I'm much more in tune with what "the rest of my life" means, and that I am in control of it's direction. Regardless, I am relentlessly working to improve my outlook, and every hour I save is an hour added to my life.

And whatever your ideology, whatever your age, whether you know the shape of a rock or the structure of a universe, the meaning of existence or the specific purpose of an individual life; the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it. Whatever his future, at the dawn of his life, Man seeks a noble vision of his nature and of life's potential. And so do I.

Here's to another year.

24 June, 2008

09 June, 2008

Jeff Blumenkrantz Songbook

Hello All from the USA,

Just wanted to let you know about a concert I have coming up on 22 June in Knightsbridge. Here is the information from the See Tickets website:

On the back of their 2007 success, Contempo Theatre Company and Producing House is proud to present:

"The Jeff Blumenkrantz Songbook Concert."

A Tony Award Nominee, this acclaimed performer and composer has worked with performers the likes of Audra McDonald, Victoria Clark, Lauren Kennedy, Julia Murney, Megan Mullally and Judy Kuhn.

Join Jeff and West End favorites Damian Humbley, Alexandra Silber, and Lauren Ward in an intimate evening featuring Jeff's exquisite music. This one-off event is one definitely not to be missed.

By purchasing your tickets online, you get the dicounted rate! DO NOT WAIT TO BUY AT THE DOOR because you will have to pay £20 with cash only! (And no one wants that!)

* * *

And I just have to say it: I am so proud of my friend Amy Maiden who is, according to everyone, "the one to watch" in the West End this year. (I must add here that I am quite proud to have been watching her all along, and witness to the inception of her blossoming!) She is a small (for the moment!) producer with a big passion, and she is such a remarkable example of someone who really takes a visionary dream, and actually makes it a reality. It is a real honour to know her, and such a pleasure to be present at the dawn of her big big career. Hooray for Amy. Hooray!

For more information about Jeff, check out Jeff's Website. Aaaaaaand here is a clip of Audra McDonald singing "I Won't Mind," a song I will be singing in the concert on Sunday...

See you there!

07 June, 2008

Condensed Film Scripts: Gigli

(Not to be confused with the musical Lerner & Lowe film, Gigi... because...no... that would just be wrong...)

* * *

Scene 1: Introduction

The Affleck: [generic urban gesture] Yo! F&$*ing hello there! I am Larry Gigli. I'm a low ranking mobster. It's f&$%ed up stuff! I've been commanded by my f&$!ing mob bosses to kidnap a disabled, Baywatch-obsessed boy who is the younger brother of a powerful federal prosecutor so I can save my mobster boss from prison. I am f&*#ing AWESOME.

* * *

Scene 2: Gigli successfully convinces "Baywatch Brian" to go off with him by promising to take him "to the Baywatch..."

The Affleck: Wanna go to THE BAYWATCH?
Baywatch Brian: Wuh???
The Affleck: [under his breath] F&*#ing idiot. [unnervingly loud] You and me go to THE BAYWATCH????
Baywatch Brian: .... Uhhhhhh, okay.

* * *

Scene 3: However, for totally unexplained reasons, Gigli's boss Louis does not trust him and takes it upon himself to hire a woman named Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to take over the job. (Fine.) And thus... the Bennifer unfolds...

The Affleck: [inner monologue] I am so f%@*ing attracted to Ricki! I mean, F#¢&! How could I not be? Haven't you f$%@ing seen her doing f%^&ing "YOGA" in over two dozen f§%@ing shots?! Wow. She's pretty f%&^ing hot. [takes pause for a moment] but I resent the fact that my boss, doesn't have any f^%$ing faith in me and that I has to take orders from a [tone of marked derision] f@*&ing girl. [inner monologue complete.]

Baywatch Brian: Can we go to THE BAYWATCH???
The Affleck: Not right now.
Baywatch Brian: Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease?
The Affleck: No.
Baywatch Brian: Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?
The Affleck: Ugh! no! We cannot go to The Baywatch right now please just f&$*ing --- stop!

[He is also frustrated by Brian's insistence on going to The Baywatch; and oh yeah, Ricki's lesbianism which was JUST mentioned 2 seconds ago...]

* * *

Scene 4: Gigli and Ricki receive orders from Ray to cut off Brian's thumb. Neither of them wants to do it. They talk about it for literally 15 minutes.

The Affleck: What? That is f^&%ed up man! I ain't gonna do it!
The Lopez: You gotta! It's f%&^ing ORDERS.
The Affleck: Well I'm not gonna f$%&ing do it.
The Lopez: I'M not gonna f$&^ing do it.
The Affleck: Oh yes you f£^%ing ARE!

...etc for 15 minutes.

* * *

Scene 5: Ricki's girlfriend shows up at Gigli's apartment, accusing her of cheating.

[Knocking and hysterical crying at the door]

The Affleck: Umm.... is.... that your door? Are you expecting company? I mean...
The Lopez: It's my f^%*ing girlfriend. Hold on she's pretty f$@&ing crazy.
The Lopez: WHATEVUH!

[The Lopez mildly overreacts by slitting her wrist. Fine.]

* * *

Scene 6: While at the hospital, Gigli goes to the morgue and cuts off a corpse's thumb, which he sends to his boss as Brian's thumb. Genius! Problem solved. Gigli and Ricki eventually go back to his apartment and engage in the following (condensed) conversation:

The Affleck: I f%*@ing love you.
The Lopez: Wanna f*&%?
The Affleck: What the f)*&. Yeah, okay.

[Hooray! And thank God things are picking up. But wait, not actually hooray because J-Lo is covered in a white sheet the entire time even though she is on top of him...aaaaaand how she manages that we may never know...]

* * *

Scene 7: The Affleck and Lopez are called to meet with the top mob boss Starkman (played, sadly, by a clueless-to-how-bad-this-movie-is Al Pacino), who shoots Gigli's immediate boss (remember Louis? I don't) dead.

Starkman is about to kill Benniffer as well, but The Lopez points out that only the three of them know what really happened (even though WE don't... but at this point don't even care), so Starkman allows them to leave, and take the brother back to "where they found him."

* * *

Scene 8: On the way, they discover Baywatch shooting an episode on the beach and in a staggering act of reckless abandonment leave Brian there... my GOD.


The End.

Thank the LORD.

* * *

Parting thoughts:

1. The f@$&ing-this-f%&*ing-that writing style gets real old pret-ty fast (Let's just say this: Mamet it absolutely ain't).

2. Juuuuust one lil' nitpick: there is this gimmick of having The Affleck resorting to reading ingredients labels because he has no books in the house. Then, in the next room The Lopez is shown with what?-- a flippin' book. Then later in the film Gigli's back to reading ingredients when there's another frickin book in the bedroom! Did anybody (proof)read this script?!!

3. Gigli had a giant tattoo that nobody ever comments on.

4. Advisory to anyone whose appetite is whetted by perusal of the cast list: The Al Pacino and Christopher Walken bits are just that.

5. Gigli focus groups demand new ending in which Affleck and Lopez die.

16 May, 2008


So here's the thing. When you are in a public profession, you have to maintain a certain level of anonimity when it comes to the things you share on a public website like this. And sometimes, yes, that bums me out. OH! [Insert grand theatrical gesture here] the stories I could share if I could reveal all! Oh the reputations I could probably annihilate. But naturally I won't. I will annihilate my own reputation with stories of flying red shoes, idiotic conversations with John Cusack, and laying face-down in a dumpster whilst speaking to one's agent. I think that is enough annhilation for a lifetime.

But today I feel the need to wax lyrical. I feel full of pride and excitement for a person I love more than anything. And I need to share it with you, dear reader...

So. I have this friend. And as I explained above, I don't write about her in this blog because she is a liiiiiiittle bit famous (okay, actually quite famous), and I feel very protective of her privacy, her integrity, and her feelings (in a way I don't feel entirely bothered about with Sir Simon or Sir Trevor or John Cusack, for that matter). Therefore, I like to limit myself when it comes to the things I share about this phenomenal woman, who happens to be one of the most important people in my life.

She is my "Chosen Sister," my inspiration, my barometer. I love her deeply and when I think of our friendship, our laughter, our tears and our beyond-belief talks; I feel that together we can take on anything. She is one of those people. She makes you feel more powerful because she is there.

She is one of the best people in the world.
She is so much more than just an actress. and singer. (and shit-hot dancer by they way).
She is part of a select few.
She is the real deal.
She is Ruthie Henshall and I adore her.
My Ruthiewithaheart. (That is, to explain, Ruthie, written with the dot on top of the "I" as a heart... instead of a dot...)

Once in an odd while, we come across things, people, landscapes, that make us, as Ayn Rand puts it, "answer and say YES." You see a piece of art, you read a piece of writing, you meet someone so authentic and direct, so startling and real; and your whole being responds with a Yes. An underlined Yes. Yes with an exclamation point.

I felt that way the day I met the Ruthie. June 5th, in the late morning, at a conservatory filled with sunlight. And when we saw one another, we both recognized each other. When we began talking, we felt like friends. Sure, there was enormous professional pressure, but that was not the deepest flavor. Instead, I felt comfort. We laughed, mostly. We slipped into a friendship like sliding into warm water, and we haven’t left yet.

Talking with her felt like keeping my hand wrapped around a warm cup of coffee. Conversation tasted like potato-leek soup, like apple crisp, like cake just out of the oven. We wafted vanilla and sugar between us. We devoured each other’s words, and every one of them felt like Yes. And in those first few shared moments, I honestly felt all the years that would follow, all the days together, all the laughing and comfort. That moment is when I said Yes to Ruthie. I want to write yes, with an underline, in the air. There might be other lifetimes between us before this. Who knows? I only know Yes. I only know how much I adore her. Yes — with an exclamation point. Ruthie — with a heart.

And all I have to say to all of those who love her, and all of those who love the theatre: you must... YOU MUST see this woman give what many are referring to as the performance of her career in Marguerite, a new musical co-written by Michel Legrand & the creators of Les Misérables, which opens this week at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It plays until November, and you mustn't miss it. The world premiere of an original musical is a rare event in the West End, but Marguerite, is more than that. What Ruthie is doing is incredibly brave and important. And I am more proud than I could ever hope to articulate. For more reasons than I could ever name.


07 May, 2008

Return from Andalucia

I returned yesterday from my Andalucian adventure, and all I can say for the moment is this: I doubt I shall ever be the same again. In every way. More to come.

02 April, 2008

Re: Werewolf

So an update.

1. The scene changed. The werewolf didn't burst through the ceiling. He entered like anyone else to a masquarade ball, and moved through a crowded room while onlookers thought he had the best costume of the evening (of course). Then he bit off someone's head and the crowd caught on... and the rest was pretty much the same.

2. I didn't get it. It went to an "English Rose," which in I do believe in Hollywoodspeak means thinner and blonder than you... (Why didn't they just ask me to be "as blonde as possible?")

Perhaps it's... for the best...

01 April, 2008

The blind-singing-Victorian-eaten-by-a-werewolf-"look as attractive as possible"-audition...

Tomorrow I have to audition for a film.
I was just speaking about this to a few actor friends last week. Why is it that when a really palatable job presents itself to you, you inevitably have to achieve the impossible on camera. The things we do to get a job (sigh). My favorite instruction of the day was to "look as attractive as possible..." whatever that slightly worryingly insinuates. Here are a few choice remarks people have asked of or said to me in order to prepare for auditions:

1. "See. We're gonna need you to create the physical comedy of the donkey yourself..."
2. "There isn't actually a script, so... yeah ..."
3. "Oh! Yes of course I forgot to ask if you have Chinese heritage?"
4. "You'll have to fake an American accent. Can you do that?"
and my absolute favorite:
5. "Does you get cold sores in real life? Because that would be great..."

But tomorrow takes the cake. Tomorrow I am being asked to sing a song from the Mikado, portraying a blind, Victorian parlour room entertainer. Oh and by the way she is blind. Fine. Then, halfway through the song, I have to react (blindly) to an invisible (but rampant) werewolf who breaks through the glass ceiling of the party and rabidly chases after the guests who all run away screaming (which all must be imagined of course, because it will really be a major movie star dressed in a blue suit). Then I have to portray the imaginary werewolf will slowly stalking up and breathing upon me. And then act as if I am being eaten by said invisible werewolf. 

um, WHAT?

31 March, 2008

"I've come to look for America..."

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've come to look for America..."
-- Paul Simon
A traveller. Perhaps that's it. Though my travels hardly feel worthy of comparison to those of the greats-- Rosalind's full circle to and from Arden, Bilbo Baggins' there and back again. I am no explorer like Vespucci, not romantic enough for a gypsy nor pious enough for a pilgrim. Ahh America. How I had forgotten you, and how I longed to remember. Was blind but now I see, (as they say). And though I know I am no great traveller of Shakespearean or Historical proportion, I share with them and with us all, a cardinal desire: all I have ever wanted is what we all long for-- a place in the world. A home. 

I feel perhaps like Marco Polo in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities... In Calvino's book, the great explorer Marco Polo entertains an aging Kubla Khan by recounting tales of 55 cities he has visited in his travels. As Marco Polo continues to impart his experiences, he, willingly or un, revels connections between the cities that leave the reader left to wonder whether the accounts of his destinations actually represent different aspects of a single city; a unique and unrivaled place, in Polo's case, his beloved Venice. 

Marco Polo thus embodies two classic symbolic travellers. First, Odysseus: the one who, either by force or by choice, denounces a home he does not realise he loves. He thus condemns himself to a life of wandering and homeless-ness, slowly losing sight and memory of the only place he longs to return to. 

"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little."

Second, Dorothy: the one who seeks adventure abroad, only to discover their heart's desire was "in their own backyard" all along. 

"Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene."

Have I assumed myself the former only to discover I am, in fact, the latter? What bliss that truth would be! Have I travelled the world long enough? Have I in fact discovered home was always there, patiently waiting for me to earn and deserve it? Observing Calvino observing Venice is a reminder of how often the controlled, measured world of knowledge and assumption fails us. So much of life resists the facts. As Khan discovers: imagining a"Venice" is imagining yourself. And though an unsettling exercise, it is necessary, perhaps. I believe my trip to America and Home, was precisely that.

Welcome Home Al. 
I will return shortly. And new. 

"...what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in waiting for you in foreign, not-yet-possessed places."
-- Italo Calvino

22 March, 2008

The Reese's Peanut Butter EGG.


Easter is not really a celebratory holiday, (even though it is the the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year), the crucifixtion of Christ is doesn't really get people jumping in the aisles, but hey. And the non-religious aspects of it have crept in like so many other traditional holidays, to open the season up to all people religious and non-religious alike: the celebration of Spring, accompanied by pastel-colored candies and chocolates galore, as well as a mythological rabbit bearing chocolate symbols of the equinox. (By the way, did you know the modern English term Easter developed from the Old English word Eastre, which itself developed prior to 899. The name refers to the goddess Eostre, who was celebrated at the Spring equinox? Amazing.)

Anyway! Now. Even though Easter is verrrrrry early this year (The Paschal Full Moon was early, thus the first Sunday after spring became Easter Sunday), and the 12 inches of snow Detroit received lat night isn't very SPRING-like, one can still enjoy the most important, the most momentous arrival of the Spring Season (and no it's not the new Vera Wang line). DRUMROLL PLEASE...


Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are magical, there’s just no question about it. We all have happy childhood memories of indulging in rich, peanutty treats at Halloween, birthday parties, or pressed into Christmas cookies? Yet I testify that Reese’s only reaches its apogee of peanut-butter-goodliness but once a year; hold onto your hats people, for Reese’s Egg season is upon us. Ohhhh yes.

That’s right. When the rest of the world watches for blossoming flowers and baby ducks, some of us know Spring has arrived when the stores stock a certain type of egg. An egg that promises sheer joy and decadence, all for under a dollar.

What is it about the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg that makes it so vastly superior to other incarnations of Reese’s cups? It could be the perfect peanut-butter-to-chocolate ratio (some scientists claim that more chocolate is better); however, true Reese’s devotees usually agree that the savory, rich peanut butter ought to be the dominant flavor.

Perhaps it’s the shape of the egg. The inviting, soft curves are somehow more appealing than the standard, sharp-edged sides. Though the edges are very very tasty, doesn’t it always seem like little points of the cup always stick to the paper? NOT the egg - it just slides off that little tray and sighs its way into your mouth. [*sigh*]

Some people explain Reese’s Eggs’ irresistibility with the freshness factor. Well, how long ago do you think those Eggs were produced? We know they can’t have been made more than a couple of weeks ago (it wasn’t too long ago they were producing Valentine’s hearts, remember).

But really, the reason is irrelevant. The fact is, Reese’s Eggs are MADE OF MAGIC, and one of the most Candy Addictive pleasures of Spring. Thus, I honor the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg with my highest praise and recommendation. Try them, and just try to get enough of The Egg, and you will see what I mean. Enjoy. Mmmm...

13 March, 2008

"Project C" ... an update...

It's official.

Dates and locations confirmed.
The principal cast.

[insert squeal of glee here]

Not in the press yet, so I can't reveal tooooo much. But I frustratingly offer you a cryptic image for you to agonize over.
It's a clue.
A tipoff. A hint. A conundrum, if you will.

Because sometimes it is fun to be a tease...
... in fact, sometimes it's really fun.

More to come.

27 February, 2008

Detroit, lift up your weary head

Ever heard of Sufjan Stevens? He wrote an incredible album about Michigan; the expansive and sometimes epic "Greetings from Michigan the Great Lake State", and it includes odes to cities including Detroit and Flint, the Upper Peninsula, and vacation areas such as Tahquamenon Falls and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. It's a collection of eloquent "folky" songs and instrumentals inspired by his home state. But, lying below the surface of his melodies, are scenic descriptions and characters, as well as his own declarations of faith in God, of sorrow, love and his passion for the regeneration of Michigan. If Philip Glass wrote pop songs, they might sound something like these. And I love them. They describe and evoke the feelings I experience for this tragic and beautiful place. As Brandon Stosuy said: "The record is stacked with impressive space for Stevens' shimmering geography, and it manages a melancholy beauty; Michigan is a frost-bound tone poem in which average people live out their victories and defeats with a shadowy, dignified grace."

Melancholy beauty. Yeeeees Brandon Stosuy, well put. It is an excellent description for this desolate place. It walks with sorrow. But it carries that sorrow with dignity and pride... perhaps that is why it feels familiar. I know what it is to walk with sorrow; and I attempt, though I do not always succeed, in carrying it with dignity. (No. Let's face it. Sometimes my sorrow is lugged around awkwardly like something out of Weekend at Bernie's Just with more snot. And less extraneous physical comedy). But what is it that draws us to ruination? What is the exact affinity? Why do we find it so compelling?

I admit I am always struck by the sadness Detroit evokes in people. Yes, there are abandoned buildings, yes there is extreme poverty; and OH yes, it is very, very cold. But the "ruins" of Detroit are as real as the ruins of Rome or Troy, and yet those are celebrated as the remains of pinnacles of civilization.

Perhaps Detroit's ruins are the symbols of what might have been, and that is why it strikes a chord with those of us who fear the presence of own own missed grasps at actualization? Our unfulfilled dreams? Our unrealized potential? Or worse, (and perhaps more accurate), we do not only experience the doubts. No. We feel and see our shortcomings as fully as anything. And Detroit embodies this fear. It forces us to confront the reality of disappointment. The snowblinding vision of what could have been. If only things had been different.

And yet, despite it all, out of nowhere and completely unexpectedly, Detroit has nuzzled it's dreary way into my reluctant heart. It says to the broken travelers of this world, Come, add your sorrow to my heavy load. I will carry it for you. I will lighten your burden. I will give it shape so you won't have to. Come. Lighten. Accept. Live. Ah Detroit. How I love you. And how I never thought I would yet here we are. Your voiceless character. Your will. Your tenacity. You have allowed yourself to be destroyed by lost, desperate, and clutching men and women. And this historic education is fixed in your throat like a snake, and spoken through a voiceless windpipe.

Detroit, lift up your weary head. There are those of us that will always love you.

"Ever will we conquer grief
and find it faster to resolve
the dead, to be absolved
and fed, to restore.
If the advantageous
reprimand misgivings,
We wont grow.
We will not ever know.
We will not!
(Lift my life in healthy places!)"

- Sufjan Stevens, Michigan

25 February, 2008

Michigan seems like a dream to me now...

Winter. Tthese images are proof that here, in the middle of a literal and metaphoric frozen winter, while the earth and all living things wait and germinate, that beauty is possible, nee, Present. Out of desolation, fruit. Out of stillness, splendor.

New York, New York

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel."

And so. Enter the American cast of characters in my life. Ohhhh the larks! (and professional things of course... exciting and burdensome both). This was my first visit to La Grande Pomme, if you will, where I did not feel swallowed by the height of the city; the vertical pressure of the buildings, the frantic desire to escape the all-consuming insignificance the pace and landscape generated within me. No. This time it was a different place indeed.

Visits. With real people. Real friends who have known you since childhood, who know your insides, your workings, your heart. Dinner at a festive Mexican restaurant with 8 people laughing and sharing, confirmed my belief in a possible life in this strange and sometimes overwhelming city. People. Real friends to share one's life with. I sometimes marvel at the incredible bond of a place like Interlochen, of a group of people so gifted and focused and unique; and of friendships formed in the midst of adolescent turmoil from the mild to the exceptional. People struggling with the burdens of "success," whatever it means, and those struggling with the perceived absence of it. And still in together regardless. Every one of them could be their own poem. 

23 February, 2008

Portrait of a Friend: Frances

I love my friend (and former older sister) Frances Thorburn. She is not only an accomplished actress, but a gifted and unique musician and performance artist. And people, the lady knows how to live.

As you will see, she is playful, creative, intensely focused about her art, and she can effortlessly shift from childlike exuberance to the darkest depths of the human spirit in the blink of an eye. She's had some difficult times: a few things that could have devastated even the most ferociously stoic among us. But her incredibly strong and tenacious soul chose instead to see those circumstances as a gift, a chance to re-start, to live bigger and fuller and brighter, the way she does today: in good health, in love, relishing in gorgeous food!

Franny is passionate about her art, but she’s even more passionate about the dirty business we call life. I always thought I was pretty good at appreciating things, at scraping every drop of sauce, so to speak, from my plate. But this lady, I swear! If I’m scraping the plate, she’s licking the thing. She’s going after life with both hands. She lights up the room.

Here are some totally delightful pictures we took together for her music publicity. 

Check. Her. Oot.
I adore her in every way. 

21 February, 2008

Upper Class (and Laughing Last)

There is nothing like indulging in, and embracing the time one must spend at the airport. A good book. Browsing the inane little shops. Reading your chosen book, your travel companion (Atlas Shrugged today, a large but delicious book, and pertinent as Rand loved New York so).

However, today I find I take issue with the notion of Transatlantic travel. I find it insidious that a person shows up early for a flight they books six weeks ago, and gets kicked off their flight because the airline cancelled the previous flight, and has thus put all of the displaced passengers in the seats of those who could not check in online. I could not check in online because my internet was scuppered, and thus, even though I arrived two and a half hours early for my flight, I lost my seat. Madness!

It was at this point, in a relatively calm and collected mood myself, that Neil shows up. Neil is a defenseless, quintessentially English functionary. An anemic-looking, sloped-shouldered, jut-toothed, slightly balding boy shoved into a suit by the oppressive and irrational Airline he 'works like a lackey from rise to set' for. He creeps over to the crowd of angry travelers and squeaks out the unpleasant news to us all surrounded by a bevy of siren-y "beauties" in heavy make-up and domineering red coats to protect his mousey self from the wrath of the crowd. He tells us to wait. He tells us we'll have to move to the side with all our bags. He tells us to wait another hour until boarding closes. He runs away each time to the protection of the red ladies.

It was at this point that a thought arises within me. Slowly, calmly, and much less offensively than the angry mob behind me. I approach the desk and say so quietly and calmly the Sirens themselves are seduced,

"Excuse me. I don't mean to be any more of a bother than that angry mob already has, but I'm just sitting here, on the cold hard ground and thinking to myself that the reason all of us aren't on the flight we booked is because you have overbooked your flight, as well as filled our seats with people from a flight you cancelled. And yet, if we had checking in online, we'd be fine. What has really occurred here is a preference towards those with a dependable, working, internet connection. that is a Socioeconomic issue. It's actually soooooort of a form of prejudice."

And no sooner had the words exited my lips than a flurry of Airline sirens and functionaries alike were hustling like headless chickens, getting all of the angry mob on to Upper Class....

... starting with me.

The End.
(...Moral of the story pending...)

PS) FYI: you're involuntarily bumped off your flight and the airline can't get you to your destination within an hour of the original arrival time, federal law requires that you be paid the equivalent of your one-way fare up to $200 or $400, depending on the length of the delay. This compensation is woefully inadequate and hasn't been adjusted for inflation since first introduced into law. (And no, you won't be compensated for the mega business deal you weren't able to close because you weren't there.) Passengers should insist on cold hard cash instead of a travel voucher since they come with restrictions and can be difficult to redeem. Also, here's a helpful website about being "bumped."

17 February, 2008

I hate to say it...

... but I had an awfully hard time getting here the last few days. Not only have I been a tad overwhelmed with birthdays and Valentine's and The Closing, but also packing, and last minute "thingys" one must get done when one goes away for six weeks. And it’s not that I didn’t want to stop by and say hello! It’s just... despite everything one has come to expect from dear ol' London's weather, it has been excruciatingly beautiful of late, in fact, far too pretty to be sitting inside at the computer. Apologies.

As I type this, the windows are open wide and an enormous, and a gauzy swatch of sunlight has stretched itself along the wall. Yesterday afternoon, when the light was glowy and gold, D's flight to Kenya (??!! I know, how timely...?!!) was mercifully cancelled, and we experienced a blissful stolen day together basking in the glows of sunlight and Fiddler freedom (yes, a euphemism for unemployment). That’s all I ever want to do, really. Just sit in the glow of sunlight all day, maybe with a blanket for extra warmth, and a large thermos of hot chocolate. I’m not sure where Rainy Old February has gone, but I hope it stays there for a little while longer.

Until tomorrow, at least.

The Last One

For the record... it was perfect... 

14 February, 2008

Coming to the end...

"...Soon I'll be a stranger in a strange new place
searching for an old familliar face
from Anatevka..."

So much to feel. Saturday is the final performance of Fiddler on the Roof, and the little village that has been my home since October 2006 will disappear in to the ether, to exist only in memory. Ah, the ephemeral nature of the theatre is naturally what makes it so beautiful, and makes the days like these so bittersweet and reflective.

The real loss of course, is the people one has grown to love and hate and understand, as if they really were part of a community. My wonderful sisters Frances and Natasha have, completely unexpectedly, grown to become some of the most beautiful friendships in my life. We have laughed and laughed, been through both the dark days and the triumphant. I have spent every day, sharing a room with them, and I will miss it profoundly.

And Hodel of course...
Oh Hodel, how I love you. How much you have given, rewarded and fulfilled me. Thank you. I will keep you always right by my heart as I have never kept another character. Your strength and sense of purpose, your complex feminine spirit, your wit and determination, your devotion and loving heart. You have given me a chance to find all of these things within myself, and to grow with them. I will miss you most of all...

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

29 January, 2008

Ask Al: Auditions (Part One): The Basics

Dear Al,

Hello. I am an aspiring young actor and was wondering what advice you could lend about the audition process? Any information would be much appreciated. Thank you!


Max K.

Hello there Max! This is a good but huge question, and I am going to answer it broadly, the basics, etc. There are a couple of things that are important about every kind of audition, and I will include my thoughts on those things here. People are asking me about auditions all the time, and because every genre is so different, I think I'll discuss specific types of audition questions (Film, TV, Commercials, Musical Theatre, etc) in other posts. So! For the moment, Auditions Part One: The Basics.


A. If property development is about Location Location Location, then auditioning is about Preparation, Preparation Preparation. No kidding. Auditioning IS A SKILL IN AND OF ITSELF. Some people are better auditioners than they are performers. Get this skill down and you are golden. So. Step one is Preparation. Get as much information as possible before the day to ensure you're fully prepared. This includes everything from the character and play descriptions and required audition material, to the names and biographies of the people auditioning you (director, casting director, producers, etc).

B. Research as much as you can about the project for which you are auditioning (read the whole play if you have time, watch a film version, research the time period, history, culture of the setting, YouTube until your brain hurts), and for the role(s) for which you are being considered. Also, know everything you can about the company/ school and people you will be meeting. Knowledge is power! (For real, not in a touchy-feely way).

C. Thoroughly prepare whatever is required, learning speeches, script and songs to the highest performance standard. Always have more to offer in case the panel asks to see something different (I always have a very large book of music with me at all times containing about 20 songs I could sing from memory, and about 6 speeches).


A. Know where you are going. Now.... here's the thing. I don't have the greatest sense of direction, right? You know whenever you see a V formation of geese flying in the air, and there is always like one goose who is going in the opposite direction? That goose is me. So what am I saying? I'm saying KNOW WHERE ARE YOU GOING. Take a map with you or visit the venue before the audition day if you can, to be sure of the route and journey timings. Avoid driving to city centre auditions - using public transport is often quicker and less stressful.

B. And more important than any of this: ALLOW ENOUGH TIME for possible delays to your journey and over running of the actual audition. If you are running late, call your agent or the venue directly to let them know, apologising and giving an estimated time for your arrival.

C. Arrive a few minutes before your appointment time (5 - 10 is fine, unless earlier is requested), in case you are given script pages (sides) to look over, or the auditions are running early. If you are dyslexic and need extra time with the script, make this known and ask if you can arrive earlier, or be sent the pages in advance.


Now. Look. There are no to ways about it. Monologues are a pain. I'm absolutely certain that if theatre professionals could come up with a better way to see what people can do, they would. But monologues are sometimes an actor's only shot to display what they are capable of, and so we must make the most of a frustratingly bad situation.

A. Choosing Your Speeches.

Okay. This is an art. Selecting ideal pieces is possibly the most important part of being an actor. It is not only about displaying your ability, but it tells the panel something about you, about your taste, about your intelligence, insightfulness, common sense and instincts. The quality of your pieces is like the quality of a painter's brushes or a photographer's lense-- you are only as good as your tools. THUS, having a varied collection of carefully selected speeches and songs in your repetoire is of utmost import.
  1. Think of choosing pieces as choosing the PERFECT dress/suit: it shows off all your good stuff and hides all the bad stuff. You can be totally confident because there is nothing you can do to look bad. Your speeches are so well suited to your abilities and strengths, that even nerves cannot deter you from performing well.

  2. Do not try to be overly clever or audacious when selecting material. Avoid material that is not from a play or film. Read everything and if something "speaks" to you, pursue it by reading it out loud.

  3. Some colleges issue a blacklist of speeches not to be used and everyone has a mental list of those he/she is fed up with sitting through AGAIN. The fact is that you've got to do one of these popular speeches extra well to stand a chance. How can you know if a particular speech is "popular" or not? This is difficult, but you can help yourself if you avoid anything from those books of audition speeches because a lot of other people are selecting material from them. It can be a good idea to do a speech from a play you've done or from one that you otherwise know well. It may well be that there were no speeches long enough contained in anything you know, but there will be scenes in which one character is 'running things' and it is reasonably easy to cut out other people's lines and perhaps with a little bit of rewriting make a complete speech that nobody else will be doing. AND, it is a fact that the "original" speech (provided that it's well-written) will put you at a distinct advantage. The other advantage of taking a speech from a play you've done, or know well, is that you will have a very good idea of what the whole play is about from the inside - essential to a good performance of that speech.

  4. Treat all sight reading and sides in a similar way.

Rehearsal of Your Speeches:

A. Allow lots of time for this. It's not just about learning the lines but primarily about absorbing the character and the situation into your very soul. For most people this takes at least two months to accomplish fully. I'm not suggesting two months solid work - you'd go mad, but two or three sessions a week over that period should ensure enough time for your unconscious self to do the rest of the necessary work in between. If a school gives you an audition date which is too soon to allow you this amount of time then change it! AND remember that classical speeches are harder and therefore take longer because of the remoteness of language and situation.

Performance of Speeches:

A. An audition speech is a terribly artificial thing: you've got no lights, scenery, costumes, furniture or props and above all nobody to act with - in fact none of the things that have helped your acting in other circumstances. You have to rely on the power of your imagination to supply all these things for you - and that's where a terrific number of people let themselves down. For instance, if you are doing a speech addressed to an imaginary character you must see that person clearly in your mind's eye; not only 'see' him/her but also 'see' their reactions to what you are saying. Putting a chair (or the hatstand as I once saw) to represent that person means that 95% of people talk to that chair (or hatstand) and not to the 'real' person, consequently a terrific amount of the essence of the speech goes out the window and your auditioners' perception of your potential with it. It is much better not to use anything to represent physically the person you are talking to. Simply have him/her/them firmly fixed in your imagination - even if he/she is sitting in a chair also put that chair into your imagination! In fact you should have the complete location in your imagination (many people fail to do this - especially in classical speeches). It's not just a physical image, but one where the neglected senses of touch, taste and smell play an important part.

The Beginning and The End

A. The other major thing you should work on (and very few people do) is the beginning and the ending. The beginning should be clear and have impact (just like the house lights going down and those on stage going up signalling the start of a show). Similarly, at the end where you should just freeze for a moment (or walk off in character, if appropriate) and then relax back into your normal self, a bit like a curtain call - only don't bow, just walk back to where you have to wait or whatever else your auditioner tells you to do. (There will invariably be a pause after you've finished. Don't worry about it, just wait for your next instruction.) As much thought needs to go into the presentation of an audition speech as into that required for a full production. In fact an audition speech should be a 'mini-production' in its own right.


A. Take pride in your appearance. perhaps dressing in clothes that give the creative team an idea of your suitability for the role for which you are auditioning. Don't overdo this though, and don't be afraid to ask for hints or advice if you are unsure about anything.

B. Be as confident as you can be when entering the room, channelling your nervous energy. Take a deep breath, smile and walk purposefully into the room. Shaking hands and the use of eye contact will create a positive impression, as will remembering the names of the panel, if you are introduced. Introduce yourself too... saying your name clearly, so it can be more easily remembered.

C. NEVER (and I mean NEVER EVER) MAKE EXCUSES... no matter how little preparation time you have had or how badly things have gone (or you feel they have). If you are unwell and know full well you will not be performing your best that day you have two choices: 1, you don't go or 2, you call your agent and explain what is wrong with you, and then your AGENT will inform the casting director of the situation. Ultimately, be honest, be your(best)self, do your best and learn from your mistakes.


A. It is not wrong/unreasonable to be nervous - a calm actor will often give a boring performance. However, when your nerves become disordered and chaotic your whole concentration goes and your body becomes numb. You have to find a way of focusing your nervous energy on your speech and not on the fact that the tension is growing. Tension, once you are aware of it can escalate out of control very quickly don't even begin to contemplate it - do something else! For instance, actors, whilst waiting in the wings on a first night, will often jump around and wave their arms about to get the blood circulating and counteract that terrible numbing effect that nervous tension can bring.

B. One of the main manifestations of 'nerves' is that people don't give themselves enough time to 'get into their characters' before starting their speeches. Too many people just charge into them, simply saying words on the signal to start without any sense of 'being' the person they are portraying. It is universally respected (within the profession) that any actor needs a moment to truly become someone other than him/herself; and you have paid for the privilege to audition and part of that privilege is your right to those valuable moments of concentration after you've announced the title of your speech and before you actually start presenting it. Even if you've been given very little time and are threatened with being stopped, it is much better to start well (and not be allowed to finish) than to complete the speech but find yourself 'skating' over the surface of the character's feelings.

Good luck!


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