30 August, 2010

"...to follow to the end..."

            "...This was a longing she had never permitted herself to acknowledge.
            She faced it now. She thought: If emotion is one's response to the things the world has to offer, if she loved the rails, the building, and more: if she loved her love for them-there was still one response, the greatest, that she had missed.
            She thought: To find a feeling that would hold, as their sum, as their final expression, the purpose of all the things she loved on earth... To find a consciousness like her own, who would be the meaning of her world, as she would be of his... No, not Francisco d'Anconia, not Hank Rearden, not any man she had ever met or admired... A man who existed only in her knowledge of her capacity for an emotion she had never felt, but would have given her life to experience...
            She twisted herself in a slow, faint movement, her breasts pressed to the desk; she felt the longing in her muscles, in the nerves of her body.
            Is that what you want? Is it as simple as that?-she thought, but knew that it was not simple. There was some unbreakable link between her love for her work and the desire of her body; as if one gave her the right to the other, the right and the meaning; as if one were the completion of the other-and the desire would never be satisfied, except by a being of equal greatness.
Her face pressed to her arm, she moved her head, shaking it slowly in negation. She would never find it. Her own thought of what life could be like, was all she would ever have of the world she had wanted. Only the thought of it-and a few rare moments, like a few lights reflected from it on her way-to know, to hold, to follow to the end..."
...to follow to the end...

21 August, 2010

Portrait of a Friend: Jill

Jill as Laura
Jill Paice and I are inextricably linked. Yes, we are both actresses and singers. Yes, we were both raised as only children in the Midwest. But we were initially linked by a mutual acquaintance of ours: Laura Fairlie.

Unlike other big musicals I could name, there are only two people to have ever played Andrew Lloyd Webber's Laura Fairlie (okay, three if you count Anne Hathaway in the workshop and six if you count understudies who went on).

It is a funny thing, long before I ever met Jill, I felt as though I already knew her. After all, when preparing to audition for the role, I was still a young 21-year-old drama student, busy playing 8 men and a puppet in an Ionesco farce in Glasgow. I spent an inordinate amount of time "with her"-- listening to her beautiful performance both before and after getting the role, attempting to be as familiar with Limmeridge House as possible in between classes.

The first time I met her I had not been in London 5 hours. I got off the train from Glasgow, plopped my bags down and attempted to find The Palace Theatre for my very first professional costume fitting. I tried to pretend it was nobigdeal, but in all honesty, I was overwhelmed to be inside a professional theatre, let alone one in the West End, let alone being fitted for twelve not-from-my-closet-or-from-Scottish-Opera-stock-but-made-for-me dresses... for a female character...

From the wig room around the corner came a voice, "Alexandra?"

"Yes?" Oh my goodness, I thought, this was Jill.

"Hi," she smiled so warmly, her hair was wet and tousled, a towel around her shoulders. She had been in the middle of a haircut before the show. I couldn't believe how different we were-- there she was: a willowy blond, Nordic looking almost. She was small-framed with delicate features; but her stance was assured-- full of feminine strength and confidence. A far cry from what felt like the almost childish dark featured Gibson girl staring shyly across from her. Or perhaps that is merely how it felt.

Jill extended her hand, I do not know if she could tell that I was nervous. In hindsight, I wonder if she may have been a bit nervous herself. "I'm Jill. I'm playing Laura right now..." ohmygodI'msoembarrassedhowmuchIknowthatIliterallylistentoyoueverysingleday I think. She continues, "I've heard so much about you and wanted to say hello."

"Thank you so much," I say, returning her hand. "I've spent so much time listening to you, it is such a pleasure to meet you."

Al as Laura
"Everything going well so far?"

"Well I just got here this afternoon actually! I literally just left drama school in Glasgow on Wednesday, so I'm a little shell-shocked if I'm honest." I breathed deeply, and she smiled.

"That is amazing," she said. She was so genuine. "I was just getting my haircut," she said, sort of apologizing, and we laughed, "and I should let you get back to your fitting!"

"Okay, thank you for taking the time."

"My pleasure, I will see you soon. Take care."


But it didn't end there. For those of you who do not know, there is an extensive drawing scene in The Woman in White that involves large sketch books. During the day, I would rehearse with the actual sketch book that Jill used in the evening. One day I saw a little note in the book that simply read,

"Hello Alexandra, do you use this sketch book too?"

I was enchanted! It was a message from another world! It felt like George and Amalia, like Griffin and Sabine, like a message from beyond. The sketch book was a portal to communication. I wrote back,

"Yes I do American lady. How is everything going?"

she wrote back

"Well! Is rehearsal going okay? Anything you need just ask!"

and it continued on like that for a couple of weeks.

Cards and gifts were exchanged on her closing, and my opening nights. She stood and cheered when she returned to watch the show before re-rehearsing for Broadway, always gracious, always a true lady. And on her opening night in New York, I sent her a bouquet of silk flowers (learning from our lovely dresser Helen that she was allergic to real ones).

It was funny, somewhere along the line, Jill and I had sort of become friends and only ever met face to face-- once.


Months ago, new to the city and overwhelmed by waves of new people, I ran into Jill at The Plaza Hotel, (at the opening night party of Promises Promises). She was there with a legendary composer and we greeted one another with such warmth, like the reunion of two old friends.

"Al?" she called across the foyer to me, and we hugged. " Legendary Composer?" she turned to the Legendary Composer friend, "this is Alexandra Silber. Al replaced me in The Woman in White in London and she is the real thing. I saw her play Laura after I left, and you are gonna see her performing in New York very soon. Who knows? Maybe someday together."

She turned to me and smiled. In a room filled with celebrities and having no idea how genuine anyone may or may not be, it was clear in her voice to hear how much she meant it. I was floored. We hugged and parted in the sea of celebrities and met a few weeks later for a proper 'friend date.'

And this was it: something about sharing secrets, truths and cappuccinos on the Upper West Side solidified what we had both always known, we were not just actresses passing in the night, we truly were kindred spirits. For a lack of better way of articulating it, it seemed we 'recognized' one another.

We talked, we laughed, we shared the intimacies that belong to those who have known one another for years. She told me the story of her life. I filled in the details of mine. My trials and tribulations, my travels, my projects. "What brings me to New York?" something about the way she asked the question was larger than it appeared. I answered accordingly, something made me trust her, despite our lack of clocked "hours" as friends, "I just figured it was time. I felt it. And I needed a change of scenery. And I thought, you know what? Fortune favors the brave."

Her expression rang with astonishment. "...You're amazing." she said softly and when she said it I could not believe how much she meant it. It was impossible to me to be this impressive to a woman I admired so greatly on so many levels. "You are such an inspiration!"

Again, I was mystified. "My God," I replied, my voice shocked, "thank you, Jill."

Most people never learn to be vulnerable, never to be open. Even in the most intimate relationships they remain guarded, closed, afraid. The truth is, the heart is a powerful awe-inspiring force to be reckoned with in the world and Jill Paice's heart is the true inspiration. Seeing her energy fully revealed as she sat before me openhearted, I was moved. She projects a genuine-ness, a kindness, an open, conscious vulnerability that can only come from strength. I wanted to bask in her light, to align myself with that energy.

It was time to thank her. Something I'd wanted to say for years.

"You know Jill, in many ways, The Woman in White changed my entire life, it was responsible for the path I am currently on..." I admit meekly, shy to admit the truth, "and in every way you and Laura, and you as Laura, were the Ambassadors to that new world. I've never been able to thank you properly, to your face. I don't know that I've ever really seen it with as fine a clarity until recently. So thank you for that. I always tried to honor what you had started."

She stared at me. Perhaps a little bit floored.

And that was that.

Sometimes in life we just "find our people"--  friendships form in the most curious of times and places. They feel right. Then seeds are planted, they gestate, solidify and grow.

In a world of disappointments, falsities and insincere exchanges, where people take, deceive and often walk all over, it is important to pause and take a moment to mark when we see a light. Jill Paice is remarkable and has been more than an Ambassador or a person to share cappuccino with-- for whatever people may see onstage, I wanted the world to know that for someone privileged enough to know her I am inspired by her being as well as, but not merely by, her performances.
She is a light.


Lauras unite.

04 August, 2010

...and Whiskers on Kittens...

Tamara de Lempicka
1. Art Deco and the 1930's
Art Deco affected all areas of design throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including architecture and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as painting, the graphic arts and film. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, glamorous, functional and modern. There is something about this world of design (mirrored by the psychological culture of the time period) between the two world wars that highlights a certain sense and vision of progress, of hope, efficiency, cleanliness and simplicity. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the distinctive style of Art Deco was shaped by 'all the nervous energy stored up and expended in the War.'

2. The Magical, Mystical, incredibly sexy ©Slurpee.
It is cold. Slush-like-but-not-a-©Slushy. Like shaved ice but not ©Shaved Ice. A ©Slurpee is the best of every world of frozen confection-- sweet, cold, colorful and simple. Like snow. With flavor. (In fact, who didn't do that as a kid? Run out to the freshly fallen snow, collect it in a cup and pour juice over it? ... no one...? Just me...? Well for all of you who weren't frozen refreshment obsessed, or are from the warmer climes, I am telling you this trick was magic.) When I was in still at Groves High School in Metro-Detroit (before my Interlochen sojourn), my friends and I (specifically Bill Bradley, Justin Bodary and Katie Battersby) thought that driving to the 7-11 for a giant ©Slurpee was the ultimate in "killing-time-and-aimlessly-hanging-out-which-means-driving-around-the-suburbs-because-we-can-do-that-but-cannot-yet-drink" activities. The pure dietary joys of the DIET PEPSI Slurpee. Not to mention the Crystal Light Slurpee. (Hellllls yeah). As I grew up? The alcoholic ©Slurpee became my favorite cocktail. What is that you ask? Why that would be the MOJITO. Sí. And why do I love it? Um. Because it is an alcoholic ©Slurpee...? Nuff said there.

3.   Carnivals
They are dark magic and I love them. I love the Tilt-A-Whirl. I love skee ball. I love the cotton candy. But mostly I adore the darkly magical atmosphere— the aesthetic ache, the ever-so-slightly twisted beauty of it all. I love it all. I love to share it with one other person. But mostly I love to go alone.

4. Naming things.
Inanimate objects. Toys. Animals. I love names and their meanings in general (Incidentally: Alexandra? (Greek: Αλεξάνδρᾱ) is the feminine form of the given name Alexander, which is a romanization of the Greek name Αλέξανδρος (Alexandros). Etymologically, the name is a compound of the Greek verb ἀλέξειν (alexein) "to defend" and the noun ἀνδρός (andros), genitive of ἀνήρ (anēr) "man". Thus it may be roughly translated as "protector and defender of mankind." Amazing.) I used to own a lot of Baby Naming books as a child, not imagining my own children someday mind you (because I am just notthatgirl), but instead, pouring over the etymology of the names within the pages. It ignited my imagination! Who IS Simon? Isabella? Nicholas? Anders? Ilona? What do they do? Where do they come from? Naming is science, psychology, sociology and anthropology in one. And nothing captures a person place or things better, than the perfect name.


My dog [that I do not yet own, but might someday]: Kevin. A deeply normal, deeply human name without the slightest trace of whimsy. 'Rover' and 'Spike' be damned! 'Ginger' or 'Blondie'? I say 'pah!' 'Bob' or 'Jack' even are so normal and human that they point at themselves-- NO. Kevin is a lovely sounding, but right-in-the-middle-of-normalcy name that when you think of it, just does not belong to a dog. But it will...

My cat [again, fictional cat]: Dr. Rosenbloom. Because.... well, just because. Because the thought of a cat not having a name but a title delights me. Satirical (but only satirical) whimsy with cats is allowed. Picture it at the vet: "The doctor will see you now," the nurse will say. And I will say, "Dr. Rosenbloom will see YOU now..."

5. Trains
Watching them, listening to them, taking them places. It is a throwback to the Golden Age of Travel (if there ever was such a thing... I might have just made that up... but I think it should exist...), it is green, and relaxing and no-fuss, and far and away my transportation of choice. Perhaps, (politics aside--everybody just caaaaalm down) this is due to my unutterable love of the literary character Dagny Taggart. Perhaps it is due to Scottish dramatist David Greig's beautiful play Europe. I don't know. I think a great deal of nature, and always look for ways to protect our planet and let it flourish. But, I also believe in the equally moving and terribly important to recognise the great, often mammoth accomplishments of mankind. Man is capable of both great destruction, yes, and we so often hear of that. But of creation too: long stretches of steel that disappear into the infinite horizons, train cars that move at seemingly impossible speeds, tracks capable of connecting vast continents? It makes me think of everything I believe in. "It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live."

Thus far in my lifetime my favorite train rides have been The Red Arrow overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the beautiful commute from London Euston to Sheffield (no laughing, that is for real-- travel by day and check out that countryside), and the Amtrak service from New York to Washington DC. Pure. Class.

6. Talking to strangers on all forms of transportation (planes, trains or automobiles... I can't stop myself...) My parents, in one of those classic and unbelievable love stories, met on an airplane. My father let my mother out of the aisle exiting from a flight in Madrid from Barcelona during the bicentennial summer of 1976. Mom is one of those people that likes to wait for everyone to get off the plane so she can take her time exiting. She read a book to pass the time while the anxious and angry Europeans fought their way off. Dad, saw her sitting by the window waiting, and, stunned by her beauty (though he was quite the looker himself), was so speechless all he could do was gesture lamely with his hand for her to exit, blocking a tidal wave of angry Europeans behind him.

And once on the Piccadilly line I saw a young student sitting beside a large, stuffed dog in the vein of a carnival prize. The dog was the size of a human, bright blue and taking up a seat of his very own. "May I?" I asked the student and he moved the dog and placed it on his lap.
There was a pause.
"So..." I said, "what's his name?"
The student looked at me through his glasses with a slight, good-humored surprise. "He does not have one."
"Do you want to name him?"
HELL YES I DID. After all-- I LOVE NAMING THINGS. But then I totally blanked. Nothing was coming. So I blurted out the most obvious choice I could think of-- "Alexander!"

"Alexander? That is a Greek name! I am Greek!"
"Yes, George, nice to meet you."
"Greek George-- as in Jorges?"
"Yes! That is good."
"I worked in a Greek restaurant as a teenager,"  I am sort of proud.
"What is your name?"
I hung my head in shame slightly... "Alexandra."
"Ah I see!"

George told me he was a student studying Economics at one of the London Universities. Then he asked what I did and I pointed to a Carousel poster and said-- "uhh...that's me." AND THEN GEORGE TOOK THE TIME TO COME TO THE SHOW! He is (and was) terribly nice and I hope he an Alexander are doing well.

7. Addressing points in numerical order.
I would assume this one is self-explanatory.

8. Amber
(or, technically, resinite) is fossilized tree resin (not sap), which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. (It has been appreciated by me since 1983 minimum). Found primarily in Scandinavia and elsewhere around the Baltic Sea (it is generally accepted that the amber from the Baltic region is the world’s finest, although the word "amber" itself is derived from the old Arabic word "anbar"); and because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes includes animal and plant material as inclusions. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents. (Bwahaha I know stuff about amber because I like it so much).

Amber is used to symbolize power, command and authority. It indicates that rewards come through the productive intellect and the harvest of creative faculties. Wearing amber, either as a stone or as a string of beads, brings victory despite competition and opposition. It counteracts the dangers of loss through law. Looks. Function. Depth. Amber: What's not to like?

9. All things Muppet
Someone once asked me which Muppet I would be and I said this was a very difficult question because there was a pronounced difference between the Muppet we wish to be and the Muppet we are.

I suppose this is same with almost any “if you could be any XX what would it be?” question but therein lies the crux— the operative word here is the “if you could” versus the “if you were.” (I'm not certain if it is clear, but semantics are sort of delightful and important to me. But I digress...)

So. If I could be any Muppet? Tough. Kermit and Grover is as close as I can narrow it down without an extended essay.

But if I were any Muppet? I'm afraid the truth is that I am most likely a combination of Snuffalupagus, Bert, and Statler & Waldorf (They are two ornery, disagreeable old men who first appeared in the The Muppet Show heckling the rest of the cast from their balcony seats?)


10. Venice
It is at the beginning of Chapter Six in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities that Kublai Khan confronts Marco Polo about the subject of Venice.
“There is still one of which you never speak.”
Marco Polo bowed his head.
“Venice,” the Khan said.
Marco smiled. “What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?”
The emperor did not turn a hair. “And yet I have never heard you mention that name.”
And Polo said: “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
Marco Polo eventually admits that all his described cities are one and the same city: Venice, his Home. His point of origin. The Khan marvels at this.

So do I. Because it is not merely Calvino's artistry and vision that articulates this fine point upon everyone's individual relationship with their Home, but he defines as best he can the evocative nature of Venice itself in a literal sense. Venice is a stirring place-- sexy, dangerous, elegant, nurturing, beautiful, not at all unlike the many facets of a living woman. And it is as if the spirit of this woman has cast a spell over every one that has ever known her, changed them, then altered them eternally. Then suddenly, and without warning, she disappeared-- and we are all left in the wake of our memories, searching for the way she made us feel, the way she made us think, see, live.. or perhaps just simply to be with her, again. And in traveling to Venice you will not encounter the woman. No. Rather you will encounter all of those who lived within her birthplace. They are stunned; haunted by their lost love. They see her in every flicker of light upon the ornate glass figures. They smell her scent around every narrow cobbled alleyway. Her image is reflected in every canal. Her face behind every Carnivale mask.  

“Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little...”
"Subterranean Blues" - ©Nick Bantock

01 August, 2010

I've Been...

Still Adjusting. Still capital A.

Enjoying the cold beverages and dessert treats of summer. Mmmm.

Returning to my beloved Detroit. It's home.

Making my own breakfast cereal (thank you Fran!)

Road-tripping it with Lance! (including chasing a stranger off the road, and a trip to Frankenmuth Christmas Wonderland...)

Returning to Interlochen Arts Camp. "Sounding the call" for the first time in 8 years! I am, and will always be, an Interlochen LIFER— and bleed blue.

Weekending in Conneticuit. (Fine) and spending that time almost exclusively in a hammock.

Adventuring to the beautiful Bershires for the first time, and indulging in picnic-ing to Mahler 4 at Tanglewood

Meeting my idols: (ummm Barbra Cook anyone?!)

Having crazy 'New York' days. Example:
  1. shot a commercial 
  2. came home and went for a long run then 
  3. discovered I had locked myself out of my apartment... so I 
  4. crashed a party on the first floor of my building and 
  5. climbed through their window to 
  6. climb fire escape 4 stories and
  7. BREAK IN to my apartment.  
...Consequently doing a celebratory Ninja dance.

IN. MY. CAVE. (So sorry friends, it is how I cope with difficulty! So appreciative of everyone's patience!)... but really getting to the bottom of some nitty-gritty stuff.

Celebrating 27 years in classic Silber-birthday-induced-anxiety mode.

Enjoying what can only be called Team British Invasion at the very chi chi Bar Centrale. A grand early birthday tête w/ Alexander Hansen, his gorgeous talented wife Samatha Bond, Ruthie, and our shared friend and manger Jeff. [w/Cheno, Lapaglia, Lane, Hayes SJBlock sightings]

...Only to enjoy an incredible cab ride home. The driver drove me "close enough," stopped the meter, then gave me loving, informed tour of Astoria. "Love your home" he said. What a gift.

Loving new friendships (Jill, Kudisch, Brooksher), and renewing old ones (Alley, Dane, Nick, Ari, Alex...)

Booking and filming that commercial babaaaaay...[*celebratory club dancing*]

Journeying by bus! (Ahhhh Americana at it's very... cheapest...)

Enjoying correspondence. (Always a good day when The Bantock drops you an email...)

Celebrating Bastille Day singing at The Metropolitan Room (“Ne Me Quitte Pas” anyone?)

Honoring the journey: One Year. I lived.

Planning and planning Feinstein’s solo cabaret debut. (More information to come!)


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