27 February, 2011

Portrait of a Friend: Lance Horne

Lance Horne and I have known one another since I was in high school-- and our friendship and artistic affinity in recent years has been informed, shaped, and made all the more poignant by, coming from the same artistic roots.
Story:

In my Junior year at Interlochen I was fortunate enough to be cast in two leading roles (Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker and Lucy in Snoopy The Musical [opposite Michael Arden's Charlie Brown]). So when the final production of Merrily We Roll Along "rolled along" I was certain I would be building the sets in the production shop, but I was thrilled to be cast in the chorus (as well as the viiiiital character of 'Dory' whose famous line "and what a great pool!" flat out rocked my world then, and to this day provides an ever-delightful non sequitur...)

There was something about this production. It had a magical glow around it. We had a flurry of guest artists during the rehearsal process-- Anthony Rapp, Adam Pelty, and Lance Horne-- all of whom felt so connected to the work we all shared that they all returned to see the full production.

So picture it: there I was: sixteen years old and up to my eyeballs in the talented movers and shakers of the future (this cast included the likes of Ben Walker and Michael Arden). I was in the chorus, decked out in full 80s sunglasses, fur coat, and holding an empty champagne glass.

Now the truth was, many of my fellow chorusters were not exactly having a wonderful time. They were bored, overly talented teenagers feeling under-appreciated in their final weeks of school, wishing that they were in the front and not the back. There were grumblings, complaints and other mutterings of young people learning and growing...

One particular day we were staging "That Frank" and the grumblings were especially vociferous. The scene is tremendously intricate and complicated-- an opening scene set at a Hollywood pool party featuring the full cast. Lots of movement. Complex Sondheim music. People were losing focus and feeling frustrated, and the "why-oh-why-am-I-in-the-chorus-and-not-playing-a-lead" grumblings began with full force.

And something happened. I ripped off my sunglasses as my back straightened with a crashing realization-- I had spent the entire school year in the front. Leading companies, starring in beautiful shows. And here I was holding a champagne glass in the back... and I loved it. I loved every second of it. I adored being a part of this magical production. Learning, developing, contributing. "I love this," I thought, "I am different. I want different things from this experience. I love this and I don't need to be in the front to love it as much as I love it right this second." And I was rocked to my core--because I knew in this moment that I was going to do this for the rest of my life.
It was life altering.
A moment I talk about all the time, in fact. 

And you know who was there, watching rehearsal from the back of the theatre? Lance Horne.

Rehearsal ended, and exhausted, we all moved to our bags and began to pack up and head to dinner.

     "Hey!" Lance called out to me from the back, moving down the stairs of the beautiful Harvey Theatre-- "You. Al, right?"
     "Yes," I replied. I was so shy with guest artists that year I hadn't even asked Lance a question in his Q&A, let alone performed for him. I couldn't believe he even knew my name.
     "You..." he smiled, pointing at me and nodding. "You. You are the real thing. You are going to do this, do you know that?"
I starred at him in disbelief, perfectly serious and still.
     "Yes..." I whispered. "Yes."
     "Good," he brushed the curls out of his eyes as his smile broadened. "See you tomorrow."

Lance Horne and I have been friends ever since.

We have met up and performed together all over the world. We have made lines in the sand together, laughed, wept, gone on one crazy ass road trip, made declarations to the universe whilst holding Neal's Yard coconuts to the sky! We have held one another accountable for our creative and personal integrity. That is an artistic colleague. That is a true friend. That is the real thing.

There is nothing like seeing your best friends succeed, but nothing can match the experience of beholding that success when you also know that their music, message, their art is on a truly stirring, if not outright magnificent level. To sing Lance's music is far more than singing some of the best songs currently being written, it is to be a part of both the traditional emergence of a trained and finely crafted artisan building upon the illuminations from the past, as well as being present in the center of the visionary ground-breaking making way for new forms.

I could not have been more moved or thrilled to sing on his first album First Things Last (and to take the photograph for the album cover), as well as perform with him alongside the very best of Broadway (Alan Cumming, Cheyenne Jackson, Lea Delaria, Rebecca Luker, Lauren Kennedy and Daphne Rubin Vega) and the West End (Paul Spicer, Julie Atherton, Hannah Waddingham, Meow Meow, Oliver Tompsett, Emma Williams and Graham Norton) at both Lincoln Center as well as at The Garrick Theatre in London.

So, to say that "Anyone Whose Ever Been in Love" is beautiful, penetrative, and deeply personal to hear and to perform is true.  But to sing it, and to have been asked to by my long time beloved friend Lance himself? That is an honor I could begin to utter.


23 February, 2011

The Gezentites

Because sometimes.... sometimes it just gets very very real....

Here, is the fictional vinyl of the not-so-famous-actually-totally-false-40s-trio-brilliantly-invented-by-Michael-John-LaChiusa, The Gezentites

Ta-DAAAA!      

[*confetti*]

As Blake Daniel, Rachel Bay Jones and myself have been rehearsing this incredible little classic 1940s trio (something akin to the style of The Andrews Sisters) featured in Scene 2 (with The Soldier and The Nurse, played by Max von Essen and Elizabeth Stanley)-- well... well all I can say is that it was love at first croon. 

The three of us sat before music stands with our hands in our heads-- (I believe there was a conversation with Blake which included the phrase "is this a bad time to mention I don't read music..?") --concerned we might never get the notes perfected, we persevered. We succeeded. We were choreographed
And... well... the rest is history. 
And as terriblyseriousartists, we realized it was essential that we come up with a name for our group.


After a genius naming swoop (courtesy of group member Blake Daniel) suggested we call ourselves The Gezentites, we were hooked, but Rachel's inspired discovery of appropriately whimsical tissues? My personal affinity for wasting perfectly good evenings on Photoshop? Well, that kind of extra-curricular work seals deals people. 
It was official.
It was love.
We're taking The Gezentites on the road

So. This fake album features such artificial hits (there are apparently 20) as "Kleenext to me," "Snot You It's Me" and the title track, "Back Achoo" as well as their most famous 40 bars ever performed in public "Zei Gezent: Be Well and Happy..."
 ...and listen: basically, if you want to be on the inside of this inside joke... 
you'll just have to come to the show
[*she motionlessly stares at you through the computer screen with total seriousness*]
     ...Won't you...? 
[*the stare is both intoxicating-ly intriguing and fairly disturbing*] 
                ...won't you...?

But, in the meanwhile reader, enjoy my irreverent Photoshopping, and do "Zei Gezent: be well and happy..."



Rachel Bay Jones, Blake Daniel and Alexandra Silber have been singing in 3 part harmony for 2 weeks...

21 February, 2011

Hello Again

This is all a little tardy, but I am so thrilled to announce my upcoming project.

Starting 4 March 2011, I will be playing The Young Wife in The Transport Group's exciting new New York revival of Michael John LaChiusa's Hello Again-- the first New York City production since the original in 1993. This production will feature new orchestrations by Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Company) and will be staged non-traditionally in a raw space in SoHo (New York SoHo, not to be confused with London's Soho) by Drama Desk nominee and Transport Group Artistic Director Jack Cummings III.  

Hello Again is a ground-breaking piece of theatre with music, lyrics and book by the Michael John LaChiusa suggested by the 1897 play La Ronde (also titled Reigen) by Arthur Schnitzler (who, amusingly, was a close friend of Sigmund Freud's, thus, possibly inspiring the psychological exploration of sex and aaaaaall it's intricacies). Hello Again focuses on a series of love affairs among twenty characters, in ten scenes, during the ten different decades of the 20th century-- enabling it to explore and address the nature of love, relationships and sex throughout that 100 year period with all of it's varying limitations, longings, hardships and complications.

Here is what the press blurb says:
"Hi. So you're from Philly? Oh. Sorry if my hands are cold."
"Experience the world of Michael John LaChiusa's Hello Again: the passion, sex, and power of 10 love affairs, one from each decade of the 20th Century. Witness The Whore, The Young Thing, The Senator, The Soldier and others as they navigate each new sexual entanglement. Love and desire clash as each character seeks elusive connections. Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's controversial 1897 play, La Ronde, 5-time Tony Award nominee LaChiusa brings Schnitzler's love stories to life with musical and lyrical styles of each decade, ranging from opera to jazz to disco. Transport Group's production, the first New York City revival of Hello Again, will feature new orchestrations by Drama Desk Award winner Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Company) and will be staged non-traditionally in a raw space in SoHo by 2-time Drama Desk Award nominee Jack Cummings III (The Boys in the Band). The cast features Alan Campbell, Blake Daniel, Jonathan Hammond, Rachel Bay Jones, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Robert Lenzi, Alexandra Silber, Elizabeth Stanley, Bob Stillman and Max von Essen." 

Basically? It is going to be pretty special. Sexy. Emotional. Physiological. Fascinating. Funny. Tragic. Stunning. Risky. (*ahem*) Penetrative. 

And truly, there is nothing like meeting your cast six weeks ahead of rehearsals, shaking their hands and then taking your clothes off to pose for riské photographs (another *ahem*... below...), but there is also nothing like being blessed enough to sing the landmark song (the perfect and brilliant "Tom"), and reviving a contemporary classic with a rock star cast in The Big Apple itself. 

Join us
Do. 
Come along and say Hello.
Again. 
     ...And possibly again. 

The only thing I’m wearing in this photo is Bob Stillman and some pearls...



PS) .... Have you headed over to Facebook and liked “Hello Again” yet?
Like it! and then come see it!

17 February, 2011

In My Life: Alex


alexandra boulé-buckley friendly
middleburg, virginia
2010

15 February, 2011

"Westenders" - A Video Freakout

For "Westenders" Paul Spicer, Julie Atherton and myself, singing with our friend Lance Horne to promote his album (that we all lend our voices to) First Things Last is par for the course. A joy, a pleasure, an honour.

But singing in the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center (that's right. The Lincoln Center) alongside Lauren Kennedy belting J's, the do-I-or-do-I-not-tell-her-that-I-broke-the-Secret-Garden-cassette beautiful and wise Rebecca Luker, the comically attractive and gifted crooner Cheyenne Jackson? Broadway's best? Intimidating at best. At it's worst...? Well... so, hours before the performance? We were freaking. out.

Here, for your amusement, is said freak out.

10 February, 2011

Happy Birthday Boris Pasternak

Without a doubt, Doctor Zhivago (До́ктор Жива́го) is one of the great novels, and certainly on of the most important pieces of contemporary Russian as well as 20th century works of literature today (first published in 1957). The novel is named after its protagonist, Yuri Zhivago, a physician (hence the "Doctor" bit...), romantic, and poet. Yuri's life is affected by the 1917 Russian Revolution, the subsequent Russian Civil War, as well as the great love of two different but equally remarkable women.

The story of Doctor Zhivago's publication is almost as dramatic and sweeping as the novel itself. Many are surprised to learn that although it contains passages written in the 1910s and 1920s, Doctor Zhivago was not actually completed until 1956.

The novel was then rejected by the Russian language literary magazine/journal Novy Mir (Новый Мир-- Russian for both New World and New Peace) which mainly published prose that approved of the general line of the Communist Party, because Pasternak's political viewpoint within the novel (as well as without) was opposed by the Soviet authorities. (The author, like Zhivago, showed more concern with the welfare of individuals than with the welfare of society).

Remarkably, in 1957, the Italian publisher (and, ironically, the rampant Communist!) Giangiacomo Feltrinelli smuggled the book manuscript out of the Soviet Union (thanks to the remarkable 20th century thinker Isaiah Berlin--please check him out!) and simultaneously published the very first editions (in both Russian and Italian) in Milan, Italy. Amazing. It was published in English (translated from Russian by Manya Harari and Max Hayward) the following year.

It was most likely the publication of Doctor Zhivago that was partly responsible for Pasternak being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, but the Soviet government requested that the Nobel committee not award him, which they refused to do. Pasternak was subsequently pressured by Soviet authorities to reject the Nobel Prize in order to prevent a scandal in the Soviet Union. Pasternak died on 30 May 1960.

Doctor Zhivago was finally, at long last, published in the Soviet Union in 1988.

Author Boris Pasternak was born today in 1890. He was most famous in Russia as a poet, and as the Russian translator of Goethe and Shakespeare. But it is the echos of his poignant novel Doctor Zhivago that continue to ring on so profoundly for me, and for many others the world over. Filled with his very own quiet wisdom, delicate prose, infinite feeling so affectingly observed without a trace of sentimentality but always with the very finest psychological accuracy mixed with poetry, Yuri Zhivago's tale is a universally human a story told so perfectly it is hard to imagine it almost never saw the light of day. It goes to prove the point that everything worth having in the world is worth fighting for.

Pasternak is a man who should be revered and celebrated the literate world over, and today and every day I applaud him. He is, without question, one of my greatest artistic and literary inspirations and I am grateful for him, for his revolutionizing of Russian poetry, for Yuri, Tonya and Lara.
I am glad he was born.
Happy Birthday Boris.

"And now listen carefully. You in others - this is your soul. This is what you are. This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life - your soul, your immortality, your life in others. And what now? You have always been in others and you will remain in others. And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you - the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it. And now one last point. There is nothing to fear. There is no such thing as death. Death has nothing to do with us."

05 February, 2011

Things I Can Never Get Enough Of: A List

owls
watermelon
trains
teaching
popcorn
badcrimedrama
talking about badcrimedrama
what about bob?
detroit
russian literature
red shoes
kissing
my duvet on a rainy day
the moon

memories of Dad
new adventures with Mom 

michigan
rubber stamps
philatelic stamps
poetry
the cinema
taking photographs
long drives
     and road-trips
my signature bad-ass salads
mythology
peanut butter
the whole coffee process 
creative energy buzz
yogurt-covered things
the profundity of true friendship
trains
monograms (ah, my beloved 'A')
photo-booths
redheads
one-on-one conversations
lists

       ...yooou...?

02 February, 2011

I've Been

home.
having one crazy-ass January.

traveling to Saltspring Island off the coast of British Columbia

...and working with my absolute artistic idol and realizing that one of the many miraculous things about growing into yourself is when you face your idol and realize that that equally respect you. 

making peace with her.

     and him.

          and London. 

Saltpring Island from the sky
reprising my cabaret at Feinstein's and the Catalina Club in LA!

having 3 hour deep and meaningfuls with Jason Alexander over Greek food

walking along the Pacific coast with my mom. There is no place like home.

at the LA Ovation awards with London pal and fellow nominee Lara Pulver, then finishing off the night with a cheeky Burger King drive thru in which we both get salad.

London: no longer complicated
bonding with "the Noriega side."

singing with Lance Horne at in The American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center's Allen Roomwith the glitsiest of the glitsy.

standing up for, and respecting myself in my relationships.

making nice with the airports of the world. 

inheriting all of my mom's best clothes. (Score!)

bonding with fellow "Westenders" Paul Spicer and Julie Atherton.

meeting Rebecca Luker and kiiiiind of dying.

coping with the delights of a several intense snow storm dramas

Graduating. x

making new friends!

joining Actor's Equity..... it was.... underwhelming...

truly beginning my New York mindset,
     career,
          and life.

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