13 December, 2012

On translations

Larissa Volokhonsky & Richard Pevear
"Dear Al,
Do you suggest a specific translation of 'The Master and Margarita?' Also, you're right, covers do matter! Thank you.
From, M "

Dear M,

Why yeeeessss. Да. Oui. . Ja.

On translations:

In translating literature from one language to another in GENERAL, it is important to convey not only the literal meaning of the story, but the culture, dialogue and thought flow, and essence of the characters being conveyed.

Because Russia, but particularly Soviet Russia is such an extra foreign mystery to Westerners, cultural conveyance is of even more import.

Russians (and of course, subsequently, their LANGUAGE) are very... VERY direct in their everyday conversations. They say exactly what is needed, often coming across as harsh or rude to the smiley, overly polite English speaking world. But keep in mind, Russia is cold, you don't want to have long talks in the street. And in Soviet Russia people never wanted to display their true emotions or feelings in public, lest they be overheard, doubted, and subsequently punished for any reason. Out in the "world" Soviet Russians were (and in many ways still lingeringly are) very suspicious. There was no sidewalk restaurant culture (anyone might overhear your lunch conversation!), shopping and socializing were not about personal pleasure but about necessity.

HOWEVER, once a Russian trusts you and welcomes you into their HOME? Well, you might not ever make it out for they will shower you in love and affection and pet names and pickles and guitar serenades and litres of vodka and ostensibly a veritable tsunami of emotional openness and truth we hear so often in their music. This is so prevalent in their language I don't even know how to fully convey it other than in ALL CAPS. [*she yells*] TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT IT IN ALL CAPS!!

You know who does this best?

     Husband and wife team Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
     They nail it.

Not only in the prose (which is *ga ga ga gorgeous*-- particularly in their recently released War and Peace, a translation that made the book readable and not dry at ALL)
     but crucially, in the dialogue.

Also crucial is the footnotes. Their footnotes explain everything you could ever want to know about what you are reading (and probably many things you did not realize you wanted to know, plus a few things you didn't really need to know but now you feel like a freakin' Master-MIND and Margarita...sorry...). Anyway they manage to do all of that in a comprehensive, yet utterly concise way. Best footnotes out there. [1] Here is a link to their brilliant essay on The Master and Margarita -- I highly encourage a perusal.

CONS: The bummer about the Penguin Classics edition of M&M?
     1. the font is so tiny you get an ocular migraine.
     2. The main character's name is 'Bezdomny' which is the literal word for "Homeless"-- it is clearly a direct joke, like Dickens naming a bumbling workhouse officer Mr. Bumble. However, there is something about using the word "Homeless" as his actual moniker throughout the book that... irks me. Not sure why. Just personal preference I suppose.
     3. [::sigh::] The cover...? The American cover anyway is (I'm so sorry Kasimir Malevich!!) not whimsical. It is "An Englishman in Moscow" and basically just not what I want...
          ...which is a black cat. 

And YES, M, yes: covers matter
They matter very much. 
[*evidence below*]

I want bat-shit Bulgakov-crazy shit liiiiike...

[1] truly

08 December, 2012

Miracle of Lights

Deep in the shadows of old Jerusalem, the ancient Jews fought against oppression. They joined together, rose up, and defeated the oppressors who had outlawed their faith and desecrated their holy temple.

In the ruins of their newly won city, the ancient Jews stood in the silence and agreed: they must cleanse and re-dedicate the temple. They would reignite the menorah—a beacon of light that would burn all day and all night—as a symbol of their fortitude, and, in every way, their faith.

According to the Talmud, olive oil was required to keep the menorah ablaze within the Temple. But when the Jews returned to their oil supply, they found that there was only enough oil to burn for a single day. Eight days would be required to prepare a new supply of oil. The light in the temple would be doused long before then.

But a miracle happened.

The oil in the temple lasted eight incredible days: exactly the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. Thus, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights came to be.

Beyond all reason or logic, we too—like the light in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem—are inextinguishable. In the darkest and most desperate hours, when we mine ourselves for more than we ever could conceive was possible, the fuel is there. So that we may continue on.

Hope may be fragile, but it is there.

     Like light. . .

Sometimes blazing, sometimes merely a tender, trembling flicker that regardless, cannot be extinguished, that flame winking even in the darkest hours. So our ancient ancestors have taught us. So we continue to learn again and again as time churns ever onward.

Hope accompanies all new beginnings. . .

Happy Hanukkah everyone. May we all mine ourselves for more-- tonight and always. 

01 December, 2012

Backstage Madness: "His iPod Singing!!!"

Soo... yeah.
LOOK: Sometimes you are in a one woman musical about war crimes,
     and you share a dressing "area" with the girl who is doing the one woman musical about a girl raised in Kabul as a boy
          and the fun-loving ASM.

And sometimes, when Hunter Foster sings from his one-man musical about his brother dying in the Rocky Mountains, he sings this line -- this MAGICAL LINE about an iPod (that is so brilliant as to be ridiculous, or ridiculous as to be brilliant-- EITHER WAY!) -- and you all have to stop EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING and lip sync to Hunter Foster or else the world will explode.

I love the theatre.


24 November, 2012


She took me upstairs to talk.

I now realize Edna merely wanted to calmly express her hurt: I didn’t mention anyone from his original nuclear family in the Eulogy. Not once. (You know what's awesome? Irony. People my age learned what it means from Alanis Morissette so our grasp is tenuous at best, but when it plays out over life-and-death situations it can get pretty trippy. Listen, I want to be sorry for it, even in the present. Yet, while I can see it as a grievous social error filled with pointed animosity and bluntness, I admit: I am not sorry I did it. Or perhaps, did not do it…) I was so done with them I simply could not see or honor the nature of her anguish (for even the cruel and selfish can be bruised).

Once, I drew a portrait of her— a crude pen and marker drawing completed by a seven-year-old, wrinkles and all. I gave it to her hoping she would like it. But she looked down and saw the way a child saw “wrinkles” and had drawn “age” and was hurt. I hadn’t intended to mar her vanity or break her heart in any way. Still, she took me aside,  “One day you will have wrinkles and be old too, and there is nothing wrong with that.”

I wanted to tell her that I knew that. I was just trying to draw a picture of my grandma. But I don’t know that she ever forgave me for it. I now see that I had challenged her greatest (and perhaps, in her psyche, her only) commodity.

Yet, I thought: this is the woman who, despite grave warnings from her overbearing husband, flew to San Francisco to talk to Deborah face-to-face after she came out (in a vitriolic letter that arrived one day in the mail), and tried to be enthusiastic about PFLAGG.

The woman who heard I loved an authentic 1930s cocktail dress from a vintage store and went out and bought it for me.

Who wanted me to discover the “thing” it was that I liked so she could actively look for things to help build a collection of (and how I sort of wish I could tell her now that it was owls). I always felt she forced this collection business on me— nutcrackers, spiders, lobsters, but in hindsight I think it was her way of keeping me in her mind, of her fragmented form of connecting.

I saw the repressed artistic soul— the musician with a flair for jewelry, the best sculptor I have ever met, unable to fulfill her longings, possibly envious that I was afforded every freedom to do so.

The woman who tried to teach me to play the piano, and failed. I still have the books from the 1940s that she used to teach all those children on the block in Detroit. I wish I had been less intimidated by both her and her piano.

The woman who tried to reach out by taking me to the Fisher to see the tour of Jekyll and Hyde when I was fourteen. We had a wonderful day, a matinee and dinner after the show. I see now that she wanted to connect with me on a level that she knew I would appreciate. No more forced collections or wading through false histories, just the two of us in a theatre. It felt like home. That was probably the best day I ever had with her. We actually spoke, like people. She told me stories about the family, revealed some of the darker corners of her true feelings about everything and everyone, spoke to me more and more like a woman as the day progressed and I have to say I think the connection she longed for with me as a child actually sparked that day. I think it was the best couple of hours we ever spent together.

The woman who taught me how to play “another form of solitaire” called Thirteen (where you match all of the double cards that make up thirteen), and would patiently watch me assemble and disassemble the pyramid over and over again. It wasn’t until today, as I am sitting here writing this that I realize her whole life was another form of solitaire.

All these stories aside, I would never be able to forget how profoundly she screamed at Rabbi Syme on Tuesday, even as her unvisited son’s body lay upstairs. How ferociously she protested that I “didn’t even know him.” How her small, weak, once beautiful face transformed before my eyes to the face of a demon; maggots crawling from the crevices, rot at every corner like a frantic, desperate, ghoul, before returning to the world again.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know him.
It was that they didn’t know me.
And that was more threatening than anything.

    “You know what Grandma? Let’s just say it.”

It was okay that she didn’t like me. It was alright that this was true— because first, I didn’t think much of dishonesty and she was rife with it, and second and more crucially, I wasn’t very likeable. Not to her.

    “Let’s just get it out in the open—none of you have ever really liked me.”

She looked at me, thunderstruck.
Her hands lay over her face impaled with horror.
That was when I saw it:
    Her hands.

Back then, when my extended family was still speaking to me, people were always coming up to me and remarking upon how greatly I resembled Edna. I suppose I’m aware now that that is no small compliment.
But I don’t see it.
Perhaps because I don’t want to, perhaps because I can’t see the beauty in myself that others do (demons that have nothing whatsoever to do with Edna), or perhaps because I never really knew her so cannot see her face in mine.

But we have the same hands.

There they were, covering her horror-struck, once beautiful face, completely in awe of the fact that her granddaughter had just taken it there.

Small, with large palms and fingers prone to swelling, nail beds like a child’s, dry cuticles, skin baby soft, and subtly expressive. They looked as if they were created to work hard, to milk cows, to cook, freeze, and scrub. They were not long and lean, they were not what you see in magazines. They were the hands of a feminine warrior— the kind of hands jewelry looks out of place on, rings laugh, bracelets scoff, the hands too humble, too common looking to support the grandiosity of adornment. When I look down at my hands now it is undeniable— I see her clumsily cutting onions, I see her coaxing immaculate, expressive birds out of marble, I see her wrinkles and age and know that “there is nothing wrong with that.”

Oh Edna, I did not know you, and there are terrorist cells more nurturing than you.
But I have your hands.

       And that is the possibility of something.

11 November, 2012

The World Rejoices as Richard Schiff Releases Alexandra Silber's "The West Wing Song"

Richard Schiff puts a knife to "The West Wing Song"
The final update. Over and out.

By David Gordon • New York City

After a truly nail-biting two weeks, Glengarry Glen Ross star Richard Schiff, perhaps best known as Toby Ziegler on the hit NBC drama The West Wing, has released his hostage.
Broadway and West End veteran Alexandra Silber's "The West Wing Song," with lyrics set to W.G. Snuffy Walden's Emmy-winning West Wing theme, found its way back into society on Sunday, November 11, shortly before 11:30am.
Over the past two weeks of the hostage situation, Silber and Schiff's Twitter followers and famous friends lobbied for the song's safe return. West End stage actress Emma Williams submitted this poem , written in iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets. Tony Award-nominee Manoel Felciano (Tobias in John Doyle's Sweeney Todd revival) submitted this acrostic sonnet . And, as TheaterMania reported, even Aaron Sorkin, the allegedly internet hating, Oscar and Emmy-winning creator of The West Wing, joined the good fight.
Silber believes her confessional video is required watching before you view the original "The West Wing Song" in all its glory below.

29 October, 2012

The Gentleman's Daughter

On some days Shura was ordered to clear the courtyards, other times she was made to haul logs, draw water, or to hew wood for kindling and stack them uniform as soldiers; and if the logs were not hearty, the water not clear enough, the wood not placed sufficiently in tight, symmetrical piles, she was ordered (in a tone colder than the temperatures she endured) to do it again.

Shura worked. Slogged. Waited.
Waiting was another hell of the convict.
It had its many depths.

Recently, however, Shura had been turning in her hard labor and working many a late night in The Gentleman’s office.


Shura knelt scrubbing mold from the lavatory basins when The Gentleman approached her from behind.
    “Hello” he said, in his distinctive, quiet voice.
    "Good day, Sir."
He was holding a pamphlet he shook lightly as he declared,
    “The guards say your Russian has become quite impressive, Shura.”
    “I have always had a talent for language, Sir.”
Shura saw language like a puzzle to be put together, her instincts always leading her to the absolutely correct next piece as it locked into place.     
    “—And that you do not merely speak, but read and write. Is that so?”
    “I do not think that my husband," she smiled, "would have it any other way.”
It was true, Mikhail made certain Shura could speak, read and write Russian, not merely for her own good, but because he could not have quelled her insatiable questioning if he tried.
The Gentleman stepped closer and handed her the pamphlet,
    “Would you care to demonstrate?”    

She would work while moths, beetles, snow and wind all beat against the November-colored windows as she transcribed, scribbled and translated. The hours were long and loathe at passing, but despite that she was of course quite comfortable in comparison to her prior tasks of drudgery. Besides, The Gentleman always provided her with hot tea, a fire, and, though modest in appearance, a cushioned chair. Yet even as she finished and put away each paper, there always seemed to be something else — just one more task in need of completion.

She shared the tasks with another girl whose name she understood to be called Sarangerel (she learned to be the Mongolian for 'moon-light,') though was always known to everyone simply as, Ana.

Ana always sat beside The Gentleman’s desk at a squat little table of her own; posture determinedly upright as she wrote endlessly on page after page of import and export, entry and discharge documents in handwriting as precise as religion and just as scrupulous. She was small, body rigid, relentless in its productivity, with a manner so reserved she seldom spoke.

Ana was in fact none other than The Gentleman’s daughter.

Perhaps it was due to his overly protective stance that she remained so silent — he kept her close and unvisited, forbidding anyone to speak to her; not only the prisoners but to fellow sentries, guards and keepers; and soon she had managed to learn a life of silence so effective she scarcely seemed fussed by the conversation kept from her by a imperceptible paternal boundary.

Shura had heard whispers that Ana was a mix of local races, and she did indeed possess a composition of features Shura had never seen before in her life, had never known possible! So unusual were her qualities that at times she could not help but stare upon her workmates’ tawny skin tone, her small, flat nose, the height of her cheeks, the prominence and beauty of her bones. Her face was shaped like a heart and clothed in a light headscarf—not as Shura would have worn secured beneath the nape of her neck, but wrapped under and below her chin in what the Russians called the babushka (or "grandmother") style.

The night was dark as tar. And quiet, still as anything. Shura thought she could hear her heart beating beneath her shawl when all at once Ana looked up and nodded silently toward her, unsmiling.

A scrap of blackest hair was swept across her forehead resting like a perfect leaf, as her lean brows framed her completely foreign eyes — not only foreign, but ferocious: articulating a universe of strength and intelligence, and so piercing a blue they betrayed in every way the blood connection to her father...

Oh judicious blood, thought Shura, to select so striking a quality…

26 October, 2012

"Glengarry's Richard Schiff is Holding Broadway's Alexandra Silber Hostage?"

Conspirators: Babani, Schiff and Silber
So.... things have gotten a liiiiiiittttle out of control. But man: is it fun. So, as readers, you have all heard me kvell about my "West Wing Song" over the years-- some of you have witnessed the performance of it live. 

But the other night? The other night I met Richard Schiff (and, after a delightful and truly lovely evening discussing everything) our mutual friend "outed" me-- and the SONG WAS SUNG. And perhaps... juuuuust perhaps it was video taped... the rest? The rest is "Twistery..."
* * *
From TheaterMania.com
By Editorial Staff • Oct 26, 2012 • New York City

Glengarry, Glen Ross star Richard Schiff has gone mad with power...on Twitter.The award-winning actor, perhaps best known for his performance as Toby Ziegler on The West Wing, reportedly has a video of Broadway and West End veteran Alexandra Silber singing the hit TV series' theme song, with lyrics she composed herself.
(The original "The West Wing Song," used during the series' opening credits, was a word-less W.G. Snuffy Walden overture.)
Silber recently attended the Glengarry revival and, following the performance, sang the song for Schiff, who documented it on film. Schiff has said he will release the video, but not until an appropriately belligerent amount of demand for it appears on Twitter.
"I will play #TWW song (recorded it) but only after intense tweet demand," Schiff Tweeted.
She wrote the song as a college student in Glasgow, Scotland, watching the series on DVD with her then-boyfriend. "We basically developed The West Wing Song, the one of such glory and more, with harmonies, with different versions for each season, and we would look forward to the first 30 seconds of each episode to sing it." (The lyrics, she notes, "are basically the names of the actors sung in alphabetical order," with the music.)
Since Schiff and Silber first posted about it, demand has skyrocketed, and Silber's Broadway comrades are also getting into the act:
"Dear @richard_schiff, We have never met but I feel confident we will be besties 4ever if you just post @alsilbs singin dat West Wing song," wrote Julia Murney.
"He has all the power," Silber added, "and he's clearly enjoying his power."
So we're sending out a call to arms and demanding a release of the video. Tweet them @richard_schiff and @alsilbs with the hashtag #TWWSong.
Next move is on you, Schiff.

* * *
Sorkin's Ransom shot


The Hollywood Reporter reports, THIS JUST IN:

"The Newsroom" creator tweets twice, posting a photo and asking for actress Alexandra Silber's rendition of "The West Wing" theme song.

We're now waiting for reports of pigs flying.
In what can only be described as the biggest "You cannot be serious" moment the Twittersphere has experienced in a long time, Oscar-winning screenwriter and The Newsroom creator, Aaron Sorkin has finally joined Twitter.

Sorkin has repeatedly scoffed at joining social networks in the past, even though he briefly had a Facebook page during the writing process of the The Social Network.
"I have a lot of opinions on social media that make me sound like a grumpy old man sitting on the porch yelling at kids," Sorkin said at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2011.

The unexpected move was confirmed on Twitter by former The West Wing actor Richard Schiff.
Schiff tweeted: "It's out. Yes, Aaron sent me word that it is indeed him. On to demand #TWWSong  // @leenie909  @aaronsorkin  @lawrence  @joshmalina  @dulehill."

Sorkin has only tweeted twice since joining the social networking service, posting his first tweet on October 26.

His first tweet featured a photograph of himself holding The New York Times from that day standing in front of posters of The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The photo is posted below.

Sorkin's second tweet was to Schiff, who played Tobey Ziegler on The West Wing and who's currently on Broadway in the revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross.

Sorkin tweeted: "@richard_schiff: Other than 18 hrs/day for 7 years I've never asked for anything. I want the A. Silber cover. #TWWSong @alsilbs."

According the TheaterMania, the tweet is in reference to Schiff's recording of actress Alexandra Silber's rendition of The West Wing theme song, complete with lyrics she composed herself. Schiff recorded Silber performing the song and is claiming to only release it after there's enough Twitter demand for it.

Schiff is using the hashtag #TWWSong to monitor the Twitter requests.
Whether we'll hear or see anything from Sorkin again on Twitter is yet to be seen. Sorkin could not be reached for comment.

Needless to say, does anyone know the temperature of Hell these days?

10 October, 2012

"Love Means..." A Two-Show Day With Love Story, the Musical Stars Will Reynolds and Alexandra Silber

"Spend a day at Philly's Walnut Street Theatre with Alexandra Silber and Will Reynolds, who star in the American premiere of Love Story, the Musical. Follow them en route to the theatre and learn the various methods and exercises required to bring Jenny Cavilleri and Oliver Barrett IV to life."

"Well hello Playbill. Alexandra ('Al') Silber and Will Reynolds here, straight from Philadelphia's historic Walnut Street Theatre," said the pair in a joint statement. "For us, playing Jenny 'snotty Radcliffe bitch' Cavilleri and Oliver 'preppy Harvard bastard' Barrett IV-- lovers of such notoriety-- has been a tall order, but also nothing short of a joy."
"That said:

  • 1. Interestingly, it is in fact, *not* always sunny in Philadelphia.
  • 2. It HAS been 'hot as hell-- in Philadel-PHIA.'
  • 3. This show isn't about 'brotherly love...'
  • 4. Love DOES mean having to say you're sorry. All. The. Time."
The full Playbill article is here.

08 October, 2012

In My Life: Will

Will Reynolds
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

30 September, 2012

I've Been...

visiting the oboe doctor with Lilly

driving to Philadelphia

seeing Max kill it as Che in Evita

turning 29

socializing my FACE off

going La Ronde "again"

going to the circus...

hearing lots of live music
       and performance art (like Orchestra 360 from the NY Phil)

spending quality time with true friends
and skyping with far away ones

opening up

falling in love with my f'usband Will Reynolds
and Philadelphia

Making friends and doing stuff

Seeing Newsies ...in the second row. Like a fangirl. 

falling in looooooove (with an actual clown...)
North American Premier of Love Story

Really gettin' into the City of Brotherly Love
Cheese-steak showdown

Reading  like a crazy library lady
  •      The Marriage Plot
  •      The Tipping Point
  •      Assassination Vacation
  •      Cloud Atlas

28 September, 2012

Things that are Free: A List

     and movies 
     and clothing... yay!

Hand holding

long meaningful talks




samples: WORD.

walks by the water 

the library


kick-ass museums, parks and beautiful buildings

taking joy in simple things. Joy is free.

the scenic route. 

the mint with the check
     and the mint on the pillow

23 September, 2012

Love Story - Production Highlights

Performance highlights from the production at Walnut Street Theatre. Please join us!

"Walnut Street Theatre opens its landmark 204th season with the American premiere of Erich Segal’s LOVE STORY, the musical. With direction and musical staging by Annabel Bolton, this emotionally charged production is a delicate story of life and love and is currening runningns through October 21st on the WST Mainstage. BroadwayWorld has a first look at the production below. Inspired by Erich Segal's best-selling iconic novel of the same name, and one of the most romantic films of all time, this life-affirming musical will have audiences remembering the first time they fell in love. When Oliver Barrett IV wanders into a library in search of a book, he discovers Jenny Cavilleri. They came from different worlds. He was a Harvard man, she was Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. But they fell in love. This is their story. Love Story, the musical originally premiered at Chichester's Minerva Theatre in June, 2010. In December of 2012, following a sell-out season at the Chichester Festival, the production transferred to the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. The show features music by Howard Goodall, book by Stephen Clark and lyrics by Clark and Goodall."

Read more: here!

20 September, 2012

18 September, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Interview with Howard Goodall

British composer (of musicals, choral music and televisual music) Howard Goodall (who also presents music-based programming for television and radio, and in May 2009 he was named "Composer of the Year" at the Classical BRIT Awards) takes us through the exciting process of creating the music for LOVE STORY, the musical, and shares his inspirations, as well as a favorite moment from the show (*which makes me very very happy*).

Also some sneaky little video clips!


12 September, 2012

Love Story - Opening Night

"Say that love's a bridge to cross an ocean..."

So hono(u)red to be opening the North American premiere of Love Story tonight in Philadelphia alongside my fictional husband, the wonderful Will Reynolds. It has been the greatest artistic experience of my career thus far.

More thoughts to come...

But tonight? My dear Emma Williams, this one is for you. xx

10 September, 2012

TomAYto TomAHto...

"Pasta!" - Emma Williams and Michael Xavier in the Original London Cast, and Will Reynolds and Alexandra Silber in the North American Cast as Jenny and Oliver.

All of them such wonderful friends too. 


01 September, 2012

75th Birthday

Today would have been my Dad's 75th birthday.

September is upon us now, and it heralds the coming of the nostalgic months, a time for reflection and thoughts of new beginnings...

Always a believer that everything happens for a reason, I can't help but sense that I have been presented with the story of Jenny Cavilleri at just the right moment-- on this, Michael Silber's 75th birthday, I am no longer focused on the grief of "being left behind,"but can rather identify with the uncanny peace and clarity of those that move onward.

Happy Birthday Papa.
"Oh the days dwindle down, to a precious few...
September... November...
And these few precious days
I'll spend with you.
These precious days
I'll spend with you..."
                   -- from "September Song"

13 August, 2012

Love Story Announcement

I am so (beyond) excited to officially announce my next theatrical adventure... 

From Playbill:
The American premiere of Love Story, the musical, based on the best-selling Erich Segal novel, will star Broadway and West End vet Alexandra Silber to play doomed co-ed Jenny Cavilleri in the American premiere of Love Story, The Musical at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre with Will Reynolds (Mamma Mia! on tour) as Oliver Barrett IV at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.
Direction and musical staging are by Annabel Bolton, who worked on the original English production. Performances begin Sept. 4 prior to a Sept. 12 opening for a run to Oct. 21 on the WST Mainstage.

The show — which premiered at Chichester's Minerva Theatre starring Emma Williams and Michael Xavier in June 2010 before moving to London's West End in December 2012 — features music by Howard Goodall, book by Stephen Clark and lyrics by Clark

"Inspired by Erich Segal's best-selling iconic novel of the same name, and one of the most romantic films of all time, this life-affirming musical will have audiences remembering the first time they fell in love," according to WST notes. "When Oliver Barrett IV wanders into a library in search of a book, he discovers Jenny Cavilleri. They came from different worlds. He was a Harvard man, she was Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. But they fell in love. This is their story."
 Musical and vocal direction are by Douglass G. Lutz. The creative team also includes set designer Peter McKintosh, lighting designer Shon Causer, costume designer Colleen Grady and sound designer Will Pickens. 

The cast includes Charles Pistone as Phil Cavilleri, Jane Labanz as Alison, Paul L. Nolan as Oliver Barrett III, plus Pierce Cravens, Lisa Marie Gargione, Sarah Gliko, Charles Hagerty, Danielle Herbert, John Jarboe and Scott Langdon.
For tickets and information, call (215) 574-3550 or (800) 982-2787. Tickets are also available by visiting WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.com

So... here's the thing. Emma Williams? The original Jenny Cavilleri in Chichester/London? Yeah, she is one of my very best friends. I remember listening to the demos for this musical way back in 2007. I remember weeping when I saw her play the role for the one single night I was in London at the beginning of 2011. When you love a character, it is a deeply personal thing to pass the baton to another player whom one can only hope will love and hono(u)r the creation as much as you have. Therefore it is quite a magical thing when one is given the opportunity to carry the torch for a person you admire and love beyond so many others.

This is going to be a very special one. Hope to see you there.

10 August, 2012

For the Love of Words

One thing no one ever tells you about death, is how awkward it is after the first week. Not for you—for other people. You have counted off an entire week of days one by one, and have most likely been swept into a flurry of activity surrounding memorials and relatives and been distracted by that flurry—making plans and picking people up from airports and cleaning your home so that people can see how clean your bathroom is in your darkest hour.

Then there is the tsunami of flowers, donations, pots of casserole, plus the cards and phone calls (all ranging from the shallowest to the deeply felt). There was what seemed to be a State Park forest of trees planted in Dad’s name in places we’d never heard of, and, if you can believe it, even a small, terribly special collection of sympathy emails.

Ten days after the funeral, the food and cards and letters and trees being planted in Wherever-a-stan-erica-ville all stopped coming. Fruit baskets began to rot. Homemade borsht went off in the refrigerator. The mail returned to its normal flow of bills and unsolicited advertisements. The mailbox would open and all one could hear was the crushing silence of other people moving on.

But then came the letter from Lady Chu.


Judy Chu to be precise, for that was her real name. Well into my senior year at Interlochen I was presented with a problem—I needed another liberal arts credit in order to graduate with highest academic honors, and as a fully fledged perfectionist I wasn’t about to let three intense acting scenes, a budding secret romance, Shakespeare’s wordiest heroine or a father with cancer stand in my way. I reported to the Admissions office to comb through my options.

The options were sparse.
    “What about Psychological Lit?” I asked the counselor, Kelly.
    “Full” she replied.
    “Political Process?”
    “You already took it” she said, narrowing her eyes at me, “last year…”
    “What is available?” I huffed, arms flinging upward.
    “British Literature” Kelly said, smiling broadly at my predicament.

The world was ending.

British literature, I winced, are you kidding me? I saw weeks of quippy Austen and dreary Brontë passages ahead of me. I couldn’t cope. I buried my head in my hands like a petulant child and realized this was not only my fate but my fault.
    “Who teaches it?” I inquired, hoping the answer would improve things—perhaps my favorite teachers taught it and I simply didn’t know it!
    “Judy Chu.”
    “...Who on earth is Judy Chu?”

Judy Chu, as it happened, was a young, energetic, year-long adjunct teacher from Southern California, brought in for a liberal arts teacher on sabbatical.

    “Apparently the students really loved her first semester,” Kelly explained, “and apparently her classes are very exciting. Enrollment is light because so many of you want to take the ‘greatest hits’ before you graduate— but you are a bit late to the party. Obviously.”
    “Obviously” I droned. 

I signed up and left the admissions office in a mood, reporting to third-period British Lit the following morning, to a class of eight other people.

Judy Chu began with a bright smile, and by asking each of us why we had enrolled in British Literature. Dear God, I thought, not wanting to admit the truth, and I think I squeezed past the issue by explaining that fate had brought me here.

But fate had brought me to Judy Chu. Her class became the most important literary experience of my life.

This thoughtful young teacher was tough but fair, with complex weekly handouts, and uncompromising standards for grammar, essay construction and literary criticism. Plus, I can honestly say she taught me everything I’ve nearly forgotten about punctuation, verb tenses and second person narrative.[1]

But nothing will ever expunge the greatest lesson and gift she gave me—Judy Chu taught me how to read, and perhaps more crucially, why. Lady Chu (which I named her myself, for she is a lady first, and a teacher second if you ask me and you are) was bibliophilic magic. She handed you a book and gave you special incantations required step inside the pages— like the children in Mary Poppins jumping inside Bert’s sidewalk chalk painting. That final semester of High School at Interlochen was just the beginning.

When she assigned Howards End, she blew my literary mind. The copy still sits proudly on my bookshelf adorned with well-thumbed pages, color-coded highlighting, and adorable teenaged margin notes (such as “Love is a ‘He’?” and “when you show your homeland to a foreigner how do you show it all?” and “Oh… more LIFE!” and, of course, “Is love the only way to connect?”). I can recall how much I loved it more with every turning page! The deeply-feeling Narrator, the poetry in the slightest of prose, the humanity, and of course, my beloved kindred spirit; Howards End’s heroine Margaret Schlegel. With every word Margaret uttered my heart leapt in recognition, for Margaret Schlegel lived in me.[2]  I didn’t dare to hope Judy Chu could see it too.

For Judy Chu, I think Interlochen must have been a marvel— a place of such artistic energy and possibility. She seemed inspired, impressed by and deeply cared about her students which was evident when I saw her in the audience of As You Like It. She met my Mom and Dad and shook their hands, exchanged smiles.

At the end of the year, Judy Chu bid Interlochen farewell, but not before leaving our tiny class with one final handout. The simple sheet of white paper quoted Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” and  T.H White’s Merlin (beckoning us to “learn”) on one side, a personalized note to every one of us on the other. I still have this piece of paper, for last on the list was my name with a very simple message:

Al:  You are Margaret Schlegel to me.


I stood outside in clothing I had worn for days. Beside the mailbox, in a light rain spitting down from a sheet-white sky I extricated a letter.  A small envelope about the size of my hand with  the mark of a black and red Chinese dragon traveling from back to front. I recognized the small, perfectly neat handwriting immediately.

Dear Al,

I know that you, with your strong, strong heart, shall see through pain to hope and prosper.

With love,

Judy Chu

I held the letter to my heart. It said so little, and meant so much.
I wrote back to say so. It would be the first of a lifetime of letters.
Letters to and from Judy Chu to every single address I would ever have in my adult life.

[1] I must say: I owe my love of Russian literature as well as my understanding of Objective correlative to Jean Gaede, and my love of words themselves to Howard Hintze.
[2] She still does.

ten years later at our annual "Only Connect" dinner at the address I now know by heart.

19 July, 2012

16 July, 2012

Jobs my friends have: A List

  • midwife / Douala
  • chef
  • sexual health educator
  • military intelligence
  • consultant
  • sommelier
  • principle oboe in the Chilean Philharmonic orchestra
  • lawyer
  • clown (actually... a few clowns...)
  • diplomat
  • diagnostician
  • many mums and dads! 
  • journalist 
  • limo driver
  • opera/wedding photographer
  •      wedding/food photographer
  •           theatrical photographer
  • stunt man
  • 3rd grade teacher 
  • English teachers (3)
  • award-winning drag queen
  • grant writer
  • spinal surgeon 
  • sound designer and engineer
  • nutritionist 
  • world-renowned cabaret diva
  • college professor (4)
  • literary agents
  •      theatrical agents
  •           opera agents
  • doctor of linguistics (working in dead and dying languages, attempting to maintain and develop worldwide programs to implement [or re-implement] native languages in their communities of origin.)
  • COUNTLESS actors,
  • singers,
  • musicians,
  • dancers,
  • visual artists,
  • performance artists,
  • composers,
  • writers,
  • acrobats,
  • directors,
  • designers,
  • producers,
  • production people. . . of course . . .

11 July, 2012

With your permission m'lady, I'd like to "La Ronde" again*...

About to embark on another exciting theatrical experiment! In early 2011 I participated in the Off Broadway revival of Hello Again by Michael John LaChiusa based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play, La Ronde, and I am so thrilled to announce I shall be joining one of my oldest friends and collaborators Michael Arden in his contemporary, Los Angeles-centered adaptation of the the piece as "The Actress."
Here is the info: 

* * *

Recently, Charlie Sheen indicated via Twitter that he was most definitely planning to attend a night of La Ronde, the adults-only LA theater experiment set for July 18-22. Not bad for a pilot production most people around town have yet to learn about...


Originally written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1897 and first printed in 1900 for his closest friends, Reigen, also known as La Ronde explores and scrutinizes the sexual morals and class ideology of its day through a series of encounters between pairs of characters (shown before or after a sexual encounter). Drawing from characters across all levels of society, the play offers social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class. In this production we take a look at these morals and ideologies as they reflect modern American culture.


One evening in July (18-22), people receive instructions to show up at a certain location in Hollywood not knowing who will be in the play, what's going to occur or where they might end up, simply knowing they must "Leave your inhibitions at home!" Only 12-14 people will watch each night’s performance, staged at at ten different locations where a cast of about a dozen actors, dancers and performers will put on the provocative live-performance pastiche.  

In this site-specific pilot workshop production of La Ronde, streets, insides of houses and places unimaginable become stages for a series of events not soon forgotten: a secret, sexy party planned just for you. A post-show soiree directly following each performance allows the audience to meet and mingle with the cast, creatives and fellow audience members. Make a friend... Take one home...

The small, invite-only, audience becomes a voyeur in the scenes, sometimes inches away from the performers. Utilizing storytelling through the mediums of music, dance, theater and even film, it is our goal to transport the audience literally and metaphorically through the private lives of the characters invented by Schnitzler and reinvented in 2012 Los Angeles.

* * *

*So, to off-quote the great Danny Kaye  from The Court Jester,

     "With your permission m'lady... I'd like to La Ronde again..."

03 July, 2012


It has become an annual tradition (with myself, and I do suppose with all of you) to share my birthday reflections. I must say, this year, both the day itself and the reflection has snuck up on me.

Hello there.

The atomic number of copper

The number of days in a lunar month

The track from which the Chattanooga Choo Choo train departs in the Glenn Miller song.

Saturn's number of years to orbit around the Sun

A beautiful prime number (technically the tenth prime number, a twin prime pair with thirty-one, the sixth Sophie Germain prime, a Lucas prime, a Pell prime, a Pillai prime, the 10th supersingular prime, and an Eisenstein prime!) Plus a tetranacci number. YO. 

The number of letters in the Turkish, Finnish, Swedish, Faroese, Danish and Norwegian alphabets.

"$29.00" - A on the album Blue Valentine by Tom Waits.

AND, the iiiiiiiiinfamous N-29 night bus that got me home so MANY a time from Central London all the way north to Wood Green. 


You know, every seven years we have a complete new body of cells-- our bodies are literally fully transformed, our cells completely turned over, a complete body chemistry change and a need for unfolding. Twenty-nine is the first step in external integration with the rest of the world. 
It is a cycle. 
It does not come to "get you." 
It comes to present you with an opportunity.

And every age has special things to be known, understood, and worked with. There is no time in your life that does not have validity.

This year I know I actually felt my cells turning over--every single one of them. My mind, my body, my outlook, my spirit, has been transformed. As I stand here, a new body, a new self, I also realize that for the last 20 years or so, I have been in "survival" mode: frankly, using achievement and a driving sense of life purpose to keep away pain and fear.

I am no longer surviving. This year (through particularly uncomfortably difficult inner work), I healed those wounds. I am moving into a phase of life where I can expect more than survival. I can choose to thrive. To build a positive life, throw light along the dark and unknown tunnel of the future full of the knowledge that there is nothing to fear that I have not already met, seen and conquered.

...That is the best birthday gift of all.
To look ahead with such extraordinary inner peace...
              and excitement. 

29 June, 2012

Hello Again [NOT] at Circle in the Square

The genius that comes from yet another Hello Again email chain...

27 June, 2012

Ask Al: Contemporary Speeches

Every once in a while I get emails from people asking for help or for advice. With their permission, I always think it is helpful to share these Q&As with everyone just in case any of you have the same questions out there.

This on was from a young woman about to audition for drama school in the UK.

* * *

Hey Al,

...Loved your blog on Auditions but is there any chance that you could recommend a couple of contemporary speeches? I have an audition for Mountview coming up and am struggling to find something.


* * *

Dear A,

The best I can offer you is to think about a "type" you fit. Think about a film actor whose personality/type represents the truest sense of you--your essence, a kind of kernel of your inner self. It is important that you distinguish the difference between
     who/what you want to be
but dig deep and think about
and also importantly,  
This takes a fair bit of self-awareness and sometimes quite strict self assessment.
And Dude: it can be brutal.

So. Sometimes I play a game with students when I am teaching that attacks this issue with a bit of whimsy (that's right, I just said whimsy)-- I ask them what Muppet they think they are. [*She pauses a moment for you to take that in....*] This covers all the Jim Henson canon from your straight up Muppet movies to Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock and beyond. Go for gold, people! Then we sit in a circle and WE TALK IT OUT AS A GROUP. Yes. Like, as in, yep-I-am-aware-this-is-higher-education-acting-class-and-we're-supposed-to-be-discussing-Meyerhold-but-let's-talk-Muppets-instead kind of talk. Real, serious, gritty talk.
For over two hours.

Things progress thus:

Blonde Guy: I think I am Animal.
Al: Okay, great. Why?
Blonde Guy: Because I don't like to say a lot, but I like to act out. 
Al: Alright. Is that it? 
Blonde Guy: What do you mean? 

Then we talk about how he is so much more than just that one sentence, and how actually, he just wants to be Animal because, let's face it-- Animal is awesome.

Then things continue:

Al: So what do you guys think of Blonde Guy as Animal?
Dark-Lipstick Girl: I dunno.
Al: Why?
Dark-Lipstick Girl: I see him more as Bert from Seasame Street.
Blonde Guy: WHAT?!
Al: Why do you say that Dark-Lipstick Girl?
Dark-Lipstick Girl: Because even though I agree he is quiet and can act out at times, I think it comes from a sort of adorable "fussiness" that reminds me a lot of Felix from The Odd Couple-- you know, the way you like to have all your pencils in a special order, and the way you dress so impeccably even for movement class and the way you never like to get sticky?! THAT IS TOTALLY BERT!

[flabbergasted and thoughtful, Blonde Guy thinks this over...]

Blonde Guy: Is all of that true?
Al: No. The pencil thing is true. I don't really want to know if the sticky thing is true. But ultimately, the character behaviors are only ever a reflection of what is happening inside. The person's essence moves them to make certain choices. So. No, it is what they perceive to be true.
Blonde Guy: I am Bert?!
Al: Look. I need you to breathe. I'm not trying to crush your Animal dreams here. You could be a little bit of Bert as well as Animal. We could throw in a healthy side dish of Prairie Dawn if you're feeling frisky. That's possible. These people might not know you as well as you or they think they do.
Blonde Guy: ...I guess I am a little bit like Bert. I didn't know people saw me that way.
Al: Well...that is what this whole incredibly ridiculous exercise is about.

Yeeeeeep. That's why they pay me the big bucks people: to get real about Muppets (and to sing loud, cry on cue and throw tarot cards at Danny Pino's head...of course.).

Now. Just so we're clear, this is genuinely a helpful exercise for any kind of material because it is important for us to understand our strengths and natural abilities, as well as the things we need to work on. I make it about Muppets because it is non-threatening and creates a levity in the classrooms of the English speaking world's most serious acting environments...and also because I love the Muppets...duh

But the exercise can be as "Oprah Aha-moment" as you deem it necessary to be. Get a journal. Talk it out with your close pals. But be prepared for a few surprises. Proceed with caution.

This knowledge, incidentally, is not always as important for classical material because naturally there will be an acting adjustment made for the time period, heightened language, etc. Contemporary stuff is deceptively challenging because you have to be your in touch with your natural, present-day self in a different set of contemporary circumstances. (This naturally applies to all acting, but these discrepancies can be ever more evident in contemporary work.)

For instance, the second I came to grips with the fact that I am a "Meg Ryan" a whole world of contemporary stuff opened up for me....

Now what the hell does that mean, exactly? I'm a well-read, highly educated neurotic American young woman with a penchant for word-sparring, situational and physical comedy that turns on a dime to become deeply affecting and emotionally serious, usually about matters of the heart. Bazinga. Obviously there are other actors out there that fit this category, and I draw from them too-- but mostly, I'm a Meg Ryan. (I'm also a Valerie Harper).
Whatever. It's a place to start.

Once you have this figured out, then, start by adapting a speech from one of their films. It is just a place to start. You can branch out from there. I find contemporary speeches very difficult (let's just take one little look at my professional work thus far and you will see that I pretty much always cry and wear corsets-- that is a strength of mine). So, when the contemporary going gets tough, I steal from Meg Ryan films. My RSAMD showcase scene was from French Kiss. It was a hit.

Oh, and for contemporary, my advice (particularly in the UK where this issue can get hairy) is to stick to your own accent. It is just better in a million ways. As you begin to feel more at ease with the genre, you can branch out and try other stuff. But always begin "close to home."

End of the day, do something you know you are going to rock at no matter what it is... even if it is from, like, Evil Dead 2, Felicity, or something you patched together from The Corrections.

That's my advice. I hope it's helpful.


* * *

Honestly, that is possibly the best advice I've been given! Thank you, will let you know what I end up doing! Just got to work out my type- feel plenty of discussion will ensue.


07 June, 2012

I did it.


...over and out. 


Related Posts with Thumbnails