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Archive for November, 2009

New York City: Day 101

Yes. This makes me smile. Partly because I take deep comfort in the fact that someone else in the world dances as awkwardly as I do.

Now it’s off to rehearsal with me before a reunion with my favorite poet.

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Catching a good wind.

New York City: Day 100

Day 100? How have I possibly been a resident of this city for 100 days? It seems impossible that it’s been that long. It seems impossible that it’s been that short. Time just isn’t what it used to be. Whether that’s the fault of the city or it’s the fault of some other force at work is difficult to say.

The break slipped away so quickly. It seems like 30 seconds ago that I was kissing The Poet goodbye at the subway station and already I’m packing up my bag in preparation for tomorrow’s classes. Honestly. Where did it go? I spent the first half of the break in the company of friends, but I’ve largely reverted to the hermit version of myself for the last two days. My weekend consisted of reading, writing and researching with the occasional distraction by way of documentary.

I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy doing research. I did a good deal of digging a few weeks ago at the beginning of the rehearsal process for Each Day Dies With Sleep, but between my current project and the Theatre History papers I have due tomorrow, my days have been wonderfully research-laden. I spent a fair amount of time yesterday sorting through photographs taken in a small town in Wisconsin in the 1890’s by a doctor who purchased a camera from the local newspaper– Ada brushing her hair. Everetta with a doll. Everetta holding her baby brother. A girl wading into the river.       Stunning images.

Today, though, has been largely devoted to somehow boiling down all of my research into three coherent papers on Euripides’ Hippolytus, Racine’s Phèdre, and O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms. Major kudos to my Theatre History professor for grouping these three together. By looking at the three plays as a triptych and coming to understand how they act in conversation with each other or, conversely, pull away from each other has offered me a much clearer view of each play as it stands individually. Sadly, I was seriously lacking in originality by the time I started work on my third paper: a production concept for Racine’s play largely pulling from The Graduate. We live in a society that seems to glorify “The Cougar”. I thought it might be interesting to see what could have happened if Ben had rejected Mrs. Robinson’s advances. What happens when that sort of relationship goes horribly awry? Yeah. I thought that might be interesting. Then I realized that I was just tired and, subsequently, lazy and unoriginal. Sea-monsters can be summoned to kill sons in upper-class 1960’s California, right?

Side-note: While I was researching, I found out that Mike Nichols said once in an interview that the final stunned look from Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross on the bus came after he’d been screaming and screaming at them to laugh. They laughed, then stopped, scared by the way they’d been yelled yet. Nichols kept the shot. Happy accidents.

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Blame the tryptophan.

I just ate pecan pie for breakfast.

New York City: Day 98

I’m choosing to ignore the fact that it’s Black Friday. Black Friday scares me and I want nothing to do with it. So, I’m celebrating… Friday. Happy Friday, all. I hope that Thanksgiving found everyone happy, healthy, and full.

Thanksgiving in New York City couldn’t have been more wonderful. On Wednesday night, Jacob, Todd, Michelle and I made our way out to Ashley’s apartment in Astoria for a Thanksgiving Eve spaghetti dinner. We were soon followed by Evangeline, Andreas, and Jacqueline.  At some point during the cooking process, Michelle and I ventured out into Astoria and came back with a five dollar bottle of wine. Because that’s how MFA Actors do Thanksgiving Eve spaghetti dinners. It was a late evening full of red wine and Cranium.

Yesterday morning, we all met at the crack of dawn to get a good place for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We had a fantastic spot– right next to the Winter Garden Theatre between 50th and 51st. The parade was spectacularly fun. There was much shouting, dancing, and laughing to be done.

Perhaps my favorite part of the parade was listening to the family from Brooklyn in front of us. At one point, the daughter turned to the mother and said, “Hey look, Ma! That’s the Days of our Lives float.” Mom freaked out. “Oh my gawd! OH MY GAWD! WOOOOO! …what? Am I the only person who likes this show? WOOOOOO! …nobody likes this show!” Then Pop stepped in. “Sue? What the hell are you yelling about?! Will you please calm down?” She explained, “Look! That’s that actor I was telling you about! The one who I think is just SOOOO… talented.” There was a hunky man riding the float. It went like that for awhile. “WOOOO!” and “SUSAN! You NEED to calm down!” Finally, she took out her phone and started making phone calls to her friends about the Days of our Lives float and the oh so talented actor it carried. Papa Brooklyn just shook his head very angrily.

After seeing Santa Claus coming down 7th Avenue, we all headed back to Astoria to start some cooking. Angie and Ashley had gone ahead of us. Then Michelle, Jake, and Todd managed to squeeze on a 1 train. Andreas and I ran down the length of the train looking for a car we could squeeze into. No such luck. Michelle just waved sadly goodbye as the doors closed and the train slid away. When Andreas and I finally did make it to 42nd Street, we found the rest of the group still waiting for the N/W. Michelle and I may or may not have sung the chorus of “Reunited”. It did feel so good…

Back in Astoria, the cooking began. Ashley took responsibility for the bird. Andreas made the mashed potatoes, while Angie took care of the sweet potatoes. Michelle made deviled eggs and stuffing and something green that I’m not so sure about. Todd, Jacob, and I mainly just did what we were told. There were big plans about making hats out of construction paper while the meal was cooking, but someone started to open Heinekens and hand them around. At just about the same time, someone started pouring scotch and hand those around, too. So, that’s what happened instead of construction paper hats. It was a sweet idea, Michelle.

The meal was divine. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was easily the best turkey I have ever had. I don’t have the slightest idea what Ashley did to that bird, though I heard someone mumbling something about lots and lots of butter. Whatever she did, it was delicious. So delicious and so tryptophan-laden, in fact, that I may or may not have dosed off during the meal. It’s not as bad as it sounds. We weren’t all sitting down to eat at the table. There isn’t any furniture is Ashley’s apartment (which I love) so we were all laying on the floor while we stuffed our faces. I decided to close my eyes for two minutes. It was a very long two minutes. Everyone else followed suit. It was an amazingly pleasant few hours of eating and napping and eating and napping.

A few movies later, it was dessert time. Pie, pie, more pie and champagne. While I was enjoying my second slice of pumpkin pie, The Poet called from Ohio. He told me about the holiday in Clarksville and I made it clear that I was holding down the fort back in the city. I’m happy that he’s getting to spend time with his family, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss that boy like crazy.

It was a beautiful holiday. There are so many things to be grateful for, but this Thanksgiving, I was especially grateful to my wonderful friends here. Round two begins tonight. Bethany and her husband, Pat, are hosting a Black Friday Leftovers Party. Until then, there are Theatre History papers that need to be written before Monday. Graduate school, you don’t let up, do you?

Who am I kidding? I love it.

(More Thanksgiving Pictures can be viewed here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2156527&id=33305394&l=861f108ed6 )

 

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You are what you love.

I’ve laughed so much this week. And it’s only Tuesday. Beautiful.

New York City: Day 95

I left my apartment a bit earlier than usual on Monday so that I could sit in Abingdon Square for awhile before Theatre History began. After finishing up School for Scandal, I headed down Bank Street only to told that classes were canceled. I was angry. In high school and even in undergrad, I probably would’ve done an awkward little dance at the idea of a cancelled class. Don’t misunderstand me– I’ve always loved school, but every now and then an unexpected break from lectures seemed miraculous. That wasn’t the case yesterday. I’d spent the morning very excited to talk about Comedy of Manners and, damnit, I was going to talk about Comedy of Manners!

So. The New School for Drama is a part of a complex called Westbeth. In the 60’s, the complex was built as affordable artist housing. I’m told it’s the largest living and working facility for artists in the world and the only federally funded artists’ housing in the United States. Apparently, there’s a 10 year wait for an apartment in the complex. I’m also told that Vin Diesel and Robert Di Nero both grew up in Westbeth. It’s home to lots of residential space, many art and rehearsal studios, a few small theatres, the Brecht Forum (where we often have rehearsals for Co-Lab), the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, a gay and lesbian synagogue, a beautiful little courtyard… and us: The New School for Drama.

All of that to say… there was no running water in the entire Westbeth complex on Monday. And, since we are a part of Westbeth, there was so drinking water and no working toilets. As a result, the school legally had to cancel classes. Gary made it clear that, though he was holding class, we weren’t required to stay. But we all did. Not a single member of the cohort left. Good thing, as it was a great class. Theatre History, the things you do to me…

Today was another great day of classes. We did a good amount of work on our ‘s’ sounds in Neutral American Speech this morning. It was a toothpick and peppermint oil kind of day, to be sure. Afterwards, we learned how to walk in Alexander Technique. (Yes, you read that correctly.) It’s really amazing how much the Alexander work is influencing my daily life. I feel as though I breathe much more deeply. I no longer have any back pain. And (crazy!) I feel taller. Chalk it up to lengthening and widening. We spent our time in Vocal Production choreographing the rest of our Greek Chorus. I’ve got some fantastic lines in there– “First on Athene I call! O, Zeus-born goddess, defend!” Time to break out the Big Girl Voice.

After my morning classes, I met The Poet for lunch at Bus Stop Cafe. I’ve tried (though not very hard) to save trips to Bus Stop for Fridays in between Co-Lab and Chekhov, but it’s becoming a favorite lunch spot for Chris and I. My bank account’s telling me that we’ll soon be making a return to PB&J’s and Poptarts in Abingdon Square for lunch, but that’s not so terrible. There aren’t many places I love more than Abingdon Square. After lunch, we browsed the bookshop on Bleeker Street before wandering the Village for awhile. The shop owner was really eager to tell us about how he met his wife, who he will have known for 40 years this December. I didn’t quite catch the whole story– something about his buddy wanting to borrow is car– a canary yellow ’66 something or other– and this buddy introducing him to a girl. “She was the prettiest thing I ever saw.” All this because he’d seen me laughing while he told another customer why he got into the book business. “There was a bookshop by my house that only hired pretty girls, so of course, I offered to load the trucks for them.” Ha.

Stanislavski this afternoon was quite the laughter-filled class. I’d been expressing to Kathy that I couldn’t figure out how to laugh heartily on cue for Each Day Dies With Sleep. In what ended up being a successful attempt to provide me with some technique, Kathy had the whole class in stitches. After class, the giggling just got silly. As a nod to the upcoming holiday, our laughter somehow morphed into us mimicking turkeys ready for the slaughter. Don’t ask.

In other news, Thanksgiving Break has officially begun. For various reasons, six of us actor-types are staying in New York City for the holiday. And, while I’m missing my family terribly and would love to be in Dallas or Atlanta or Tampa, I’m also really excited about our Orphan Thanksgiving. The festivities are scheduled to begin tomorrow night at Ashley’s. We’re all heading to Astoria with our sleeping bags, movies, footed pajamas and wine for what promises to be a pretty fantastic Spaghetti Night/Sleepover. On Thursday morning, we’re all getting up early, filling our thermoses with cider, and staking our claim on a good spot on the parade route. After the parade, it’ll be back to Astoria for the meal. And it’ll be a real Thanksgiving meal, too! Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pie– the works. Bring on the tryptophan!

So, if Thursday finds you watching the parade on tv, be on the look-out for some representation from The New School for Drama, Cohort 2012. We’ll be the ones in costume. Not really. (But, maybe.)

Well. Zeytuna is having a sale on pie. Is it time to jump-start the festivities? Oh, I think so.

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Should we all go ahead and ignore the fact that I’ve been absent from blogland for over a month? Ok, great.

New York City: Day 92

Fall in New York City is unbearably beautiful. I can’t help but grin every morning walking to school. I especially love the mornings after a rain when the leaves are all clinging wet to the ground. It looks like the sidewalks are bright yellow and red. It’s late in November, but we’ve been lucky so far– winter hasn’t really begun to creep in yet. Though it’s still relatively nice out, I’m starting to have nightmares about walking to 151 Bank Street in the dead of winter with that wind cutting through the buildings from the river. Nightmares. The river is only a stone’s throw from our building and the second and third year students are already telling horror stories about the icy air it pushes down Bank Street. It may be time to start looking for one of those giant and oh-so-fashionable puffy coats…

Life as an MFA Acting student has recently taken a turn for the insane. There was a time not so long ago that I thought, “I just want a script in my hands!” And now I have three. These days, if I’m not in class, I’m in rehearsal. If I’m not in class or rehearsal, I’m somewhere thinking about class or rehearsal. Or somewhere reading about class or rehearsal. Or somewhere working on things for class or rehearsal. Or somewhere trying to fall asleep where I’ll probably dream about class or rehearsal.

And, truth to tell, sometimes having these scripts in my hands makes me want to cry. I’m incredibly excited to be working, but I’m at a point in my process where I’m starting over and I feel like I don’t know the first thing about acting. I got here three months ago and was asked to forget everything I thought I knew. Check. Now there are scripts. And directors. And rehearsals. And choices to be made. …and it all feels a bit overwhelming.

That being said, I think it’s going to feel all the more miraculous when everything clicks. Yesterday in rehearsal for Each Day Dies With Sleep, it started to. A little, at least. God bless our director, Melissa, for her patience. We started coming at the piece from a different angle yesterday. At first, I was terrified, but I had Kathy Rossetter’s voice in my head saying, “Shoot now, ask questions later…”, so I ran with it. Or tried to. I’m going to have to rethink a lot of my sensory work, but there was a moment after one of the runs yesterday that I thought, “Oh! This is how this works!”  Little tiny pieces of all of my new training started to connect. The trick for me is going to be not getting completely frustrated when my Alexander training and my Stanislavski training and my vocal training and my Chekhov training don’t immediately all work together like magic. But I can feel things slowly beginning to gel. And that does feel a little magical.

Aside from Nelly in Each Day Dies with Sleep, I’m also working with Isreal on some work from Gemini for Stanislavski. On top of that, the final productions for Co-Lab have begun! I’m pretty enamored with the concept for the final project– The playwrights have been working for weeks, each writing a play about what happened (or what could have happened) on their parents’ first date. I’m working with Karen on Daniel Pearle’s play, Stars and Planets, which features original music by Mr. Pearle. Music rehearsal yesterday morning was a blast. And, I’ve got to say, starting to sing again after some of Keith Buhl’s training feels pretty fantastic.

Work on Daniel’s play finds me this morning deep in Yale tradition. I just learned “Bright College Years”. Then I spent some time learning “The Mory’s Song” and figuring out the layout of the campus. Mariah and I are going to research soon. And by “research”, I mean we’re going to go hang out at The Dead Poet and pretend to be Columbia students studying Museum Anthropology and Russian Literature.

I love being an actor.

In other news, Katie Consamus, the love of my life, came to New York two weeks ago. Seeing her was a much-needed breath of fresh air. We wandered around the Village, drank entirely too much coffee, got cupcakes at Magnolia’s, saw a show at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, found ourselves tangled up in a scam of a show in Central Park, met up with Ms. Sellner for cocktails– it was a pretty fantastic weekend. I couldn’t have been more heartbroken when she left. While I don’t miss the angst surrounding the year that we spent brooding and drinking black coffee, I miss Katie Consamus pretty fiercely. Finish that MFA now, Famous, and hurry to New York!

In other news, I cut Chris’ hair on Wednesday night. Before we’d set up shop in the bathroom of 16C, I was feeling an unwarranted confidence. The only time I’ve ever cut someone’s hair was when I buzzed Hammill’s during my freshman year at SLU. There was no buzzing to be done here. Only actual cutting. With an actual pair of scissors. And not even hair-cutting scissors. Just a pair of rather dull craft scissors that I’ve had since I left for college. After I made the first cut, panic set in. Chris just sat very calmly reading his book. His excessive calm only served to amplify my unease. But, once again, I decided to shoot first and ask questions later. And it turned out pretty ok, if I do say so myself. Good job, self.

Life in the dorms continues to be farcical. I’m a 22-year-old college graduate and I’m sleeping in a kitchen. I haven’t abandoned the thought of storing books in the oven since it doesn’t work. Speaking of books, there’s much reading to be done now and the Seaport’s calling my name.

But before I leave, I will update regularly again, I will update regularly again, I will update regularly again. There. Now I have to.

And, if there’s any interest, this is what November in New York City looks like: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2155106&id=33305394&l=2060f45c7e

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