Archive for Curtain Up

Make Friends with the Truth

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a show.
I haven’t really talked about it, not because this is something I’m not liking. Quite the opposite.
I just know that the timing won’t be convenient for anyone to come see it. It’s not something groundbreaking or huge for my career. But it is something that is affecting me.

On Wednesday, I opened in a production of Singin’ Wid a Sword in my Han. You’ve most likely never heard of it. And this will be presented in libraries across Harlem, so there will be no fanfare about it.
I’ll be playing a slave.
Well, a slave will be principal among the parts I play in the show.
And I doubt I’m the first Black-tress to have initial reservations on playing such a role.
I think of Cicely Tyson when I reflect on it.
Miss Cicely is the picture of dignity and pride for a Black actor. Over a career spanning what, 50 years, she has never played a slave, a maid or any of the roles that used to be meant strictly for us.

Every actor knows Hattie McDaniel said, “I’d rather play a maid than be one.” Yeah, it pays more, but others like to judge you because of it. So, I was hesitant when this role first came up. And yes, being paid for it was part of the convincing to take it on. But after the reading the story, I kept asking myself, “don’t the people in these anecdotes of history deserve to be heard?” The stereotypical slave dialect, (which was really just the way most people talked then), the “yassuh” and working in the fields. All of it is history we “know,” but we desperately don’t want to be reminded of.
These are the things I’ve been wrestling with.

But there is (as always) SO much more to the story than that. More than just the shame-inducing stories of rape and abuse and sub-human treatment.
These were people of a stock that found ways to not just survive and endure. They took that scraps they were thrown and made quilts.
The books that were used to punish them, they took and turned it into knowledge.
And they took the pieces of the past that they were adamantly denied and somehow, weaved them into a future, stretching FAR beyond anything any of them could see.
That’s what I take away from this. And I have the cast, the author and the director to thank for that.

I would do this play again in a heartbeat, and pray that maybe this time, I’ll do it justice.

I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So

I live deep in the world of struggling actors, and it is a world. (Seriously, we could secede and start our own country.)

And every once in a while, we beat the odds just a little bit and get the ever elusive job. And when that happens, we want to do everything we can to KEEP that job. Especially, when nothing has been signed, filmed or guaranteed.

Once, long ago, I got a job and lost it in a matter of a week, before I so much as stepped into a rehearsal. Long story and it’s easy come, easy go, I guess. But ever since then, I’ve been very superstitious about work.

So far this year, I’ve gotten a couple of jobs that have made me happy AND given me the experience I need. And now, there’s one in the works that I’m going to be so excited about… when I can actually say something about it. 🙂
I can only hope there’s more on the horizon.

Did you say something, Maggie?

Oh!

So, a friend of mine had an extra ticket to a Broadway show.

Free matinee. Whoo!

She took me to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Scarlett Johanson.

Hmmm…

Yeah.

Now, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on Tennessee Williams.

However, one thing that I’ve noticed is that in a Williams play, there always seems to be another, unseen, ever-present character. The Heat.

The Heat of the South.

The Heat of the Moment.

There is always Lust, with a capital L, in the air.

And from what I understand, the tumultuous relationship between main characters Brick and Maggie, must be fraught with chemistry. Lots and lots of chemistry.

Kids,

I’ve made baking soda volcanoes that had more chemistry than those two.

It was… bad. Wow, was it bad.

If your performance is being outshone by the set design…

Holy cats! You got a problem, son.

There was no there there.

In all honesty, I found the production no good. There were some moments of saving grace (God Bless Debra Monk), but overall, you could see the edits, revisions and how they left holes in things left and right. Things that were added in just did not help, they were hindrances. I won’t give details in case you do see the show, but I will say this. 

I went in with the pre-conceived idea that Johanson would disappoint.

I’m kind of sorry to say, I was really, really right.

SHE’S TOO YOUNG!!

She’s too young to play Maggie the Cat, plain and simple.

There’s no tension, there’s no fight in her.

And, how can one do the entire opening monologue in a Tennessee Williams play in a slinky, silky slip and not be sexual. At. All?

And half the time, with her husband in the room (that she supposedly begs to have sex with), she talked as if she had no connection with him, whatsoever. I asked my friend “Does she know he’s there?”

But it wasn’t just her. If only it were that easy.

It was bad across the board.

No malice, no bitterness, just disappointment.

Oh! And why is the lady sitting next to ME the only chick in the theater that has no idea how to turn off her iPhone?

No, seriously.

It went off during the first act and when she sat there fumbling with it during both intermissions (yes, I said, both), I came within a hair’s breath of snatching it out of her hands. AHHHHH!

Okay, I’m done.

Good night.

Viral request

People,
I need your help.
As some of you may know, I am part of a band, The Icky House Club.
Well, just last week, we premiered our first official video, “Sorrowful.” Guess what?
I forgot to premiere it here. Sigh.
Well, pumpkins, no’w your chance to see it!
Click below, check it out and like, like, like. Comment if you so choose.
Our drummer, Bj has slaved and toiled to make this happen. The man has cut, spliced and edited this bad boy and more of you should watch it.
I believe it catches the essence of who we are.

Well, what are you waiting for?! GO!

Excited AND Scared… And Bummed.

So, I’ve been off the radar for some time.

Not because the rampant stupid of people hasn’t fazed me. It has and it hasn’t.

Heck, there was a month there, where the stupid came too fast and furious to comment on it. Just when I thought it couldn’t get more ridiculous…

Regardless, that’s not what this post is about.

I’ve been pretty excited about my new show coming up. Smokey Joe’s Cafe is kind of a big deal for me. We start rehearsals soon and I’m trying to prepare before we start. Reading up about Lieber & Stoller, going over my score, note by note, listening to the cast album over and over and over (BJ Crosby, I am terrified of you now). And in between all this, I’m still rehearsing with the guys for more gigs around the city. We’re doing Kenny’s in a few weeks.

But that’s not what this post is about, either.

I just realized that my rehearsal schedule will conflict with quite a few things. Now, any actress will tell you that’s typical. Comes with the territory, of course.

My Little Man is having his first public performance on a day where I’ll be rehearsing ALL. DAY. I will miss it. There’s no getting around it. His very first show and I won’t be there.

Hence, the Bummed.

I got to watch the dress rehearsal today with the other parents and I tried to drink it all in. I was more nervous more than he, I’m quite sure. I fussed about his costume, his steps, his lunch. He just went through his routine with not even the slightest sign of anxiety. I was very proud. And then, there was a cloud hanging over it, knowing I wouldn’t be there for the actual big night.

Now, I’ve missed things before.

I can’t think of how many times I have had to cancel on people, using the words, “I can’t. I have rehearsal.” I’ve missed family functions, hanging out with friends, special nights, etc. It’s old hat by now.

But this time, it hurts more.

I have to tell my son that I can’t be there, because of my own pursuits.

It sounds so selfish.

And I have to get over it.

So, how do I do that?

Seriously, how?

International House of Sex

So, once a week or so, I get reminded of why I love living in New York.

A friend of mine reviews shows on occasion and gets to bring a plus one. I’ve learned to become an EXCELLENT plus one.

At times, we are rewarded with fantastic performances with insightful plots and stories. Other times, we are exposed to disappointments of epic proportions and when they’re over, we reward ourselves… with scotch.

As a last minute arrangement, we ran off to Don’t Dress for Dinner, written by Marc Camoletti, the playwright who gave us Boeing-Boeing. I haven’t had a chance to see a good, old-fashioned farce since the revival of Noises Off*. Good Lord, that’s forever!

I love getting the chance to see plays and study the performances and stories that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to. I saw Ben Daniels last in Les Liasions Dangereuse. I didn’t even recognize dude. Talk about versatile! He and Adam James played off of each other incredibly well. Patricia Kalember as the cold, yet passionate, indignant yet deceitful Jaqueline is a perfect foil for just about everybody else in the cast. And Jennifer Tilly’s back on Broadway as a ditzy mistress. Girlfriend has made a career out of that, spanning years.

Shoot, I ain’t mad at her.

But for this show, I had no choice but to watch Spencer Kayden. I almost didn’t recognize her at first. Then that unmistakeable voice came in. It wasn’t just her presence, it was the deadpan delivery, the physical transformation, all of it. She was the smartest person in the room and shockingly, the least confused. And when her very large, very testy chef husband (David Aron Damane) walks into all of this fracas, she still keeps control of the room.

She walks off with the show and in a farce, that’s not easy.

She is SO taking the Tony home. It’s happening, people.

But I’m no critic, so don’t take my word for it. Just go check it out for yourself.