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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Ringing in My Ears

Are we really back to this again? Is it really necessary to have this discussion again?
Recently, a preview performance of A Steady Rain was interrupted by a ringing cell phone. Here's the article which includes video, no doubt taken (illegally) by another person with a cell phone.
What is the deal here, people? Honestly? Do you remember in the old days (like, ten years ago) when you went to see a play or a movie and someone wanted to call you, your phone would ring . . . AT HOME. The answering machine would pick up and the caller would either leave you a message or decide that it wasn't really all that important that Aunt Beatrice spilled grape juice on her muumuu and just wait to tell you the next time they saw you.
Forget for a moment (but not for more than a moment) that cell phone use while driving has made people into even worse drivers. (Yes, it has. I've been behind you.)
Forget that quiet coffee houses and libraries (LI-BRAR-IES) are now inundated by technocratic tools loudly explaining the details of their latest prostate exam (which could no doubt only be performed after first dislodging their heads) to some poor sap who is trying to negotiate 5:00 I-25 traffic going, "uh-huh, uh-huh, really? just how cold are we talking here?"
I have said before that I find it increasingly difficult to enjoy a movie anymore for the multitude of little blue text screens shining throughout the theatre, and the woman trying to quietly explain the plot of the movie into her phone (no doubt to somebody on I-70), not to mention the jarring sound coming from the pocket of the guy two seats over who had put his phone on "vibrate" then put it in the same pocket as his keys and collection of buffalo-head nickels.
I went into a movie theatre for the first time in months just last week. It was a showing of Rashomon at the Starz Film Center. Do you know where my phone was? In my car.
I like to tweet as much as anybody (okay not as much as John Mayer and Brent Spiner, but you know what I mean.) I sent a tweet from the Aurora Fox last night when I went to see Paragon's Miscast. I sent it during intermission. Then, I turned my phone back OFF and walked down the stairs to have a wonderful conversation with an aspiring playwright for the remainder of the break.
It's not that hard, and if there is something pressing enough that you can't risk missing a call, do what we did back in the olden times (the 90's). Stay home, and give the tickets to someone who doesn't have a pending emergency.
What I find the most perplexing is that activities that once were performed in noncommunicative silence (grocery shopping, watching a movie or a play, driving to work, pumping gas) now suddenly need to be filled with conversation. Is there really that much more that needs to be talked about that wasn't there fifteen years ago? Or, is it more likely that we are so seduced by this new technology that we now prioritize insignificant minutiae in order to have something to talk or text about into these little devices that now own us. (That receipt from the Apple store is just there to let you think that you're in charge. You're not as free as you think, Pseudolus.)
So what do we embrace to fill the space? Gossip. Look around you. What's on the magazine covers? What were the subjects of your last ten phone conversations? How many of them, if not wholly insignificant and pointless, contained gossip?
I don't want to moralize too much here. The world is getting smaller. Secrets and privacy are becoming more and more a thing of the past. It's inevitable.
I do think, however, that it's being hurried along by that little square thing on your. . . oh, what? No, go ahead and answer it.
I'll wait.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Miscast Theatre People

I had not planned to go to Miscast tonight. I usually regard these kinds of shows as little more than a parade of vanities and an opportunity for theatre people to gather.
As a good fried once told me, "Brady, you may work in theatre, but you're not 'theatre people.'"
The concept for the show is sound - actors performing roles for which they would never be cast. There is an opportunity for lots of literal and figurative cross-dressing, which appeals to many actors and is always good for a few chortles from the audience.
Ultimately, I was moved to attend for three reasons.
One: Emily Paton-Davies (one of my favorite actors) would be there goofing around with everyone else, and I may not going to make it down to the Springs to see her in Our Town. Two: It's a fundraiser for Paragon - in my opinion, one of the most important theatres in Denver.
Three: Heroes is pretty stupid anymore. Ooh, is Sylar a good guy or a bad guy? You know what? Sylar's a tool. Yeah, I said it. Not as big of a tool as Peter, but a tool nonetheless.
In all seriousness, though, I'm glad I followed the impulse. I may not be theatre people, but I do enjoy them. It was a great show, too, and, though vanity was present, these performers certainly have good reason to be vain.
I won't go too far into what went on. If you were there, you saw it. If you weren't, I see no need to rub your nose in it.
(John Moore was taking video. I'll let him rub your nose in it.)
I always say that theatre should be a moving experience, even on the subtlest of levels. Theatre should make us think, and, more importantly, make us feel.
Tonight was a lot of silliness, but silliness in the name of love - a love of theatre, a love of performing, a love of audience.
It's hard not to get caught up in that just a little, even if you're just a big bad wolf.
An added bonus: the presence of a theatre mentor and one of my favorite people, Bob Moore, there to see his daughter Missy in a funny stage combat scene.

I'll leave you with a quote that popped into my mind while I was watching the show:

"I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragoon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least." - Eugene Ionesco

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Magic Moments Still Homeless (So It's Up To Us)

You may recall my open letter to Littleton High School in early August regarding the "eviction" of Magic Moments from their facility. (You know I'm angry when I resort to sarcasm.) Well, according to John Moore's latest column in the Denver Post, Magic Moments is still without a home.
This cannot stand.
Magic Moments, in addition to being a long-running Front Range tradition, is a force for good. Opportunities are provided, funds are raised, lives are touched every single year by this company.
Now, I'm going to stop myself from going on a tirade here and reflect upon the lesson I wrote about in yesterday's blog entry.
I am going to choose to believe that we live in a friendly world. Magic Moments itself is proof enough of that. I am going to choose to believe that enough people care about this organization and the magic moments that they provide for this community that action will be taken. Letters will be written. Phone calls will be made. I choose to believe that - even if Littleton High School cannot be persuaded to be a little less selfish with their building - another facility will happily open its doors to take part in the triumphant tradition of this company.
Magic Moments has done so much for this community.
It's our turn to do something for them.
Don't you agree?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Einstein's World

As my Twitter followers (both of them) know, I have had a long-standing crush on beautiful comedienne Bonnie Hunt, so I am grateful to the powers that be for making my bonnie Bonnie available to me five days a week on the Bonnie Hunt Show.
Earlier this week, Bonnie had another of my favorite people on the show: Dr. Wayne Dyer. (I don't have a crush on Wayne, though. Well, maybe a little. I like his deep voice.)
Anyway, Dr. Dyer mentioned something that Albert Einstein had said in an interview once: that we have to choose whether we live in a friendly world or an unfriendly world, and it's up to us.
To further elaborate, if we decide that the world we live in is an unfriendly one, then we will be suspicious, competitive, and jealous. We will decide that everyone is out for themselves and that life is a struggle. On the other hand, if we decide that the world we live in is friendly, we will look out for our fellow man and trust that they will do the same for us.
That thought has resonated with me for the last couple of days, and I had a bit of an epiphanic moment this evening when I went to the corner gas station - a Jenny's Market.
On the counter were flyers and an opportunity to donate to an organization called Kids Mobility Network that provides wheelchairs to kids without insurance.
Diamond Shamrock stores have a similar flyer for MDA (I think). When I bought Adelaide her special cat food at PetSmart, I was able to donate to homeless pets just by tapping the button on the credit card screen.
In an unfriendly world, these would seem like opportunistic and exploitive plots by these companies to appear philanthropic in order to garner more of your business.
In a friendly world, these companies are using their customer traffic (generated by their own marketing and advertising dollars) to spread the word and generate some funds for some very worthy causes.
I think I prefer to live in the friendly world. Thank you, Albert. And thank you, Wayne.
And Bonnie: text me. Seriously.
Kids Mobility Network, cherubs. Check them out. This is important.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bookmark This: Charity Navigator

There are a lot of non-profits out there that serve similar causes (even outside of the theatre realm.)
When it comes to charities, wouldn't it be nice if you could compare similar organizations to know where and how your philanthropic dollar will be spent in each?
Well, there is.
Charity Navigator is a non-profit website that analyzes thousands of charities and gives them a rating based upon growth, organizational effectiveness, and how much of their income is spent fulfilling their mission.
I use this website quite a lot myself. I used it last night in fact. I sponsor a young girl named Mamtaz in Bangladesh as part of Save the Children. I have been considering sponsoring a second child with this organization. Last night I saw a television advertisement for a similar organization called Children International.
Now, I don't wish to disparage Children International. I am sure that they do good work. However, a quick visit to Charity Navigator showed me two things very quickly: overall, CI has a 3-star rating compared to STC's 4-star rating, and Save the Children spends 10% more of its total budget on program expenses than does Children International. I will obviously look more in-depth into the information on both organizations (much of which is available on Charity Navigator) before I make my final decision, but it's nice to have that information so readily available.
Another nice feature of Charity Navigator is the search option. You can browse their database by category or by keyword.
I found this useful last holiday season when I decided to skip the malls and donate to charities in the names of my family members. My brother owns two St. Bernards and is definitely an animal advocate. My father is an outdoorsman. My sister is a believer in providing aid to Africa. Using the Charity Navigator website, I was able to find causes that spoke to each of their hearts.
(My mom required no search as she has long been an advocate of Heifer International.)
When trying to decide where to do one's charitable giving, Charity Navigator does well more than half the work for you, so I encourage you to put it in your bookmarks on your computer at home or at work.
Charity Navigator is a non-profit itself, so, if you really can't decide, you might consider donating to the site so that they can do their good work.
You might consider that anyway.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book-Of-The-Month: True and False

Hello, gang. I've been away from the blog a bit longer than I had planned (though you Twitter followers know I haven't missed a day there yet).
There are a lot of exciting shows coming up over the next few months, and I will be seeing as many of those as I can and letting you know what I think.
In the meantime, I'm adding a new monthly feature to my blog: a book selection.
This month I have chosen David Mamet's controversial True and False.
Not unlike a certain lupine blogger you all know and love, Mr. Mamet is not afraid to call it how he sees it.
Chapter by chapter, Mamet takes on and frequently skewers the current and traditional practices of method acting, auditioning, casting, theatrical study, and many other old theatrical axioms.
From the back cover of the book:
"Hard-edged, pragmatic, and idealistic . . . Every actor or would-be actor should read this book." - Chicago Tribune
The brilliant Steve Martin echoes this sentiment: "This book should be read and considered by everyone who acts."
Further acclaim of this book: "This is a very important book. No one has defined the actor's job better than Mamet." - William H. Macy
"I agree with almost nothing Mr. Mamet says in this book and encourage you to devour every word. Mamet is a genius." - Alec Baldwin

I encourage every actor, director, producer, and writer at every level in this business to not only read this book, but to have a copy on your shelf to pull out periodically as a reference.
Whether you choose to use Mamet's new idealism as an example of "what-to-do" or "what-not-to-do," I think it is an important perspective to keep handy at all times in this business.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saving the World: Heifer International

Today is Save the World Saturday in Badwolf1013 Twitterland, and I thought I'd let it spill over a little bit into the blog realm as well.
I have blogged about Heifer International before, and about how I enjoy shopping from their catalog for the "hard-to-buy-for"s on my gift lists, so I will leave the talking to others today.
Check out the vids, kids.