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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Now THAT'S Spam!

I've had one of my e-mail addresses for just a shade over ten years. Periodically, I get waves of spam e-mails, most of which are annoying. Every once in a while, though, I get one that defies both explanation and description. Some of these are nothing short of epic. The one I received today fits into that category:

From: Clayton Dingledein [e-mail omitted]

Subject: Buenos noches!

For+ykour+throbbing+manhood . . .

[web address omitted]

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

It jail !! With an friendly, serenely !! 
To swordsman favorably .,.
On my Hampshire attractions pretends.,. 
So dottles subsided, womanly,.
 
I have no idea what the product is, but I ordered seven of them.
Kudos, Mr. Dingledein! You are indeed a spammer among spammers. I hope that your seat in hell has a better view than everyone else's.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why don't you just act, dear boy?

This is the phrase that Laurence Olivier supposedly uttered to Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man after the latter ran around the block to appear appropriately out of breath for an upcoming scene. Whether this is a true story or not, it depicts the difference between two major schools of acting thought.
One is that what appears before an audience must appear real, and the other is that it must, for all intents and purposes, be real.
A recent performance in Germany in which a group of actors decided to use real vodka in place of water for a play about a drunken binge ended in disaster.
You may recall the recent story of the actor in Aspen who accidentally stabbed himself on stage with a real knife.
My friend and fellow blogger, Jennifer Zukowski (who is also an author, professor, and ninja) has an entire section in her book, Stage Combat (linked below; You're welcome, Jenn), about the many dangers inherent in performing a real slap on stage.
When I see an actor perform a drunk scene very well on stage, I am thoroughly impressed. If I were to find out later that said actor had actually been drunk, I would definitely feel a bit cheated.
That's how I felt when I found out that Jamie Foxx had worn contacts in Ray that actually made him blind for up to fourteen hours a day on set. I'm not saying it wasn't still a great performance. It just wasn't a great performance of a sighted performer acting blind. (See John Malkovich in Places in the Heart or Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.)
Generally, I'm not a big fan of having able-bodied actors perform disabled roles if there are plenty of equally capable disabled performers available. (I'm talking to you, "Glee.")
However, if it must be done then I'd rather see the employment of acting chops over cheap tricks.
Most importantly, what if Mr. Foxx, who had only a few days' or weeks' experience getting used to being blind (and he got to see again at the end of the day, remember) had taken a dangerous spill on set? What if he suffered an injury that kept him from working for weeks, or worse. All in the name of "keeping it real?"
That's not acting, that's exhibitionism or "stunt acting" in my opinion. and don't get me started on actors who insist upon doing even the most dangerous of their own stunts. That's a blog for another day. I will say this: if whether or not someone else's having a job the next day depends upon your ability to jump from a helicopter onto the back of a moving truck, use the stunt man - i.e. someone whose potential injury isn't going to shut down production for six weeks. Enough about that for now.
The article about the German actors/ "rocket scientists" who thought getting drunk for real was a good idea reminded me of the time that I was in a show with a couple of fencing scenes, and one night my fencing partner showed up with liquor on his breath lamenting that his girlfriend had dumped him for someone else. Later in the show, I apparently began to resemble this "someone else" and I found myself actually fending off an unchoreographed attack. I won, but let's just say that the "disarming" of my opponent wasn't pleasant for him.
The "magic" of theatre is that we present a seemingly uncontrolled sequence of events in a highly-controlled way. That bears repeating:
The "magic" of theatre is that we present a seemingly uncontrolled sequence of events in a highly-controlled way.
I am known for being meticulous in controlling any physical contact between actors onstage, whether it's staged combat or a romantic kiss. I'm not opposed to some physical improvisation within certain parameters, but I have found that about seven times out of ten, when an actor says during rehearsal that he or she was "okay with" an unrehearsed bit of contact from another actor onstage, the director (often me) gets a call at home later that night from the same actor with "a few concerns."
I've been accidentally punched, purposely slapped, thrown into furniture, kicked, stepped on, and more in shows where directors did not take an active interest in creating a safe, controlled environment on stage or where actors decided to play fast and loose with choreography or were overcome with zeal during a staged fight.
I've covered quite the gamut of circumstances in this blog entry, but I think it can be distilled down to one key idea:
When in doubt, just act.

Oh, almost forgot. Jenn's book. It's part of my library. I recommend making it part of yours.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Suicide is Painless

I read this article yesterday, and it has stayed with me. It's about a dance/theatre production called suicide.chat.room inspired by the real-life internet chat rooms that not many people know exist. (I certainly hadn't heard of them.)
The company is called Taffety Punk Theatre Company and they will be presenting the show in the D.C. area through mid-February. I know that I have a number of blog readers outside of the Denver area, so, if anyone out there gets a chance to see this, please let me know what you think.
I'm intrigued.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Theatre vs. Theater - my take

In John Moore's most recent Running Lines Blog he took issue with the frequent use of "theatre" over the spelling "theater." Naturally, I had a comment or two to make about that, and, while I wait for my comments to be "approved by an administrator," I thought it would be fun to copy and paste them below:
I began using "theatre" over "theater" a few years ago, more as a means of demarcation than pretention. The English language is full of homonyms, and "theater" can mean the art form, the place where such an art form is performed, and a place where one can see Tom Hanks's face projected onto a giant screen.
So I switched back to the original "re" spelling when referring to the art form only. I keep to the now accepted Americanized misspellings for the venues.
And that's the truth of it. "Theatre" became "theater" through the phonetic spellings of the less educated. That's what happened to the "u" in color. People couldn't hear it, so they didn't write it. Eventually, dictionary makers gave up and said, "Fine! Both spellings are acceptable." Eventually the misspelling overtook the original correct spelling: a testament to the American philosophy of "Don't bother me with the details."
I worry that this will happen with more words as l33tspeak and an over-reliance on spellcheck further diminish the reverence that we have for our language.
Your pet peeve is that some people wish to adopt what is the original (correct) spelling of the word "theatre."
My language pet peeves include a growing disregard for the difference between "your" and "you're" and between "its" and "it's" and this new thing of writing "should of" and "could of" as a transcription of "should've" and "could've" (which, when written, really should go back to "should have" and "could have.")
It's laziness, and, sadly, the guardians of our language are more and more inclined to simply throw up their hands in defeat. (Not "there" hands or "they're" hands, mind you, but then fewer and fewer of us actually seem to care about that, either.)
I shudder to think that someday someone will be considered pretentious because they insist upon including all of the vowels in "srsly."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Take Me To Another Place, Take Me To Another Land"

Okay, points for recognizing the song lyrics above. (Hint: the song title is mentioned below somewhere.)

Apparently, a touring production of Romeo and Juliet performed by a Toronto theatre company as written by  Shakespeare (oh, those crazy canucks) was a bit too racy for some of the folk in Nashville, Tennessee. (ahem.)
These people found some of the 16th century text a bit too bawdy for their liking and sent a letter to the company with suggested "revisions."
I am happy to say that the company, Toronto's Classical Theatre Project, elected to go ahead and present the play sans revision. (I knew I liked Toronto.)
Now, since I doubt that the offended parties are a true representation of the citizenry of Nashville, I am going to refrain from making any stereotypical jokes.
In fact, here is a short list of some of the jokes I will not be making here on this blog:

1. The company refused to change any lines, but compromised by adding a banjo and a washboard to the orchestra.

2. Next year's planned production of The Revenuer of Venice has been scrapped.

And, of course,

3. Should've just told 'em Romeo and Juliet were cousins.

None of those jokes will be appearing on this blog.

Ahhhh, I do not bite my thumb at thee, Nashville, I do but bite my thumb.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That Shakespeare's a Wikkid Pissa

Okay, check out what they're doing in Boston. It might not be for everybody, and I'm sure it's not intended to completely replace the traditional theatre experience, but it's exciting and it's filling the seats - by taking risks, mind you, not by playing it safe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Robert Burns Day

Today is the 251st anniversary of the birth of one of my more famous ancestors and the man known as "Scotland's Favorite Son" and "the Ploughman Poet", Robert Burns.
"Rabbie" gave us such familiar poems as Auld Lang Syne, A Red, Red, Rose and the following:

My Heart's In The Highlands

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.

An Open Letter to Heidi Montag

Dear Ms. Montag-Pratt,

I begin this letter with the admission that I really don't know who you are. I don't watch reality television, so I've not see your show, and, apart from your being mentioned on the occasional episode of "The Soup," you are pretty much off of my radar. In fact, you are among the last individuals I would ever have considered writing about on my blog.
However, one show that I do watch regularly is "The Bonnie Hunt Show," and she discussed your recent plastic surgeries and the accompanying People magazine article. I then saw the same article while I was sitting in the waiting room of an office.
Now, we all make decisions about our own lives, and we all must live with those decisions. We can't put the blame for who we are or how we think or what we do on anyone else. We must shoulder the responsibility for those decisions ourselves.
That having been said, I cannot help but feel that I owe you an apology.
I feel that I should apologize for my part in creating and perpetuating an "ideal" of beauty. I know I am but one cog in a vast machine that judges what a woman ought to look like, but I am still a part of it. I like to think of myself as progressive and enlightened in my view of women, and, compared to a lot of the men I know, I really do think that I am. Still, I can do better.
I have, for many years, considered myself a "fan" of Jennifer Love Hewitt, though I've only seen maybe two of her films and none of her TV shows. She may be a great actress, but I am judging her on an altogether different set of criteria.
On this very blog, I made a joke about being grateful for Eliza Dushku's pilates instructor. It was a joke, but, again, it perpetuates an idea. I didn't say I was grateful for Kate Winslet's acting coach, now, did I?
These may seem like little things, but, again, these small things add up to an environment in which women (younger and older) feel that they must meet some standard of beauty that surpasses even what we men have ever sought after - even when we were thirteen-year-old boys discussing "the perfect woman" at a sleepover.
I have a younger sister whom I love dearly. I have younger cousins and nieces as well for whom I hold great affection. I know a great number of young actresses in this town and around the country.
That any of them could ever look in the mirror as you did and see flaw upon flaw upon flaw that must be repaired just breaks my heart. The thought that they would ever subject themselves to the pain and risk of multiple (or any) plastic surgeries because I have failed (along with society) to let them know how beautiful they are just as they are is, to me, unbearable.
Logically, I know that the real ideal woman for me is the woman with whom I can converse, laugh, and share the experiences of the rest of my life. However, deep down, it is somewhat ingrained in me that she should also look like Alyssa Milano, which is ridiculous. I think most every woman I meet is beautiful (which, frankly, gets me into a fair amount of trouble), and, yet, there is still that part of my brain that can't let go of the 13-year-old boy who had a Paulina Porizkova calendar that he hid from his mom.
One could make the "chicken or the egg" argument that asks, "Do we have this standard of beauty because Hollywood feeds it to us, or does Hollywood feed it to us because it's all we want?"
Well, that's a cop out. Of course, it's on us. We build the norms of our society not once every four years at the ballot box but rather every day at the cash register. Our world looks the way it does because of the way we spend our money. We are ultimately responsible for the billions of dollars spent every year on botox, liposuction, viagra, plastic surgery, teeth whitening, tanning booths, erectile dysfunction, hair transplants, and electrolysis, whether we're spending it ourselves or simply buying magazines, watching TV shows, or going to movies that perpetuate this fantastical notion of "the beautiful people."
Now, Ms. Montag-Pratt, I know that you are an adult woman and made these decisions of your own free will. I do not wish to sound condescending by suggesting that you had no choice in the matter.
I am simply acknowledging that your decisions were made in an environment that places an enormous and unfair amount of pressure on women - particularly young women, particularly young women in the entertainment industry - to measure up to an unrealistic ideal. I am also acknowledging that I have some responsibility for that environment. I promise to work on that.
I am sorry, Heidi, I truly am. I hope that you feel better soon.

The Big Bad Wolf

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Finding an Audience

Say what you will about Tyler Perry's onstage antics as Madea, or about the artistic value of his work (something with which Spike Lee has taken issue), Perry is drawing audiences to live theatre that might otherwise not be there.
While I have not been terribly impressed with some of Broadway's recent "blockbusters" like Wicked and Spamalot, I cannot deny that both shows attracted demographics that had been long absent (or at least under-represented) in theatre houses for a while. Wicked brought tween and teen girls (and their parents), and Spamalot reached that all-important 18-34 male audience.
While I do cringe at the prospect of the Spider-Man musical, I must admit that it may invite a few audience members who haven't been to a live production in years - if ever.
The alternative approach of continuing to pander to the existing live audience with tried-and-true (read "overdone") chesnuts - the modus operandi of dinner theatres and community theatre groups - may be fiscally sound for the moment, but has one major inherent flaw.
Unlike theatre which has lived under the prognosis of "death" for around a century now, the audiences that hunger for typical live theatre fare are literally dying, replaced in decreasing numbers by artists coming to support other artists. They are not strictly "appreciators," like the the audiences they have succeeded, and often alternate between both sides of the "footlights" offering competing fare of the same type to the dwindling audience.
Moving forward, it is the role - if not the responsibility - of the modern playwright, artistic director, producer, and theatre artist to cultivate a new audience.
We must be willing to expand the creative process and our own definitions of theatre to draw in those audience members who heretofore didn't know (or didn't care) that we exist.
Historically, every new age of theatre has started with an experiment - driven by changes in the audience and social philosophy and by advances in technology.
What will the be the future of live theatre?
I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Excuse Me, Your Beehive is Blocking the Stage . . .

At least one ill-mannered theatre patron has been held accountable for her bad behavior.
Amy Winehouse pleaded guilty to common assault and disorder after causing a ruckus and pulling a theatre manager's hair last month at a pantomime of Cinderella starring Mickey Rooney.
When I first heard about this, I was shocked.
I had no idea Mickey Rooney was still alive.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yes We Ca- Oh No You Didn't

I just read an article about Hope, a new German musical about the Obama election.
I have nothing to say about this.
Well . . . nope, never mind. I have nothing to say.

What a Piece of Work is . . . Woman?

When it comes to the question of who really wrote Shakespeare, I would have to say that I am prettty firmly in the majority camp that believes that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Discrepancies in writing style can be explained away by an author exploring his voice. Similarities in theme and plot to other works can be excused under the quote that Pablo Picasso may or may not have uttered: "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal."
However, I can certainly see the Anti-Stratfordians' view, and I do see a measure of plausibility in the "Shakespeare by Marlowe" argument, in that it is possible that 19th century Romantics - anxious to satisfy their appetites for the works of the Bard - could have mistakenly lumped in some uncredited Marlowe works with those of the Stratfordian.
However, I'm not ready to join the ranks of the doubters just yet.
Whichever side of the argument you fall upon, here's an interesting article about someone who posits a new theory: the Shakespearian canon was written by a woman - a Jewish woman.


Amelia Bassano Lanier

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Twitter Updates

I stopped doing the Daily Twitter updates for a little while as well, because, frankly, some of them were feeling a bit like a chore, so after a revisit to the old drawing board, the Big Bad Wolf Daily Tweets are back starting today.
Here's the rundown:
Wildlife Wednesday and Save-the-World Saturday are staying as they were. You all know how I like my animals and I like my causes.
Mondays will now be for the Monday Motivator: a little something to kick off each new week. The music is moving back a day for the Tuesday Tune. Rather than finding a new local band every week, I'm just going to pick a single tune to share. Sometimes it will be from a local artist, sometimes not. Basically, it's a little easier on me (and it frees me up to feature Danielle Ate the Sandwich even more than I already do.)
I'm changing Thankful Thursday to Theatre Thursday. I'm not giving up on being thankful, mind you, I just think that gratitude is really a personal thing, and the way things were headed, you'd have soon heard me expressing my supreme gratitude for Eliza Dushku's pilates instructor. Nobody needs to read that. (But, hey, who's with me?)
What will Theatre Thursday be, given that this blog is already primarily devoted to the life theatrical? I don't know yet. I'm going to play around with it a bit and see.
Friday will now be Film Buff Friday. I've seen a lot of movies, and it's time I shared my obsession with the world.
Spiritual Sunday will now be Surprise Sunday. Again, I'm not abandoning the importance of spirituality in our earth-bound existence, but I do think that spirituality has a universal quality. Whether it's being offered by Bishop John Shelby Spong, Ghandi, Wayne Dyer, or someone else, the message is pretty much the same. Hint: if you've ever found yourself on a street corner holding a sign that says, "God Hates (whatever)," you aren't getting the message.
Also, spirituality, like gratitude, is really a personal thing, so I have decided to leave Sunday as something of a wild card that can become an occasional home for how-to vids, a pearl of wisdom or two from Dr. Dyer, or even someone getting hit in the face with a soccer ball - pretty much whatever I feel like.
So, here's the line up:
Sunday Surprise
Monday Motivator
Tuesday Tune
Wildlife Wednesday
Theatre Thursday
Film Buff Friday
Save-The-World Saturday

Hey, if you like my blog, follow me on Twitter to be notified of blog updates and to see how the new Daily Tweets will play out going forward.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Broadway: The Golden Age

I'm starting a new feature here on the Big Bad Wolf blog: Must-See Movies for Theatre People.
Today's film is a documentary by filmmaker and Broadway lover, Rick McKay.
Broadway: The Golden Age is a look at Broadway of the 40's, 50's, and 60's through the eyes of the people who were there, and I mean just about all of them. About twenty minutes into this film, I started scribbling down the names of the legends of theatre and film who were interviewed for this movie: Angela Lansbury, Bea Arthur, Charles Nelson Reilly, Kim Hunter, Eli Wallach, Karl Malden, Tony Roberts, Chita Rivera, Hal Prince, Maureen Stapleton, John Raitt, Carol Channing, Frank Langella, Hal Linden, Elizabeth Ashley, Ben Gazzara, Carol Burnett, Jerry Orbach and over fifty other icons of the stage.
The addition of lots of home movie and archive footage helps complete the picture of a bygone era.
The story of Shirley MacLaine's "life imitates art" turn as the understudy who goes on to rave reviews in The Pajama Game is recounted by the people who were there, including Shirley herself.
Listening to the stories of the tight-knit Broadway community are moving, particularly as these legendary performers share their admiration of other greats like Marlon Brando, Kim Stanley, Geraldine Page, and the greatest actress you've never heard of: Laurette Taylor.
Gwen Verdon talks about working with Bob Fosse. Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, and Chita Rivera share their memories of the the risky experiment that was West Side Story.
I just ate this movie up, and I think that you will, too.
(I particularly enjoyed Stephen Sondheim's biting analysis of the modern "standing ovation.")
I checked it out. Broadway: The Golden Age is available at Netflix and Blockbuster.com, and, if you're anything like me, you will want to get your own copy, which you can (and I did) at Amazon.com.

Miss Me?

As I mentioned on Twitter, I decided to take sort of an unscheduled break from my blog for a few weeks. No big deal. It’s just that sometimes there are more important things in the world than a blog. Even mine.
Still, I’m back now, and I’m going to try a new approach to the weblog this year. Look for more frequent, but shorter, thematic entries. (Rest assured that this will not preclude the occasional “soapbox” rants that you all enjoy so much.) I will also be starting up the daily Twitter links as well. Subsequent entries will detail how that’s going to work.
One thing that I am hoping for from you, dear readers, is a bit more discussion in the comments section. I have kept the settings such that it is very simple for you to chime in with your opinion (anonymously, if you are so inclined). I have to police my comments section, because the settings also make it easy for spamming, but I am willing to keep doing so in order that everyone who reads my blog feels welcome to comment. Please do, and don’t worry about disagreeing with me.
I firmly believe that it is your universal privilege to be wrong.
Kidding aside, I am not above having my opinion changed by a persuasive argument. It has happened before . . . once.
I would like for this blog to be more interactive, and a big part of doing that will require your participation.