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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Slowly But Surely

Today I thought I'd share this really cool video of a sea turtle nest hatching on Carolina Beach:

Go, little turtles! Go!

Check out the World Wildlife Fund's information page on marine turtles including video of one of their conservation efforts in Costa Rica.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Tune: Goodbye, Big Dog

My brother's St. Bernard, Coltrane passed away late last week. He was a much-beloved character around Durango, Colorado, and rightly so as his considerable size (around 185 lbs in his prime) was about 80% personality.
Coltrane would have been eleven years old come September, and since the life expectancy of a dog his size was about eight years, my brother has regarded the additional years with Coltrane as a gift.
My brother told me this morning that Coltrane spent his last weeks of life actively, even accompanying my brother on one last camping trip where, one morning, my brother awoke to find Coltrane being "serenaded" by a big bull elk.
My brother named Coltrane after one of his favorite jazz musicians, John Coltrane, and - like his namesake - the big dog was often referred to as simply "Trane."
He was a very good dog, and my I would like to remember him this morning with this John Coltrane arrangement of "My Favorite Things."

Good boy, Coltrane. Good boy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Motivator: Larry Winget Will Kick Your . . .

Larry Winget takes a very no-nonsense and definitely not warm and fuzzy approach to personal development. In books like It's Called Work for a Reason, You're Broke Because You Want to Be, and Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life (my personal favorite), Mr. Winget tells us not necessarily what we want to hear but what we need to hear.
Some quotes from Larry:

"You can't get rich keeping other people broke."

"If it's a good idea, do it today. Not tomorrow. A good idea rarely gets better over time."

"What you think of me is none of my business."

"Success is not a secret - it never has been. There are only a few really good ideas and not one of them is a secret."

"Regardless of what the motivational speakers tell you, attitude is not everything, attitude is only one thing; sooner or later you have to get off your butt and go to work."

"I was convinced that in order to be successful I should do what everyone else was doing, but just be better at doing it. That is a clear formula for disaster in both my business and your business."

"Few people will turn to themselves to take responsibility for their results until they have exhausted all opportunities to blame someone else."

 These and more Larry Winget quotes can be found here.

And here's a short video of Larry in action:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: Color Me Happy

I'm a firm believer in chromotherapy: that is, the psychological effect of color on mood and impression. (This has, I'll confess, led to at least one or two mildly contentious discussions between myself and costume or set designers.)
I found a great video on that breaks down the basics of chromotherapy:

Cool, huh?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Um. . . Line?

As an actor, memorization is an important part of the game. I've done it well. I've also done it badly. Sometimes, I've done it almost miraculously filling in for another actor at the last minute.
Along the way, I've picked up a few tricks and made up a few of my own, which I've shared with student actors I've coached from time to time, and I thought I'd share them with you all as well, dear readers.

Step 1: Relax

The brain works better when it's not stressed out, so, even if you're in a stressful situation, you've got to find a way to calm yourself down and let the brain do what it was designed to do.
I was once in a play that I had serious misgivings about doing almost from the first read-through. I did not trust the abilities of the director, the stage manager, or the producer. We were running blocking rehearsals (entrances, exits, where you stand for the theatrically-uninitiated out there) without knowing where any of the set pieces or even the doorways were going to be.
I was working a full-time job and going to school full-time as well, so my stress levels were pretty high already, and the lack of organization on the production was a great source of anxiety. I struggled with my lines in every scene right up until the week of the show (which was also a great source of anxiety for my fellow actors).
Finally, I just set aside some time to relax and take control of my thoughts. I took long, deep breaths and calmly assured myself that I had all the lines in my head already - I just needed to let them flow out.
Sure enough, on opening night, I didn't drop (forget) so much as a single line. Unfortunately, my fellow actors were so stressed out about me possibly forgetting my lines, they all had a heck of a time remembering theirs. Lesson learned.
Stress affects memory. Relax.

Step 2: Chop It Up

Whether it's scenes of dialogue or just one long monologue, it's going to be a lot easier to remember if you break it up into parts. For example, take a look at good old Hamlet's speech from Act 3, Scene 1:

Okay, now let's say that you had to memorize this in a hurry. That could be pretty daunting. The trick is to break it up into parts and attack it piece by piece. Naturally, breaking it up into logical parts is going to help your brain that much more, but "logical" is a relative term. What's logical for you may not be logical for the next person. Now, for the theatre majors out there, I'm saying that you don't need to necessarily break it down to beats and intentions here. That's for character development, this is for memorization, and I am a firm believer that to keep your performance as pliable as possible, the two tasks should be undertaken simultaneously but separately - something I can expand upon in a later blog.
Here we're working on memorization. Do what makes the most sense to your brain.
Once you've broken it down into parts, think about those parts as being stacked upon one another top to bottom. Once you've completed the first part, the second part is there waiting for you. You don't have to think about it while you're working on the first part, it's just there.
Now, the way to do that is to give each of the parts a "code." The code should be part of a logical pattern. The simpler the pattern, the better.
For example, since I know that I am more visually oriented, I like to use color. The simplest pattern of color I know is the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet or ROYGBIV. (Remember this from elementary school?)
So I grab some colored pencils and I mark up the page like so:
Or something like that.
Then I memorize each piece separately, and I actually see the color in my head as I'm learning and reciting it. The smaller chunks are much easier to memorize, and my brain only has to focus on one color  at a time - like a colored file folder. When I get to "and by opposing end them?", I don't have to remember that the orange part is next. My brain already knows that orange is next (ROYGBIV), brings up the appropriate file, and provides me with all of the information that I have already linked to that file.
Linking is the key. It doesn't have to be color. If you're more auditory, maybe it's "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do." Or if you're more tactile, maybe you slightly bend one finger as a link to each piece (unnoticeably, so as not to interfere with any blocking.) It's really all about whatever's going to work for you. The point is to let the monologue or scene become part of a list - allowing your brain to only have to focus on one item on the list at a time.

Step 3: Play With Your Brain

Repetition is obviously going to be key in remembering your script, but fun is going to be even more important. Your brain remembers things that it likes. Have some fun with the monologue. Say it fast. Say it really slow. Say it with a funny accent. Sing it. Play with the enunciation of the words.
Varying the way that you say the monologue does two things.
First, it keeps the piece fun and fresh, and your brain is less likely to get bored with it. Second, it prevents you from memorizing it in a set pattern.
But, Brady, I thought you said a pattern was good.
For memorization, a pattern is good. For delivery, a pattern has your audience noticing the interesting design of the ceiling tiles.
Also, memorizing your piece with a set delivery doesn't give you much flexibility in your character development, which, as I said, I'll talk about in another blog.

Now, this is just one way of tricking your brain into helping you remember a large amount of information. Obviously, there are many others, and, if you've got one, please feel free to share it in the comments.

Save the World Saturday: Project Angel Heart

Okay, let's get right into the swing of things here today with an organization located right here in Denver, Colorado: Project Angel Heart.
Now, in addition to having a pretty cool name, Project Angel Heart does one of the best things one human being can do for another: provide food.
There are a lot of people in this country who are too ill to be able to cook for themselves. With medical bills piling up, they can hardly pay someone else to do it for them. For those who have family members, few have family who can afford to take off time from work to come do the cooking.
For people in the Denver and Colorado Springs area, that's where Project Angel Heart comes in. Over eight hundred clients every week are served meals by the hard-working staff of Project Angel Heart.
Eight hundred. At no charge to the client. That's a lot of tater tots, cherubs.
I'm kidding about the tater tots (though, I know when I'm not feeling well, I want tater tots), because Project Angel Heart actually provides highly nutritious meals, with 2/3rds of the meals each day modified for the specific dietary needs of the individual client. Did I mention that these meals are provided at no charge?
Clients also get a birthday cake and a handmade birthday card on the week of their birthday. This goes beyond just feeding people.
Is it any wonder that Project Angel Heart was named Non-Profit of the Year by the Cherry Creek Chamber of Commerce?
Now, here's a story that caught my attention recently: a couple of weeks ago, the walk-in freezer at Project Angel Heart headquarters went on the fritz. About $7,000 worth of food (along with another $7,000 worth of staff time) was about to go to waste. Sysco Denver came to the rescue within a couple of hours with a freezer truck to store all of the food. Way to go Sysco!
Sometimes even angels need angels.
Do you want to know how you can be an angel for Project Angel Heart (and, by extension, over 800 people in the greater Denver area)?
Yeah, I figured you did. Well, get your clicker-finger ready and click . . . here.
Project Angel Heart also does a number of cool events around town, which you can read about right here.
Here's a video made by Denver's Channel 9 News a few years ago:

Okay, seriously, what are you still doing here reading this? Project Angel Heart. Link it, tweet it, tell your friends. Good people doing good things.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Brand New Day

Okay, remember when I said in that last entry "Now, don't get excited. I'm not starting up the blog again . . ."?
Well, never mind.
Here's what has happened:
I've been enjoying not being tied to this blog or its original intent or all of the baggage that came with my writing it. I've been keeping myself entertained and finding an outlet for myself via my Twitter account: badwolf1013.
I'm still doing my daily tweets and sharing links to things that I find of interest, and, frankly, getting a lot more interaction than I ever was with this blog.
What I found, though, was that sometimes I wanted to say a little more than 140 characters about a charity that I had picked for Save-The-World Saturday or a movie I'd chosen for Film Buff Friday.
I even came across a couple of Twitter tools that would allow me to write longer entries that could be hosted and linked to if I wanted. I thought, "Well, that's silly. Why wouldn't you just start a blog?"In fact, I even got to thinking about starting a new blog myself - just in support of my Twitter account.
This morning I hit upon an idea.
Why not take the established blog and re-make it to fit my new web presence?
All of the old entries would be there for the folks who want to read them, but I could proceed with this blog without feeling constrained by the original purpose.
To that end, I have given the old page a new look and a new description, and I find that I am actually excited about maintaining a blog again.
I'll still sometimes write about theatre, of course, as that is a big part of my life. I'll just be doing it from a new perspective and with a wider audience in mind.
I still plan to guest blog on other sites like Bonzuko, and I believe that I will still be starting a new kind of a blog around the first of the year as planned. (What will happen to this blog at that point remains to be seen.)
For now, though, I am resurrecting this blog from its short rest.
Now, I highly recommend that - to get the most out of this blog - you join the conversation in the Twitterverse, but you will be able to see my 5 most recent tweets in the feed to the right at any given point.
And, if you're one of those people who says, "Twitter? I don't get it. That just seems silly," well, know that I once said the exact same thing - until I tried it.
Whether you choose to follow me on Twitter or just come lurk on this page, though, I am happy to say that there will, after all, be reason again to come knocking on the door of the Big Bad Wolf.

(Okay, so technically it was the wolf knocking on the pigs' or Grandmother's doors, but I was going for a big finish.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Follow Up

Now, don't get excited. I'm not starting up the blog again, but I've made a few decisions about the way that I'm ending it.
I also want to answer a few questions that have come up since the last post, so here goes:

1. At the suggestion of a friend, I will leave the blog up indefinitely. No guarantee that all of the links will still be good, but, if you want to look at a video or read a post, they'll be there until this website decides to take them down. I have restricted commentary, however, because I'd just as soon not have to moderate anymore.

2. My Twitter account (badwolf1013) will remain active for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not looking to cut myself off from the cyber world, I just decided to stop writing my blogs. I'll still be doing those daily tweets from Wild Card Sunday all the way through Save-The-World Saturday, and I'll still be linking to items of interest and injecting my unique perspective, albeit at 140 characters or less. If you don't want to join Twitter (though I find it quite useful and fun myself), you can always read my tweets right here on the right side of this page.

3. I will blog again. Most likely I'll start a new blog after the first of the year. What that will be or how that will be set-up is something that I'm going to think about between now and then. When I start that new blog, I'll update here and on Twitter. In the meantime, I have already received one invitation to be a guest blogger on another site, and, if that goes well, I may do it some more if I'm asked.

4. If you haven't already, I suggest that you add the following blogs to your bookmarks:
Running Lines - This is Denver Post critic John Moore's blog about the Denver theatre scene. Here you will find things like season announcements, more in-depth coverage of some theatre-related news stories, and even the occasional open forum for discussion and debate.
Theatre Colorado - Becca Fletcher is on the inside track of a number of theatre companies in the area, so she posts audition announcements and other useful info on her blog.
Daily Cross-Swords aka Bonzuko - The blog of ninjas/ fellow theatre nerds Jenn Zuko and Jason Boughn covering an array of fun theatre and non-theatre topics including a lot of info about the art of stage combat.

Okay, I think that about covers it.
I'll see you around the web, cherubs.