Thursday, December 31, 2009


I just read over at Elizabeth's blog that not only is it a full moon, but it's a lunar eclipse and the end of the decade. I haven't sat down to write any lists this year, and wishes for the decade even, so maybe this will be a gentle version of that.

I had a huge epiphany that most of my "to do" next year lists only end up making me feel like a bit of a loser come January when I haven't exercised, written a book, cooked organically, saved the world, what have you. And it occurred to me that it's only the need to do everything perfectly that's keeping me from doing any of it. So, at the risk of sounding like a Nike commercial, if I have any wish for myself, it's to just do it and forget about the outcome. And see what happens then.

Make mistakes.

And learn from them.

That's my wish for 2010 and beyond.

Wouldn't that be fun.

So I have a list of books to read, as usual, and things to do. But overall, I'm just going to take a stab.

I hear the best time to cut your hair (according to folk wisdom) is a new moon. It grows faster that way. I'm hoping the best time for hopes is a full moon, as they're fuller that way.

I get to start mine off by making food for friends in dear friends' house with an amazing kitchen. That's a great and warm way to start the new year.

Okay, one to-do. Cook more for people I love. That's never a bad thing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Silhouette's 2009

I used to hate script analysis. I had this teacher in undergrad who had an entire class that you had to take for the degree based on Harold Clurman’s teaching. The end of the seminar was crowned, like a Christmas tree star, or a giving birth, actually, by a 50-page paper filling in the outline of the script analysis. It was the only all-nighter I did in college. I had to find the spine, polar attitudes, yadayadayada. I think I got one of the worst grades I ever got on anything, and knew less about “Three Sisters” than when I started. I do think it’s useful—I heard a great interview with Carol Channing saying she couldn’t figure out Dolly Levi until she found the spine, so it does work, I just wasn't getting it at the time.

Flash forward another couple of years, and I’m studying with a professor, Carol Rosen, on the other side of the country. She has us look at plays from what Peter Brook calls “silhouette, or that image that stays in your mind once the play is done. That thing you experience, reading or seeing a play, that will be burned into your mind. For many, that’s something like Ophelia’s death in Hamlet—you never see it, but everyone remembers it. I think I was looking at "The Seagull", and caught on to Masha’s dancing to the sound of Constantin’s violin as she’s talking about loving him and how she’s going to “tear this love out of my heart, tear it out by the roots” while dancing to his music. I’ve never forgotten that image. It gave me a way into the play. Now, after doing that with other plays, I know “Three Sisters” pretty darn well, too. I’ll always thank her for that. It opened up how I experienced something – start with the image you won’t forget, and that’s the candle flame that will light the rest of the way for you.

I was thinking about silhouettes the other day, and thinking about what images were burned into my mind this year from movies. And, I think, I’ll expand it to theater. Here are a few, in no particular order**:

**If you haven’t seen some of these things, more than likely there are SPOILERS**

La Danse - Medea

Angelin Preljocaj coaches Delphin Moussin in a scene from Medea in Frederick Wiseman’s doc. We see her working her way into it, rehearsing with him and by herself. He coaches her in a gesture Medea makes to end the ballet, after she has killed her children. She just opens her hand as if she’s blowing away a dandelion. He says it’s not explicable, it’s ineffable, and she’ll have to know what it means and trust the audience. The moment she performs it is spine chilling. I don’t have an order to this list, but to have a moment that feels like performance and those feelings on film is rare. So thrilling.

Helen Mirren – Phedre

Great performance broadcast on screens by the National Theater. Although I kind of giggle now at all the British calling her what sounds like “fedge”, hee, the performance was astounding. The grimace on her face as she stopped what she was doing, lifted her arms, looked at herself and said “I stink of incest” was mind-boggling. Tour-de-force.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I loved this movie. There are a few things I remember, but it felt like a gust of air entered the theatre the moment the three bandits stop on the road to talk to a wolf. The wolf’s austere silence was riveting, in marked contrast to the hi-jinks before. Even more, the movie became expansive and resonant unexpectedly, as shocking for me as if he would have walked into the theater. All at once there was doom, fear, possibility, sadness, gratitude all at one moment. I have no idea why that moment hit me that way, but it did. The scene in front of the waterfall was pretty fab, too.

Julie and Julia – Meryl Streep

Another wonderful performance by Meryl Streep, of the she who can do no wrong category (and I still kind of think that even after seeing “It’s Complicated” last night-eesh). There was so much about this perf that I loved, and I really hope she gets a deserved 3rd Oscar for it—only 2nd lead for those who are keeping score. The moment for me was at the train station, when she finally meets her friend Avis (Deborah Rush) with whom she has only corresponded. Julia walks up to Avis and simply takes her head in her hands and says “It’s you”. Streep makes this moment so beautiful, with the layers in the line from “how wonderful” to “how could it not have been” to “why has it been so long” and mostly, “of course”. It’s surprising, delightful, and rich, which is what she specializes in. That moment just got me, right…here….

Precious – Mo’Nique

Mo’Nique is surprising in this movie. Not only does she show herself extremely gifted as a serious actress in a role that could have been easily overdone, she does it in a way you’re simultaneously empathetic and disgusted. What I’ll remember is her sitting in the social worker’s office (another surprise – Mariah Carey—who knew?), giving the aria of a lifetime. To start it’s probably one of the most disturbing monologues I’ve ever seen. On top of that, she just keeps that engine running, discovering with us as the character is voicing, more than likely for the first time, what heinous ideas have forced her to ruin her life and those around her. She is a beast, but it’s the richness of the performance that she is discovering this along with us. I was gobsmacked. Truly.

Lydia – Octavio Solis

I wish more people saw this. I was floored by this play. I was emotionally brought low. Beautifully performed, including a skilled, superb performance by Stephanie Beatriz as Lydia. I won’t go into too much of the plot, but there’s a girl who’s been in an accident right before her quincinera, and her mother brings home a young illegal girl to take care of her. It’s set in El Paso in the 70’s. There’s a lot of drama, including an older brother who turns out to be gay and is gay-bashing for thrills. The tragedy in the center of the play is revealed through flashback and, um, possession, really, but I won’t ruin it for you. That aspect is like a reverse “Suddenly, Last Summer”, where the gays aren’t destroyed physically, but the act of hatred at the center causes damage to those who don’t accept the love of the two men. I don’t want to ruin it so I’m being vague-ish, but what I won’t forget is the girl downstage center, Ceci, played by Onahoua Rodriguez, writhing on her mattress through most of the action of the play. She does get up and talk, but watching her succumb again to her physical state after narrating to us is heart-breaking. It wasn’t my favorite performance in the play, but her physical work was excellent. I’m running out of superlatives here, but suffice it to say it was a pang each time she went back. Her physicality throughout the play to be basically a large spastic infant was precise, fierce and committed. I wish wish wish more people had seen it.

There may be more, but those come to mind right now. Feel free to share your year-end silhouettes and link away.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Word of the Day

I was just reading my friend Patrick's blog Man.Hat in. about the subway, vertigo, and running into people. I love his blog because it does remind me of what I loved about New York (as opposed to all the other stuff that got to me), and what I still do.

Anyhow, as I finished reading it the word flâneur popped into my head. I was thinking I liked the word vertigo and was thinking of others. I don't know that I even could tell you what it means. In fact, it conjured up pictures of copper bottom cookware, blue flames, and caramel desert. Flâneur, n., a French person who makes flan.

Actually, from the link above, you'll see that it means someone who strolls the city leisurely, aesthetically observing and enjoying. I have been a flâneur in NY and in Seattle, and now in LA. I love exploring the places I live (although in LA you drive, which is not nearly as rewarding). People seem to think I've lived places longer than I have, and it's only because I'm curious about cities I live in and their history.

There are two French verbs "to know" - connaître and savoir. One is for things you know absolutely (savoir), like a math problem; the other for things you can never know completely but be familiar with (connaître), like a person or a city. How excellent is that? You can never know completely a city. Like Steve Martin said, "Those French - they have a different word for everything!"

And Patrick, as you'll note from his blog is King Flâneur, in the best way. It says there's no English word equivalent, so we'll use the French. And I love the weird synchronicity of that word popping into my head. I am enamored of a word that desribes someone savoring the place they live, with no other aim than to enjoy it and pass that on. C'est magnifique!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I have so many opinions.

I went to see NINE last night, and I just have so many opinions. I love 8 1/2 and I love the B'way musical, so I know I'm biased, but I still have opinions. Which I will share once it's open and guard against spoilers.

I also have opinions about Inglorious Basterds, A Serious Man, and some others. They've all been knocking on my door lately.

So has busy, busy time at work, rehearsal and opening a play. Tonight, though, I have a little free time, so perhaps I will work on getting some of them down here. I'd actually like that.

In the meantime, enjoy this

If anyone can find "La Dolce Gilda" from Saturday Night Live, I'd love to know where that lives on the web. It should. Too brilliant.

Monday, December 07, 2009


It's raining here in LA. It's so lovely when it does, and unlike anywhere else I've lived it also comes with the anticipation of lovely days following. The rain here clears all the air, smoke, smog, fog, clouds away, and usually the next day is pristine. It's then I love driving by the hills and seeing all the houses tucked in their greenery; seeing the ring of mountains looking out over Glendale from the Hyperion bridge. Everything feels at once close and expansive and so clear. I love those days.

But for today, it's this beautiful rain. The hills get very green and misty the longer it rains, and it feels like you're in Costa Rica. Last winter, they were so green it was like Ireland (but only for a moment). The grass is so vibrant, though, and it reminds me of why I love rain so much.

In honor of that (and to negate my earlier poetry rejection post when I was slightly crabby about free verse), I'm posting my favorite poem with rain in it. I heard it first in "Hannah and her Sisters", and at one point started cutting out letters to make a collage of it on my home wall in college (like the previous word wall post). That never happened. I do love the poem, though.

Here it is in the Woody Allen movie.

You can skip to 6:16, but this clip has some great stuff, including the best line (I hate April. She's pushy.) and the old Pagaent book shop which is sadly now a restaurant. It's a beautiful, gray New York. Durn, I love this movie.

Anyhow, I digress. For now, the truly luscious e.e. cummings poem:

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, misteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Friday, December 04, 2009

Uncommon Cabin

Pursuant to my post before last about wall decals, I was leafing through a Summer 2008 issue of Metropolitan Home at my doctor's office, and saw this picture of a Yeats poem painted on to a cosy library wallin a family cabin in Texas.

How wonderful is that?

So I thought I'd share.

Some day. ;)

Anna Deavere Smith

I was podcasting Science Friday on NPR, and they were interviewing Anna Deavere-Smith about her one-woman show at 2nd Stage called "Let Me Down Easy", which is about health care. I kind of love when you're being geeky and then something like an amazing theater artist who you truly admire surprises you. You can listen to the interview on the link.

The show, which hopefully will travel, is culled from over 300 interviews, whittled to 20 to make an evening of theater. It's great to hear her talk about her process, and also to hear a few of the characters. One of my favorites is a bull rider who talks about having emergency surgery. You can see her do him here as well by selecting Bull Rider of the four characters she does. This is an earlier story, but the same guy. If you have time, you can watch them all.

I had the pleasure of seeing her do some characters at a benefit. Some people have criticized her as mimicry, but it feels deeper than that. She has an interest in being both transformational shaping an evening of theater. She never comments on her characters while she's playing them, and though any editing will shape a piece to lead the audience to a desired experience, she's about as documentary as it gets for theater. I find her work thrilling. When I saw her, she was followed by Jessye Norman singing "Balm in Gilead" and I had to hold the railing of the church balcony in front of me to not completely break down. It's transformational work for the audience as well. Here website links to a site under construction called "arts and civil dialogue". I think that's it.

And she's in Nurse Jackie and teaches at NYU. I love how she can do all of that.

I hope we get a chance to see her out here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dali Decals

I'm loving this site. I do not have these immaculate spaces augmented and clarified by graphics. But if I did, I would get some. I like the trees and shapes. I'm getting the decal above to put above my stove. Seems like a good place for it.


So this show I'm in opens tomorrow night. Tonight is invited dress. It's been fun to rehearse, fun to see how this all works again. I haven't done a run of a play in about 4 years. Certainly nothing where I played a character that has to be sustained. I've forgotten how much of a fun, constant challenge it is.

On the challenging side, we've had three people with cold or flus, one who had the swine flu, one who was feeling nauseated and sick last night, one recovering from a bout in the hospital from bad diabetes medication and bacterial infection. And one cast member was fired yesterday for not being able to make the character work. So it's been quite a lot of mishegoss. Last night was the first time all the characters have been together for a run, and some of the costumes still aren't finished.

But, if memory serves from the last time, when I was working on light cues 5 hour before the show and then we had a brownout, it's par for the course. Did I mention the artistic director lives in DC, so he flies out here once a month but runs the company from 3000 miles away? It's built in for drama.

It's good to be with funny people and have a good time. It's a play.

I suggested it would be fun to have caricatures instead of headshots in the lobby, since the play was based on a Christmas card that my friend Ray sent out (Sean Abley wrote a very fun, funny play that he's directed as well). He's done them, and they're all fun. I'd love the set. Below is me. I told him I look like I have bags under my eyes, and he said no, I just have prominent underlids. HA! That made me laugh out loud. So prominent underlids and all, here's the caricature. Great job.