Month: November 2004

From the mouths of a**holes

About ten years ago, shortly after I’d decided to give up the uncertain and (for me) unsatisfying waters of advertising for a sensible career in acting, I thought it might be a good idea to take a class or two, since I had no idea of what I was doing.

Of course, being hopelessly goal-oriented and a perennial skipper-of-steps (a whole nuther post), instead of taking, say, a good scene study course or a class in text analysis, I elected to take a seminar in cold reading, which, for the uninitiated, is the dubious-but-necessary practice of to picking up “sides” (a chunk of a full script) and giving a decent audition at the drop of a casting director’s hat. (Because as a 33-year-old actress who was not particularly good-looking and had zero training and experience, I was for sure going to be highly sought after for many parts in film and television. Uh-huh.)

There are various teachers of cold reading technique in Los Angeles, hotbed of auditioning activity, but I had the great good fortune of landing at Margie Haber’s studio, and, after being vetted and prepped by her excellent associate, I got to study with Margie herself. Who hated me. Hated me. Wait, did I mention she hated me? Because she did.

Okay, she didn’t hate me, personally. How could she? She didn’t know me from Adam. She hated my acting. Excuse me, my hackting (hack + acting = hackting®). All the other boys and girls seemed to be able to just…be. I was acting up a storm, and it was almost unbearable to watch. But we had to watch, since the classes were all taped. That was part of the deal: see your shame; get motivated to fix it.

Many, many years (and classes and rehearsals and bad performances in worse plays) later, I finally “get” a lot of what Margie was trying to teach. Like any other kind of knowledge, good acting technique, and by extension, good acting, is born of many, many days/weeks/months/years of effort. And, frankly, just logging the miles. Getting the lessons off the page and into your bones. And as the lessons worked their way into my acting, they also affected my life. Understanding character made me a much better theatrical writer. Learning to really listen created a heretofore unrealized depth and richness in all my relationships.

And Margie’s technique for successfully playing characters different from oneself, as in, with nuance and depth rather than broad strokes and caricature, got me through this last election.

It’s gorgeously simple, really, although not at all easy. Let’s say a quick skimming of the sides reveals that the character you’re being asked to play is a Murdering Vampire Prostitute. You have neither spilt blood (on purpose), sucked blood (with malice aforethought) nor traded sex for goods or services (not going to get into the traditional marriage paradigm here, you know what I mean). How do you relate? By scanning your mental Rolodex® for previous stage-‘n’-screen examples (read: stereotypes) of undead bloodthirsty whores? Or, perhaps, by finding the similarities between you and these ladies you were so quick to judge?

A caveat: any examples should either be lifted straight from the script or ever-so-c a r e f u l l y extrapolated. In other words, if the character is yelling in the scene…well, you ask yourself, have I ever yelled? Do I live in a city/smoke/swear/use contractions/scratch where it itches?

Does this person maybe feel passionately about a cause…just like I do? Does this person perhaps feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the situation at hand and scared for the future…just like little old liberal/conservative, pro-choice/pro-life, anti-war, pro-sports, antidisestablishmentarian me?

My own personal bias for years was, you guessed it, against actors. Years of exposure to the Stupid Flaky Self-Absorbed Artist myth was probably mostly to blame, although ten years of screening commercial audition tapes didn’t help. I was incapable of putting myself in these poor schlubs’ shoes. I was an overworked, underappreciated, universally loathed copywriter and so I ate my sandwich and took calls and all the rest of the careless, insensitive, self-absorbed agency behavior I now hear commercial actors complaining about at auditions. I was wrong (and I’m sorry).

It’s funny: if I’d had a little Margie Haber Technique back when I was a copywriter, maybe I wouldn’t have had to become an actor. And if actors could see the hideous process by which excellent copy gets beaten into shapeless wads of marketing goo, maybe they’d be kinder. Maybe they’d try harder to make that hack copy sound good.

Maybe if we could all see each other, the world would be a little bit nicer place to play in.

At the very least, the ads would be better.

xxx
c

Best of the flyer table

flyertableOne of my continual frustrations as a theater rat with a scrabbly foot in the design world is the unforgivable lack of pretty in most show flyers. They’ll pay the lighting designer, they’ll pay the costume designer, they’ll sure as shit pay the director, they’ll get everything on stage looking Sunday-go-to-meetin’ purty, and then crap all over themselves with an ill-conceived, poorly designed flyer.

It’s like my crazy Polish art teacher whined about back in silkscreen class: the packaging on materials being sold to artists is among the dullest and horsiest design there is. Ah, sweet irony. (Of course, I say this knowing full well that our website is among the ugliest in town, but I’m not web-proficient enough to do anything about that end of the design thing. So there.) [UPDATE 10/9/07: our beautiful new site, designed by me and developed by Jen Rocha, is available for viewing here.]

Anyway, out of the (no lie) 25+ (!!!) flyers on Evidence Room‘s box office entry table, above left are the few I found that I wish I’d done myself. Designers, feel free to step forward and introduce yourselves:

  • REDCAT‘s tasty season brochure. Yum, yum. Of course, they’ve got funding out the wazoo and ties to one of the West coast’s greatest art communities. They’d be stoned for anything less than stellar design.
  • Jon Rivera‘s Dogeaters flyer. Great use of oversize medium, color and imagery. Love the crazy low-end Photoshop work on Imelda’s eyes, too.
  • For juicy, juicy printing alone, the flyer for Phacts of Life (show running at The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Renberg Theater). Chris Rooney did the design; may have to email him for his printer’s digits. The show looks kinda cute, too, and features the always-hilarious Sam Pancake and a stellar roster of guest stars: Mink Stole, Kate Flannery and Mike Hitchcock.
  • Finally, I just plain liked the image on the flyer advertising Todd Noel‘s work. Not as nuts about the rest of the stuff on his site (and not crazy about the font the Toddster chose for the flyer, either), but it got me to type in a URL and click, which is more than most of those flyer jockeys do.

xxx
c

The communicatrix bifurcates

old blogging laBecause I do not have enough to do (wait…hahahahahaha!…okay…), when they put out the call for replacement bloggers over at blogging.la, I threw my gigantic (7 1/4″) hat into the ring.

Either they were more desperate than I thought or I managed to hoodwink them into thinking I could hang with the excellent crew already in place, because they’ve given me an at-bat.

I’ll still be mainly blogging here, of course, but more of my L.A.-centric musings will likely land over there. (Just as well. My “categories” section here is looking, um, embarrassingly huge.)

So for future posts on Angelyne, cool L.A. art or anything else that strikes my goddamn fancy, head on over to b.la.

xxx
c

Rocking the house for 4 weeks only!

99 peace squad flyerUpside of being in Peace Squad Goes 99: The Greatest 99¢ Only Story Ever Told…Ever!: you will, apparently, play to packed houses full of cheering audience members who throw the love at you across the footlights in overwhelming waves.

Downside: 3.5 hours/night strapped into plastic clothing with packing tape.

You just have no idea how wet underclothes can get until you have done back-to-back perfs of a 99¢ show.

Four weeks only, my babies. Reserve your seat now. You’ll kick yourself if you miss it.

xxx

Me & the Zen Mistress of Business

evelynI got to meet one of my blogging idols yesterday, and I’m delighted to report that the smart and talented Evelyn Rodriguez is every bit as terrific in person as she is on the web, plus way cuter.

And yeah, there’s kind of an online-datey feel to the whole thing that’s sort of trippy: you’re surfing and clicking through to a narrower and narrower set of specs when all of a sudden, wham!, you stumble upon what seems like a like-minded soul, or, as I like to call it, someone with whom you share Significant Areas Of Overlap. You eagerly devour statistics, stories and other wares that your Shiny Object has laid out for you to view. Then, if you’re me, anyway, you project yourself into a fantasy world where the two of you seamlessly slip from talk of business ethics to sociopolitics to favorite experiences at sleepaway camp (and finally, if your point of entry was nerve.com, into dessert, the sack and a fabulous little Craftsman bungalow in Echo Park that you painstakingly rehab together in perfect harmony).

Meeting an online presence in the flesh yesterday, there was (for me, anyway) that customary, brief loss of equilibrium at first as I adjusted to a real, separate human being who moved and sounded and even looked slightly different than the 2-d version I had in my head, but after a little chit-chat about traffic and turkey dinners, we were off to the races and I couldn’t stop talking. (Well, I stopped to let Evelyn talk from time to time, but only because she is very smart and interesting.)

Suffice to say it was a thoroughly energizing and enjoyable meeting, with the bonus-extra goodie of generating new blog entry ideas for (I think) both of us. Not that we couldn’t email and post and IM back & forth to create a dialogue (well, no IMing, because it gives me heart palpitations), but there’s something about meeting in person that kicks it into a higher gear, I’m a big fan from way back of the epistolery novel, but eventually, you want those see those scribblers meet up and watch the sparks fly. It’s why I don’t think cities will die off anytime soon (and I’m not alone: go here for lively discussion on urban splendor or the lack thereof). We’re social creatures, even us crazy-geeky hermit types, and cities are a great way to keep us in proximity to one another. (According to an interesting article in The New Yorker a ways back, dense, old-style cities, like New York, may also be the most ecologically sound way to collect us, but I can’t cite the source because in an insane cleaning frenzy, I pitched that issue. I am an asshole.)

So Evelyn, and any fellow bloggers (or, um, online dates) I might like to meet, here’s to the next time fate throws us together geographically. And until then, let the Internet do its magical work.

xxx
c

P.S. Evelyn, even though the other photo had better light, I had to use this one. The starbust-halo effect just seemed like some kind of summit endorsement from on high.

Personal Swag ≠ Breaking the Boycott

Well, before I read this morning’s excellent anti-consumerist post by Eschaton, I spent eight hours putting up swag on the 99¢ Show Store. So just to clarify my position, do not under any circumstances buy holiday gifts here.

Go and support a brilliant theater company. Go here and show your love for the greatest holiday show on earth. Go here and buy yourself a little something stretchy to pull over your big, fat, post-holiday gut.

Go go go here, by all means, to get your Kenny merch, but not mine. I’ll buy my own peace panties, please.

We can fight the power and show the love.

Peace.

xxx
c

UPDATE 2/26/06: C–é—-s links went bye-bye along with pro-level site, which I pulled in disgust with lousy customer service.

Buy now, pay later

black friday

As if the disturbing display of consumptive zealotry to the left above (found at Drudge via my new-favorite blog, Gawker) wasn’t enough incentive, an excellent post this morning on Eschaton has me pondering the heretofore unthinkable: a gift-free holiday season.

Hecate’s point is to use a shop-out in protest; as he says in the headline to his post, “All I Want for Xmas is Fair and Verifiable Elections.” Which ain’t a bad gift. I’d sleep better at night knowing that the rightfully chosen candidate was presiding over our fair country for the next four years, even if I didn’t vote for him. (Okay, especially if I didn’t vote for him.)

But thousands (or hundreds…or dozens…) of people picketing…Diebold HQ? Maybe not so impactful. Thousands of consumers putting the Visa on ice? Now there’s an interesting proposition:

This year, I’m urging everyone I know to refuse to spend money for Xmas as a protest. Stay out of the stores. For Goddess sake, don’t run up credit card debt. Give your family and friends the gift of your time and attention rather than a new sweater that they won’t wear or some object to clutter-up an already over-cluttered life. But just not buying isn’t enough. You’ve got to contact the retailers and credit card companies and tell them: I’m not going to be buying Xmas stuff and I’m not going to be charging Xmas stuff until this country has a system in place that ensures fair and verifiable elections. Reader Kate has done the research and discovered that The National Retail Federation “is the world’s largest retail trade association . . . .” Write to Their Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, Katherine Lugar. Here’s her contact info:

National Retail Federation
325 7th Street, N.W.
Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 1-800-NRF-HOW2
Fax (202) 727-2849

Write to your credit card companies and tell them the same thing. You can
find the address on the back of your latest bill. And, heck if you’re really angry about this last election, write to the large department stores that you patronize, or at least cc them on your letter to the National Retail Federation. CC your Senators and Congressman or Congresswoman as well.

I will also have to write to my beloved agent, assuring him that his annual Guitar Center certificate will be on its way once the mess is behind us. He is one of the real Christians, so I’m sure he’ll understand, but it makes me feel terrible just the same.

xxx
c

P.S. An interesting skew on the boycott issue in an excellent post from Fact-esque (via Eschaton) as well. S/he points out that a targeted boycott of, say, Wal-Mart might be more focussed and effective and serve the additional end of bringing attention to the nefarious practices of one of America’s ickiest retailers.

P.P.S An even better suggestion posted at Eschaton by Thumb: go small, go local, go green, go etc. As a small business owner of sorts myself, I’m surprised I didn’t think of it (except that I’m still in Thanksgiving coma).

I’m sure there is a dandy local gee-tar shop in L.A. that would love my gift certificate biz. And I don’t think Harry & David is a big-box giant. (Not sure about their labor policies, though. Damn. I love those pears…)