Saturday, January 30, 2010

second banana

Olive just turned 11, yo.

I wish I had some awesome video of her acting a fool, but
1) I don't have a camera and
2) the Beast is like Greta Garbo when it comes to being photographed.

Instead, you'll have to settle for this:

Wow. That is one shitty magician. I mean, the dog performs well (and rocks those shades), but that guy's slight of hand is on the level of a 6 year old trying to kick a 5 year coke habit.

Still, I wish I had the balls to whore Olive out on this level.

A level which includes a website, youtube videos, press releases and directions to the dog's facebook page. Bitch, it ain't like you Benji or shit.

Wait. Hold that thought on whoring my dog out. I just saw this video...

That pooch is NOT having it, yo. Get me off of this stand, take this hat from around my neck and fucking listen to me when I'm barking at you.

And while I am occassionaly guilty of putting a sweater on Olive (when the temps get sub zero and the snow is higher than her belly), I will proclaim loudly that anyone who puts a speedo on a dog should be sterilized.

I find it to be not at all coincidental that, at the moment,"How much fun is this for you?" that "Bobby" makes his true feelings known to the camera, but exposing his poop chute.

Basically...what I'm saying...fuck it.

I just wish Olive could skateboard.

Friday, January 29, 2010

carpe diem

Okay. So, maybe you're a little trepidacious....

You've been burned by new plays before.

You don't know if you're ready to gamble your heart away.

But a life lived in fear is a life half lived, my friend.
Regret can eat your liver, if you let it...

So, Come On Down to the Storefront Theater (66 E. Randolph), sit amongst friends and neighbors and drink in the Hopper kool-aid! It's fortified with lye!*

Photos by John Sisson

Honest! You'll want to tell all your friends about the good time you had at The (edward) Hopper Project!

*sorry. can't resist the lure of an inside joke!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

vote...i double dog dare you

I am less than a week away from my 15+ hour day as an election judge.

I know that voting in primaries is about the least sexy/interesting/recreational thing one can do on a Tuesday, but you know...primaries do impact elections...and I think you all know how I feel about an individual's duty to vote.

( should totally do it. I bet someone in your family at some point in history was refused the right to vote. Immigrants, Woman, Minorities, etc. They would kick this entire nation in the balls if they knew how apathetic we can be about the process electing our local and national representatives.)

And yeah, it's confusing and the ads suck and who has time to figure it all out?

I'm with you.
And I'm here to help.

A great place to start is, where you can find your polling place and see a sample ballot.

I find those ballots pretty helpful.
- You can skip researching the seats that only have one candidate *
- You can focus on the races that you deem the most important of your time/resources.
- If you bring in your list of folks you already know you want to vote for, the actually process goes by SO much faster!
- Lastly, one of many of these folks will be running in November...and you'll be that much more knowledgeable about their candidacy.

*Hell, if you register Green Party for the primary, you only have to actually choose a candidate for one position as, aside from two folks running for Cook County Board President, they only have one person per role running. Bingo Bango, you're done, Greenie!

Also, eVoter has an option on the ballot page to show who received endorsements from various organizations including: Sun Times, Federation of Labor, Citizens for Ethics, Sierra Club and so on.

If you want to see who's the most green candidate, Sierra Club should point you to them. If you are pro-Union, Labor might give you some direction.

In addition, some of the candidates have links to "statements" and other bio and press info.

The point is, with the internet and a reasonably small investment in time, you can be up on the candidates and make a more informed decision.

Bingo. Bango.

Photo by Sarah-Ji

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

my new secret boyfriend

I am in LOVE with the Wu Tang Clan and Beatles mash-up, The Magical Mystery Chambers conceived and mixed by Tom Caruana.

I am in LOVE with it.

It puts a secret smile on my face.

It makes me want to put my hands in the air and wave them as if I just didn't care.

In fact, I want to shake the man's hand for taking such divergent sounds, tones and beats and making them smooth and dirty and sweet. (Thank you, Tom Caruana. Thank you.)

Highly recommended tracks: C.R.E.A.M., Uh-Huh, R.E.C. Room and Save Me Dear.

I totally want to marry this download.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

influence and perspective

I'm fairly sure, at least in my time at WNEP, we've never had as much press coverage for one show, as we've been granted for Hopper.

As an off-loop theater company (with 100 other small theaters competing for press as well as the decrease in arts coverage - too many shows, not enough reviewers, publications cutting back in size and scope - most reviews are barely more than a paragraph, these days), to have so many reviewers interested in Hopper, we're in a very fortunate and rare position to get such a cross-section of feedback. See D-Ray's blog for links to all the reviews.

While the reviews have been all over the board - some like the comedy, some prefer the drama, some want more of a traditional story arc, some wanted less, some loved the grand scale of a giant set and cast, some thought it was too far reaching, some believed there were "too many cooks" in the writing and some really dug the whole kit and kaboodle.

Mostly, what I've been interested and asking folks who come see the show is:
1) Did you enjoy the show? and
2) What do you think about Edward Hopper?

I wish I had kept better statistical data, because, again, it's been all over the board.

Some folks love Hopper's work.
Some folks are only really familiar with "Nighthawks."
Some folks know the painting...but only as pop art parody.
Some folks really are not a fan of his work.
Some folks were "meh" about him. (Why those folks came to the show? I suspect to support someone working on it, and other folks said they support DCA shows in general...which is really outstanding, as a rule.)

When you look at any painting, you find your own story and connect emotions with it that someone standing right next to you, well, they'll have a completely different tact on it. Theater is very much like this reaction.

Your personal experience impacts your perception.

Yes, yes...that statement can be true about all things throughout life.
But, looking at a painting or watching a play almost seems to magnify this result.

My favorite responses have been such...

"I went to the Art Institute today and looked at the painting before I came and saw the show."

"I am not a fan of Hopper. I generally find his work to be isolating and depressing. But, I loved this show!"

"What painting was that scene from?"

"Afterwards, I went online and looked at a bunch of his stuff. I really liked it!"

Personally, the greatest compliment I can ever give to a show is that I want more. If it's from a book, I want to read the book. If it's inspired by history or a true story, I want to research it and learn more.

In our case, if our show puts the desire in someone to see more of Hopper's works? I feel like we won.

It's an interesting cycle. Hopper creates, which influences us to create, which influences some folks to reconsider (or consider for the first time) Hopper's work. Or who knows? Maybe this show will inspire someone else to create something?

Of course the circle of influence is stretches beyond Hopper alone.

Speaking for myself, I reimmersed myself in the works of Studs Terkel and Nelson Algren as I was writing the pieces I submitted for the show, not to mention all the research I did for the costume design for the show. D-Ray's direction was very much influenced visually by Joseph Cornell along with 50's jazz music he uses in the show, along with other influences I'm probably unaware of.

In my mind, Art, in a way, is like paying it forward.

Brass tacks? Art is sharing. Sharing an idea or a feeling or a laugh. Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967) saw something and decided to put in on canvas decades ago. I'll never know what he was feeling that day, or what he might have wanted me to feel about it...but I have a reaction to it all the same.

His work inspired many people to create this show, which (hopefully) will influence some folks to look at his work with new eyes, perhaps. Or encourage them to put their coins on the counter and see another play by another small off-Loop theater company in the future. Who knows.

Art creates art. Art is encouraging. Art is free speech. Art is fun. Art is a release. Art is connection. Art is so many things. And pretty much? All of those things are a good thing.

I am often fascinated by the influence of art.
How the ripples can stretch out, sometimes quietly and find it's impact years later.

Here is a song. It is one of my personal favorites.
Originally written and recorded in 1964, it never made it to the charts.

Still, this song went on to influence many folks.

Nearly 20 years later, an English band re-recorded it to much success (the first version I heard and loved.) And more bands and artists continue to put their stamp on it.

But, once I heard the original, I was struck by how a piece of art can, by critical and/or financial standards, "fail" - and yet still be a beautiful piece of work that still ripples out.

I'm not comparing this to Hopper directly...I consider our production to be a complete success.

I'm only using this as an example of how art can reach across the years to impact other artists and "civilians" across the globe...and how, when I like something, I want to know as much as I can about it.


Tainted Love (1964)
Written by Ed Cobb (1938 - 1999)
Originally Recorded by Gloria Jones

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

over my shoulder (the 2009 edition)

I'm stealing a meme (again) from notnits: Post the first line from each month of your blog over the previous year.

While self-evaluation is great, I'm not a fan of sitting through "year in reviews" (or making you do the same), but I found this entertaining...and a tad revealing last time, so...why not.

I'm following my pattern of last year and adding the title of the entry (note the parentheses) and linking to the full entry (hit the month), if you're curious to see where the stray thought ended up.

JANUARY: (over my shoulder) I've been avoiding doing one of those "year in reviews."

FEBRUARY: (hiro worship) Lately, I've noticed that Time has been swirling around me...but it came to a slamming halt when his car hit my car this AM.

MARCH: (major) First, the meme: 1. List three of your major artistic influences and three unexpected ones.

APRIL: (back to life) I'll assume that most if not all of you know that I had a fairly serious health issue that laid me out last week. It's improving, but ongoing and I'm sure I'll talk about it at length some other time.

MAY: (rock paper scissors lizard spock) Next week, I'm taking a sabbatical from blogging as we enter the final phase of getting the show up on its feet.

JUNE: (precious) At the end of the day, when I finally made it back to my office, and as I was hacking my lungs out, an office mate peered around my cube and told me I sounded just like Gollum.

JULY: (slowly i turn) Yeah. I've been gone.

AUGUST: (give me these moments back) So, I'm thinking you might have heard by now.

SEPTEMBER: (the lost footage) If you missed it on FB, John put together this "trailer" for our show, which if very helpful, when you're trying to describe a live, sci-fi, improv show and folks look at you funny.

OCTOBER: (backing the wrong horse) I thought I could be quiet about the Polanski arrest.

NOVEMBER: (awol) First I was having issue with my access to the blog. "Gaw! Why can't I load this picture? Damn you to hell, Blogger!"

DECEMBER: (let it be) Many times I find myself drawing strength from the example of others.

brain sorbet

Just when I start to think that James Franco is edging on overexposure, I see something like this and it just makes me root for him all over again.

[From April 2009]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Here's the truth about reviews.

Some of it is actual constructive criticism. Some of it is just pulpy word play. Sometimes, it's based on personal likes/dislikes or preconceived expectations. And sometimes, it's just mean for no good reason.

Here's the truth about theater.

It's a group effort. You need a director with a focus to corral it all, but everyone has to hold onto their length of rope to keep the sail up and the boat headed toward the right destination. That's the actors, writers, technical staff, everybody. Everybody.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

So when a review points out something grand, or less than's a reflection on the whole, no matter which part was held to task.

I've performed in (or worked on) a lot of shows. LOTS. A few were heartbreakingly excellent, a couple were painfully bad and many more than I can count were quite entertaining (which is the very least a show should be at any given time.) All of them share one constant:

Artistic types (on the whole) seek response.

And, let's face it, positive response is 84% sweeter than negative.
We want our work to be appreciated and understood.
Or at least appreciated.

Some years back I was in a really great show. Audiences loved it, critics loved it...well, except for my character. There were seven cast members. One particularly glowing review mentioned how fucking awesome every single actor was by name (and they were)...with the exception of me. I was listed as an "also ran."

Let me tell you, years later, the thought of that review is still like a tiny splinter in my thumb. It doesn't really hurt, unless I jab at it, but it's there, just under my skin. A reminder.

The thing is, I was happy with my work in the show. (Still am.)
And thrilled that we got such a great response.

But actors are, well, we hate admitting it aloud, but we are needy, attention seeking motherfuckers. We play it cool (or learn to), but really, down deep, we just want you to tell us how fucking awesome we are.

24 hours a day.

Of course, that's highly unrealistic.
At some point, we need sleep.

So, I suspect that's why, while we try to ignore bad reviews (but sometimes can't), when we hear words that flatter our giant balloon animal egos (like the ones they use outside of car dealerships), we tend to let them wash all over us.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm super proud of all the work everyone put into this show. More than once,my jaw has hit the floor at the display of talent and professionalism these folks have thrown down.

That said, if anyone could use some air in her giant balloon animal, it's me.

So, for today, I'm going to take it and run with it.
Enjoy it.
Let my brain explode, squeegee it off the wall and let it explode again.

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

Sun Times: Several scenes do justice to Hopper's paintings, including the winningly raw and poetic Nelson Algren-like riff that starts the show, and some exchanges of body language that capture hints of longing and disappointment.

DUDE. Nelson Algren is one of my all-time favorite writers and for someone to pick up on that tone and reference makes my brain explode and fills me with an excitement akin to Navin Johnson finding his listing in the phone book.

New City: There are eight million stories in the naked city, and WNEP lets us eavesdrop on a handful of them. Fragments, not full narratives, consistent with the mystique evoked by Hopper, create a mosaic of life. Not surprisingly, there’s a noir tone to it all, with spot-on night and the city costuming by Rebecca Langguth and a cinematic jazz soundtrack.

Although, I believe this reviewer was less keen on my writing "...the writing is spotty, ranging from clever meta-noir tone poems to ineffective melodrama."

I'm the only one (I'm pretty sure) who's pieces could be compared with a meta-noir tone poem. If you've seen the play, you'll find some ironic comedy in my writing being called "clever." Ah...callbacks.

Still, it's awfully nice to get a shout out for all the hours upon hours I spent digging through thrift stores and pulling my hair out when I lost on Ebay auctions.

So there you are.
Or there I am.
My ego. Sated for the moment.

Although...the day? She's still young.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's a Hopper World

The show...she is open.

I'm celebrating my 10th year with WNEP and I have to tell you, I'm very happy that this is the show that marks that anniversary.

- The writing is very much reflective of our company. Dry, smart, funny, dark, and awkward (in the most delicious way.)

- While we normally strive for rather simple set designs (if at all), the set Heath Hays created in tandem with Mike Durst's light design is as lush as the set for "Metaluna" (John Wilson/Sarah Gorsky), with the scale of it amped up times 10.

- The actors have been firing on all cylinders and I love to watch them bring it all into flesh and bone. Best part...they all seem to be enjoying themselves, which makes it even more delightful to watch.

- The crew is just freaking on point. ON. POINT. You wish you had these ladies in your corner. You dream you had Joe Griffin layering your world with sound.

- A special shout-out to Henri Dugas (another company member), who, in the final days of rehearsal, with very little notice, created several key set peices that you would give your eye teeth for.

- Our director, Mr. D-Ray Hall should be very proud of the beautiful and awkward caliope he fostered into being.

I'm very happy with the show.

I'm happy with the writing I put into it. I'm happy with the costuming (although, it will be a while before I costume a show this size again. Woof.) I'm happy for the small pieces of direction here and there that I've was able to offer up as Don's second pair of eyeballs.

Happy. Proud. Satisfied.

With theater, like any art form, what you see is what you want to see. What you get out is often the perspective you walked in with. Maybe you'll see something new, if you're open to it...or maybe something familiar.

For me, this show is about stepping into a painting. Stepping into a world inspired by Edward Hopper. It's likely the most Studs Terkel-esque show I think we've done (since Postmortem.) It's full of small stories about every day folks.

Some funny, some awful, but always honest. Like watching a slice of a city. So much goings on, so many small moments that add up to the bigger picture. Like any other day, it can be filled with the mundane or magic.

Of course, I prefer my magic with a large serving of mundane.

Photo by John Sisson

(by the way...that's not the painting. that's a pix from the show. chew on that.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

role models r us

I had such a long day freezing my ass off tromping around this city getting Hopper schtuff done...but, suddenly...not having a car, waiting at the bus stop in 11 degrees of bone chilling cold, with five giant overstuffed bags of sundry costume peices...

It all melts away when I watch this.

Stephen Colbert was one of the folks who taught me about improv, writing and sketch comedy years ago. I continue to learn from his example (and his fine staff of writers) to this day.