Archive for May, 2011

My first year of college, during one of our first acting classes, our teacher had each of us volunteer to tell any story that came to our mind relating to one of a bunch of objects in the center of the room. People picked up objects and told stories from their lives. Some were funny, some were sad, some were personal, some were casual. One guy picked up a ring and told us it reminded him of one that had belonged to his sister and told us the story of how she died. By the end of it, people were aghast. He finished the story and the whole class whimpered in sympathy, moving in to hug and cry and learn and grow as theatre students tend to do. And then he said
“I’m fucking with all of you. I don’t even have a sister.”
And everyone laughed and praised his “acting” and how good he was at just making up a story like that on the spot.
Except for me. All I could think was
“Wow. What a dick.”

Ten years later I went to The Liar Show, a show where four people tell stories of things that have happened to them and one of those stories is a lie.  Peter Aguero told a story about standing up to his abusive father.  It was full of emotional honesty and raw vulnerability.  It was hard for him to tell, a confession he had never made out loud.  His voice broke when he told the story and he had to leave the room after telling it.

And then he turned out to be the liar.

Everyone was shocked.  No one has seen this coming.  His own mother thought that the story was true and she was in the story.

I wanted to be pissed off that it wasn’t true. I wanted to think he was a dick, just like I had with my classmate. I expected to feel ripped off, manipulated, annoyed that I’d been touched so deeply by something that wasn’t true. But I wasn’t. And I couldn’t figure out why.

And then Peter told me that the first part of the story was true but the actual fight had never happened. The fight was what he had wanted to happen. And THAT was the difference. The story he told wasn’t a lie. It was wasn’t true but it was what he wanted to be true. It was fiction. He had honestly said what he needed to say, what he was scared to say in front of an audience. He just changed the story to make it more compelling. It’s still the truth, in a way.  It’s still honest.

Because when Peter finished his story I thought “Wow. That was a really hard story for him to tell.”
And when my classmate had finished his story I thought “Wow. I think this guy is full of shit.”
And I was right.

People can tell when you’re telling the truth. People can tell when you’re being vulnerable. People can tell when you’re scared to say the things your saying.

Also, Peter’s not a dick. That may have helped.

Too many solo shows I’ve seen have been tied up in what REALLY happened, so the story gets messy, the ending is unsatisfying, because it’s got too much reality. The audience doesn’t care about your life, they care about your truth. And it’s your job to clear the way to the revelations your experiences have brought you.  Sometimes that means bending the truth so that people know what you learned and how it felt.  Maybe your ex didn’t slap you but it *felt* like he slapped you.  Just say that.  And change his name.

Most, if not all, fiction is a confession in disguise.

I’ve pimped for Peter Aguero before and I’m going to do it again because he’s doing another production of Bare and this time the stories are all his and they’re all about the darkest time in his life. I’m doing two acts in it and I couldn’t be more excited. These are new acts and you won’t see them anywhere else because one of them is damn specific and the other one is dead depressing. BUT I’m really proud of them and they’re totally worth seeing.

Check it out. Have your heart broken and your naughty bits awoken, perhaps simultaneously. Wednesday the 25th, 9pm at Under St. Marks Theater: 94 St Marks Place. All for a mere $5.

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It Doesn’t Get Better

Posted: May 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

I was doing a burlesque show with another performer who was relatively new to the scene.  Well, ok, *I’m* relatively new to the scene.  But I’ve been doing it for 5 years and she’d been doing it for about 1 year so I seemed like a veteran to her.  We were about to start the show and she was visibly nervous, though doing a valiant job, trying not to be.  Still she looked at me, let out a shaky breath and said

“Tell me, does it ever get better?”

She looked at me with hopeful eyes and I knew that I was supposed to help.  I was supposed to offer the pearl of wisdom that would show her the trick to banishing her fears.  Instead I said

“Nope.”

It doesn’t get better, and here’s how I know:

A little while ago I was in a Barnes and Nobel, looking for a book.  I went up to the top floor to find the place PACKED with people.  At first I thought books were making a surprise comeback but then I realized they were holding  an event there.  It was some kind of panel starring Michael Showalter.

Since I’m a huge fan of The State and I’d just been watching The Baxter earlier that day I was pretty psyched to being the same room as Michael Showalter.  But I was also tired, hungry and not really psyched about the idea of standing around in a huge crowd of people for an indefinite period of time so I decided to shove my way back through the crowd and go home before the panel kicked off.

While on my way to the stairs I got distracted by something shiny and accidentally bumped into someone.  I turned around to apologize and, boom, it was Michael Showalter.

He's that guy. He was in that thing? You know that guy...

Now, I know he isn’t a huge name or anything, but I was star struck.  I was OBSESSED with The State when I was 12 (my best friend and I used to re-enact the skits.  I can still quote the vast majority of their skits verbatim.) Wet Hot American Summer is one of my favorite movies. I’m a big dorky fan girl.  So I just stood there like a dumbass thinking “OMG Michael Showalter Just touched me!” and he kept on walking.  As he walked toward the stage the person he was walking with asked

“So, Michael, are you still worried no one’s going to show up to this thing?”

Michael Showalter, whom I’ve been quoting and fangirling over for more than half my life, who’s been in countless movies and tv shows, who freaking *packed* this place, still doesn’t think people care who he is enough to draw much of a crowd.  He still thinks that.  Which means he’s probably always going to think that.  He has the same fears I have and always will.  Which probably means I’m always going to have those fears, too.

Here’s the awesome part:  That’s ok.

Being successful doesn’t mean you’re not insecure which means that being insecure doesn’t mean you’re not successful.  It’s really easy when you feel down about yourself to dismiss the things you’ve done.  So don’t.  Recognize that your fears will be there no matter what and don’t let them stand in your way.

So back to that burlesque show.

I told her that, no, it doesn’t get better.  The fears don’t go away and it’s never *easy.*  This was especially true of that that night for me because I’d forgotten all of my music and half my costumes and was REALLY flying by the seat of my pants this time.  But I didn’t break down and I didn’t give up, even though I literally living one of my worst nightmares.  I pushed down the butterflies and ignored my fears and did the best damn performance I could.  Because it may not get better, but *you* do.  You learn and you grow and the challenges always rise every time you tick that bar up but so do you and you get better at pushing yourself to meet them.

But I didn’t quite have that formed in my head at the time.  So instead I said

“No.  It’s always scary.  You’re always anxious.  But anxiety is just inches away from excitement.  And excitement is what makes it good.”

I hope it helped.

Thanks, Guys

The show was awesome. Let’s just say that right off the bat. If you have any doubts, check out this cast photo.
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Bam!

My act was… a little rocky. It was good but I think it *could* Amazing and it’s not there yet.

The costume is pretty solid. There are some fidly issues, such as getting the tuxedo stripe to lay flat. And I’m not really happy with the jacket but I don’t know why. I may glitz it up more so it’s “Burlesque-y” but I’m not sure.
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The razors were kind of a no go. One of the tubes sprung a leak. The caulking did nothing to seal them and I used E6000 but I don’t think it had enough time to cure. And even though one of them did work, the fake blood we used was too thick to get sucked up into the bulb. Live and learn (and then use thinner fake blood)

The wig was somewhat short shrifted when it came to time so I didn’t do too much to style it and I wasn’t crazy about it the first night. Luckily(?) it got a pretty good splash of blood during the first performance and had to be washed out and ended up looking way better the second night because I let it be a bit more crazy. Similarly, I was less nervous and, thus, much freer with the makeup the second night and it looked a lot better because of it.

For performance analysis, let’s go to the tape:

This was the first performance.

It looks better than it felt but it’s still pretty rocky. I never actually had time to rehearse (the costume ATE MY WHOLE LIFE) and it shows. It shows mainly because you can’t think and act at the same time. It can’t be done. This is why rehearsing exists in the first place. You can’t be in the moment, you can’t really feel the emotions you’re supposed to be feeling, while the majority of your brain is focused on what you’re supposed to do next. This may explain some of the truly stupid things actors have done on stage. Or it may not.
Generally when you try to think and act at the same time you just blather around playing mood, which in this case is sexy.
Apparently I can think and be sexy. So it ain’t all bad.

Going over the movement in my mind I realized that the act had a little too much going on in it, the jacket removal and vest removal were too similar, and I had failed to show off my greatest physical asset (which is a bit like having a Van Gogh museum and hiding Starry Starry Night in an attic somewhere) So I resolved to cut the vest from the act, slow the fuck down, and make sure to show my ass.

Burlesque really does make for the best performance notes.

Also, having not rehearsed with the blood It didn’t occur to me to try REALLY REALLY hard to NOT dump it on my face. I didn’t know I’d NEED to try really hard. I figured my natural instincts would prevent me from dumping giant bowl of chemicals directly onto my mouth and eyes. No such luck.
I also did not take into account the aftermath of this act. My brain is not good with the follow through. It did not occur to me that once I dumped a giant bowl of blood on me I would be covered in blood and something would have to be done about that. So once I got off stage I ran down to the basement slop sink, squinting my soap filled eyes and spitting the truly horrific taste of palmolive out of my mouth, and proceeded to take a sponge bath in the sink. Unfortunately I didn’t have a sponge so I used my (blood drenched) socks. They may never be the same again.
So the next night I brought a sponge, a towel, a different pair of socks, a buttload of plastic bags and reminded myself over and over and over aim for the tits.
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Logistically it went a little better. I showed my ass, got to act a bit more (though, it’s a really hard song to act if you’re not singing) and even had some room to play (i.e. jumping into the seat of the lovely Brad Lawrence)  There’s still a lot of work to do.  It needs a lot more rehearsal and some stricter choreography.  In a perfect world I’d actually be singing the song but it’s not logistically feasible at the moment so I may try lip syncing it.  I think I’ll also lose the scarf and maybe sew the gloves to the sleeves so it all comes off in one fell swoop. I’ve got to make the razors work, polish up the act a bit and find a formula for blood that won’t require a full on sponge bath because it’s really not easy to do that in most venues. The blood we used had a corn syrup and dish detergent base. I want to try water thickened with arrowroot and see how easy it is to wash that off. I still want to change the jacket a little. I’m just not sure how.

Other than that though, I’m really excited about it. I think it’s just going to get better and better.
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With a finish like this, how could it not?

Rest now my friends. Rest now forever. Sleep now the untroubled sleep of the angels.