Friday, August 26, 2005

New Blog

Now working on a new blog:

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

VOICES ON: Paul Newman

Example text of what could go here.
From Portraits on Page:


"Well, I hate to say it, it sounds corny. There was something that was magical about her (Geraldine Page) energy. I hate to use that word 'cause it's used in such a bad way -- but there was something really spiritual about it. What it was, I suppose, is that it was really connected. There was never anything phony about it, that's what I mean.

It seems to me you usually see the person who's playing the part working on the character. But I always felt she was the character (Princess Kosmonopolis, Sweet Bird of Youth) working onstage. I admired her discipline, too. A lot of people think she was not particularly disciplined but she was, extremely so. And she never pushed at anything, she never went beyond what the impulse was, which is great and why there was never anything phony about the work. Whatever she "had" was available to her at all times. She didn't have to struggle, to pump it up, to discover it. Everything was always accessible...

2005, all rights reserved

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Monday, August 08, 2005


Here's a short list of warm-up exercises for the people who've e-mailed:

Breathe around your middle. Continue this all through your warm-ups

Spine is straight, pelvis tucked under you. Rib cage is up, shoulders up and back.

Lean very slightly forward onto the balls of your feet. You feel grounded but energized.

Bounce a little bit and feel your weight – like you feel the ground beneath you

Learn to locate where tension lives in you and drop it as you breathe.

Roll your neck all around, drop it, and then roll it back the other way. Repeat 3x.

Forward and back. Alternating.

Up to your ears, then drop. 3x.

Criss-cross your arms and put your hands under each armpit.
Walk your fingers backwards and reach for your spine.
When they’ve gone as far as they can, press your fingers down into your back and grab hold.
Bend over ninety-degrees and take a deep breath in. You will feel your back open up.

Bend your knees. Slowly drop over and let everything hang. Let your head and shoulders sway.
Swing them. Let your neck go. Breathe. Gently sway back and forth. Then slowly roll back up.

Stick your tongue out. Touch your chin. Press it against your hard palate. Say la-la-la-la.

Gently massage the back part of your jaw where it curves up below your ears.

Blow air through your lips and let ‘em flap in the breeze. Great for warming up the voice.

Pretend you’re chewing. Move your lips in every direction.
Practice saying: "How now Brown Cow?" - your chin "drops down to chest"

Hope this is helpful. Have a great Tuesday.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005


Example of 'teaser' text. One month till my play mounts the stage again. Or mounts something. I just don't want to get mounted from behind by people like the theatre critic who condescendingly wrote that "it has potential." Uh-huh. "Potential." Well, it was better than saying I bit it, and he did find parts he liked, but it wasn't the kind of reception I wanted.

When you self-produce, write and act in something you've toiled over for months, you want raves. And of course he came on the very worst performance, which proves Murphy's law. I had a huge audience instead of the 6 or 8 people that usually showed up. Plus The Critic. And I "went up" higher than a kite. Fumbled my way through the first quarter of the piece. Blank. Blank. I was shootin' Blanks. And with every gaffe I just got more distracted, as I could almost hear the scratch of his pencil on paper.

When you do produce, write and act in your own piece, often friends will say "You should get a director, just to get some perspective."

Every time I've gotten a director I've had a bad experience. What threw me is that "Mademoiselle's" vision totally played against the nature of the piece. The audience felt frustrated and so did I. And that night I went down with the ship.

Oh, she saved her best move till dress rehearsal. Just before a one-man show, she said she really hadn't liked the whole experience!

Honey, could you have waited 2 more days??

But onward! This time it'll be looser, played to the audience as if a party was taking place and I'm telling my stories as if I were hosting it.

So that was my latest Being Directed experience. I know there are good ones out there, but boy I haven't come across one lately!

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VOICES on: Chet Baker

A musician with a style and voice all his own, Chet Baker.

What I love about him are his laidback vocals, and how he makes his voice sound like that famous trumpet he played.

Like Billie Holiday, you could hear the pain and heartbreak in his voice. They never show-boated or pushed themselves beyond what they did well: opening up a window into the human soul.

A great artist, a tragic life.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Alien Invasion!

"They're not people, they're:


Podcasts, that is...

With more and more people discovering this new way to post, the need to get your voice to your own "broadcasting level: (or at least not embarrassing) is to do a little work on changing the quality of how you sound.

Give it a try.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005


From my book-in-progress on actress Geraldine Page:

I ran into an old friend yesterday and she wanted to know what I was up to.

Me: "Among other things, I'm doing a book on Geraldine Page."
Her: Oh, I loved her in that movie with Bette Davis."
Me: "She never made a movie with Bette Davis."
Her: "Yes she did. The one where she gets a brain tumor and walks up all those stairs to her bedroom and then dies."
Me: "That's Geraldine Fitzgerald."
Her: "Oh."
Me: "Geraldine Page died in 1987. I'm writing this so people won't forget her."
Her: "Oh, of course. Now I know who you mean. She did all those O'Neill plays with what's-his-name, Robards."
Me: "That's Colleen Dewhurst."
Her: "Oh. Then I have no idea who she was."

That was typical of conversations I had with people who wanted to know what I was up to. But I had the time of my life interviewing her colleagues.

Today's interview: legendary acting guru Uta Hagen.

DA:"You said she'd picked up a lot of bad habits in summer stock. What were they?"
UH:"Well, you tell me. 'Indicating.' Ready-made, preconceived, conventional habits. But she was always talented. Tons of emotion, that she had. And she learned to discover a role instead of settling for what she saw off the top of her head. I think she was unbelievably original, ultimately, in her selections. The selections are what make a great artist, which she certainly was. But also, the biggest mistake in her career was her inability to recognize a good play."
DA: "And she turned down "...Virginia Woolf."
UH: "She didn't turn it down! That's a total fiction! Did you ask Edward (Albee) about that? He'll laugh right in your face. I was always their first choice!"
DA: "Well, what about 'Sweet Bird of Youth'?"
UH: "GOD! I hated that play so, and I hated her in it. I think it's a soap opera. I think the whole play is on the moon!
She got me tickets. Afterward she said, 'Oh, Tennessee told me I was the greatest actress since Laurette Taylor.' I told her, 'He says that to everyone. He said it to Tallulah Bankhead for Christ's sake.'"

2005, all rights reserved

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Playwright DAVID HARE: "Lecture"

It would take a great scholar of the English language to tell us when the word "lecture" acquired such negative connotations. "Don't lecture me!" "I'm not taking a lecture from anyone." "It was more like a lecture than a play." Look in the Collins English Dictionary and only one of the six given meanings is "to reprimand at length". But somehow the sixth has spilt over and infected the other five. What ought to be a purely descriptive word has come to carry heavy derogatory freight. Even a child knows to associate the word "lecture" with adult superiority, long-windedness and boredom. Why?

Clearly, I'm biased. I have found it useful, for the last quarter-century, to decorate the writing of plays and films with a kind of commentary - call it background murmuring, maybe, in the form of public address. More than anything, it has had the virtue of helping me examine my own ideas. The act of setting them down has clarified them, at least for me, if not for anyone else. I think I could best define a political writer as one who is likely to have an analysis as well as a view. By some quirk of temperament, I can't begin to write fiction unless I have more than a purely instinctive notion of what I am, at the outset, intending to say. The finished play will then almost certainly turn out to bear as many differing interpretations as those of my fellow-dramatists who claim only to blunder about in the dark with no real idea either of where they're headed or of their reasons for writing. (Please reject absolutely the crazy Jonathan Miller suggestion that playwrights don't have intentions. Or that there's no need for directors to seek to discover them. They do. And there is.) But for me it's always been important to try to take some kind of aerial view - often as much about context as about content. That's also the reason to accept an occasional invitation to speak. Beyond my personal pleasure in the discipline of pursuing a line of argument for almost an hour lies my own preference as a member of an audience. Isn't it always more interesting to hear someone unmediated than it is to hear them clash in so-called debate?
To give you the idea: I've noticed, among my friends and acquaintances, that I am, for some reason, one of the few people who positively looks forward to the speeches at weddings. I'd go further. For me, they're the best part. Perhaps you may think me a cold fish when I admit that I have sometimes watched unmoved as the ring was slipped onto the finger, or as the first kiss was taken. (Priests always seem to be saying "Not yet.") But I have never failed to feel a thrill of genuine anticipation when someone calls for silence and rolls out the magic words: "Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking." In one heart at least, the announcement does not cause a sinking. Far from it. Part of my interest is clearly professional. I am, after all, a playwright, and there is nothing more revealing of character than when a proud father or a jealous ex-lover acting as best man is forced to rise to their feet and "offer a few words". Yes, life is theatre, and the rituals that make private matters public are specially delicious. But I also love the prospect that, for once, somebody's spool is going to be allowed to run and run. Mark it down as optimism, but I cannot help feeling - at least before they speak - that the longer someone goes on, the more you are likely to learn.

(courtesy: Arts & Letters)

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