Monday, June 30, 2008

The daring young Nome on the flying trapeze



My daughter has really become addicted to the flying trapeze. She takes lessons at least once a week and is getting pretty good. Watch Nome fly through the air here - and get a nice round of applause. But first the catcher ("come on old man") has to swing high enough to get into proper catching position.

(Careful with the audio - the sound is set a little high.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Le Leche League

Breast-feeding pioneer Edwina Froelich founder of Le Leche League died recently at the age of 93. It seems odd to have a breast-feeding pioneer, since women have been doing it for the entire history of human existence, and it is one of the definitions of being a mammal.*

But admitting humans are mammals was apparently out of fashion in the 1950s. According to Froelich's NYTimes obituary:
At a time when most pediatricians encouraged formula and bottle-feeding and when there were few scientific studies demonstrating the health benefits of breast milk, Mrs. Froehlich chose to breast-feed all of her babies, said another La Leche founder, Mary White.

"We used to tell the mothers the three main obstacles to successful breast-feeding were doctors, hospitals and social pressure," Mrs. White said.

In 1956, when Mrs. White and a friend, Marian Tompson, decided to start a community organization to support and educate local breast-feeding mothers, Mrs. Froehlich was one of the first women they approached. Soon, monthly meetings were being held in Mrs. Froehlich’s home, and a new phone line was installed so she could answer questions coming in from mothers across the country, Mrs. White said.

"We didn't have any information," said Mrs. Tompson, another of the original group of seven La Leche League founders. "There weren’t any books out there, and women just didn’t talk about these things. Only 18 percent of women in the U.S. left the hospital breast-feeding at that time."
Things had improved by the time I was breast feeding, but even as late as 1997, the state of New Jersey enacted a law that sets forth the importance of breast-feeding, and clarifies that women have a right to breast-feed her baby in public.

And still, to this day women are harrassed for breastfeeding in public. In 2006 some women staged a breast-feeding protest
in front of the Delta Airlines ticket counter. The mothers were protesting as a result of a prior incident in which Emily Gillette was breast-feeding her child on a Delta Airlines flight prior to take off when the flight attendant told her to cover her breast feeding child with a blanket. The flight attendant had Gillette and her family removed from the plane when the mother declined to cover her baby.


Luckily I was never harassed, but then I didn't breast-feed in public very much, since the stares were enough to mortify you into stopping. Which means I was much less likely to go out in public, since if you are lactating, there are all kinds of annoyances if your breasts aren't milked every couple of hours or so. It is very uncomfortable walking around in public while your breasts are heavy and swollen with milk, or you are visibly leaking through your blouse.

I definitely envy new mothers with access to the Internet - wish I had when my daughter was a baby. There's even a video on how to breast feed online.

*Characteristics of all mammals
1. They are endothermic vertebrates.

2. They have hair, which varies greatly among species.

3. Most have sudoriferus (sweat) glands.

4. They have mammary (milk-secreting) glands.

5. They have sebaceous (fat-secreting) glands.

6. They have heterodont dentition (different types of teeth).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Religious guys support pedophilia. In other news, the sun will rise in the morning

One morning last month, Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali walked out of her husband’s house here and ran to a local hospital, where she complained that he had been beating and sexually abusing her for eight months.

That alone would be surprising in Yemen, a deeply conservative Arab society where family disputes tend to be solved privately. What made it even more unusual was that Arwa was 9 years old.

Within days, Arwa — a tiny, delicate-featured girl — had become a celebrity in Yemen, where child marriage is common but has rarely been exposed in public. She was the second child bride to come forward in less than a month; in April, a 10-year-old named Nujood Ali had gone by herself to a courthouse to demand a divorce, generating a landmark legal case.

Together, the two girls’ stories have helped spur a movement to put an end to child marriage, which is increasingly seen as a crucial part of the cycle of poverty in Yemen and other third world countries. Pulled out of school and forced to have children before their bodies are ready, many rural Yemeni women end up illiterate and with serious health problems. Their babies are often stunted, too.

The average age of marriage in Yemen’s rural areas is 12 to 13, a recent study by Sana University researchers found. The country, at the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

“This is the first shout,” said Shada Nasser, a human rights lawyer who met Nujood, the 10-year-old, after she arrived at the courthouse to demand a divorce. Ms. Nasser decided instantly to take her case. “All other early marriage cases have been dealt with by tribal sheiks, and the girl never had any choice.”

But despite a rising tide of outrage, the fight against the practice is not easy. Hard-line Islamic conservatives, whose influence has grown enormously in the past two decades, defend it, pointing to the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a 9-year-old. Child marriage is deeply rooted in local custom here, and even enshrined in an old tribal expression: “Give me a girl of 8, and I can give you a guarantee” for a good marriage.
More in the NYTimes

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stress videos

Nobody whines and complains about NYCPlaywrights more than me. Since I began the group with my ex-boyfriend in November 2000 I have seen my share of lousy plays written by crazy or conceited or right-wing (or sometimes all three) people. Some nights I go home asking myself "why do I DO this?" But every now and then we'll have a really good meeting with good (or at least not egregiously bad) plays and a great feeling of a community of artists. And if nothing else, running the group week after week forces me to write plays on a regular basis, and I've accumulated quite a few over eight years. I decided to put some of them together for an evening of short plays called STRESS AND THE CITY. We did a reading of the plays on Wednesday and I videotaped them. Watch the videos here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good show!

We had a great reading of my STRESS AND THE CITY at NYCPlaywrights last night. I will be posting video excerpts here soon.

So I got more negative feedback about my directing recently. I certainly could have done better at directing if I wasn't swamped with production duties for JANE EYRE, but while plenty of people would like to direct, NOBODY wants to do the nasty chore of production work without being paid very well for it. And although many actors seem to think I'm made of money, I am most definitely not.

So I will have to continue to both produce and direct. So the only remedy is to learn to be good at both, while doing both at the same time.

As I said before, part of my problem as a director is perception - being female automatically means your work is valued less. And this isn't just some paranoid feminist conspiracy theory - this is based on empirical testing - the blind auditions study which I've blogged about before:
Among musicians who auditioned in both blind and non-blind auditions, about 28.6 percent of female musicians and 20.2 percent of male musicians advanced from the preliminary to the final round in blind auditions. When preliminary auditions were not blind, only 19.3 percent of the women advanced, along with 22.5 percent of the men.

Using data from the audition records, the researchers found that blind auditions increased the probability that a woman would advance from preliminary rounds by 50 percent. The likelihood of a woman's ultimate selection is increased several fold, although the competition is extremely difficult and the chance of success still low.

As a result, blind auditions have had a significant impact on the face of symphony orchestras. About 10 percent of orchestra members were female around 1970, compared to about 35 percent in the mid-1990s. Rouse and Goldin attribute about 30 percent of this gain to the advent of blind auditions.

"Screens have been a very important part of the whole audition process," Nelson said. "My sense is that blind auditions have made a tremendous difference in the amount of hiring discrimination women face."


And Elizabeth Spelke had done her own work on the subject of female-name CVs being rated lower than male-name CVs, for the exact same CV.

Clearly the Bronte sisters had the right idea when they published their work initially under male-sounding pen names. And the discrimination continues to this very day.

Which is not to say that all women would make great stage directors. But clearly directors with male names are likely to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Several audience members said good things about my work as a director, and even the critics made positive, if indirect comments about my work.

Often if an actor's performance is lacking, the director will be blamed. One of the critics of JANE EYRE said this about the show:
the acting hits on all cylinders
Now if the acting did NOT hit on all cylinders, I am sure I would have been blamed for it. So conversely I think I should get credit for the acting hitting on all cylinders. Although since I didn't hide my female name, I'm sure the critics were less likely to give me credit as a director. And by the way, women are just as likely to carry around unconscious sexist attitudes when evaluating females - as Spelke's CV study showed - as males, so the fact that all the critics who came to JE are female does nothing to reduce the likelihood of being penalized for being female.

In any case what it boils down to is this: do a show under imperfect conditions OR don't do a show at all. I think it's better to do the show under imperfect conditions. But any actors who won't work under less than perfect conditions are invited not to take my money for acting in my plays.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Sense of Direction

My actor friend Bruce Barton recently informed me that when it comes to theatre, and writing, producing and directing, I am weakest at directing. But the only critique I could get out of him on my directing was that I don't always use rehearsal time efficiently because I spend too much time feeding the cast and crew. Although when we mentioned it to actor Nat Cassidy, he offered that he's always thrilled to get free food.

I think there's more to my directing issue than feeding actors - but wow wouldn't that be nice, if all I had to do was spend less money.

Interestingly, several audience members from JANE EYRE told me they loved my direction. And mind you, this was in the face of many technical difficulties, including a stage crew that made the scene changes far slower than they should have been - although over the course of the 3-week run I did what I could to improve that situation.

I've had so many bad experiences with directors that I will probably always direct my own work. So of course I'm always looking to improve - I don't have the luxury of going to college to study it. But it isn't brain surgery either, although so many self-important directors would have you think so.

One aspect of directing that I will have to improve on is presenting myself as more of an authority figure. Being a woman automatically means that will be an uphill battle. But it's necessary to be an authority and a bit bossy - too many actors are liable to view you in contempt if you are too nice and accomodating, I have found. And it isn't just male actors - three of the most obnoxious, disrespectful actors I've ever had to deal with have been women.

My favorite text on the subject of directing for theatre is William Ball's "A Sense of Direction" - more on that soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mr Fuzz!



It's hard to make videos with my Mac laptop because Mr. Fuzz keeps getting in the way!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Actor added to NYCP reading

Actor Wayne Henry of Emerging Arists Theatre and Henry and Stein has agreed to participate in my reading at NYCPlaywrights this week. Yay!

The Lovely Rae



In the Village Voice - she was in the Mermaid Parade - the one with the pink parasol on the left.

Actors Inequity

Actors' Inequity - Performing because we love it ... and we got cast

Even their web site is a spoof of the appearance of the Actors' Equity Association web site.

They link to an interesting web site GotPay which says:
GOT PAY? was formed in March of 2005 in response to the many formidable Cleveland area advertisers who regularly cast non-union actors in their commercials for NO PAY! Many of the professional artists in our community view this as a damaging practice for all area artists if we hope to grow and thrive. A heated, web-based debate culminated in organizing our first free public meeting of artists mentoring artists called: PAY vs NO PAY- A Discussion of Your Worth. See GOT OVERVIEW?

GOT PAY? is now an artists advocacy organization, dedicated to providing a comprehensive resource of professional, performance and service rates, standards and practices. Whether you are a professional or amateur actor, singer, dancer, writer, producer, director, musician, wardrobe or makeup artist, prop or wig master, lighting technician, set designer, stage manager or other creative artist, we hope this will be a safe place to ask questions, share your thoughts and put the "Business" in your Show Business career.

We realize that not all art forms are created equal. Most theaters, independent film makers and dance companies have very limited budgets and profit margins. However, NO ONE should appear in radio or tv commercials for less than the established union rates. See GOT RATES?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Actor wanted

OK, one of the actors from my upcoming reading at NYCPlaywrights (this Wednesday) had to drop out - if anybody who reads this blog knows of a good male actor in the 20s-30s age range, have him contact me at nancy at mergatroyd dot org.

Thanks!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Greetings Pantaloons

I've blogged a couple of times about the performance I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe last year of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM performed by The Pantaloons in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I posted a 4 and a half minute excerpt from the performance online. Mark Hayward, the guitarist in the clip, just posted a comment (see the post on Wednesday, June 11, 2008)

I did not stay for the whole performance, unfortunately - it was in the middle of August yet I was freezing! I had to go into the little cafe nearby and get warm. But I did tape more than 4 and a half minutes and I will be putting that online for Mark and any other Pantaloons who may visit.

=======
UPDATE

I've posted all 5 parts of my video of the performance online. Watching the first one reminds me that in fact my daughter and I were on a walking tour which eventually took us to the Firth of Forth, and didn't realize there was a Fringe show at the Royal Botanical Gardens - we just wanted to see the Gardens. You can hear me in the first tape saying it isn't a children's show as I thought, but rather AMSND.

Watch all 20+ minutes here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5 - aka Midsummer Shrub

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kit & Little Boots

Nat Cassidy has a Hamlet fixation. I called it last night at a performance of his play The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots. And then Nat confirmed it when I had drinks with him and actor Bruce Barton afterwards. At one point Kit - that's Christopher Marlowe to you - is being cradled in the arms of his pal Bill Shakespeare, like Hamlet being held by Horatio. There are also some lines in the play that sound right out of HAMLET.

Nat's played the Great Dane on at least two occasions, while in college in Tuscon AZ (see picture on the left and read the review here) and more recently, on a merry-go-round in Brooklyn for the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater. I saw a video performance of the first, and the second in person. He's very good in both. I'm not sure I'm crazy about his fixation spilling over into his play about Christopher Marlowe though.

The KIT play has been getting an enthusiastic audience response - Bruce really liked it, and so did Martin Denton - so I feel like the big freak because I didn't love it too.

Nat and I just had an email debate about the play actually. I think the play is over-intellectuallized in striving to be about, in Nat's own words, "the creative process." As a result I think it's less emotionally affecting than it could be. I also think it needs a tighter narrative structure. And he needs to drop Marlowe's sisters and include a boyfriend instead.

We agreed to disagree.

I would say that in general too many plays try to be clever and cutting-edge at the expense of emotional impact. In my opinion, what a playwright should try to do is give the audience an emotional orgasm. And you can't do that unless you make the audience experience something happening to the characters. Having the characters tell you about something that happened to them in the past is not nearly as effective for building an emotional climax.

I also think that if you want an intellectual discussion, read the works of philosophers. Art is about beauty and emotion.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nudity Required, No Pay

The blog about the ever-popular practice of actor exploitation

A typical ad - with Gabby's comments



I Love Commercials With A 'Strip Club' Feel!
Video Shoot and Commercial Auditions Tommorrow 5-5-08! (Midtown)
Reply to: XXXXX.com
Date: 2008-05-04, 8:58PM EDT

Music Video Shoot and Commercial Auditions Tommorrow! XXXXX at 12:00 P.M. sharp! @ Krystals: 79-21 Queens Blvd. Sexy and elegant females (all types, 18-40 or signed consent) needed for video shoot and auditions for upcoming projects including an exotic car commercial (Ferrari) and music videos. Arrive video ready, including hair and makeup (done), and wardrobe with a stripper club feel to it. (Strip club feel and elegant? I think that's a tall order.) Paid Compensation. For further information contact Vaughn at XXXXX.com. Eligibility T.B.D. solely by client.

* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: no pay

I mean, let's face it - what can't strippers sell???

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More on my bete teale

Well I've googled til my googler was sore, and I can't find ANY negative reviews of Polly Teale's supremely annoying adaptation of Jane Eyre, except the one by Michael Feingold in the Village Voice. So I'll repeat it here:
Meaning to view the myth through a modern feminist prism, Teale exploits a predictable strategy: The mad wife locked up in Mr. Rochester's attic is the heroine's Doppelgänger (or more precisely Doppelgängerin), beginning as the naughty second self for whose misbehavior her aunt punishes her in childhood. Extending this English-department notion over three hours of theater produces exactly the diminishing returns you'd expect— especially since, in accordance with the official feminist rules for approaching nonfeminist women's literature, the principal male figure has to be utterly deromanticized. Or—no doubt—it's sheer and utter coincidence that Penny Layden is a touching (though pinchily dry) Jane, Harriette Ashcroft an effective madwoman, and Sean Murray's Rochester a gravelly, emotionally monotone disaster of a performance. His mastiff, growled by Michael Matus, has more subtlety as well as more animation, and those spectators who come back for the second half must be among the very few who have ever hoped Jane Eyre would forget Rochester and marry St. John Rivers, to whom Matus gives a glowing idealist zeal.

That's certanly a bad sign if the audience wants Jane to go off with St. John. Nobody in the audience for my production wanted that. Except my mom.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jane's inheritance

I want to address another complaint I have about my bete noire, Polly Teale's adaptation of "Jane Eyre."

I've already addressed the issue of Teale turning Bertha into Jane's alter ego. This choice throws off the narrative structure of the original novel completely. But not just the narrative structure - Teale's version completely obscures an issue that was so important to Charlotte Bronte, and therefore to Jane Eyre - financial independence.

Thinking about the St. John scenes reminded me of this because while Jane is in Morton with St. John, in the novel (and my adaptation) Jane receives her inheritance from her Uncle John. Teale leaves the inheritance out of her version completely.

In the published script of her adaptation, Teale explains:

For a Victorian woman to express her passionate nature is to invite the severest of punishment. Jane must keep her fiery spirit locked away if she is to survive. Could it be that Jane and the madwoman are not in fact opposites. That like all the most frightening ghosts Bertha Mason exists not in the real world but in Jane's imagination?


Now of course most people would rather hear about passion and ghosts than economics. But the reason that Victorian women could not express passion was because they were at the economic mercy of men, and could not afford to base their lives on their own desires - especially sexual desires. Charlotte Bronte was extremely, painfully aware of this fact her entire life.

I only wish that the ghost of Charlotte Bronte was real enough to haunt Polly Teale for twisting the meaning of Jane Eyre into some idiotic airy-fairy pseudo-Freudian gobbledygook. Gobbledygook which all the theatre critics think is just soooo kewl - because theatre critics can't be bothered to do some actual research, much less have an interest in the role that economics play in the oppression of women.

Monday, June 16, 2008

St. John Rivers - religious zealot or not?

A reviewer said of my adaptation of "Jane Eyre":
As Rivers, Nat Cassidy is much harsher and religious law-abiding that his character is in the novel

So how harsh is St. John in the book?

Well, first off, an incredibly beautiful, wealthy young woman adores him. Here is what he has to say about that:
"While something in me," he went on, "is acutely sensible to her charms, something else is as deeply impressed with her defects: they are such that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to—co-operate in nothing I undertook. Rosamond a sufferer, a labourer, a female apostle? Rosamond a missionary’s wife? No!"

"But you need not be a missionary. You might relinquish that scheme."

"Relinquish! What! my vocation? My great work? My foundation laid on earth for a mansion in heaven? My hopes of being numbered in the band who have merged all ambitions in the glorious one of bettering their race—of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance—of substituting peace for war—freedom for bondage—religion for superstition—the hope of heaven for the fear of hell? Must I relinquish that? It is dearer than the blood in my veins. It is what I have to look forward to, and to live for."

Oh yeah, not TOO zealoty.

And there's plenty more. Here we see him disgruntled because he thinks Jane is putting too much effort into cleaning for the Christmas holidays:

"To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed to your keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict account. Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously—I warn you of that. And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with which you throw yourself into commonplace home pleasures. Don’t cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy and ardour for an adequate cause; forbear to waste them on trite transient objects. Do you hear, Jane?”


Here's how St. John proposes marriage to Jane:
"Yes," said he, "there is my glory and joy. I am the servant of an infallible Master. I am not going out under human guidance, subject to the defective laws and erring control of my feeble fellow-worms: my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-perfect. It seems strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist under the same banner,—to join in the same enterprise."

“All have not your powers, and it would be folly for the feeble to wish to march with the strong.”

“I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them: I address only such as are worthy of the work, and competent to accomplish it.”

“Those are few in number, and difficult to discover.”

“You say truly; but when found, it is right to stir them up—to urge and exhort them to the effort—to show them what their gifts are, and why they were given—to speak Heaven’s message in their ear,—to offer them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of His chosen.”

“If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own hearts be the first to inform them of it?”

I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me: I trembled to hear some fatal word spoken which would at once declare and rivet the spell.

“And what does your heart say?” demanded St. John.

“My heart is mute,—my heart is mute,” I answered, struck and thrilled.

"Then I must speak for it," continued the deep, relentless voice. "Jane, come with me to India: come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer."

The glen and sky spun round: the hills heaved! It was as if I had heard a summons from Heaven—as if a visionary messenger, like him of Macedonia, had enounced, “Come over and help us!” But I was no apostle,—I could not behold the herald,—I could not receive his call.

"Oh, St. John!" I cried, "have some mercy!"

I appealed to one who, in the discharge of what he believed his duty, knew neither mercy nor remorse. He continued—

"God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must—shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you—not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service."


In other words, St. John plans to consummate the marriage while thinking of The Lord.

Clearly St. John is a total fanatic.

Which is why I presented him as one in my adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Here we see St. John making Jane pray with him. At this point in the play, through the power of his personal charisma and fanatacism - because remember, Jane herself is devout, if not fanatical - he almost succeeds in getting Jane to marry him and go off to missionarize the heathens in India. This is right before Jane hears the disembodied voice of Rochester calling her name.

My mother saw the show in February. She wanted Jane to marry St. John. She's a devout Catholic, although I suspect her preference was due at least in part to thinking Nat is a hottie.

In an interview for my recent adaptation, Nat explains how St. John misunderstands Jane - he correctly refers to St. John as a "religious zealot."


Watch the video clip

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And the birds aren't singing

And the Birds Aren't Singing - another great song from Heavenly.

Boy in the rain (boy in the rain)
Finally decides (finally decides)
Too long has he been unkind

Boy in a daze (boy in a daze)
Finds that she's gone (finds that she's gone)
How could he have been so wrong?

Now she's gone, he sighs
Understanding in his eyes
Like the end of a dream
He won't believe

Girl in the rain (girl in the rain)
Feeling unsure (feeling unsure)
In this is what she'd hoped for

Girl in a daze (girl in a daze)
Finds that it's she (finds that it's she)
Who's feeling so bad, not he

Now he's gone, she sighs
Understanding in her eyes
Like the end of a dream
She won't believe

And the birds aren't singing anymore
And the birds aren't singing anymore
And the birds aren't singing anymore
And the birds aren't singing anymore, anymore

and another thing part 2

so as I was saying... as usual, off-off Broadway theatre critics get it wrong. In a review of my JANE EYRE the critic said: "The 23 characters from the novel are reduced to 16"

OK, where did she come up with 23 characters in the novel? I mean, I understand that off-off Broadway reviewers are probably not getting paid, and have day jobs and don't have time to do their homework. But why make stuff up??? I mean, what are the odds that a 400-page nineteenth century novel is only going to have 23 characters? I did a quick review of the book, and not counting the eighty orphans at Lowood school and various teachers, servants and other characters that don't get speaking roles, there were 23 characters by chapter 17. That's before Blanche Ingram and her various friends and relatives show up for an extended house party chez Rochester.

But back to her comment about St. John: "As Rivers, Nat Cassidy is much harsher and religious law-abiding that his character is in the novel"

I will address that soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

And another thing!

I just posted a page on the JANE EYRE web site for reviews and audience raves. And I was reminded of yet another point of fact that the reviewers got wrong in comparing my play to the original novel.

A reviewer says: "Unlike the novel, the production spends a great deal of time on Jane's experience with St. John Rivers, her cousin and potential mate. As Rivers, Nat Cassidy is much harsher and religious law-abiding than his character is in the novel..."

I question whether, like Amy Freeman, this critic has retained any of the original novel in her memory, or if she believes that other adaptations, like the Teale version, are a good guide to the original novel. I spend 4 scenes with St. John Rivers. There are a total of 27 scenes in my play. The original novel spends 7 chapters at Morton, out of 38 chapters. That is not a great deal more time. That's only a little bit more time proportionate to the entire work.

More on this soon...

Weeds Season 3!



I looove Weeds! It's the greatest TV series ever and not just because it reunites Mary Louise Parker and Justin Kirk, first seen together in HBO's Angels in America

I don't have Showtime so I always download the series from iTunes - but they don't make it available until the end of the current season. FINALLY I have season 3!

The end of season 2 was intense!

Watch Andy Botwin (Kirk) explain the Iraq war

Nancy and Conrad

Let your freak flag fly

Your johnson


Watch a clip from Angels in America with Mary Louise and Justin.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Drawing Day


Damn, I missed Drawing Day which was June 6 - and just when I've recently gotten back into drawing, my first love before I met Chris The Most Beautiful Man in the World and got sucked into theatre. The drawing on the left is my marker sketch of my former coworker, the late Earl Rich, the other Most Beautiful Man in the World. Chris looked a bit like the young Harrison Ford, while Earl looked like a young Warren Beatty. Yes, they were that beautiful. I regret that I never got to sketch Chris from life, although I did erotic drawings from imagination.

I've lately been getting my visual art mojo on at the Spring Studio in SoHo. It's nice to get away from all the interpersonal drama of the theatre world and just sit quietly and draw - it's like meditation and really clears the head.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

interesting costume site

I blogged previously about my men-in-period-costume paraphilia, and recently found this Gentlemen's Emporium. It's unique in that the web site owners seem to feel that each costume needed some kind of narrative to go with it.

For example:


Randolph Pickwick, Financier

As the heir to his father's vast financial empire, Mr. Pickwick is a much sought after bachelor. While his days are spent toiling over accounting journals and investment contracts, his evenings and weekends are consistently filled with balls, cotillions and luncheons.

He can usually be found at the local socials surrounded by his friends and a bevy of marriage-minded mademoiselles.



They ALL have little stories like that. I think someone at the Emporium's a frustrated playwright.

These costumes are Victorian and Edwardian, which are not quite as hot as Regency or Elizabethan costumes, but they're still pretty hot.

But this site does remind me that men's Old West clothing is pretty sexy - there's a Western Emporium too. There's something about those gunbelts. I wish gunbelts would come back in vogue - a gunbelt slung at a rakish angle across the hips, over a tight pair of jeans is a wondrous vision to behold. Although I wouldn't want to bring back guys walking around carrying guns. Just the belts please.


Here's "Zeke Jacobsen"
As a mere youth, Zeke Jacobsen served in the noted company of Texas Rangers led by Captain McCullough. Zeke distinguished himself in scouting and raiding parties and fought bravely at Matamoros.

Though adept at tracking outlaws, his disdain for desk work is legendary. While, this limited his rise through the ranks, he is perfectly content saying that a Ranger encampment is his only true home.


I should point out that not all period costume is hot. The Bavarian look just doesn't do it for me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Outdoor Shakespeare



I've been doing my homework in preparation for my upcoming HUCK FINN in Central Park. On Sunday I checked out NYCPlaywrights members Pat Angelin and Alan Gary in Ten Grand's production called Bardolatry, which presents a selection of excerpts from Shakespeare's works.

As a result I've vowed to make our production location a no-fly zone. There was a helicopter that hovered over the Bardolatry show the entire time, making a horrible noise. The excerpt I've posted is the best of the bunch - at least the actors are audible.



Last year I saw an outdoor performance of Midsummer Night's Dream - the best Shakespeare play to do outdoors - by a group called The Pantaloons. They did a very good job, using umbrellas and live music to set the scenes. And since it was set in the middle of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, it was blessedly free of helicopters.

You can watch excerpts of the performances here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When your heart's on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes

I only recently discovered the coolness of the song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

There are lots of different versions on youtube. My favorite of the bunch is Eartha Kitt's version.

I kinda like Bryan Ferry's version too.

and the Platters.

You know who could have done a GREAT cover, with a whole added layer of dark meaning? Kurt Cobain. Damn him for not covering it.
They asked me how I knew my true love was true,
I of course replied, something here inside cannot be denied.

They said someday you'll find all who love are blind,
When your heart's on fire, you must realize,
Smoke gets in your eyes.

So I chaffed and then I gaily laughed,
To think that they could doubt my love,
Yet today, my love has flown away,
I am without my love.

Now laughing friends deride tears I cannot hide,
So I smile and say when a lovely flame dies,
Smoke gets in your eyes.

Monday, June 09, 2008

oh Marko, you crazy Aryan - get a LIFE!

I canNOT believe that Marko the Aryan wrote to me AGAIN! Like I'm really going to talk to him after he called me "eeie and screwy"! That eeie really hurt.
trying you again Marko 9xx 2xx 1xxx call say hi
I didn't think conservatives were bright but this goes beyond even my low estimation. Guess I'm going to have to block him. I thought only people who wrote vulnerable, regret-filled "I'm sorry our relationship died a horrible painful flaming death, yet even so, I wish you well, may you always create beauty, have a good life"-type messages got blocked. Live and learn.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots

Renaissance-dude-about-town Nat Cassidy wrote and performs in his THE RECKONING OF KIT & LITTLE BOOTS at both the Gallery Players in Brooklyn and at Manhattan Theatre Source right now.

Like anything he does, Nat did not fuck around when it comes to Christopher Marlowe - and I'm sure if you dared to attempt to get into a Marlowe trivia contest with him, he would hand you your ass. Dude does his homework as I sadly discovered after he wrested the title of Queen of Beatles trivia from me soon after I met him.

He also is the only person I know who pays attention enough to know the place that Jane Eyre spends quality time with her cousins after discovering Rochester's naughtiness is called Morton. Hell if I ever remember that!

I read an early draft of KIT so I can't really say much about the play at this point, but I will have plenty to say (hi Nat!) after I see it June 19th.

So go see his show. In the meantime, check out this awesome photo of Nat:


I cannot lie, I love a man in period costume. Especially Regency or Elizabethan. There's not enough resources for costume fetishists out there! As Margaret Cho said, although about a different preference - "where's my parade?"

Oh wait - almost every parade!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Thanks guys!

I have my cast for the STRESS AND THE CITY reading - thanks you guys!

Wayne Henry
Ann Farthing
Nick Fondulis
Lori Kee
Mike Selkirk
Phoebe Summersquash
Reagan Wilson

This promises to be a fun reading with great acting.

One thing that's so neat about NYCPlaywrights is that it gives you a chance to really get to know actors' work. Although I met Nat through my JANE EYRE production. Which is even better: a weekly reading group lets you discover an actor's work, but doing a production with an actor lets you discover their true character. Well, sometimes it takes a couple of productions.

In any case, through trial & error I'm slowly building a core group of talented, dedicated, reliable, reasonable, non-sociopathic actors that I can count on for all future Mergatroyd Production shows.

They've made a movie about my trainer



You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Friday, June 06, 2008

I think it might be over between me and Marko the Aryan...

Marko,
I don't like conservatives. It says so in my profile. And calling yourself an "Aryan" makes you sound like a Nazi. You must realize that historical associations make the word offensive to many - possibly even some of your fellow conservatives who might otherwise be attracted to you.
I even gave him helpful advice!

This is the thanks I get:
nancy you are a misinformed fool who doesn't know the fundemental difference between nazis and ryans van you kindly get lost and go yu r silly and scared approach from day 1 way eeie and screwy but i guess thats you adios Marko

Yes, that's me, eeie and screwy.

The Albee story

I did a reading of my THE POOH STORY this Wednesday at NYCPlaywrights and it was well received, since people laughed alot - although I'm sure that it's partly because Bruce Barton as Lee, and Mike Selkirk as Chris, were so great in those roles.

But everybody, even Bruce, missed some references. I mean, this was a room full of actors and playwrights who you might expect would be pretty hip to allusions to THE GOAT and WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF.

I mean, come ON people:

LEE

So what? Winnie the Pooh and Piglet too – they don’t have a pension fund! You don’t hear THEM complaining do you? But you – you stand for everything I hate about America! You’re vacuous, you’re complacent, you are emasculated! Yes that’s right. Emasculated. You are not strong and virile and powerful like me. Like all the angry young men of the theatre. And Pooh!

(Lee takes a stuffed Winnie the Pooh out of the bookbag and waves it at Chris)

Me and Pooh are laughing at you! You are weak and womanly and you pretend that everything in this land of ours is peachy-keen. Pooh knows the only true virtue in life is honey! H – U – N – N – Y! Pooh and me know how to play with your mind maaaannn. We know how to kick start your brain and shake you out of the doldrums of your dull tiresome uptight squaresville thought patterns!

(Lee mimes having sex with Pooh.)

You’re shocked, aren’t you?

CHRIS

No. I saw someone doing that on youtube last week.

(Lee talks to Pooh)

LEE

But what about Piglet? What’s that you say? Piglet never existed? Piglet was just a fantasy we shared, out of our deep deep love for each other in the face of emasculated suburban ennui and alcoholism? Nooooo!
Hee hee! Sorry but I find my own play hysterically funny. This is a problem since I wrote it at the office in the middle of cubicle-land, and I didn't even attempt to explain the choking sound coming from my cube to anybody. Telling a bunch of financial analysts and programmers: "I think my own parody of Edward Albee's THE ZOO STORY is hysterically funny" is really no better than no explanation at all.

The audience at NYCPlaywrights got that my play was referencing THE ZOO STORY, but that was kind of a freebie.

I'm sure this is a total copyright violation, but somebody put the play script online, and until they make them take it down, you can read ZOO STORY here.

Albee is a sacred cow of the theatre and it was time for a parody of THE ZOO STORY. Unlike this person, I don't think that the play has stood the "test of time" - I think it reeks of 50-years-ago and not just because the normal guy thinks the other guy comes from Greenwich Village because he's a wacky character.

And then there is the "making people think" angle. This trope, that artists exist to make people think, is a source of unending irritation for me, mainly because it's plain wrong. Philosophers make us think. Artists are supposed to make us feel and make us experience beauty. Thinking will probably happen too, but that isn't the main goal.

Another thing that irritates me so much is that there are so many people in the arts who are just plain dumb. Who are they to presume I was walking around in a mindless daze until they came along?

I'm not a fan of Albee's plays, and I'm not too thrilled with Albee's boyfriend's art either. Which is the cue to begin my Albee story.

Some dude who was living at Albee's TriBeCa apartment wanted to do this idiotic web site back in 1999. Like so many people at that time, he thought he could get rich with a really dumb idea as long as the idea was executed via the Internet. He met me through my brief association with The Rattlestick Theatre in the Village. Eventually he learned that I did web development and my then-boyfriend was a whiz at database stuff. Which is true, just ask my ex-boyfriend. So he proposed his business idea to us - we would develop this web site for him, and in exchange he would give us stock options. In order to sweeten the deal, no doubt, the dude gave us a tour of Albee's apartment (while Albee was vacationing at Montauk).

Well, we were none too impressed I'm sorry to say. Although the elevator made a huge impression on me. Albee's place was on the 3rd floor and his elevator was just this big hole, with a platform that went up and down. In other words, if the elevator was on the ground floor, there was a square, 3-story drop from Albee's place to the street. I stayed as far away from that thing as possible. I read somewhere that since then he had like walls or something put in so it's no longer a complete deathtrap.

Then there was the big pile of stuff on the floor. Was Albee doing some redecorating? No, that was a piece of art. But Kate Hepburn made the same mistake when she was there for a party.

Then there was the wall of bookself that went up to the ceiling at the head of Albee's bed. My ever-practical ex asked "how does he get to the top shelf" since the bed would prevent you from putting a ladder there, and the ceiling was pretty high. I imagined that Albee would use the bed as a trampoline and jump up to reach the top shelf. I wanted to try it myself, if for no other reason than to say I jumped on Albee's bed, but those party poopers wouldn't let me.

But the most memorable aspect of the tour (except for the elevator from hell) was the boyfriends art. Apparently he was doing a series of these things, which consisted of a canvas, a bunch of men's tighty whities arranged just so on the canvas, pasted down and spray-painted black. Which really stood out against the all-white walls.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I'm actually 39!

According to the RealAge test, due to my health habits etc. I'm actually 39. My major failing is my social life. I could have told them that. But if I did have one, how old would I be then???

NYCPlaywrights Spring Reading videos

Watch them here - we had a great cast - Bruce Barton, Valerie David, Alan Gary, Lori Kee, Mike Selkirk and Reagan Wilson.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Damn my accursed principles!!!!

Really hot, 39-year-old hard-bodied guy contacts me through a dating site, wants to "hang out." I'm all happy. Then I read his profile. He's a conservative!!!! No way I'm getting it on with a conservative. Even with that six pack, those broad shoulders, those biceps.

*whimper whimper*

UPDATE: holy hopping Jesus on a pogostick that dumb mofo wrote back! Well, nobody ever said conservatives were bright!
whats wrong with aryan or conservative? call me lets talk Marko [his phone number]
Talk about what? Invading Poland???

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Way We Were



The Way We Were is pretty much unique in the world of movies. Two big equally strong stars together in a story that's romantic, a psychological study of two clashing personalities, and a serious look at the Red scare and McCarthy hearings of the 1950s.

It also has a character who seems to be based on Dalton Trumbo, which is pretty cool.

Robert Redford, whom I admire more the more I learn about him, apparently deserves much of the credit for the strength of the story. It was originally a vehicle for Streisand and as happens all too often with her films, the focus was far too much on her character. I've read that Redford was adamant about not doing the movie unless his character was more than just an object of desire.

The driving force of the movie is the Redford and Streisand characters trying to stay together in spite of their differences - she's intense, he's easy-going, he feels she pushes him too hard, as he explains in this scene.

He's also apolitical and so are his friends, which makes things difficult for Katie, Streisand's character. But his lack of strong political convictions makes it easier for him to analyze the situation dispassionately and pretty astutely too.

As so often happens when two very different personalities get together, the results are interesting - and if sexual, very hot.

Although really, any love scene with the young Robert Redford is, by definition, hot.