Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Well, that was awesome

Shakespeare Santa Cruz ended on Sunday night, and the tears and spirits were flowing in equal measure. La Ronde had already opened...and closed (we only had the two Tuesday shows) and was a spectacular success, if I do say so myself.

The response from the rest of the acting company was overwhelmingly positive after our opening night show. Of course, most of them hadn't seen any of us act, so there was a whole new aspect of respect to our relationships with them after they saw what we could do. As for the play itself, we all had a lot of fun, and there weren't any major mess-ups. With as little rehearsal as we got, that was as high as most of us were aiming for the performance. It all came together beautifully, though. And I ended the evening feeling totally elated and a bit smug. Something like this:

The closing show had a few more costume malfunctions (so much of the blocking in this play is dependent on people putting clothes on and taking them off, it's easy to flub something) but felt a lot more solid than the first one. Less nervous, almost manic energy and more thoughtful. We paid more attention to the entire structure of the play, and the show was better for it.

But now all the shows have closed, not just ours, and I've said goodbye to the company. We closed the season officially after the last Sunday night performance (Othello) with a silent candle-lit walk to the glen, and then Audrey Stanley--the founder of Shakespeare Santa Cruz--gave a short speech as we all stood in a huge circle, the only light coming from a hundred candles each of us held. Finally, the Love's Labor's interns sang a song from the end of their show and we all went back to the dock to get thoroughly drunk. I cried a lot.

This whole experience has been so fantastic, and I comfort myself by thinking what a small world the theater community is. There is a very good chance I will see most of these people again, that I'll get to work with them again. And in the meantime I've got plenty of places to stay all over the country. Look who's got connections.

I'm so grateful for these past few months. And I'm grateful to be heading back to school soon, to put all the things I've learned into practice. Watch out, Santa Barbara, I'm coming home.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You want me to do what now?

As the run for Lion goes on, I feel more and more comfortable with my various scene changes and cues and such and am focusing more and more on La Ronde. Holy crap that play. We had our first full run of the show last Sunday, and that was the first time I'd seen most of it. The way the play is structured -- two person scenes -- means there's no reason to call most of us for each rehearsal. Kirsten assuaged our fears by calling it a "train wreck run", just to see exactly where we were. I was pleasantly surprised. It's going to be a great show, and that was before we'd choreographed any of the sex.

The transitions between scenes are all going to be done to period appropriate music, for example, the transition into my scene with the Count will be an aria from an opera of the time: Die Fledermaus. But all the sex music is modern. Here's my song with the poet:

The Actress is turning out to be a sort of Victorian Betty Page, complete with garter belt and riding crop holster. My dad will probably have to avert his eyes for most of the scene. I don't wear much.

My scene with the Count is a little more subtle. Working out the power struggle and cat vs. other cat game has been a lot of fun, and we're getting into that really fun place where we have our characters down and we just get to play around and find all the little mini-beats and shifts that happen within the scene. Buckets of fun.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hell Week

So, sorry for being so un-wordy (yes, that is a word) for the last week or so, but tech and then previews and then opening have utterly kicked my ass. Geeze, where to begin.

Well, tech in professional theater is even worse than tech in college, which I didn't know was possible. There are these things called "ten out of twelves" that we had a three times in tech where you rehearse from noon to midnight with a two hour dinner break somewhere in there. It was really slow going. The whole process reminded me of something I heard someone say about war once: long periods of boredom punctuated by brief moments of utter terror. There were parts where the interns weren't needed for hours at a time, but you couldn't ever go relax because you could be needed at any moment. By the end of the first 10/12 we were all a bit twitchy at loud noises. Also, unlike the rest of the company interns have class at 9 AM every day, so we're there from 9 AM to midnight.

Thus ends the complaining portion of our program.

Because the show. The show. You guys. It is so good.

The pieces have all fallen into place, nudged there over the course of the past month and it all just clicked, beautifully, to show the whole picture. For example: there was a bit of a fiasco with these tapestries that are supposed to unfurl in this scene change to Philip's room in the castle. It's this huge change, conducted by Philip himself, that transforms the whole place from stark, spartan Henry-Land to opulent Philip-Land. We have had so much trouble with these tapestries.

These bars are supposed to go up in the scene change and then the tapestry falls over it to create this hiding place where Geoffrey goes in the middle of the scene. The bars didn't go up. Olivia, our stage management intern, ran backstage to catch Aaron (who plays Geoffrey) to tell him what had happened. The tapestry covers the bars completely, and she was sure he would just walk straight into the solid metal bars when he was trying to hide. So Olivia comes booking down the ramp that leads into the back of the vom and trips and falls on the incline, doing a face-plant at the feet of Aaron and Marco, much to their surprise. She pops up and gasps out "AARON, THE BARS DIDN'T GO UP" and then notices her knees are skinned beyond belief. Aaron is a tad bewildered and thanks her, and decides to hide behind the other tapestry in the remaining two seconds he has to think before he goes onstage.

Now here's the kicker: this scene has all the makings of a French farce. All the brothers are hiding in the room while Henry and Philip have a long conversation about them. The spot where Aaron would have been? The one with the bars closing it off? The tapestry dropped and revealed everything behind it. If he'd been hiding where he normally was, Henry would have seen him. Moral of the story? Bad luck plus more bad luck equals good luck and a story.

So that happened. And then every night in tech and previews at least one of the three tapestries didn't work at all. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place just on opening night. We watched from the vom as all the tapestries fell into place and lo: it was good.

Everything's in place now, and I can focus on La Ronde. But that's another entry.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Fear

Tech for Lion starts tomorrow, so we're really getting down to the wire. The days are getting longer, and the rehearsals more intense. Kandis was talking about how she always tells the costume people to get sweat guards in her costumes before a performance. "Once that fear-sweat gets in there, there's no getting the smell out again. I don't want someone to have to wear it and smell the fear." It's a bit of a relief that that fear never really goes away, no matter how long you do this whole "acting" thing.

I've almost got my lines for Eleanor down. Lady talks a lot. We had an understudy line-through last night at my place and it was a lot of fun. I'm solid on about 90% of the play, except the last couple scenes and two of the monologues, and even those I can get through with a little prompting. A bit more work and I should be golden.

I'm more worried about the blocking. I see it every day, and I write it down, and I think I know it, but there's a huge difference between watching it and physically doing it and getting the muscle memory and knowing where you have to look to get the motivation to move from one place to another. Luckily there are understudy rehearsals (I think those happen after we open, I don't have the dates) where we go though the whole play with just the understudies and Lori, our lovely stage manager. So I'll get to stand up with the lines a bit, and find out just how much I actually know.

Last night was a relief, though. I know this play really well by now, and I think I know Eleanor pretty well too. Kandis has said I can come ask her any questions I have about character stuff ("I can't promise I'll have an answer, but please ask.") and I think I'd like to do that. I have a few questions about the crazy stuff she does and why, but it's easier to get when you're seeing someone do it and making choices as to why than when you're just reading the play.

I hope I get to go up again, just in rehearsal, even. I'm afraid, yeah. But I think the fear is good, it means you're paying attention.

Friday, July 9, 2010


So, for various reasons I've never had a costume that could be classified as "fabulous" in a show. I tend to be cast as either old, the sassy servant, or a man. All these things have conspired against me so I'm more excited than I think I have any right to be about my La Ronde costume.

I was in the costume shop getting fitted for Lion (long, rough black dress with thick lace-up green surcoat and black shit-kicker boots) and started talking to the assistant who was taking my measurements. Turns out she's doing costumes for La Ronde and is very excited about dressing the Actress.

As a side note: I labeled my script with my name and role, and it looks like something out of Eddie Izzard's stand-up bit with Paul's letters to the Corinthians. He says Paul signed them "Paul, brackets, 'Saint'". My script says "Emily McKeown, brackets, 'Actress'".

Anyway, she said they hadn't pulled any costumes yet, so she didn't know what they had to work with, but she wanted to "build" something specifically for the Actress, with lots of bright colors and rich fabrics and torn fishnets. She showed me some of the fabric's she'd looked at, and may I just say? Fabulousness is imminent.

I love that they "build" costumes, by the way. It makes it sound like such an epic undertaking, which it sounds like this might be.

The intern show has a history of being the ugly, red-headed step-child of Shakespeare Santa Cruz -- especially now that everyone's a little tight on funds. In fact, in our first production meeting Kirsten told us to scout our main-stage productions we're Ensembling in for props and costumes to steal when they're done with them.

"We're actors," she said, "we're the descendants of whores and theives. It's in your blood, just don't tell anybody I told you to keep an eye out You know, be subtle."

I'll do my best, Kirsten. Consider it character research.

Friday, July 2, 2010

One Down...

Monday was everyone's day off. Sorry, I mean

~*~DAY OFF~*~

I hadn't realized until yesterday, but I will have a total of nine days off this summer. I rehearse and have classes from nine AM to around eight PM every day of the week except Mondays, which everyone has to themselves. We went to the beach, and saw some dolphins and went to the local theater dive bar (the Rush Inn, which I misheard the first twelve times as the "Russian" and thought it was some sort of Love's Labor's theme thing) which is pretty divey. I was not a huge fan until I found out they have good beer on tap. Now I am a fan.

I had my costume fitting the other day, which was cool. In the program, we (the interns) are going to be credited as Soldiers and Servants, but in rehearsals we are affectionately referred to as Goons and Matrons. Matrons are wearing big ol' shitkicker boots, with a black shift and long belted tunic thing. Goons get swords. No swords for Matrons.

We did our first stumble-through of Act 1 yesterday, and it's looking really good. This is going to be a great show.

Woah, okay just read through all that again and realized how tired I sound. I ran into Jeff in the hall the other day and we hugged and said hello and he took another look at me and said, "Wow, your brain looks tired." Yes. That. I'm gonna need to start scheduling wind down time if I'm gonna make it through this summer alive.

My brain may also have looked tired because we'd just gotten out of acting. I'm loving Kirsten as a teacher and as a director so far, but one thing's for sure: she's big on the physical work. I am going to be so buff by the end of the summer, it is not even funny. We're doing a lot of viewpoints, biomechanics and Suzuki. I've never really done any of these things before, except for some biomechanics Jeff snuck into movement classes on the sly, but I'm really enjoying it all. Especially the Suzuki.

The way Kirsten breaks it down is that biomechanics is about keeping your muscles engaged and figuring out what your body can do: you jump really high and land without making any sound; you jump onto a partner without hurting them or holding on too tight, it's all very controlled and light. But Suzuki is about being solid and connected through your feet, planted to the earth. It's a brutal work-out, but I really enjoy it.

Okay, I'm gonna take a nap to rest my brain, then it's back to being a Matron. See you on the other side.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Game Night

Is there anything more hilarious than a group of adults frantically trying to make each other say the name of an obscure movie? I think not. The other night the whole Lion cast went to Richard's house to eat, drink, be merry and play charades. Richard and Candice had talked about how we should do some character work with everyone about winning and strategizing and bluffing and so-on by having a cast game night. This lofty idea quickly devolved into sitting in a circle, drinking beer and laughing at Dylan's inability to properly convey Battlestar Galactica.

Very few people had ever played, or remembered how to play before we started, so I got up and explained to everyone after they'd all put in suggestions. People took to it pretty quickly--actors, donchaknow--but that doesn't mean Adam didn't fail spectacularly when he picked Bohemian Rhapsody out of the bowl. I felt kinda bad, actually; that's the one I always put in because I know it's hard to do, and I find it funny.

Funniest part of the whole evening? Marco is the most economical charades player I have ever seen. I'm not sure if he just wasn't really that into it, and was being a good sport...or if he prefers to go through his evenings in a constant deadpan. No extra movement, he did *movie*, *two words*, and acted out one clue, then looked at us and waited for us to get it, and sat down. And, hey, he was at least as successful at it as anyone who was more frantic about the whole thing, so maybe he's got the right idea.

Sunday is poker night. Maybe then we'll actually try to remember to take something lofty and artistic from it. Or not.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

H-holy Crap

Today was a very good day. It was our first day of staging, and I was going about my normal intern duties when I found out two very interesting things. One: that I was the understudy for Eleanor of Aquitaine. Two: that Kandis had a costume fitting and rather than skipping over her part, I was just gonna stand in. I nearly shat myself.

I don't think I've gushed enough about this company of actors to adequately convey just how incredible this was, not to mention unexpected. I went down, waited for my cue, entered, said the lines, shut down each of my sons one by one, and greeted Henry. It was amazing. I felt like I was a match for anyone else onstage, and I interacted with the entire cast.

God. I've gathered that this was extremely unusual (from Alex, who was all grins and encouragement) so I'm not holding my breath that I'll get to go on again, even in rehearsal. But even so. It was one of those beautiful little, "Oh, yeah" moments. "Oh, yeah. That's why I do this. I'd forgotten."

Good. Day.

Apparently I had another one of these in me...

There's been a lot of awkward talking around how SSC is in a bit of a financial slump--and how they barely made it to this season at all--and how we should all ask for what we need but shouldn't hate Marco if he can't find a way to get it for us. Richard, our director for Lion, even talked about it a bit as he was explaining his vision of the play to us. He read us a line of Henry's:

Since Louis died, while Philip grew, I've had no France to fight. And in that lull, I've found how good it is to write a law or make a tax more fair or sit in judgment to decide which peasant gets a cow. There is, I tell you, nothing more important in the world.

He then rounded out this lovely, heartfelt sentiment by saying, "And that's just what Marco's going to do this summer. Some of us are going to get the cows, and some of us..."

General laughter. Sort of "AhahaI'm laughing so I don't cryahahaha". Our design meeting today was full of those sorts of half defenses-half apologies. We saw the set, heard some sound, saw the costume sketches, and throughout all of them it was "Now we started out with more, of course, but I think the acting will really shine here...", or "We couldn't afford to make all new costumes so I'm pulling the ones from the last time I did the show but you'll see I've made some alterations and it really works...".

Now, I realize I am totally naive here, but I didn't once see the need for either defensiveness or apologies. Everything from the set (Scaffolding, unfinished murals and some truly impressive double doors) to the costumes (lush does not even begin to describe) to the sound (holy crap look this lady up) was incredibly impressive and perfectly tailored to Richard's vision and the play that is already emerging in the first few readings. Honestly, I think adding more than we have could do the play a disservice, and certainly the actors need the room to maneuver. Richard said one of his initial impressions of the play was a cage match: so many two person scenes where each character is just hammering away at the other in any way they can. That sort of raw, brutal energy seems much better served (to me, at least) when the people onstage are given boundaries and a lot of empty space, and that's about it.

There is one notable exception to this: Philip. The most FABULOUS character in the whole play, and that's going up against Eleanor. Blue velvet evening robe. That's all I'll say. But that fits: he is the outsider in the play, and he's forced to bring a little of his own world into Henry's stark one to make himself feel at home. And probably to discomfort Henry, come to think of it.

Kandis, the woman who is playing Eleanor, said something great today: "You cannot think of this as a family of kings and queens. You have to think of them as a family from Queens." That's all it is. Family. The rest is just window dressing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

X-Rated Glen

I'm beginning to worry that I'm not going to get to know my non-Lion fellow interns very well at all. We have completely opposing rehearsal schedules with both of the Shakespeare plays: we start at the same time, but we go for 6 straight hours (with small breaks) and then going home at 7:30 every day, while Love's Labor's and Othello start at the same time but have a 2-hour dinner break at 6 and then come back until 9. So, we don't rehearse together, and we can't meet up right after rehearsal either, unless Alex, Brendan and I feel like hanging around for an extra hour and a half. This also means that I will be seeing next-to-nothing of Jeff, who I was really excited to act with this summer. Ah well.

It is also possible that I am being totally insane, because we still haven't really met for acting class yet. We sort of had our first class today but we spent the whole class time auditioning for La Ronde, which is gonna be awesome. It was one of the stranger auditions I've ever had. We all knew we were getting a good part, regardless of how we did, it was just a matter of where Kirsten thought we fit in the play, so that relieved a lot of the normal pre-audition jitters. For me, at least.

For the other audition we needed two monologues: a contemporary and a classical. They're using live music in Labor's, so we also could sing and/or play an instrument if we wanted to. I did my Emilia monologue for Shakespeare, and Phoebe from The Eastern Standard by Richard Greenberg for my contemporary. They went well, I think. The collection of directors in the house was probably one of the most deadpan group of auditioners I've ever had the good fortune to perform for. It did help that I noticed somewhere in the middle that Gerry was sitting smack dab in the middle and just grinning throughout the whole thing. That gave me a little boost before my song (I sang I Want You by Rachel Yamagata).

I don't know why, but all of us just assumed our La Ronde auditions would be the same format, since Kirstin was supposed to sit in on the first ones to cast us in that show as well. But after we'd all gathered and warmed up a bit, our lovely stage manager Sophie came in and told us all we only needed one contemporary monologue and we'd better keep it under five minutes or she'd cut us off. So, since my Phoebe monologue isn't really as good when it's not being used to contrast Emilia, I switched it up a bit and did a monologue from Howard Barker's 13 Objects that I've been working on. I'm glad I did. It was the best I've ever done it, and everyone in the room was pretty obvious about enjoying the hell out of it. Of course, I was so busy congratulating myself on taking a chance and enjoying myself that the playwrights name flew right out of my head when Kirsten stopped me to ask just who had written that wonderful text. Head, meet desk.

Well. Live and learn, I guess. And don't get cocky. After we'd all done our monologues we got together and did some Viewpoints work (which I've never really done, so that was interesting) and split up for cold reads. If you've never read La Ronde...well, read it. But apart from that, it's just. There's so much sex. So much. There are 10 scenes, and in every scene a couple has sex. Onstage. In the middle of the scene. Sssssomehow. Apparently there's sort of a trend of doing some kind of abstract modern dance thing to convey the sexytimes, or a blackout, but Kirsten already shared her views on the dancing (unfavorable) and we'll be doing this out in the Glen--in broad daylight--so blackouts are out as well.

What I'm saying is, we're all about to get very comfortable with each other, in a very short space of time. Brendan and I put on our big brass balls and went all out at callbacks (he was playing the Poet, and I was the Actress who was seducing him) but you have to be careful not to make your scene partner uncomfortable, and even when we're both giving each other permission to do whatever we want, it can get a bit awkward when the sheer unfamiliarity with the other person comes into play. We'll all get over it, I know, but for now we're going in reverse just a bit.

Perhaps I shouldn't worry about getting to know the rest of my class, after all.

Aaaand here's a song that's been stuck in my head all day:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This Just In: Lions Are Badass

Okay, I take back anything I said about being sad about not being a part of the outdoor shows. Lion In Winter is going to be amazing. Just from listening to the first read through and feeling the energy crackling all over the room any time Henry II and Eleanor spoke was incredible--and this was only the first read through. I cannot even imagine where things are going to go from here. I'd forgotten what a beautiful and intense play this was, I can't believe how fortunate I am to get the opportunity to spend so much up-close-and-personal time with it.

I mean, my God. This family. Talk about needing therapy. Just imagine all the international incidents/attempted patricide that could've been avoided if only they'd discovered some basic counseling techniques in 12th century England. But seriously, just look at these guys:

How can you not love these people? I just wish Philip (king of France) was a part of the portrait, not to mention Alais. Then it'd be perfect.

Ooh, we did get our first vague intern assignment: apparently Philip will be entering with lots of luggage, and we three interns will be the ones to cart it all into the castle behind him. Other than that? Who knows.

More auditions tomorrow morning! Interns do our own show on the side: La Ronde, which we'll be rehearsing this summer while we're simultaneously helping out on all the other shows. Our director, Kirsten, wasn't able to come to our auditions today, so has NO clue what to cast us as. Hence: repeat auditions.

It's odd, I've been spending so much time these past few days with my intern class, and we're constantly talking about theater and acting, and I haven't actually seen any of them act. All our work has been in private auditions and our first class together is tomorrow. I don't know why I find that so weird, it's just...so much of what defines the way we interact with each other is our acting, and at this point it's all guesswork as to what people are actually going to be like. Hrmn.

We're all getting along really well, though ("so far", I think, as my deeply embittered self) and after we finished the reading today I went out with the whole Lion cast to an Indian place downtown where we shared stories and recommendations. I geeked out for a bit and broke down the whole Thomas à Becket story to the actor playing Philip and was encouraged to hear a universal love of Slings & Arrows around the table.

Good day. Long day. And now for sleep, so I'm ready for the next one.

Welcome to Santa Cruz!

So it's been an eventful couple of days. I moved in (and that was its own little adventure) met my fellow interns and the rest of the company, toured the campus, auditioned to find out which play I'll be doing ensemble work for...and it's only been three days. Well, two and a half.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

So I was scheduled to move into my subleased apartment on the 19th. My family all drove me down, and we had plans to drop my stuff off and meet the new roommates before spending some quality time at the boardwalk. I showed up to the apartment...and no one was home. And the woman I was renting from wasn't picking up her cell phone or he home phone. Aaaand...well it appeared that I might be homeless.

Thank God for iPhones. I spent the day at the boardwalk finding possible other options on craigslist, posting an emergency housing request on the interns website, and calling a high school friend who I knew went to UCSC to see if she knew of a couch I could crash on if the worst should happen. To make a long story short: my friend from high school came through, and turned out to have an extra room in her house that I could sublease, right across the street from UCSC campus (where Shakespeare Santa Cruz is located). Also: that other girl I was supposed to sublease from? Yeah, she was in Honduras, and didn't tell anyone I was supposed to move in.

But it's all good, now! I'm all settled in my new place, my housemates are all pleasantly nerdy (and also apparently infamous partiers. Aaaah, college) and the location couldn't be more convenient. After I'd moved in to my new place I spent the day figuring out the bus system and exploring the city. And can I just say? Santa Cruz is awesome. I'd never really visited here before--apart from the boardwalk,--but everything from the redwoods that sprawl all over campus to the funky downtown area is just fantastic. I could see myself living here. It probably helps that one of the first places I found was Donnelly Chocolates, a delicious shop that was right next to the first bus stop I used. Five words: dark chocolate sea salt caramels. Just. So good. And there's music, and thrift stores, and good food, and did I mention the redwoods? Gorgeous.

Wow, I've barely even mentioned the internship itself and this post is already pretty long. Bear with me, I promise to post more often in the future so I can be a little more concise.

The basic rundown is this: there are a total of 10 acting interns (5 men, 5 women) ranging from sophomores in college to new college graduates. They're the ones I'll be taking classes with and we get to be the busiest people at the festival this summer. That's not just me saying that, Lori--the head stage manager for the whole festival--said so, and I had a brief premonition of how crazy things are gonna get over the next few months. Apart from acting and voice classes (you can opt out of the voice one, if you don't wanna pay for it. I did that.) we do ensemble work in the productions: Love's Labor's Lost, Othello, and The Lion In Winter. We also understudy all the main actors in the company.

We just had our auditions this morning to find out which shows we'll be ensembling it up for, and I was one of the three to be chosen for Lion In Winter. That's the indoor show, on the main-stage, the two Shakespeare plays are out in the glen and the rest of the interns will be in both of those. I'm a little bummed not to be working on Shakespeare, but the indoor show sounds like it's going to be incredible: Marco Barricelli is playing Henry, and it's being directed by Richard E.T. White (!) so it should be fairly badass. We won't find out until this weekend which parts we'll be understudying for, so Mike Ryan advised us to use the time to relax, because there won't be a whole lot of that later on.

Mike described himself to us as the Intern Uncle for acting, directing, stage management and dramaturgy interns alike. He's our go-to ally should we partake in any drama-droms over the summer and the holder of a lot of very useful information, such as which bathrooms are least likely to be smelly and overused during rehearsals. I'll be talking to him a lot, I'm sure.

Well, I should go. First reading for Lion is in a few minutes, and I want to make sure I know where to be. I'll keep you all posted on the goings on.

So it begins.