WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Hits and Misses of 2010

As our readers know, we're not a typical theatre blog. We pride ourselves on being a little less polished and a little more honest. When we decided to write a end of the year reflection, we decided it would be imperative that we write honestly and express our true feelings, good and bad.

So with that, we give you our end of the year reflections and say to the theatre community (Both local and national):

What worked? What didn't? And what can we learn from this year's hits and misses to do even better this coming year?



Mill 6's T Plays - There is no shortage of 10 minute play festivals and competitions in Boston. After a certain point, it's really easy to phone these projects in and use the medium as a low investment cash cow. However, Mill 6 took the medium and spins it around in the way that only Boston could: Bitching about the T. This year's T plays were more solidly written and tightly directed than any other ten minute play festival I've seen from the scene yet. Special mention must go to the devastatingly sweet and sincere performance of Nate Gundy in John J. King's M. Riverside.

11:11's Her Red Umbrella - This show felt like a real underdog. It was a real romantic comedy, put up on stage, acted and directed really well. This is Robyn Linden's directorial breakout and the visual and atmospheric concepts she put together (with the help of a very good lighting designer and a local up and coming singer/songwriter) as well as the genuine performances she created with her cast made for a sweet and satisfying evening.


The ensemble of Bad Habit's Durang/Durang - They were tight, they were funny, and they had their timing down pat. They moved fluidly between different kinds of roles and had a really good knowledge both of the parody style necessary in the first act and the more absurd comedy designated in the second. It was a large ensemble cast that felt like a small tight knit group. It's a hard show to do really well, but this group of actors definitely got the job done.


Bevin O'Gara for Holland Productions' Melancholy Play - This is the only piece I've seen from Bevin, though being a small-time actor here in town, I'm familiar with her as the Artistic Associate at the Huntington (AKA the screener for their auditions....my Pirates audition definitely could have gone better). This play (and Sarah Ruhl in general) is hard to tackle. There are so many places where the surreal or absurd aspects of her stories can go horribly wrong. But Bevin had a clear mastery of the script, the cast, and the designers to create a happy-go-lucky world full of wistfulness and almonds. Everything was done with a light, whimiscal, but defined touch. The comedy was smart and sharp, the surrealness was light and loopy, and the melancholy was wonderfully palpable. Smart director.

"Wait, we have a theatre marathon? That sounds AWESOME!"

Many of us are familiar with existence of The Boston Theatre Marathon, a late spring charity event that brings together 50 New England theatre companies and playwrights. However, how many of you know that there are two days of plays? That's right, in addition to the full day of 50 ten minute plays, Boston Playwrights' Theatre also organizes three readings of full length plays, cast and directed by major players like The Huntington and performed at with the generosity of the BCA.

Did you also know that the event brings together artists from small companies and unknown playwrights together on a bill with internationally renown theatre artists like Robert Brustein and Israel Horovitz?

Chances are, many of you have performed in one of the plays. Or seen one of the events. If you are an actor in Boston, you know about the BTM. It's the closest thing we have to a Humana or a Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and it has been steadily growing in scale and scope over the past decade. I can only hope that the minds at be have lofty plans to keep this event growing over the next few years.

Now this is the part where you go tell someone outside of the artist community about it! They're the next step!


"It's not that we don't like you, we just think you could strive for more!"

Lyric Stage: Blah. That's what I think after I've seen a show there. Just, blah. I often find their season choices interesting. And I always applaud them for employing local actors only. No small feat for a company of their budget. They could easily rope in a couple of New York equities. (I also appreciate their $10 Student Rush Tickets) But something gets lost in the execution of their shows that leaves me bored and unsatisfied. I just get the feeling they have stagnated as a company. They have a solid subscriber and donor base; Artistic Director, Spiro Veludos, has been there for 12 years; and no one on marketing or management seems to be taking any risks. They always play it safe. Someone is underestimating how many more people might subscribe or donate if they branched out a little - a new play here, or a fledgling director there, maybe a "second stage" season with a couple of dirtier, grittier plays. They are glossy and all American, which definitely has it's place (Our Town is my favorite play of all time, after all) but they need to be doing more to stay relevant.

"One step forward, two steps backward"

The American Repertory Theatre has done some amazing work this year. I'm not gunna lie, I kind of hated most of the shows I'd seen up until recently. However, my main problem with the ART was not their company of actors, but the directorial choices and uninspiring conceptual approach to theatre they're known for. So while the A.R.T. has made some bold changes and reinvigorated their artistic drive lately, I have to ask why it is that they also gutted their resident acting company?

To use an analogy from Slings and Arrows, it's like saying "Man, Darren Nichols plays are really bad... We should fire all the actors".

Many of those actors are still cast this season, but without this rarest of institutions, I worry that the direction of the A.R.T. might have shifted in another direction but left behind their strongest asset.

The lack of a dedicated, proper Fringe Festival.

Who has thought, man it would be really cool if we had a Fringe Festival in Boston? They have great ones in New York and Philly and a bunch of other cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, San Fransico, to name a few) and we want to put ourselves on the map as a theatre city, right? So why no Fringe Festival? Oh, wait, there IS a Fringe Festival. When, you ask? Over 2 weekends in October. Where, you ask? ...in BURLINGTON? Ok #1 it is a hike and half to get out there, and #2 when you get there, it is a tiny little space with no dressing rooms or backstage space.

But it's a space so the flaws can be forgiven, but WHY is this what we have? A varied number of acts (not all theatre) show up to present to a non-existant audience. No viable Boston companies are represented. No viable companies are represented period. We can fix this. We can piggy back of the Boston Theatre Marathon or FeverFest or The T-Plays (or some other short play festival) to create a two week Fringe Free For All. All we need is the space. We need the limited number of spaces we have in the city to open their doors and say, yes, we will help, and yes we want people to see our Fringe Theatre. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The small and fringe companies here are the strength of our theatre community, so we should create the opportunity to showcase everyone and accept other submissions, make OTHER THEATRES want to produce HERE. Bringing people in from the outside is the only way to keep moving and growing. Make them love Boston like we love Boston. Fringe festivals do that. But not the one we have now.

Quick Hits

We already wrote about you, but you deserve another mention:

11:11's Foreverendia (This show made me cry hysterically in the parking lot. 'Nuff said.)

Didn't fit in other categories, but total hits this year:

The Old Spice Guy
The Mayhem Commercials
True Grit
StageSource (We couldn't do it without you.)


The Kurt Weill Foundation's trigger happy agent. (Seriously, fuck those guys!)
Spider Man: Turn off the Dark (Did we really need a super expensive Bono musical, anyway?)
Actor's Equity (Please don't revoke my EMC status)
Rabbit Hole (It was such a good play, too...)

If you made it this far down, you are the final hit of the year. If we put you on the Miss list (Hi Diane), we do intend on checking out your shows/projects in the future. If we didn't believe in you, we wouldn't have even mentioned you. We know you can do better. We don't kick when you're down.

Except, maybe Spiderman...

The CoLab Theatre Co.

Monday, December 27, 2010


It's been over a month since my last real blog post. And even that entry was sort of half-hearted. I was feeling guilty for not having posted in 10 days and just wanted to get something on the page. To keep interest up, and keep hits coming to the blog, and to keep you all reading. That's what the blog had turned into, for me, in the last few months. Just a thing I have to do to keep the company moving forward.

I went back a couple of days ago and read over the posts in the last month (made by Kenny and Erika) and my brain really stuck on the short mention Kenny made of having reached our one year anniversary of blogging.

One whole year. I kind of couldn't believe it.

And that got me thinking about why we started the blog in the first place and how into it and energized by it I got. It is a tool to serve our community first and foremost. Not me as a performer. Not the CoLab as a company. But you our readers and even those members of our community who don't read or follow us (which is still most everyone, I know ;-) ). It is a place to discuss issues we're having working in Boston, or to highlight a really fantastic show, or speak up against the things we think missed the mark, and celebrate the victories (and defeats) that come in this kind of work. It does work as self promotion, a nice perk of using a blog, but it's not why we started it.

I speak for myself now in saying that despite some frustrations and doubts I'm battling in my own abilities and goals, I am rededicating myself to this blog in the New Year. I don't want to think of it as a resolution. The connotation of that brings on too much pressure. I know now I can't always get my entry up on time, sometimes I just can't find the topic or the words. But as we go into our second year it's important to reevaluate what we have accomplished and rededicate ourselves to the things we do well and are proud of.

And I am proud of this blog.

I am proud of the CoLab. Even though we may not know exactly what our path is yet, we have set some mighty solid stepping stones along the way. And our keystone principle is to serve the theatre community by talking about what's going on, including everyone who wants to be included, and creating theatre with and focused on artists working in Boston right now.

And so I am rededicating this blog to you our readers and Boston in general, and to making theatre.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kenny Collaborates with Local Non-Profits!

Here at The CoLab, we have days jobs. Some glamorous (MI5 Operative, Gourmet Pastry Chef), some not so glamorous (Barista), and some for non-profit organizations that do really great work.

I've been working part time at The Jewish Women's Archive the past month or so, and a co-worker of mine (whom some of you may recognize if you went to or taught at Brandeis, as I knew some of the readers did) recently asked me to help out with a "telethon" concept video appeal she was planning.

Some brainstorming happened... Here are the results:

Thanks to Leah over at JWA for asking me to collaborate! And also, consider checking out the Jewish Women's Archive website or their blog, Jewesses with Attitude!

The mission of the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) is to uncover, chronicle, and transmit to a broad public the rich history of American Jewish women.

We're in the middle of our Annual Appeal, so if you or someone you know may be interested in making a donation, mosey on over here! I'm up to my neck in checks to process, but we could always use more!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Reader Review of "Tron"

Here at the CoLab, we welcome guest blogs, tips and reviews of the arts from anyone who cares to share! Normally, we look to share insightful, controversial or inspiring words...

But instead, here's a brief review of the recent remake of "Tron", written by a former classmate of mine who shall remain anonymous:

so i went to see tron this weekend and did a bunch of cocaine afterwards. true story. it reminded me why i've only done it once before. it's just too much work. and then you're so thirsty the next day. although, it did keep me up until 6am drinking... so i guess that was the plus side? so yeah, i don't think i'll be doing that again. but tron was awesome. 4 stars.

This review was unedited to preserve the integrity of this blog.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Kenny Looks Back On One Year of Blogging

Things have been so crazy in our lives that we actually forgot to acknowledge a major milestone...

It has been more than one year since we debuted The CoLab blog!

There will be a more proper end of the year, New Year's post in the future, but for now I just want to reminisce for a moment, the year that was...

Being threatened with legal action...

A flame war with an anonymous hater of Diane Paulus and the direction of the A.R.T. (Part II) (Part III)

The Soska Sisters, producers of "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" mention and link to us on their blog... despite getting the wrong blog name (I still think they're brilliant!)...

And I asked the world to call me out on my BS and tell me exactly how much I suck.

And finally...

Actually, nothing beats being threatened with legal action. Read it. Seriously. It was hilarious.

Those are just some of the posts I'm the most proud of. What other posts did you enjoy? Or did you enjoy writing the most (ML and E, I'm looking at you!)?


Friday, December 10, 2010

Who Wants A Cookie?

The CoLab is having a Bake-Sale!!!!

Come and support two companies at once THIS SUNDAY at 11:11's Her Red Umbrella.

What it is: The CoLab will be selling concessions and home-baked goods at the intermission of the 3pm matinee performance of Her Red Umbrella! We are raising money to buy a StageSource Membership, apply for fiscal sponsorship, and support our first workshop of Dearly Beloved. Come support two companies with one ticket (and see Erika perform in the process).

Where it is: The Factory Theatre, Sunday December 12 @ 3pm.

About the show:

Her Red Umbrella
By: Brian Tuttle
Directed by: Robyn Linden

What if you had one semester to win the girl of your dreams?
Patrick is in love. But Patrick has a problem: he can’t really talk to girls. What Patrick does have is an eccentric Harvard professor as an ally in romance. He also has a hidden talent for writing. By the time a semester abroad in Europe comes to an end, Patrick must use every resource at his disposal to impress, romance, and win the one girl to whom he can’t seem to say a single word.

Tickets and Information:

December 10, 11, 16, 17, & 18 @ 8pm
December 12 @ 3pm - CoLab Bake-Sale

$17 adults; $15 students and seniors; general admission

The Factory Theatre
791 Tremont Street
Boston, MA


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Economics of Acting

There's been an article circulating the internets entitled Ten Things Theatres Need To Do Right Now To Save Themselves by Brendan Kiley. This blog post is not about the list of ten things, however. We've all read the article (if you haven't, do it) and had some reflection on the concepts within. However, my reading of this article inspired a completely unrelated train of thought on a really important topic.

How much is our work worth?

Point 9 reads:
Expect poverty. Theater is a drowning man, and its unions—in their current state—are anvils disguised as life preservers. Theater might drown without its unions, but it will certainly drown with them. And actors have to jettison the living-wage argument. Nobody deserves a living wage for having talent and a mountain of grad-school debt. Sorry.

So let's talk about this... And I warn you readers, that I'm going to be doing my best to discuss this point as an artist and not as a Libertarian Socialist... That would be a rant for another blog.

I'm not sure how many actors feel entitled to anything simply "for having talent and a mountain of grad-school debt." Have you ever heard that argument? I certainly haven't. What we do have are artists and actors who wish they could work for a living wage. There's a big difference here. The statement as written seems to imply that demanding a living wage is symptomatic of some sort of entitlement culture. Moreover, most actors I know don't have grad school debt. Most actors I know don't even have grad school degrees. But you know what I have? Undergraduate debt. I have a ridiculous amount of debt from a four year school, which I sought to attend based on the information I was drilled with as a child that "Education is the key to success" and that getting a college education would increase my value of my labor.

Evidently, the invisible hand has decided otherwise. There was once a time when you could support an entire family with a single income source without a college degree. Now, having a Bachelor's from a prestigious, private college can't stop you from working retail and temp jobs to make ends meet. How many underemployed law school grads are out there, while we're at it?

The fact is, no one class of person is entitled any sort of wage. However, can't we consider the idea that anyone willing to work hard is entitled to a "living wage"? Since when did this become an unreasonable demand? Yes, I believe I am entitled to a living wage, as a 40+ hour a week worker with two jobs (three, if you count theatre/film). Just as I believe a janitor, fruit picker or Wall Street executive is entitled to a living wage.

Fuck the invisible hand. We are constantly being told that our labor is worth only as much as we are willing to work, and that we have choice. No one forces us to be working poor, working class, we can lift ourselves by the bootstraps, all that crap. The fact is that our labor is worth more than we're willing to work for and we need to have higher standards. The choice between being evicted and working shitty job you hate IS NOT A CHOICE. Liberty depends upon the power to choose, and a rock and a hard place is not a choice.

I'm not saying I want to be wealthy. But we've accepted that certain careers are known to be low end. And that's the way it is, and if you don't like it, get a different job. "You don't have to work, you know." It's the same for a waiter. It's the same for an actor.

Imagine a world without waiters? That would kinda suck now, wouldn't it? Now imagine a world without actors? How boring would that be... We'd all have to start reading again... ::shudder::

So the logic implies that if you are willing to work for nothing, then that's what your labor is worth. By that logic, actors who love the work that they do should be paid nothing. Eventually, there'd be some people who left that labor force, but many would stay. Why are there some actor jobs and day jobs that pay and some that don't? Because we have some standards and some things we aren't willing to compromise. And that's a good thing.

So Mr. Kiley, while I really enjoy your article and think everyone should read it...

Don't preach about living wages. That my friend, is an insult to workers of all classes and occupations. Maybe there's an argument to be made, but that is not a very good one. "Expect poverty"? Who doesn't do that? Name me one serious actor who thinks they're going to make good money doing what we're doing.

But I refuse to accept poverty.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

I recently ran my first 5K. In case you were wondering, that's 3.1 miles. In case you were wondering, I ran it in 25 minutes and 35 seconds. That's a pace of ~8.2 min/mi. I didn't run a marathon, but this was a huge accomplishment for me. An accomplishment that I mentally and physically trained to achieve.

A career in the arts is a marathon, not a sprint. You start by deciding to accomplish something. My goal? Ultimately, I would like to support myself using only arts-related activities. Was this my original goal? Absolutely not. When I was sixteen, I wanted "to be an actress" but I had no conception of what that actually meant. Sure I had visions of Cosmo covers and E! interviews, but those weren't real aspirations, they were simply all I knew of the acting world. Now that I'm actually part of that world, I have a better understanding of what it means and where I'm headed.

So I started with The Warm Up: Warming up for a race is just as important as warming up for a career. I hold a BA in Theatre Arts from Brandeis. I spent a semester in London studying Shakespeare, Noel Coward, and other British greats. I participated in as much college theatre as I could. I learned about my craft in as many ways as possible.

The First Quarter Mile: After graduation, I chose a location - BOSTON. After that, it was a matter of time before I started making connections. I joined StageSource, I went on auditions, I saw theatre.

The Next Quarter Mile (AKA The First Half Mile): I got into my stride, my pace for the run - I found my niche. The fringe theatre scene. Kenny, Mary-Liz, and I started The CoLab and I started to meet more and more people who were interesting in bringing the same sort of theatre I was to the Boston area. This led to more and more auditions which led to...

Three Quarters of a Mile Down: Getting cast. During a run, the first mile and a half is the toughest to get through. My body sometimes isn't ready for it. It is the point in the run where my brain kicks in and says, "you know you can do this. Don't give up this easily." After that I get into my stride, and the roles that I've been cast in so far have helped me get into a stride in the Boston area. I've made a number of connections, friends, and I've been able to push myself as an actress. This is all part of the training, the marathon.

The Completion of the First Mile: I haven't hit this point yet in Boston. For me, it will be when I get paid for a role. (Actually paid, not just a stipend.) This had yet to happen, but I know it will some day. For now, I'll keep up my training schedule. A training schedule filled with 5k roles to help me train for marathon roles. (This is not to say that the first time I get paid will be for the role of a life time, but it will be a stepping stone.) My marathon role will be the role I've trained for my whole life. Or at least, it will feel that way. Hopefully I'll experience several marathon roles in my lifetime. But I know that won't be for some time.

And like the road, the stage is somewhere to head where things in "real life" get messy or sad or boring. My 5k training came out of a little heartbreak and little spare time. And here I am running an 8 minute mile. Like running, a career in the arts also requires your brain to train. To remember that even if you're having a tough first mile or a dry spell from getting cast, if you push just a little harder, run just a little further, it will happen for you.

So for today, I'll take my first race as a great accomplishment and I'll use this knowledge to push myself towards longer races and faster miles. And I'll do the same with the stage. With each role, I know that I'm headed toward the future. Each role builds on itself, telling me something about myself as an actress and as a human. I'm never going to run a 5 minute mile for 3 miles in a row. I'm just not. And I'm never going to be on the cover of Cosmo. But that's not what's important to me either. I don't know where I'll end up, but the journey is what's most important. Not the finish line.

A photo of my dad, brother, and I after the race!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I am thankful for:

My smile. It comes from my mom and it's my best professional calling card.

Being continually surprised and delighted by new talent in Boston.

Friends. The ones who know my non-theater related self as well as my actor/director/administrator self. It's important to remember the balance and have people who can appreciate me on different terms.

Dedicated artists who have made Boston their home for better or for worse and continue to work here because there's no place they'd rather be.

My family. Always.

Officially being able to say, at this point, I have spent half of my life involved in theater.

Macaroni and cheese. I think the obsession started the year I decided I hated turkey at Thanksgiving. It was a life saver. And we've seen some great times together.

Feeling a sense of commitment to my work and feeling appreciated for that.


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, and take some time to take stock of the things you are thankful for.

May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being. May you walk through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.* Apache Blessing


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuff Theatre People Like: Free Music

So I love free music. You love free music. And this music is an art in itself. For those of you who don't already know Girl Talk, I'm happy to introduce you.. for free. Girl Talk is the stage name of Gregg Gillis a super fabulous mash-up artist from Pittsburgh. He takes music from a variety of genres and generations and literally mashes them together. The tracks are meant to be listened to in succession and I love listening to them. (He's also an incredible performer - I saw him live once and in college and he blew my mind.)

Here's a link to his newest album. I highly recommend this for all of your theatre folk out there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


My life seems to be piles of things lately. Piles of laundry. Piles of lists: to do lists, long overdue phone call lists, things I should research lists. Piles of scripts. Piles of friends I haven't seen. Piles of shifts I don't want to work. Piles of workouts that haven't been completed. Piles and piles and piles. And the piles never seem to get smaller.

And the piles of stuff turns into piles of stress. The stress turns into piles of a emotions that I hate feeling - tears that aren't worth it. Conversations that worry my parents. Late night ice cream with the roommates (a pile that I'm actually pretty okay with).

The more times I type it out the more I think to myself, "Piles is a funny word." And so I laugh at the word. And I think to myself. They are just piles. The laundry will get squeezed in. (The lack of a pile of underwear will make that happen.) I'll find time to memorize the lines. I'll cross "go to the bank" off my list. I might have to sacrifice a clean room for a bit and I might have to sacrifice making my breakfast for a Dunkin' coffee in order to get a few extra minutes of sleep. But I'll get it done. And the piles, will be just that. Stuff. In my life.

I'm stopping thinking about the piles. They'll probably get bigger before the end of the week but if I stack all of the piles together: family, friends, rehearsals, work, I'll have a pile of life. And I'm supposed to be enjoying life. So today, I embrace the piles*. And push onward.

*If anyone wants to do my laundry though. I'm cool with that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flying or The Art of Active Storytelling

Saturday night I saw Whistler in the Dark's production of Tales from Ovid.

I love Greek myths.

I love Ted Hughes.

I love watching people fly.

I was happy to support the show and definitely curious to see how the tiny little Factory accommodated flyers and silks. But, going into it, I was also concerned - neither the original nor Hughes' translation was written as a play, and the space could easily have been overwhelmed by tricks or choreography, and the myths and melodramas could easily have been over directed, over acted or both. But to my amazement and delight NONE of those things happened. With that said, I wouldn't say I saw a play or acting or anything I normally would critique a show on. But it was beautiful. And it was brave. And I can't really ask for much more than that.

The ensemble, directed by Meg Taintor, had an ease and understadedness that was fascinating to watch. They dedicated this piece to classic story telling, illustrating the themes and emotions connected in each myth with effective and deliberate choreography, sounds, and physicality. They targeted the audiences senses instead of their intellectl. That is a feat in and of itself. To disengage an audience from their brain and have them engaged enough just to feel what is happening. Each member of the ensemble had an energy all their own and they played together like the essential elements. Sometimes meshing, sometimes fighting against each other, but always ending in a neutral and cohesive state. They truly worked to present these tales in their most basic and relatable form. These are ancient stories that have been passed on and transformed and retold in every way imaginable. And so I applaud Meg and her cast for having adapted and put together a show that celebrates the art of a good story and the beauty of a simple and engaging storyteller.

And for taking risks.

This is the kind of performing that makes people take notice of what is happening in the tiny spaces on the tiny budgets with people who just want to create. It is a challenge. It challenges the audience to open their minds to a non-traditional theatre experience, it challenges the involved artists in physical, mental, and emotional ways, and I think it also challenges our larger companies to produce more honest and engaging work.

So take the challenge, because with these Tales you have nothing to lose.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Michael Caine Impressions

My life has been a bit of a mess lately, but I had to share this with you as things start to look a little more upbeat:

Be well,

Friday, November 5, 2010

She's Just My Type

When I hear the phrase "typecast" I often think of it negatively. I associate it with an actor or actress who plays the same role over and over again, i.e. Michael Cera in the geeky, meek(y) high school would-be hero role. Now, there are different challenges involved when it comes to typecasting, for me I think it is the following: HOW do you make each role different? Just because you ARE typecast in a role doesn't mean that you have to play each role exactly the same.

This week, however, I've discovered a new appreciation for typecasting and a new challenge involved with approaching such a role. And this is a positive thing. On Monday, I started rehearsals for 11:11 Theatre Company's December show, Her Red Umbrella. If I were to type myself, I think that Cara is my "typecast" role. She's a 21 year old college student, intelligent, driven, likeable, with a girl next door thing about her. (I say type myself, because I haven't really played a role like this since I was in You Can't Take It With You in high school.) At rehearsal on Tuesday night my director asked me a few questions about Cara that made me realize that I was not differentiating between Cara and Erika saying the lines. Granted, it was the first time we had read the scene on our feet, but it still made me realize the importance of creating a character. When I originally accepted the role, I didn't know the challenge I was accepting and in the past week I am pleasantly surprised at this new segment of my acting career. Don't get me wrong, I didn't think this show would be easy (I'm done with accepting roles that won't advance me skill-wise), but after tackling Refuge this summer, I saw this in a very different category.

So this is my new challenge: how do you create a believable character from a character that shares so many of your interests and ideals? I'm ready to tackle this and excited as well. First step? Write her history. Second step? Create a new physicality for Cara. Third step? Unsure. I think things will naturally fall into place once I memorize my lines (I guess that's a step in there somewhere!) but chalk this one up to experience: every role is challenge, just not in the same way. And I'm excited about it. Stay tuned, there's more process to come.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Helter Skelter

So it's been a week since our last post. I missed two last week, and we just got behind. Life is crazy. I spent 4 days in Chicago, Kenny was in DC trying (although, I will argue unsuccessfully to restore his sanity ;-) ) and Erika held up her end of the bargain amidst restaurant madness and starting rehearsals for a new project I will let her introduce you to. We were literally running in three different directions.

It's tough working three busy schedules into one productive artistic endeavor. Creating is hard work. It's so much energy, and time, and money. We're constantly fighting our jobs, rehearsals, classes, trips, and social engagements to get on top of the operations. And sometimes it's hard to stick with it. To make the sacrifices. To say "yes, I will focus mainly on this right now."

We're not in that place currently. It's hard to admit that.

We are making plans, we are doing the best we three can to give our energy to the company. We talk almost everyday, and have three different things we're working on right now. Planning a production, a new audition workshop, and a fundraiser. But it is a little helter skelter. For me it's important to acknowledge that. And to share it with you, our supporters. To say, "sometimes I can't make this my whole life." Honesty in creating is something I personally (and I'm 96.75% sure I can say that for Kenny and Erika as well) am always striving for. And running this company is no different. Part of this blog is staying honest about what it means to freelance, work, and self-produce, no matter what the realities may sometimes be.

But we do have continue to work to make it fit into the lives we're leading to stay viable. To keep our momentum up. To stay fresh and motivated.

So this is where you all come in. We need some feedback on fundraising. What fundraisers (FOR ANYTHING) have you been to that really work? That you would attend again? That make you want to support the cause? and also, what doesn't work for you? Currently our financial goals include joining StageSource, producing two-workshops and a full length show in the next eight months, and possibly gaining 501 (c) 3 status. Help us get there with your passion and ideas and we know the money will follow.

Send thoughts and ideas to us at colabtheatre@gmail.com.


And, as always, see something this weekend:

Tales from Ovid - Whistler in the Dark - The Factory Theatre

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby - Lyric Stage Company

The Shirley VT Plays - Huntington Theatre Company, Speakeasy Stage, and Company One - All in the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Good Acting": A Definition. Sort of.

There is no such thing as good acting. I agree that this is a bold statement. Bear with me.

There is no such thing as good acting. There are ROLES that show us talent, drive, watchability, etc. There are actors who often succeed at the roles they are given. There are actors who get cast a lot. (Which is a different animal entirely.) However, there is no UNANIMOUS DEFINITION for good acting. We all see talent in different ways and places. Let's break it down. (For the purpose of this exercise I'll be using examples from film for accessibility. However, this post was sparked by stage actors.)

1. Good acting can be achieved by playing a role that takes effort but appears effortless. I believe that it's easier to put your finger on it when you know or have seen a lot of roles played by the actor/actress -- we know what they are like in real life and we don't recognize them at all in the role. Case in point: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The role of The Joker had to be physically exhausted with all of the ticks, the voice, etc. but he pulled it off without a hitch. He terrified and thrilled us all. And I would classify his performance in this role as good acting.

2. Similarly, when we recognize the actor, or have seen a lot of their work, we can recognize the types of roles they usually play and can identify when they are out of their comfort zone or IN a role that stretches them to their highest, most watchable potential. Good acting is something that we WANT to watch. Case in point: Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire. She's unhinged within the confines of the script's world yet in control of the role at the same time. She's gorgeous to watch on screen and pulls you through every step of the story.

3a. We wouldn't be able to recognize Vivien Leigh and Heath Ledger as "good actors" without the roles they are tackling. Therefore, while good acting is the combination of many factors, good writing often produces good acting. Good acting is hard to come by when a poor script is at large. And when we see good acting in a show with poor writing, it is even more astounding to watch. You can cast Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Kate Winslet, and Clint Eastwood in a film but if the script is uninteresting, their performances aren't going to be that noteworthy.

3b. How do we define "good writing?" For me, good writing consists of the following: the element of surprise (I don't want to know how the play ends on page one. I want to watch a chain of events), characters who definitively WANT something, REVEALS that we infer not ones that are spelled out for us, necessary dialogue (aka if the conversation isn't relevant to moving the plot again - get it out of there), and appropriate length for the subject matter/plot.

There are many other ways "good acting" can occur, but I think you're starting to get the point. What we refer to as good acting is NOT always consistent within an actor, it is the perfect storm of the right casting, the right writing, the right push, and the right watchability. I heard Michael Shannon speak in Feb. 2009 right after he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Revolutionary Road and he put it like this: winning an Oscar doesn't mean you're the best actor of all time. It's the recognition that in this particular role, you did justice to your craft and stood out among your peers. His remarks have stuck with me and therein lies my personal definition for good acting. It is a phenomenon that occurs with the right combination of elements. Not every good actor is set up for a good performance with every role he or she takes, but when it does occur, it is an incredible thing to watch.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What is your definition of good acting?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stuff Theatre People Like: Artsy Independent Coffee Shops

This installment of Stuff Theatre People Like is for all of your writers out there. Sometimes the hardest thing about writing is getting started. Even though I know I have a task in front of me, I just can't sit down and do it in my apartment. (Especially if there's no deadline.) There's tv, the room I'm supposed to be cleaning, Facebook. But in a coffee shop, somehow it's easier to ignore those little chat windows. Or not. Which is fine, because I have the attention span of a small child, but anyways. At least there's no tv. Moving on.

I decided to start working on a couple of projects that I've had on the back burner and as I was driving around doing errands, I decided to stop in Taste in Newtonville. It's a cute little place with table service, gorgeous cappucinos (they're sooo pretty. and tasty too. but really pretty), and the best lemon poppyseed muffin I've ever had. There was no need for headphones (which saves my computer battery!) because the staff makes a great playlist to set the mood - everything from the Beatles to Phoenix to Foo Fighters. It was chill, quaint and made me feel better about spending money on coffee than I do at Starbucks. (Plus there was free wi-fi. Holler.)

And the best part is, I ACTUALLY GOT WORK DONE. I'm reworking some scripts that I've started (GASP) and I'm helping a friend hash out the start to a screen play. It was nice to settle into my nook and do some work and I would highly recommend it to those who might be passing through the area looking for a place to do work. Regardless of whether you hit up taste or not, that's my weekend recommendation to all of you. Even if you're feeling stuck, a change of scenery might be what you need. Or a muffin. A delicious, delicious muffin. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Status Updates vs The Handshake

Over the last year-ish, since beginning to blog in earnest I have noticed a serious uptick in how much Boston-theatre-related information I am gathering through my social media outlets. And how much our blog has grown simply through the CoLab's presence on facebook (we have recently expanded to Twitter - follow us @colabtheatre). It is interesting to me how much my newsfeed has seemed to blow up with theatre related news, events, and anecdotes since January. And it makes me happy to see so many new and interesting things happening. But it makes me wonder how much momentum we are truly building and can we put our money where our status updates are?

Part of what made play. so exciting for us was the fact that it was promoted almost exclusively through virtual word-of-mouth. But it was also terrifying to rely completely on information we were gathering on-line. Just because someone clicks Attending on your facebook event doesn't actually mean they will show up and buy a ticket. For a lot of people it's a way to show support without actually having to back it up with an expenditure of time or money. The barrier of the internet makes it easy to skew numbers and levels of interest. Just becasue some one "likes" our link or retweets a blog post doesn't necessarily mean they are going to come see our shows, participate in a workshop, or donate to the cause.

We are truly grateful for (and I am ever impressed by) our on-line friends and followers. And sure there is a little surge of ego-boosting that runs through me when I meet someone in person for the first time and hear, oh yeah, I read your blog! And there is no doubt that I get most of my information on-line, so staying present and keeping ourselves moving forward through social media is one of the most effective ways to stay on people's minds.

But I feel like we are moving faster virtually than it is possible to do in real-life, thereby missing some of the essential steps. Networking isn't always my favorite thing to do, but when I can actually shake someone's hand and say hello, I'm Mary-Liz Murray, I'm a Co-Founding Artistic Director of The CoLab Theatre Company, what do you do? I know the impact is more likely to stick than flashing across a computer screen. The same is true when I run into friends and acquaintances and catch up on what they are doing. Personally,I am much more likely to go see a show if I commit to it verbally than virtually. If I am face to face with a friend or colleague and say, yes I'm coming to see you, not going is a much bigger deal to me. And so I wonder how true that is across a larger board, what does your physical presence and commitment mean that your virtual stamp doesn't?

I think businesses and organizations across the board are only starting to measure that. Lately there has been such a push to move everything online that I think the fallout from losing person to person contact has yet to be realized. There are other types of businesses where a bigger online presence makes more sense, and providing information and services online makes a huge impact. But theatre is about a live event, a symbiotic relationship between performers/directors/technicians and their audience. If an audience doesn't show up, does the play still happen? The actors may get up on stage and run the show, but if no one is watching it's completely irrelevant. So devaluing the in-person networking and feedback and conversation by simply putting a company's life, mission, and event online is a dangerous game.

I'm happy to be online. To have the CoLab be online. To read other theatre blogs and accept invitations to Facebook events. But if you see me out on a Friday night, come say hello, introduce yourself, tell me what you do, because that I will actually remember.

Commedia in Boston

A few weeks ago, I experienced my first ever live Commedia Del'Arte performance. The troupe, Teatro Dell Maschere has posted their performance on youtube, for your viewing pleasure! I LOVED this performance, and I encourage you all to check these guys out in the future.

If you don't know about this theatrical art form, read up on the wikipedia article. Every actor should at least know about this stuff.

The things I notice in this video: The freedom and sense of ease. The characters are over the top, and flamboyant. But they don't seem strained. The performances are at ease, but not lazy. there is a balance between strength/energy and grace/lightness. Each character is specific, and no one seems like they're "Trying too hard." This is what I'm talking about when I describe the difference between Naturalism and Realism. This is far more natural than half of the realistic performances I see. Good acting isn't about being "Realistic". It's about being "Real". As an acting teacher once said to me:

"I'm not asking you to act falsely. I'm asking you to act truthfully, but stretch the definition of what truth can mean."


Tony Clifton!

My life is just surreal sometimes... Case in point, here's a photo from last night in front of Deep Ellum in Allston...

He's performing at the Wilbur Tonight. He's actually quite a nice guy in real life...lulz!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

David Mamet For Kids!

I saw this in a bookstore today. I didn't have to inspect further, but yes, this is in fact THE David Mamet.

I'm not sure what the content of the book is, but it looks like a children's book... if so, this makes the man a playwright, director, "expert" on anti-semitism AND... and now an influence on our children.

Our straight talkin', hyper masculine, potty mouthed children.


Monday, October 18, 2010

What kind of actor am I?

Lately in my life there has been a lot of discussion about what makes a successful actor. How to become one, how to sustain being one, what does it mean to be one? And it's made me think a lot about the kind of actor I want to be, and the kind of life that will create for me.

There is no right way to be a theatre professional. There are definitely WRONG ways. But finding a "right" way to make your career as an actor, director, technician, administrator or any combination of those things is impossible. There are people who think they know. And there has been an entire industry built around rules and norms that are really fuzzy and broken more often than followed.

There is no rhyme or reason to success. But there is immense pressure to be "successful".

But what makes a successful actor?

Is it longevity - is doing one show every eighteen months and working as a cater waiter while auditioning for 20 years straight success?

Or fame - becoming a household name or a soap star or a frought druggie diva success?

Maybe it's consistency - working steadily and being paid a barely living wage to work on plays, films, commercials, industrials, and voice over work in exchange for holidays, family time, and a a social life to say the only thing I do is act?

{ See this clip from Dustin Hoffman's acceptance speech for the Acadamy Award he won for Kramer vs. Kramer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhDmNRQgKLM. It is one of the most eloquent and classy ways to put these sentiments into words ever. And I generally hate Oscar speeches.}

I would guess the answer is different for a lot of actors. And non-actors generally only think of fame as the acceptable answer. In general, I find, the metrics for measuring the successfulness of an actor, director, or other are very skewed.

For me being a successful actor is a lot of things. The most important thing is doing the kind of work I WANT to do. The kind of work I believe in. It's not a particular genre or type of role, but more about the process and the people I work with. The feeling of camaraderie and respect I get from being in a well run rehearsal and being allowed to explore, experiment, and build. But in my life I don't only want to be a successful actor. There is so much of theatre and creating that is important to me. And being able to mesh my acting career with the other kinds of directorial and administrative work I do is really important to me.

And there are many people out there that will tell me I can never be a successful actor if I don't give it 100% of my focus. If I'm not willing to sacrifice all of the other goals and roles in my life, I won't know success. But I won't accept that. Firstly because as long as I am working, as long as I stay involved, as long as there is theatre to be made, I will be successful. But also because my overarching goal in life isn't to be a successful actor. I want an acting career that is fulfilling, sure, but I also want a social life and a steady income (I like nice things and buying groceries, so shoot me). I want to travel and enjoy my family and read books and go camping and SEE plays and movies and go dancing or on a spur of the moment road trip. Being tied to making my entire existence about the pursuit of my next acting job won't help me to achieve any of that.

I admire the people who want the kind of acting success that only comes from sacrificing every other part of themselves. It's a dedication and motivation that is awe-inspiring (though sometimes a little....intense) but not something I possess. And the biggest thing I've learned so far is that that is OK. That I don't want to be a "give it everything in my being" kind of actor is a valid choice. That choosing a life full of relationships and experiences that INCLUDE but aren't exclusive to theatre and acting is just fine. And if that's what makes me happy, than why even question it?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Night Shenanigans

Hey All!

Just came across this event. It looks pretty awesome and right up the ally of you theatrical types out there. Check it.

These are the deets:

Time: October 17, 2010 from 6:30pm to 9pm
Location: Bella Luna & the Milky Way Lounge/The Brewery
Street: 284 Amory St. /The Brewery
City/Town: JP, MA 02130
Website or Map: http://www.milkywayjp.com
Phone: 617.524.3740
Organized By: Big Mouths of JP

The Theme: Transported

What is this thing?

A lot can happen going from point A to B, whether one is walking, crawling, traveling at top speeds in some metal box....you probably HAVE a story! Bring it.

Stories start at 7PM get there early for good seats

What is a story slam ?
Based on a poetry slam format and similar to American Idol, a story slam is a contest of words by known and undiscovered talent. massmouth posts a theme on it's website (www.massmouth.ning.com) and story slammers will sign up on the night to tell a 5-minute short story on the evening's theme and a lucky ten names will be drawn at random from a bag. Other audience members may feel moved to join in on a judging team. There will be one team of 5 judges who will throw out the high and low scores and average the 3 remaining. Only the highest score will be recorded. Listeners will be engaged in story improv games and other interactive entertainments between each 5 minute feature.

Each of the featured 5 minute stories is judged on how well it is told, how well it is constructed and how well it honors the time limit and relates to the theme. The 3 highest-scoring tellers are awarded prizes and an opportunity to perform at the "the big mouthoff" April 26th in Boston at the Copley Library. Prizes will be awarded at each slam. There is a $5.00 cover

Real stories and 5 minutes - 5 minutes means...5 minutes. You loose points if you use the 60 second grace period to wind up. Real stories have a beginning, middle and end. And they have a point. You are clear about why the story is important to you and why you want to tell it. People are expecting real life adventures. No retelling of literary works and if we discover that you have pirated someone's story - you will be disqualified from all competition and prizes. (copyright laws apply, besides, this it is storytelling NOT recitation). No poetry unless the poem is original,5 minutes long, and tells your personal story.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great Performances

Quick today: Watch this video clip, at least the first half. What are your impressions? What makes this performance so much more engaging than most?

Comment away. I'll write a follow up next week. I know my answer, but I want to know yours first.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking Responsibility

While trolling facebook this afternoon I came across a link posted to a friends wall about a new book called 20Under40 about the trending in Arts Leadership and how it is shifting to younger and younger people.

Instantly I wanted to know more.

I clicked the link and spent some time going through the page and really started getting into the initiative and mission behind publishing this book.

It talks about getting ready for the generational shift happening nationwide in Arts Administration and how it's affecting programming, marketing, audience development, and fundraising. And that really hit home with me. Part of the reason I jumped on board this crazy-train (and trust me it is a CRAZY-TRAIN) of starting a theatre company with Kenny and Erika is because I want to be part of this kind of movement. To change the face of the arts and how they are perceived and appreciated. To make them accessible while producing work I love.

And as I continued to explore the website I really wanted to jump on this organizations bandwagon too. I like the way they are approaching getting their message across. And I'm about 2 minutes away from becoming an Ambassador! THEN I checked out the info on the Launch party for the book, assuming it would be in New York but curious about the details, and it is NOT in New York. IT IS HERE! In Boston! Not only are they reaching out to the newest generation of arts leaders but they are doing it here (and in Chicago)! They are using two of the most up and coming theatre cities to launch this "generational shift" How awesome is that?

I'm saving the date December 10, 2010 to attend the launch party. Who's coming with me?


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You say artist, I say person, let's call the whole thing off.

I have been silently watching the debate happening on the blog at the moment, interested to read the different points of view and formulating my own addition, which is as follows:

1.) I sometimes identify myself as artist.
2.) I sometimes identify myself as a theatre person.
3.) I sometimes identify myself as an actor. A director. An Administrator.
4.) I always identify myself as Mary-Liz.

I guess all this amounts to is that I identify and agree with the line in Kenny's second post "I'm really saying that we should always be people first and all other things secondary." I agree that there is sometimes a negative connotation associated with the term "theatre person" it can be derogatory or belittling. But it doesn't make it untrue. I also think there is a serious danger in being identified as an "artist". The "arts" and "artists" in our culture are often viewed as completely unrelatable to the general audience. They are seen as pretentious and elitist. Out of touch. (Exhibit A; http://artsdispatch.blogspot.com/2010/09/we-take-swing-at-idea-that-arts-are.html#more) And I don't think it's any of our goals to alienate people by describing what we do. Not that we shouldn't be proud to create work and identify it as art but we are also SO much more than that. We are entertainers. We are designers. We are technicians. We are performers. We are "talent". We are hired monkeys. We are perpetual students. We are professionals.

In different contexts, any one of these labels would describe exactly what we do. And that's awesome. That we can have one "job" or one "career" and be ALL of these different things. That's why I love being in theatre. That's what makes me Mary-Liz. Not being referred to by one moniker or other. Those things describe what I do. Not who I am.

In OTHER Theatre news...
These things are playing in Boston this week

Poe: A Fever Dream, 11:11 Theatre Company, The Factory Theatre
Interview, Heart and Dagger Productions, The Plaza Theatre @ Boston Center for the Arts
In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, Speakeasy Stage, Roberts Theatre @Boston Center for the Arts
Circle Mirror Transformation, Huntington Theatre Company, Wimberly Theatre @ Boston Center for the Arts
The Neofuturists Project, Independent Drama Society, this week @ The Democracy Center Cambridge
Enron, Zeitgeist Stage, The Plaza Black Box @ Boston Center for the Arts

Check it out and support our local entertainer.performer.artist.hired monkey.technician.people

Always - Mary-Liz

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stuff Theatre People Like: Well Executed Accents

When I'm not working on a show, I sometimes find it hard to muse up topics for my blog posst. However, in thinking about Kenny's blog post about "theatre people" I realized that there are things that "theatre people" appreciate differently that than non-theatre people. I'm reclaiming the phrase theatre people to categorize those in the industry: actors, directors, producers, etc. And while pondering this I came up with an idea for a recurring blog installment: Stuff Theatre People Like. (It's not quite as classy as stuffwhitepeoplelike.com but that's okay, those guys have been blogging for years. Haha.) Basically, when I find something I thing a particular branch of the theatre people tree would enjoy, I'll post it up here.

The first installment is for actors - it's about ACCENTS.

I'm going to level with you -- I'm terrible at accents. I took a course on dialects when I studied in London and I never really got the hang of any of them. (I'm also probably a bad actor when I tell you that I still don't fully understand the difference between an accent and a dialect.) We tried Scottish, Irish, High Status British, and Cockney. I really don't have an ear for them. I wish I did. (For the sake of The Town, I wish Blake Lively did too, but that's another story.) Having the ability to transition through different accents would help when it comes to my marketability. Even though I don't have that ability, I'm still interested in watching other actors handle the issue with ease.

I submit for your viewing pleasure, an episode of The Good Guys, a show that starts Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks. The show takes place is Dallas and in most episodes Bradley Whitford convincingly pulls off his Texan accent (at least I think so, but I've never been to Texas). HOWEVER, in this episode, he tries an Italian mobster accent on top of his Texan one. It's phenomenal to watch. Especially if you've seen him in other things (aka The West Wing) where he sports a New Englander's dialect. Anyways, watch it, enjoy it, respond to it.

As a THEATRE PERSON, Erika recommends Silvio's Way, Episode 1.8 of The Good Guys which airs on Friday nights at 9 pm on FOX and can also be found on hulu.com.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Theatre Artists It is!

Hello friends!

It seems my last post generated a bit of buzz, thus a quick follow up.

Cherubbino/Carmen writes:

I don't really want to be a "person who happens to make theatre". I think that is asking us to hide behind some veneer of "normalcy" and apologize for being Different which I, for one, am GLAD we are. Why don't we try being proud of our club and enticing the world rather than worrying about alienating it? That's how they got me ... after all, confidence is sexy.

I don't disagree with you here. I think my point is twofold:

1. We should be theatre artists. No one calls guitarists "a music person". They call him or her a "musician". A painter is a visual artist, not a "paint person." I'm certainly not advocating we try to be normal, either. Far from it. I'm saying we should stop selling ourselves like idiots. We don't all do it, but I think we should be vigilant about those moments in life when we use our identity, joking or not, as an excuse or apology for our behavior. I say own it. If you're an airhead, it's not because you're a "theatre person". It's because you're an airhead. Same with me. If my blog posts have typos and poor grammar, it's not because I'm a "theatre person". It's because I'm lazy and prone to rushing when behind schedule.

2. When I refer to "people who happen to make theatre", I'm really saying that we should always be people first and all other things secondary. I'm not saying we hide our identities, I just feel that often times we tend to forget what it is to live life and be human beings with each other. It's not exclusive to theatre. People of all professions do this. You find people who forget how to be human in all walks of life. Politics, teaching, service, law... Any hard working, life consuming profession has the potential to consume ourselves. I just think it's important to let ourselves just be people every once and a while. It's hard not being able to take off one's director hat when sitting in the audience, for example. I long to just enjoy a play without critiquing it. But oh well, such is life and quite frankly, that obsession probably helps me make better art so long as I'm self aware.

A.W. writes:

There are some interesting points in here. I also agree that I'd like to see more of a communal shift to thinking of theater as an inclusive art for more people.
But I also agree that I like to identify myself, as an actor, and as a theater artist, for several reasons. To me theater artist as a title feels as legitimate a title as I feel my work is.

I totally agree! Read above.

In conclusion, I have my answer to the question originally posed. We are theatre artists. And I for one will make a special effort to remove the phrase "Theatre People" from my lexicon. I would encourage you all to ask yourself what you think, and act accordingly.

And for the love of god, if you agree with me, please just don't be a jerk about it...::coughanonymouscough::


P.S. Confidence IS sexy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Professionalism From Start to Finish

Part of what makes actors nervous about the audition process is not knowing what to expect. We've all been on auditions with unclear directions. Unclear on what to bring. Unclear on what to prepare. Unclear on how long you'll stay. UNCLEAR ON WHERE TO FIND THE AUDITION ROOM. So we go to the audition, we feel our way through, emerge on the other side and wait. Wait to hear about callbacks, offerings of the role we wanted (or the role we didn't), or the "i'm sorry." And this is fine, it's part of the business.

But the worst type of waiting is waiting for communication that never comes.

And, unfortunately, that happens a lot. Some companies get back to you. Sometimes they never get back to you. And I get it, you're busy producing your show. But this is Boston, folks. As we've talked about many times, we are a tight knit community that grows and thrives on going the extra step. (I'm not talking about an extra mile, just ONE EXTRA STEP.) We're a growing arts community and as we've blogged about on many occasions, companies make names for themselves not only based on the quality of their shows, but based on how actor-friendly they are.

Last week, however, I had a very refreshing experience. I auditioned for Silence, GAN-ə-meed Theatre Project's winter production. From start to finish, the audition was a relaxing, pleasant experience that I would definitely do again. First, the director emailed all of the actors a location to meet to walk over to the audition location as it was a bit tricky to find. AKA: NO LOST ACTORS. Second, the director respected our time - those who had other commitments were seen first and those who didn't were seen in a timely manner and let go when they were finished reading. Third, and this is pretty much why I wrote this whole post, even though I didn't get the role, not only did the director get back to me within a week as she promised, SHE CALLED ME to thank me for my time. It took 30 minutes and one simple phone call to tell me that this company is classy and respectful and DEFINITELY a company I would audition for again. It FELT professional and isn't that what we are working towards? Running professional theatre companies? With every audition I go on, I pick up things about running The CoLab and this made an impact on me in a positive way. So thank you, GAN-ə-meed, and I look forward to auditioning for you in the future.

If you're interested in talking more with the GAN-ə-meed crew, check out their Women in Theatre Networking Night at The Burren on October 11. You can find more info at their website here.

Happy Auditioning,

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I meant to write a longer post, but then I had to make a curry.

In the meantime:


I'm skeptical of verse onscreen. This also seems a bit like "Across The Universe" meets Shakespeare. Not to get all "Anonymous" on you guys, but I have my doubts. That being said, it does look like it could potentially be good times.

Off to Henry IV Part 2!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Theatre People or Theatre Artists?

There is a classic adage that declares: "Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have."

This phrase is often used to address career ladder climbing in the corporate or business world. However, I feel that there are lessons we as artists could extrapolate and adapt from this saying. Particularly, the Boston theatre scene has come a long way in crafting it's image, but has much further to go.

Recently, I attend a performance by a Boston area based theatre company during which the hosts spoke directly to the audience regarding the format of the evening. During this section of the evening, full of flamboyance and bombast, it came to the audience's attention that there had been a factual error in their presentation. Honest mistake, it happens. No big deal, right? However, the response has something of a self-defeating connotation. I'm totally paraphrasing here:

"What do you want from us? We're theatre people!"

Ugh. Really? I hate that term. I've used it before, I have to admit. Mostly during my high school and University days. In my experience, "Theatre People" was a PC version of the high school moniker "Theatre Queer", among others. It's often used pejoratively by individuals without direct connection to the theatre industry/community.

Ask yourself this: How many times in our life has the social construct of "Theatre People" contributed to the further isolation of an increasingly insular american theatre? Either at large or in your individual circle of work/community?

Now, I'm not advocating that we tell people not to use the term. Especially non-theatre artists. God lord, can you imagine how much worse it would be if all of a sudden we were perceived as annoyingly flamboyant AND super sensitive and PC? This isn't about language control, it's about a cultural shift. I think we ourselves, as individuals should stop thinking ourselves as "Theatre People" and as "Theatre Artists". Or, "People". People who happen to make theatre.

Think about this: How often, on facebook profiles and such, do you see people listing their favorite music, movies, artists... but no plays? Why is it that music isn't considered a niche art form that only certain people like, but theatre is?

Two years ago, The Boston Theatre Conference tackled this and related questions:

Is there a culture shift needed in Boston? The way we think about theatre here and the way we talk about theatre here? Can we shift our thinking and the way we talk about ourselves? Can we bring about a Culture Shift?

The exact context of this question is in relation to our reputation in the context of the national theatre scene, but the same questions can be applied to our place in society at large.

So think about it. How are we presenting ourselves to the world around us? Are we selling ourselves short by buying into the myth that theatre is only for certain types of people? Isn't this supposed to be a universal art form, as valid as all others? How can we make active and proactive choices to shatter this divide and become the frontier of american culture?

And for the lord's sake... can we stop the whole "airhead, in your face, theatre people" minstrel show? I'm not saying don't be flamboyant if you really are that way. Or an airhead.

People can recognize when you're being truthful and when you're just "acting". And no one likes hanging out with "actors".

Act with the respect you deserve. Not the attention you want.



Thursday, September 30, 2010

If You're going to Talk the Talk

You have to know how to walk the walk.

So we talk a lot on this blog about "growing our community" and "expanding the Boston theatre scene"... I mean if someone started a drinking game involving the blog and those phrases, within four posts everyone would be sloshed.

I know for some of you it must seem awfully theoretical at times, like "Yeah, ok, so these kids want to 'grow the community' but aside from talking about on their freaking blog what are they DOING about it?" Well folks, here's an opportunity - there are moves being made in Southie to build a new arts and cultural center in the abandonded D Street Police Station. It would include a new 150-seat theatre as well as rehearsal and studio space and a myriad of other artsy things like a gallery and the headquarters for the South Boston Historical Society. I mentioned this movement at the beginning of the summer and posted about sending a support letter. Tonight there is an Open Meeting to go over the proposal and continue to gather support for the new arts center. I will be there. I hope you'll consider joining me!

For more information on the meeting and the proposal please visit www.sobacc.org.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To "Anonymous"

In response to:

It's so difficult, in reading your blog, to understand what it is you're trying to say. I'm surprised most to read you criticizing anyone else's grammar or spelling when yours is so abysmal you seem to be taking every side, while criticizing both. What is your point?

Come on guy... I just want you to love me...

As I said in the post: dude, take it down a notch. We're not talking Israel and Palestine here. Yeah, I could afford to proofread my blog posts more closely. I agree. I also don't get paid to do this, have a full time job, and don't care. I like blogging informally. It's my style, at least until I start getting full nights of sleep and remember that people actually read this thing.

People like you. How nice of you to respond in barely more than an hour! It's nice to have fans. Between you and the publishing agents for the Kurt Weill Foundation, we have quite the illustrious readership! (Who are you anyway? I'm wicked curious!)

Anywho, I do appreciate your feedback. Seriously. The grammar thing is good to note. I won't change the conversational nature of my posts, but I did have a few obvious typos and grammar errors in my previous post. My bad.

But do you have to be so belligerent? See, this is what I'm talking about! Maybe I was a bit snarky. See, if I didn't like you, if I didn't think you'd made some worthwhile statements, I would've been much harsher. And I'd be ripping you apart right now. I do like what you have to say, but I couldn't help expressing myself. Quite frankly, despite my errors, I think I'm comprehensible. Certain sections of your statement...make absolutely no sense. Here's an example:

In terms of the form they are installing as the answer to what theatre can be in
the future the vessel is empty and void of any truly challenging ideas.


i want to be a part of the avant garde but only
when it is defined as the advanced guard that is moving forward with the skill
of a soldier to reconnoitre with intelligence the landscape and proceed as
guardians of what should always be considered sacred.

Dude. I had to read that like five times. Hence, I was pretty annoyed. You couldn't have taken a few extra seconds to fix the run on sentences.

As for my point... Maybe you don't understand it, but that's what dialogue is all about. Let's talk, guy! Why am I taking every side? Well, I haven't made up my mind yet. But I'd like to talk about it. I think the Boston theatre community can be better served by talking about it than by anonymous sniping on the internets. I'm not afraid to speak my mind. Quite frankly, I respect everyone I've talked about on this blog (except for the agents for the Kurt Weill Foundation. )That's why I dont make apologies. That's why we're different.

And that's why you're reading us right now. And others. Because we're willing to take emotional and professional risks to ask the difficult questions. And you, good sir, are helping us in that very endeavor.

Thanks, guy! Friend me on Facebook?


The Globe, A.R.T. and Will LeBow's Open Letter pt. II

After several weeks of talking to people about the A.R.T. controversy, I'd like to revisit the discussion for a few moments.

First, John had a great point regarding the number of Boston actors that Donkey Show and Sleep No More employed. I think that's a great trend, but what I'm really talking about is extending a hand out to the community as an equal partner rather than as a paternalistic LORT behemoth. As I said in the post, I'm not saying it's necessarily intentional, but at the very least it's a crisis of communication. Many members of the arts community do feel alienated by the A.R.T. Of course, the A.R.T. doesn't have to do anything if they don't want to, but I the choice is theirs to make: Do we remain a cog in the theatrical industrial complex? Or do we refocus our efforts on local development and community outreach...

Afterall, I'm pretty sure it's a 501 (c)3. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.

So in that vein, I would propose that the A.R.T. conduct events such as open workshops with their resident (oops) company, or perhaps holding more widely publicized readings to the public. And having to talked to actors who have performed in Europe, where it's considered a professional sign of respect to comp local performers, maybe send out a few extra discount tickets on StageSource every so often? What you might lose in ticket revenue, you'll gain in support. Because god knows, the last thing I'm going to spend my money on during hard times is a 50 dollar ticket. And I can't keep using my old student ID to rush tickets forever...

It's like development... if you establish a relationship with me now, I'll look at the A.R.T. as more than a transaction, but something I'm a part of. And in the long run, that's worth much more than 30 dollars in cash.

Moving onto comments by "Anonymous"

read more here about some of the behind close doors deals. much of what is being
expressed by the leadership is idealized banter appealing to artists looking to
break out of the mold and into new forms.
I would suggest reading that article first. It's interesting, as sections of the article seem to imlpy that there's some sort of nepotism going on at the A.R.T. However, it's not as damning as you made it seem to sound. I'm not sure if anyone's accusing Eric Bogosian and Jo Bonney for their collaborations. Since you bring it up, I do believe the burden is on you to make a case using that piece of evidence.

In terms of the form they are installing as the answer to what theatre can be in
the future the vessel is empty and void of any truly challenging ideas. there is
room for more inside of the structure of the donkey show to express, whether it
be Shakespeare or not, more than a thesis that extends no further than ' gee
weren't the 70's fun? anyone want to take their shirt off for another bump of
Now, I do find this rather parochial. Do you attend fringe theatre? There's been a number of productions produced at Oberon utilizing the space in a manner that would've been impossible at a traditional theatre. I find it doubtful that anyone of these young, vibrant artists were not inspired in some part by The Donkey Show itself. Theatre is an event, and as much as you wish to take away from what it means to audiences (and artists) who experienced catharsis during the said event, your grand statement merely serves to put words in the Diane Paulus's mouth. You seem to know a thing or two about theatre. But frankly, I do think you could afford to take it down a notch. You are being rather presumptious.

i would ask if you consider theme park entertainment theatre? can't we have
changed forms with substance? i want to be a part of the avant garde but only
when it is defined as the advanced guard that is moving forward with the skill
of a soldier to reconnoitre with intelligence the landscape and proceed as
guardians of what should always be considered sacred. whether comedy or tragedy,
entertainment or agitprop, the theatre is a tool for a community to hold the
mirror up to themselves and evaluate what they see.
Okay, the grammar is starting to annoy me. But I'll try to respond nontheless. Do I consider theme park entertainment theatre? I guess I would, but I also wouldn't say that it's good theatre. It serves it's purpose. If one can make a smal child smile, isn't that worth something on it's own? I don't go to Disneyland expecting to see Lope de Vega. Although I did catch a great production of Mother Courage at Chuck-E-Cheese as a child...

As an artistic community shouldn't we be more concerned that our two main figure
heads ( Dubuis and Paulus ) are more interested in developing, living, and
collaborating with our neighbors in NYC? When will we have an artistic director
who throws the weight of the budget around to add to debates and conversations
that are happening in our community? Rise up fringe you are on the outskirts no
more there are cracks in the pavement and there we can plant the seeds for a
revolution that will crack the foundations of any 'institution'.

I believe it's spelled "DuBois".

That being said, I do agree with this sentiment. I don't believe the future of Boston theatre lies within The Huntington or A.R.T., though I do believe they serve an important purpose. I guess I am concerned with it, but at the same time, I'm not sitting on my laurels waiting for things to change. That's why I produce. That's why lots of people produce. The major changes in theatre come from the the bottom up, and I'm okay with that. I'll continue to see the Hunt and ART, and I'll continue to criticise their bad shows and laud their good shows.

In the meantime, I think your passion and energy is better spent strengthening the fringe than bashing Diane Paulus. Give the woman a chance. I still think it's too early to tell.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Exclamation Point!

A few weeks ago Marc Miller, Artistic Director for Fort Point Theatre Channel, asked The CoLab to get involved with their latest mixed-media Exclamation Point! event happening THIS Saturday October 2. Our contribution is that I'll be directing a reading of a ten-minute play called Superhero by California playwright Mark Harvey Levine. It's a sweet story about a boy a girl and the super-powers we all can find. Come see what Fort Point AND the CoLab are serving up in Southie and support fringe theater...I bet you know more than one person involved, just check the list below!

Exclamation Point 8! –MASKS.

Fort Point Theatre Channel’s Exclamation Point! #8 offers diverse new works & works in progress on the theme of “masks” from playwrights, filmmakers, mask makers, animators, poets, dancers

The evening includes work by Featured musicians, writers, actors, actresses, and helpers: Holly Adams, Sylvie Agudelo, Tammy Blue, Eric Bornstein, Joe Burgio, Curt Klump, Lou Cohen, Mary Driscoll, Kurt Cole Eidsvig, Conor Fitzgerald, Christie Lee Gibson, Silvia Graziano, Tim Hoover, Angie Jepson, Andrew Kluger, Rachel Kurnos, Hugh Long, Brett Marks, Krina Patel, Larry Plitt, Marc S. Miller, Mark Levine, Robert Murphy, Mary-Liz Murray, Jeremy Newman, Paula Plum, Stacey Polishook, Rachael Rosner, Matt Samolis, Jonathan Samson, Skip Schloming, Vincent Siders, Robin Smith, Ian Thal, Elaine Theodore, Nick Thorkelson, Douglas Urbank, Daniel J. van Ackere, Mark Villanueva, Betty Wang, Mark Warhol, Walter Wright . . . and friends.

Curated by Marc S. Miller, Robin Smith, Nick Thorkelson, and Douglas Urbank

October 2, 7 pm
Art at 12 Gallery, 12 Farnsworth Street, Fort Point, Boston

Refreshments will be served.

More Info at: www.fortpointtc.org


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It was fine...

That statement may be more disappointing than any other one I think or say after seeing a show. It means I wasn't excited, or moved, or intrigued, or even outraged. Everything was just...fine. What a horrible word, "fine". Everything about it lacks a connotation or an attitude or an emotion. Just the way the letters string together is boring. And so to describe a piece of theatre that way is ultimately disheartening. Not because anything was wrong. But because nothing was in any way provoking.

I saw the Huntington's Bus Stop tonight. And it was fine. It wasn't bad. The set was perfect but not noteworthy. The direction was, as I see it, antithetical to the playwright's intentions but not out of the ordinary to how the play is generally produced. Most of the acting was competent but not interesting or particularly watchable. I sat, I watched, I laughed a little, I didn't care at all about the characters, I listened to the words and saw a very average production.

I like Bus Stop. I think it's a simple soulful play about average American people with real lives and relationships and problems. It's wistful, and sweet, funny and dark. It has the potential to be intensely moving and greatly funny.

The play I saw tonight was completely on the surface. There was no depth. There was no heart. It looked good, it sounded good, it hit the marks as far as standard American situation comedy goes. It was played for an audience who wanted to say they "saw a play at the Huntington last night, and we had a good time". It was not played to honor the playwright or to make a directorial statement, or to give actors the chance to explore rich characters. It was not played to push boundaries or explore something new or present something interesting. It was presented to season subscribers as a fun season opener with a few local and a few semi-famous names attached. It was produced to not offend anyone and to keep people happy.

And that's fine.

That is a type of theatre that exists. I'm not a fan. It doesn't mean anything to me. For me as an actor, producer, and especially audience member, to produce theatre to placate your audience is a useless creative endeavor. I believe we need to push our audiences. Will it lead to some backlash? Sure. Might you lose some subscribers? You bet. Might you gain some new audience members and engage a demographic of people who are truly interested in theatre, who want to be pushed and engaged and can leave your theatre with something other to say then "Well, that was fine."? Hell yeah.

Bus Stop plays through October 17 at the BU Theatre.

~ Always, MLM