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

Friday, January 29, 2010

“No man misdeals with Joshua Quince, by Jesu!”

Some of you may be familiar with the recent Shakespearean adaptation of the The Big Lebowski. A filmmaker named Adam Bertocci adapted the screenplay into a stage adaptation known as The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski. It’s being produced all over the country, and I’ve been cast in the Exquisite Corps Theatre reading directed by Adrienne Boris.

All those acting classes paid off. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun analyzing text and doing character work. Of course, I’m in a unique position of portraying a character already so vividly immortalized onscreen. Of course, I’m treating the text like I would any other classical verse text. Interestingly enough, the poetic style of Iambic Pentameter meshes splendidly with the flamboyance of Joshua Quince (as he is known in this version.) The focus on my work thus far as been on the physical flow and exuberance, which I believe to be the key to honoring both the new character of Joshua and the original John Turturro portrayal of “The Jesus”.

There’s two ways I can see this role going sour; focusing too much on recreating the Turturro portrayal or completely ignoring it. As he’s written, Joshua Quince is completely new character and yet he and Jesus have key similarities. It’ll be a tightrope walking that line, but so far I’ve derived only joy from my exploration of the character. How often does one get to play “The Jesus”?!

Some actors use their training to prepare for Hamlet or Mother Courage. I prepare for The Jesus.

More Details will be posted as the dates approach (Feb 8th and 9th: Adrienne Boris, Director).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eating Dinner at 11pm

A Thursday in the life of a 20-something Theatre Bostonian:

8:55am - roll out of bed 20 minutes late
9:35am - run out of the house 10 minutes late
9:50am - grab coffee 5 minutes late
10:00am - Arrive at work on time
3:00pm - Leave work
3:30pm - Arrive home, check e-mail, send out resumes, review StageSource postings for the week,eat grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate milkshake
5:00pm - Leave for a rehearsal across town a.k.a. a 3 mile jaunt that easily takes an hour
5:58pm - Arrive at rehearsal
8:00pm - 10 minute break!
11:00pm - Arrive home, eat a chicken and stuffing dinner, e-mail, resumes, blog

Who's with me?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The State of A College Graduate

I had a good day today. I say this because some days are really awful days. Being a grown up is not as easy as it looks on tv - there isn't always sappy music that plays when a lesson is being learned and Danny Tanner doesn't hug you and tell you that everything is okay. Some days are sad - I work a job that I usually enjoy but sometimes gets me down. I get turned down from parts I desperately want and I miss my friends who live far way from me. But, when all is said and done, I enjoy being out of school. I enjoy making money and paying bills and feeling satisfied when I cook a homemade meal. I enjoy having independence but sometimes I just want to be back at home, blissfully unaware of the troubles of the world around me. (I realize that sounds depressing - keep reading. It gets happier!)

And speaking of troubles of the world, tonight is the State of the Union. (If you think this isn't one of the biggest theatrical events of the year, think again. You should all be watching. I'll be watching on DVR once I fulfill my theatrical duties at rehearsal this evening.) Obama is projected to be full of apologies and tough words about the past year (come onnnnnn mid-first season of The West Wing where the struggling presidency has a major turn around).

However, even if he has some sobering things to say, it doesn't mean that we all have feel glum afterwards. I've been reading a phenomenal book called The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. If you like beautiful language (think Nabokov's descriptions in Lolita) or are just looking for a good read, you should pick up this book. Anyways, this one passage stuck with me. Especially with the impending speech these words particularly resonated with me...

"At times like this you desperately need Art. You seek to reconnect with spiritual illusions, and you wish fervently that something might rescue you from your biological destiny, so that all poetry and grandeur will not be cast out from the world."

Don't let poetry and grandeur leave your world, even if what Obama has to say tonight resonates with you. I know I've had a year full of ups and downs between graduation and finding a job and learning that sometimes it takes months in order to qualify for something as simple as health insurance. Even though there are bad days, we have to remember the things that we love in life. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my career path. I love chocolate and wine and the warm weather we've been having lately. And I love knowing that I've just started on my path to adulthood, my path to the rest of my life. What do you love? Remember those things this evening as you watch. Even if times seem tough, we'll all emerge on the other side all the better for it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Other Chekhov

It’s common knowledge amongst my friends and collaborators that I’m something of a nerd for theatre history, theory and technique. If I haven’t practiced it, I want to read about it, and if I haven’t read about it, I want you to tell me about it. From Meisner to Meyerhold, from Artaud to Strasberg, I believe that it is an actor/director/playwright’s duty to develop a wide palette from which to paint from. For today’s post, I want to discuss my experience with Michael Chekhov.

Click Image for Wikipedia Article

For those of you unfamiliar with the technique, Michael was a nephew of Anton Chekhov and one of the most important actors of the Moscow Art Theatre and MAT Studios. He developed an approach to acting adapted from the Stanislavski “system” that included an added emphasis on imagination and physical specificity. While many other techniques focus on the psychological, and others focus on the physical, I’ve found that Chekhov links the two together via the use of one’s imagination and encouraging personal creativity. This is, of course, my own understanding, and others might explain Chekhov differently.

This past Saturday, I attended a three-hour introductory workshop on Michael Chekhov, led by Scott Fielding. I first studied Chekhov during my senior year at Brandeis, where it formed the basis of my final year of acting classes. Now, some of you might be a few years out of school and remember the days of “acting class.” We learn so much from acting classes, and yet we rarely get the opportunity to refresh our memory, flex the muscles and stretch our chops once we’ve left school. Some directors like to play, but I’m sure you’ve all encountered rehearsal processes where you feel creatively stifled and bored. While many criticize acting classes as “impractical”, I do find that it is important to periodically reenter that world of wonder and curiosity.

I felt this during my experience this past weekend. I enjoy being in a judgment free environment, free from the pressure of opening night or meeting ticket sales goals. Scott’s approach to the art of acting is right up my alley. One of the key points he made is that the actor is an artist, and needs to be creative. He briefly discussed how some prefer to refer to acting as a craft, and though he accepts that as subjective judgment he believes acting to be an art. And for those of you who worry about the tendency of some acting to impose dogma in their students, from the very beginning Scott explained that what matters most isn’t what we believe should work, but rather what does work. If I remember correctly, his exact words were “It’s not the same for everyone. Whatever works, works.”

Scott recently moved to Boston where he is offering a series of classes and workshops on Chekhov. If you have the time, I recommend you give it a try. I don’t believe there are many Chekhov teachers in the Boston area, so if you’ve never worked with Chekhov or have but would like a refresher, take a gander at Scott’s website. If you do, please let me know what you think! I love discussing this stuff.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blue Monday

Ok, who is sick of this grayness? Who is feeling antsy and sort of down?

Well it's scientific fact that today January 25, 2010 is going to be the most depressing day of the year. It's true. And boy, I am feeling it. And if you are too, then you are in good company. The winter blues don't usually get to me, but this year...something is definitely slowing me down.

Maybe it's that I haven't actually performed since August , or that I'm not really sure what direction I want to/ should be headed in, or that most of my good friends are really far away, or that I can't seem to find the time to sit down and eat an actual meal lately, or of course some combination of all of these things. But I just have a case of the Blahs. And the Mondays. And they are an unfortunate combination.

I know it will pass soon enough - but for now I can just marvel at the calm contemplation that this mid-winter melancholy brings.

"...we must anatomize melancholy
take stock of the causes:
stars a cause
love a cause
death a cause
morning a cause
afternoon a cause
evening a cause
the odd times between morning and afternoon and evening
a cause"

The imminently intriguing Sarah Ruhl from Melancholy Play

Friday, January 22, 2010

Word Smith

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE! Before we get into today's post - if you haven't watched this clip yet of the Jon Stewart Show, do so immediately. I'm serious. Stop reading, watch it and come back to me. Not only is Jon Stewart's monologue written well, it is a phenomenal bit of acting. Just watch it, okay?

Moving on... I'm in the middle of writing a one act for SLAM Boston and I'm really enjoying it. I haven't written anything in awhile and I forgot how much fun (and work) it is to craft a conversation between two people. Not just a conversation, but a whole relationship. I was talking with one of my roommates yesterday about the TV show LOST. Now, I don't follow the show but I know that the plot is incredibly intricate/complex and as a result must be well thought out. We discussed how the writers must have volumes of notes in their offices (probably under lock and key) about the relationships between all of the characters - who is related, what their favorite foods are, even details down to where their first kiss was and if they've ever had a cavity.

That's the beauty of being a writer (in my case a playwright), you get to know your characters so fully that you know them better than many people in your life. And I like that about writing. I like helping my characters to say "what comes next." I like giving them quirks. Quirks that I possess, quirks I wish I possessed, quirks some guy who sat in my section the other day possessed. And for x number of pages, I get to plan out down to the last punctuation mark, what gets said. That's why I love the theatre. Words don't get jumbled because they are written down on the page for you. If you're the actor, you don't have to search for the right thing to say (the character might... but you don't have to make up what happens next, you've memorized it). The playwright can rewrite what the character wants to say (and I do mean what THEY want to say - if you know the character well enough their next sentence will come naturally as if right out of their mouth and not your pen) until you find the perfect combination of words. More often than not, I wish life was like that. I wish I knew the appropriate thing to say in an awkward situation. I wish knew the proper quip to come back at my tables with when they make an uncomfortable joke. I wish I knew how to be eloquent when I'm flustered. But I don't. So I guess I'll go on writing and playing pretend in hopes that some day, when the time is right, the words will just come to me. Until then however, I think I'm just going to enjoy my weekend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wrighter’s Block

How many of you have tried writing before? Raise your hands.

Yes. Yes. I see. Wonderful.

How many of you have tried writing a play before? Sigh a collective groan.

Yes. Yes. There there… I know what you’re talking about.

I am, quite honestly, in a bit of a rut. Late this past summer, I completed at 96 page first draft of Perfect Pitch: A Post-Punk Play with Music. I held a private reading with some local actors this past October and begun rewriting in November. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the most difficult aspect of playwriting isn’t the first draft… It’s the rewrites.

As it stands right now, Perfect Pitch has some strong, positive elements. It tells the story of a young professional and a young musician who befriend each other at a tumultuous time in both their lives. Cole and Shane bond instantly, but as they fall for each other, their ultimate destinies in life pull them apart. Cole quits his job and he struggles with his responsibility to provide for his terminally ill mother, while Shane’s band strikes it big and tours the world non-stop, mentally exhausting the band. It’s a story about falling in love with your best friend, but realizing you met ten years too early. The John Lennon quote comes to mind: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Those who’ve read the first draft have reacted positively. I’m working from primarily from the criticism that the play needs greater focus, more developed secondary characters and a revamp into a three-act structure. I know what the play needs…in theory. But the discipline that I need to develop is the discipline to cut and rewrite, cut and rewrite. I sit down at the computer, look at the text and think: “But… it’s done, isn’t it? Do I REALLY have to write this again?”

The play needs work and I know I’ll finish a second draft. I’m in a rut, having barely rewritten ten pages in two months. But I’m determined to retake the initiative. At this rate, I’ve been writing the play for close to a year and a half now.

It took Neil Simon more than two years to finish writing his first play. It took two months to write his second.

Puts things in perspective…

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Swept up!

I got a little swept away with it being election day today.

I love elections, they're so exciting! No matter how you feel this election turned out, the fact that something so monumental happened here in Massachusetts (the last Republican senator in Massachusetts was elected 35 years ago) will send a message to politicians and people all over the world. It says we still care about our country and that we do have a say in how things are done.

This will energize Democrats in every state for their November elections. It will wake up and shake up D.C.. It will allow us to take stock of what is important to each of us, and make us fight harder for the things we believe in.

We are an independent nation, and though I can't say I'm pleased with the state of our economy or morale at this moment, I can say I feel lucky to be able to contribute to how our laws are made and how our country is run, even when it doesn't go my way.

I hope you voted today, no matter which way you voted because every single vote was important and said something about who you are and what you care about.

And if you didn't vote today, I hope the energy of the campaigns, the energy of the people, and the outcome of this election has inspired you to participate next time.

And if you're not political and you are sick of all of this special election nonsense and don't understand or care why everyone seems so worked up...Get hooked on Big Love, it's the best TV show you're not watching. :-)

Congratulations US Senator Scott Brown - and good luck to you, you have a lot to prove.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Audition Cycle

I auditioned for Bad Habit's Stop Kiss on Sunday night. It was the first time in awhile I had walked out of an audition thinking, "That felt awesome." Ideally you would feel stupendous every time you walk out of an audition, but that's just not going to happen. Some auditions are going to be amazing and others are simply going to be swept under the rug with the thought, "Next time..." And that's okay. That's why we audition so much. My non-theatre friends always look sad when I tell them I had a bad/mediocre/blah audition. I can appreciate that - they want me to do well - but I have a hard time explaining to them why it's not a big deal. It can't be a big deal. I would NOT survive in this business for a hot second if I got worked up over every bad audition I went on. No one would.

There are also so many factors that go into the outcome of the audition. On Sunday, it was pouring rain and chilly. Someone from the prod staff had provided cookies and hot coffee to the actors which helped to create a cozy, welcoming atmosphere from the elements. Each actor also auditioned with a monologue of their own and a side from the show. I find that I do the best in auditions where I get to read from the script so this also gave me a positive push in the right direction. In addition to all of these things, the prod staff was lovely to audition for. Plus, I know the play pretty well so I felt like I had a solid grasp on how to approach the side, how to dress for the audition, etc. Seriously, kids, if you're auditioning for a show reading it (or the very least a synopsis or a single scene) beforehand makes a huge difference. Anyways, that's all I've got for this snowy Tuesday. Feel free to tell me what makes or breaks an audition for you!

Oh, and I got a callback. :-) Just in case you were wondering!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Love Clowns for All the Wrong Reasons

Perhaps this is a cliche, but I watched Dark Knight again this past weekend and I've been glowing over Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker ever since. I tend to do this every time I see it, but I can't help it. I seriously consider it to be among the best film character acting I've ever seen.

In that vein, I've decided to give it all up and join the circus and become a clown. I mentioned this on facebook earlier, and my attention was turned to this delightful memory from the 90's...

Really, I have very little to reflect on here. Besides wanting to learn cool clown pencil tricks.

I'm going to go lie down... it was a LOOOOOONG WEEKEND...


Friday, January 15, 2010


Ok so, honestly I had no idea what I was going to blog about today. In brutal fact I had totally forgotten I had an update today until about an hour ago. I've been racking my brain trying to come up with some witty anecdote, or new theatre news to post on this wintry Friday. It's been a busy week. I'm exhausted and coming up with blog material doesn't always come easily for me.

So in the true style of a tried and true procrastinator...I was trolling The Facebook (that's right THE Facebook). Reading status updates, looking through some friends' new photos, and checking in on those people we're only friends with to stalk and judge (don't act like you don't do it too.)

And then I came across a friend's status about the film Avatar, a revelation that it was a "Fern Gully" story for adults...which honestly had crossed my mind as well. I love love loved Avatar (and Fern Gully), I thought it was stunningly beautiful and truly entertaining, even if it wasn't compelling drama or food for critical thought. And then of course, I looked through the comments on this status and came to this link, using the one page studio proposal for Disney's Pocohontas as a comparison to Avatar, which admittedly had NOT crossed my mind. I read it. And I LAUGHED, I loved it, I hadn't even connected the dots (as I'm sure some of you have).

And then I began thinking about the critics of theatre and movies and literature alike who always say there are no more "original" stories. That nothing is new. We as a society are always telling the same love/war/family/childhood stories over and over again. It is all connected, contrived, and irrelevant now, they argue.

This opinion has always upset me. First of all I'm not sure I actually think it's valid, but for arguments sake, even if it is...SO WHAT?! These stories are how we record history, teach children, they create our social and cultural contexts, they are art, and they entertain us. For me just because something may not be 100% original doesn't devalue it, it strengthens it. It shows what is universal and relatable to all people. Avatar was a truly amazing piece of cinema. And the story we've seen/heard a million times.

We, as theatre people and entertainers are, at heart story tellers. I strive always to be an open and dedicated story teller. I want the stories I tell to touch people, make them laugh, show them something they relate to, and maybe teach them something new. That's why people created stories in the first place.

And in the end it's not how new and exciting and outlandish the story is that matters, but how it is told.


Thursday, January 14, 2010


With the exception of the amount of chocolate I consume on a weekly basis, I am a pretty healthy eater. When I go to the grocery store I buy things like apples and veggie burgers and 100 calorie snack packs. (And chocolate - but it's dark chocolate!!!) As an actress, I feel like it's part of my job to stay active and healthy. HOWEVER, I'm not someone who considers herself a dieter. Diet fads even make me uncomfortable. But today I found a diet fad that makes me a little angry - even angrier than the Nutella commerical where the mom insists she gets her kids to eat healthier by spreading Nutella all over items like whole wheat bread and apples that they won't eat otherwise.

And this diet is... drum roll please... THE TACO BELL DIET. This lady insists that she lost 54 pounds over 2 years by eating at Taco Bell. I think she put Jared from Subway out of a job. If you don't believe me, you can read all about her on this website: http://www.drivethrudiet.com/. What's wrong with a healthy homemade salad?!

Now that I've gotten my anxiety out over this, I'm in rehearsals right now for Makeshift Theatre's The Emperor's New Clothes. I'm playing Bryanna Qu8tl!nnn, a Veruca Salt-esque brat, in a poufy dress and pigtails. If you ever wanted to watch me act like a screaming child on stage (because I would never do that in real life) this is your chance. I've never acted for kids before - I've directed them and written for them but never acted for them and I'm really looking forward to it. I love the idea of children at the theatre because they are so willing to believe in what is happening on stage, and that's what it's all about isn't it?

XOXO from this Big Kid. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Which The Starving Artist Lands a New Day Job

Err, this is the only picture I could find where I wear a tie...

"Richard" In Aloha, Say The Pretty Girls
Produced by Holland Productions

Things are looking up good friends! This week, I started my new life as a jack of all trades. I am currently temping a long-term assignment at a law firm in the financial district. Within a week, I escaped a life of chaos and mocha stains and entered the symmetrical world of 9-5 and clean shirts. And I couldn’t be happier.

Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed my tenure as a professional coffee slinger. Given my status as a young, early career artist, a day job in the service industry makes a lot of sense. All young artists must pay their dues: being underpaid for a job many of us are overqualified for, and serving a demographic that seems intent on making our lives hell. In my case, tourists and black berry wielding suits… can you see where this is going?

Somehow, I look back at my year and a half as a milk steamer extraordinaire with a great deal of warmth. There’s much to bond over when you serve in the trenches of a coffee shop. I served with an extremely diverse group of people ranging from students to parents, from affluent and working class backgrounds, speaking a multitude of languages and each with their own dreams and goals. No matter how tough the times were out front, I always knew someone would make me laugh in the back room…

Today, I purchased a hundred dollars in new work clothes. As quickly as my new earning power comes, it quickly goes! And as I enter employment working among the people who previously made my life hectic (lawyers, who are much more agreeable than tourists!), I only lament that I can’t take my previous coworkers with me.

Then again…

I’m an artist… it might only be a matter of time before I go back…


P.S. As I write this post, I'm watching Predator on AMC. Two of the actors in this movie have become Governors. Governor Jesse Ventura and Governor Arnold...Schwar....The Terminator.

Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the title creature, but dropped the project...

We came THIS CLOSE... to having a Governor Van Damme... (Shudder...)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

State of Being

So a few things you should know about me:

- I love fashion, shopping, and getting a good deal
- I consume far too much fried food
- I consume even more macaroni & cheese
- I regularly run around town working at least 3 jobs (currently, Company One, Tufts University and Stage Managing)

With those things said, I present you with the daily state of being of Mary-Liz Murray.

Word of the day (oh and I'm a word fiend) - Sedulous

Loving going to work in a pair of paint covered jeans to work in a frigid theatre on tech notes at 10am. Company One's The Good Negro opens FRIDAY at the BCA check it out. I just started a rehearsal Stage Managing gig with Shakespeare Now! I'm SMing their touring production of Romeo and Juliet. Just from yesterday's rehearsal I can tell it's going to be a really fun cast and a fast paced rehearsal process. Who doesn't love a 50-minute version of Shakespeare's greatest love story? Lusting after a pair of epic Chanel sunglasses. For some reason I always find myself wanting sunglasses more during the winter than in the summer. It's either snow-glare induced or a wish for a reminder of warmer weather. After not eating all day my fried chicken dinner is AMAZING...it would be better however if accompanied by Mac & Cheese. I guess I can't have it all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And Now... A Quick Lesson in Restaurant Etiquette

Happy Monday Everyone! First off, I want to thank everyone who came out to our first official event (insert wildly cheering crowd here.. or Becca's number hehe) Colab's Audition Circle. It was a success if I do say so myself. I love holding these workshops because I love conversing about theatre in a roomful of people who adore the subject as much as I do. Plus, we saw some really cool monologues and hopefully helped some folks out! If you missed this event (and the yummy cookies I made for it), we'll be holding another one in a few months so don't fret.

That being said, today's post is about restaurant etiquette. I figured that this was semi-pertinent to the blog because many of you creative-type people out there probably have, will, or currently hold a restaurant job like yours truly. Here are some facts about the restaurant industry. 1. Servers make $2.63/hr. In case you don't like math (and I don't) that does not add up to a very hefty paycheck at the end of the week. Sitting down at a table in a restaurant is like signing a contract with me where I pledge to provide you with excellent, smiley service and you tip me in accordance with how well I hold up my end of the bargain. 2. I have to tip out the bartender, the food runner, and the busser based on how much food I sell, not how much money I make in tips. 3a. Booths are lucrative when it comes to making money. For some reason, everyone wants to sit in a booth. 3b. Not all section are created equal - some sections come with only one booth. 4. I like my job as a waitress. (Okay, so that's a fact about me and not the industry itself but stay with me here.) Since I enjoy my job, I come in 99% of the time (I'm not perfect) ready to work and give you excellent service.

Now that you know all of these facts, I'm going to tell you a story. Four women came into the restaurant yesterday for brunch. They sat in my only booth (I had three other tables - two of them can only sit two people at a time). I was friendly, I kept their waters refilled, I provided them with suggestions, I correctly entered their meal modifications into the computer ("You don't want ginger on your caramel chicken? No problem!") I prepped their table with salad dressing and share plates, and all of their food arrived on time with all of their meals properly prepared. These women stayed in the restaurant for over three hours. This meant that my booth (aka HOW I MAKE MONEY) was occupied for the entirety of my lunch shift. To add insult to injury, these women left me $11 on an $82 check. That isn't even 15%!!! Needless to say, my Sunday lunch shift was not very profitable. I was pretty upset but I was thinking about it, and my guess is most people don't know all of these things about the restaurant industry. So I decided to post to this blog (and maybe write an editorial for The Globe? ha - kidding. Sort of.) If you didn't know, you learned something today. If you already did, you're officially a baller and thank you.

So that's my rant. I promise to be polite to you and get you what you need over the course of the meal and if I do that, I think I deserve my 20% tip. Don't you?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thanks to Our Friends at BPT

I stopped by the offices of Boston Playwrights' Theatre today to drop off evaluations for the Boston Theater Marathon. I poured myself a cup of water to take on the go, before realizing the suspicious nature of walking down Commonwealth Avenue holding a red solo cup. Thankfully, Michael Duncan Smith came up with an effective solution to minimize conspicuousness.

If you can't make it out, the cup reads "Not Alcohol."

The Colab: We Work Hard, We Play Hard.