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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cause When You're Sixteen.. or Just Acting Like It

As many of you know, I have recently embarked on a journey of regression... to teenhood. Some of you may say, "Wow, Erika, you act like you're five quite often." While this is true, this is not what I mean. I am playing a 16 year old, drug addict in Happy Medium's Refuge at the end of July. I've been researching a number of things for this role - the effects of heroin on the body, how to dance at rave (it's not easy let me tell you!), how exactly to fake snort drugs on stage - but it didn't occur to me until Wednesday night's rehearsal that I needed to learn how to think like a 16 year old. While I feel like I have a pretty solid grasp on who my character is, a lonely young girl who lacks a solid familial structure and turns to drugs as an escape from her desolate life, it wasn't until my director said, "Now you're thinking like a teenager - that's exactly how a teenager would view this situation," that I realized I need to connect with how Becca THINKS. It was one of those, "oh yeah" moments where you realize that you have to stop "playing" the character and let the character seep into you, even if it's just for those three hours you spend at rehearsal. I anticipated that it would be a challenge to act like I'm on drugs but I didn't anticipate this. At 16, your world revolves around you. Emotions don't always have concrete reasons because they are reactions to words and actions and lack of actions. At 16, everything is a huge deal because you DO "sweat the small stuff," especially in a world like Refuge where the characters live in their own bubble of disorder. I learned this in a few short moments on Wednesday and I'm excited to try my "new mindset" out at our next rehearsal. That's all I've got - a simple realization on a Thursday night. Because that's why we have rehearsal, to play and to grow and to discover. Stay tuned. I'm sure there's more of this journey to come.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bad Kenny!

It's been a while, friends. The lot of us have been up to our necks in work related to the casting for play, which I'm sure you've already seen! I'm very excited and a little scared to finally begin the great undertaking. Then again, I've always said that any process I during which I don't experience fear is often not worthwhile.

In other news, I've started dabbling in the world of actor coaching. In addition to the coaching I recieved from Ben Evett, Scott Fielding and Rachel Kurnos (a brilliant combo), I've also been doing some coaching myself. I did sessions with a few actors around the time of the StageSource generals, and I really enjoyed it. In general, I've always enjoyed working with actors on acting. Up this point, I've mostly worked in this regard as a director. But actor coaching... it's so much different as it is the same.

First, I have to learn to take off my director's hat. I can leave my dramaturg hat on, but ultimately the audition is such a personal expression for an actor that he or she must be his or her own director. I can't coach them based on what I want. I have to learn to coach them based on what practically communicates the most to an auditor. Moreover, this auditor can be anyone with any taste, with or without competance.

In a weird sort of way, I'm both preparing you for the most scrutinizing and most dullardesque of audiences. Not because we assume the worst, but because we have to be ready for the worst. When you put yourself through the wringer, the real thing seems blissful in comparison.

To paraphrase John Gilued (I think it was him): "The actor must make the impossible look difficult, the difficult look easy and the easy look beautiful."

Anywho, I think I'm going to look seriously into more actor coaching kinda stuff. I really enjoy it, and my actors responded very well.

In the meantime, I promise to post more often now that "play." has been cast!

Be well!



Look what I saw in the 7-11 today (for scale, that thing is about as big as my chest and torso):

Two pounds of awesome.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

Happy official summer to you all!

Here's a look at some of what's happening in and around Beantown, theatre-wise, for the summer - feel free to comment with any additions.


now - July 3 Table Manners @ Gloucester Stage Company

23-27: T-Plays @ The Factory Theatre presented by: Mill 6 Collaborative

26: Theatre in Everything but Name: A historic walking tour of Boston Theatre - A fundraiser for New Exhibition Room


8-25: Tender @ Gloucester Stage Company

9-24: Cherry Smoke @ Boston Playwright's Theatre presented by Gurnet Theatre Project

16- August 14: Grimm @ The BCA Roberts Theatre presented by Company One

28 - 15: Othello @ The Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (FREE THEATRE!!!)

29 - August 7: Family (de) Values @ The Factory Theatre presented by Happy Medium Theatre Company (Come see Erika as a 16 year old rave chick in Refuge)

29 - August 7: Quills @ The YMCA Theater Central Square presented by Bad Habit Productions

29-August 14: Candyland @ The Boston Playwright's Theater presented by New Exhibition Room


6-15 The Tempest @ Miles Standish Monument in Duxbury presented by Gurnet Theatre Project (Come see Kenny play the Shakespearean version of himself: Caliban!)

12 - 29 An Ideal Husband @ Gloucester Stage Company

24 play. @ The Factory Theatre presented by Yours Truly The CoLab Theatre Co.

Much summer lovin' to you all. Stay posted for more news, anecdotes, and philosophical quandaries from us as we play all summer long.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Walking the Walk

For those of you who have been following The CoLab, you know that so far our company is based on this blog and our audition workshop circles. As well as grand thoughts of expanding and enriching theatre in Boston and cultivating artists through process based collaboration and constructive criticsm.

That's kind of blurry and tangential, no?

Not that we don't have a good handle on what we're doing (and so far what we've been accomplishing) but it can be hard for outsiders to really grasp what we do. And that's ok. As long as people stay interested and others still are willing to work with us, our mission will spread.

But Kenny, Erika, and I didn't just start this company to blog and workshop (although we do love doing both) but also to produce. The challenges and excitement of creating your own theatre is what The CoLab was truly founded on. And so, upon our nearly one year anniversary we begin to produce. We are starting small (sort of) with a one night event, most of you I'm sure have heard of, titled "play."

It's an evening of ensemble work in two parts; first an ensemble created piece using viewpoints and suzuki methods as well as workshop writing and improv; second are linear works written by local playwrights, one a 10-minute play and the other a scene from a longer one act play still in process. All of these are linked together by the theme of "growing up" (something Kenny, Erika, and I are all muddling through currently, perhaps some of you dear readers can relate?)

Over the last five days we have been auditioning and casting "play." To our delight and amazement we had a super talented and dedicated group of auditioners who made our job really difficult. We talk all the time about how talented the pool is here, but seeing it first hand was truly an eye-opener. From an actor's perspective, it's hard to see just how stiff the competition is, but on the other side, it's amazing how many fabulous actors we saw.

We are SO excited to begin our journey with "play." and although the process will be half the fun, we are so pumped to be able to finally show our dedicated followers (and maybe some doubters and newcomers too) what we are really all about. We have been talking the talk and now we are ready to walk the walk.

Announcing the Ensemble of "play."
directed by: Erika Geller and Kenny Steven Fuentes

Tierra Allen
Gideon Bautista
Jonny Hendrickson
Sierra Kagan
Robyn Linden
James Marin
Mary-Liz Murray
Tony Rios

August 24, 2010 @ The Factory Theatre

Friday, June 11, 2010

Training The Culture

This past Tuesday, I attended the StageSource general auditions for the first time since 2008. The last time I had walked into the front theater of BPT in front of dozens of producers, I was terrified. I was nervous, repeating my monologues over and over, sweating, dry mouth...

And I suppose I did okay. I got a few offers for auditions and even a role in a reading offered in the month following. But two years later, I found myself so much more in the zone. I walked into the room at ease and confident. I wasn't perfect, I'm sure. But for one of the first times in my life I felt as if I truly owned my space and did the best I could've done. You can't ask much more than that!

What are the two major differences between now and then? Well, experience plays a part of course. But so does training. Before 2008 generals, I had just finished a good amount of training at Brandeis but hadn't had much experience. Since then, I've had time to put my training into practice.

Now, I'm not advocating you go out and start spending thousands of dollars on expensive acting classes promising to make you big Hollywood star. I feel pretty confident saying that alot of acting schools and teachers are really not that impressive and in the business of scamming off of people's dreams. But there do exists some truly wonderful teachers and training opportunities.

Training doesn't end after you get an MFA or a Master Class. It doesn't make the actor, but it certainly makes the actor better over time.

Before StageSource, I had a variety of coaching sessions. First, I met with Ben Evett of Actors' Shakespeare Project for a private coaching session he had offered via StageSource. I could go on writing about the usefulness of that session, but I'll focus on one specific gift he gave me. As I worked on Angelo from Measure for Measure, he offered me the image of small, tiny bug.

"Angelo doesn't have to show his power. He knows he's in control and he has total power over Isabella. She's like a little bug inside his fingers and he's getting pleasure out ripping her apart, limb by limb."

God. And suddenly it made so much more sense.

Next, I went to Scott Fielding of Michael Chekhov Actors Studio Boston. Same situation, I'll just focus on the gem the session.

For "Martin" from Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, Scott had me sit on the floor on my knees and asked me what I needed from my wife. I said "I want her to tell me how to make her happy. I need her to tell me what she wants me to do."

So in response, Scott asked me to ask her this one simple request.

"What do you want from me?"

He asked me again, with more force.

"What do you want from me?"

Not enough. He kept pressing me to keep at it.

"Please, just say what you want me to do! Tell me! What do you want?"

He wouldn't let me stop. He pushed me until I got into a frenzy, then told me to go into the monologue, and then would have me periodically go back into the question, back and forth. It was disorienting, but it completely knocked me out of my bullshit until he finallyhad me start and finish the speech. I was exhausted and really energized.

He asked me what I was doing physically. I was reaching forward. I had my hands reaching towards her, somewhat cuped and gestured in her direction.

"That's your pyschological gesture. When you do this monologue, that is the image. You should follow the gesture even when you're not making it, but everything should follow that need."

Boom. Images. You don't have to think about images. Thinking about your objectives and analyzing your scene is important, but that all goes out the door when you're onstage. It's your body and your subconcious that takes over. And that was what I have been and what I will continue to train myself for.

I don't train enough. That's part of the reason I started the CoLab, with the hope that we can all train together someday.

So I'm wondering... What kind of training have you not yet done? Or have you not done recently? Boston doesn't have enough of a culture of training. But hopefully, we can start to change that...


Thursday, June 10, 2010


I am not a good napper. To be honest, I'm not the best sleeper either. I'll have nights where I lie awake until 3 a.m. with no signs of rest in sight. I'm not very accomplished at "having a lie in" either. (In England that means sleeping in.) I'm not sure whether this comes from years of ski racing where I had to get up early or remnants of waking up for high school or just my internal clock, but I tend to get up at a semi-early hour and once I'm up, I'm up. I'd even consider myself a morning person. I'm usually cheery and smiley at work even for the my first guest.

This week, however, I've been taking many "accidental naps." In other words, I sit down in bed to do something: write an email, catch up on a tv show, read a book, etc. and I find myself waking up 30 minutes to an hour later never realizing I've fallen asleep. I can't figure out what's going on! Yesterday I woke up at 8:30 a.m. (no alarm or anything, just woke up), went to the gym, came home and showered, and then napped until around 12:30 p.m. My roommate found me sleeping and wondered if I had gotten out of bed at all! Today I sat down to read a book and woke up to a text message sound 30 minutes later. I don't know whether I'm just not getting enough sleep or whether my increase in a work out schedule or my work week is getting to me, but I'm napping a lot! Or maybe as I age my body is just asking for more rest. I'm a go-go-go kind of a girl and maybe I'm being told that I need to relax and rest every once and awhile. Who knows. All I know is, I'm beginning to understand why you regular nappers (Robin and Dani - I'm looking at you two) do it. It's quite refreshing!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Buy Local: Not just for produce...

Ok, so I've been agonizing over this post for a few days. How to word it. What to focus on. How vehement to get. And after spending a relaxing Tuesday to myself, I decided simple and to the point was the best way to go.

I have decided, after much deliberation (and seeing a play this weekend that put me over the edge) that I will not patronize theatres in Boston that bring in actors, designers, or directors from New York. I use patronize loosely as I rarely pay for tickets...and when I do I get the cheapest possible seat. But I do go. And I sit, and ponder, and watch. I want to see brilliant theatre. I want to see all of our companies producing solid work. But more often than not, the companies with the largest budgets and therefore the means to set the standard for Boston theatre are employing actors, designers, and directors out of New York AND the shows they are producing are mediocre at best.

The few Boston actors I see in these productions almost always far outshine the imports, if for no other reason than they are more familiar with the theater itself and able to perform better in it. But usually too because their roots are here. They've been working and building careers here for years. And they want to give us brilliant theatre as much as we want to see it. Because we're their people. The NYC actors, while always "technically" sound bring no soul, they are merely players for hire.

I bid no ill will to the New Yorkers who come through town. They are, after all, just trying to earn another paycheck and get a good solid role under their belt. Every actor's quest (or designer or director for that matter). And good for them that they are indeed working. It is a hard profession to be in no matter where you are based.

But it is my firm belief that Boston will only continue to grow as a theatre city if we support our local artists exclusively. If we cultivate our hometown talent, pay them for what they're worth, help them earn their union statuses, and keep them working on our stages for years and years. It will expand our artist pool. It will diversify it. It will help set the standards higher at all levels. And that is what we need to produce good professional theatre. Dedicated artists who are valued for the work they do and recognized for the talent they possess.

And as long as audiences, grant makers, and private donors continue to endow companies that mainly employ non-local artists our strongest members will continue to leave, our companies will continue to pass off sub-par work as great theater, and we will remain static. Boston has come a long way in 10 years, but to keep moving forward we need more support.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

East Coast Girl

We're SO Hollywood.

Hey dudes, I am back from a whirlwind trip across the country!

My very first trip to California. The farthest I've ever been from Boston.

I went to visit good friends (college roomies to be exact) and scope out the scene out there. I saw Santa Monica and rode the Ferris Wheel at the pier, went to Disneyland (also a first, I acted like a 7 year old most of the time...and judged the acting ability of the Princesses, Cinderella was the best), saw all the classic Hollywood tourist sites, shopped on Rodeo Drive, and spent some time cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway into Orange County. It was fun. I saw a lot. And I took it all in.

I was glad to see my friends spend some quality girl time together and get the scoop on what they're doing. Both of them are originally from Connecticut and have moved out to SoCal in the last year. One is working a 9-5 in Orange County and thoroughly enjoying being a California Girl. The other is a newly minted regular photo double on AMC's Mad Men, and working her way up the actor-ladder out there in LaLaLand. They are living the dream. Independent, hard working, out-going. I am so proud of them for what they have done so far and what they plan to keep doing.

But, the verdict is: I undeniably and unapologetically am an East Coast Girl. For me, the atmosphere, the landscape, the architecture, and general way of life seemed so plastic. There was no heart, no roots, nothing solid to hold on to or feel connected to. Everyone was always moving, freeways ran everywhere, strip mall after strip mall appeared in neighborhoods, it's spread out but claustrophobic. The pressure to "make-it" loomed EVERYWHERE. Even for the people who aren't somehow in the entertainment industry (of which there are very few) there seemed to be this voracious need to out-do, out-spend, and generally one-up the next guy. I'm all for healthy competition (trust me you do not want to get involved in an unruly game of Scattegories with me) but I had this overwhelming feeling that that is all there was. And what comes of that?

I never planned on going out LA. I am not into film (actually it terrifies me) and it is far away from my family. But whenever I travel somewhere, there is a little voice inside me that says something like "Living here could be an adventure!" or "I wonder what it would be like to have a little apartment near that cute cafe." But on this trip I never heard those voices. I could only think, I would never make it here...and I wouldn't want to try. I would never be understood. Never feel really at home.

I'm sure I will visit California again. There are still lots of places I want to see. And, of course, my friends are there. But this trip really solidified for me that Boston is not only where I belong but where I want to be. And boy is it good to be back.

"There is a magic in that little word, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits"