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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Small Roles

Hey all, you haven't met me before, but I've been working as the administrative intern for CoLab for about a year now. So far I've really enjoyed my experiences and I'm so excited to finally be able to start blogging!

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining Erika at an event called "Something Rotten - Hamlet Re-Mixed" hosted by Whistler in the Dark and Imaginary Beasts as part of their repertory event that included Tom Stoppard's Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth and Ionesco's Macbett.

Mary-Liz was involved a piece directed by Meron Langsner that was an interpretation of Act V of Hamlet. It involved swords and in the words of the director "Rampant Badassery" of varying kinds. What it did NOT include was Fortinbras. I was waiting for all 10 minutes of the piece just anticipating his arrival. Not only did he not appear in Act V...but he wasn't mentioned in any of the other four acts as well. You would think that somewhere throughout the collective process to bring an interprative version of Hamlet together that SOMEONE would have thought to include the true foil to Hamlet himself.This massive oversight reminded me of the old addage "there are no small parts, only small actors". In attempting to recreate the classic (albeit in a condensed version) the creators of each small piece took very broad strokes.

For such a project as "Something Rotten" it is understandable to me that certain nuances and details get cut to the wayside, but it is interesting that a personality that pervades the play in so many ways can so easily be disposed of.

It has come to my attention that the newest full production, being produced by Psych Drama Company (opening tomorrow 11/30/11) also cuts out Fortinbras. There are other liberties being taken with the script, and cuts and changes have become common place in Shakespeare productions. But what do you cut when you cut a character like Norway? What do you lose in the meaning and understanding of the story, the text, and the playwright's intention? What would happen if you cut Mitch from A Streetcar Named Desire ?

Fortinbras is a device in the play that serves as an antithesis for Hamlet. And for all of our Shakespeare scholars/enthusiasts/actors out there, you know that you can never undervalue antithesis. It is what colors the play, the characters, the text.

His presence in the play prior to act V (through other characters' text) as well as his final speech (see below) also create a context for the action of the play that is undervalued by most producers/directors of the play. Fortinbras provides the reality check that no matter how hard you try or what decisions you make, the final outcome of your life actually has very little to do with you. It puts Hamlet's struggle into stark perspective. Fortinbras, with his threats of invasion and ultimate take-over of Denmark, is a reminder of that. If Hamlet had lived and made different choices, who's to say Fortinbras still wouldn't have won in the end? The presence of this larger force, embodied by this tiny character, has the ability to change the tenor of the play in a major way. Why sacrifice layers of what is considered by some, the best play in the canon, to cut 9 lines of text and one actor from production? Whether or not the young Dane had avenged his father sooner, or with more vigor; whether or not he was mad; if he had chosen love and Ophelia rather than hatred and vengefulness do not change the fact that there are outside forces, larger than yourself, that determine much of how your life turns out. And to highlight that struggle is to highlight the true and universal questions that Hamlet offers to himself and the audience. Without Fortinbras those questions are lost in the senseless deaths of the young men of this play.

So really, just don't cut Fortinbras.


Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have proved most royally: and, for his passage,
The soldiers' music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

Looking forward to the next one:


** Gary Howard is a junior at University of Chicago studying Geopolitics and Theatre

Friday, November 11, 2011

Filmed in Front of a LIVE STUDIO AUDIENCE!!!

Hello BlogLand!

For those of you who are looking for a great sitcom to watch endlessly on DVD as the weather turns cold (sort of), I highly recommend CBS's The Big Bang Theory. And it's not just because one of the lead characters is a Cheesecake Factory working actress with a bunch of humorous and adorkable friends. There's something about the way the characters are so well thought out and executed that draws me in. The show definitely builds on itself (You must watch it from the beginning - it's like Arrested Development or HIMYM) - once you start to understand the recurring jokes, the funnier the show becomes. But what's most enticing about this sitcom, is the sense of ensemble you feel while watching the show. I love thinking about ensembles at work. When I watch reruns of Friends, I often think to myself, those are six lucky people. They get to work day in and day out with a group of people they understand, trust, and excel at their craft with. What could be better?

And that's what I see when I watch Big Bang. This group of friends who goes to work every day to have some fun and make some entertainment. Sometimes when I consider what it's like to work in a medium other than live theatre, I wonder how the actors do it without the audience. I was recently having a debate with someone about whether or not acting for film or acting for theatre are one skill set or two. I am (was?) of the camp that they're two different skill sets (much in the same way that auditioning and acting are two different skill sets). But, Best Friend, I'm beginning to think that I stand corrected. A quiet house is an obstacle for even the most experience actors (and sometimes fatal for those who are just starting out) but it never occurred to me that one could have that same experience on a sitcom where, let's face it, the point is to make us regular folk forget about our humdrum lives, financial issues, and broken hearts and lift our spirits for 30 minutes at a time.

My favorite character is quickly becoming Mayim Bialik's, Amy Farrah-Fowler. (Gee, that name's familiar you say? Well for TGIF fans out there, she was TV's Blossom as a teenager.) Like the members of The CoLab, Mayim (I feel like we're on a first name basis since her status updates appear in my FB news feed), blogs on a regular basis about a number of things, including her stint on Big Bang. And interestingly enough, tv actors HAVE NOT forgotten about the importance of laughter when it comes to camera work, and even more importantly, they haven't forgotten about the importance of trust and ensemble. As she puts it,

"Working alongside two-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons is unlike working with anyone I have shared a stage with. He and I go about our work very similarly, from how we view our characters’ idiosyncrasies, to how we execute them. Jim and I also seem to agree–all of this is unspoken–that no amount of preparation all week can brace you for the lovable beast that is a live studio audience. You can’t really know how to play a scene until you can hear the audience gasping, giggling, laughing, and hesitating; breathing with you as you breathe and feel the nuances of your character. The way the failed seduction/cuddle scene shook down on your TV screens was, for me, different by eons from how it played all week in rehearsal."

And this has definitely got me thinking (once again), that the reason I'm uncomfortable doing film is because I don't understand it. I don't nearly have enough on camera experience to form a judgement about what it's like to act either way. I know that I'm a stage-lover, but if you really have the right scene partner... okay. I'm not sold on it yet. I'm not sure that ANYTHING will replace my love for the instant gratification of audience laughter, pain, confusion but this week I'm considering Mayim's thoughts regarding on screen acting.

If you're interested in reading more I highly recommend the rest of the article which can be found here. And if all you want to do is see that ensemble-audience dynamic first hand, there's plenty of live theatre happening in Boston this weekend. Go enjoy it!

Happy Watching... I mean Weekend, Folks!


Monday, November 7, 2011


I had a brief stroll around East Cambridge yesterday, around sunset. For the first time in a long time, I found myself taking the the long way home, taking my time and just enjoying the scenery. I wish I could say it was relaxing, though on the plus side it was necessary.

I'm coming to grips with a strange realization. From graduation in spring of 2008 until the fall of 2010, I was living the rough and tumble, young artist life. I found myself underemployed and living on two friends' couch, working the occasional odd job and industrial to barely break even. The entire time, I was also on the search for better employment working to get CoLab off the ground. I partied a little too hard, but I also kept busy and constantly working towards something better.

Over the past year, I started making some more money and CoLab starting taking off. It's been rewarding and exciting and I'm very thankful for those two things.

And yet, I came to the realization yesterday that this has also been one of the most sincerely depressing periods of my life. If you haven't seen me posting blogs as often (and you haven't) and wonder why I'm not taking to the streets with my opinions on Herman Cain and Boston Theatre Economics like I usually do...

To paraphrase Fight Club, you're reading me in a very strange time in my life.

As I walked through the empty, dim glow of the Genzyme and MIT labs I realized that no matter how much better things get, they will also be difficult and it will be very easy to give up. CoLab makes me happy. My job makes me happy. My apartment makes me happy. So why aren't I happy?

It's worth noting, that this current slump really starting about two weeks after Dearly Beloved wrapped up. It's also worth noting that I've had slumps all my life, and I'm aware that life fluctuates and in a few weeks I'll probably feel the spark of life come back. But for the time being, I have to cope with the fact that even though life always gets better, it also always gets worse.

I have a long overdue "Man-date" this week with one of my many hetero life mates. (If confused, please consult feature film "I Love You, Man".) We have been talking about similar themes in our lives. We both experienced a severing of bonds in the past year and we both have a sense of anxious malaise, so I know what I'm experiencing is in large part a symptom of my 20's. So I figured this is something worth sharing with ya'll. I'm not sure how other people cope, but I guess I'm figuring it out for myself now.

The quarter-life crisis. It's a thing.

And I'm okay with that.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Haiku For My Droid

i love my android
otherwise life is chaos
google calendar

A year ago I didn't see why the heck I would ever need a smart phone. Let's review the facts:

Occupation: Actress/waitress. No immediate need to return work emails. And plus, I didn't really want them "following me around."
Marital Status: Single. No schedules to match up. No bank accounts to sync. No soccer practice to get to.
Schedule: Perfectly accessible on my wall calendar in my bedroom. Places I needed to be: work, rehearsal, the occasional CoLab meeting.
Other devices: I own a computer and an ipod. I can check my email, go on Facebook, listen to music - all on regular basis! Why would I need a smart phone?

Check, check, check. Everything was taken care of. Why would I need a fancy phone? Six months ago, things started to change. As a company, we started to schedule weekly meetings. (Add one thing to the Google calendar.) I began working a second job. (Read: THANK YOU GOOGLE CALENDAR) And we started pre-production on NOT ONE but TWO shows. (Seriously, Google calendar OVERLOAD.) And I started to miss emails. If I was on a double, I'd head to work around 11 a.m. and sometimes not get home until after midnight. After a twelve hour day, the last thing I wanted to do was make decisions and write out opinions. And so emails weren't responded to in a timely manner. And the company wasn't running at the rate or in the manner we wanted it to.

So in April, I bought a Droid. And it literally changed the way we operated as a small business. Our entire organization runs off of GoogleDocs and Aps. I could access both my personal email and my CoLab email from my phone. Both my calendar and the company Google calendars synced to my phone. I could access all of our Docs. Which meant I could read and edit agendas, drafts of scripts, resumes, etc. I could respond to auditionees for play. and edit details for Dearly Beloved production. And suddenly, there was no question about it. I needed my Droid to run my small business. play. Discovery and Dearly Beloved really would not have gone up without it. The world moves faster every day and today, I think Ferris might say, "If you're not connected you might miss it." I'm not saying I want to be married to my phone. I love it and some days really all I want to do is beat that one pesky level of Angry Birds that I can't get through. And some days I turn off the sound because I really don't need my email following me around for the day. But there are days and times when having a Droid makes my existence as an actress, a producer, a director, and a small business owner possible. And for that, I'm glad I own it. So, thank you, Droid. Thanks for allowing me to leave my computer at home when I travel. Thanks for letting me check the weather when I want to. And thanks for letting me improve CoLab productivity. And now if you'll excuse me, those stupid pigs don't know whats coming.