Sunday, July 14, 2013

Anything can be good, if you let it.

"Intentions and goals were always difficult or shaky--always. I don't know what happened, but more and more people are looking in the wrong directions. Maybe everything got so expensive and temporary and tenuous and competitive, so everyone thought about the immediate impact of things, the big kill. You know, Can we move this to a bigger house? Can I win awards? The other day a student asked if the play he was doing might bring him traction. I didn't know what to say, but he was utterly alien to me. He has talent, but he cheapens and degrades it by utilizing it to get a pilot or bigger applause or some coverage. Or traction! 

We have to get back to doing good work that will matter to people, to the community, to our hearts. This is how we used to work, and we kept working, and we got the attention we deserved." --Uta Hagen/Interview with James Grissom

I think many times we get caught up in ourselves and what would work most in our favor when it comes to life paths and jobs...especially in the arts. Since we are our own 'product' we are trained to market ourselves and play the game of hiring/casting. But when rejection comes, projects fall through, or we are trying to figure out the next step...all we are left with is ourselves.
...and maybe a question: 

Why. Why am I doing this?

Right now, I am facing a lot of question marks...and it is a scary, but exhilarating feeling. I often find myself asking that exact question: WHY. Why am I doing this?  Here are just a few Pearls of Wisdom from my teachers here at BSA, they have helped me whenever I start to feel too scattered...they have  put things into perspective and help me focus on what is really important.  

So, for all of you as confused as I am, scared, scattered and stretched...this one is for you! 
Golden Nuggets of Wisdom from a lot of wise Brits! 

  • Our job is to give voice to those who cannot speak their unconscious mind; society's unconscious.

  • Have faith in the journey you are on.

  • Acting is a service and the one thing you are not serving is yourself. You are never important. Serve the audience, the text, the story, the character, the space, and your scene partner. 

  • Have an awareness of the audience: have a relationship with them. 

  • Be a citizen of the world: prepared at any turn to put yourself on the line and be vulnerable. Let it matter. Meet everything with complete openness. 

  • Control the Controllable. Communicate. 

  • Become a channel for the words/author. It becomes about the work, focus your energy there. 


  • You can't work on being less self-conscious or critical by focussing more on your self - work on the voice and movement, then forget about it and play. 

  • To tell a good story: serve your function, rather than just your character. 

  • Anything can be good if you let it.

Lastly! I leave you with this. Neil Gaiman's Speech. It has become a mantra, a life source for me. 
I hope it helps, it certainly has helped me! 

"And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art.
And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that's been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
Make it on the good days too.
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art."

Friday, March 1, 2013

It is My Name...My Reputation

American in the UK

Recent events have made me think long and hard about the differences between the American and English cultures. Specifically about the differences between British plays and American plays. My flatmate who is English was reading me one of his monologues and all I could think was: man, this is terribly British. I then sent him some monologues that I thought would fit him, he told me they sounded funny to British ears. What is it that perks our ears to the difference between the two?  What exactly IS the difference between the two styles? We are both English speaking countries with similar points of views. Americans, for the most part, were Europeans what happened? 

I have had several discussions with different English tutors and classmates about this subject. At the risk of being too general...below is what I have gathered from these conversations and my own observations. ALSO please bear in mind, while I have talked to my English tutors about this, I am still writing from a female-Midwestern-Japanese-American perspective.  

SO! I have found that a lot of the differences stem from the reasons America was founded and who founded it....and what they left behind. Early Americans voiced their opinion about various issues and fought for change. We have always been able to speak our minds without the risk of getting beheaded or hanged or what have you. The Freedom of Speech is in our Bill of Rights. Expansion, exploration, change, becoming the melting pot for other cultures, the rags to riches 'American Dream'...
(FOR EXAMPLE! Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President, grew up in a log cabin. He was raised by his father who had no education and was illiterate. Lincoln received a total of only 18 months of formal education, otherwise he we completely self-taught...and became one of the most influential Presidents) oh! and we were also founded by Puritans...each of these aspects of our very young history have engrained certain qualities in each one of us...and have given us different hurdles to jump over. America became powerful very fast and didn't have its first big international failure until the 70's while, as explained by my professor, Europe has experienced many international failures throughout its thousands of years of history. Each country has seen it's heyday and decline, ALL of Americas' being within the last couple hundred years. 

From the discussions I've had, it seems big change like this is not in the English recent memory. Their culture and race have been established for a long time. They know who they are.  What has developed in its theatre is a darker more cynical edge in modern writing. Americans tend to lean towards resolution at the end of the play, while many British plays work nonlinear and  seem to just end.
 Americans tend to lean towards a journey within a story; to end up in a different place from where they started at the beginning of the play. Modern and contemporary British plays tend to end unresolved or resolved in a potentially unsatisfying way (check out the playwright Simon Stephens). This throws the responsibility back on the audience to work out the story OR the playwright was just unable to solve the problem of the play...because the problem is itself unsolvable. Of course, there are exceptions to this on both sides of the ocean. There are American playwrights who have a darker, cynical edge to them: Mamet, Miller, Williams, LaBute, name a few. 

In American culture there is a stress on what someone DOES. This may be because of the 'American Dream': being able to come from nothing and make yourself into somebody. In American history, who you fundamentally are and what you Do is so important. However, in England, there was a more rigid class system and it is harder to move around. What developed was a focus on a person's reputation (The country is also a lot smaller...word got around MUCH faster).  In English history, how you dealt with others and how others viewed you was important. You can see this contrast in Proctor's iconic line from Arthur Miller's The Crucible "It is my name" and   Cassio's line from William Shakespeare's Othello, "My reputation, my reputation".

The development and use of language is rich in the History of England. The English cultivated better rhetorical skills, constructing beautiful sentences and imagery to describe situations and feelings. They are also known for their 'reserved' attitude towards showing emotions. To be honest, it is something I have had to really adjust to. Americans are seen as very loud and direct. Emotions are not always hidden...there is no 'stiff upper lip', and whether good or bad and there is not as much of a focus on the use of language...AND OF COURSE, there are always exceptions to these generalizations. 

In trying to break my American accent and learn how to speak in an English accent I can see how these 'personality' traits bleed into how our mouths move to communicate.  The English accent is clipped, placed at the front of the mouth, you talk through your teeth more, the front of the mouth works more, MOST IMPORTANTLY there is no rhotic 'R', and the 'T's are hit...overall, the accent is lighter. Keep a stiff upper lip. The American accent is open, placed further back in your mouth (which makes us sound nasally and loud), words are chewed, the middle of the mouth including the soft pallet works the most and the accent is heavier.

The contrast with the use of language in England and America is very clear through the developments of the American Musical vs. (Musicals in England). SIDENOTE the Musical as we know it today is a truly an American construction. Prior the advent of the American Musical and it's journey overseas, theatres were producing operettas, Music Hall (the English version of Vaudeville), and variety shows and some forms of opera (German, to stray away, used singing and text). In American Musicals, characters sing because the emotions are so big that there is no other option BUT to sing. In England, the emotions are so big...that you start to use heightened way of speaking. The English, (Gilbert and Sullivan, for example)  have the words to describe how they are feeling and beautiful music to underscore these descriptions. For this same reason, America and Europe embraced physical theatre and other physical vehicles such as clowning. Perhaps clown and physical theatre never took off in England in the same way because it wasn't viewed as witty or clever enough. When used, it was used in a more controlled way. 

I do not think I have quite boiled everything down to completely understand the minute differences between the two writing styles and tones. I have been here for about six months and still have so much to learn and reflect on. But, for now, this is what I have. 

I love discussions and learning new perspectives on culture and art. Feel free to message me! 

P.S. Thank you Nick and Ben! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Broad Abroad

Moving to a new country away from my family, friends, community and my infant theatre company has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Heck, moving anywhere new and starting afresh is disorientating. I am always missing someone...and feel slightly unable to lay down roots here.  It is a constant state of uneasiness....but mostly an ADVENTURE.

I have revisited this quote from my good friend, Drew several times since being over here:
When waging war on the battlefield of creation vs. destruction, the warrior often finds that there are those in his or her company whose patience falters in the face of a seemingly indefatigable foe. But for every hundred of those fallen disgraced soldiers, there are one or two true brothers and sisters who will fight at our side until the end of time; and it is them that we must honor and adore...the darkest shadow follow those who carry the brightest light. Be buoyant, sister-clown, eyes open, mouth wide, eyebrows up!
I have become close with some of the loveliest souls and continually feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have such amazing friends and family back home. There have been some dark hours, but I have never been alone. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I have fallen in love with England. I have fallen in love with finding my way through different cultures. I have fallen in love with the wonderful people I have met and worked with. Most of all, I have fallen in love all over again with my own country. I never thought about how much I like America. Yes, it is flawed...what country isn't? It is such an infant country...and massive. We are still figuring things out.  We are still figuring out who we are. But it is the American Dream and the preamble from the Declaration of Independence that runs through my veins and has helped make me who I am today.

Random thoughts: 

The grass is greener EXACTLY where you water it. Fight to be cheerful in whatever situation you find yourself in. Most of the time, our happiness or misery depends on our perspective of the situation rather than the situation itself.

There is too much in this world that wants to bring us down, fight with one another, hate, feel lonely, insecure, helpless, worthless, unhappy, entitled, angry, bitter...and you know isn't worth it. It is exhausting and it wastes time. Beauty is so much more wonderful to look at. Happiness is so much more fun to feel...perhaps because it is hard to attain at times.

Acting/Theatre is Service. The one thing you are not serving, is yourself. You are never important. You are here to serve the story, audience, community, fellow actors and the space. Be a citizen of the world.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy One Year Anniversary, Angels!

To my dearest Angels,

Do you remember this night 365 days ago? Well, I do.

I remember the crisp fall evening. I remember the dark sky. I remember parking (for the first time) away from the theatre to make room for our guests. I remember the platter of cookies as we walked in. I remember warming up in the theatre, in our home. I remember warming up in the basement where the ghosts of our past lives and adolescent friendships lingered. I remember listening to the audience filter in, feeling their energy. I remember our group hugs. I remember opening a show with the best friends I have ever had. I remember knowing my life would never be the same again. 

It has been an honor to get to know all of you and create with you. Thank you for  sharing your lives with me. Words cannot express how deeply grateful I am for each and every one of you. I would not be where I am now nor half the artist I am without you.  MAN did we start of a revolution! We lit a fire that WILL NOT be is because our team of Angels has growing! 
There is so much Great Work to be done. AND IT IS HAPPENING.  The Universe sure knew what it was doing by putting us together, huh?

Every time I think about you and GWB, it brings a tear (ok, maybe several tears) to my eye. I miss you all so very so SO very much. I cannot wait to see you all again and create with you all again. Please keep the revolution alive until I get back. 

I love you! 

"Nothing's lost forever. 
In this world, there is a kind of painful progress
Longing for what we've left behind, and dreaming ahead. 
At least, I think that's so"


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Peoria, Illinois: HEART

Peoria, Illinois. Coordinates:  40.6936° N, 89.5889° W.  Population: 115,234. 
A city with a big heart and big dreams; filled with potential energy ready to be turned into kinetic energy.

For those who are unfamiliar, HERE is where Peoria is located: 

I am here to tell you why I love Peoria so much, why I am proud to have called it my home for the past 5.5 years 

The people.

Now, you may think that is very cliche of me to say, but it is true. In the short amount of time I have lived in the town and broke out of the "Bradley Bubble", I was embraced with open arms, instantly...and found a wonderful community of free thinkers. For a small to mid sized city, Peoria is filled with the arts and artists who want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE with their talents. Peoria is great for that. It is small enough where you feel like you can make a difference in the community with your art, but big enough where it can provide opportunities for you to do it. And you know what can create opportunities for yourself too! There are many twenty somethings who are starting their own businesses, starting their own theatre companies, working together to make music, create...and start revolutions. And this town embraces just have to find the community in which to surround yourself. They will support you and help you along the way....And in no way do I think this is unique to Peoria. There are many cities like this, many communities like this. I was fortunate enough to find it here. And am eternally grateful.

For those who go to Bradley, my advice to you is to EXPLORE, go down the hill, participate in local will be so pleasantly surprised.  There is so much to Peoria. Really. I promise you. I loved my time at Bradley. I met some really amazing people, connected with my life change was set into motion because of Bradley. But there is SO MUCH MORE TO THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE. If you are going to be living somewhere for four, maybe five might as well make the very MOST out of it and maybe even leave it a better place because You were here. Experience new things, meet new friends, make new and unique memories. There are some really amazing things happening RIGHT HERE! 

No community is perfect. The grass will always seem greener, but we are right here right now. And really, the grass is green exactly where you water it. We are with the people around us for such a short amount of time...we HAVE to make the most out of it. This is a lesson I  had to learn...And I am so glad I did. Bradley and the Peoria community have given me the closest friends and fondest memories a girl could ever ask for. Thank you to everyone EVERYONE. I love you all very much!

"Better to be good and courageous and bold and make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and work hard at something. Change lives through art. Cherish your friends. Stay true to your principles. Live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved if you ever get the chance.
~One Day

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Taming of the Shrew: WILLPOWER

artwork by the amazing Andrew Rhodenbaugh

If the catch word for Midsummer was Blessed, Taming of the Shrew's has to be:  WILLPOWER. Literally the day after we closed Midsummer, Andrew and I started abridging the script for Taming. We knew we wanted to do it in a bar and we knew we wanted it to be quick. That was about it. We spent the week working on the script and finding people to do the show. What you have to understand about Midsummer, is that we knew we wanted to do it for about 7 months before we we opened. For Taming, it was four weeks, three by the time we had a cast and script. It was a race to the finish.

We chose Taming because we wanted to do something more adult and bawdy and we wanted to do it in a bar. All it took was one phone call and one meeting with Kelleher's and we were all set up. They very graciously opened up for us on Sunday and agreed to serve drinks and appetizers. We had another bar in mind and THANK GOODNESS it didn't work out. (Remember the 100+ degree weather?) Everything happens for a reason. Plus Kelleher's was PERFECT for what we wanted to do AND we were able to get in their twice to rehearse.

Waiting for our playing space to clear out
dang customers enjoying their dinner in our theatre space! 

One of Midsummer's biggest adventures was finding rehearsal space, Taming's was how we asked people to be in the show. All three of us firmly stand behind the idea that EVERYONE can act. We cast people we want to simply hang out with for a few hours every day for a month. Their ability to act is second on our minds. And you know what, it hasn't failed us yet! The perfect person for each role has surfaced (even if it is the WEEK OF the show..eeep!) and each person was spot on and AMAZING. This is the kind of theatre magic I LIVE for. Being surrounded by a group of people who are playful, passionate, and dedicated to telling a great story in a way that will appeal to an audience...seriously, WHAT could be better?

We started asking people to be in the show through calls, text, emails, facebook, etc. Andrew and I would sometimes accompany a couple photos with our texts. Here is an example of what we would send:

please be in Taming....

You know what....IT WORKED. We were even able to do some gender reversals within our cast. Our Baptista (Victoria), Grumio (Liz) and Tranio (Sarah) were women!

Doing two Shakespeare shows is not easy. We had to get a bit extreme in the way we asked our friends to join. For example, Andrew, Jess and I literally cornered John (Petruchio) in the parking lot of Walgreens to ask, nay...BEG him to be in the show. We also asked our Pedant (Alex) to be in the show....the week of the show. He got the script on a friday and was memorized and blocked and amazing on monday. BLESSED. We were also able to get an AMAZING local band, The Dirty Gentlemen to play for us. Seriously, look them up, they are incredible. The Dirty Gentlemen
As you can see from the picture above, they came to one of our rehearsals and then churned out some amazing sounds that fit the bawdy/ruckus-y feel we were going for.

One thing we found that worked really well to help with memorization (since we had three weeks to memorize) was that we would start our rehearsal off with a line through. Since the play was only an hour long, this served as a great way to warm up too!

I love it when two people work well and jive well as artistic collaborative partners. John and I worked on the Kate/Petruchio fight with the help of Andrew, Jess and Sarah. Our inspiration was:

It was amazing how well we were able to self direct and direct one another. When we needed to hold to fix a moment or when something didn't work or feel right, we worked on it. There was only respect for each other. We tried everything we suggested or wanted to try, justified moment and choices without any ego. All positive. Maybe the reason it worked so well, was that we had the story at the heart of everything we did. (That and John is an amazing acting partner [I am sorry for punching you in the face])

Positive Artistic Collaboration is BY FAR my FAVORITE THING. 

I am sad we were only able to do one show of Taming. It was worth every stressful minute. It was worth the late night painting session where we made all the posters, worrying about whether or not the bar will be open they days we wanted to rehearse, rehearsing in 100+ buggy weather, rehearsing at Schnuks, rehearsing in Hannah's basement, dealing with unconventional seating and having to improvise with the seating the day of the show, were all completely worth it. We took a hard (can be seen as outdated) story and attempted to tell it in a way that was more modern and relatable. MORE IMPORTATNLY, it was fun.

A big big thank you to everyone who worked on the show and everyone who came out to see it!
our first read through, John was sick so we skyped him in!

Rehearsal on the Porch. Feels like home now!

Rehearsal at Schnuks, our second home!

Outside of Kelleher's!

some last minute adjustments

John setting up our seating. Our 70 seat house filled up in about 15 minutes. We had to add chairs along the side and people stood up around the bar to watch. 



Tranio and Lucentio

Our faithful servants, Hannah and Rachel!

The ladies

The men

Petruchio, Katherina, Bianca and Lucentio

Petruchio, Katherina, Widow, Hortensio, Bianca and Lucentio

The Minola family, Katherina, Baptista and Bianca
Lucentio, Vincentio and.....Lucentio? Whaaaa?

Grumio and Petruchio

Hortensio and Petruchio

Hortensio and Lucentio

Hortensio, Bianca and Lucentio...who is going to win Bianca's hand?

Vincentio and Baptista. Get it. 

"Ten marks my Kate does put her down"


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream: BLESSED

swimming in a sea of costumes
It is absolutely crazy to think that this was our last week of rehearsal before tech week! We kicked off the week by pulling costumes. Bradley University very graciously let us go into their warehouse and pull ANYTHING we wanted. There was SO MUCH to choose from, at times it was hard to find each other in the maze of racks. We are so lucky to have Bradley as a resource. SO if anyone from the Bradley Theatre Department is reading this: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Our actors look amazing!

We were able to pretty much costume all of our actors! We filled up both Andrew and Sarah's trunks.

We then filled up a good portion of the porch with all the costumes and did our costume fittings on the porch! Hooray for grassroots theatre! 

The week leading up to the opening of the show was filled with work, work for the show, rehearsal, work for the show. Andrew and I tag teamed flyering, making poster boards and tying up loose ends while Sarah dealt with pretty much all things costumes. All the while, it felt like we were in pretty good shape. We were able to put together the tedious little things because the big things were all taken care of. It was great! Taylor was a huge help, too! He put up our posters, wrote line notes, helped set up and clean up. It was a blessing to have him!

 Andrew painting our Wall and Taylor working on line notes. 


tech week!

First Dress! playing games to warm up!

SPEAKING OF BLESSINGS. Our catch phrase for the show was "Blessed". No doubt, the production was being led by a higher power whether it be God, the Universe, Positive Energy...SOMETHING wanted the show to happen and it wanted certain people to work on it.
Too many things seemed to just fall into place for it to not be true. Whenever we would feel this power or WHATEVER we would just look at each other and say, "Blessed". There was such peace and love and JOY throughout the process, we were SUPPOSED to do this.

Now, this isn't to say there weren't any hard times. There were actor egos,  frustration over the music, and scheduling conflicts, but at the end of the day...we did it!

We were able to bring 21 people from all walks of life, with various amounts of theatre experience and even more varied SHAKESPEARE experience together. We were blessed with Cree, our musician who jumped in at the last minute. We had people from the community WANTING to help us and promote the show, we had beautiful Camp Wokanda to play in and the people who worked there helping us all along the way. And then all those who came to see the show. This included family member, co-workers, professors, friends, and people from the community...everyone brought together to be swept away in a story. A countless number of people believed in us and trusted us with a couple hours of their lives... and in regards to the cast MANY MANY hours of their lives. We were all brought together for this one purpose: to be swept away by a story. The culmination of each and every one of our lives brought us to that moment and we all shared it. Isn't that what theatre is all about? Isn't that what ART is all about? That moment, we can never get back. Even if we remounted the show...NOTHING will compare to THAT exact moment, THAT show, THAT experience.

I am still amazed that we were able to pull it off. With no one to lean on but each other. But we didn't need anymore than that. The show was blessed.