Inspiration recharge

I saw this last night – I needed a creative recharge after my last post/painful cold read experience. So naturally I turned to my two of my living muses: Daniel MacIvor and Sandra Shamas.

I met Sandra just recently, and revelled in her storytelling. Her style is a huge inspiration to me and my writing style. She made me believe that what I have to say, however I need to say it and what ever topic I find interesting – I have the right to say it. Confessional Theatre I call it. When I took my mom to see her at the Winter Garden Theatre here in Toronto, my mom leaned over, tears in her eyes from laughing so much and said,

“Holy crap! She’s just like you! She’s SO funny! I mean, this is horrible but this is funny!”

Sandra was talking about menopause and the pitfalls of such an experience, but I got what my mom was saying. I have this show about suicide and bereavement and I am trying to make it not as dark and heavy a show. Sandra is inspiring me to be heavy and light in my writing. Honest, brutal, but also hilarious – because hey, that’s me.

Daniel MacIvor’s solo shows make me want to be a playwright. I want to help people understand people. As in, I want them to understand the differences in people in a way that celebrates just how unique we are. And at the same time – just how fucked up we all are. And hey, that’s okay. But the gloss and shine job we put on ourselves to “face the world” is just that – a face. A mask.

I saw his “This is what happens next” last night by Necessary Angel and I needed that. I needed to see something I believe in. I believe in his style and writing so very much. Confessional Theatre: where the audience is your best friend and you can tell them ANYTHING. They will be there the whole time, waiting, watching, hopeful, supportive – even if you are being a dick (the character Will for instance in “This is what happens next”) or you know the inevitable (as with The Kid) and you can still be hopeful – you can still be witness to their story. Which is the important part.

In the writer’s note by MacIvor, one part stood out:

Are all stories true? Well what is truth? Is truth “fact”? If so, then no, all the facts are not true. Are the characters real? Well, if “real” means “actual”, then no they aren’t real. But fact and actuality have informed and filtered everything in this show and there is truth. True feelings and fears and joy.

I am now ready to go back and look at my script and make some decisions. Editing is hard. But with these two muses fuelling me I feel energized and ready for the challenge.

Playwright hat on.

The pitfalls of writing

Rant time.

If you’re not in the mood to hear a rant – press on to here: http://links.laughingsquid.com/ where you can get lost in what’s happening elsewhere.

The rant:

Last night I did something I have never done before: I had my script read by strangers in a public forum. It was a cold-read, which means there was just a person picking up my script and reading it without any direction (she cheated and had the script before the read date so I assume she looked at it before last night… But after last night I doubt it.)

It was painful. I shook from my solar plexus the WHOLE TIME. Not because I couldn’t stand someone saying my words (I have several historical plays that have been produced and enjoyed collaborative direction and I loved the experience!) – no. It was the complete lack of trust in the words. The complete lack of respect for the not just the words, but the punctuation.

HEY YOU. ARE YOU AN ACTOR?

May I suggest a couple things? Watch the last episode of Firefly. There is a quote in there where the character Early says to Doctor Simon,

You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose
a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know
what kind of pain you’re dealing with.
They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed
before they can get certified, but they
don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That
seem right to you?

I am not advocating getting shot. What I am saying is: if you want to be the best at your art form (here we are talking acting) then you should explore all the facets of that art form. I’m not saying stop your Meisner classes and take up directing or playwriting – I’m saying look into what goes into those types of roles. Figure out why they are there. Try to see their pitfalls, their trials and hardships in their position. Because the eye opener last night was that thing I heard back when I started learning how to read/deliver Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in himself (herself?) is a huge argument. But for this rant I want to talk about how I was taught to approach the text of Shakespeare. Yes, I know that there is a folio/quarto/modern editors…but I was taught that the words have a rhythm (hi, iambic pentameter!) and that the punctuation is crucial. This is why so many Bardolators get uppity around this topic, as there are so many people who have been involved in the punctuation placement game when it comes to his work.

I digress. Last night I heard the cold-reader blatantly disregard not just words (which hurt because it changed the meaning of the text) but mostly when they disregarded the punctuation. It is the one clear thing that a writer can write. Italics, parenthesis, underlining, hyphens – which I adore – all can mean different things. Did the writer mean to stress that or under-stress that word? Does that mean it’s important or should the reading be flippant? But the one thing that is quite clear is what follows:

Periods are full stops.

Commas are half breaths.

Hyphens are a push through, a sudden change even.

Colons are a list.

So actors (and yes I am reading my own words here when I say this) when you pick up and read in an audition room/cold read – please please PLEASE pay attention to the things that are set in stone. THE PUNCTUATION. *And if you bring up Christopher Walken I will mentally kick you in the shin!

The words are there for interpretation but the punctuation is there to help you find your breath (think Shakespeare and musicality) and ultimately the character. The punctuation is just as important as the words.

(side rant: at a reading, the stage directions should not be glossed over. But that’s all I have to say about that. And as actors we seldom get a leg-up. If there is an insight into what is happening in the audition room or the reading LATCH ONTO IT! If you get the sides beforehand: read them. Sorry, sorry… I know I’m supposed to stop ranting now….)

There. That is my rant.

Please rant back. Period.

LTTA

Learning Through The Arts – it’s something I have always facilitated, but maybe I just didn’t call it that. I have been teaching drama (well Shakespeare first and foremost) to kids since I was a counselor at 14 years old. Now at 30 years old, I am a program developer and facilitator with the City of Toronto, a teacher with Artsarama, and a hired character artist for several museums who need someone kids can interact with and learn from talking about the past.

So when this course caught my eye: http://learning.rcmusic.ca/teacher-and-artist-training/artist-educator-professional-training I had to know more. And once I did – I had to take it. Sure I already do most of the Foundations and Level 1 already in my job – but the higher levels are what are intriguing to me. Plus the connections made through the class is another great way to learn about LTTA.

I took the class not only to better my understanding of what I do and expand my knowledge base – but the main focus I wanted out of this is to learn how to integrate my suicide bereavement script into an education program that I can tour to Grade 12’s and First Year Frosh in Canada. Targeting the age group that my brother was when he felt the pull of suicide.

I enjoyed my time with the Foundations level, but, as many thought it would be, I felt ahead of the game in this course. I’m excited to keep climbing in the levels to a place where I feel challenged. I really enjoyed the people in the class (it was nice to have a small class of 7 so we could really have quality time with our instructors) and I liked the facilitators too. Nancy Dutra and Ciara Adams from Theatre Gargantua were great hosts to this level.

So as I take time between courses and apply some honed skills to my work immediately, I am beginning to think of how my shoe “Everything but the Cat…” can be an educational touring show for teens…