Acting Up

My musings, thoughts, rants, and discoveries. - Scott Maddock

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Location: Redmond, Washington, U.S. Inc. (Formerly U.S.A.)

Allie's Journey

For the next several months this will be dedicated to information pertinent to Allene M. Maddock. Her care has been assumed by Hospice as of 06Apr12.

Please feel free to call or write her. If you call be patient and take time to explain who you are. Currently she remembers, but you have to help her focus so she truly knows who she is talking to at the moment. We have to do this too, and I frequently say something like, "Yes this is Scott, your oldest."

Her phone is area code two-zero-six, and the number is 216 3816.

Her Address:
Allie Maddock
c/o Queen Ann Manor
100 Crockett Street
Seattle, Washington
    98109

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Cold

Sally Brady from Exchange Theatre left me a voice mail Sunday afternoon asking if I would be available as a reader for callbacks for their upcoming production, The Playboy of the Western World. I was happy to help them out, and it was good cold read practice. Trying to read Synge never having even read the script was a challenge.

I read with three or four people early on in the callbacks. Damnit. It wasn't until about the third read through of the sides that I started picking up on the rhythm and meaning. If I had watched the people reading together and had more time with the sides I would have been a bit better for them. I still need lots of work for cold reads. It was hard to think about any improvement, when I was frustrated by not feeling I was doing as good a job as I should for the auditioning actors.

One actor asked if it was alright to touch me, and I said, "No problem, I'm here for you." Well, she gave me a nice (chaste) kiss at the end of the scene. A nice surprise from a talented and attractive young woman. I told Vince I thought she was very good, but that I might be biased by getting a nice kiss.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Wipe Out

Yesterday, even though I caught up on my rest, I got more done than I planned. My laptop, which I use for most of my writing has been getting real flaky. Especially the internet explorer. So I flattened the machine, and rebuilt it. "Flattening" a machine means wiping it absolutely clean. It came with an image disk for restoring it to factory settings that worked great after a false start or two. Even though it gave you options for reformatting and partitioning the hard drive, it did not really do it. I ended up doing most of the disk setup work manually, but then it worked fine and I now have a fully functional machine again. Today or tomorrow I will be copying all my archived documents back, so I can get back to my active script projects tomorrow.

I am very, very tired of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. It is bloated, sluggish, prone to attacks. I believe most of the vulnerability is caused by Microsoft's institutionalized ascendancy of marketing, and a tiny fraction because they are the big gorilla hackers like to attack. Marketing trumps quality and security for all products at Microsoft, even internal tools. I can attest to the latter having spent most of my nine years as a contractor working for Microsoft Internal Technology (IT) groups. A "good" Powerpoint presentation always impresses more than a functional piece of code. It is a very typical business model. Is it any wonder the U.S. is less and less admired every year? Our current atrocities in Iraq only serve to accelerate the trend.

Now, back to my computers. I installed Opera on my laptop. It was so easy I am trying Firefox on my work machine. I like both of them so far, thanks to DV8OR. So far I haven't found anything that I liked better with Internet Explorer, and there are features I like better with these browsers. So much for my customer loyalty. I am not a Microsoft hater, but I do get tired of all the constant irritations I feel as a result of their generally poor quality control, and catering to big business customers while telling me to deal with it.

While I was rebuilding the laptop I was also going through the garage. Got about 2% of the job done. I have boxes of stuff that have followed me around since I joined the Navy in 1984. I now have boxes of my Mother's junk too. I haven't seen her in nearly two years, and would like to extend the hiatus indefinitely. Luckily my brother is seeing her occasionally now. She is living in an assisted/independent living situation in Seattle, and I have to sort through things trying to determine what should be tossed, donated, or delivered to her. It was easier than I thought, though some of the sentimental items make me a little sad. I really looked forward to getting to my boxes of junk, which are much easier to sort. I don't worry much about tossing my stuff. Arts taught me things are not meaningful to me, relationships and making art are. Not a view I learned from my Mother. Still, I need to be mindful of her values and save the stuff which will give her the most joy, and dispose of things that will be missed the least. Not an easy task, and while I can put myself into the space where I valued the same things as she, it is not a role I would audition for, or accept willingly.

There is a silver lining. When I get my cleanup and box sorting done I will be that much closer to being able to load all my stuff in a pickup and a trailer. It will also make my house seem much bigger. : )

Mini-Reunion I

My sister came up from Vancouver, Washington this weekend with her two boys and spouse. They stayed with my brother in Kenmore, about fifteen minutes from my house. I hooked up with them for the big Kenmore parade; about 6 blocks long on two side streets. We all went to see nieces, cousins, or daughters in the parade. It was great to see everybody, though I was hoping for a chance to talk briefly with my nephew Andy, the younger brother. He is eight (I think) and I wanted to ask about John.

His friend John was killed by two large dogs almost six months ago. Apparently he opened the fence and went in. Nobody knows just what happened, as they were friendly dogs the whole neighborhood enjoyed. It made the news for a bit, and what was mentioned only tangentially were the two families. John's family was traumatized as well as the dog owner's family. It turns out they supported each other. There was not an appropriate time during the parade and fair to talk with Andy and his parents; I didn't even think of it in those circumstances. I would like more information though. The grief of those two families and how they reached out to and supported each other in tragedy is a story that deserves to be told. That approach could be healing in many other circumstances. I know it is something I would like to write about when I am ready to move on from my current projects.

Mini-Reunion II

After the fair everybody -- all my siblings, nephews, and nieces -- went to the nearby park on Lake Washington to swim and jet ski. Except for myself. I left to go to a party for our Meisner class. A little over half the people were able to make it, and it was wonderful seeing them again. It felt like renewing bonds with everybody. I made sure I could bring everybody's name and picture to mind before I went.

I still find solace in remembering the class. It is now sentimental, as we are dispersing as we should. Dawn, who couldn't make it, is leaving for New York via Texas. More of us will be leaving. We can't go back, and if we could it would not be the same. We all grew tremendously as artists and humans last year. We followed parallel paths for a year, and we are now growing in different directions.

I will remember every person in that class with foundness, and will likely always consider them friends. That is only one of the gifts from the ensemble. The knowledge and process and depth of soul we earned together in class made us closer friends, and being so close increased what we took away from the class.

I would love the chance to work with any one of my former classmates. I know some will be easier to work with, and others might drive me crazy, and likely my preconceived guesses are all wrong. It doesn't matter one way or the other, because under and over everything, these are people I trust. Every one.

I have enjoyed reconnecting with my other friends now the class is done. I think they are now a little tired of seeing me so much. I need to get involved in another show and continue my training.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Company You Keep

Yesterday, I had my friend Jean Enticknap speak to our Kiwanis club. She is the Artistic Director for Thistle Theatre. Not quite five years ago, after my first two acting classes at Bellevue Community College, a classmate forwarded me an audition call. It was a call for an actor to work as a puppeteer. No puppeteering experience needed, with the biggest requirement being for somebody who was strong. I called up, spoke with Jean and we set up a time to meet. It was an interview to see if we got on and if I was interested. I signed on as actor/puppeteer/truck driver.

We worked on a show named Sheherazade, in which we told the stories of 1001 Arabian Nights in conjunction with Rimsky-Korsakov's music. It was great fun, I was very stiff as a performer, though I improved. It was my first time on stage, and the first four performances averaged over 1000 people in the audience. The energy... I was hooked at that point, and haven't stopped working on theatre and training since.

Jean is one of my favorite people in the world. She is a heavyset woman, but it doesn't slow her down, and it is hard for the rest of the world to keep up with her. She had broken her ankle(s) slipping on the ice the year before I met her, and if that slowed her down at all I'm almost glad I didn't meet her before. I wouldn't have had the energy. I had her speak to the club last year as well, and I actually got an award for arranging for the best speaker of the year. The topic was more on the development of shows this year, and people enjoyed the presentation just as much.

For the month of August I shared the duty for getting speakers with Bill, and my first speaker was two weeks ago yesterday. Another friend and Artistic Director, Gary Schwartz. He founded the Spolin Players, a very good improv group in this area, with the first troupe he founded in Los Angeles still going as well. I have run lights for the Seattle troupe many, many times, and been to two of his improv workshops. (I was on my way to one of the sessions for the first one when I had my motorcycle crash.) Gary worked with Viola Spolin for over twenty years, and is a big advocate of her teachings. People enjoyed his presentation tremendously as well. In the last few years I have had a few other artists speak and I have wowed the club. Even though we are a small club, we have a reputation for bringing in especially good speakers.

It's nice to impress people with an accomplishment, even if it is someone else's presentation. What matters to me is that I have quite a number of friends and acquaintances like Jean and Gary, talented, interesting and great human beings. I feel like every day I should give thanks for becoming associated with all these wonderful people. Kind of disconcerting in a way, that I may actually be one of them. People say you are defined by the company you keep, which could give me a pretty inflated ego.

I was asked by the folks scheduling the September meetings, and I'll be speaking to the group on the 30th, describing the process of creating a new play, from conception to putting it up at the Seattle Fringe Festival. I need to get more details from Robert and Paula. I know the basics of what the writer and director did before I came on board the project in my many and varied capacities. My goal is to do half as good a job as Gary and Jean did.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Fodder

I frequently set aside Dear Abby sections then lose them. They are intended for my writer's toolbox. Some of the things people are willing to write in about are priceless, often in a tragicomic way. For someone who likes black comedy it is a treasure trove. I don't care for the new breed of talk shows, though they offer the same fodder. I get little doses though. I use a television as a backup alarm, and it is not on cable so I go with the best reception channel -- CBS. At 9 AM Montel comes on, telling me to get a move on.

I don't need to be at the office until 10 AM, though I like to be earlier. I was in a typical lazy Monday mode this morning and was blessed with Montel. Generally I turn it off pretty quickly and jump on the motorcycle as quick as I can, but this one was too good. Several months back a twenty something woman was about to be married to the father of the child she was carrying. She looked grown up in that soft, pretty, pliable, vulnerable way. It was a happy relationship for her. Then, the day of, or day before the wedding, he splits. Now get this, to live with her mother. Oh my gentle Jesus! Not only that, the CBS folks verified her side of the story with a lie detector test. The new couple actually appeared on the show expecting people to understand. To them the only significant issue was whether the man should be called Grandpa or Dad. She had a better solution, and hasn't seen them since, though sadly she would like to have a relationship with her mother some time. She seemed on the fast track to maturity so I have hope. I guess I got hooked into trash programming for a bit.

You see something like that, and farfetched becomes a meaningless concept. Why do I find it so hard to create these kind of characters? I need to keep reminding myself they are plausible and real. Hell, the mother's blatant lying, sounding exactly like our leadership should remind me of that. I need to un-soften a lot of my characters.

A friend at work just sent me a link about the musical Rent which I don't even remember hearing about. I want to see it now. It reached me, and is a touching recap of the process. Also, I found some writing tips, and most importantly was reminded that rewrites are where a play is built. A timely reminder in my discouragement.

The Rest of the Story

I have been trying to find a way to describe my experience at the opera. I talked about the events and things which shaped my experience. What hits me the most is the spectacle itself. And I mean spectacle in every good sense of the word. Not only was I reminded of seeing the Ice Follies, but of seeing the Bill Cosby in person for my 8th birthday, the first musical and play I saw when I was five or six, Brigadoon and Arsenic And Old Lace at South Kitsap High School. There was a magic, for all those first time experiences.

I noticed things about the art form. It seemed like opera, or at least Lohengrin was mostly exposition, with a lot of beautiful music and singing to carry it along, and a little movement. Like going to plays, I found myself chuckling with enjoyment in places where nobody else does. Something about having an understanding and appreciation for set up I suppose. I love the journey even more when I recognize the signs. But that is nothing different than the little details of going to a play. During the opera, I was also tearing up for sadness and joy at seeming random times. Just like those other first time experiences. I don't want to explore it anymore. To experience it and remember it is sufficient.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Wow!

Wow! The opera.

Rachel and I went to the Seattle Opera for the closing night of Lohengrin. Most of my life opera was just a word, at first it was "op-e-ra" fully enunciated in a supercilious manner. I grew out of that teen bias when I was well out of my teens. I did not develop an interest, mostly because the few times I heard people sing arias it was literally painful to my ears.

The first year I was taking acting classes, I started a voice class. I still don't know much about voice theory, just that my instructor was a retired lead bass baritone from the New York Opera and used the belle canto style of instruction. Operatic training. The little bit of training I did had several outcomes. My voice changed permanently, at least from my perspective. It was opened up, so I now feel like I am talking more quietly while my voice actually has more volume and a lower pitch. I also realized that a good voice does not hurt the ears. Surprising to me, I have very good pitch, albeit untrained. The very thing that led me to think I could not sing -- hearing nothing but myself being off-key -- is the same thing that caused me to cringe when hearing opera pieces that were not so well done. Needless to say, at the Seattle opera I didn't even think of cringing.

Before the opera we had a bite to eat at T S McHughs, the same place Trina and I did our extended improv for A Streetcar Named Desire. My favorite place to go before a show, and it is easy walking distance to numerous theatres, including the opera house. Our waiter looked familiar, and as we were finishing up I asked him if his hair used to be shorter. Sure enough, and he turned out to be the same waiter Trina and I had as Blanche and Mitch. He was sure he recognized me too, excepting the fact I did not have a Southern accent. I explained and he was impressed, never having suspected our dialects weren't authentic and we weren't from out of town. A very nice bit of feedback. Especially as I prepare to learn a New York dialect.

Back to the opera. Rachel and I got to McCaw Hall just in time to check in coats, rent a set of binoculars for Rachel, and find our seats in a leisurely manner. Rachel is actually one of the reasons I went to this opera in particular. Another was a friend of mine, Gregory Singleton, who was one of the actors and I wanted to see him. I also wanted to go to the opera with someone who understood and loved opera. Rachel has directed operas, and last year assisted with the production of Electra. Also, she has been helping her mother out for several weeks, who has been successfully treated for early stage cancer. A very stressful time for her, with the ups and downs and ups. Good stress at the end, but no less exhausting.

McCaw Hall is imposing. It set the tone for the rest of the evening for me. It imparted the feeling I had as a young child when our family went to see the Ice Follies. In 1964 Mercer Arena was bigger than life for a seven year old, and every moment from entering the building to watching the final number and leaving the building was magical. The opera brought back that experience.

About a minute before the overture started the supertext screen announced the show was dedicated to the memory of Gabor Andrasy. I missed it, but Rachel said, "Oh God, Gabor is dead." She remembered him fondly as a person and artist last year from Electra and was quite broken up through the overture. I was thinking, well there isn't much I can do but be here for a friend. I was also thinking what a wonderful gift for the artist and survivors, to celebrate and mourn an artist's life in their life's venue. It was very moving for me. What a great way to be remembered.

All of these things were coming together. A friend in the show, attending with a friend with knowledge of opera and a need to go, my ego boosting encounter with the waiter, and the mourning and celebrating of a loved artist. Then the curtain went up. The brightest of stage lights, like the cracking of the veil to heaven or inferno.

As with all shows good or bad, there are things I am conscious of when I watch a show. In the last month Rachel and several other people have commented and discussed the difference of watching theatre through the eyes of an artist. Having worked as an actor, tech director, stage manager, set designer and constructor, etc. in the last five years I see all the work and love which goes into a production. Some say it detracts from the enjoyment for them. Personally I think that is rubbish, and maybe I'll expound on that later. I enjoy productions, good or bad, all the more. And this was G-O-O-D.

I was absolutely grateful for the supertext, I would not have had a clue without it. Beth loaned me her binoculars, and they were a godsend. I was able to read the text without them most of the time, and with them I could see nuances I would have missed. The first half of act one was kind of slow, but it entranced me. It was about a village politically divided and the villain making accusations, which were baseless, as he demanded the accused prove a negative. All his 'proof' was based on the accusation itself. No, I'm not going recap the entire story. The connection for me was obvious, to the cowardice driving McCarthyists and today's reincarnation. And you know what? I noticed it and left it behind as I was engrossed by the music and performance. I didn't forget, I just went along with the story. I hope I can do that with my writing. Hit a chord that will be remembered, but will not obsess the audience.

It sounds silly, but I am getting emotionally drained again simply writing about it. I'll save more for later and get some more work done around the house before I prepare for the show I'll see tonight.

Journey

I did some procrastinated Spring cleaning today. One and a half rooms done. I wanted my utility room open so I could start tap dance again. I planned to start practicing tomorrow, but once I was done cleaning for the day I practiced anyway before getting cleaned up for the opera.
I found my old digital recorder as I figured I would some day. It had been misplaced for at least two years. Actually, I found it after a long time, and immediately lost it again, so I am thinking it has been closer to three years. The batteries were dead, luckily it has static memory so the old notes were still there. Some were useless, as I like to note ideas when I'm slightly buzzed. Some look good in the light of day, others do not.

I was reading The Two Towers about that time. The name of the book is a little eerie for me. Our twin towers have a lot of meaning for our country, and I was struck by an unpleasant thought. When the terrorists were picking targets they did not pick ones that were the most meaningful to us. If they had they would have crashed those planes into Yankee Stadium and killed many more people. They were going after what they considered monuments to the most distasteful aspects of their hated enemy. Not a comforting thought, especially when you consider the resentment we have for our own corporations which have more rights and prerogatives than individuals in our own country. Just think of how often we are hearing in the news that communities that are resisting parasites like WalMart. Think of what it is like to live in a country that does not have the protections from our corporations that we have. It is even worse these corporations are foreign. We don't have the courage to look at it, and we have just begun to pay the price for our arrogance and greed. A loss of innocence.

That loss of innocence took me back to Tolkien, and my note. My old digital note talked about a loss of innocence and how the world is never the same after losing that innocence. Our ridiculous discount prices and general life style come at a price which we do not pay. We are living on other's sweat and blood, and they are just beginning to make us open our eyes. The bit from the book struck me in this manner several years ago, and it is more poignant to me now.
"Yet also I should be sad," said Theoden, "for however the fortune of war shall go, may it not so end that much that was fair and wonderful shall pass forever out of Middle-earth?"

"It may," said Gandalf. "The evil of Sauron cannot go wholly cured, nor made as if it had not been. But to such days we are doomed. Let us now go on with the journey we have begun!"
While this quote is disturbing it is also hopeful. If we can't continue to live the American dream on the backs and blood of others, maybe we are preparing for a journey that will take us somewhere better. For me it is hard to see good, with the despotic leadership we have at the moment, where even the alternative is shit. Still, we have to go somewhere. Life and the world are never static. How do we mortals acting as citizens, intellectuals, artists, or technicians point the path in a worthy direction?

Friday, August 20, 2004

Next!

Well, I got the opening scene written. I like the premise, and as always I am not satisfied at all with the writing. Since I was writing at home I should have said the dialog aloud. It helps with the writing, and helps to give the characters distinct voices. Having others read it aloud is even better, but that is a little more work to organize. I've never done it on an initial draft, and I missed the opportunity again.

I had a very good friend visiting my roommate last night. Aaron is a computer hardware wiz, and Beth brought her ailing computer over. When I finished up the writing I wanted to do, I started visiting too. I certainly didn't help with the computer problem.

Ultimately, I didn't get time to do more than read the last page I'd read for my research. So, I refreshed myself, but didn't get any further. I'm going to Theater Schmeater to see Getting Out tonight, so I'll have a little time to read before the show starts.

Kind of a typical weekend. Tomorrow I'm going to my first opera, Lohengrin, for it's closing night. My friend Gregory Singleton is in the cast and I'm going with Rachel who has directed and assistant directed opera. Sunday I'm going to see the close of The Resistable Rise of Arturo UI, in which several my Meisner classmates are working amongst the cast of 30.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

How's your passion?

Last night I went over to my brother's house. They got a jet ski about two weeks ago, and he has been inviting me over for a spin. What a hoot. They are great fun. There were a couple tricky things, mostly remembering not to back off the throttle too much, especially in turns as you lose steering. It is all done by the jet of water, there is no rudder. The other was counter-steering -- there isn't any.

Those were the motorcycle habits I had to overcome. The rest of my habits, particularly leaning into corners were very helpful. I was zipping along very quickly and jumping waves and wakes, doing hard turns and kicking out the stern at pretty good speeds. I think part of the fun is you feel like you've accomplished something much trickier than it is in reality. A good ego stroke. And all the fun of a fast, twisty, bouncy ride that I enjoy so much.

Sometimes I scorn our modern toys. I suppose that's why I was never on a jet ski before, but have owned several kayaks. I've thought kayaks were wonderful since my grandfather built one around 1970 for my cousin. I bought mine right before they became all the rage, but when they were gaining some popularity and no longer obscure. I'd like to get another one, now that they have enjoyed so many technical improvements, and the prices have dropped. I'd like to get one with a rudder, and one that is fairly wide so I don't have to be as attentive. The rolly ones are fun, but not so good if you're doing other things. Also, a more stable one would be better when not moving, especially in choppy water with a fishing pole. I think they would be a blast for fishing, though finding one with accessible stowage that could hold a cooler could be a trick. The cooler is for the catch folks. Drinks come later.

In a kayak there is a feeling of satisfaction when you cut through the water at a good clip using your own muscle power. The jet ski gives you the feeling of controlling something powerful with your muscles too. They are very different sensations for me, though the enjoyment is similar.

This gets me to thinking about my acting and other theatre pursuits. There is a similar type joy. It is a deeper experience for me as it flexes muscles along with so many other parts of my being that have a more profound meaning to my personal identity. I was laughing and hollering with delight last night, enjoying myself with more enthusiasm and abandon than I knew five years ago. Do you think following your passion puts more zest and passion back into the rest of your life? (I'd be really curious to hear any thoughts.)

So soon?

Last night I didn't get home in time to do any research. Even so the muse struck long before I was ready, with a kernel for opening scene. Now I am itching to get home and write the damn thing. I wasn't planning to write anything for another month or two, but I feel driven to get it down on paper, or more accurately on a hard drive.

I was mulling over the Matusow Affair, thinking about the tone of the author's first conversation and meeting with Matusow in which he did not come across as much of a human being. I have some thoughts already on the type of person Matusow was, and am really curious to see how they evolve. Thus far it has seemed Albert E. Kahn has enriched my initial impressions of a gifted and deliciously conflicted con artist striving for attention, who also had a few artistic and intellectual gifts. Thus far it seems like the man had a shallow epiphany and need to atone for his acts. Still it appears it was enough to make further bogus testimony an anathema for him. I suspect his recanting so openly in print was due more to his publicity hound nature, than to his nobler drives. I think the balance changed, and his nobler drives gained greater influence but that is just a thought to explore at this point.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Push Me

Time to bite the bullet. I have been stalled on my Matusow background research. I get wound up reading about McCarthyism. It is like reading today's headlines all over again. If we must relive history, is it necessary to do it verbatim? The rest of the world may begin to think we lack culture and intelligence. That sounds sarcastic doesn't it? Even sadder.

At the beginning of the month I posted a blurb to the political discussion at work. I still hope my predicted scenario is wrong, but with this predictable and terrifying group in charge...
For once I agreed with Bush, in limiting the power of an intel overseer, then this came along. The pre-planned scenario I worry about is the whitehouse currying favor, and showing they actually can alter course when it is merited. The nat'l intelligence director will then be granted all the power Gorton recommends, making the new director the most powerful non-elective official in the country. Lots and lots of files on people within and without the borders, and absolute secrecy will of course be maintained in the interest of national security. Are we ready to set up another J Edgar? I hope I'm overly pessimistic, though I'm sure some will call my caution stereotypical liberal hate speech.


It feels ironic at times. I get too wound up by current events to do anything productive regarding them. Matusow as a character caught my imagination, and understanding his milieu takes me into the dark side of the 1950's, which seemingly parallels today's world.

I have read the book (False Witness) he wrote about being a paid witness for McCarthy and company, how he recanted his testimony. Yesterday, after I began this post, I started reading The Matusow Affair, a book by one of the publishers about the book and the era. It has captured me already, and I am already looking forward to reading a bit more tonight.

I got to thinking along these lines after my E-mail to Kipley on goals as an actor was replied to with a clarification. He was looking for more of a goal or purpose with regards to society. Now that is something that I have been mulling over, and it served as just the kick I needed to get my research rolling again.
Hi Kipley,

A societal goal. That is a different question than what I answered, and one I have thought of a lot.

I'll start with the short version. The societal goal of an actor is to engender dialogues in the audience, enabling people to see an issue from different sides. Once a person can embrace multiple viewpoints you have given them the power to change their mind.

Now for the longer version.

Arts at their best give voice to different viewpoints. Now, I'm not running down entertainment for its own sake as that has an important place of its own. Neither am I encouraging further celebrity endorsements, which seem to trivialize most anything. Rather I'm saying we need to raise concerns through our art in a responsible way. In so doing, we need to do give up our tendency to be strident, or to simply attempt indoctrination. It may be satisfying to be righteous, but it is neither effective nor responsible when you are on stage.

I can think of shows I have watched or participated in where views were simply presented as part of the story. People talked after the show; they were thinking about things. Those which were preachy or strident simply created people anxious to be on their way. Complaints were generated, but not thinking.

Currently I am researching McCarthyism for a scriptwriting project which seems to be getting more and more topical. I find myself getting furious when I see us repeating history nearly verbatim. I know the rage won't serve my project, stridency will simply tune out everyone, even the choir. Hell, I might even be wrong in my assessment. All I should do is present what I have found and seen in a way that won't drive away those I'd like to speak to. The challenge is to maintain the balance between engaging people and boring or pissing them off. If I manage to succeed in engaging people with a good story, I'll also have created something that has more potential for longevity.

It is similar to the obligation I feel as a combat veteran. I spent ten years as an officer in the Navy. I was a navigator, flew numerous missions in Desert Shield/Storm, and am proud to have been part of that effort. That perspective gives me very strong feelings about what we are doing now, as well as a perceived duty to speak out. Literally, I consider support for the war based on mob cowardice and greed of the American populace. Pretty strong words, and to my mind they actually understate our ethical and moral culpability. Yet I must be very careful in using those words, even though I want to shout them to the heavens. For once I utter those words, nothing else will be heard. When I write letters to the editor or to discussion groups, I state my perspective in as gentle a way as I can. People may not agree, but they think about it, if only for a moment.

Whether I am scriptwriting, acting, or expounding as a combat veteran, using stridency or trying to indoctrinate is counterproductive. Recapping, most people tune out vitriol that is counter to their opinion, and resist indoctrination. It doesn't matter if you are well-meaning when you alienate your audience, because you have also widened the gulf. When society is torn apart, the worst thing you can do is contribute to the polarization. In theatre it is our job to present these views through character and story. If you do a good job, people will discuss the ideas, which I believe is the only true way for us to bring about change or awareness. That is my goal as an actor or writer. To do a good job for society.

Thanks,
- Scott

Monday, August 16, 2004

Double header

Last Thursday many of us left work early for a company event at the afternoon baseball game. After the game I went to a coffee shop to write and do some analysis on Rumors. After that off to a show. I decided to get a thesis book for my notes for the show. In the past I have used the laptop. I didn't want to leave it in the back of the bike for that long, so I went with paper. I like the feel better. Here's my journal type entry.

Pen & paper, how quaint. Supercilious language to cover up the fact I still write quite slowly -- something that applies to pretentious characters. Setting at Cafe Vita's with my first 'hard' journal. I like composing with a keyboard, and this is different. By choice, and, I think, necessity.

I watched the Mariner's lose to the Twins earlier today. No matter really, it was simply a pleasure to sit outside, well in the stadium, and see the game unfold. Watching people was fun too. The inevitable catching of my eye by various women was eye opening. Pun intended, of course.

As actors we struggle to learn how to focus totally on another. When a woman catches a man's eye it happens. For a moment only. Whether it is the shape of a breast, the beauty of a face, a sashaying hip, captivation of an eye, a fluid movement grace or something that arrests the attention. During that moment, whether it be half a second, or a minute the entire world is that breast, sparkle of an eye or swish of a skirt. It is accompanied by a myriad of thoughts, conjectures, imaginings, and maybe a few calculations.

Then the moment is passed and you are back to the game, or the gabbing with your friends. You might cover by saying, "Look at that ass!" The truth is more likely you were taken somewhere by her mouth & eyes. Macho bravado is okay with the guys, wistful daydreaming is for yourself. In any case you are released, and have released the blissfully unaware object of your attention. There is only the rapidly fading feeling of a nearly cosmic experience and connection.

It's all overly poetic and the truth of the moment can lie anywhere between the poetic and the crass, cheap, meaningless encounters depicted in pop culture teeny bopper movies.

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Now, I'm sitting outside the Jewel Box Theatre, in a little lobby between the Rendezvous Bar and the theatre. A casual friend, Patrick Taylor stops to chat with me every so often -- I came to see the show because I know him, and he filmed, DV'd, The Nazi nearest You scenes for us. I know him originally from Corbis.

I just finished my second read of the script. I ordered a drink, and it was a little stronger than I wanted. I maybe should not have chatted up the bartender. I am here by myself, and I do like to chat up people with those kind of jobs. Sort of a "Been there, Done that" feeling. I got a bargain on the drink, and will need to get some food. It is live music, with art videos. Starting an hour later than advertised, hence the writing and reading.

Briefly I chatted up Patrick. I would be fun to film The Thai Getaway, and I said I'd send him the script. Now, I f***ing got to do it.

The music I heard was pretty trying. Very techno, lots of reverberating boxes, and a woman strumming a few notes or chords, singing a short line, or using a noisemaker toy for sound affects. Then echo, echo, echo. If I hadn't been waiting for the drink to wear off a bit I would have left earlier. It ended up being a painful drone, with no change in energy or noise levels. Funny how the same precepts cross disciplines. Her last song used the echoing to enhance her voice and playing both of which were very nice. Luckily, the second set of videos made the wait worthwhile.

Patrick is a very good with a camera, and I didn't really think he was interested in doing a project, but now I have committed myself -- assuming I follow up with him. It's only a twenty to twenty-five minute piece. I have had a number of actors read it and they really liked it, though it is still too monologuish for my taste.

The whole bit about when a woman catches a man's eye was twofold. First is the point that total focus is commonplace, and remembering that circumstance is something that may help in future scene work. Second is to watch out for those things that invoke the audience's total focus. The "stop moment" Steven Dietz discussed. Keeping an eye out for those sort of things, so they may be used later on in writing or producing a show. Of course in this case it would be likely to grab only about half the audience. : )


Friday, August 13, 2004

My Goal?

Rachel suggested I answer a blog site where the question was posed, "What is your goal as an actor?" A strange thing happened. Numerous other people in the last week have asked me the same thing including one who asked, "Where are you going with the acting?" For me, the question was identical.

The longer I put it off the more I felt stalled with this blog, which I still treat as a simple journal. I know I am overly verbose, and I kept veering into prose or erudition instead of the actual issue as I wrestled with the question. I finally deleted it all and tried again. Here is what I E-mailed him.

I started writing something much too long. It was logical, well-constructed, etc. Very philosophical, poetical, maybe insightful, maybe beautiful, and long. All it really did was explain why acting is deep and profound for me, which would be indulgent and missing the point of your question. It turns out I have been asked the same thing by you and several people in person the last week. What is my goal? Where do I want to take it?

Bottom line, my goal as an actor is to live. I don't know where I am going with my acting, just where it has taken me. There is one thing that I want never to change, whether I continue to wear myself ragged balancing a day job and theatre, or make acting my day job. To be alive. Without acting my life is a flat line at the nadir of all my moods and a monochromatic existence of the dullest hue imaginable. This may sound philosophical or flowery, though it is something I feel at a very guttural level.
I need to have peaks and color to survive. My primary goal as an actor is to maintain that diversity in my life which makes me fully human.

I really don't know where acting will take me. I can't say my goal is to make a living as an Equity and/or SAG actor. No more than I could say that is something I don't want.
I no longer have long term goals thanks to acting. Maybe just being open to different opportunities is enough of a secondary goal for me right now.

Really, I've not nailed down a goal except to be open to one. In a related goal I'm reducing my footprint, slowly shedding possessions so I don't feel physically tied down. Continuing the process of improving my craft I suppose is another related goal. The goal of maintaining diversity through acting is true, but I'm thinking it may not be sufficient in and of itself.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Encounters

I saw an older woman get out of a car next to me at the Red Apple Market near my house. Sourness emanated from her face, making her seem a decade or two older. About 25 years ago I noticed how people's faces grow to fit them. I saw sour looking people like this woman, and people that I instantly liked. I was a frowner. Started out as a way to be cool in school. I decided to change. Wanted laugh lines rather than scowl lines etched into my face.

(I think) I have an easy smile, and people do seem to like being with me. It has a down side. In Meisner Robin told me I couldn't use my smile while I was working on our last scene. It is one of the ways I have of dealing with the world, and like other defenses it insulates me. It can be hard to drop. Still, I like dealing with a smile that is too ready than the opposite.

I didn't take time to exhaustively study the sour woman. Just enough that I saw the shade of what she may have looked like long ago, and what she could look like. The question I couldn't answer was whether she mistreated life or life mistreated her. It appeared to be the former, often the bigger tragedy. It's something I'd like to explore more in some scripts. The difference between putting a frown on the world, and having the world put a frown on you.

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I did my shopping, and now I'm sitting on the ground at Lincoln Park. Working on a script, writing through a block and coming back to this as a periodic escape. Also waiting for All's Well That Ends Well which starts in a little over an hour. I watched Coriolanus earlier. Four years ago I watched Greenstage do Troilus and Cressida and MacBeth. It was a birthday gift to myself then as well, though on my actual birthday. I'm noticing a number of things in this repeated excursion.

Four years ago I experienced more discomfort sitting on the ground, so the physical work with the acting has paid off. Also, I had never read or seen Coriolanus before, and I followed it. The more you see and read Shakespeare the more you are able to follow along.

I knew nobody at all four years ago. The only show I'd ever seen with people I knew were the community theatre shows my father was in. This will be the fourth show I have seen this week. As I mentioned earlier, on Sunday at the Intiman I was acquainted with Bart the director, and Craig the writer. On Thursday I saw a musical improv, which had two of my best friends, Paula and Steve in it. The earlier show today had one person in the cast I'd worked on a show with, Alyssa Tomoff. I know the production manager/stage manager, Steve Cooper from a number of other shows I've worked on or bee associated with.

The training and participation in theatre has given me a more discriminating eye, which some find dilutes their enjoyment when in the audience. I'm generally able partition the critique and not let it diminish my enjoyment, and having some connection to the shows makes a big difference for me. Regardless of the quality of the show, that connection makes it more enjoyable. Well time to do a little to the script, then watch the show.

Just got home and getting ready to paste and post. The King of France and the Duke in All's Well That Ends Well were played by Ray Irvin who had the male lead in Marlboro Man. That was a fringe show I worked on for Paula who directed (Steve did sound), and the first time I'd done the stage manager/tech director/set design and fabrication/etc role. I feel so privileged to be a part of this world.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Life in Tension

What to do? I don't know. The last couple years I've gone through short lived purging projects, getting rid of several large garbage cans of stuff each round, which at best is a meager start. It is something I now look forward to doing and completing which is a profound change.

I am continuing my tech career as a software developer. It was during down time between contracts, and before the time commitment of the Meisner Progression that I was getting some real cleaning and unloading done. Now I am a full time employee at Expedia. Before there was a little urgency because I was unemployed and thinking I should sell the house at a nice profit before I put myself in a hole. I wasn't actively looking for work, so getting called for interviews was a surprise, albeit a nice one. There's lots of tech people around and available in this economy, but a limited number that play well with others.

I have a steady job which I enjoy for the now. It is a good balance. I love theatre in all the capacities in which I have participated. I still marvel at what a shocking thing it was for me to discover I am an artist. Charge me up. I have contemplated someday giving up my high-tech daytime career, and finding a tech job with a theatre or other arts organization. That drives the urge to unload most of the possessions I hold on to. Without all the stuff I can move more quickly and select digs that are much smaller and cheaper. That would allow me to seek lower paying jobs in the artistic realm.

The down side is I worry I might lose some balance in my life. Right now I have my feet in both worlds, the 9 to 5 and the artistic. Would giving up the day job life, take something away from the joy I find in art? I lived for a long time without allowing art in my soul. It works for some, but I'm neither rightbrain nor leftbrain predominate, and I did not honor the rightbrain aspect of my psyche. Would giving up the day job leave me unbalanced again?

Could I find work in the theatre that would slake the leftbrain's thirst? Right now I write database (SQL) code, and it is both mundane and arcane. There is the additional joy of creating something, be it a simple report or a very complex bit of programming. That was not enough to satisfy the creative side of my being, would I be able to satisfy the analytical, technical side with a tech type job in the theatre?

I'll be damned if I can answer that question. Perhaps I am enjoying the current dichotomy in my life too much. I love dichotomy, in writing, acting, and life. That tension and conflict that keeps me flexing and growing. For now it is enough to keep asking the questions. I have totally changed career paths a number of times. Keeps my retirement funds a little modest, though I expect it makes the eventual retirement richer. Frankly, I can't imagine retiring in the next 30 years. Like my Grandfather I'll likely be working until I'm 76. Like him I can't imagine giving it up, probably different in that I'll be doing so for me and have no idea what I'll be doing for a day job.

Putting down my thoughts for this journal helps them sink in. I've had deep thoughts before, and in five years I'll likely look back on these thoughts with some humor too. Not dishonor, you should not dishonor where you used to be because it may be the only tangible reason for where you are and what gives you passion. The big difference, and it may be a function of maturity as much as embracing the artistic, is I act on my musings in ways I never did or even thought of before. Acting, writing, and day to day living. I was not happy where I was, and where I came from. There was a moment I knowingly altered direction. It was a small change and felt extremely daring. I suppose there was an awareness of where I'd been and where I could go. Using two meanings of the word, I was fully present to the power of the present.

I have to live in the present, and it seems I am constantly making those little alterations in direction. I must always have been making those incremental changes, totally unawares. I still don't know where the Hell I am going, and I don't give a damn. The beauty of the path is what matters at the moment. The lesser traveled path seems harder when you contemplate the first stride, and you maybe watch your feet a little too closely at first. Then you look around and say, "What in the name of all that is sacred was I thinking about?" That is something that drives me now. If I don't have those moments of wonder I get to feeling blue. Without that feeling of stepping off I get to feeling down.

I despise the D word, it is so over used, mostly as a cop out. Too many of us let feeling dead inside drive us towards conformity. It is a symptom of the least savory aspect of our culture. My typical macho male attitude of refusing to admit to a difficulty saved me. I learned to live instead of medicate. There was a risk involved, and I was aware of it. I also allowed myself to be made miserable by an over-medicated mother who has been one of the living dead for nearly 35 years. I didn't want to be like that or do that to anyone, not ever, no how, no way. I certainly wasn't pleased with where I was either. When your soul is bleak and dying it starts to take the body with it and I was becoming aware of it. I'd like to say I made a deeply informed spiritual decision to change all that. Rather, I figured, "F*** it, what have I got to lose?" I am now slowly gaining strength and health in soul and body though it seems I am proceeding at a headlong pace, because of the 180 degree change in direction. Four years have made a big positive difference for me.

Tying all these thoughts together (finally, you say), I am back to where I started. I'm not real sure of where I am going, don't know what to do. I just know I have to do something. Embrace the leftbrain/rightbrain tension, be open to change, and see where it takes me. It is a type of uncertainty that I love.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Dear Diary

Birthdays aren't so bad. It seems I was running a little late all day. Got into the office and my officemate wished me Happy Birthday as I was picking up my voice mail. Beth had called to sing, well kazoo, me Happy Birthday. A little later Kate instant messaged me a Happy Birthday. Then I got a little work done. Amidst the work I invited my Meisner classmates to the park for a couple Shakespeare plays and a picnic to celebrate my 47th. Still waiting to see if anyone can make it.

Around 3 PM Suvendu dropped by to get me. I suspected a birthday cake or a request to help with some code. As soon as he turned towards the kitchen I knew. Sindhura, my officemate had gotten me a cake and there was a nice crowd to sing me Happy Birthday. The sparking candles were suspicious, and sure enough they relit themselves. I went along and continued blowing them out, saying I couldn't blow any harder without getting ickies on the cake. Very good cake too. A little before or after that Dad called to wish me Happy Birthday.

Then it was off to the chiropractor, and luckily they forgot it was my birthday. I was feeling a little birthday'd out, though loving it. Usually I don't get so much attention without being on stage. I got my second wind on the entrainment table.

From there it was off to Beth's to have dinner with her and her mother, Peg. Wonderful pot roast and the best lemon bars ever. I got a dish of my very own lemon bars to take home. To gorge or not to gorge... Instant gratification or extended enjoyment? We'll see. A great visit and a lovely way to wind down the day.

I arrived home replete. Opened a gift from my folks, a Bugle Boy Hardball T-shirt with "MAD DOG" on it. One of my most used nicknames over the years, and I love it. Like Beth and Peg, they also wrote very nice cards. All in all a terrific birthday. Glad I didn't forget about it.

Writing

I finished up Sunday meeting Rachel in Bellevue for some writing. We started off at the Border's coffee shop around 7:30. They closed at 9 PM, so we adjourned to Starbuck's which was open until 11 PM.

This time we wrote three or four short scenes, and a short essay. We were in different places, with my scenes tending to be totally made up and Rachel's much more directly personal -- some really powerful images and thoughts.

It was very good for me. My writing efforts have been focused on a piece that is in work, and the one I am researching. Writing short bits which were totally unrelated got the creative juices flowing again and with any luck that will carry over to my projects.

Rachel commented on all my starts. How they started strong and caught the attention. Very, very good to hear, as that has been a weakness in the past. Steven Dietz spoke to the playwriting class I took, and talked of what he called a "stop moment." His point was your script should start with one. His explanation of a "stop moment" was the sort of thing or occurrence that causes you to stop when you are walking down the sidewalk to see what is going on. There are thousands of things which could be stop moments, and billions that would not be.

I think about stop moments a lot, though rarely when I am writing. Rewrites are another story. Maybe all that pondering, actor training over the last year with good scripts, and having worked on The Nazi Nearest You which was a work in progress all worked on my below the surface awareness. Next time I have a few spare moments at home, I am going to look over the exercises we did Sunday, and the exercises I did over a year ago when I took the writing workshop at Driftwood.

Monday, August 02, 2004

My favorite big theatre

I saw The Singing Forest at the Intiman yesterday. I have had the incredible opportunity to meet both Craig Lucas and Bartlett Sher. Craig through a writing workshop class he spoke to, and Bart through a director's/actor's lab he taught. I believe they are both wildly talented, as well as being warm human beings. Celebrity status doesn't do much for me. When I meet someone who has achieved notoriety and remains personable and professional my respect for them is increased. It is a pleasure for me to see a piece Craig has written, or one Bart has directed. This had the best of both worlds.

It was long, three and a half hours. I would do very little to tighten it, the different subplots and twists it kept moving. I do think the very end of the first and third acts need some cleaning up. I felt like this wonderful energy was dissipated in the last five or ten seconds before the first intermission and the conclusion of the play. I also thought there was some redundant exposition, and in a workshop situation I'd suggest cutting them. I don't think they detracted, so it is really academic.

My niece Anna, my friend Beth, and my Dad and his good friend Bob were there too. Dad and Bob had trouble following the story. A lot of the scene changes were fuzzy, especially when the actors were changing from 2000 to 1930 roles. The scene changes themselves were nice, but there wasn't really anything the audience could really latch on to readily to tell them if it was 2000 or the 1930's. A few props were cues, but not enough as props moved when the location shifted too. Some more distinct props or lighting might have helped. I followed without much problem, so I suspect it took an educated audience to track the changes. Someone with some training or a lot of time watching fringe productions. Is that a constant, or is theatre changing? I suspect the latter, though theatre is constantly evolving. For what it is worth, my Dad has been attending theatre regularly for most of his life.

Anna is only twenty, but she has seen some theatre. I gave her a gift certificate for the Intiman, and I was very gratified at her excitement. She and her family are very, very conservative christians. I was concerned she would feel very put off by the show. Of the several hundred shows I have seen, there have only been three I recall with nudity. Equus at the Seattle Rep in 1976, The Master and Margerita by Theater Simple at the Sand Point Brig, and this show. I apologize to any other actors I've seen au natural and didn't have the grace to remember. She liked the show, though "could have done without all the sex." It was good for me she liked the show, as it reigns in my bias regarding fundamentalists.

Laurence Ballard who is very active, getting lots and lots of major roles in the region's equity houses, generally playing rather pompous characters did some really nice work. It seems he always plays the same character. Rarely is he changed by another character. In this show he played Freud and a throat cancer victim named Bill. Freud was just a little different from his typical persona, and Bill was quite different. To be fair I've seen many actors play multiple characters with more distinct lives. In this case I was gratified on a couple levels. On the surface I was happy to see him play something a bit different, I didn't feel like it was the same character plucked from the last twenty shows he worked. On a deeper level it was good to see him break out of an apparent, deeply dug rut. I get to feeling I am in a rut quite often. Part of the "I'm okay, no I suck" cycle most artists ride. A healthy ride if you use it to spur yourself rather than wallow in despair. He could have allowed himself to be changed or affected a bit more; I found myself really caring for his character when he was malleable. It makes me wonder what happened. Did the director push him, or did he like the script so much he rediscovered his enthusiasm and love of acting?

Last year Bart and Craig collaborated on The Light In The Piazza, one of my favorite shows of the year. I would love to see it again since it was further developed at the Goodman in Chicago. The Singing Forest will be one of my favorite shows this year. Thus far my favorite was the work the other students did in our Meisner class performance, followed by The Singing Forest. I must be biased, as they happen to be two of the shows to which I had the closest connection.

Who Do You Laugh? (homage to zep)

Saturday, bright and early, about 5 minutes after high Noon I was in my driveway starting up my motorcycle. A neighborhood kid about fourteen years old was riding by on his gas powered scooter. Now, my motorcycle is a Moto Guzzi, a big two cylinder bike. It doesn't have the syncopated sound of a Harley, but it does have loud performance pipes, which make it sound like an old muscle car. Satisfies my "lookie here" urge and makes me more visible to drivers. Starting it up with a slight throttle twist to make it start more quickly often produces what sounds like a two or three resounding blasts.

When I started it up on Saturday the young fellow on his scooter looked around a bit, and didn't even look my way. I was a little surprised because I thought he spotted me rolling it out of the garage wearing my bright nearly fluorescent piss yellow suit, which also makes me more visible to drivers. He was checking out his micro engine and tires. Another good chuckle. I think it would have been humorous to most anyone, and I wondered about it. Many little things like that are funny in a light hearted way. I think it is because we can see ourselves in the same situation, confused or concerned in the same way. I can picture myself looking around on that scooter puzzled at how it might have made those tremendous bangs. Even if I can't picture myself riding around on a motorized scooter.

I like to laugh. If I can't find a way to laugh at a situation in my life, no matter how dire, dark, or depressing I can't fully deal with it. Facing a problem enough to find humor in it is enough for me to start dealing with it effectively too. I enjoy laughing at/with myself, and I saw watching the kid on the scooter ended up with that feeling of enjoyment at ones own foibles. I wonder if the concept of relating to oneself to experience humor is specific to me. It seems to provide me an awareness or an insight of what may be funny to others when I write. I used to make people laugh as a kid, not a class clown type, but a mixture of very risqué double entendres and dry witticisms. I still like making people smile or laugh, but it is more personal, which for me makes it easier to put on paper.

Writing is always a surprise. Sometimes the snippets you find funniest as you write fall dead, and others unexpectedly throw people into hysterics. However it happens, I am usually happy to find some humor in any piece. Especially in something dramatic, where you must give the audience some respite or you'll glaze them over. You can't blame the audience if you burn them out before they hear what you have to say.