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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Fall Treats

About time to head home for the Trick or Treaters. I usually get a handful. Of course I'd better stop at the store for some candy on the way home.

I'm working with the schedule for ETI. It is still leaving me totally committed all day long. Even these posts are less meandering in my writing process. Write it, proof it, post it. Not a lot of time for rewrites, and tightening. Then again I don't have the time to ramble, so maybe I don't need to condense my thoughts as much?

I'm feeling like an actor. I'm finding joy in the process in ETI. I look forward to classes, not like Meisner two years ago, where I often wanted to make and excuse stay home, but went anyway knowing I would end up appreciating the class, and almost always enjoying it.

This is totally different training, yet the same. We're starting to get more and more into the classical training, but the deep inside-out (method) training is always there and informs much of what we do. When I think about it I've had more luck with outside-in work than I would have expected over the years. Accents make a big difference for me. Once I have an accent down a bit, I find it to be one of the biggest releases for letting the character speak and act. Movement often has the same effect. Costume not so much. So many people find costume to be a huge thing, and for me it is an aide, but not profound. Generally it is subtle, and limited. Suspenders, shoes, or a badge or pin on a uniform. Not the whole costume, just a particular part that makes me feel a little more like the character.

The method and classical approaches seem to work synergistically for me.

What brought me here? I recently got together with one of my beginning acting instructors, Rachel. I thought about it later and of the new vocabulary and world I didn't have when I signed up for my first classes. Larger, richer, more meaningful, and more personal than in all my previous pursuits. Concepts I don't have to think about to express, the vocabulary flows. The world of art, theatre in particular, keeps me alive and more cognizant of and connected to the worlds outside.

I have a level of confidence and comfort I did not expect. Throughout all my training, I have felt I needed so much more training and experience to be acceptable in my eyes. The amount I want to learn becomes larger with every step and world of things I don't know yet keeps getting bigger and bigger. Yet I feel more ready to be on the boards. Some of it is accepting I will never stop learning, and being excited by the prospect. More of it is finally believing I have something worthwhile to offer an audience. I crave more of the training we've started, and I'm already looking forward to finishing ETI and getting back on the boards. I feel like we are forging tools which will serve us in real productions.

I remember the first show I did after Meisner, Rumors, and struggling to bring what I'd studied and experienced in Meisner to that show. I was not satisfied. I was quite frustrated, feeling I had botched up even my previous tools. I wasn't really all that sucky, but against my internal yardstick I certainly was. I believe it will take me a year or years to fully assimilate the ETI work. Yet I already feel I've assimilated enough to start to be the kind of actor I want to be.

I suspect a lot of the previous training enabled me to be the kind of person I want to be, a benefit which was more profound than my growth as an artist. That's not quite accurate, it was growing into an artist which made me this new person. Acting was my entry into this world, and it is the specific craft in which I want to grow and nurture myself. I feel it starting to happen, as my rate of growth in acting seems to be greater than my rate of growth as a human being. I have trouble separating the two, so what I mean is that the growth I'm experiencing as an actor is the biggest factor in my journey now. I was on the same path, but I wasn't in shape yet. I think I hit a plateau at the end of the second quarter of Meisner, that I have been stuck at for a year and a half. To be honest with myself it was an altitude I'd never experienced in my life.

Suddenly I'm feeling myself move beyond the old plateau. I started feeling it several weeks ago when I first spoke of plateaus. I've felt these little jumps. It is signaling I'm getting beyond that old level. I hope it is also signaling I've learned to attain smaller distances between plateaus. That in itself would signal a letting go of restraints I put on myself, the ones we all are taught to wear so tightly, which was inconceivable to me several years ago. I feel like those old restraints are foreign relics of a bygone age. Am I being truthful to myself, or is it a bit of self delusion to help me shed the restraints easier? I don't feel it matters, as long as I continue discovering habits and mannerisms I built while restrained. I find it pretty hard to shed them, unless I start with recognition.

I feel like this artistic growth in theatre is a bit like backpacking, at first the most significant growth consists of being able to do the tasks which keep you on the trail and moving. Like building up your wind, legs, back, and balance to so you can carry the backpack. Then you get to a point where your legs and back are in shape, and the growth is in the variety of experiences and places you go.

The basic tools continue to strengthen and diversify, but they are at a point where you are pursuing the goals you wanted to achieve when you first put on the backpack. I think I'm finally trail-broken, where I can focus on where the journey is taking me instead of how I am making the journey. I didn't think I'd ever get past struggling with the goddamn backpack. It still requires effort and conditioning, but it is not the focus.

Like the second time I hiked to Upper Lena Lake. The first time it was all effort, strain and focus on the path so I wouldn't misstep or hurt myself. The second time a year or two later it was still strenuous -- I carried a heavier pack, maintained a faster pace -- but it felt good and the lake was more beautiful, strange and familiar than I'd pictured in my mind's eye. Maybe I'm on that path again.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Good Old Days

Grapes Of Wrath is an amazing show. Mostly I think because of our headlong rush back to those good old days when the corporations and unethical businesses crushed actual human beings without restraint. The whole culture of offering jobs to many more people than you needed, and kept them so desperate that those willing to work for pennies were the only ones given work, and law enforcement officials used deadly force to quell dissent, or simply turned their backs on those who attacked dissenters with deadly force. If you don't think that is where big corporations would like to take us again, you should return all the oxygen you've wasted since birth. Failing that, stop using oxygen.

Interesting ending to the show. It was abrupt and surprising. The family is mostly dispersed, the daughter whose husband left has just had a miscarriage while their shelter is being inundated, and fled the flood with her father having to carry her. Up to that point she was the weakest character in the play. Not with regards to acting which was great, but the actual character. The whiney one you expected would die ignobly, probably taking others with her. They found an barn on higher ground, already occupied by a gravely ill man and his son. There is nothing they can do for the man, who is dying. They have no food to keep him alive. The daughter who just lost her baby, asks everyone to leave, and proceeds to nurse the dying man. Curtain.
Startling, and in thinking about that I saw the weakest character at the very nadir of her existence step beyond the bounds of propriety to save a strangers life.

For me the message was courage. Something our society has lost, or more likely put into cold storage. Are we so callow it will require that kind of misery to reintroduce courage to our national soul? To move beyond the avaricious cowardice which defines corporate entities, and in the long run seems to be the only value with any staying power they bring to our society of consumption. When did the balance change? When did our society become the servant of corporations, rather than being served by them?

I like to think Steinbeck really saw the courage he portrayed in his writing. It was a vile and abusive power structure these people faced, are facing again, and to think they'd lose even their courage is not something I'd like to believe. Too hopeless. It could be that bleak. It is my hope the human spirit is stronger than the WalMart's and Halliburton's of the world. If not, with the next fall of civilization they will be erased, and viewed in the distant future as a very sick aberration, even if they aren't remembered by the names they work so hard to brand. Won't do us living now a flipping bit of good.

When it comes down to it, today's corporations are nothing more than a privatized bureaucracy. The conceit of the western world is certainly not unique, but how many really acknowledge we are governed at the whims of these privatized bureaucracies? "Oh no, we're free, more free than humans have ever been in the history of the world." say the ignorant. Bull-fucking-shit. Maybe a bit over 100 years ago we were a model of freedom, but certainly not now. We are much too timid to embrace actual freedom. We've freely chosen temporary safety, persecution of the other or weaker, and valued fat-ass comforts over freedom for much too long. It is so much easier to dismiss these thoughts as the ravings of a lunatic. If you are honest with yourself, maybe you'd find being a real lunatic would be more comfortable.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Want A Ride?

Don, my classmate from several classes and Meisner, and now ETI just picked up my old motorcycle. He was talking about wanting a motorcycle for class, and I offered my Suzuki on an extended loan. Kind of a surprise for Don. Two things played into my offer. The surface and initial thought was because I had the bike, and he could use it. Not a sacrifice for me, and a help for a friend. Secondly, I really like that old bike, but not as forgotten garage sculpture. It is meant to be ridden, and is a sound bike, especially considering it is twenty-seven years old. I recently had the brakes and engine rebuilt on a trade with a friend from my motorcycle shop.

I really am happy to see it out and getting used again. I've not ridden it regularly for six months, and it misses the attention and use. The bike I learned to ride on was the same year, make, and model, the next size down. I weigh more now, and training in military jets acclimatized me to acceleration. The result is this 750cc motorcycle rides just the way I remember that old 550cc machine which I learned on, so I really like that old bike.

One of those nice win-win situations, which leaves both parties feeling they gained something valuable.

Going to the Intiman tonight. I think the last show I saw was Frozen, so it will be a treat. Before ETI, I'd been seeing fifty or more shows a year for at least five years. Going from once a week to once a month has been a bit of an adjustment. Well twice, as I'll see the opera on Friday.

All in all it has been a great day and I'm looking forward to dinner and a show with Beth and my folks this evening. Wonderful, though I'll be pretty sleepy by the time I get home. That's okay, it is simply a precedent, as I have to get up early for a 7:30 AM drill followed by two hours of rehearsal. I think just maybe I'll go to bed early tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Balance

On Wednesday I was planning to go the Seattle Opera, but Beth was in the Emergency Room. I'm not supposed to tell anyone, but they made a very nice exception and allowed me to swap my ticket for this Friday. Last Friday I was hoping to see a show, probably Frozen. I was just too tired, and went home and got a good night's sleep so I'd enjoy myself more with the Lavy's, for dinner on Saturday. It turned out Jennifer was under the weather on Saturday, so we had to postpone that too. (I'm starting to feel like a leper.)

I went from having a week with two out of ETI and day job experiences, which I craved, to zero. So, I thought about who I most wanted to see on Saturday, and called. So, [the person not to be named without permission] and I met for dinner at Sahib, in the Redmond Town Center. A good friend in ETI had eaten there recently and had recommended it, and good advice it was!

We caught up with each other a bit. Both of us are so busy and going in so many directions right now we didn't cover all the ground which was available. I feel like there was much more I want to hear about, and much more I could say. That's good. Like my visiting policy of leaving while you still want to stay, and your hosts want to keep you around. It makes you look forward to the next encounter, and leaves you with a better memory. Ever stayed on a vacation with family or old friends for too long? You don't remember it as happily, and may even dread going back. I don't really think you can do that unless you really try to during an evening of dinner and talking. When you share dinner and conversation it leaves you wanting more if you feel like the journey had lots further to go.

After dinner we did some structured exploration of thoughts and perceptions. Someone who shares strengths and weaknesses with you, both yours and theirs, is a gift. I did not really have any friends like that until I got into the arts. I have a handful now, and I am gifted by them.

I'm finding time is at once compressed and expanded. I can't believe we're already nearly half done with the first term of ETI. On the slower side, when I think back on September 6th when it all started, it seems years ago. I've only been able to get together with those friends a couple times, and it had been a month since the last such get together. Family and friends are great to see, and feed the soul, but in different way.

I feel more on an even keel now. My schedule, which I chose, with the information and experience which goes with it, leaves me reeling. Feeling bruised, as if I were careening my way through the days. Constantly askew. Those friends who gift you right your course just when it is needed most.

It's a funny thing to really dig into you're strengths, weaknesses, fears, and joys and come away feeling energized. Not long ago it would have left me feeling drained and exhausted for quite a while. Getting energized seems to be my mode now, and it is symptomatic of changes I've experienced the last several years. So long I tried to change myself, and when I stopped trying to change myself and simply 'did' I ended up with many of the changes I was chasing. The contrary nature of humans, or at least this one. Maybe that is why theatre resonates so much with me, because that is very much the approach for finding change in characters.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

What Were We Thinking?

I saw an ad which sent the absolute wrong message, I think. Imagine a little flash panel, an ad on a newspaper web site. It is an inoffensive yellow colored box with three super-imposed pictures in a line fading in, the following order:
     Firecrackers, super-glue, bunny-rabbit

Once the pictures fully fade in, the following line of text fades in below:
     Whatever you can imagine, we've seen worse.

Then the pictures fade out, and the next two sets fade in:
     Burlap bag, brick, puppy
     Duct tape, gas can, cat

I was just thinking this was an ad for a dark humor movie with someone like Billy Bob Thornton, then the second line of text fades in.
     Click here to learn how you can help prevent cases like this.

Am I a sick individual, liking dark humor which typically mocks much of the society in which I live and participate? I honestly thought of things like Pulp Fiction which ultimately mocks violence and those who thrive on enjoying vicariously, and Drowning Mona another bit of dark humor portraying senseless violence in an enjoyable inappropriate light manner which gets you indirectly thinking about things, and subtly alters attitudes through gentle mockery.

Or are the folks at the ASPCA clueless? The larger version on their site doesn't seem anywhere near as funny as I remember, but maybe it is because of the layout or because I've thought about it a bit. Still, if I wanted to promote theatre to a demographic not generally cognizant or jazzed by theatre, I wouldn't want to create ads which speak to avid theatre fans. Preaching to the choir doesn't net you many converts. It's a hard line to walk. I suspect they've found the pictures of brutalized or emaciated pets drives away potential supporters. Could it be this ad which seems darkly humorous to start is a brilliant approach to hook people? I'm thinking about the ASPCA a lot more than I would have. Could it be a good campaign they hit upon for reasons they'd consider repugnant. If not, they may have found a great new approach which will overcome the alienation they have suffered lately. I'm curious to see if it works. If so, when it comes time to promote a theatre of my own...

I was to have dinner with some friends tonight, but they have a bad cold in the household. I'm already getting over a couple colds, so I'm probably immune, but the the need to rest from a cold is pretty fresh. I opted to not see a show last night, because I was so tired. Went home, did some work, some homework, and got ten hours of sleep. I actually slept through the whole night, a first for quite a long time.

I still want to get some extra sleep tonight, but I need something social outside of class and work. The first friend I called was interested in dinner. I hope it works out. Now it's time for a break from work, for some rehearsal for homework.

Monday, October 17, 2005

On And On, Going

I'd like to see Frozen again, but likely won't. I understand it's changed quite a bit since I saw the third preview, and that performance left me floored. I haven't found anyone who would like to go (hint, hint for you local readers). I have gone to lots of shows by myself, but with my schedule I'm much more likely to look at the time on Friday after class, yawn, and go home early hoping to get to sleep early. Geesh, I'd really like to see Wit too. Judging by previous productions at Seattle Public Theatre this is very likely to be an outstanding show. Two of the best three shows I saw last year were there, so it would be a hard choice. I think I'd go for Frozen, as I really want to see how it has developed.

Sometimes I've not a clue with regards to this blog. (And why is the word 'blog' not in the blog spellchecker? or spellchecker?) Saturday on the way home I was thinking I should stop writing so many of these internal thought chasing and development posts. You know, give people a break. In hindsight it feels indulgent, and while I write this for myself, there is a public filter of sorts in my head. So, I got some nice feedback. Go figure.

The essay I mentioned which I liked so much was "Learning To Love The Plateau", by George Leonard. It was from his book "Mastery", and it was about aikido, not tai chi.

My friend BD posted disturbing toy. Next will be the national id card game, a resurrection of the same game from the apartheid days of South Africa. On the lighter side, follow his link "train". Now I want to order the sicko toy just to make some more iconoclastic pictures.

We have already finished six weeks of ETI. Nine more weeks this quarter. I can't believe how fast the time has gone by. Then, why does it seem like forever? I'm loving it, and can't imagine finishing. We are learning and growing, and the direction has to change. Life moves on. I can't yet comprehend what that will be or feel like.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

(In)coherence?

I am not the person who a month and a half ago was preparing for ETI. Of course I am, but not really. It started with the realization I am not the same actor I was.

I feel the desire to have and to joyfully employ a solid and enhanced process. 'Joyfully' is the key word. I have pursued many interests and careers over the years, and the advanced process step is where I typically lose interest, see the spark burn out. I've begrudgingly used just enough process to stay above average, generally fairly far on the happy side of the bell curve. I had just gotten to the point where further discovery lost it's lustre. Where the old passion seemed naive.

I was starting to feel that loss of passion in acting, and didn't understand it. I think there were two aspects. The lesser was the concept I've gone on about a lot lately. Habit. That I could deal with. I knew in my heart I had a deep hunger for more, and struggled with the stagnancy I was feeling. I wasn't bored of theatre, I hadn't lost interest, yet something was gone. I think it was malnourishment of the soul. Oooo, deep obscure thought warning! Be patient, it's not all that obtuse. Were you ever bored in grade school, totally disinterested because there was nothing new in a class? Ever blank out on the freeway, forgetting the last fifty miles, or driving well beyond your exit? That's where I was.

I'm not in any way mature in my training. I was hungering for more, and feeling stifled knowing there was so much more I could or should do. Like a child needing education to feel interested in school. I followed my desire to ETI, after watching the second term recital and then final performance for the previous class which started three years ago. My heart had the answer this time. I feel recharged in my acting, and I'm certainly not blowing away my classmates. I'm building the very skills I've felt I lacked in, and slowly filling the void which was sucking away at my passion.

How about that. Diving in deeper quickly restored passion. I knew it wouldn't have when I decided to not attend medical school. I knew it wouldn't when I decided I wouldn't make a career of Naval Aviation. I knew it wouldn't when computer science lost it's lustre. Those are just the biggies, and doesn't include the non-work interests over the years. Theatre improved all aspects of my life. There's the logical, but there is another awareness deep inside somewhere, my heart I suppose. I know this is what I was meant for. It doesn't matter if I'm thought a mediocre talent or considered brilliant in the eyes of the world. It is where I belong in so many ways, and seem to more and more. What a bizarre dichotomy. To find the eyes of the world meaningless in a pursuit where you are utterly focused on serving the audience. I don't know what it means at the moment, but it intrigues me warmly.

I would not approach any character as I have in the past. Those tools are still there. Some enhanced and built upon, some new tools, and a better integration of the varied steps and approaches. I don't know if I'd appear different on stage tomorrow, and that doesn't matter. I do believe I can already be more consistent, and much more truthful. I feel like my eyes are just opening, and I wonder who I will be next July when I've finished ETI.

In the same way I feel I've changed as a person. It's another internal change, which may or may not be perceivable, and feels profound as well. There is a heightened awareness of what I am doing from moment to moment. When I'm at work, I'm more aware of when I am not working and why. (On the up side for my employers I deduct that time.) When I'm on the motorcycle I notice the close connection to the outdoors. I'm more aware of people's subtext and body language. I still see the evil in the world, in my country, locale. Still, the world around me is more colorful and rich and wonderful than I have perceived in ages.

I'm scared. Don't know where I'm going and it is exciting, and scary. I'm not longer clear on where I've been, and it is scary. My values are evolving and becoming more rigid and loving, both of which are wildly different than the typical 'christian' mentality. Finally, one that doesn't scare me. I'm fulfilled and lonely, and it is scary.

On rereading this something rang my bell. Discovery. In the past when a life pursuit lost it's passion for me, the discoveries were dull, repetitive, and lacking the life of earlier discovery. Computer science the discoveries were mostly that coding was intuitive and simple to my thought processes. Very much the same for other pursuits. I haven't found that in acting, or art in general. New discoveries remain fresh and ever more exciting and entrancing. I can see the beauty in a complex algorithm, I can feel the beauty in a complex character. Is that the difference, or simply the logical side getting in my way?

Discovery is scary. The very word implies an unknown. I changed from medical science, to military applied science, to computer science. Those were major changes, but nothing like the magnitude or changing direction to pursue art. Growing up timid in my life, dismissing anything of beauty of interest in my life if I could think of any possible reason it would upset those I was groomed and manipulated to serve. Learning it wasn't my job to be the peacemaker, that I actually had value all by myself was a huge step, then learning to embrace real change was in large part a huge bit of luck. Who do I thank? Is stepping into the unknown enough to show my thanks.

It is late, I'm nearly done with my Saturday bit at the office. Wish my current code test good luck, will you? Because pass or fail I have to get my tail home so I can sleep and get to class tomorrow morning.

Be My Valentine

As one often does I was thinking of my friends this morning. No e-mail for half a week, no comments for longer. My long ago forsaken habits futilely tried to reinsert themselves. The ones that tell you you're un-loved, un-regarded, un-thought of. A quick "Doh!" at the moment of onset -- my new habit -- that right. Doh, my closest friends are not geeks, or are anxious for something different. The ones who are dedicated (usually deeply unsatisfied) geeks, think they're too busy. They think their various keyboards, keypads, and remotes have divine priority over interpersonal matters. I'm not in that space now. My life is more than the tools I use to write these posts, make phone calls, or switch channels.

I think I got into this line of thought with all the news stories this morning about a study showing how rude Americans have become in the high tech age. I've mentioned I find high tech to be ultimately dehumanizing to us workers and the customers. It doesn't have to be that way, despite what the corporate marketing predators tell us. I like journaling, or blogging, but it is a tool, which may create new connections. Not a replacement for real connections. I've made friends thanks to high tech, and the communication avenues it provides. It should be an enhancement to life quality, not a replacement. I like some kinds of games. Crosswords, shooter games, solitaire, adventure. Yet, I'd much rather play Trivial Pursuit. Hell, I'd rather play cribbage or chinese checkers.

Even though I see high tech in damn near all of it's current incarnations to be profoundly dehumanizing, I have trouble blaming it on pandemic rudeness. It's a choice. Look at the things we most value in this country. Consumerism (over generosity). Pushing personal values down the throats of others (over tolerance). Reality shows (over kindness). SUV's (over consideration). Profit (over ethics). Killing those we fear (over facing them with courage or compassion). We choose to worship at the alter of these and similar idols. Which of these things promote courtesy or connection to another human being in a positive way?

The line of thought about friends continued on another tangent at work today. I was thinking of friends I've made the last ten years or so. In the work place (high tech), in classes, and theatre. I noticed something about the role age plays. In the work, tech classes, beginning theatre related classes, and community theatre the friends which persisted were those closer to my age. In fringe theatre, professional theatre, and advanced acting classes ages are all over the place. Paula is fifteen years younger, Steve twenty younger, David thirteen older, Gregory over twenty younger, many others older and younger by lesser and greater degrees. Those are just the people whose ages I know. In my beginning classes at Bellevue Community College, Freehold, Driftwood, Northwest Actors Studio, Stone Soup and so on I can't name one person more then ten years different in age who is more than a casual friend.

There was something in me which prevented relationships with people of different ages. There was something in them which prevented relationships with people of different ages. Both those statements represent something true, but are false. Rather it was something missing in me or them. I can't tell you what it is, can you tell me? I know it came to me with art. My good friends talk about age once in a while, with no more consequence than talking about where we grew up. I'm not under the delusion that being an artist makes you remove the glass ceiling of age.

How much do I read into this? I know allowing myself to become an artist has opened many vistas and opportunities. My intuition tells me art is more often a bringer of new ideas and friends into people's lives than the technical. It also tells me art more often breaks down walls of misunderstanding than the technical. Yet, the technical serves to enhance art. Improvements in theaters and other mediums, of tools used to perform and communicate, etc. There's a balance, and I'd guess our society is dangerously close to becoming terminally unbalanced.

I want more friends: best, close, good, casual. Artists and technicians. Both. All. It's a healthy yearning, and though I have more friends than ever before I hunger for more of all ages, leanings, backgrounds.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Tunnel's End Light Is Dim

Mr. Rove, meet Mr. Rasputin. He started as a simple charlatan and religious advisor who has been called delusional, sociopathic, puppet-master and all sorts of other mean labels with some justification. Sadly you can't meet the man, because he's dead. Also, if there is reincarnation he is obviously one of your past lives making a meeting impossible. Will today's Russian noblemen, reincarnated as the neo-cons running this country give you the same treatment they did nearly 90 years ago? They probably don't think they can get away with murder to support the monarchy again, but my friend, how far do you think they are from hanging you out to dry?

The neoconservative movement appears to be shattering under it's own weight. Their general hate of those promoting individual freedoms, holding corporations accountable, or shining the light on corruption is having trouble sustaining itself. The innate fear and greed they live by and promote is not being universally slaked. When raping a country, or even the whole world, there just isn't enough to go around anymore. So, the jackals are starting to fight amongst themselves.

Are the religious zealots who feel slighted by the leadership because we haven't become enough of a church state to slake their thirst for persecuting non-believers likely to rally around the likes of DeLay, Frist, Rove, and company who promised them a golden age of religious tyranny? How about the fiscal conservatives who are not seeing poor people starve to death as fast as they'd hoped, yet have seen the biggest climb in national debt in the history of the country, even after accounting for inflation? How about big corporations who believed they had bought preferential treatment only to get the occasional table scrap from the lucky insiders like Halliburton? The racists who embraced the promises of gutting equal opportunity measures can't be satisfied either. What I would consider moving dangerously far backwards, is looked at by these people as a nearly complete lack of progress.

I'm addressing the fringe groups in this line of thought for two interwoven reasons. The group in power at the moment relies on fanatics, and has often made contradictory promises to different groups. Secondly, they have been wildly successful in creating more fanatics who are single issue voters. It seems the creation and lip service to fanatics has been the basis of their rise to hegemony.

I watched the right's frenetic embrace of racism while I lived in the south, as the democrats finally gave up their passive support of sustaining racism in the south, turning the south into a republican stronghold. To hold onto the moderate folks the GOP harped on the democrats history of supporting racism in the south, which was both true and absolutely meaningless today. Watch the conservatives and you'll see nearly everything they accuse their enemies of doing is patently false, and something they are deeply mired in themselves.

Coming back the northwest I saw the churches become a hundred times more politicized than anything I've seen in my short 48 years. The issue of abortion was basically created, nurtured and promoted along side increased homophobia to get two large self-righteous groups intent on controlling and/or holding down people they disagree with or hold in fear and contempt.

Appealing to the darker side of human nature has been amazingly successful, but that dark side is notoriously intolerant. The disparate fanatics who have been courted and abandoned are starting to feel betrayed. I've called the republicans the ice party in the past, "CowardICE, avarICE, and prejudICE." All three were needed in copious quantities from the masses to support attacking Iraq, passing the patriot act, rolling back social service, increasing corporate handouts, and so on. I won't let America off the hook by saying we're ignorant, because it has been willful ignorance. Personal spin control, so to speak, by ignoring what we don't want to hear. We are culpable, and I worry we will be held accountable in very disturbing ways.

The little fractures we're seeing in the pseudo-conservative facade are a hopeful sign, and I must admit I am excited by it. There are moral conservatives, probably in the majority, and these real-conservatives may retake the reins of the GOP. It won't be instant. It wasn't until many years after McCarthy was discredited for going after the U.S. Army when they refused to promote one of his cronies (the gay lover of Roy Cohn) in 1954 the political climate which bore is name, McCarthyism, was considered to be over. He studiously drank himself to death in 1957, and the official end of McCarthyism is generally considered to have been 1969 (when HUAC was renamed) or 1975 (when it was dissolved). Will the current era die any faster? Who will it be named after? I believe that like the darkness McCarthyism brought us, we won't fully recover the true spirit, beauty, and liberty our country was founded upon and was sacrificed during the fear fests. Though I do believe we'll once again get somewhat closer to a healthy balance.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Coming Up Short

I thought things like colds had a ten day cycle. Well, I've still got a bit of a cough after two weeks. Is it just a lingering symptom of the cold? I feel lots better, though still needing extra sleep. It is driving me nuts, because I want to devote more than the minimum to get by on my homework. I know it is more sensible at this point to stay healthy. Getting a little extra homework done for a few days, but making myself really sick would be a dreadful trade. This is not what I had in mind when I knew I'd need a higher degree of self-discipline to do ETI. Things never work out quite like we plan. At least this is a transient situation even if it feels interminably long.

A few things are clicking in classes. I'm regaining strength in the leg I broke faster than I was before class started. I was surprised at how weak the leg was, somehow figuring it was all atrophy. Wrong. I think that is a big part of the nastiness of the twisting spiral fractures. You can see in the x-ray how the long break forms a sharp curving edge on each bone and when the leg folded it is obvious it would slice through some significant muscle tissue. Each end of the bone slicing a different bunch of tissue, further aggravated by having the two bones break at opposite ends, slicing muscle in four places. As I build up strength I'm reminded by the dents or gaps in the muscle on the leg.

I mentioned in my class journal a we started working on a move that is very difficult for me because of the strength, but also because of the fear which bugs me even more. Working on the move in drill and the second time around in class I started getting a feeling that the strength was nearly there, and the physical memory causing the fear was getting less predominate. I really want to be able to do the move without modification. We stretch out to the side coming down on the right hand with the fingers pointing the way the body faces. The top (left) leg is nearly straight, and the right leg is underneath, bent a bit so all our weight is on the sides of the feet and the hand. Then we swing the left arm, bringing the weight back onto the feet where you rise from a squatting position. It is that shift back to the feet which is challenging me. Learning the minute details of the process help, and I feel like I'm getting close to being able to do it. (I even ordered a book about Meyerhold, hoping I could find some more helpful hints.)

Specifics in acting are clicking to. From my first classes specificity has been talked of, and I never really had more than an ill-defined intellectual picture of it. Repetition and coaching are finally internalizing it for me. As it works for me I'm finding it defies explanation, or at least how I tried to explain it in the past. It started with the idea that every sentence, every phrase is a new thought. Maybe building or refining other thoughts, but still it's own entity. Not surprisingly, just like in conversation or writing. I am trying piece by piece to present this idea in a way that makes sense for you and resonates for me. Boing. There it is, as I'm finally starting to understand it. Sadly, I don't know if it makes a bloody bit of sense to anyone reading this.

One of my favorite feelings in a scene is change. It goes back to the Glengarry Glen Ross scene from the first quarter of Meisner, which I've mentioned before. Feeling a personal triumph that I managed to change several times in the scene, then watching Jack Lemmon do the scene and seeing him change as many times in a single line -- which was both freeing and a goal to strive for. The specificity of every utterance of the character supports that kind of change. I find it exciting and maybe, just maybe, a bit less elusive.

Damn it. I want to never have a cold, a bad day at work, or a need to sleep. I want to explore these new approaches for myself and enhanced familiar approaches. I feel like I'm hobbled, my artistic self is struggling with heavy iron manacles around my feet, which are so familiar they nearly provide a pseudo comfort. They are familiar because I spent most of my life making the fucking things. Do I rejoice because I can see them? Or curse the effort it took to make them, and the effort needed to unlock them?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Oh, Show Me The Way...

I've been learning how to express myself in open, artistic, and truthful ways the last six years or so. I'd say I'm dedicated to gaining experience, depth, and training as an actor. Some would say I'm obsessed, and I'd not deny it. I'm learning to communicate in many ways, using physicality, voice, and many more subtle tools and images.

So?

What do I want to say? What do I think I have to say? What must I say?

I want to bring beauty, and entertainment to people. I feel I have to open people's horizons to help mend and prevent hate crimes as typified by the corruption and viciousness of our leadership. I must tell truths. Those are the answers today. The want is not very deep or moving by itself, and changes and evolves pretty frequently. The have changes about a bit, but not quite as rapidly. It is a selfish desire, though I don't think that takes away from the validity. Finally, what I must feels more like an axiom, and has been part of me since long before I became an artist. As long as I can remember, come to think of it. Thank you Pop.

What do I want to say? That remains the original and central question for me. It is what drives me from day to day. It is informed by the broader philosophical implications. As both an artist and a patron I appreciate comedy with no underlying messages, I appreciate meaning-ridden melodrama, and things in between. That leaves a big, big arena to work in. I'm reminded of the Intiman, which produces such a broad spectrum of plays. I don't think I've seen a show there with no message for people to chew on, but the degree and style vary hugely. If they were always fluffy it would probably drive away as many people as if they were always edgy. I think the other large theatres in Seattle are figuring that one out. I believe the Intiman was the only large theatre in the region to actually grow during the dot com bust, which caught the attention of all the other big houses which were having troubles during the boom.

In many ways that is how I want to say. If you're always intense you'll be seen as shrill for good reason and tuned out. If you're always comfortable in what you say, you'll be seen as inconsequential, for good reason and tuned out. I want to have weight, and be fun. From both sides of my skin. Of course as I move more towards the art world, it may be that a balance will be a bit hard to maintain given timing and whims of (casting) directors.

My answer when I drill down on the question, "What do I want to say?" is "Open yourself to new ideas my friends." It's almost an agenda, but I believe it is the path through which evils like bigotry, greed, and fear can be overcome. Is that the essence of art? To broaden perspective and thought?

After a quick proof read of this I had a strong desire to listen to "The Doors", and I just happened to have the cd in my office. Score.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thick

Yesterday we got our assignments for Pinter's The Dumb Waiter, and I'll be playing Gus for the first five pages. It opens with me slowly tying my shoes and starting to leave stage left. Then stopping shaking my foot, and untying the shoe looking inside, finding a flattened empty match box which I shake then put in my pocket. Then with difficulty I put the shoe back on and continue to the door. Then I stop and shake the other foot, going through the same routine with the other foot for an empty flattened cigarette pack. I remember seeing this at the Studio Series several years ago and thinking, what fun it would be to do that scene.

I mentioned in my other blog the different dynamic in the ETI program. It is more of a collaboration, than a teacher tell the student what to do sort of thing. Yes it's training, lots of information, and such, so it is still definitely school. It is only the third year this program has been offered, and the feeling of an established program is there, along with the exploration of students and instructors for a program that is still growing. Our desire to learn and grow as well as the respect in which we hold the instructors keeps the student/instructor relationship in place, with the teachers more honored than in beginning and intermediate training. We are here because we know what we want, and are willing to sacrifice to be there. It enhances the dynamic. Yet it somehow feels like a partnership.

Does this make sense? Even though the ETI is advanced training, I feel like I'm just beginning as I have in every class or production I've been in. I admire the instructors more than ever, and feel more in partnership with them than in any other course of study in my life. Is it because I feel I am learning as much from my fellow students, because I'm learning more than ever before, or because we're respected and trusted more by each other and the instructors than has been the case in the past? Whatever it is, it makes me feel privileged and more driven not to let down my peers and instructors than ever in my life.

Sometimes I have to stop thinking about it all. I get scared, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm conditioned to believe that there cannot be too much beauty in your life, that ugliness needs to show it's, well, ugly little head. It's not an uncommon fear. Is it pure stupidity and conditioning, or a way of making you appreciate a gift without needing a more troublesome counterpoint? If occasional feelings of apprehension give me perspective so I don't need disaster as a counterpoint I'm satisfied. What if, as I think, the anxiety is totally unnecessary? I'm big enough to differentiate between good and bad times, and need to accept that less good times will come all of their own, so I don't need ridiculous doubts or guilts to fuck with myself. There's enough people willing to fuck with me, without a helping hand from myself.