Metamorphoses

On Tuesday, November 20th I had the privilege of attending Metamorphoses, a production of The Lookingglass Theatre, at their main stage space downtown. Since moving to Chicago in 2010 I have had the good fortune of seeing a large number of shows, including some classic Greek productions, but none of them quite compared to the wonderful experience I had on Tuesday.

Metamorphoses, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, is a play that has quite a developmental history dating back to 1989 when Ms. Zimmerman was staging a production of The Odyssey at Northwestern University during a summer program/class and she envisioned the entire production could, and in some ways should, be performed in/around a pool or body of water. Mary noticed that many stories in Greek literature and myth involved water and over the next 23 year Metamorphoses gradually became a fully realized piece being performed all over the country and garnering numerous awards, from Obie’s to Tony’s to Jeff’s, for direction, design, writing and performance to just name a few. Time Magazine called it “The Play of the Year” in 2001 when it was running in New York in off-Broadway at The Second Stage Theater. Metamorphoses is comprised of 11 vignettes based off the poem of the same name by Ovid.

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Picture of the set for Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman before the show began

The picture to the let displays the performance space that the audience got to view before the show.  No set pieces were flown in and only a few props were used throughout the production.  For myself, and I assume the majority of the audience,  the most eye-catching part of the set was the large pool of water (I estimate it was about 18’x40′) reflecting the lone chair and lights in the space.  The water was of an unknown depth and with the first two rows of audience members being given black towels, because they were going to get splashed, you could feel the potential energy that the pool provided to the space. The lights then dimmed, a pre show recording played and the show began…

ACTING (Usman Ally, Patrick Andrews, Anjali Bhimani, Lawrence E. DiStasi, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Anne Fogarty, Raymond Fox, Chris Kipiniak, Louise Lamson, Lauren Orkus) : The ensemble of 10 (5M 5W) did not have a weak player among the group.  The show calls for each actor to play at least one Main character in one of the vignettes as well as several supporting roles throughout the production.  Each actor did a wonderful job a creating unique, passionate, tragic, comedic characters that we are all familiar with for every scene that s/he was in.  Most of the characters are very one dimensional but that is the point! The energy required for the show was evident from the beginning and a testament to the physical shape that these actors keep themselves in.  Often times they would be tussling, dancing, even being submerged in the water for extended periods of time while also speaking (or yelling in a, thankfully, justified way) with another actor or even narrating the scene themselves.  I was continually impressed all the way up to the very end of the show.

DIRECTING: No wonder this show has won so many awards for its direction.  The use of the space was absolutely brilliant, with sight lines in the 3/4 thrust being constantly cleared to assure every audience member a fantastic view of all the action taking place on stage and brilliant use of all 7 different entrance/exit points .  The aforementioned actors were all managed exceptionally well to give a piece with so many different scenes a congruous overarching feel for the whole show while also maintaining the drama of each vignette individually.

SCENIC DESIGNER (Daniel Ostling): Though it is probably already clear at this point I must say it again, I loved the set. The pool was absolutely brilliant in and of itself but the deck around it was also very important.  The large door, chandelier, and cloud backdrop all complimented particular scenes and never distracted from action on the stage.

LIGHTING DESIGNER (T.J. Gerckens): Mind blowingly wonderful.  I could rave about the design but my favorite part was easily the use of lighting with King Midas.  How do you make everything he touches turn to gold? With incredibly well focused lights that transform the stage golden yellow with his every step and a perfectly placed special that transmutes his daughter when she jumps into his arms.  OK one other part, the scene with Eros and Psyche was done in almost darkness! Too many lighting designers forget about yin and yang and don’t use darkness enough.  Brilliant.

COSTUME DESIGNER (Mara Blumenfeld): I will never pretend that I know anything about costumes, or clothing in general, which is kind of a bummer because it means that I have no credibility to give.  The costumes were mostly classical in nature with a few modern touches here and there.  Overall I really enjoyed them and was never taken out of the show by a costuming choices.

SOUND DESIGNER (Andre Pluess) with ORIGINAL MUSIC (Willie Schwarz): The music and sound of the production only ever aided the action on stage and never got to the point where it was about the sounds and nothing else.  The soundtrack is available for purchase and if you have seen the show I have a feeling that if you put the music on it will magically be able to take you back into each one of the scenes as if they were unfolding in front of you again.

STAGE MANAGER (Cynthia Cahill): I really hope Cynthia was the one up in the booth calling the show the night I saw it because I know how important and amazing stage managers are.  They have to deal with so many different things and I just wanted to give Ms. Cahill a shout out for never being late (at least to the point where a first time viewer of the show would notice) on a single cue, light, sound or otherwise.  Thank you to all stage managers everywhere!

In summation! Go. See. This. Show.  It really is a remarkable production and I am so happy that this was my first experience at The Lookingglass Theatre and I look forward to seeing many more productions in the future.

Accountable

Following another weekend of keeping quite busy with performances in the evenings, speech and debate tournament on Saturday, rehearsal on Sunday morning, closing matinee and then strike for The Rover…I suddenly find myself with some extra time on my hands.  Now that Rover has closed I have Thursday-Satruday night and Sunday afternoons free.  What to do with that time….hmmmm.  It would be so easy just to take that time off for the next couple of weeks and slowly try to figure out what I would like to do.  But that is exactly what I am trying to avoid doing, wasting a day.  I need to hold myself accountable for my time and wasting a day is something that I am realizing that I don’t want to do, but more importantly, something that I can’t afford to do.

This week I have been listening to a mix of motivational speeches that thedjraz posted on 8tracks.com. Most of the speeches, but certainly not all, are given towards athletes but the same principles can be applied towards a career in the arts.  Becoming a professional actor requires a similar level of insane dedication that it takes for those who work towards becoming professional athletes.  Currently I have 18 more days of P90X to complete before I reach the “end” of the program.  That being said I will go ahead and say that I am already looking forward to the second round.  I’m looking forward to the pain, the struggle, the discipline that is required to survive the next 90 days, and I know that I will be looking forward to another 90 days after that.  For the second round I will be adding more daily goals, not just working out everyday. I need to sing, practice piano, read, run monologues, study movies, study other actors, see shows, network…I need to work.

The best part about all of this?  I am the one who gets to make it all happen.  I get to look back on my life when I am older and I get to see this period in my life as the time that I really started to figure out what it actually takes to become a successful person.  That I held myself accountable and was able to make things happen.

Gentleman’s Rule

20121115-175837.jpg Last night I had the privilege of attending the second ever performance of the acapella group Gentleman’s Rule at The Royal George Theater with my friends Samara, Miquela and Carrie. The group is comprised of 10 men and they sang a wonderful mix of love songs, hip-hop, 80’s jams and 2 original compositions. Both of the original songs were arranged by Dan Ponce, the founder of Straight No Chaser, who is also the Producer for GR along with Charlie Blum.

Now I am by no means a professional critic for acapella, or music in general, so my personal review of the show will be looking more at the production as a whole.

Singing: Awesome. No need to be an expert here these gentleman clearly know how to sing and they killed it.

Costumes: all the gentleman were wearing black t-shirts, dark gray sports jackets, dark blue jeans and gray Nike high-tops. Simple and effective it showed that this was a group effort. At one point they took the jackets off and hung them on hooks all over the set.

Sound: Overall the balance and volume of the sound was very good. Hand held mics were used and luckily all of the guys actually knew how to use them! I know that might sound stupid but it is important to know how to hold a microphone. The sound only had a few stumbles throughout the night and only one that was bad enough to really take me out of the moment.

Set: The build was a very basic box set with ~8″ platforms DSR & DSL, exits MSR & MSL, a 6 (I think) step staircase USC leading to a platform about 5′ high and 15′ wide. There was a small proscenium atop the platform as well. The whole set was painted a olive green with deep red trim. All facets of the set were used which I always appreciate.

Lights: This was by far the worst part of the show. Unnecessary / clearly unintentional blackouts, poor spot work, lighting up the wrong part of the stage etc. occurred throughout the show. At the top of the show a soloist stood on the USC platform and he either needs to move down one step or they desperately need to fix where the light is hung because his whole head was in darkness. Fail.

Choreography: It was simple but effective. The most distracting part was when one or more of the guys wasn’t committing to the moves. I’m not sure if it is because they thought they might look silly or what but I will say this, you look more ridiculous when you aren’t doing the dance. Nike that shit.

Overall: This was only the 2nd concert that these guys have done and they did a great job. They got better as the show went on and they got more an more comfortable. The transitions between the songs were hit and miss depending on which member of the group was just bantering with the audience while they introduced the song. I highly recommend that people go check out Gentleman’s Rule if you have the opportunity. They have 13 more shows at The Royal George and I know that they will only continue to get better with each show.

Humorous Interpretation

Speech and debate played a very big role in my high school life and continues to be a large part of my world to this day.  I loved the competitive aspect that was brought into the world of performance and nothing helps a young performer more than doing just that, performing.  A Lot.  Though I am a coach now and no longer perform in speech and debate I am lucky enough to have a copy of the piece that I performed my senior year of high school.  In an effort to avoid losing that copy accidentally due to a hard drive crash or the DVD hard copy getting lost or destroyed I have finally uploaded the video on YouTube! Yes I am on a bit of an uploading kick as of late but it makes sense considering that I have done a lot of work in the past that friends I have now haven’t ever gotten to see.  So for those of you who want to see what Nick looked like one week before he graduated Niwot High School look no further! I present to you Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes by R.L. Stein.

 

Spot On

Just watched this video and loved it.  A Lot. Quite accurate.

Now yes it is true that my generation was the first group of people that started stealing music and thus changed the market for music videos in a large way but for me and my criminal activity it boiled down to 3 main points:

  1. I was a kid with no money to buy music.
  2. It was infinitely easier to download/steal music than purchase it (especially if my parents wouldn’t buy me explicit lyrics CD’s).
  3. When I found out how little of the money actually went to the Artists I was much less inclined to purchase a CD.

Now is the system improved with Pandora, Spotify and the iTunes store (to name a few)…possibly a little bit but artists are typically on the short end of the stick in all of these situations.  The best thing for an artists in terms of profitability is to do what Louis C.K. did. He has a website which he runs without a record label where he distributes his comedy albums for only $5. It is exceptionally easy to use, you know that the money is going directly to the artist and after you have purchased the album he has said you can do whatever you want with them.  Freaking sweet.  Granted Louis C.K. is an established comedian who people know about but hey, bands go on tours, they have websites, they have twitter, they could do this.

Now I am off to two auditions this evening and then I’ll be playing some Assassins Creed 3 later. Nice Monday

Fringe Musicals

I have had the good fortune of being in many wonderful productions in my life and will hopefully continue that run.  However I would like to take this moment to show some of the work that I did in college that I know I will always remember because it was just too much fun.  My senior year I wrote and directed X-Men: The Musical

The show was an absolute blast to work on and looking back on it I am still very proud of the final product.  My Sophomore year I was in a production of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Musical playing the role of the dumbass Darrell.

Thanks for taking the time to watch, I hope you enjoyed. Till next time.

Hearing back

A lovely Friday to all those amazingly wonderful people who find there way to my website. Today I had fun filled day of filming a horror short and performing in another show of The Rover.

The horror short was titled Smile and is a student film I had auditioned for on Wednesday at the SAG-AFTRA office downtown. The film has 3 roles and at the audition I read for all of the parts. The director sent out his final casting choices that night! For those of you who don’t do the whole acting and auditioning thing let me just tell you that in my experience that is very rare. Thursday morning we received an electronic copy of the final script and the call times/shot list for Friday. Like most film projects we fell behind

Weekend Catch Up

Ahhhh I have fallen behind but I will catch myself back up…in one post!

Streamwood Sabre Speech Shindig: The kids did great!  I was so proud of the students who placed in the tournament because it was a perfect representation of hard work = results.  The kids who have been showing up to practice, working with coaches, working with their peers, stepping out their comfort zones, challenges themselves etc…all of them have shown great improvement and a lot of them placed in their respective events.  If you are interested in the specifics for the tournament you can see the overall team scores as well as the individual results on an amazing website called Speechwire. I look froward to more hard work from all the kids as we approach the first holiday break of the year.

 The Rover: Our second weekend of the show went quite well.  On Saturday and Sunday we had good houses of about 20~28 people each show.  The energy of the production was not lost due to our 3 day break, in fact I think everyone was rather well rested and energized from some time off.  The second weekend of a show is alway very interesting to me because typically the actors and crew have just spent about 7+ days of constructing the set, doing a cue to cue rehearsal, 2-3 dress rehearsals, 1-2 previews and then the opening weekend of the show.  After having been immersed in the show for that solid week+ I am always curious to see how everyone comes back to the production.  Thankfully this group of actors is very talented and professional.  I am excited for another 8 wonderful shows with these crazy goof balls.

Titus Andronicus: On Monday evening I attended a production of Titus Andronicus produced by The Right Brain Project (RBP) which my friend Zack Meyer was performing in. The show will be running for one more weekend and I would highly recommend that you GO SEE THIS SHOW!!! First off I love Titus Andronicus, I think that it is a brutally beautiful piece of work and when staged correctly can be exceptionally powerful.  The RBP does a good job with this production, the acting is solid, the scenic and costume designs work together (love it when that happens) and the fact that the amount of fake blood used in the show warrants a poncho for every member of the audience is awesome.  Check out their website for purchasing info, tickets will most likely be going fast for this closing weekend. Also, Zack was awesome.

That isn’t everything…but it is a lot of things and that’s good for now!  Till next time.

Streamwood

Today is a wonderful day already. Currently I am sitting in the cafeteria at Streamwood High School attending my first speech tournament of the 2012-2013 season. This tournament is a Novice/JV tournament which means that only first and second year students can compete while Varsity students are assisting their teammates and coaches with all the duties associated with running and participating in a tournament.

For those people who do not know what a speech and debate tournament is, I will provide you with a brief summation. Students typically need to arrive at their own high school between 6:00 and 6:30 am to catch the bus depending on how far away the host school is. Materials that are kept in the school that the students will need are picked up and loaded onto the bus. The bus lives exactly on time so NEVER be late. It is definitely a “5 minutes early you are on time. On time means you are late” type of situation. The bus will arrive at the tournament location and everyone will unload from the bus and move into the cafeteria where the team picks a table and drops off their stuff. The students then head off to a room where they do a vocal and physical warm up as well as perform their piece. Following the warm-up the coach will give the students their codes so they know which rooms they will be performing in throughout the day. Typically the students will compete in 3 rounds with each room per round containing 5-7 students depending on the size of the tournament. The students are given a rank (1-7) based on their performance weighed against everyone else in the round. Some tournaments will then take the scores and be done after that, other tournaments prefer to take the top 6 scores and have a finals round. Following that the tournament awards ceremony for all events is held and then we get on the bus and head back home. Yikes! What a crazy day.

So yes today I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, which has been my bedtime far more often than it has been the beginning of the day in recent months, and got myself ready to motivate some youngsters!!!….and by that I mean I got a venti coffee and downed that beast. While waiting for all the kids to arrive one of the young men on the team showed up with his tie all askew and this was my first assignment for the day: making sure that all these young men look like young gentleman. Sadly I must report that I did fail some of them. Most of them need combs and clothes that fit! Baby steps.

Currently we are two rounds into the tournament, the team seems to be doing well so far. I will post the final results later.

Only 2 days

Now that it is Monday morning I have the opportunity to sit, breathe and look back at this past weekend. Wow. An awful lot happened in only two days. Saturday was go go go from when I awoke till I fell asleep on Sunday morning! All three auditions seemed to go well and hopefully I will hear back from one or more of those. I had been told by two of those projects that they would be letting people know in two weeks, so now I will just be keeping an eye on my email. The treasure hunt at the Art Institute of Chicago went really well. Honestly it is a great job that reminds me a lot of being a camp counselor. I am just supervising an activity for a group of people, the only difference being that they are adults not children. But the same rules apply, if I am excited, they get excited. If I am having fun they are more likely to have fun. Simple observation, but very important.

The biggest event on Saturday was the opening of The Rover!!! Our first rehearsal was back on Monday, August 27th and then 62 days later the final result is one that I am very proud of. We will be performing the show Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. Our closing performance will be on Sunday, November 18th. Both shows went well this weekend and I am hopeful that we continue to have a great time performing this production. We did have some reviewers come see the show and I will post the reviews as I find them.

Following the show we went over to one of our cast mates houses for a costume/opening night party.

20121029-142658.jpgThe theme was Peter Pan so I got myself dressed up as the one and only Rufio!!! We had a tinkerbell, peter pan, hook, smee, wendy and a few loat boys as well. The evening was a blast. It is a wonderful cast and a good group to hang out with.

Following the show on Sunday I had a first rehearsal at Gorilla Tango for one of the films I had auditioned for on the 12th of October (got cast!) which went really well. The director cast 6 actors (4 men 2 women) whom he will be working with to organically create a script and then film. I really had a good time and think this project definitely has some good potential based on the director and other actors.

Now sure that right there could have been the end of my weekend but no! Post rehearsal I biked down to Pilsen to see some of my friends in a production of The Kindly Ones. The script was written by my friend Bohrs Hoff and it is an adaptation of The Eumenides. The story is the first ever democratic trial conducted my the Greek Gods (and siblings) Apollo and Athena. We the audience act as the jury in this trial of Orestes for the murder of his mother Clytemnestra. Every audience member was given a white and a black stone which would be used to determine the final judgment. Apollo is representing Orestes and defending him because he deeply loves the mortal. Athena is representing the Erinyes as well as summoning the spirits of the dead that would be the witnesses (Iphigenia, Agamemnon, and Clytemnestra) in the trial. Overall I enjoyed the show, was very impressed with my friend Bohrs for writing that script, and proud of the work all my fiends did. Good physical and vocal work as well. Post show we went and had a taco (delicious) and then I biked 8.5 miles into a headwind to get home. What a weekend.