Are You My Audience?

This weekend, I was in Basement Art’s annual production of “Night of Fights.” Though the production came at a very hectic time, what with me about to head out to New York and LA for my acting showcase (ahh!) and trying to get all of my work submitted before graduation (blah), after our first performance we were “stoked.” The production is usually a compilation of scenes and fights but this year, one of my classmates wrote a full play to go along with the stage combat choreography, allowing “Night of Fights” to reach whole new heights and take the audience completely by surprise. The audience was chanting and heckling the whole time, which added an exciting element to the show that really riled up our performances, and afterwards the reaction from the audience was overwhelming. I had a bunch of my non-theatre friends there, and they felt that this was their favorite performance they had seen, which made me laugh a little. When I told this to my director, however, he wasn’t surprised.

“Yeah!” he said, “That’s because this show is FUN. It’s a play for the audience.”

And don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun too. Despite the bruises all over my body from months of rolling on the floor and whacking weapons around, I had a lot of fun. But typically, an actors dream role consists of a lot of “self-serving” monologues and deep character analysis found in the works of authors such as Chekhov or Miller. Miller even said once that he writes great characters for actors; characters to sink their teeth into. But this show was particularly rewarding when we finally got in front of an audience because it was somewhat theirs, too. It was funny, quick, and full of gut wrenching stage combat. The kind of show you can just watch, without thinking too much. Because of this, the audience just had a lot of fun, which is exactly what we wanted.

On Sunday, the roles were reversed and I went to see the University production of “The Imaginary Invalid,” by Moliere. The show was quite a feat for the actors, running around 2 and a half hours. It was colorful and silly in the name of restoration comedy, though immensely different from “Night of Fights.” The play used politics and ethics to make the audience think, despite all of the potty jokes, and by the end I was both entertained and exhausted from the stimuli. This play was meant to make the audience think about modern medicine and technology, and the dangers of interfering with natural human life. “Night of Fights” was meant to make you wonder if that blood was real.

So as I ponder who my evolution essay is geared towards, I ponder what I want my audience to think about. From what I have so far I have narrowed it down to these three topics: 1. Passion.  2. The Authentic Self. 3. Not Giving a Shit. Thinking along these lines, I would write this for my professor of my English 425 class. I would write this for him because I am aiming towards achieving the “So what,” of this assignment, something we stressed so much in that Immersion Journalism class. I want to write this not only to fulfill a class, or for myself, but so others can read it and apply it to themselves.

In the minor, I would write this for my blog group who has listened to my project progression all semester, and who would understand my background in this course. Outside of the minor, I would write this for my mom, who knows me very well and would know if this essay seemed authentic enough to me. I would also write this for my roommates who are pursuing completely different careers (i.e. engineering and business) to see if they would be able to relate to the core of what I am saying.

This essay outlines my career as a writer and references my work in the minor, but as I continue to write it I must make sure to give it a life and meaning outside of my own and this class.

“How I Became a Famous Writer” Discussion

http://www.oxfordamerican.org/item/373-how-i-became-a-famous-writer

This article, which I will be discussing with the class, is one of those pieces that I know I was meant to find. In the beginning of the year we were asked to search around for different literary publications and see which ones interested us most. I found this title on Oxford American and aimlessly clicked. From the very title, “How I became a Famous Writer,” I knew this essay would have a few curve balls.

I found a lot of my own style in this article, which helped remind me of the kind of tone I want to take in my evolution essay. The semi self-deprecating humor to serve a larger and satyrical purpose is very familiar to me, and it kept me engaged and chuckling with each line. The advice answered “obvious” questions in a round about way, and it was encouraging to hear again, though I’ve heard it much before; The path is not obvious. There is no set path to being an artist, there is only the luck you find, the timing you cannot control, and what is inside of you.

My favorite passage is this:

“We become who we become for reasons we cannot always know—because of what we saw our mothers love, or our fathers hate, and because of what we need deep down inside the parts of us that others don’t know about, such as love, or security, or adoration. For me, what I needed was the freedom to drink before noon and work in my underwear. And I needed a human being who would allow me to work in my underwear, and that human is my wife.”

I spend so much time dwelling on how I am going to get to my dreams, and how impossible those dreams are, and how slim those chances are, and though I know things “fall into place,” it is terrifying to live with such uncertainty. But I love it. I don’t love it because I love being anxious about how I’m going to make a dollar in the “real world” or if anything I EVER do will amount to anything or if I’m this enough or that enough for a casting agent or director to choose me, but I love it. The it is the thing that is inside of me that keeps me going, that part of me that others don’t know about. Heck, I probably don’t know it either. But reading this essay was a great confirmation that it’s all shit, and it’s great. I know following my heart and doing what I love will bring me to where I need to be, and I guess on the way to that I’ll learn to be a better artist and person.

And looking at where I am right now even, I don’t feel so far off.

 

 

Know More

Last week I met with the wonderful playwriting professor in residence, Larry Harbison. Larry has spent the majority of his career working as a senior editor for the theatre world’s largest publication company and I was lucky enough to garner some of his sage wisdom.

Cut to Larry and I sipping on coffees at Mujo’s cafe in the Duderstadt, talking theatre and quoting the greats. Well, actually it was Larry who was talking and quoting while I nibbled on a butter croissant. I told Larry my initial idea and expressed to him my great distress about how my writers block was indeed, blocked, etc etc. Larry listened to my pleas for help and ultimately told me to write. Just write. Scratch any ideas about what I need to produce or what my play needs to look like, just write. He advised me to stay away from documentary theatre which actually greatly relieved me and he said this: “Most great writers start by writing what they know. Earnest Hemingway began by writing about his working class family life in Illinois until he decided to go to Italy and become an ambulance driver. So here’s the trick: Write what you know, but know more.”

I thought about this for a while as he continued to speak. Write what you know, but know more. This got me questioning the kind of writer that I am, and the kind of writer that I want to be, what I know and what I want to learn. In class we were asked to answer a few questions about what kind of writers we were, and I found myself thinking about what a great question that was. When was the last time I really sat down to think about my style, or who I am when it comes to my writing. Later in the conversation I had with Larry he asked me if I was innately comedic or dramatic. My tip of the tongue answer was to answer comedic. I get this question a lot about my acting as well; what would I prefer to be in, comedies or dramas? What am I better at? Why?

It is extremely fulfilling to emote. It is extremely fulfilling for any artist to get on stage or canvas or paper and cry. It is extremely fulfilling to be vulnerable, but it is not always the most difficult rout. Any artist can go drama, but will it be quality drama? It is undoubtably much easier to write or act a shitty drama than it is is to write or act a shitty comedy. There is so much skill and finesse that goes into the art of comedy that most people consider any form of artistic comedic timing  a gift. I always felt that though I would love to be in and write dramas, I have an innately comedic inner voice which I see as a strong suit of my writing.

Larry told me to focus on something that I find obvious, that I feel like I have to explain to others, and write about that. He also advised me to take every single character seriously. For instance, he said if I write about a supporter of a certain politician, write that person in to be completely valid, no matter what I as the writer believe. Every person and every character needs to be rooted in the truth, even for comedies. Meeting with Larry and thinking about my own voice got the wheels in my mind turning. I know what I know as a 22 year old female, half Jewish half Catholic, female from California studying acting. I just have to trust that I know what it is to be a who I am, at this exact time, living the life I do.

So now I’m gonna go write what I know, but one day I want to know more.

 

 

Focus Point

I met with a faculty member this past week to discuss my one-act. I found that it was nice to talk with someone who didn’t know about the final capstone project because doing so forced me to articulate my project and what I was planning on accomplishing. After hearing what I was envisioning, my faculty mentor suggested two things: that I narrow down even further the question I was trying to answer, and that I possibly include myself in my one-act as a character. I have been thinking about both of these suggestions and definitely know that I agree with the first. I have been planning on writing my one-act about choices; how we make them, why we make them, and what choices align with or go against the “authentic self.” However, I was advised to go further into the kinds of choices I want to analyze. Career? Relationships? Hair Length? I admit that I am really struggling with this. I suspected that I would start my interviews and carve a path from there but now I just feel a bit more lost than before…

That’s good news, right?

I have also been thinking about the second suggestion he had for me, to incorporate myself into the script. I like this idea because it would allow me to control some of the script before the interviews and would allow me to incorporate some elements of fiction as well. This week I am meeting with another professor who is the current playwright in residence and I am hoping he will point me in a direction that will hopefully give me some clarity as to where I am headed. Ultimately, I cannot forget that I went into this project with the goal of writing something that I would want to be in, and something that actors in my age range could perform. I hope reminding myself of these two goals will bring me back to a more narrow point of focus.

Looking forward to this next week, I plan to:

  1. Meet with Larry Harbison
  2. Brainstorm, keeping in mind my goals- what do I want to be in?
  3. Read more plays/one acts
  4. Narrow down questions I plan to ask
  5. WRITE

Word Envy

The other month I was preparing for some auditions and needed to find a monologue. This process involves a lot of play-reading, play-research, and play-thinking. I was getting kind of fed-up with the whole situation when one of my friends texted me, telling me he had found the perfect monologue and was gifting me with it. He took a screenshot of a couple pages and my jaw dropped. Salivating over the words on the page, contemplating the raw genius of the material, I knew I had it.

Word Envy.

The play is “The Way We Get By,” by esteemed playwright, Neil LaBute. I remember first hearing of this play this summer when it made its premier at the Second Stage Theatre in New York, starring Amanda Seyfried and obviously was intrigued because of her “Hollywood status.” The play may not on many levels be page turning, earth shattering work, but it accomplishes a lot in terms of fleshing out some real ideas and conversations often involved in romantic relationships. With only two characters, the dialogue is natural and tangible, and I was nodding along as I followed each pit and peak of the characters’ conversation. I chose to do a monologue from this play that expresses the exasperation felt when someone walks away without a fight. The character, Beth, begs for a “chance for once,” and for someone to try and make it work above all odds because I knew what she was saying and it excited me.

When we were asked to think about something we wish we had written I thought a lot about novels I loved and articles I had written until it dawned on me to think about the medium that is constantly in front of my nose: plays. I read so many plays a year and my final capstone project is a play, so I got to thinking about my project in a whole other light. What specific work did I want to model after for it’s writing, not just it’s specific medium. “The Way We Get By” popped into my mind for a few reasons. I resonated with so many of the ideas in the play that I really do believe I could have and should have written it myself! I mean not really…but…yeah kind of. I was envious I hadn’t thought to write it myself, and envious I am not currently writing something like it.

I love the way two characters propel the whole production with simplicity and truth, and I am inspired to try and do the same…take THAT LaBute 😉

 

Blogging for Confidence

I am still not exactly sure what I want my final project to be. To be about?

I’m not sure.

I’ll start here: I am excited about the prospect of the project. It is like I can taste the idea and I can see the colors of the idea but I am leaving time to tell me what the idea is. JP said in his blog post that his idea came from a  song. Where can I find such a song?! Part of me wants tot think that I am just not thinking enough about the project. But another part of me is really relying on that spark of clarity that may come while walking through the diag on my way to my 4pm Children’s Lit class, or sitting on the bus listening to music on my way to north campus. I know the idea will come, but what should I do to get it?

As of now, I am straddling the idea of writing a one-act play for theatre enthusiasts and for the purpose of good monologues and scenes for an audience my age. Here is the caveat: 1) I have to be a good writer to write a good play. 2) I have never written a play. 3). I have to write about something I know because I have limited time for research between now and when the project is due.

This leaves me with a small pile of ideas that I could delve into. I could write about where I am right now; A college senior about to graduate with a degree in acting. I could write about where I once was. I could write about where the people around me are as well. This idea initially led me to documentary theatre. I could conduct interviews to guide the direction of the plot or theme I am striving to drive out. This could be cool, but I don’t want it to be preachy. If I went this rout I would study up on documentary theatre as a genre, read a lot of plays, and hopefully talk to people who have written a lot of plays. I want to know how to do this in a way that is still inherently theatrical, even if it is not entirely fictional.

I am also thinking of writing a traditional, fictional play. Possibly a dialogue between two people around my age. I am thinking of doing this because I am often drawn to these types of plays and in the form of a one-act I think, with the right plot focus and idea, it could be done.

Maybe another element of my project would be to get part of it to be done aloud and I could stage a bit of it on camera. I am going to look into short films because of this to see if anything else sparks an idea. Overall, I know that I have no idea where I am going, but I don’t think that’s so bad. Yet.

On the bright side, I forgot how much I missed blogging!

Spongebob

 

 

Three Lists

I thought I already started this post, but I am technologically challenged and still obviously do not know how to use this blog, so making a movie should be fun.

My three lists are as stated:

Repurpose:

30% Philosophy

20% Psychology

30% Theatre and Drama

15% English

10% Communications

Remediation:

40% Screen Arts and Culture

10% Philosophy

10% Psychology

15% Theatre and Drama

What I need to further develop: In order for my remediation project to succeed, I need to make sure I am able to effectively get a message across or raise questions through my video. In order for this to be done I need to verse myself in audio and media skills, iMovie editing and script development.

Remediation First Steps

My idea for my remediation is to take my paper about fame, success, and the distinction (or lack of) between the two and turn it into a mini documentary. I would utilize my ever so willing fellow acting majors and interview them using topics and specific points from my original paper. this would give me the ability to show the audience the thought process of the subject and influence behind that thought process by using real people and various voices. I am familiar with iMovie and I would look into getting help from the sac department and the groundworks media lab at the Duderstadt library. The groundworks media lab is a self-lab with available equipment for creating and editing sound of video. They also offer free iMovie and Final Cut Pro training.

Now I just need to begin reworking my re-purpose (sigh).

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Every Word Matters

I am memorizing lines for a play I am in right now called, The Cherry Orchard, by the late great Anton Chekhov.

As I am in the “between dinner pre-rehearsal memorizing rush” I began to think about the act of paraphrasing. This is a term not highly regarded in actor world. “Don’t replace and for also,””Williams wrote morose, not sad,” “You forgot the third line in your last monologue.” For obvious reasons, paraphrasing is something to avoid. But why? Because that means the memorizing process was a lazy one? Because that means the actor doesn’t really know their lines? What I have come to realize is a great playwright had the intent of writing each word for a reason. By changing the order of those words or taking them out completely, it is a disservice to the playwright. Besides, I can practically hear Chekhov roll over in his grave at my pronunciation of my own character’s name, Dunyasha Kozeyedov.

So if play writes don’t want their work paraphrased for the live audience, that makes me consider the times when I simply wrote words to fill spaces. If I were thinking in terms of a play, and my potential audience were a live audience, I would want to be very particular about each and every word I chose to use in any given sentence because I knew those words would come out of a real human’s mouth.

Something to think about while writing my next research paper at 3am (And come see TCO).

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Potential

As I consider the remediating assignment, I realize it has the potential to either fail completely or make my original argument stronger and even (hopefully) make more of an impact on the audience. As we have discussed in class, this is a common phenomenon for book to film or film to book adaptations. Most commonly, movies based on existing novels tend to let down fans of the novel because “they left out the best part” or “they cut out my favorite character.” This makes sense because when a medium is changed, the message or overall impact of the original work has a strong change of being lost in the conversion if not done properly, and by done properly I mean done what is most appropriate for the medium it is being adapted into. Details of one object  in a novel can go on for ten pages, but that would be about five seconds in a standard film. So the art of picking and choosing comes into play, but you better pick the right things.

Movie-vs-book_ff37af_4141429

I would love to remediate my paper into a documentary. Because the stance I tend to take as a writer is generally emotional and personal, especially in my re-purposing paper, I think that would be an interesting task to attempt to get an audience to feel those emotions through real showing, not telling. My original topic is on the distinction between success and fame and the way outside forces determine the way people consider themselves and their career. Being a BFA theatre major I have a plethora of recourses to pull from on this topic (and a plethora of budding young actors eager for face time).

I imagine this going swimmingly of course and expect to win an academy award for this class assignment.