Thursday, September 20, 2012

The reviews are in!

"J.B." for American Century Theater is a confirmed success! Nice reviews at DCMetroTheaterArts and TalkinBroadway/DC.   Special thanks to the wildly perceptive drama blogger John Glass (DramaUrge) for noticing I was a standout in the ensemble. (Hah!)  Actually, over all of the reviews, I think everyone in cast got a plug, even the dog, Bela, a Mi-Ki who will soon need his own website.  Never appear with kids and dogs?  I'm appearing with both.  They're adorable.   More reviews are expected in the next few days.  

John Tweel, Loren Bray, and Kathryn Browning

Joshua Aaron Rosenblum, Joshua Dick, and Bela

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My favorite things....and Lesley Manville

Being handed a bouquet of yellow roses on opening night has me thinking about all of my favorite things.  Cashmere sweaters in cerulean blue.  My husband, who is like a part of me.  Luxury accommodations on a cruise to anywhere. Mallomars (yum). And British actress Lesley Manville. The woman whose incredibly sensitive face is an inspiration for all that I do, both on stage and on film.

Lesley Manville in Another Year
One wonderful thing about not being a principal in the play J.B. is that the pressure is off to carry the production.  I can relax and concentrate on making the most of a small role; one of the most important being to let the tension go out of my face and body so that I can react truthfully to what is going on around me and inside me.

The role I play in J.B. is purely reactive - part of an ensemble of women whose purpose is to comment on the events transpiring center stage.  Some actors would take a purely mechanical approach to that, cueing off a word of dialog to turn this way or look at that cast member.  But I've been allowing myself to relax and get completely in the moment,  so that I can move and react not when I think I should but when it feels natural and right.  I guess one way would be an intellectual approach and the other an emotional approach.  In any case, I like what's happening as a result.

At the end of Mike Leigh's Another Year, the camera settles on Lesley Manville's face and the emotions she conveys are just gut-wrenching. In one fleeting moment her character drops her defenses and tells you absolutely everything about her life.  I don't think I've ever seen another actress who can do that. Sheesh, I should be so good.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Actors hitting their groove

We opened in J.B. (podcast with principals Steve Lebens, Bruce Alan Rauscher, and Julie Roundtree available here.)  The  Preview had a few technical glitches and dropped lines.  Opening night we were technically correct, if a little safe.  Last night, the third performance, I think we hit our groove.  Spontaneous applause, laughter (and tears) from the audience.  Everyone in the cast pumped with adrenaline.

It’s not easy being an actor and working a day job too.  I drove into the theater parking lot Friday night feeling dog tired from a week of dress/technical rehearsals every night and writing contract proposals and ad copy every the day.  Up at 5 a.m., in bed by midnight., again and again. But the minute I walked into the dressing room I felt a rush that lasted through the performance and a couple of hours after.  There is nothing else like it in the world.

I read once that Sir Laurence Olivier, late in his career, was often seen shaky and doddering in the theater wings before a play, every bit the picture of an old man in his declining years.  And yet the minute he got his cue to go on he was suddenly erect, with a spring in his step, striding onto the stage.  It’s a lovely story, and I believe it absolutely.  There is something that keeps actors at it, even when fame is secure and they no longer need the money.  Acting is exciting.  It’s fun.  It gives you a sense of creating something from within yourself that is…well...wonderful!

Opening night fellow actors Bob and Roberta Chaves stopped by to see the play and brought me a bouquet of yellow roses, my very favorite.  They open in a few weeks in  To Gillian on her 37th Birthday at Theater on the Run and What I Did Last Summer at the Alden Theatre respectively.  I will be there with hugs, and flowers, and cheering them on.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Opening in the Pulitzer/Tony-Winning J.B.

For friends in the DC area, I open Friday in the Archibald MacLeish Pulitzer/Tony-winning play "J.B."for The American Century Theater.  Special deals going on. Goldstar and Ticketplace both have 1/2 price tickets available for all performances. Also two Pay What You Can performances on Thursday Sept 13 (a preview) and Wed. Sept 19 (a full performance). It's a thought-provoking play, not surprisingly. Steve Lebens and Bruce Rauscher are terrific as God and the Devil. I have a small supporting role, but come 20 minutes early for the pre-show Clown Reverie and you'll see me do a turn as the Bearded Lady. I'm searching prop and party shops for a cigar to add (as if the beard wasn't enough!)

Doing is the best classroom, as the saying goes, and I find that I learn a lot from watching more experienced stage actors at their craft. Also, as Michael Caine advises, stealing whatever works.   The role of Mrs. Lesure calls for me to express serenity and faith in the midst of disaster - not easy for an ants-in-the-pants actress, such as myself.  I'm having to tap into a lot of inner stillness.  It's still a work in progress, but I find moments when I am so overcome by emotion that get a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes.   (And to think I used to have a hard time crying.)

I love the camaraderie of stage work.  The nervousness early on, struggling to get a sense of your character and wondering if the play will ever come together...and then it does.  A playfulness develops back stage, if only because we're so on top of each other trying to change into costumes and put on make-up. No shy bunnies here.....away we go!