Two more chances!

This weekend is the last I will be playing Sister James in “Doubt,” by John Patrick Shanley, a part I have wanted to play for a long time!

Your last chances to see it are:

Tonight, at 7:30pm

Tomorrow at 2:00pm

And then the four of us will do that thing actors must do when their performances come to an end: Say “Goodbye” to this pattern of doing things in a particular way, with a particular set of blocking, props, costumes, set dressing – essentially to something that will never be this way again.

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Theatre is such a powerful and temporary thing. I used to marvel in college at huge and beautiful sets being built up, used for a number of weeks, and then torn down again. It really made me realize that even if we all did the same show years from now, it would never be the same show again.

Theatre can be a reunion, an introduction, or a mingling of the two..but it ALWAYS ends in a figurative and literal..break up.

This show in particular is 90 minutes of non stop emotional escalation. I’ve carried Sister James with me everywhere I’ve been this late spring / early summer. Her experiences have infiltrated my dreams ! It’s creepy, but also tells me that I am in the right place.

I’m proud of this production of Doubt because it’s never black and white, and our awesome director, Hunter Parker, never intended it to leave people with a comforting feeling of “I know who did it.” Instead, it gets people thinking.

Every single person has a different response at the end of the night. I see that as a good thing. Theatre is best when served with thought. There’s a name for a theatre group in there somewhere.

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To my friends, colleagues and show patrons who have come out to see the show -Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure sharing this show with you. So please spread the word! Looking forward to leaving it all on the stage these last two performances.

Frank the Bastard or Being Ready to Act When You Most (or least) Expect It

from "Frank the Bastard"
me as Mrs. Gast with hubby Mr. Eddie Gast

So on a balmy August day in 2011, I woke up at 7am, my eyes burning and my vision blurred. I had just slept for exactly one hour and I felt like a melting mass of protesting muscle.

You see, I had just been on set for over twelve hours the previous night, working on a film called “Frank the Bastard.” It was fun. It was creepy. I was working in scenes with talented actors like Lance Greene, Rachel Miner, William Sadler, Jennifer Engle, Chris Sarandon, etc. When I was wrapped at 4:20am, I didn’t even have the ability to fully let it sink in that I would need to be on set at 10am on the CT shoreline for my OWN project.

Fast forward to now and “Holding” is completely wrapped, has been in festivals, and just this past weekend, “Frank the Bastard” opened in select theaters and on itunes, which basically means, everywhere. This film was especially important for me because it made me realize a couple of things.

1) You just never know what can happen and

2) You just never know what can happen.

A scene with Lance Greene.
Me in scene with actor Lance Greene.

When we filmed this, I was not expecting to have multiple scenes, or close ups, or multiple days on set. I really thought I was just going to be on set for a day as basically background. Which leads me to my first point: You just never know. I was on set for multiple days, in scenes with actors like Ellen Albertini Dow, who asked if she could “act with me.” I was told there would be a close up of me witnessing the unraveling of my husband, Eddie Gast. And the shots, literally, just kept coming! The director, Brad Coley, pulled me aside afterwards and thanked me and said I was a “true actor.” It was the best feeling in the world and nothing I would have been prepared for if I hadn’t kept the open mind that just because I assumed my part was one way, didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be used for the overall story in another way.

After we wrapped on this film, I was so excited. But then, nothing happened. I didn’t hear about the film until there were rumors of it on the film festival circuit…

That is, until last week. I heard it would be released in theaters and luckily on itunes! Would my close up make the final cut?

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Ulitmately, the majority of my scenes were cut. And they weren’t MY scenes anyway. The parts that were there to serve the story were kept, and that’s all that matters anyway.

which leads me to my next point: You just never know!

So, what was my takeaway from this experience?

I love working in film. it is the best job in the world. Watching yourself in a film is only an inkling of the true joy spent on set for hours with extremely talented people, and finding the magic at 1am for a last minute closeup and rehearsing with the other principals with a kind and focused director who creates a perfect environment for an ensemble of characters. Nothing beats that feeling for me, and honestly, that is what it’s all about.

So, if you are an actor, and the next time you’re on set, keep an open mind. Whether you are the lead, a background actor, a stand in…be prepared, keep your ears open, and remember to play. Because you just never know what part you could play next.

Persephone et al

I got cast in a mythology project, happening at the Windsor Art Center on the following dates / times:

Thursday, August 13th 8pm

Friday, August 14th 8pm

Saturday, August 15th 2pm & 8pm

The performance will run about an hour, along with a Q&A talkback with the cast.

Among some other supporting roles, my main role will be Persephone, which I am really excited about. In Greek mythology, Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld. We are working in an organic way on these pieces, with improvised dialogue, movement, and storytelling. Using the myths as the basis, we are keeping the original Epic themes alive, but spun into the fabric of the modern day.

From Mythologian.net
From Mythologian.net

I have always been fascinated by the epic Greek plays, particularly Iphegenia (I workshopped a piece in college), the Bacchae (I was a drum kit playing Dionysus in college), Antigone (yep played that too), and many others. Sacrifice, Feminism, family issues, man, it is all there! And I have always loved working in those realms. To me, it is the basis of all truly awesome theater.

Here’s an interesting thing that happened to me. In college, we had been working on a new adaptation of The Bacchae. I, along with two other women in my class, played Dionysus. The idea was s/he was sort of omnipresent and super powerful. The goddess in this case, of Sex, Wine, Creation and let us not forget, chaos. I had been working on my voice for weeks to project in the new Nafe Katter theater’s thrust stage. I wore leather pants, a corset, and had my hair pinned back. And then…something really..weird slash cool happened.

As I walked on stage, I felt myself get bigger. But not my body. I mean like, I felt like I was bigger THAN my body. I also felt this weird, surging energy (no, not butterflies) shoot through my legs. It almost felt like I might not be able to keep control of how well I would walk, which was vaguely nagging at me since I was waring 4 inch leather boots.

When I spoke, the words came out effortlessly, and my voice resonated much deeper and fuller than I had been TRYING in rehearsal. It did not sound like ME.

I felt high. Literally, emotionally, everything. I was sort of having this 360 degree view of of the room. It was exhilerating.

It was not until we finished and I went backstage that I felt a sort of swooning effect. It kind of freaked me out like…UM, what WAS that!?

Later on I spoke to some other actors from other classes and they didn’t even know it had been me on stage! And that was when I felt complete validation for my performance.

The other day someone said to me, “UGH, why would anyone starve themselves for a role? That’s so Hollywood.” And I immediately shot back that it was not, indeed, the case at all.

Actors want to be someone else. They want to feel the rush of experiencing something epic, catastrophic, euphoric, tragic, and if you can find that path by altering your appearance for a role, then you will. It’s because it literally feels different and in some cases is a short cut. Granted, it’s not always necessary, but I totally get it.

I live for those strange moments. To me, the stage is a sacred space and magic begins to flow as soon as the actor agrees to take part in something else. Call it channeling, connecting with a higher power, whatever.

It’s all Greek to me…..ha. I couldn’t resist.

Fine Acting

Without going into specifics, I recently saw someone perform who accomplished that skill of Fine Acting. To me, it can’t exactly be defined in a textbook way, but there are specific ingredients that make it up.

I can tell you what it definitely is NOT: It is not LOUD. It is not SHOWY.

From what I have witnessed from most people who leave a theater or film who don’t normally interact with actors on a regular basis..people think acting means a big part, where someone is loud and yells their emotions. In film, if they have a lot of close ups, they must be good. Or if they are on stage and they are the loudest, they are the best. Not so much.

A performer who can stand there and suck you in by virtue of that charismatic, full, emotional quality of inner life and hold you there, often without many words, is someone who understands what it means to be a fine actor. it doesn’t mean “doing a lot of stuff” on stage.

I remember in college that sometimes our professors would throw water bottles or say things like “That was crap” by virtue of running out of different ways to cajole a performance out of a group of actors. They’d say things like “You guys, Acting is EASY. Just do it.”

And in many ways it is easy. But it takes a finesse to trust that all of the work, research, backstory, etc will be there on stage for you and come out as it needs to. It is much HARDER to make the emotion come out of you by yelling and contorting your body in all sort of actor-y ways in order to draw attention.

But my money is on the wo/man on stage who lifts the quality of the entire show up simply by being there and filling the empty space of the stage with something real. Even the other actors can’t help but be better in their performances because there is no denying it when an honest performance is staring you in the face.

As time goes on, I find myself feeling the need to express much more often my appreciation for work that is fine. It is fine not necessarily because it is uncommon, but because it’s elevated. It makes you work for it. It’s not so over-the-top, punch-you-in-the-face that you jump back in your seat.

Those moments where the audience leans in to meet the actor half-way..to me, those are the biggest successes.

When you see it, you know it. Not every show or film has it, but when it does, you won’t want to look away.

NOIR…”Holding” style!

NOIR…”Holding” style!

This was a collaborative, incredibly exciting film shoot.  I directed the episode and with the help of my crew and cast, we were able to shoot two distinct scenes in exactly 2 takes.  Obviously there were multiple takes, but the end results are essentially two separate takes.

The final splashy noir element was the music, created by composer Ed Green, who delighted me with his addition to the end result, edited by the “Holding” DP, Casey Preston… “Breaking Down, Pt. II”

I hope that through the movement, design, and acting, our “Holding” followers fully enjoy this episode!

Today I have already received great feedback about the editing, as well as some feedback that one person thinks it’s the funniest one yet!

To me, the greatest experience of this was the journey with my freaking amazing, flexible and MULTI-talented crew and cast.  It’s just the cherry on the top to share it with all of you.

Have a great weekend!