Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, Damiian's Message, The Joy of Technology

Three Weeks To Opening!!! I'm very happy. The show will be a great success. Now: This happened to me yesterday:

My wonderful friend, Damiian Mario Lang, left me a voice mail the other day, and GOOOGULL transcribed it into poetry for me. How pleased I was to get a double joy from his call. First, I got to listen to a fantastic, animated message from my performer friend, and then, have a poem loosely related to the message in my inbox!

Thank you GOOOOOGULL. I hope that your engineers never figure out how to translate correctly. It would spoil all the fun. Enjoy!

"You don't have my phone. You advised a big problem doors you maza all is well. My. God. I cannot text and I do not faxed me. I don't know, sex tied in knots tax to do not text of me yet or not, text of God text me or not. Fax stop texting. Yay, bye. Act, back. And yo, yeah I love you guys message all about debating bye love it. Yeah. I love you so much, as one of my favorites of all time messaging. I called not to leave a message. God that much. Your order did talk to you in person. Never mind. Yeah I'm in Arcadia. I'm about to go over to a family house for dinner. I've got the mother, the father in the sun. Yeah, I've not met the dollar cool invited me. Why did the teenage daughter invite the man to dinner. Because she needs an acting instructor for her. Independent Study, program. Yeah, I'm very curious about this program and if you have any money to pay me sir. So I'm gonna grab dinner at the house very shortly. FedEx is me and I am fedEx and it is mutually pleasurable C I'm working 3 days a week and then once people go on vacation. I work for them, as I can work through this week, 5 days a week. I work to do the other day Friday. Yeah, like 7 our you give me, 140 bucks cash. Yeah I say it's working okay sir. My book is come along, getting into writing it. And I'm definitely committed to my goal of finishing it and Yeah, your friend of mine who lives in Portland and Jacob yellow needs a wild man. You might medium sometime. Jake up young wild man Yeah, Hi might come up. There. Yo or thanks giving your own be awesome. And I'm looking to buy a motorcycle inexpensive hundreds of dollars. Hundreds, not. Over 1,000 don't care what it is wrong. Is runs sits my body, is my current desires. I just bought a queen size mattress with Lindsay delivered Leninist each pay $170. Not bad and What else. But. I'm making money. I'm buying things. So if if if he about some shoes online, bye bye bye and food whenever the hell I want it, and feels nice. It's going to have money I like it."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming Gets Into Run-Throughs

Well, today is Friday the 14th of Septembre, and as of tomorrow we are getting into run-throughs of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming".

The director, Paul Angelo, who I trust implicitly after having worked with in three processes now (as co-actor as well as director), gave a great piece of advice at rehearsal on Wednesday: With Pinter, we can have whatever inner landscape we choose. That is great for an actor to hear. Next, with Pinter, we can show NONE of it, explicitly. That's the kicker, right there. WHAT!?

We can show NONE of it (except in the eyes, of course).

How do you do this??

The film of The Homecoming is flat, although it's cast with brilliant actors including Ian Holm--the priest in The Fifth Element. Why was the film flat, you ask? Well, most likely because these actors were tackling the same problem we're now dealing with 40 years later in our production: Pinter's play is enigmatic, and is designed to be. If you spell it out, it ruins it. If you play it flat, it ruins it.

It is the ultimate acting exercise, designed by an actor himself. You must be brimming with emotion and subtext, while appearing cool and collected on the outside. This is beginning to show itself a THEATRE exercise, and not a film exercise. Film requires such subtlety anyway, that to engage in this exercise can prove it to fall flat.

The BBC radio play was epic! Vocally, the actors were able to express themselves quite clearly.

The answer is not simple. But it is doable I think. I need to be boiling over with subtext that is clear and distilled, while attempting to hide that overflow with a mask of calm stillness. Does that make sense? It's an actor's wet dream/nightmare!

Thanks, Harold, once again. For making the theatre a worthwhile endeavor.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming

I think I've found my solution to the kwon-dairy of how to play Teddy in "The Homecoming".


I think, after talking with Paul Angelo and Grace Carter (Ruth) in rehearsal last night, thanks to them for the help, that when Teddy arrives at home, he thinks of his wife, Ruth, as a weapon with which to bludgeon his estranged family to death. Then, as they spend a little time with the family, and she seems to be integrating with the neandertals that are Teddy's dad, uncle and siblings (rather than ruining them), he begins to realize that his weapon has turned against him.

At this point, he scrambles to save face and re-establish control over his wife and the situation, which is all in vain, for Ruth now has a mind of her own and is having none of it. Then, there's another turn for Teddy, when he realizes that, not only are his attempts at regaining control for naught, he doesn't really want what he's been fighting for in the first place. This final turn frees him of any guilt a normal person in the same circumstances would be feeling; his epiphany abdicates him of any moral responsibility he might have with relation to his wife and the circumstances, and he arrives at a place where he can fully embrace the truly macabre and yet inevitable future that he has brought upon himself and his now re-invigorated family.

I have to choose my words carefully so's not to let the cat out of the bag for those of you who will be attending the performance and don't want it laid out for you. Hence the enigmatic explanation. I will say, however, that the play itself is enigmatic. And so attempting to describe such a piece in code gives it an extra level of abstraction that may convolute beyond the point of no return. Sorry if that's the case.

In any event, you can see that the process an actor goes through to decode character, especially in world-class dramatic literature, is mentally grueling to say the least. It's a gnawing that never goes away until it is cracked, and even then there is second guessing and re-analysis all the way through production.

Acting is a mental sport!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, Joey Lawrence And Character Dimension

Rehearsals for The Homecoming are going splendidly!

We have now read the script all the way through as a troupe, and picked apart about 1/3 of all the dense matter in the thing; slung around potential variations on the through-line, etc...

A really interesting theme has emerged regarding age. There's a number of moments that discuss age as a central theme of the piece. There's a ticking clock in Lenny's room; the end of the play is a monologue from Max, the father, in which he pleads to anyone who'll listen that he isn't an old man, although he is 70; there's discussion of whether or not Teddy and Ruth's children will be missing them, and I gather from that that Teddy believes himself to be too old to be of interest to them; and Ruth, in her journey, re-finds her youth through this household of aging and desperate men. It just occurred to me that perhaps Teddy, a professor, is contemplating trading his wife in for a newer model (to use the parlance of the piece). This would be another indication of time and age as a central theme.

I can't describe to you how rewarding it is to analyze a script and find connections that help create a whole picture of the world being lived! It's like a drug. With every new discovery there is a little rush of endorphine-like joy at having used the brain and unlocked a piece of someone else's brain puzzle. It makes me feel smart!

I'm still struggling with my character 's (Teddy) most pivotal motivational moment. I won't reveal the nature of the moment, but will say that Teddy has an enigmatic approach to the action's culmination. That is to say, he is ambiguous about the result. He seems completely apathetic to a situation that should be of great emotional import to him. He could be devastated, and there are indications early on that this would be the natural progression for him. However, he seems quite contented at the result when it becomes clear that it is the course that will be taken. He could be delighted at the end result, as well. He exerts two completely different sides of the same issue within the same play. His enigmatic response to the endgame indicates one of three possibilities: Apathy; Cloaked devastation; Or a contentedness with his calculated victory.

As an actor, I have to make a choice. The way it's written prevents a decisive discovery from being possible. In a way, this makes my journey as an actor more my own, which is brilliant of Harold Pinter, who was himself an actor -- and I am now certain that he was stubborn in his efforts to keep the actor self-empowered; for that I thank you, Harold! But which choice is the best one? Which is the best choice for the production and for the rest of the cast? Which is the one that forward's the director's (Paul Angelo) vision the most cleanly?

Let's narrow it down...



Joey Lawrence, Harold Pinter, Bill Shakes And The Character Dimension

The most basic parameters for a narrowing would be readily available in an acting 101 class: YOU NEVER PLAY BOREDOM. Boredom is never a motivation, unless your motivation is to bore your audience. You can play someone attempting to appear bored. This demands a second level of intention, or the primary intention. Therefore, direct "apathy" as the main intention is not the right choice. For me to play the moment with that level of flippancy would ruin the piece. It would negate the entire action of the play up to that point, even if it was the playwright's intent for the character, which I highly doubt to be the case.

The next choice on the list is "cloaked devastation". This choice, ordinarily, would be my first. First of all, it allows me to play two levels of emotion in a single moment, which is always wonderful fun! As humans, we all have the face we put on for the public eye, and behind that facade is what is really going on. We are intelligent and abstract creatures, with the ability to cloak ourselves in ways that other animals cannot. This abstraction is a fantastic tool for the actor, to create depth and subtlety, and bring true life to a person who never existed except in the mind of the writer. Audiences identify with this

much more readily than they do with a Joey Lawrence (Blossom),  


for whom everything is on the surface. It's not believable that there would be a real, two dimensional human. Such a thing is very rare in our species...

However: The way this play is written is leading me to suspect that the answer is actually "a contentedness with his calculated victory". I must tell you that I am not very excited about the prospect of this being the answer. It's less meaty a choice than "cloaked devastation". It shows that Teddy somehow had prior knowledge of the end of events and organized them in some way. Omniscience is akin to boredom or apathy. It indicates a lack of journey for the character. If the playwright intends for the character to be a function in a greater metaphor, rather than a whole person

(David Mamet, "Speed The Plow")


Mamet is notorious for writing half-characters that prove nearly impossible to play with any sincerity--for this reason Mamet is proven in my mind to be a megalomaniacal sociopath, albeit a brilliant writer), such as Shakespeare does with many of his characters (CHARACTER DIMENSION article), then the actor playing such a role is hemmed in to a limited mindscape that serves the function of the play. At this moment in the process, I am leaning toward this conclusion due to the clues I have unearthed through analysis. I do expect my interpretation to morph, and I am hoping that it moves toward a more dynamic conclusion.

Wish me luck!