Filtering by Category: Theatre

Notes from the Wardrobe: Let’s Hear it for the Boys...

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I have a pet peeve. Actually two. Okay, if you know me I have a whole farm full of them, but in the case of Love, Loss & What I Wore I have two very specific ones. The first, that I’ve Already covered here is that the play is merely about clothes. The second is that this is a “women’s show”.  

When Spawn was in elementary school I volunteered with the reading program, and kids who would coming in looking for books would often reject them on the basis of whether it was a “boy’s book” or a “girl’s book”. I worked long and hard to convince them (with varying degrees of success) that there was no such thing gendered books. Such is the case with Love, Loss. Yes, these are stories about women’s lives, and yes, we definitely need to see and hear these stories on-stage. Especially now. But as far as the intended audience? There is no such thing as “Men’s Shows” or “Women’s Shows”, only Human shows.

But first, I do want to address the idea that men don’t care about clothes. This is manifestly untrue. They may not care about FASHION but they do care about STYLE. Fashion is what the stores and magazines try to sell you, style is knowing who you are and adorning yourself accordingly. They care about the expressive power of clothing. The guys I work with at Pioneer all have definite takes on clothing, whether they admit it or not. Jon, my assistant director, has an affinity for “old-man sweaters” and very definite ideas about pants. He also has a collection of bow ties for dress up that includes Spider Man and bacon. Dan, our company artistic director has a great collection of silver and beaded bracelets that I have tried to pilfer on more than one occasion. And Doug, one of our board members, and the director of our spring show Tommy, is almost never seen in public without his leather jacket. Each of these guys has a very distinct look that is part of their persona as artists and creators. They have STYLE.

And then there are the stories...One of the interesting things about the rehearsal process has been how often a scene we’ve worked on sparks a cascade of stories from both actors and production team. One monologue about a prom dress had all the women and men in the rehearsal room telling stories not just about what we wore to our proms but who we took, what we did afterwards and what our dates turned out to be in their adult life. Sometimes all it takes to spark a connection or conversation is the shared memory of an object. In our case the object just happened to be clothes. 

Not all stories illustrate the commonalities, but illuminate the differences and that too is a blessing. There are things men never experience that are part of the daily fabric of being a woman. Dealing with the expectations of a society that sends constantly mixed messages. That insists you must be sexy and desirable but if you are sexually assaulted somehow you bear the responsibility. That tells you that men and women are from different planets and it must simply be accepted that there will never be understanding between the two. But the beauty of really listening to someone’s else’s stories is that we begin to understand the world from a perspective outside our own. This is what a show like this offers to men. The chance to see the world in a different way.

So bring your girlfriends and sisters and mothers to see Love, Loss & What I Wore  but bring the men in your life too. You’ll be surprised at what happens. 

My Life as a Broadway Musical

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A few weeks ago on twitter the writer Nicole Cliffe asked her followers to imagine explaining their lives to their therapist in one song from a Broadway musical. I chose  I Put a Little More Mascara On from La Cage Aux Folles. In case you aren’t familiar with this particular tune (and why aren’t you?) it’s about seeing life through the lens of your self created fabulousness. I recognize that to some people this is the ultimate in shallowness. How unfemininist of me to believe that a little lipstick and mascara can change my life. And yet...

I have to start this story with my mother. Mom was born with a very rare disease of the connective tissue called Marfan’s Syndrome (both Jonathan Larson and Abraham Lincoln had the same condition), it caused her a number of issues throughout her life, early onset glaucoma and osteoporosis, malformation of certain bones, and heart problems. She died, as many Marfan’s patients do, of an aneurysm at age fifty-nine. From the moment she was born she was the object of curious doctors who often treated her more as an object that a human being. She loathed, more than anything else being seen by the world as a “sick person.” 

In my entire life with my mother she NEVER left the house without being perfectly made up and immaculately dressed. This was not vanity, this was survival. She could not control what other people thought of her, she couldn’t control what was happening in her own body, but she could control this. She could choose the face she presented to the world. It was her rebellion against a world that could not look past the disease to see a brilliant, witty woman, who had endless compassion and empathy for everyone she met. 

I think maybe this is one of the most important things my mother taught me. I would rather my life be seen as musical comedy than Shakespearean tragedy. In musical comedy you know the plucky heroine may be faced with serious and seemingly insurmountable obstacles but she will triumph in the end and  along the way there will be sequins, great songs and at least one fabulous dance number. Unlike in Shakespeare where the costumes are lovely but by the end of act III not a soul is left standing. 

The actress Ann Miller said “I’ve tried to live my life like an 8 x 10 glossy”. There will be those who read this and think I’m talking about fakery, about not being “authentic”, and I would have to disagree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to chose what you put out into the world. Putting your best face forward is not a denial that life is hard, but a celebration of what makes life wonderful. There is joy in becoming who you are and sharing that with the world. In the words of La Cage’s Zaza 'Cause when I feel glamorous, elegant, beautiful, The world that I'm looking at's beautiful too!

 

 

Find Your Miracle

Photo of harpist Maria Banks, Andre DeShields & me by   Lia Chang Photography

Photo of harpist Maria Banks, Andre DeShields & me by Lia Chang Photography

One of my jobs as an Associate Producer on this year’s Bistro Awards was to go through hours and hours of video footage of our Lifetime Achievement honoree, Andre DeShields. This was no hardship. Mr. DeShields is a remarkable talent with a stunning body of work in theatre, film and television. He is also a man of great style, humor and graciousness. When he complemented my outfit I had to exercise massive self control not to throw myself at his feet and beg him to adopt me. But I digress, as usual, back to the video footage. Among the clips of his performances with Patti LaBelle, Nell Carter and as the Wizard in The Wiz was a wonderful interview he did with Sherry Eaker. 

At the very end of the interview he says, Miracles are commonplace. Blessings are an everyday occurrence. Where we get confused is where we chase after other people’s blessings,or when we covet a miracle that doesn’t have our name on it. That’s when we get into trouble...Pursue those blessings, dreams and miracles that have your name on it, and everything will be fine. How much time I have I taken away from developing my blessings to moan about the things I haven’t been blessed with? Where do I find MY miracles and blessings? I don’t know really, buy I think I have an idea.

The first step is learning to be grateful. To look every day at what I’ve been given, and what it’s brought me, and where it’s taken me in my life, and to be thankful. These are the blessings and experiences that have made me who I am.

I believe that one of my greatest gifts is the ability to work really really hard. Talent is nice, and I do have some of that too, but talent is only the starting point. You have to work every day to develop that talent. The work I put in has certainly given me mastery over my gifts, but it’s also given me ownership of them.  

Culitivating generosity is the final piece. To learn to give a compliment sincerely and without envy. To take as much joy in the success of others as I do in my own. To remember that success is not a finite resource and that just because someone else has it does not mean that there is less for me. In fact, I think there’s more. I’ve always hated the gig scarcity mentality. The idea that if I tell someone how I got a certain gig then there will be fewer gigs for me. I’ve found the opposite to be true. When I pool my resources with other performers I have found not just success but community. 

I don’t know if this is the one and only path to finding my miracles. I’m sure everyone reading this may have a different idea of how to get there. (Which, by the way, is what the comments section is for. Please share how you find yours.) But at the very least I suspect that if I can manage to do all these things there will be no time to covet what is not mine.  

The interview is below, and the section I’m referring to starts about six minutes in. 

 

Singing for a Cause...

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In rehearsal for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Salvador Navarro & Dan Vissers . Photo by Penguin Moon Studios

The art of making art is a difficult one. It requires talent, vision, willing collaborators and funding. You can have the first three elements but without the last one, the almighty dollar, you won’t get very far. At times like this we all can use a little help from our friends.

Last year Pioneer Productions Company gave me the opportunnity to play Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I had a blast exploring the contours of this iconic character and made some talented new friends in the process. Now it’s time for me to give back a little of what they gave to me. On January 20th I will be reuniting with some of my pals from Cuckoo’s nest along with some other terrific performers for an evening benefiting Pioneer. 

Your ticket will get you an evening of great singing, yummy food, and the knowledge that you’re helping to bring new art to life. Click HERE to get your tix for the event. I’ll see you there!

 (If you’d like a sneak peak of what you’ll see on the 20th check out the promo below...)