Tag Archives: humanity

THE LITTLE FOXES

Over the past few months I’ve learned a few things about an American playwright named Lillian Hellman:

 

hellman

“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions” – L. Hellman.

 

When I read those words I ponder… who says something like that? Or, more importantly, when she looked out through her own lenses at the world around her, based on what she saw, heard, tasted, felt, smelled and sensed… why did she make a statement like that?

 

I traced Austin Pendleton to a scene study class at HB Studio this spring to study a concentrated workshop called Lillian Hellman Scene Study. I can say through my experience of narrowing in on the tragedy of Martha Dobie in her first play called The Children’s Hour that Hellman plays are little mysteries; the best kind – there are little truths hidden like Easter eggs waiting to be discovered by a group of relaxed and present actors. For example… how do you cut a conscience? Why would you need to? Hellman’s autobiographies tend to give a little insight – but also tend to have a significantly controversial history attached to them. I borrowed my copies of her autobiographies as they sit on a shelf at the New York Library for Performing Arts .

 

Fun fact: I’m sitting on my sofa in New York right now listening to a YouTube recording of Ocean Waves wondering if any of the same insight that Hellman thought will run through the tide of my consciousness in this blog post.

 

That’s the thing about plays though – when brought to life they can’t but help to carry you through the playwright’s reflection of her time. You can’t (or maybe you can) imagine how nerding out with her plays on down time at my day job while New Yorkers stroll in and out to say hello all morning has inspired me. I’ve been looking up to find faces and voices talking to me with her plays fresh on the tip of my tongue. I can’t be quite sure if I’ve been grasping at a little something of what she saw – but residually – an undercurrent of life.

 

The best part about studying acting in New York – the very plays I’m reading and studying find their ways to Broadway stages! And sometimes they inspire groundbreaking endeavors; two talented female actresses alternating roles. The Little Foxes is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on 47th Street and is directed by Daniel Sullivan.

 

foxes

 

The Manhattan Theatre Club production has Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternating the lead of power-hungry REGINA HUBBARD GIDDENS and her careful sister-in-law BIRDIE HUBBARD given the “blue” or “green” nights listed on their website. My imagination is mulling over what it might be like to do that – alternate roles within the same production. I just might attempt to one day after seeing these ladies lead the cast through the switch.

 

floating troubles

atop my

sea of hopes

stack full

pressure

against

my chest’s

rise and fall…

 

The emotional rises of REGINA and the emotional falls of BIRDIE are fascinating to witness. In this play, set in the South, the Hubbard family schemes and quarrels over pieces of their pie i.e. the distribution of money among each other. Regina likes to join in on the competitive schemes with her brothers; while Birdie escapes from any pain as much as she can. There doesn’t seem to be a medium among the two; they are either slowly lurking in charge, as Regina does, or lightly asking power to please step away, as in Birdie’s case.

 

…I feel

the barge

passing

parting

liquid thoughts

again…

 
What struck me the most in this play was an examination of getting more. There is raw, gritty desire for more shares, more information, more time with a loved one, or more opportunity to banter about any of the above desires. Some desires seem to overshadow others when in competition – and some desires conveniently find symbiosis when necessary. An example being the scheme to arrange a marriage between Regina’s daughter ALEXANDRA GIDDENS and her gullable cousin LEO HUBBARD in order to ‘keep money in the family”. What a thought – who needs to sell shares when you can marry them? Or something along those lines.

 

…soft landings

brim my eyes

closing

to feel the waves

opening

to feel the waves

roll under…

 

Over time – as the play progresses into the Act III I started to see undercurrents that carried the characters along. There are colorful, hand-painted Easter eggs hidden underneath each character’s learned and necessary ability to cut a larger piece of a whole. These mysteries were tugged along and pushed to the surface every so often – memories of Birdie’s kind mother, Birdie’s ability to hide abuse, Alexandra’s piano duets with Birdie, Regina’s revelations of her true feelings to her husband even when they’re ugly, Birdie and HORACE GIDDENS’ opposition to his daughter Alexandra’s marriage, Leo’s subtle wishes to gain approval from his father and grandfather, and the final moments of the play which open up Alexandra’s mourning of her father. These mysteries, to name a few, seem foreign when they peak because they are only allowed every so often when the characters can’t help but notice a competing humanity.

 

…foreign mechanics

tug my mind

through the

natural rhythm…

 “Sea Of Hopes” in A Collection of Thoughts: Poems By Carrie Robinson.

 

WHAT IF Birdie and Regina were literally foxes? My wager is below. Respectively:

 

**

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

ANN ROTH


photo 1

 

Costume Designer

It’s official and in writing… Ann Roth, Oscar award winning costume designer for stage and film, knows I’m an actress and wishes me the best; I can boast a signed copy of the monograph, The Designs of Anne Roth, by Holly Poe Durbin and Bonnie Kruger; and I can now place a sassy, unapologetic presence to the name I’d previously only been able to read about! Shameless self-promotion aside, I feel the need to share what I learned just by hanging out in the Drama Book Shop on a Thursday night in New York City.

 

As an actor I must ask myself “what do other characters say about my character?” So in getting to know Ann Roth, let me also ask… “what have other people said about Ann Roth?”

 

Meryl Streep described the “inexhaustible curiosity and collaborative spunk” that Roth brings to a project in her introduction at the American Theatre Hall of Fame awards in 2012. Streep claimed Roth as her “friend” and went on to say that Roth,

 

[D]oesn’t just design clothes, she becomes the muse of the project… a video-biographer of characters… she writes a book in her head… on each individual character in the story she can tell you what that person has on their bedside table… how many sugars they take… where their mother was raised and why they comb their hair to the left instead of the right, she has an unstoppable imagination.

 

In asking Roth what it feels like to discover a character with an actor I was given a simple answer. It makes her happy when the actor is happy and the director is happy. I began to sense that this artistic process is quite difficult to describe, however, as Roth (who stated that she is not an intellectual designer) made an effort to share a story instead.

 

One of the routines to find a character with an actor that Roth finds to be a “pleasant and wonderful experience” starts with a vision, meticulous research, searching for and/or crafting costume items and then introducing pieces of the costume to an actor in front of the mirror. Roth might suggest a pair of shoes to start and the actor sees some other vision in the mirror that releases her to go further and try on other items “or a higher heel or maybe this, or maybe that”. Eventually Roth witnesses a character coming into the room and “it’s like stand back everybody and let her breathe”.

 

I quite liked how human Roth was in describing her view of actors – especially considering she’s worked with the cream of the crop. It makes sense that many of these actors also call Ann Roth their friend. “I think of [the actor] as the character he’s playing… an actor has to step up to the moment.” It reminded me that regardless of a person’s role in a film or theatre production, when given a character in a script I have the choice to buy into a humbling and collective understanding that the job is to tell a story together.  I received this reminder from a small conversation with Roth tonight… but people like Mike Nichols who sign up to work with Roth over and over say she is “the invisible hand”.

 

 

**

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

MONICA MUSTELIER

Actor, Coach, Writer, Producer

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2458351/

www.monicamustelier.net


1. What inspires you to be an actor?

Well, there’s a couple of things. I didn’t necessarily want to be an actor in the first place. I just kind of fell into it. I was originally singing in a band in Atlanta. I came home and a friend of mine just said that, “You should try this because I think you’ll be a natural at it”. I just found that it was easier to be an actor than it was to be a musician. That’s originally why I did it.

I think what inspires me to continue to be an actor is the creativity and the people. I love that authentic connection that you get when you are creating with somebody.

2. What is the best part about what you do?

Besides being on T.V.?

I think it’s the community part. It’s getting to create and really having fun with people in the process of it. When I teach, or when I coach… personally, it’s seeing their growth creatively, and just as a person too. I feel that acting is just a process of getting to know who you are. The more you know yourself, the better actor you are.

3. Who do you admire?

I admire people who really just go for it. I admire anyone who really sees their vision, or really taps into what they love to do and just totally goes for it. That’s the kind of person I just really love, and those are the kind of people I like to surround myself by, and create a community of that around me. I guess if I were to choose a person… I don’t know. I guess people who fall into that aspect of it. People who are just really good at what they do.

4. What films, books or other works have had a major influence on your own acting or writing?

I went to go see Lily Tomlin, almost 7 or 8 years ago, when she was touring with a 1 woman show called The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life In The Universe. Seeing her play, I think, like 15 different characters in an hour and a half! I was just like, “holy cow! That was really, really cool”. She was one of the major influences on my creativity.

Also, music as well. The first person that comes to mind is Michael Jackson. His Off The Wall album is so amazing.

5. Have you seen any films lately that you really liked?

I just saw Win Win with Paul Giomatti. It was a little Indie that he did. That was really great. It was just about… he was a lawyer, and through a series of events, there was this kid who comes to him who is this amazing wrestler. That was really good.

What else have I seen that I was absolutely inspired by?

There’s so many. I recently saw Waiting For Guffman. Have you seen it? It’s awesome. It’s shot, kind of, documentary style. It’s just such a ridiculous comedy about a community theatre troupe who produces this event for their centennial town. It’s pretty awesome.

I saw a movie with… Hilary Swank. The movie Conviction was really great too.

6. What motivates you as an actor?

The first thing I was going to say was money!

I don’t want to do anything else so I’m constantly thinking, “Okay, what can I do next?”. I was actually thinking about that this morning, “What can I do next?” I have a few ideas.

So… money and not wanting to get a day job really motivate me to be better.

7. You seem to enjoy comedy a lot, what do you find is really important to remember when you’re involved in a comedic work?

I think really committing to the ridiculousness of it and totally not being afraid to look really stupid, or to offend people. That’s important, says the woman who wrote something about Jehovah’s Witnesses! I think with comedy you have to fully commit to what you’re doing and do it 110%, or else it’s not really funny.

8. You mentioned you created something about Jehovah’s Witnesses? What was that?

It’s a short called God Squad. I did it a couple of years ago. My girlfriend and I wrote it. It’s basically a group of rogue Jehovah’s Witnesses that go door to door and have unusual tactics to get you to become a Jehovah’s Witness. We put it in the Vancouver Short Film Festival a couple of years ago. I won Best Actress for it.

9. How have your experiences as an actor informed the way you coach other actors?

That’s a great question… I steal from my teachers. I’ve been really blessed to have some amazing teachers in my life who have really pushed me both creatively and personally.

They taught me to be unapologetic about my work. I find that a lot of… my sense is that a lot of Canadian… it’s just a part of our culture- is that we’re so polite, right? A lot of actors here are very apologetic about their work. Very, kind of, afraid to take up space. That’s one of my biggest lessons that I’ve learned and I try to impart that on my students and kids, or people, that I coach. To just not be apologetic. You deserve to be big, you deserve to be seen, you deserve to be talented and be acknowledged for it.

10. What do you admire most when working with a fellow actor?

I admire most someone who is really easy to work with, actually.

I worked with Cuba Gooding Jr. and he was so down to earth. He was really, really cool and made me feel really comfortable. You know, and I think there was no diva-ness about him. At one point, we were supposed to be having an argument and he was like, “This is really hard because we’re getting along so well. I need to be mad at you”. I turned to him just before we were supposed to go on, or start our take, and said, “Well you didn’t deserve the Oscar”. It’s like having something… you know, being able to say that without getting kicked off set… knowing that that’s okay.

So… that’s what I admire is just a sense of ease and grace and… humility is good.

11.You are also a humanitarian. What social cause are you involved in?

Right now, there’s a group of us who put together an organization called Munay Wawa. It’s to help support the community of Chinchero in Peru. They have a lot of, kind of like, a lot of First Nations. Basically, like anywhere on the planet, their Indigenous people are going through exactly the same thing that’s happened here, and what is happening here in Canada.

We just got together a group of really amazing people and started raising funds to send the community of children to school. To educate them… not necessarily in the Western point of view, which is really important because it’s not necessarily the right way. What eventually we want to do is build a school that teaches a basic curriculum of Math and Spanish… your fundamentals and their culture as well. If they do choose to leave the community then they’ve got that support system where they can read and write in Spanish, or English as well. Also, they’ve got that foundation of their own culture as well, and their traditional language in Quechua.

Munay Wawa means ‘beautiful children’ in the Quechua language. Check it out!

http://www.munaywawa.org/

**

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,