BUS STOP #1: TAKING OVER TORONTO

Well, the winner seems to be BUS STOP  so that’s what it will be for now  I may change back to DonnaBlogs if I really feel like it’s too much of a switch.  But we’ll audition the name and see.  So Bus Stop will be the blogs about Priscilla while in Toronto.

Just wanted to talk about our first day on stage which was yesterday.  On my, y’all, when you have a show this technically intense, the tech days go so slowly.  We were in the theatre working for 7 1/2 hours in total (plus a 1 1/2 hour dinner break) and we got through the first 15 minutes of the show.  We didn’t even get to the bus coming out.  Let me give you a picture of what tech days are like – for you wonderful civilians who come to see us do what we do.  Every aspect of the show is teched (all technical aspects are gone through with a fine tooth comb).  Every light that comes on, changes, goes off, or moves has to be plotted and gone through – is it bright enough, is it covering the right area – if not, do we move the light or move the actor, what creates the best picture, how long should that fade out or fade up be, etc.  Same with the set – should that curtain be slower when it comes in or opens, should the runway come out quicker?  It’s also when we figure out how long scenes changes actually take.  It’s when you realize it takes longer to move a set out of the way when it goes back stage, so the cast can’t preset themselves behind a curtain in time to be revealed there when the curtain rises.  And on and on.  Every detail must be worked out and when it’s not right, you go back and do it again and again until it’s right.

This show is so technical, we have to do things over and over again to figure out the right role of events to make things as smooth as possible.  Plus there are a bunch of flying moments – yes, flying as in people – so we have to tech things around them, then go back and put the flying folks in because they can’t be hanging around in the air for long periods of time.  Now I know you may think that’s just because of the height but no . . . oh no, my friends.  The ladies who play the Divas in the show have to wear harnesses that go around their waists and have “stirrups” that go between their legs. So basically their weight, once in the air, is suspended by their  . . . um . . . tenderest area.  Well after doing a number even once, they can’t really feel their legs, not to mention their . . . well, that’s a lot of pressure in a place that shouldn’t have that much pressure on it.  Those people who think that what we do is all glamour should try being sexually assaulted by a leather strap for an hour every day.  Yeesh!

But I have to say, seeing the sets is so amazing.  Before we began the rehearsal, they gave us a show and tell of the bus.  They showed us all the tricks – the colours changes the bus makes, the way it comes toward the audience, how it spins around, how the one side opens up completely.  It’s amazing.  Then we stared the technical rehearsal. For a chunk of the first couple of scenes, there is a “curtain” of lights and what the creative team keeps calling flitter (sort of black, shiny, 40-feet long tinsel) that is like another character in the show.  What this curtain does with lights that change colour, follow each other, create shapes, etc, is astonishing.  A couple of cast members and I were marvelling at that fact that our brilliant designers came up with and programmed this into the show and, more specifically, this curtain.  The pictures and shapes it creates, I have never seen before.  It’s mind blowing.  And so incredibly smart from a design point of view.  Everyone is going to be waiting for the bus but what the team has given the public while they wait is the ultimate distraction.  You don’t even think about where the bus is because you have this incredible scenic magic that actually lets you think about and watch the story and not worry about the bus until it appears.  I’ve been constantly amazed by how clever this group is.  All this to say, the audience is going to get their money’s worth and then some.

What was also really fun yesterday is they were unpacking all of the costumes downstairs and a bunch of us were walking around looking at them.  There are barely words.  It’s such a free for all of fabulousness.  I couldn’t resist taking a photo of some of the head dresses.  I wanted you guys to have a look and get as excited about it as we are.

Just a little something to whet the appetite.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg, my people.  Get your tickets!

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Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Comments (1)  

SLIGHT DILEMMA!!!!

Here I am back in Toronto, in my own place.  But I don’t feel like I can call these installments from Canada “DonnaBlogs” because the DonnaBlogs are supposed to be about Priscilla and the New York Experience.  Hmmmm  Okay I think I have only done this once or twice in my blogs before but I am going to do a poll.  Who thinks I should still call them the DonnaBlogs all the way along the Priscilla experience and who thinks they should only be while we’re (me literally and you vicariously through me) in New York.   Seriously.  I’d love to know.  Leave a comment.  Only nice things, remember.  I don’t do slagging in my blog nor do I accept it.

What else could I call them in Canada???  Hmmmm  Okay this could be fun.  I can feel that this particular blog entry is about to get very interactive.  So let’s see. What could some names be.  (In case any of you are wondering, I am literally making this shit up as I go along.)  Let me make a list and you all can tell me which one you like.  Okay here we go.

1.  The Pink Beaver

2. BeaverBlog

3. MapleDrag

4. Bloggerella

5. DragTime

6. MapleBus

7. BusStop

8. BeaverBus (my personal favourite so far – patriotic and just a bit dirty)

Okay so, let me know what you guys think or feel free to suggest one of your own.

Or, as I say, should they remain the DonnaBlogs.  Tell me what you think.  Just scroll down to the small print under the blog where it says comments . . . then make one.

I must add onto this.  When I get back to New York, the blogs, as long as I’m in Priscilla will be the DonnaBlogs. This is just for the journey in Canada.  To change or not to change . . .  help me decide people.

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm  Comments (4)  

DONNABLOG #13 – GOOD EATING, GOOD FRIEND, GOOD TIMES

Sorry it’s been so many days, everyone.  Just been busy – as you can imagine.  So I have some catch-up to do.  The show is going well.   We had a really great run-through yesterday.    Our director had to go back to Australia for some business over our days off and the first two days of this work-week (Tuesday and Wednesday,) which was a great opportunity for our choreographer, Andy, to do some really great clean up.  I have to say, I love watching creative artists working.  Just watching Andy rethink moments and Simon, our director, change bits to make them tell a better story, a more “economical” story, is so informative – in terms of the whys and whats that they change.  So the story keeps getting clearer and more concise.  We have two more days here.  We will basically be doing scene work and cleaning numbers in the mornings and maybe a small part of the afternoon, then we’ll do a run and have notes for the rest of the afternoon.  It’s an interesting thing here.  Each run-through, we had some configuration of producers in the room.  So you look out to start the run-through and there is a row of very distinguished-looking people all looking like 5 year olds on Christmas morning.  LOL  So full of anticipation.   Its slightly daunting (since they’re the ones who’ve shelled out thousands of dollars so that we can have jobs) and kind of sweet (simply because they all seem so excited).  But I’m very happy to say that by the end, their smiles are even bigger than when we started so I think they’re pretty happy with their investment.

I gotta tell ya, I think this show is going to take New York by storm.  And it’s probably pretty hard to storm New York.   I don’t think this city has seen something like this in a while, if ever.  And I think it’s going to run for a long time.  It just has such appeal across the boards.  It has the “girls’ night out” appeal, the gay appeal, the drag queen appeal, the “couples from the mid-west who feel like they’re going to the zoo” appeal, the young’ins who feel like they’re being “worldly” by seeing it appeal.  And even though it’s got gay themes, it’s not overly gay-centric in it’s sexuality so the straight guys can come and feed that curious straight penchant for dressing up in kooky drag.    Having said that, there is still enough eye-candy for the gay boys to please their palates.  AND there is so much to see in the show, there will be repeat patrons from all across the board, wanting to go on the Priscilla ride again, and again, and again.

Some I wanted to talk about something in an earlier blog but kept forgetting.  I don’t know if the audience (for those of you wonderful people who are audience) realize how much of the physical life is “planned” in a show.  Anything that isn’t choreographed (danced or movement that is “stylized) is called the “blocking”.   That is a big part of what gets done in those 8 hours a day.  But literally, you do a lot of moving and backtracking in rehearsal.  Allow me to explain for the laymen among you. For those of you who are in the biz, feel free to pass by this paragraph.  Or feel free to read it but don’t be a judgy-pants.  😦  Right, back to the explanation.  Usually when you start rehearsing a scene, you figure out, with the director, what the physical givens are (what space are you in? is there a door? where is it? Is there a table, sofa, other furniture? is there a window? are you outside? is it winter? etc.)  Then you figure out the prop givens (there has to be food in this scene?  there is a working pen and some paper because you have to write a note later on in the scene, etc.)  Then you start to play.  I, as an actor, might decide to enter the room (and it’s living room, let’s say) and, because I know my character lives in this house, I don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of time taking in the room as it’s all familiar.  The script says I call my wife’s name to see if she’s home, just out of habit.  Let’s say my character is on a diet that his wife has put him on and there is a box of chocolates on the table.  So I enter the room and decide I call for her before I see the chocolates.  Then I see the chocolates and decide to sneak one. But then I’ll stop and realize, or the director might stop me and decide, that I should come in, see the chocolates first, then go to the staircase and make sure she’s not there by calling here name THEN so the audience gets a better picture of how much I’m NOT supposed to be having these chocolates.  Then I go to the table and deal with how I eat the chocolates.  And every single moment of the scene is taken apart like that.  Every detail has to tell the right story. And that was the first 30 seconds of the show.  To this you add in how you approach moments, internal life of the character, objectives (what your character wants from the other character), etc.  And the skill of the actor is to make it look like it’s all freshly happening in that moment every night.  Then the run-throughs are about us solidifying our choices, looking to refine and add on or clean up moments that seem sloppy or unclear.  The director is the outside eye that keeps the whole production running smoothly – the right tone, the clarity of storytelling – because she/he can see the big picture while you’re focusing on the minutiae of your performance and connecting with the other actors onstage.

Now as for New York.  Had a wonderful day off with my pal, Danielle, again on Sunday.  This coming Sunday is her birthday so I decided that last Sunday would be her birthday day since we leave in the morning this coming Sunday.  I met her in Harlem.  I was so excited as I’ve never been there and that’s where she grew up.  So we first went to well-known soul food restaurant called . . . oh shoot.  What’s it called?  Found it.  (Bless the internet)  AMY RUTH’S.  Oh my lord.

www.amyruthsharlem.com

Soooooooo good.  We waited in line for about 20 minutes and it was worth it and then some.  I had to try the the smothered chicken.  Of course, I first had to ask Danielle, “Smothered in what?”.  Her response, “(smile) Gravy.”  My response, “I’m in.”  It was delicious.  And it comes with two sides.  Tell you about those in a minute.  Danielle had the “Dougie Fresh” which is waffles with fried Whiting (fish) which also comes with two sides.  Mine was called . . . . wait for it . . .  the “President Barack Obama” which is fried, smothered, baked or barbequed chicken.  We decided to have a real taste (for my sake) of some southern sides so we had macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams and cheesy grits.  Oh lawd, y’all.  We literally didn’t eat for the rest of the day.  But it was so good.  Then Danielle took me on a guided tour of a bit of Harlem.  I should say here I wanted to see Harlem for 2 reasons.  1.  Just because it’s an area I’ve heard about so much and 2. it’s an area I’m told I should also look at to live when I come back in the new year.  So we walked around from 116th Street to about 160th or so.  And I got to see the outside of the famous Apollo Theater which seems so unassuming.

I want to go inside when I come back.  What was kind of cool to see, and Danielle had already told me about this, was that Harlem isn’t just all black.  It’s become a much more racially mixed area and everyone seems to be living together quite harmoniously.  It had a great vibe.  I could totally imagine myself living there.  So it’s on my list.  It was also wonderful to see the apartment building that Danielle grew up in and hear about her going to school and how she started singing in a program at her school, etc.

After we got tired of walking our asses off, we took the subway down to my area where there is salon Danielle likes and we got her a manicure and a pedicure.  Just a little pampering.  We laughed and talked.  Then she came over and I had a bottle of bubbly and just a little bit of cake (okay, I lied, that’s the only other thing we ate that day cause we were so full of good southern cookin’).    And we talked and talked and laughed some more.  Then I walked her to the subway and she headed off home. It was a pretty great day.

I have to head off to work but I just wanted to do some catch up.  I have to tell you guys about the shows I’ve seen too but I’ll get to that in the next few days.

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

DONNABLOG #12: JUST A TASTE

Hey kids,

Tony Sheldon just sent us a little YouTube taste of the bus being tested in Toronto.  Just to get our appetites whetted.   A sneak peak.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Comments (3)  

DONNABLOG #11: BARKING DOGS AND WHAT WE DO

Children, my feet are killing me.  Whew.  I feel like Pearl Bailey.  Only not as funny . . . well . . . not yet.  Hahaha.  Please tell me there aren’t people out there who haven’t heard of Pearl Bailey.  Well, I guess she has been gone for a while.  She was a performer/singer/actress/Unicef Ambassador who was in movies and on Broadway.  She was known for, among many things, talking about how sore her feet were and she’d just take off her shoes whenever she felt like it.  Here, I found a little early clip of her – doing just that in a skit.

She was hysterically funny and so relaxed.   She was a talk show favourite.  Here is a great clip of her on the Andy Williams show.

When Carol Channing had run Hello, Dolly in New York for a hundred years, (and perhaps after several ladies had done it after her), David Merrick, the producer, decided to turn the whole show on it’s ear and he changed it to an all-black cast starring Pearl Bailey as Dolly, with Cab Calloway as Horace.  It ran for another year.  Just cause I’m on a kick finding these great YouTube clips, here is a fun and bizarre one.  It’s the finale of a TV special starring Pearl Bailey and Carol Channing that was filmed while Pearl was doing her Dolly on Broadway.  They do a couple of numbers from the show.

Okay, enough Pearly Mae.  She’s fun, though, right?  What the hell was I talking about??  . . . . . oh right, my feet. Yikes.  In and out of those heels.   The boys and I (I call them the “boys” cause I basically have surgeries older than most of the male ensemble) were talking about how women can stand it.  Well, some can’t but also, the shoes were not built to support our point of gravity and in most cases, our weight.  Also, my shoes were $23 at Payless.  Let’s not pretend people.  It’s not like they are Cupid’s Love cured lambskin or something.  Basically, I’m walking on coke bottles and a nail for 45 minutes at a time, 3 times a day.  It is really hard on the feet though.  We’re all dying to get our real show shoes.  They are being made for us so they will be made to accommodate the shape of our feet and our weight and what we have to do in the show.  Whew!!!

But the upside is we are getting a lot done.  We’ve spent a couple of days now just fine-tooth-combing the show.  It’s been really great to gain clarity about steps and intention and the feel of scenes.   I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I love this creative team.  So generous and fun and specific and caring.  Every detail matters and they’ve been doing this show in some variation for 4 years.

Oh, that was something I wanted to talk about.  For those readers who aren’t “in” the business.  Civilians, as a friend calls you.  (Lovingly, of course.)  It was interesting in a response I got from Donna – the inspiration for the title of the DonnaBlogs.    And this is by no means a reprimand, Donna.  In the response to my blog where I spoke jokingly about losing the will to live and/or leaving the business after a trying day in the rehearsal room, she wrote, also jokingly I might add, that if I was a family, she was say “suck it up, princess”.  (I’m oversimplifying it – I want to be clear there was nothing harsh meant by Donna and I didn’t take it as such).   But it made me realize that even the impulse in that joke for her was indicative of a large sense people really do have about actors as being whiny babies.   Well, some are.  hahahahaaha  But many people in the general public are whiny babies.  That doesn’t mean their work is not hard.  So I wanted to elaborate a little on what it’s actually like to rehearse a musical.

The first couple of days is the most laid back physically but it’s rather involved emotionally. Wait, I’m not sure how to start this.  Here is the scoop.  When human beings go to work, they have all kinds of stressors being heaped onto them every day.  Deadlines, bosses, co-workers.  For most people, their job is some combination of mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally taxing.  Rarely is it actively all four at the same time.  What I mean by that is rarely in the civilian world are you paid to utilize all of these at once.  ie. if you work in an office, you’re sitting at a desk most of the time; you are probably not taxed physically – tired physically but you’re not paid to do physical work. And though you may feel unhappy or sad in your job, you’re not paid to be happy or sad or angry.  As such you are also not paid to be in high spirits; they don’t care if you are spiritually sound as long as your “work” gets done.  On the other hand, if you are a garbage collector, or some other manual labourer, it’s the physical along with the mental.  But how you feel about it or how happy you are is not a required or paid for issue.  Get what I’m saying.  But which a performer, specifically a musical theatre performer, we are paid to be firing on all cylinders as once.

Allow me to elaborate.  The first day, you meet everyone – director, musical director, stage managers, producers, cast; all these people you are going to spend the next 5 weeks to possibly a year or more with.  You may know some, you may not.  As soon you meet them,  you are being assessed.  You can’t let that pressure get to you. If you’re a young actor, it can be a totally terrifying day.  Then you start to learn the music.  Now it’s become clear to me that a lot of “civilians” think we just learn a melody like we’re listening to it on the radio then la la la, off we go.  In fact, what happens is this.  We sit in sections (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone) and learn different parts – some have the melody sometimes, then it may change – we have to hear our harmonies and blend with those around us.  We have to learn what the cut off  (when to stop making sound – finish a word) at the end of each musical phrase.  The musical director tells us what dynamics he wants (how loud, how soft, “get louder as you sing this line”), what emotional colour for the group numbers.  We have to go through it with a fine-tooth comb so we all have the same idea in our heads about the over all feel of the song.   (PRISCILLA has about 20+ ensemble numbers in it.  So imagine what that’s like. Just mentally.) Plus, we rehearse for 8 hours a day, taking off 1 hour for lunch and another 30 minutes or so for breaks.  So we are singing for about 6 1/2 hours a day for about 2 to 4 days.  Once we get a rough idea of where we’re going, we start to stage numbers.  So now we are dancing for that 6 1/2 hours a day, while trying to get lyrics into our heads.   All this while, the musical director of whatever the show may be is “gently” reminding you about cut-offs so you all shut up at the same time.  And let’s not forget you are still trying to get to know people, some of whom are now playing your friend or dance partner or enemy.  Add into that the fact that the choreographer and director and starting to give you acting notes, so now you’re expected to be emotionally open and available to create real relationships and take the steps and make them organic and real.

You see, we are also paid to be emotionally present and access all of that stuff that makes us scared  and joyful and human – every day – from lead to ensemble.  Plus the fact that you don’t want to feel like you’re disappointing the director or choreographer or musical director who are getting to know you and how you work.  Plus you are getting to know the cast still.  It’s like the first day of school everytime a show starts.  And the show is constantly a work in progress.  You work on choreography and forget lyrics or your cut-offs, then the director starts to talk about how you have to fill the movement with real emotion or it’s just dead and so . . . . . . .  when an actor has a day where he feels like he’s not living up to his potential in the eyes of the creative team, or worse, in his own eyes (spiritual stress) AND you’ve run a number over and over again with heavy props (physical stress), AND he screws up choreography in most, if not all numbers  AND he can’t remember some lyrics (mental stress) AND he realizes he spent a whole scene trying to remember what’s next so he didn’t have any inner emotional life as a character in a number (emotional stress) AND it’s been nine 8 hour days since he’s had a day off  AND AND AND . . . .  that will be the day he loses the will to live and wonders if he should leave the business – even if just for a second.    There is no princess in this equation for those of you who REALLY think what we do is all glamour.  (Again, this is not at all a reprimand of you, Donna – it just opened an issue I wanted to talk about anyway – merci) We don’t get to leave any part of ourselves at the door but our attitude – and sometimes even that creeps in behind us.  We are working on all cylinders, all day.  Then trying to cram the info in at night.

Now having said that, the other side is glorious.   With any show, you do hit a time when you get over the hump and the choreography is making sense in your body, they lyrics are making sense, you are able to stop worrying about steps and really start telling your part of the story.  That is thrilling.  It is also exhausting.  But you can feel like you’re moving forward.  As I say, once you get to the stage we’re at right now, it starts to get better. We keep getting more specific about what scenes are about.  What we, as an ensemble, are trying to do and that’s where individuality comes in.  The director may say, “there is sinister energy in this scene, something dangerous could happen at any time.” but then it’s up to us to interpret that and play with that and see how it manifests itself physically.  That’s the fun stuff.

Eventually we start adding more stuff.  The set, then lights, then costumes.  Believe me, it will all go to rat-shit several more times before we preview.  Then an audience.  Performer energy in front of an audience – hmm – there is nothing like it.  It burns, it’s exhilarating, it’s exhausting.  Once we’re open, people think all we do is 2 1/2 hours a day and 5 on 2 show days. But I hope by now you’re getting an idea of the high-octane energy we’re talking about.  Look at athletes who do sprinting or rowing, or running.  How long do they do it for in one stretch?  It’s a day’s worth of energy in 2 1/2 hours.  Plus we have warm up time before the show, add to the that the constant thinking about eating – what to eat, when to eat it.  Blah, blah, blah. Plus, you’ve got to keep yourself in shape so you’re hitting the gym or whatever regime keeps you in the shape you need to be in.  I want to be extraordinarily clear when I say this.  These are not complaints.  These are just facts.  This is what a musical performer’s life is like working on a show.  Does it make us better people . . . no.  Does it make us better artists . . . . it can.  It just is what we do.  We don’t get to just make a product or write a paper or balance a ledger and go home.  We ARE the product.  Our lives are about not taking personally what is intensely personal.

That’s sort of the good, the bad and the ugly, y’all.  And now I’m exhausted and my feet hurt and I’m going to bed.  (That was a complaint and I’m not sorry.)    More soon.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 4:00 am  Comments (2)  

DONNABLOG #10: WHEN AND WHERE

Sorry for the long silence.  So many things to talk about.  I may have to do this in two blogs.  Well let me work backwards.  Yesterday evening was the Priscilla launch to . . . well I’m still not totally sure to whom.  I heard it wasn’t media.  It was all of the people who sell tickets – group sales, etc. in NYC.  It was held at the Ambassador Theater where CHICAGO is playing right now. (But Wednesday is their dark night)

The main producer from Australia, Gary, spoke, along with our wonderful director, Simon.  And what was so wonderful is that they are both so charming.  Gary is slightly shy but with a warm manner and smile and then Simon is funny and charming and easy.  They introduced several scenes and songs from the show and showed a video.  Then they announce to everyone for the first time, the real dates and theater of the New York run.  So here we go.   We preview on Feb. 28 and we open Mar. 20 at  . . . . . . . (drum roll please) . . . . .  The legendary Palace Theater.    WEST SIDE STORY is in there now.  But they got their closing notice yesterday afternoon.  Yikes!!!! Apparantly it’s  gorgeous theatre and one of the only ones that is actually LITERALLY right on Broadway.  Here, I just found some pics.  Let’s take a pictorial tour, shall we, munchkins?  Here is the outside.  It’s pretty crazy looking on the outside and small too but it opens up behind into a huge theatre.

Then we have a shot of the foyer – so this is the view facing the street you see above.

Then here is an angled view of the inside of the theatre. It gives you a taste of the stage and the audience.

Pretty old school swanky, hmmmm??? Woohoo.  It suddenly became so real seeing some of the costumes at the launch and the numbers.  This is really happening.  Very exciting.

I’ve run out of time for right now but I’ll try to get off another DonnaBlog later on.    I have several things to talk about.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm  Comments (3)  

DONNABLOG #9: RUN-THROUGH AND 9/11

Well let us start with the major topic of the day. Today is the 9th anniversary of 9/11; one of the most devastating events of the century in this country and, indeed, felt/seen around the world.  My heart broke a little in hearing people talk about it.  Not on television but here, in the city where it happened.  A member of the cast used to live across the water and didn’t see the first plane hit but he watched the rest of it – right in front of him.  My tour guide of Sunday, Danielle, rode her bike down to, well, near the site, just after it happened to see if there was anything she could do to help. She was not allowed to go farther at a certain point.  But hearing the Americans in the cast talk about it makes you realize it is a wound that is very much fresh.  And the talk of the conspiracy theories are still abundant.  But it was interesting hearing it talked about in front of people who could even hear it because it was too horrifying that the government could be so heartless.   Seriously, a couple of people had to leave the room – it is THAT FRESH.  It made me sad and I really, for the first time, am aware in a very tactile way, of how devastating that day was for the country and, more specifically, for the people of this city.

Now on to rehearsals.  By the end of yesterday’s rehearsal, we had basically finished blocking the show.   My God.  There are still a couple of little bits to do and then lots of cleaning and specifics but the overall sense of the show being done is done.  Then today we ran through the whole show this afternoon.  Holy Doodle.  It is really quite extraordinary.  I am already incredibly proud of this show.  Yes, it’s funny as hell; yes, it’s colourful and outrageously costumed; yes, it’s full of all of these disco hits that everyone’s going to love hearing and especially in the context which most of them are used; but what is the most thrilling and amazing and makes the show something unique in a world of jukebox musicals (which I wouldn’t even call this) is the fact that the moments and especially the last reconciliation scenes with the “girls” and Tick and his son are so  beautifully and economically written.  It’s a play with music.  And Will Swenson, Nick Adams, and Tony Sheldon as the “girls” are just phenomenal – funny, charming, bitchy, loving, human.   It’s already a joy.   It’s also a real workout for them.  I am a little daunted, trying to get all of Tony’s blocking down, let alone his choreography. But I’m getting there, little by little.

The not so good part of the run-through was that today, for the first time, I lost the will to live and thought I should probably leave the business.  Yes, no matter how old you get and how much you do, there are still moments where you think, “I’m so not talented. Why did they hire me?  They’re totally replacing me tomorrow.”  I screwed up at least one thing in every number.  Oh did I mention that Jerry Mitchell is an advisor on the show?  For those of you who don’t know, Jerry Mitchell was a dancer and is now a major Broadway choreographer (The Full Monty, 2005 revival of La Cage Aux Folles, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, 2003 revival of Gypsy, Hairspray, Never Gonna Dance, etc.) and director (Legally Blond, the musical).  Well he was sitting there and though I’ve only seen a couple of his shows and bits of numbers on the Tony’s and on Youtube, I felt like I was going to choke having him in the room. And to top it all off, most everyone had done at least one of his shows before.  So I really felt like I’m on the outside.  Now understand this is totally in my own mind but it threw me today.  Just for clarity.  It’s just one of those days and I’m not actually leaving the business and my will to live is fully in tact.  So please understand I’m just sharing this because it’s good for young actors to know you will have these days and you recover from them and go on.  Good lesson learned but it was still great to do the whole show and see what we have.  And what we have, even in the roughest form is a pretty entertaining AND touching show.  You’re gonna like it, y’all.  Get your tickets.

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 11:25 pm  Comments (4)  

DONNABLOG #8 – NEW YORK, NEW YORK, A HELL OF A TOWN

Wow, what a great day yesterday.  I went with my friend, Danielle, who is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Harlem, and she took me on a walking tour through the southern-most part of the island known as Manhattan.    You may have heard of it.  😉  I met her at 23rd Street and 7th Avenue.  We walked through (now this won’t be in order as I still don’t quite know the order of things) Chelsea (which is basically where we started), the West Village, Soho, Wall Street . . . oh darn, I can remember the other areas.  But it was so great.  I have pictures but I realized my computer doesn’t seem to be recognizing the cable from my camera.  AAAArgh. I’ll see if I can find some pics on line.

Okay, I’ve just found some pics on the internet.  I just found a picture that is literally about three blocks from me. It’s where Danielle and I ended up at the end of our day but I want you to see it cause it’s more or less where I’m living here right now.

So we started walking south.  It’s amazing how the architecture changes as you go through each area.  Apparently, the city was built from the southern-most part up; from the ports up, which makes a great deal of sense.   The first major place we walked through was Union Square

Come on, look at that photo. It’s so great. I was coming over all Emma Goldman.  (look it up)  There were people having lunch or hanging out.  There were all of these artists displaying their pictures. One had something neither Danielle nor I had never seen before.  This guy had these pictures of black folk (that’s right, I said black folk and I’m not sorry) in these beautiful earth tones but when you get close and read his sign, you realize they are all created using sand.   What?!!   Gorgeous and sensuous but so amazing.  Basically he had used a hard substance (sand being small rocks, basically) and created these incredibly graceful, curved, voluptuous shapes.  I totally forgot I had my camera in my bag but apparently it wouldn’t have mattered as I don’t seem to be able to download stuff anyway.  RATS!  DOUBLE RATS!!

Anyway, we also came around to a man who was creating a mural on the ground with coloured sand.  I know it sounds like it was coloured sand day but where the other man had created hanging pictures with variations of earth toned natural sand, this gentleman was using red sand, blue sand, green sand, orange sand, etc.  And with his hands, streaming the sand into shapes on the ground.  While he was working, a little wind come up and blew it a little and he’d fix it if he could or put the right colour over what had blown.  It began a whole conversation between Danielle and I as we walked away.  She had seen this before and in the past had asked a different sand artist what he does when he’s finished.  He said, “you just have to walk away and leave it to be destroyed or walked over or whatever.”  I commented to her that it must be an incredibly zen thing to be doing. Or rather, you’d have to be zen about it.  People can accidentally walk over it, the wind can blow it, thoughtless will destroy it, rain, will wash it away.  It would be a huge lesson in humility and patience and, indeed, in letting go.  Quite something.  Imagine if what you do for a living was destroyed within seconds or minutes as soon as you were done it – every time.  If it were me, I’m not sure someone wouldn’t be injured . . . .

Aaaaaanyway, from there we walked around the corner and ran into some kind of mini-street fair – food and trinkets and clothes.  Danielle hadn’t eaten so she wanted a sausage in a bun. Now I was expecting a sausage in a bun like we get at home and which I do know you can get on the street here too.  But she goes up to this stand and orders, and they give her this 1 1/2 inch thick, 10″ sausage that they’re cutting off 0f what looks like a 4 foot coil cooking on the grill, then the lady proceeds to lay about a cup of sauteed onions and peppers over top of it.  Children, they do not do things small here in New York.  I laughed for about 3 minutes.   We walked through that a bit until we detoured off to keep walking. (I finished the blog and managed to find a photo of what I’m talking about, only her sausage was another 2 inches long.)

This is where I start to forget the order.  We were just walking and chatting. What is cool is that because of the fact that the city was built from the south up, the buildings start to spread out as you get further north.  So as you walk south, the buildings get closer together and narrower.  It may go back really far but the front is really narrow.  Particularly in Soho. Soho is a big shopping area.  All of the major stores are there and little stores and interesting bits. The picture below gives a bit of an idea of how packed it is and busy.  Actually the street was way busier than that.  At one point Danielle, who is not particularly patient with “wanderers”, has to veer off to the other side of the street because she was about to tear the tourists a new one.  (If any of you are asking “a new one of what” – think about it)

Soho is quite amazing.  All these name stores, upscale and midscale, packed into these 10-15 streets.  But talk about your one-stop shopping.  It’s a bit like Bloor between Yonge and  Bathurst but the buildings are, mostly, all older.

It was around this time we made out way towards the West Village (I think – don’t quote me on the order).  It’s one of Danielle’s favourite areas because, to quote her, she “loves her gays”. She told me that, apparently, the Sunday before every major holiday, there is a big gay party somewhere huge that starts on Sunday night and goes until Tuesday.  Wow, that’s a lot of gay to pack into two days. (A little gay Chelsea/West Village shot for dramatic effect)

This is actually on Christopher street in Chelsea  (again, these are not pictures I took, just pictures I’m finding on line which are better than the ones I took anyway).  The West Village is fun.  You know that whenever you end up in a mostly gay area, you’re going to have great shops and cafes and gourmet grocery places and little boutique and fun bars, etc.  Well there certainly are.

Plus there is a spa there that Danielle said was great for men and women and that I should check it out at some point.  Well, that will have to wait till I’m a little more . . . liquid, as it were.  But I’ll just store that info in my back pocket.

From there we headed to Chealsea Piers where there is this great boardwalk that runs from way uptown on the west side, around the southern waterfront, and back up the east side. I’ve been looking for place to start running (I’ve started to run – seeing if I like it and how my body takes it.  So far, no casualties)

It was along here that we saw a bunch of people out lying on the grass (which you can’t see in the photos).  There are sort of grassy hill sections with room for handfuls of sun-bathers to be out and about.  Someone caught my eye from a distance at one point, this person was sort of propped on a half chair or something and on a quick, fleeting glance, my instinct said it was a man but something in the back of my brain said that there was something that didn’t visually add up.  I looked again (still at a bit of a distance thought we were walking in that direction and getting closer) and saw that this person was wearing a bikini top and had long hair.  So I thought, “oh, hmm my instincts must be off a bit – new city, new experiences; perhaps I’m overstimulated”  But I know my instincts are rarely wrong (when i listen to them)  so I looked again for any tell-tale signs of actual femininity besides the bikini and I asked Danielle if it was a man or a woman.  She took a quick glance and said a woman.  I keep looking and said, ” . . . I don’t think so”.  Finally we got close enough. . . . . now I have to say here I’ve seen many men and women and variations on a theme and I enjoy all of God’s unique creatures.  But this one had a story I could not for the life of me figure out.  It was, in fact, a man but let me paint this picture. He was simply a man in a bikini.  No other tell-tale signs of femininity.  He wasn’t wearing make-up, he didn’t have fake boob – though his bikini top was padded with something, he clearly was not taking any hormones of any kind, thin and angular with no tell-tale signs of being “in transition”.  Now he may have been just beginning the process (which I applaud if that’s his choice)  but if he was, it was so early, it seemed a bit of wishful thinking than actual effort.  Imagine Jeff Goldblum with blond hair in a bikini.   . . . . Are you picturing it? . . . . There, now you see what we were looking at.  I won’t lie, that gave us both a laugh for about 5 minutes.

Then we started to head back east again and ended up in Washington Square in Greenwich Village.  So cool.  They love their big, honkin’ open squares here and I see why.  There is a huge fountain in the centre and a beatiful arch beyond it. The Memorial Arch is to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as president of the United States and it’s modelled after the Arch De Triomphe in Paris.

What also cool about the square is that it’s so big and with the water feature, each corner had a different musician playing something – one had two drummers giving some cuban flava’, one had a full-on upright piano and drums laying down some Michael Jackson, another had some neo-hippies chirping some “kumbaya”- tinged, tambourine fiesta, then by the arch was a young guy playing guitar and singing Christmas songs – and by the time you got to each one, you could barely, if at all, hear the last musician you left.   I love this freakin’ city.

As we walked through the arch, and up a block, we came to this one street, that had gates which were closed at night according to the sign, called the Washington Mews.  We walked into the street and on one side the buildings were rather modernish and the other side looked like we were in 18th/19th century France.  We had no idea what that was about. But take a look.  So bizarre.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I found out it used to be stables that serviced horses for the homes in the area but since the 1950’s, they’ve served as housing, offices and other facilities for New York University.

At that point, we continued east, back to Broadway, which is basically the Yonge Street of New York City as it stretches from the top to the bottom and goes through every bourrough (sp?), and then headed south again through Wall Street.  My God, talk about a change in architecture.

It literally just suddenly becomes these buildings.  Gorgeous and awe-inspiring.  Statues and people and bronze this and gilt that.

Very official looking.  Including a couple of huge gated buildings that even Danielle didn’t know what were used for.  Eventually we came to the area of Ground Zero (were the twin towers were).  But before we got there, Danielle showed me Trinity Church.  I had not heard of it until now but an amazing story.  It is comparatively small church in the Wall Street district.  It’s where George Washington worshipped so it is not fresh to begin with.  It has a cemetery on both sides of it with headstones from that time.  It is not more than about 2 or 3 blocks from ground zero.   Many buildings nearby were badly damaged and way newer. The church barely had a scratch.  Not a tombstone was moved.  I found this incredible shot from the aftermath of September 11.

Apparently it was one of the main places used for firefighters and police and helpers as a haven, shelter, food and aid dispensory  Amazing.  Here it is in all it’s cleaned up glory.   The little church that could . . . . and did.

That prompted a chat between Danielle and I. Of course, religious people will instantly attribute that to God.  And I am not refuting that, so no one get all uppity and say that’s where I’m going with this.   Religion, we have seen, like everything else, can have it’s good points and it’s bad points.  But what is constant is positive and negative energy and I think it’s cool that this church that has seen hundreds of years of energy come in and out, had enough positive energy to create a. . a what . . . a positive energy force-field around itself and it’s foundations.  Just interesting to think about.

Whew, I’m getting tired again, just writing about all of this.  So then we walked to the Ground Zero site.  Wild to actually be there.  I have to admit, there isn’t a lot of energy the way I thought there would be but as Danielle reminded me, it’s been 9 years.  She told me some wild stories which I won’t go into here – perhaps another time, perhaps not.  It was almost impossible to fathom the effect on the people nearby and the towers nearby and what a horror it must have been for those first few weeks, months, years.  The energy, the debris, etc.  I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. I don’t really have much else to say about it right now.  What else is there to say?  It is one of the greatest tragedies of the century.

So we continued down to the water and I got to see . . . .(drum roll) Lady Liberty herself. . . . well from a distance.  She’s not right there but you can see her.

Now, Danielle told me an interesting story which I’ve been online trying to research but I can’t find a definitive answer on either way.  There is a  . . . a what?  . . . not a “story” but a possible fact that the Statue’s face was originally modelled after a black woman.  She was a gift to (partly/wholly) commemorate the U.S. ‘s freeing of it’s slaves or of it’s own freedom . . .??  This is what is in question.  Apparently, instead of the book, she was originally holding a broken chain.  And, in fact, when the chain was changed to a book, the broken chains were placed at her feet instead where they now sit but you can’t really see them from the ground.  The robes she is wearing are inspired by Egyptian freed slave garments.  So far, I haven’t seen real proof that it’s totally true but I also haven’t seen total proof that it’s not true.  Hmmmmm  Either way, that is good shit, right?

So we sat and looked out at Staten Island and Jersey and THE ATLANTIC OCEAN – What?!!!  Awesome.  After that, we were both too freakin’ exhausted to move so we grabbed the bus back up to my neck of he woods.  In fact, that’s when we ended up exactly where this picture is:

It was 6 hours later.  Danielle and I said our goodbyes and I came home to some yummy dinner and started in to some work in Priscilla before, SURPRISE/SURPRISE, falling asleep pretty early.  It was a beautiful day in this beautiful and amazing town.  And I gotta tell ya, it’s kind of fun bringing you all along with me.  I hope you’re enjoying the ride so far.  More to come.

Published in: on September 6, 2010 at 6:22 pm  Comments (9)  

DONNABLOG #7

So we’re at the end of a very long period of rehearsal.  11 days in a row.  But the great thing is we now have the next two days off and it’s supposed to be beautiful outside.  I want to hit the gym, start to really learn the stuff for my understudies and do some exploring.  We ran through the first act and half of the second today.  Yes, that’s right, we’ve come that far already.  I mean, some of it is still in rough shape but we still have 3 more weeks of rehearsal until we come back to Toronto and then we have another 2 weeks.  Plus previews.  I have to say though, the show is hilarious.  If Tony Sheldon isn’t nominated for a Tony, I will be shocked.

Back to New York – I have to say I’ve seen so many people that one only sees in magazines normally.  Men and women who are so buff and put together.  It’s a little unnverving but pretty amazing to look at.  A beautiful black woman (for those of you who want political correctness . . . go to another blog – I’m black, I get to say it) who had a little too much hair in her weave but was stunning, wearing a lovely sundress and she had the most amazing breasts I’ve ever seen live.  Her skin was a rich chocolate brown and her breasts where so full and gorgeous and though not 20-year-old perky, were so incredibly shaped and clearly real.  It was fantastic.  Then not two blocks later, her male counterpart, except his chest was as high and as tight as a pair could be.  He was about 6′ 4″ and built like a tank.  Huge and  . . .made of metal  . . no wait, guns, that’s it.  Big arms, chest, body-builder magazine proportions.  It’s quite amazing to see.  It’s inspiring.

I know there hasn’t been a lot of New York stuff yet but because we’ve been in rehearsal for most of it without a real day off, I haven’t had the time or energy to do much exploring.  But I hope to have a great blog for you guys after the next two days.  I think I’m hitting an exploring day with my friend, Danielle, tomorrow.

Published in: on September 5, 2010 at 2:04 am  Comments (3)  

DONNABLOG #6

FOOTWEAR AND SONDHEIM AND DRAG – OH MY!!!    So we are clipping along.  I’m so happy to say, there is not a single number so far that I’m dreading having to do for a long period of time.  ahahaha  I won’t lie, sometimes there can be a number or part of a number that, as performers, we end up not liking for a whole run.  But moi????  Loving all of it.  We are now into act 2.  There are such hilarious bits.  Yesterday we did the ending number of act 1.   The number is the disco anthem I Will Survive.  Let me just say this, I play a the Scottish drag tourist (the ‘wife’ half of a Scottish couple) and I do a Scottish fling through most of the number.  Yes, that’s right, I’m doing a Scottish fling in drag to I Will Survive.  Let that be the tone of the fantastic insanity that we get to play around with.  And today, we did the Les Girls number where all  but one of the men of the ensemble – and only the men – will be in full showgirl drag, complete with waist cincher, “bunny”-style costume and full feathered headdress.   Then in another scene, we are working class guys at a bar who are, to put it mildly, surprised to see the 7 foot tall drag queens walk in.  Hi-larious.

So two nights ago, I went to see A Little Night Music for the second time.  I had seen it when I was here in February (or March) and had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Landsbury  perform the roles of Desiree and her mother, Madame Armfeldt, respectively.  Miss Landsbury was pretty fantastic.   So I really wanted to see the show again now that Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch had taken over the roles.  I have to say that in the scene where “Send In The Clowns” occurs as well as the song itself, Bernadette Peters did one of the best versions of both I think I’ve ever scene (Goldie Semple sharing the top honours for me).  For those of you who don’t know the scene, Desiree asks her married former lover, with whom she’s just rekindled a romance, if he might want to leave his questionable marriage and start over with her.  He lovingly turns her down. What was so astonishing was that, even though she knew he very well might say no, you could feel her surprise at how devastated she was by his rejection.  It was excruciating to watch her try not to fall apart in front of him – both for him and for her.  I LOVE LIVE THEATRE!!!!

Then there was Elaine Stritch.  She’s just funny.  She can make anything . . . funny.  I’m not sure she is the best choice for Madame Armfeldt, Desiree’s mother and former courtesan, but I was thrilled to see her do it.  She is a pro and she can weave a spell over you but just waiting to land a line.  It was pretty impressive.

So I’ve been really enjoying getting to know this cast.  It’s a lovely group of mostly young-ish persons.  And a couple of slightly more mature individuals.  Ahem. One of my favourite people is Mr. Nathan Lee Graham.  (He just needs a Mister in front of his name because he is so fierce.)  Okay actually, he is so fierce, he will have to be Miss Nathan Lee Graham.  Voila.

In the furor of getting here for rehearsals, I forgot to bring any kind of rehearsal heels.  So we’ve been doing all of these ‘girl’ numbers.  And Karen, my roomie in Toronto, is away for a few more days.  Do I wait and ask her to UPS the heels to me???  How much will that cost???  Do I bother?  When are we getting show shoes (which I heard could be next week)?  But I really feel like I need to be in some kind of heels.  So the lovely, generous and fabulous Miss Nathan Lee Graham offers to take me looking for shoes.  Okay now, let’s be clear about something, I have size 12 feet . . . . (waiting for your recovery)  . . . and in women’s shoes, that’s a 14 . . . . . (again, waiting) so we hit about 5 different places today after rehearsal.  We were on our way to the garment district to find some kind of hooker’s shoe emporium, when we passed our 3rd or 4th Payless.  We thought, what the hell?   We went in and started looking. Almost immediately, MNLG pulls out this pair of 13’s that are round-toed (ie have more room for the toes which is always my problem). THEY FIT BEAUTIFULLY, with a little room to add some insoles.  And the best part.  THEY WERE $22.99.  With insoles, it came to $24 and change. hahahahaahahahahahahahahahahaahhaahahahah  Now I know the universe has a sense of humour but I didn’t think it would use a $23 pair of shoes as an excuse for MNLG and I to get to know each other.  But there you are.  I like him a great deal and I hope he and I have many more talks together.  Yes, he is funny and talented but there is a soul there I want to get to know more.  Good times, ma peeps.  (look at me, going all gh-tto)

Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 3:19 am  Comments (2)