"oh what a tangled interweb we weave..."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

i don't think i'm the only one it happens to

I’m always amazed when I feel lonely in New York City. It’s almost funny actually. Eight million people and I feel alone?

I should clarify… it’s almost never a “nobody loves me, I’m all alone in the world” kind of alone feeling—it’s ok mom, I’m fine. It’s usually more like a “for a moment everything is still and quiet and somehow for some reason in the midst of that quiet everything is also just a little bit sad” kind of feeling. And no matter how good things are or how much progress I appear to be making or how happy I feel… it happens.

(I don’t think I’m the only one it happens to.)

I’ve determined that for me it’s (usually) an indication of fatigue. It’s a tell all sign that I’ve reached some limit, hit a wall (or a ceiling)… It’s the result of non-stop work, of project juggling… A sign that I need to rest.

Tonight rest is “Six Feet Under: Season Three,” Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches and a six-pack of Stella.

I’m sure I’ll feel much better in the morning.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Winter Wonderland Walk

I went on a walk through Central Park yesterday.  Here are some of the photos that I took:

Having grown up in Los Angeles, snow still makes me a little giddy. And I’ve never been one to pass up an opportunity to frolic in Central Park—it’s one of my top five favorite places in New York. (In case you were wondering, the other four are: East 9th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Governors Island, and my apartment.)

New York has definitely brought out the walker/adventurer in me. A few years ago, I trekked from 110th Street and Riverside Drive all the way down to 12th Street and the Hudson River, and then walked across Manhattan to my then apartment in the East Village. It wasn’t my intention to walk that far; once I started, like Forrest Gump, I just kept going…

I’ve found that long walks almost always inspire me creatively. Whether it’s finding my way into a play I’m directing or getting an idea for a new photo project or deciding what to cook for dinner, for me, inspiration comes when I turn off my cell phone and ipod, acknowledge the beauty of my surroundings, and put one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Guinness Word Record

I want to break a Guinness World Record!!

I am not sure what, which, how, where…any details actually…I just want to be in the Guinness World Record book!! And have my name come up next to my event as something someone has to beat in order to take the title away from me!! How exciting!!

I am VERY competitive!!

So, I have to somehow figure out how to do this. All through my life I have always had this weird personality competitive tomboy thing – it wasn’t ever enough to be good at something, no no no, I had to be the best…and not just the best in the family, but the best among anyone and everyone!! Yeah, it can get out of hand sometimes but this passion and drive I consider an asset too. I mean, for instance, it got me to be a great alpine ski racer who was once on the National Greek Ski Team. It got me to be better at ping pong since our family hosts an annual summer intense ping pong tournament (have got close but one day I will have my name on that cup!!). It got me to learn and solve the Rubik’s cube in just over a minute because my boyfriend was the World Speed Cubing Champion (no joke!!). I have “Rubik’s Cube” listed on my acting resume!! It definitely helps with line memorization and drive for all my acting roles. And, of course at the gym (biggest loser!!).

I do tend though to make EVERYTHING into some sort of competition (vocally or not!!). I admit that IT can rule me sometimes instead of me ruling IT. A couple of years ago my friends came to visit me in Greece and instead of just doing some food and drinking games, it became a Decathlon Event!! And crazy – Who can eat four huge gyro pita souvlaki’s the fastest (one rule was if any food dropped on the ground outside you still had to eat it…who do you think incorporated that rule!! Yup, me!!), Who can down a bottled beer with a straw the fastest (this is called a Fission thanks to my Belgium friends…btw, I won this event but had beer all down my dress and looked like an idiot – anything for the Gold!!).

As you can see, I can take it too far and can get into the mind frame where I can’t stop and say “enough is enough”. Back in college I was seeing this guy who was a senior and graduating in like a month and instead of relishing our last days together I turned our sex life public and decided that we HAD to have sex in every public building on campus before graduation!! And there were like over 40 buildings!! And, of course I enforced further obstacles in place like no toilets, no rooms that locked, if we got caught it was over, and one of us had to reach orgasm each time!!...TMI…ummm! The point is, it was an innocent drunken idea one night that suddenly became enforced by me so much so that it became a chore and not romantic at all…just to win that title. I mean, I look back and remember the poor guy rolling over in bed and wanting to make love and me standing up immediately shouting “hold it, quickly, let’s go to so-and-so building and do it there”.

I sound insane. I was insane. But you know what’s funny? I went back one year to my college for a friend’s graduation who was years below me and some random freshman that I had never met before came up to me and asked if I was Zoe, Zoe Anastassiou, and when I said yes, he got really excited and said he was so honored to be meeting the girl who had the title of having sex in every public building on campus!! It was like a red carpet moment!! HAHA!! And, I loved it!! I was also thrilled since I still had the title!! Granted, he also wanted to know whether I wanted to have sex with him in the new library as it was a new public building since I had left, but still, at that moment all the crazy competition of it made it worth it!!

So, I can’t exactly break or create the Guinness World Record of Sex in Public Places…or can I? I wanted back in the day to break the longest kiss record because I looked it up and realized that then it was only 30 hours and 45 minutes – and for some odd reason that felt do-able or at least a lesser number than I expected – so I started planning – I even wrote and directed a short play called “30 Hours and 46 Minutes” where I had poor actors on stage wearing adult diapers! But, I had thought it all out enough to write about it. Alas, I didn’t ever try it. I realized it was way harder than I thought – holding a kiss just for a minute felt like forever!!

So…I need something new, something, anything, that will get me into that Guinness World Record book! I do have a whole list of possibilities but am open to suggestions.

Any ideas anyone?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Toot! Toot!! My playwright friend from Ars Nova, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, would never toot his own horn, so I shall toot it for him. You are most welcome, sir. His play Neighbors is currently getting a Lab Production at the Public, and it is three hours and 15 minutes of black-faced, ballsy, dark, hillarious, horrible, wonderful SPLENDOR.
He brought the play into play group a few months ago and I pretty much became obsessed with it. It's this extremely contemporary / current exploration of Race. Basically, a black professor (with a white wife) becomes threatened when a family of hootin, hollerin, black-faced minstrel show performers moves in next door to him in the Suburbs. Amazing things are done to watermelons, baby dolls, and the psyche of all characters. I'll be honest: Like a true eternal sixth grader, I can be very easily made to feel threatened / insecure by a good play, but my excitement for this one truly transcends. Playing through March 7!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shock to the System

I went back to the office today after three weeks of Three Sisters as my full time Job instead of the usual day job of working for a real estate attorney to stay in the country for my visa, and frankly I am in shock. I am actually indeed still at the office and dying for the day to be over. Please!!

Yes, I hired someone to take over my job for 3 weeks so that my boss wasn’t drowning but I came in almost every night to take care of daily stuff (which almost defeated the purpose), and clutched to my blackberry in all rehearsal breaks in case they needed me for anything, which they did. However, for the last four days we had eight performances and I didn’t have time to make it in so today coming back to piles on my desk was HELL!!

Suddenly I go from full time professional actor (what it should be!!), and this amazing opportunity to once again spending 40 hours a week at least as a full time administrative assistant/real estate salesperson…and it kind of makes me want to scream a little. I understand there are bills to pay – ooooh so many bills to pay – which I am not sure how I am going to pay this month due to the show, but I guess I started to realize that even if I wanted to quit or change jobs I actually could not. I am actually not allowed. I can’t. I can NOT.

I started to realize I was trapped and jealous of others with their part-time jobs or at least the choice to change or…I don’t know. I started to feel like being a foreigner on a visa doing hard work for literally no money that I purposefully chose so I could stay in the country to act wasn’t fair anymore. It’s hard enough just being an actor whether you need a job or fifty jobs or have enough money to not work. And then it’s also hard to get any kind of a visa, actor or not, they make it hard regardless – so…great, I am trapped. I am not going to blow up the country so they should just give me a green card or a passport and ease it all just a little bit (any government professionals reading??)

My fellow cast members seemed to also feel some pain too today – they have been emailing each other back and forth all day about this odd shock to the system. I joined in the group email announcing I was going to jump out of the window of Corporate America and one of my darling fellow Russian sisters wrote back in true older sister sweetness with this:

“We’ll catch you my beautiful girl!! You belong on the stage!!”

And it made me smile.

And it made me think.

I DO belong on the stage.

Yes, I am extremely self-critical – I will never be satisfied with any of my performances on stage, on film, anywhere…but…I have and never doubt that I am and always will be an actor – never have since I was born. And, I never will stop following that reality despite my negativity – that’s not the issue.

I guess, deep down I must know that I have something that people find worth watching and worth telling me about after they see my work. I can criticize on the inside but on the outside I am not controlling their expressions of interest and praise of my work…so, I guess I must have something.

I just wish that I wasn’t stuck behind this desk – as an obligation – as my only current option to be on the stage, in films, etc.

It’s just a shock to my system to keep remembering that.

That’s all I am really saying.

Ah, poop, enough Chekhovian philosophizing! Let’s drink some vodka!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

what's in a name...?

This weekend, I was at the theater and I ran into a friend of a friend of mine whose name I couldn’t remember. Well, we didn’t actually run into each other. It was more like I saw him across the lobby (I’m pretty sure that he also saw me) and recognized him as someone that I should know. I knew exactly where I’d met him, when and through which friend… but for some reason his name escaped me.

I spent the entirety of Act One attempting to figure out what letter of the alphabet his name started with… B? No. T? No. I avoided him during Intermission—largely because I had yet to arrive at what felt like the correct letter. I even placed a call to my friend, the one who had introduced me to the guy whose name I couldn’t remember, but alas, he didn’t pick up his phone.

As the light dimmed for the start of the Second Act, it dawned on me… V! And by the middle of the Act, I had remembered his name.

Somewhat related…

At work, oft times someone will leave me a message saying, “I’ve tried to reach you countless times, I’ve called, I’ve emailed and no one’s ever called or emailed back.” And I take immediate offense to such claims because it is my job to respond to each and every message that I receive--and because I am good at my job.

Before I call or email that particular person back I will literally go back into my sent mail or my call log and double check that they truly never received a response. Nine times out of ten, the email proof is there and I make sure to mention it when I call them back, “did you check your spam mail? Sometimes important emails unwittingly end up in the spam mailbox…”

There is this tremendous pressure to remember things. Names. Dates. Mostly names. This is probably because all of us want desperately to be remembered.

It stressed me out to no end that I couldn’t recall the name of the friend of a friend of mine I saw at the theater. Mostly because if he had decided to cross the lobby and say hello, I would have had to ask him to refresh my memory—“I’m sorry, what was your name again?” And he would have undoubtedly known mine because that’s the way these sorts of things always go. And I would have felt awful. Like I had insulted him. Of course, I would have felt similarly insulted if he hadn’t remembered my name.

And those people who leave messages for me at work—simply want to feel like they’ve been heard, that their requests have been acknowledged, that they matter.

It’s amazing how many people we meet in the course of a lifetime. It’s also amazing how you never know which of the people that you meet will have a profound effect on your life.

Back in November I met a woman on a plane who a month and a half later recommended me for a writing job—a really awesome writing job. She had never read my writing or seen my work, but her recommendation had the power to (potentially) significantly change my life. The funny thing is that initially—when I was first told how my name had come to be considered—I had no idea who my recommender was. I literally said, “Um… who?” It was only later that I realized—oh my God, the woman on the plane!

I guess I should pay more attention. Not even for the sake of my career or to save myself from future embarrassment, but simply because it is the polite and right thing to do. Because it feels crappy to be forgotten—even if you’ve only met someone once or if when you met them you were the friend of a friend.

I mean, we all have names for a reason, right? To distinguish us from everyone else… That makes them important.

Hi, I’m Harrison. Do try to remember that. Okay?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do I have a card? Ummmm….does this count?

One of my (many) new year’s resolutions for this fine new decade is to get all serious, sophisticated and saavy about the part of this job that I hate….you know, the whole, business-y, self promotion, treating yourself like a product that you have to SELL SELL SELL! side. Bleh. I hate it. It makes me want to run into a corner and hide. It makes me want to vomit. Which is probably a sign that I should really just suck it up, buckle down, and do it. Like now. Or maybe later. Like tonight, after I watch Lost. Or tomorrow. Or in two weeks after I move apartments. Ok, no, NOW.

And so, I decided to blog about it – because I can’t be the only one struggling with this smarmier side of the business, and plus, if I write it down on the world wide interwebs for everyone and their brother to read, I’ll have no choice but to actually follow through instead of tossing that old resolution list into the recycling like I usually do by mid-March. (I’ll have you know though, that I am currently accomplishing resolution #4: Do things that scare you. Blogging = scary. So, hey! Let’s hear it for progress!)

So, maybe it was the universe’s thumbs up to my resolve to resolve, because when I went home to the ‘ole LI last week and received my annual Valentine’s Day gift baggy from my mother, there was a strange little business card sized box amidst the bundles of chocolate covered pretzels.

“Uuuuuuh, Mom? What are these?”

“Oh! You don’t remember those? They’re cards I had made up for you and your sisters when you were little, I just found them downstairs!”

“Oh. Right. Thanks?”

Don’t ask me why my mother thought a nine year old might need a stack of ornamented name cards handy. It probably has something to do with her continuous compulsion to buy me little figurines of bejeweled shoes or her relentless attempts to get me and my six siblings to wear matching pajamas on Christmas eve. I stopped asking why years ago. But technically…I do now have cards…cards that seem to suggest I work in floral arrangements or baby showers, but nonetheless, cards! Ok, no, I’m not really gonna start handing these out (though I would secretly like to just to see a casting director’s reaction) but I’ll take it as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction….and a sign that somehow, in her twisted, bubbles and sunshine sort of way, my Mom’s giving me the thumbs up too.

A Month in Review

At Play has been blogging for one month-- thanks for reading!

(from www.wordle.net)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Just made it.

I promised I would post on time and here I am. with 20 min to spare. I just wanted to meditate on the wonders of Technology...

This last weekend my sister was getting married in Puerto Rico. We, of course, had snow-mageddon 2010 and all flights were canceled. Well after a day and a half of trying to rebook, it was evident that I was going to miss the wedding. Being the only member of the wedding party - it was a small intimate wedding on the beach - it was a huge bummer not just for me, but for my sister who wasn't going to have her maid of honor, her musician (I was supposed to play a song) and her photographer (Michael was supposed to come with me).

My brother calls me the morning of the wedding and says "Do you still want to play a song for the wedding?" I said OF COURSE BUT HOW? Thinking maybe I could just teleport into the 86 degree weather they were having. He said "skype"

We set a time and I called in. He plugged his computer into the sound system at the reception and I was able to play and sing a song for my sister in Puerto Rico via New York. It was so surreal. I could hear them sending their love and they could hear me singing and playing my ukulele. I'm not going to say it was like I was there - cause it wasn't.

But I forget sometimes what we are capable of doing as technologically advanced beings. We have the ability to share our mediums and our stories to all reaches of the globe. There's something really powerful in that.

I also want to share something that was brought to my attention recently. As part of the Exchange and the Orchard Project (as announced at the 24 Hour Musicals Benefit) they are bringing over the Free Theatre of Belarus:

"Belarus is said to be Europe's last dictatorship, a country damned as an outpost of tyranny by the US.

Despite some slight easing of tension with the West in recent years, Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, still rules his country with an iron fist.

Critics of his regime fear for their lives when they voice their opposition.

But despite these oppressive conditions, Belarus is home to an extraordinary underground theatre group, a band of dedicated actors who use their creative force to speak out for democracy."

I'll let the video speak for itself ... but we forget that something that is as accessable as breathing to us - the act of rehearsal and performance and developing our craft - can be life threatening to some. This is a powerful gift we have.


Happy Presidents Day!


Work Habits

I just finished a play. And man was it a tough one. Part of the problem was that I wrote the first words last May (a full 9 months ago for those of you counting). Then I stopped and got distracted by a whole bunch of other stuff. Then started again in August. Then stopped, got distracted by a bunch of other stuff. Then started again in November. Or rather stalled again in November. And stalled in December. And then got the engine running at a crisp 5 mph in January. And finally somehow got to the finish line last week.

For the record it's my belief that there's nothing wrong with starting and stopping. If you're stuck, move on. Distract yourself. It happens to the best of us.

There is a problem however with cutting off momentum. I was cruising along in May and even in August, after stopping once already. But then I cut myself short. I told myself I had "more pressing" things to write. Stupid. When I came back to the play, I found the battery was dead. Which is about as surprising as having cocktails with a girl, telling her that you have to leave momentarily to attend "more pressing" social events, then coming back and finding that she's long gone and won't return your calls.

Anyway it was during this time that I became obsessed with the work habits of other writers. Because if there's one thing that all writers have in common it's that they all want to know how other writers work. Do they write everyday? If so, for how long? If not, for how long? How long, how long, how long?

So here's a list of some of the ones that I found:

-Quiara Alegria Hudes writes from 9-5 Monday-Friday and takes the weekend's off. So basically, she treats it as a standard job.

-Ingmar Bergman, similarly, wrote from 10-3 on weekdays for ten weeks, and then he'd have a screenplay done.

-Graham Greene literally counted words and wrote no more or less than 300 words every day. Yup. He was almost always in the middle of a sentence and he would just stop. So, yes, he cut the momentum off, but only until tomorrow, which isn't so long.

-Raymond Chandler had "writing time" where he would sit in his office from late morning until late afternoon no matter what. Didn't write consistently. Sometimes only wrote outlines for months and months. Sometimes didn't write anything for weeks at a time. But refused to leave.

-Likewise the Coen Brothers sit in their office and take naps. And DON'T, I repeat DON'T do outlines of any kind. As Ethan Coen says: "the rule is, we type scene A without knowing what scene B is going to be -- or for that matter, we type scene R without knowing what scene S is going to be." And then they take naps. Lots of naps. (For more on the naps, check out this great podcast interview where they talk about their work habits:

-Hiram Haydn, author of The Hands Of Esau (and William Goldman's editor for years) had a busy job working in publishing. Had a wife and a bunch of kids to support. So when did he have time to write? Sunday. Every Sunday morning. The only time he could, but he did it.

-And finally my absolute favorite quote about writing work habits from E.L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime and more: "Here's how it goes: I'm up at the stroke of 10 or 10:30. I have breakfast and read the papers, and then it's lunchtime. Then maybe a little nap after lunch and out to the gym, and before I know it, it's time to have a drink."

So what do all of these writers' habits have in common? Look carefully. I'll wait. Did you see it? No? Good, because I couldn't see it either. They have absolutely nothing in common with each other except that they all are the habits of writers. Which is good news. Very good news indeed. Because it means there is no wrong way to skin a cat. So I invite you all to share stories of how you choose to skin.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Is Zoe Sick? Or Is Masha Sick?

I got sick. Badly. I saw it coming and was hoping to escape, but alas my immune system was not as strong as I had hoped. And as usual, this is the worst time to be sick!! (Well, when is there a right time to be sick anyway!!).

I am currently in intense daily rehearsals for Three Sisters – a great opportunity working with the amazing Eve Best. Only two and half weeks of daily rehearsals then four days of performances to cover a huge Chekhov play…intense I’m telling you…not something you can miss – not to mention I have a full time job for my visa to stay in this country so had to interview and hire someone to come in and take over my job until 5pm everyday while I am in these intense rehearsals. And, of course being the anal office geek I am created a “For Zoe To Do” tray so that my boss and the newbie can leave me daily tasks to do after rehearsals into the wee hours before the day can end. Intense. AND, I am also taking part in the NYU mock trials so have in role meetings and in role preparation for the “landlord” I am portraying in the case that is ongoing each week too. Intense!! Yes, yes, yes – I am always busy so this is just a taste of what my life can be like sometimes and I usually LOVE IT!! I am not Zoe if I don’t have one million things going on at the same time J (At least, that’s what people say!!).

BUT…I saw this coming – I watched after the end of the first week of rehearsals cast members were dropping like flies around me – one, then two people out for the day, then three…and I could feel it in my throat– I went home and took all the pills I knew and had and bought (am homeopathic so natural pills!!) but I could still feel it coming. And, then I woke up with a horrible head cold, a sore throat, swollen glands, a painful cough and the inability to swallow or talk very well. How can an actor act without a voice!! GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

I tried to fight it but could not so I thought – this is not a time to try and fight it my way without the hard drugs as I have no time, so I was about to go to the doctor when I found out from my boss that Oxford has suspended our insurance at work! GREAT!!!!!!!!!!

So, I was stuck – I took everything and anything (I even did the whole Nyquil/Dayquil thing), researched online and input all my symptoms and it came up with Viral Sore Throat which turns out if that’s what I have then it can’t even be treated with antibiotics anyway so there is no point in going to the doctor – luckily for my insurance scenario – but unlucky because online it says it can take up to two weeks to go! GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, here I am, almost a week later since I felt it in my throat – still with such a bad whatever it is exactly – having to take off two days of precious rehearsal and work time (and I don’t take off time unless I can’t move) and I walk into rehearsal and do you know what Eve says to me?? She looks at me, she hugs me and says…

“Poor Masha is sick. She is. Look at what she is going through, no wonder you are so sick”

At first I thought she was joking, but no, she was being serious. She is convinced that we all got sick (and difference illnesses too) – literally the whole cast bar two people didn’t get sick – and those two people are “the more happier” of Chekhov’s characters in the play – so Eve is convinced there is a reason that this happened, is happening to us – that it’s not just the weather (even though NYC became like Russia’s snowy land all of a sudden), but it ran deeper than that – that we as actors as our characters were going through such hardship in our lives that our body is reacting to it. Eve is convinced that our bodies do not know the difference between real life and pretend life that we inhabit, which is why we have to take care of ourselves when doing challenging work with eight performances a week.


I guess I never really thought about it that way. Ever.

Can this be true? Am I sick with something that is beyond just catching it from another cast member or someone on the street or from the changing weather?

So am I sick or is it really Masha that’s sick?

Is that why it’s not going away?? Because I am not done being Masha??

Will I be sick all the way until the 22nd February!!!!!! AHHHH!!!!

i would get valentine's day

I would get Valentine’s Day--coincidentally my second least favorite day of the year after Halloween (which is another story altogether). The truth is I have a hard time with holidays in general… and games… and karaoke. Yeah, I’m clearly not a fun guy.

Valentine’s Day, the “holiday”—yes the quotation marks are intentional—is mired in myth. In fact, we are historically unsure as to how and when and with whom it began, though it is likely that the Romans and of all people, Chaucer, might have had something to do with it all. I knew there was a reason that I disliked that man…

I posit (and many others have posited the same) that V-Day was founded by Hallmark and other such “love manufacturers” to capitalize on the emotions and prey on the pocketbooks of we mere mortals.

My feeling on this day, today, V-Day, has little to do with my relationship status and quite a lot to do with the fact that I abhor manipulation AND (probably not surprisingly) being the somewhat skeptical person that I am (especially in matters of the h-e-a-r-t) I can’t help but find this day, today, V-Day, to be a bit (if not a complete) manipulation.

Of course, we subscribe to it. I mean, who doesn’t like flowers, right? Or candle lit dinners? Or chocolate? Or declarations of affection?

Hm… Okay.

I suppose, given the aforementioned list of V-Day associated “likes,” which I do share to an extent, I have to admit (at the very least) to appreciating the components of this particular “holiday.” The idea of “love”—note the quotes—may not in and of itself reduce me to jello, but… I do think that we’re all in the market for a grand gesture, you know? And admittedly, Valentine’s Day does or rather can provide ample motivation for such a gesture… which is or rather can be well… quite lovely.

So then I guess… I guess the thing is--and this is maybe my hang-up with most “holidays.” Why designate a single day of the year to be thankful? Why celebrate freedom on only one day? Why profess your love once a year? It is my feeling that when we so clearly align a specific day with a specific emotion or state of being, it sort of lessens the need to express (or grapple with) them on the other 364 days in the calendar year. It’s like these holidays give us permission to be lazy. They are in effect further evidence of de-sensitization.

The inner workings of the human heart and mind are reduced to broad generalizations. Deep emotions are not felt but rather conveyed via objects, icons—turkey equals gratitude, fireworks equal liberty, roses equal love.

I leave you with a thought… or maybe more of a challenge: This Valentine’s Day instead of gifting Godiva and calling it a year—pledge to show your affection to the one’s you love every day. Hug them a little longer more consistently. Kiss them a little more deeply more often. Tell them how much they mean to you every chance you get.

Because that… that is what this day, today, V-Day is really all about.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Books written by chefs about French food will make you crazy hungry.

I just finished reading Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France

What an amazing and inspiring woman! 

At age 36, Julia moved to Paris with her husband Paul, who’d accepted a job running the exhibits office at the American embassy.  She arrived in the City of Love without any cooking skills to speak of, and fell, head over heels, for la cuisine française.  A year later, she was enrolled in a six-week intensive course at The Cordon Bleu.

Voilà!  A culinary legend was born.

On this Valentine’s Day weekend and the weekends and weekdays that follow, may you pursue your own dreams with as much gusto, drive, passion, precision, curiosity, and joy as Ms. Child did.

That is my goal for myself, and my wish for you, dear At Play blog readers.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



To celebrate, here is a picture of an elephant snow sculpture with corkscrew trunk being milked by a small man? WHAT?!!

My co-workers and I decided yesterday that it would be MUCH to snowy to go into the office today (It's always especially blustery up by the River) and we woke to find that we were actually right. It's pretty crazy out there. I'm reminded of North Carolina which was always tragically unequipped for snow (though I think it's better now.) If there was even RUMOR of snow, school would be closed in fear of school buses full of kids sliding off silas creek parkway. This was always pretty rad, the constant unecessary cancelling of school. But THEN, said snow days were tacked onto the END of school - so a few years, we were in class as far as my mid-June birthday, which totally cock-blocked my assorted my little pony, pool, and putt putt parties.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So I missed my day to post. Which was Monday. Yesterday. Well here's why:

Monday February 8th marked the Third Annual 24 Hour Musicals where 4 short musicals are written, composed, directed, musical directed, choreographed, and performed (off book!) in 24 hours. Sound crazy? Because it is... This is all done to benefit the Exchange and the Orchard Project. The Exchange is also the parent company of At Play.

Here's what my schedule looked like Sunday/Monday:

Sunday Feb 7th, 2010

3:30pm - Meet Philip Naude (Best production manager in the universe) and Grigor Grigorov (Best IT genius in the universe) at the National Arts Club where the overnight writing process will take place. Proceed to set up production hub and all the writing stations which include a laptop with Garage band and Finale, midi keyboards, speakers... What we call the Musical Borg.

7pm - order pizza.

8pm - writers/composers arrive at the NAC and find out who they're working with.

9pm - walk over to the Gramercy Theater on 23rd and Lex for the Meet and Greet where all the writers, directors, actors, composers, musical directors, choreographers, and production crew meet for the first time - introduce themselves - submit a prop and a costume to inspire the writers, and the actors sing a snippit of a song to demonstrate vocal range.

11pm - walk the writers and composers back over the the NAC to start writing. They pick their casts and get cracking.

from 12am - 7am things get a little loopy and delirious but somehow:

Monday Feb 8th, 2010

8am - 4 musicals are born. Breakfast is served. Directors are assigned. Casts are announced:

Scripts are printed. CD's are burned. Sheet Music is created.

9am - Rehearsals begin.

10am - We choose show order (the circled numbers next to the name of the play seen above).

11am - I FINALLY LEAVE THE NATIONAL ARTS CLUB. After being awake for 24 Hours. I pass the baton to Carly Hugo (Benefit Goddess), Ari Edelson (Artistic Director of the Exchange) and Philip Naude, and they make magic happen.

12pm - 4pm - I try to sleep while the AMAZING AMAZING crew takes over loading in the theater and teching 4 shows in 4 hours.

5pm - I arrive back at the Gramercy Theater to put out some last min fires (Like, maybe, the wrong program gets printed, for instance...)

7pm - the crowd Floods in. Food is served, the bar is open.

8pm, or maybe a few minutes after - The show begins.

The Crew:
(Best Production Team / Design Team / SM Team ever assembled, in my humble opinion...)

Show line-up:

"You Can See the East River From Here, Too"
book by Jonathan Bernstein. Music and lyrics by Jeanine Tesori.
Directed by Ted Sperling.
Starring Dee Roscioli, John Ellison Conlee, Katie Thompson

"Anti Valentines"
Book by Julia Jordan. Music and lyrics by Jeff Blumenkrantz.
Directed by Moisés Kaufman.
Starring Celia Keenan-Bolger, Marnie Schulenburg, Michael Winther, Zachary Prince

"The First of His Heart"
Book by Jonathan Marc Sherman. Music and lyrics by Adam Gwon.
Directed by Trip Cullman.
Starring Julian Fleisher, Nancy Opel, Darius DeHaas

"What's Wrong with Twinkie?"
Book by Josh Koenigsberg. Music and lyrics by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler.
Directed by Kathleen Turner.
Starring Alicia Witt, Cady Huffman, Mo Rocca, Raven-Symoné

One line Bios:

It was a big night for At Play as well. Ari Edelson announced us as The Exchange's emerging artists Company within a Company.

More Importantly: One of our writers, Josh Koenigsberg, wrote his musical debut - and killed it! His cast - Mo Rocca, Raven Symone, Cady Huffman, and Alicia Witt - brought down the house with a hysterical kick line. Instant theater just doesn't get any better than this.

You can find pictures from Josh's piece, with music and lyrics by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, here: WHAT'S WRONG WITH TWINKIE?

9:30pm - load out with the crew and final adios to the Gramercy

10pm - Afterparty at the National Arts Club.

So another year has passed and another successful 24 Hour Musicals was pulled off. I'm always humbled by the amount of talent and skill that it takes to make this event happen. So, special thanks to the entire staff, crew, volunteers, talent, etc that donated their time and energy to benefit the Orchard Project and the future theater companies that will benefit from it.

So that's my excuse. Next week I will be on time.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why do I always identify with the straight white girl?

So… I’ve been re-watching Felicity recently (thank you, Colette!).

You remember the show, right? It aired in the late nineties and ran into the early two thousands starring Keri Russell, Scott Speedman, Tangi Miller and Scott Foley? Oh and Amy Jo Johnson, the pink Power Ranger?

(It was on TV around the same time as Once & Again actually—another of my all time favorite shows.)

The series revolved around the fictional college experiences of Felicity Porter (played by Russell) as she attended the University of New York, which was based on New York University.

I actually remember watching the pilot back in 1998. I was a junior at Manhattan High in the Little Apple (Manhattan, Kansas) and I wanted desperately to move to New York.

I fancied myself the black male version of Felicity. I was sort of dorky and sort of anti-social. I possessed above average intelligence and a work ethic bordering on the Puritanical.

Mostly I was eager to experience life—to grow and change and love. I remember wanting to feel deeply. Which was, of course, what New York (at least in my estimation) was all about!

As intent as I was on pursuing a life in NYC, it took me six years to get here. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio proved more enticing than NYU and after graduation I felt the call of the west coast and not (as I had assumed) the east.

Last night, I was standing on the subway platform at 125th and Broadway with J waiting for the #1. And it was a cold night. Cold, but clear. And I was looking out over upper Manhattan. And it was sort of shiny and shimmery and well… really beautiful.

And I turned to J and I said, “We live in New York City.” And he replied, “I know, right? It’s weird.” And I agreed. Because it is weird when a thing that has been a dream for so long ceases to be a dream. It’s weird when a dream metamorphoses into something else… into reality. It’s weird when a dream comes true.

Watching Felicity now I can’t help but revisit seventeen-year-old high school junior me. The Harrison that was so sure that big things were going to happen to him in the big city. The Harrison that (whether consciously or not) took Felicity’s signature pilot episode words to heart—“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can pretty much change your life forever.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Magic Word is TEN

I found this online – “10 Steps on How to Become an Actor”

Step 1: Learn How to Act


When I read this I nearly fell off my chair!! I just had to share this with all of you because it is too funny!! You read the title of the article and you imagine that good old Mr. Web is going to give us some wise list, and then that first step pops up and…I was not expecting that at all!!

How to become an actor is to learn how to act!!!!!

After that first step I have to say I didn’t really want to read the rest, but it got better.

Step 2: Location, Location, Location (move to where it’s at)

Step 3: Be Willing to do What it Takes

Step 4: Commit Yourself

Step 5: Be Nice

Step 6: Focus On The Craft – Not the Agent

Step 7: Take Some Improv

Step 8: Know Your Range, Then Break Through It

Step 9: Be Persistent

Step 10: Have Patience

The rest of the steps were not as bad as that first one – some truthfulness there. It got me thinking though…I don’t need to become an actor…I am an actor…in fact I don’t remember making that decision to be an actor, I just was…

Here are my “10 Steps on How You KNOW You ARE An Actor”

Step 1: You think being called a Drama Queen is a compliment.

Step 2: You listen to your iPod and it becomes the soundtrack to your life, no matter what song comes on.

Step 3: You have imaginary conversations with people in your head out loud.

Step 4: You write off EVERYTHING as Research Expenses.

Step 5: Your memory is absurdly supernatural.

Step 6: You eavesdrop on all conversations around you.

Step 7: You are thankful for gigs/jobs that will make you no money.

Step 8: Your everyday life is always a performance.

Step 9: You are frequently emotional and irrational.

Step 10: You are the best liar you know, as well as the best exaggerator you know.

Agreed and Accepted.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There are no spoilers in this post. Don’t worry.

As some of you may know, the season 6 premiere of LOST was last night.  I am a huge fan of the show, and have been since the first season.  The island, the flashbacks, the Others— yes, yes, yes!

Immediately after a new episode airs, I call my friend Monika so that we can painstakingly go over everything that just happened, try to make some sense of it, make connections to previous episodes, previous seasons, and sometimes, sometimes, we take a little trip over to Lostpedia.com.  Ya know, as a reference. 

I think my favorite thing about LOST is how it plays with time.  Whoa, does it play with time!  It’s wild, it makes my brain hurt, I love it.  So much.

My fascination with “time play” certainly carries over into theatre.  Three of my favorite plays— Arcadia, Three Tall Women, and Our Town— chronologically speaking, are really depressing.  In all of those stories, with time, loved ones are lost, memories fade, relationships end, lives end.

The great thing about storytelling, though, is that it doesn’t have to be chronological.  Hurray!  If time is the potentially tragic force acting upon us, by its ceaseless going, its inability to stop, its clouding of truth, then perhaps the best way to find joy (or at least, contentment) is to mess with it.  Go back into it, cut it up, pause it, and then examine the story with a fresh perspective. 

That’s what Arcadia, Three Tall Women, and Our Town do.  That’s what LOST does.  And that’s why I find all of them so fascinating and magical.

In theatre and addictive television shows, time is on our side.

Oh yes it is.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

as If it were our Jobs

I am thinking about jobs, and how I very much want to work in a flower store.

Sometimes I irk myself because I complain too much about my job, because I'm really lucky to have it. In fact, I think I would go insane if all I had in the world was time to write. I imagine that I'd be drowning in time and then the smallest tasks would become really overwhelming and I'd completely lose my work ethic? Or maybe I'd be happier? I don't know. But, I still say, jobs are important. For rent paying reasons, and also, I think, good old fashioned integrity. Be it teaching or the sitting on of babies or something random, corporate, or random corporate, At Players work it the crap out, while balancing this with our theater selves. And this is reason number 374 why we are cool.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Producing: A How-To.

Hello and Happy February!

First off, this is not a how-to. I lied in the title. Consider me an unreliable narrator. But I believe there is no such thing as a how-to in producing theater. If there is one, a truly accurate version, someone please send it my way...

Dictionary.com: Producer: a person responsible for the financial and administrative aspects of a stage, film, television, or radio production; the person who exercises general supervision of a production and is responsible chiefly for raising money, hiring technicians and artists, etc., required to stage a play, make a motion picture, or the like.

Pretty cut and dry.

And yet, there is a reason that I have mentors that I have pop quizzed on several occasions, "How do I do what you do??" The answers are never simple. Never cut and dry. And I never stop asking. I am grateful for their patience.

I remember several occasions where I've been introduced as a young aspiring producer, and the reactions were always disheartening. Mostly they were met with questions about money -- "You like raising money?" "You know a lot of rich people?" "Do you have a lot of money?" MONEY MONEY MONEY. I've even been met with very crude responses about how it's all about pleasing people -- but in much more inappropriate ways. Again - disheartening. But this couldn't be what it was all about...?

Then I tried to answer what producing really is to me vs. what people think it is. I've been approached myself by people wanting to learn more about off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway producing. I found that my answers were much like my mentors' -- mostly questions about background and what specifically the person wants to do. A lot of times people come to me with very scattered backgrounds and experience in every aspect of theater or some applicable skill-set. But because they've never "produced" they don't think they can.

The truth is...most people who think they can't, can. That's the secret. Producing is taking everything you've ever learned, and knowing when and how to apply it. Sounds like life. So by kelcie's transitive property, Producing is Life.

My personal definition of producing is fully supporting a creative team so that all they have to worry about is creative decisions and concerns. If a director is more worried about where they are going to rehearse than what they are going to rehearse, I'm not doing my job. But also, as a producer I can't align myself with something I'm not passionate about. Especially the stage of producing I'm in, where often times it's unpaid, if I wasn't creatively excited or truly believe in it, I would never be able to find the patience and drive necessary to see a project into full fruition.

Producing is intimidating because it's amorphous. Which sounds counter intuitive since some people see producers as organized, rigid, schedule hounds, micro-managers, etc. And you definitely have some of those traits, but at the same time those traits are perfectly balanced with flexibility to take things as they come. It's being able to predict the unpredictable, using logic and instinct to put out fires before and after they start. And knowing that your job never ends.

A producer is everything to everyone and no one at the same time. If no one is looking for you, then you're also doing something right. It's only when the sh*t hits the fan that they come for you...

For myself, the main thing about producing is having the confidence to believe you know what you're doing, but at the same time knowing that you don't - always keeping yourself on your toes. I get a strange feeling sometimes where I feel like I'm treading water and I'm not getting anywhere. But that's never true. It's not always about giant leaps forward, it's about chipping away and brushing aside the dust until the beautiful product that is a Show reveals itself.

While the definition of producer is easily understood, the true application and feel of what a producer embodies is best summed up below - at least the type of producer I strive to be:

“I think only people in the theater know what a producer is.
The public does not know.
It knows a writer writes, and an actor acts,
and a director tells them what to do.
A producer raises money.
Well, he does, and in some cases thats all he does.
But the workers in the theater know that this is not the real thing.
A producer is a rare, paradoxical genius –
hard-headed, soft-hearted, cautious, reckless,
a hopeful innocent in fair weather,
a stern pilot in stormy weather,
a mathematician who prefers to ignore the laws of mathematics and trust intuition,
an idealist, a realist, a practical dreamer,
a sophisticated gambler, a stage-struck child.
That’s a producer.”

Oscar Hammerstein II

There's so much more to it. And I'll tell you when I figure it out.