Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wild Target (2010)

If you like bizarre comedy with a witty twists, then you'll enjoy Wild Target. Recently released on DVD in America, it tells the story of professional assassin Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy). At the top of his career, he's fifty-five years old and feeling pressure from his mother (Eileen Atkins) to produce an heir to carry on the family business. After failing to kill the out-of-control young thief and amateur con-artist, Rose (Emily Blunt), he find himself protecting her with the help of an emotionally unstable Tony (Rupert Grint). Martin Freeman appears as a rival assassin with sinisterly perfect teeth. Though it is certainly not a perfect film, the cast alone is reason enough to watch. Some of the top actors of stage and screen in Britain united to make this film. It's also full of funny moments. Nighy plays Victor Maynard with a dry awkwardness that is strangely endearing-- as is his peculiar relationship that develops with Rose. Witty, ironic, and quotable dialogue is also easy to find. Though it is not a masterpiece, it is a successful farce, and a great way to pass a Sunday night.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Scene From the Newsroom

We had new editorships for next semester announced tonight, not many surprises, I'll be the Arts editor-- I do get an assistant however (trying not to feel too drunk on the power). After our meeting we found ice cream in the lounge freezer with a note saying it was leftover from an event and we should help ourselves.
After some furtive glances, we were all elbow deep in ice cream, serving and eating it with plastic forks. The sugar boost was the last thing we needed. Soon the group dissolved into stomach cramping laughter as stories of tipsy karaoke were exchanged and bizarre eccentricities rose to the top of our behavior.
Our editor in chief firmly believes that the ice cream was spiked. I know that it is just our way of making the most of our remaining time together. Some of them aren't going to be with us next semester and they will be sorely missed and they'll miss us as well I believe.
I know I should write up my reviews for The Crack in the Lens and Wild Target, but I don't have much time tonight and I just felt like sharing a little of the chaos. It's very special.
I also got to crash a party celebrating one of the professor's new publications tonight. We almost forgot about it, but Meghan (photographer extraordinaire) and I ran over to get a quick interview and snap a few pictures much to the bemusement of the Humanities faculty.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Only Two Performances Left...

So I'm taking a brief breather.
It's been going well-- not too disasterous (yet). It's been a busy week of trying to keep up with school work, my Etsy, and this show. Still, I'm feeling good about what I've put into it.
Before tech started I finished The Crack in the Lens by Darlene Cypser, I haven't had time to write a review yet, but that will be forthcoming. I'm also reading Sister Carrie (mostly while I'm doing laundry or eating lunch) and slowly working my way through The Dubliners.
I also finally bought Mumford and Sons' album, Sigh No More. It's lovely.
I miss being involved in the theatre, I've realized. I haven't been keeping up with it on a local or national level like I used to-- I've been so focused on my English studies. I even let my subscription to American Theatre Magazine run out.
As I turn my thoughts back to playwriting, I'd like to become more theatre-literate again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tech Week Arrives

After the peaceful bliss that has been spring break, there will be a week of chaos known simply as tech week. For those of you that have theatre experience, I'm sure chills are already quivering up and down your spine at the very mention. However, if you are unfamiliar, I'll explain.
Tech is when all the lights, sound, and costumes are added to a production. Each of these components has a wide margin of disaster, so it means late nights fighting with breaking props, tearing seams, and things that just aren't working for the show.
What's more, we only have three days to tech before the show opens which adds to the tension and means even later nights.
Don't be surprised if I drop off the grid for a few days-- I shall return once I have (hopefully) done a run that Tennessee Williams would have been proud of.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stephen Sondheim Talks Theatre

Earlier this week I went to see Stephen Sondheim lecture at a local college. Fortunately I was on spring break and the event was open to the public. For those of you that aren't familiar, Sondheim is one the most prolific and ingenious composers/lyricists to grace the musical theatre stage. The conversation was moderated by Frank Rich, a journalist from the New York Times that actually first met Sondheim when he wrote a review of the try-out production of Follies in his college newspaper. The production team stumbled across it and thought it a good assessment, so they met with him.
Student journalist that I am, that is a dream to imagine. I took extensive notes through the night that I will transcribe into an article for my college's paper. Here are some of the highlights of the night, however.
Rich took Sondheim through some "pivotal songs" of his career. They started with "Something's Coming" from West Side Story which was written during rehearsals in 48 hours according to Sondheim. He revealed that the music for "Gee, Officer Krupke" came from another show that Bernstein was working on, Candide. With that song, Sondheim was determined to have the first four letter word in a musical. However, they would have violated obscenities laws if they shipped the soundtrack over state lines, so the final line was changed to "Krup you!" and remains so to this day. It also turns out that Sondheim was not a fan of the movie of West Side, when asked what he thought of it he said, "Really? You really want to know?" The main problem was that he felt that the stage conventions did not translate well to film-- there was no realism or danger.
The next song was "Losing my Mind" from Follies (which is one of my personal favorites, I often entertain myself by singing and banging it out on the keyboard when I can't sleep). He purposefully made it in the style of torch songs such as Gershwin's "The Man I Love." Follies also took five years to get up, he wrote about eleven drafts by 1968, he admitted.
Rich seemed to like to throw out little details to see how Sondheim would react, when discussing Follies, Rich asked him if he discussed his writing with his therapist, "If by any chance you were in therapy...." Sondheim gracefully dodged taking the evening in a personal direction. Later, the song "I'm Still Here" from the show was also discussed. A lighthearted song full of innuendo, "Can That Boy Foxtrot" originally filled that slot in the show, but they decided to put a more serious song in it's place. Even if it didn't stop the show, "The audience will know they've been served a meal..." said Sondheim.
"Being Alive" from Company came next and Rich and Sondheim discussed that though the emotions of such songs are universal, the specific way the lyrics are written makes this a male song in the same way "Losing my Mind" is a female song. Another prickly personal detail was revealed by Rich, who pointed out that Sondheim had 'never been in a committed relationship' at the time he wrote Company. Sondheim said he never thought to himself, "I can write about myself through the guise of Bobby." The themes of yearning for connection are pretty universal, especially in the theatre. "An awful lot of yearning goes on in the theatre," said Sondheim.
A Little Night Music and "Send in the Clowns" came next. Sondheim seemed genuinely surprised that this particular song became such a hit where songs like "Losing my Mind" never did (until Liza Minnelli and The Pet Shop Boys got their hands on it any way).
"Sunday" from Sunday in the Park with George is one of Sondheim's few choral pieces (the opening of Company was the first he ever attempted). The song, performed by a group of people immortalized in a painting finally culminates to the word "Forever." "Forever-- when I wrote that, I cried," confessed Sondheim.
Sondheim said that the biggest failure of his career was Do I Hear a Waltz. It was a failure because unlike some shows that were panned by critics (like Sweeney Todd on it's first outing in London, in spite of it being Sondheim's "Love letter to London."), it was received "politely." What made it a failure was the fact that he wrote it for the wrong reasons, there was "No passion, no blood, no reason to be," Sondheim said.
Near the end of the evening he took some questions that the audience had scribbled on scraps of paper beforehand. His advice for young theatre writers was not to write for Broadway, but just keep writing. He also said that the most creative person he ever worked with was Jerome Robbins, Robbins was creative on many levels, he would apparently even invent games at parties.
What's next for Sondheim? There is a production of Company staring Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, and Patti Lupone coming up as well as Follies starring Bernadette Peters in DC and Roadshow in London. Sondheim himself is not working on any new shows currently, but writing the sequel to his book Finishing the Hat, his collected lyrics with commentary and essays. The second volume, Look, I Made a Hat will contain "Essays that will irritate a lot of people," Sondheim said.
It was a great evening and now that I've been in the same room as Sondheim, I have one to two degrees of separation from practically everyone on Broadway over the past fifty years. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos, but the entire evening was filmed for an upcoming documentary on Sondheim. He was extremely well spoken and very funny. Even my father, who isn't a huge musical theatre fan (but I dragged him along anyway), was very impressed with him and interested in seeing more of his shows.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My new writing home

My brother lives about ten minutes away from this fantastic coffee bar. It serves mainly organic and fair trade blends as well as local dairy and baked goods. Attached to the back is whole foods store. The whole place is full of old furniture, black and white photographs, cosy corners. I'm basically in love.
Today I took my friend Amy, also a writer. She's actually published the first book of her series of pirate stories and is working on putting the rest out now. We sat by the windows and tried several varieties of their coffee (Highlander Grogg is my favorite, she is partial to Rain Forest Crunch), talked about ideas, looked at the beautiful skies; it was perfect.
We've decided to make it a weekly thing to go sit and write. We're swapping manuscripts next week as well.
Even better, it's tucked away on a small country road, so the ride there is beautiful and it's not noisy or over-crowded like a Starbucks.
As we were leaving, I saw that they had ginger beer. I brought a bottle home, as well as a bag of Highlander Grogg.
Some of the greatest artistic minds have been meeting in coffee houses for hundreds of years. Atmosphere is so important, but I think Amy and I have finally found our spot. We both agreed that we felt utterly content afterwards and it was as if our mental mechanism had been lubricated for creativity.
I will, no doubt, drag my computer there during Script Frenzy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I got a Tumblr...

I wasn't going to do it. I saw no point. Then, I realized that many of my friends that are graduating and dispersing around the country have Tumblrs and that it may be a good way to keep in touch. I don't have a Facebook (I know- *gasp*), I like to refer to myself as being apart of the 'resistance.' So Tumblr seemed like a good compromise.
Here is mine, if you are so inclined, I call it "What a waste of time" because, it is.
I am on Spring Break this week! I have to catch up with reading, make sure I have my lines memorized for the Tennessee Williams play I'm in the week I come back, fill orders for my Etsy shop, spring clean, and try to do something fun for me.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Script Frenzy 2011

I was going to do the Frenzy last year, I even signed up and outlined an idea. Then I just didn't bother. I had spring fever and I was in play. This year I am actually making a valid attempt. I even have an idea.

I haven't written anything for the stage since my play writing class two years ago. However, working on and seeing new plays lately has made me miss my dusty days building sets, cranking out dialogue and working on production after production in some capacity. In some respects, college theatre is great because the shows have a large budget and a whole department backing them, so the sets and costumes are all stocked. In other ways I really miss working in tiny crappy spaces with no money and being involved in making and finding everything. It made you feel like it was your play, not just some show you were in. You bled for it (often literally). I think it created some of the most poignant, entertaining work because, in a way, you suffered for it. It forced you to think outside the box. You had to make it worth it. That's drama in itself.

Right now my idea is something like a family drama in the vein of Eugene O'Neil and Tennessee Williams, but more modern and with a female central character. I know I can only aspire to be anywhere near as beautiful and lasting as their work, but it feels like something I could play with. It will be very melancholy, but with touches of dark humor. I know how it will begin and I know how it will end. It's all about stringing it together now and figuring out which characters to show and which to keep off-stage.

This could be a good project. I wasn't intending to do Frenzy, but then I had this idea. It seems very fortuitous.