Tag Archives: theatre

Audition Advice

So far I am succeeding in filling my life with theatre, which is awesome.   I have been cast in a play — a one act that is slated to go to a local community theatre festival.  And my character has a name!  With lines!  AND (spoiler) a death scene!  I start rehearsals for that next week.  Tonight I am going to go see Book of Mormon (stay tuned for a review!) and tomorrow night I’m going to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch live, which should be pretty fricken amazing.  I had an audition last Sunday, I have another one tomorrow, and a third next week.

I know that I’ve had a good audition when I black out.  Let me explain.  When I have a bad audition, I remember every painstakingly awful detail.  How all of a sudden I notice that I smell like cat food.  That my right heel clicks louder than my left.  That I choked on that note that I could hit FINE in the stupid bathroom, yet, maddeningly, managed to hit the high note (why is this?!).  That I laughed too loud at the music director’s REALLY stupid joke.  That I wasn’t friendly enough to the person checking me in who turned out to be the director’s boyfriend/girlfriend/sexual partner.

When I have a good audition,  I don’t remember a thing.  Maybe because I feel so good about it that my brain decides to move on and not let me dwell?  It’s a weird selective memory.  I don’t remember any of the awesome parts in detail, just the general feeling of not being a screw-up.  Last Sunday, I had a good audition.  I felt confident, I felt prepared.   The first song I sang was “Heartbreaker,” and I killed it.  I even got a “wow” out of them.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a pity wow, but I honestly don’t remember it well enough to replay it in my head.  Which signals to me that it was a good “wow” (I swear, it was real, they were impressed, they loved it, don’ttakethatfrommedagnabbit).

But the second song I chose was a cut from “Climbing Uphill” from The Last 5 Years by Jason Robert Brown.

Let me say this.  I remember two things about the audition vividly.  The first is that I couldn’t find the damn door on the way out (it was a black door with no door jamb flush against the black theater wall, okay??)  And the other is that the pianist said that I would have to bribe her with a bottle of wine next time I brought in a song by JRB.

Which brings me to the titular phrase of this post, my advice for all you auditionees:

Never do a Jason Robert Brown piece at an audition.

Just don’t.

For those that don’t know, Jason Robert Brown is a musical composer renown for writing really awesome music, but also music that is impossible to play.  I used to put the caveat of “unless he’s there to play it,” but I’m going to backtrack on that.  I’m convinced that not even he could play his own music under pressure.

I know you sound awesome singing it.  I know it was secretly written for you.  I know that you’ve planned to sing it for three weeks and the audition is tomorrow and so it would be imprudent to change the song.  I just don’t care.  Change it to “My White Knight.”

Actually don’t, that’s a really stupid song.

But just don’t do a Jason Robert Brown song.

Despite all that, I still say it was a good audition, even though I didn’t get a callback.  I feel like I gave them something to think about, which is important.  Even if the next time I audition, they think, “Oh yeah, that’s the girl who stumped our piano player and couldn’t find the door.  But I’m pretty sure we wowed at her ‘Heartbreaker,’ though.”

And that is my PSA for the week, folks.  Audition tomorrow!  Singing “Gorgeous” from The Apple Tree and “If He Really Knew Me” from They’re Playing Our Song.  Neither are by Jason Robert Brown.

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World Premiere of “Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam” at ACT

Photo by Chris Bennion

When you walk into an immigration story, you think you know the arc. Horrific stories of a war-torn native land, a degrading journey to a xenophobic world, the struggle to fit in, a dark night of the soul, acceptance of a unique melting pot history and future.

What you don’t expect are jungles and pirates and murder and hip hop and Shakespeare.

ACT’s world premiere of Trieu Tran’s autobiographical one-man show, “Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam,” is the reason why these stories need to be told. Tran’s journey shakes you out of complacency. It forces you to look at the details. For 80 minutes, you’re reminded that everyone’s history is unique and no amount of prior knowledge can prepare you for Tran’s truth.

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Proof my life is a musical

So for the last week I have been in The South.  My good friends T&A (tee hee) were whisked away to magical Durham, North Carolina where A researches how to make time travel possible and T uses math to cure cancer.  This is my rudimentary understanding of what my friends do for a living.

Now, I have been to NOLA, but New Orleans is its own world.  This was my first real South Eastern experience (as indicated by the map of Where I’ve Been below).

I honestly don’t remember if I’ve been through Iowa. I’m taking the classy road and assuming that I haven’t, rather than assuming that Iowa is a vast wasteland that apparently isn’t worth remembering.

Although I guess you could argue that North Carolina, by the very virtue of having “North” in its name, isn’t Southy enough, but I dunno.  For this Yankee girl, it was pretty real.  While much of the trip was spent cowering inside their air-conditioned home to escape the oppressive humidity, we did manage to visit the Museum of Natural Sciences complete with butterfly sanctuary, attend a minor league baseball game (where I had soaked up enough Southern hospitality to stifle my instinct to boo a guy wearing a Red Sux hat), film a 15 second segment for Empire Strikes Back Uncut, and paddle a canoe down a moonlit river (which was awesome).  But we also ate.

Folksy signs — a North Carolina tradition

And ate.

And ate.

And drank.

And then ate to wash down the alcohol.

We had fried chicken, biscuits, gravies (multiple), hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, ribs, slow-cooked pork, various mac’n’cheeses.  We drank beer, averaged a bottle of wine a day, sipped Southern sangria (very different, spicy, like chilled mulled wine), imbibed French martinis and lychee martinis, and guzzled Cheerwine and sweet tea.  These people aren’t kidding when they say sweet tea.  It’s a “Would you like some water in your glass of sugar so that it will make it easier to drink?” sort of deal.

Basically the trip was awesome.  There’s not terribly much to do, but it’s quaint and polite.  Lots of green, swaying forest.  And while I can see how saying “hold the bacon” for everything you order from salads, soups, sandwiches, and milkshakes could get old before you eventually just give up and eat a pound of bacon daily, it wasn’t the backwoods cultural nightmare feared by West Coast elite.  I mean, they do have a Broadway house.

When I got home, I couldn’t ingest a full meal for two days.  M Fox bought a beautiful vanilla cupcake with pink frosting and a juicy strawberry slice on top to welcome me home.  And when I saw it, I gagged.

Don’t worry folks, his hurt feelings took a backseat to his glee over not having to share.  Also, it was later revealed that another purpose of this cupcake was to soothe my inevitable break-down when I found out that the car we purchased six months ago needed a $2,800 repair job.  Yikes.

M Fox’s pH chemistry set.  Because when you grow plants in a bucket of water in a box, you need to add nutrients.

Now here’s the thing about M Fox and I.  We are awesome together.  We complete each other.  It’s sickening, really.  But when we’re apart?  We’re both crazy.  I go into delusional panic attacks and usually end up eating everything in the house and pacing in circles.  M Fox, on the other hand, gets Ideas.  With a capital “I.”  This time it involved a 5′ wide by 5′ tall by 2′ deep hydroponic plant incubator.

Because I once lamented that our deck didn’t get enough sun for me to grow tomatoes, he decided to add a sun-swept wonderland box to our basement.  Oh, he also purchased some sort of cloning serum so that “we can grow whatever we want!!!!!!” (exclamation marks his)

If I wasn’t terrified of our basement, I would go down there and take a photo for you.  Maybe later.

Honestly, it’s a very sweet sentiment and the idea of being able to pick homegrown tomatoes in February does have some appeal, however Monsanto-y.  Certainly his Ideas are more constructive than my self-pitying No Husband routine (unless it’s right before Pesach. . . because then I could suck the hametz out of every corner of that kitchen, trust me).  But the most bizarre thing about this last round of Wife’s-Not-Here-To-Talk-Me-Out-Of-It impulse buying, and the reason for the title of this blog, is this.

While I was gone, the favored husband replaced me with a carnivorous plant.

Suddenly Seymour

I’m not entirely sure what this says about me or our marriage, but there is one thing that I for SURE did not utter when I returned: “Feed me.”

Very funny double bill at ACT

ACT –A Contemporary Theatre is in the thick of its Pinter Festival, celebrating the deliciously dark Nobel laureate’s work. While two of the featured works are full length plays set to open later this month, the double bill “The Dumb Waiter” and “Celebration” is open now and runs through August 12. Director John Langs harnessed a remarkably talented pool of actors who navigate Harold Pinter‘s trademark gallows humor with aplomb. If you want to see comedic timing pulled off with stunning expertise, get thee to ACT for this delightful double bill.

First, spoiler alert! “The Dumb Waiter” isn’t a comedy about the exploits of an oafish burger slinger at Johnny Rocket’s. Instead the play takes place in a barely livable underground bunker where two hit men kill time while waiting to start their next job. Darragh Kennan as “Gus,” the junior member of the team, is perfect — his perpetually perplexed face is in and of itself comedic gold. Gus incessantly asks questions, both inane and philosophical, which reminds one of the Death Star cafeteria worker in an Eddie Izzard sketch.

Charles Leggett as “Ben,” the seasoned veteran of the game, is the Abbott to Kennan’s Costello. Leggett’s waning patience is an art form in this show. While Ben bumbles blindly in the dark, Leggett’s “Gus” is measured and confident — at least until you tick him off. Both Kennan and Leggett expertly squeeze every comedic drop out of the silences that awkwardly stretch between them. Meanwhile, the titular inanimate character keeps dropping quizzical dinner orders, much to the heightened confusion and panic of the two men. The audience is transfixed, laughing while inching toward the edge of their seats waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And then it’s over and you’re not entirely sure what just played out. The intermission to follow is good for that “Wait. . . what?” discussion. Still, the acting, the banter, and the ambiance is so well done, it’s hard to be unsatisfied.

Next up is “Celebration.” Inspired by an actual table of raucous diners overheard by Pinter and his wife, “Celebration” is what would happen if every obnoxious person you have ever met decided to have dinner at the same fancy schmancy restaurant. And it’s hilarious. From the drunken lascivious hypocrite, the two-timing yuppie wannabe, and the nosy waiter, to the floozy your beau slept with before you, the embittered foul-mouthed wife, and her wildly inappropriate sister. They’re all there. And they’re ordering more wine. Bon appétit!

While there are excellent performances all around, Anne Allgood as “Prue” (the aforementioned sister) gives one of the greatest drunken monologues in theatrical history. It’s not just a series of filthy one-liners (though the show’s got those, too), it’s got a full-on story arc, impeccably done. How any actor on that stage managed to freeze her or his face is anyone’s guess. Kennan also has a wonderful bit part as a waiter with a most impressive grandfather (just. . . go see it). The audience giggled in anticipation whenever he entered the stage.

Lighting Designer Rick Paulsen did a marvelous job for both plays. The uncomfortable flickering and eerie florescent glow from the grated floor combined with Brendan Patrick Hogan’s screechy sound effects are perfect co-stars for “The Dumb Waiter.” The final smooth-glowing moments of “Celebration” are particularly impactful.

While “Celebration” is definitely the stronger of the two works, there is still something unfocused about its message. Is it meant as commentary on the boorishness of the nouveau riche? Or did Pinter just want to recreate an amusing and outlandish conversation he overheard with his wife? Similar to the many red herrings in “The Dumb Waiter,” the story lacks the crispness of the dialogue. Regardless, the artistic and creative teams behind these productions are top notch and it’s well worth the trip to enjoy some very intelligent, darn-right good theatre.

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Tickets are $5 to $55. All events included in the ACTPass, ACT’s $25/month membership program (ACTPass holders can also get discounts on Henry Woolf’s master class). “Celebration” and “The Dumb Waiter” are included as a double-bill in a subscription package. For full schedule and more information on other special events, visit http://www.acttheatre.org/ (206) 292-7676

Don’t forget to pick up a Pinter Punch Card! You earn points and rewards the more performances/events you attend. Some rewards include commemorative pins, drink and parking vouchers, and a signed poster by the full Pinter Festival cast. Pick up your Pocket Guide at ACT Theatre and then stop by the in the Union Lobby after attending a Festival event to get your Pocket Guide punched.

 

For more theatre reviews and news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua

‘RENT’ rocks at The 5th Avenue Theatre

The 5th Avenue Theatre closes up its season with the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner “RENT,” playing through August 19th. The late Jonathan Larson’s marvelous score filled every wavelength of space in the beautiful downtown theatre: “Seasons of Love,” “Without You,” “Today 4 U,” “Light My Candle,” among many others. Director Bill Berry’s cast is full of blood and vinegar.

Martin Christoffel’s set is an urban jungle underneath an underpass, graffitied with lyrics and lines from the show. The layered scaffolding is crawling with the colorful and talented ensemble, who are equal parts props, set, and mob choir. A couple ensemble stand-outs: Eric Ankrim (who is also an associate director for the show) has a gripping solo in “Will I?” and Sarah Rose Davis’s frequent voicemails as Mark’s mother are hilarious. You actually look forward to her return (those glasses!). “La Vie Boheme” is electric.

However, if you have to boil it down to one reason to buy a ticket, here it is. They call her, they call her Mimi. Actress Naomi Morgan is a knock out. She’s angry, she’s tenacious, and she’s tiny and lithe. The fire in her eyes hits the back wall. She attacks songs rather than just sings them, and wins. When she speaks and moves, you get the feeling that if she were to ever let out what was inside, there wouldn’t be signs big enough or lights bright enough. Her romantic yo-yoing with Aaron C. Finley as “Roger” (who is also wonderful, especially during his gripping “One Song Glory”) threatens to overshadow the other relationships at play. It’s strange to feel relief when both pull out their AZT, yet their chemistry is so visceral, you can’t help but guiltily rejoice.

'RENT' plays at The 5th through August 19
‘RENT’ plays at The 5th through August 19
Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

You pretty much instantly fall in love with Jerick Hoffer as “Angel.” He is the shining light of the stage, filled with irrepressible optimism and fun. He returns to the Balagan Theatre early next year in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” as the starring role, which will undoubtedly be a blast.

Frankly, this reporter would take Ryah Nixon (“Maureen”) as she is any day of the week.

The director makes the case that “RENT” is just as relevant today as it was in the early and mid 90’s when the Tony and Pulitzer winning blockbuster first came to light. But does it actually matter? Do audiences still flock to “Hair” because of its relevancy?

“RENT” encapsulates a time when AIDS was still a frighteningly unknown disease, when people wouldn’t even shake hands with someone infected. In today’s world, while there is still stigma, contracting AIDS isn’t the death sentence it once was and it certainly is no longer commonly called the “gay disease.” But to worry about its relevance is like saying modern audiences can’t get something out of “The Help” if they didn’t have a “colored only” entrance. Relevancy is irrelevant. There is poignancy to watching a group of artist friends trying to live in the moment and realizing that these are teenagers, and many of them will most likely die a very ugly death. “No Day But Today” isn’t a trendy Hot Topic t-shirt to these kids. If The 5th Avenue’s production doesn’t move you because AIDS is soooo last decade, well, maybe you should stick to tumblr for entertainment.

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“RENT” plays July 21 – August 19, 2012 at The 5th Avenue Theatre (1308 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101). Tickets (starting at $29.00) may be purchased at www.5thavenue.org, by phone at 206-625-1900, or at the Box Office at 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

 

For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua

Initiman puts on an exceptional ‘Dirty Story’

After a brief hiatus, Intiman Theatre is back and it is pulling no punches. Its production of “Dirty Story” by John Patrick Shanley, a part of its summer theatre festival, is a volatile and gripping show that you must see once and will want to see twice.

Shanley is a genius. Let’s start with that. The man didn’t win a Pulitzer, a Tony, and an Oscar for nothing. And he’s got chutzpah. Fortunately, these are exactly the two traits needed to craft the bold and brilliant political satire that is “Dirty Story.” Shanley manages to tackle the Middle Eastern conflict in a way that has you recoiling in horror and bursting out laughing — often at the same line. Pack up what you think you know and leave it outside. You’re about to empathize with those you swore were wrong, literally after congratulating yourself on a point well-made.

In a sunny Manhattan park, grad student Wanda seeks advice on her novel from Brutus, an established writer with a candle still burning for his unwritten Great Idea. Within a few hilarious moments, Brutus expertly dismantles Wanda’s schlocky, albeit well-meaning, manuscript. Wanda, stubborn and naive, pushes for more, somehow willing to put up with his abuse if she can learn something. And because this is a Shanley play, he eventually invites her up to his apartment and a love/hate relationship unravels with twists and turns that will give you goosebumps. To fully enjoy the impact of this masterwork, nothing more should be revealed about the plot.

Intiman delivers an exceptional cast and crew. Director Valerie Curtis-Newton has puppet-mastered a turbulent and intricate dance that blindsides you a couple times in delightful ways. Jennifer Zeyl’s set is a sparse cage, wire and wood and dirty windows. LB Morse’s lighting design holds several surprises hidden behind glass panes and under seats.

Shawn Law as “Brutus” is riveting, gracefully careening between a fragile artist, a self-righteous philosopher, and a vengeful victim. His restlessness is dangerous and engrossing from beginning to end. Carol Roscoe’s “Wanda” walks the razor’s edge between victim and aggressor, both unassuming and manipulative. Wanda’s ex-boyfriend Frank could easily be phoned in, but Quinn Franzen brings nuance to a cartoon character, a boy who suddenly finds himself at the top and didn’t realize how lonely it was. (Franzen is also playing “Romeo” in Intiman’s R&J and, judging by this role, is most likely quite good in it.) Allen Fitzpatrick as “Watson,” Frank’s aging British sidekick who’s been around the block a few times, is smug and subservient.

Although worth the set up, the play is a little cerebral at first. Brutus and Wanda’s pretentious babble on the nature of story and fiction/non-fiction is reminiscent of stoned conversations you might have had in college. Fortunately there are enough biting battles of wits to break it up and Curtis-Newton’s direction wisely sets a fast pace to get you to the goods. There are a few details that don’t align quite as brilliantly as others, especially when you retrace your steps at the end. Regardless, the play makes for delicious after-theatre conversation, hopefully over a crisp beer and something sinful to eat.

“Dirty Story” is playing at the Intiman Theatre’s black box. Tickets are $30 and it plays through August 25th. Do not miss this.

 

For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua

Go hear the people sing at ‘Les Miserables’ in Seattle

Undisputed as the most popular musical of all time, “Les Misérables” celebrates its 25th anniversary with Cameron Mackintosh’s re-imagined production at The 5th Avenue Theatre. The tour shattered box office records during its run at The 5th last August, with over 50,000 patrons clamoring to join the revolution, and it’s clear why. Its enduring humanity makes for an unforgettable experience. Throw in some colorful ladies of the night, a band of idealistic youths, a doomed love triangle, and an epic score that will knock your socks off, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

At the center of “Les Misérables” are two men steered by their unshakable faith — one by his belief in mercy, the other by his belief in justice. After spending 19 years in a hard labor prison for theft, Jean Valjean breaks his parole to begin a new life free from the stigma of his crime. Although he has changed into a decent man, he is hounded by Inspector Javert, an absolutist whose purpose only makes sense if the Law is Good. Set against the bloody backdrop of the French Revolution, “Les Misérables” includes all of Victor Hugo’s favorite themes: faith, redemption, love, and what makes a man good or evil.

The two leads do not disappoint. Peter Lockyer’s sensitive “Valjean” and Andrew Varela’s righteous “Javert” are perfectly matched and both outfitted with spectacular voices. In fact, be careful if you sit in center orchestra because when either of them face the audience while singing, you might have to adjust your ‘do. Lockyer’s stirring performance of “Bring Him Home” balances the requisite gentleness with a powerful desperation that hits the back wall.

The rest of the cast holds up its end of the bargain with gusto. The Thénardiers, played by the disgustingly delicious duo Timothy Gulan and Shawna M. Hamic, are perfect representations of society’s bottom feeders, from halfway revolutionaries in it for the grave robbing to nouveau riche opportunists. The cherubic Marcus D’Angelo steals every scene he’s in as “Gavroche,” the pint-size rebel with more street smarts than all of Fagin’s gang. Max Quinlan’s “Marius” delivers a sweet, earnest performance, expertly avoiding sappy romance. Briana Carlson-Goodman as “Éponine” breaks your heart.

The production itself is incredibly versatile, able to simulate a grand march through the streets of Paris with a hungry gang of revolutionaries, while also zeroing in à la cinematic close-up on the tortured face of Fantine as she belts “I Dreamed a Dream.” Paule Constable’s lighting design is absolutely brilliant in this way. Matt Kinley’s set design, inspired by Hugo’s paintings, is an ever-changing puzzle, a feast for the eyes.

The projections are a double-edged sword. While most of the effects are fascinating, especially during Marius and Valjean’s sewer escape and the aforementioned march through the streets, they can also be distracting. This is especially true during Javert’s “Soliloquy,” which is a pity.

“Les Miz” is ironically known for it excess, but Mackintosh’s production does not stop for stragglers. The orchestra begins its iconic glittering and you’re off — there is no wallowing, no time to wipe your eyes, and God help you if you sneeze more than once in a row. For the most part, the sense of urgency is invigorating, but even though the acting is quite good, a few small, beautiful moments get lost in the flurry.

Still, the glory of the show’s staying power is undeniable — every generation has its ideals and betrayals, its scallawags and its martyrs. For every Cosette, there is an unrequited Éponine. For every selfless Valjean, there is a Thénardier. Sometimes what you think is good and true, isn’t; and sometimes a thief on the run is more than what he seems. At the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing.

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“Les Misérables” plays at The 5th Avenue Theatre through July 8th. To purchase tickets (starting at $45), visit www.5thavenue.org, call the box office at (206) 625-1900, or stop by the box office at 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

Fun trivia! Producer Cameron Mackintosh is also working on the “Les Misérables” film coming out this December. Can’t wait!

 

For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua