Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Add the play Underneath the Lintel by Glen Berger to your Solo Show Reading List

Underneath The LintelRecently, a newly acquired friend and prominent actor/director/writer in the Pittsburgh area turned me on to a little solo show called UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL by Glen Berger.

Glen Berger also wrote a short play I directed years ago called "I WILL GO...I WILL GO..." about a man trying to cross the English Channel and going deaf by the end of it from the cold water.  I loved his writing and loved the theatricality and style of that play.  So I knew I would probably like UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL.

And I must say I'd put it on my required reading list for solo plays--right up there with KRAPP'S LAST TAPE or KICKING A DEAD HORSE or THOM PAINE (BASED ON NOTHING) as well as the others I mentioned in an earlier post.

Why do I love it?  One, it's not your usual confessional solo show of "Why I hate my father" or something god-awful like that.  It deals with existential questions about the existence of god, of faith, and tells a story of the everyday events and how they collide with the universe.  A character goes on a true journey, not just physically but mentally and spiritually and the audience can't help but be swept up in the magnitude of the story.  The writing is lyrical and at times quite funny. 

Actually, I was hooked even from the description of the set.  It takes place as a lecture in an auditorium or stage between shows, saying:
"props and other detritus from other shows can litter the back of the stage...Over the course of the evening the 'lecture' should imperceptibly turn into "theater".  The detritus, unnoticed and seemingly unimportant at first, can unexpectedly take on significance, alluding to scenes and history mentioned in the play.  The lighting can become warmer, more "theatrical", etc, and what seemed like a random strewing of objects, or a random water stain on the wall, for instance, can turn out to not be so random after all."

I knew just from reading this that this playwright was clear of his vision for the story and for the journey he wanted to take his audience on.  I knew I was in good hands. 

(And the writer side of me was envious of Berger's clarity and focus and his damned talent at his craft!)

What's also quite lovely is that Berger takes a small thing--an overdue library book--and explodes it into some with greater meaning.  We always talk about "high stakes' in the theater, but we forget what that can actually mean.  Sometimes even the smallest actions could lead to bigger consequences.  It all depends on how it affects the characters and disturbs their world.

Here's the plot summary from Alexis Soloski of the Village Voice:

On an inauspicious morning at a Dutch library, a librarian makes an unexpected find in the overnight return box. ...a much mistreated Baedeker's guidebook 123 years overdue. Even without compound interest, this tardiness merits a tidy fine, and in UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL, playwright Glen Berger's latest, our librarian hero determines to track down the miscreant. Berger's monologue, subtitled The Mystery of the Abandoned Trousers, hardly slacks. Mailing a fine to the long-lived scofflaw in question proves difficult, as the borrower listed his name only as `A'. In an effort to run him to earth, the librarian, who has never left his native town of Hoofddorp, zips to China, Australia, Germany, and America. He eats sweets, greases palms, sees Les Miserables in three languages, and fritters away all his accumulated vacation days. He has the time of his life, or perhaps for the first time actually has a life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

CAMINO Rehearsals Begin

As I stated in my last post, I will be acting in an upcoming show which will premiere in mid-September.  The play is called CAMINO and its been written and developed over a few years by writer/director Anya Martin.  She and co-founder and designer Michelle Carello have formed the company The Hiawatha Project to develop shows that explore specific social questions through myth and movement.

Here's the brief show description:

Set within the context of an imagined near future, we follow the journeys of two seemingly unrelated couples:one immigrant couple fighting to reunite despite jails, red tape, and oppression, and one American couple struggling to break through personal and digital boundaries, both seen and unseen.

CAMINO is inspired by true stories of the immigrant detention centers in Arizona.  If you have never heard of the private and government partnerships where law is dictated by the flow of money, then check out this NPR article.  The play also deals with civil rights, where all U.S. citizens can be tracked by GPS and people can be ground up and spit out by a bureaucratic machine.  Some scenes of the play are positively Orwellian, in fact.

I'll be playing a character who works for this large corporation and "watches" the action via satellite images and security cameras.  I also play a guard in the prison and a translator.  For the latter, I'm learning some French. 

It is an honor to be part of this show with such a talented cast and crew and I'm looking forward to the rehearsal process.  I'll post as often as I can about my discoveries in the next few weeks.

For more information about the Hiawatha Project, click here, and for more information about the issues that CAMINO is dealing with, click here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What I'm Reading: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Summer seems to have gotten away from me and this blog has been neglected.  For that, I apologize.

I have no excuses for not maintaining this blog, but I do have my reasons--first being a new house (yay, I feel so grown-up!) as well as a new job (yay, I have a regular paycheck!) and a new creative venture (Yay, I'm acting in a show again!).

I've also discovered the world of grilling in my back yard. 

But I digress.

I just finished reading Steven Pressfield's little book THE WAR OF ART.  If you are an artist/writer/poet/creative dreamer or just someone who wants to start a diet/exercise program or frankly anything that might be good for you in the long run, then you must read this book.  In fact, it should be required reading for everyone in college.  Any college, not just those studying the arts.

Without giving too much away, Pressfield delves into the idea of "Resistance".  What is Resistance and why does it always rear its ugly head when we desire to change, grow or create something good and unleash it into the world? 

This isn't a book about writer's block.  It's a book about how even professionals face this Resistance, sometimes in the form of fear or procrastination, but they persevere.  Every day.  This is not a "how to" book.  This book doesn't give you tips and tricks for overcoming your daily dose of Resistance.  It does give guidance and wisdom from the guy who was written many books (including The Legend of Bagger Vance). 

The book was a nice reminder to me to get to work.  If you are an artist, you define yourself by creating art, not talking about it, not thinking about it, but doing it.

So, like that Nike ad says...just do it.