2009 class homework and journal


* Each student will keep an active Journal, writing at least three entries per week on their thoughts on acting and their own progress as an actor throughout the semester. All journal entries must be dated. The Journals will be handed in twice.

"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." -- Henry Ford

2007 -- homework : students page *

assignment page



I can't give your (my) answers; I can only ask questions -- because the answers must be YOURS.

"People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don't know when to quit. Most men achieve because they are determined to." -- George Allen


Àâãóñòèí íàçûâàë òðè ñïîñîáíîñòè äóøè: ïàìÿòü, ðàññóäîê è âîëþ. Think, Actor!

Acting Journal-- Spring 2005 Intermediate Acting


Comedic monolog-- My April MacGregor ["Love is a Time of Day"] is just not funny…yet. Without the rest of the story, to make you really like April, I feel like she has to be really silly and ineffectual. I think that in the real play, she is a stronger-willed character, but for this monolog she should be flighty, unassertive, timid, high-voiced, and a little bit foolish. (I should read the play, but since I am just casting about for a comedic monolog, I am trying to save time.) I practiced with gestures in the mirror, and these things don't work: chewing fingernails, screwing the lips to the side, picking at fingernails (except when my fingers are spread wide). They just look weird. Walking with quick little steps, with chest out, butt out, hands swinging around, should be okay. Stamping, with hands on hips, in a little snooty pose. David says I need to be sillier--watch out for breathing hard through the nose and glaring too much because too much anger comes through. Maybe I can do the 'Anger Thing' too well…too scary. If these changes don't work, then maybe this monolog is not for me.


Library and on-line research for Oedipus: trying to get extra info about Joacta’s family

Cut/pasted Web info about Jocasta: Jocasta was a famed queen of Thebes. Jocasta had a long line of close relatives. She was the wife of Lauis, mother and later wife of Oedipus, mother of Antigone, Eteocles, Polynices, and Ismene, and daughter of Menocenes. Unfortunately, Jocasta was carrying Lauis' baby who was destined to kill his father. Hearing this Lauis sent Oedipus up to the mountains. Oedipus somehow managed to survive and came back to where he was born. Eventually, he accidentally killed his father and married his mother (Jocasta). When Jocasta realized this, she hung herself; thus becoming one more victim of the curse that rested upon the family of the Labdacids (this is Laios's family).

In Sophocles' version Jocasta commits suicide; in others, she continues to live in Thebes. Oedipus and Jocasta had four children, two daughters (Antigone and Ismene) and two sons (Eteocles and Polynices). Oedipus' two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, grow up and fall into a dispute over the throne. They finally agree to a curious form of joint rule: Eteocles is to rule for one year, then yield the power to Polynices for the next year, and so on. Predictably, Eteocles refuses to live up to the bargain, whereupon Polynices retires to Argos, where he marries the daughter of King Adrastus. With Adrastus' aid he gathers together six other heroes and these seven join together in an attack on Thebes (the famous Seven against Thebes). All of Polynices' six allies are killed in battle; he agrees to a private duel with Eteocles, where the two brothers kill one another. Jocasta's brother Creon then assumes the throne of Thebes. It is at this point that Antigone opens.

"Rivoting of the ankles" (the injury inflicted on Oedipus) was something also done to slaves. Perhaps Oedipus is touchy about this and this is also the reason he is so quick to think of the possibility that he is slave-born.

On-line info on Laios: Laios was son of Labdacus, king of Thebes. Labdacus died while Laios was still an infant and control of Thebes was assumed by the evil regent Lycus. Lycus was overthrown by the twins Amphion and Zethus, who assumed the throne. In the meantime, the baby Laios was whisked away to the court of Pelops, king of Pisa (near Olympia in the northwest Peloponnese). On the deaths of Amphion and Zethus, Laios (now an adult) was free to return to Thebes as the legitimate ruler. In the meantime, however, he had fallen in love with Chrysippus, the handsome young illegitimate son of Pelops. Laios kidnapped Chrysippus, took him back to Thebes, and raped him. Chrysippus either committed suicide, was killed, or was rescued by Pelops (the traditions vary). Later, Laios married Jocasta (or Epicasta), daughter of Menoeceus. When the couple were unable to have children, Laios consulted the oracle at Delphi, only to be informed that Jocasta would bear him a son who would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. Laios determined that he would no longer have relations with Jocasta, but got drunk one night and forgot his resolve. When Oedipus was born, Laios had the baby's ankles pierced and gave him to a shepherd to expose on Mt. Cithaeron. The exposure of children was a common in cases where the child was illegitimate, deformed in some way, or the wrong sex [i.e. female]: see WA 4.22. Scholars disagree on whether the child was left out to die, as is the norm in myth, or to be picked up by someone else, as was common in the Middle Ages [a curious ritual of adoption]. If the latter, the child would have been reared as a slave.

Character Analysis of Jocasta:

Basic chronology: Jocasta was married at 14, had Oedipus at 16. Thus upon meeting, if Oedipus was 18, so Jocasta was 34. I figure the play takes place 10-15 years later.


I was the second child of a wealthy and influential family in Thebes. My father, Menoeceus, was an advisor to the king (Laios) and also a well-respected magistrate of Thebes (I made this up). When I came of age, I was a likely wife for the king, and so by age 14, I was married to him. I was cute and young and I had seen Laios looking at me in a predatory manner. My father did not seem altogether at ease with me being married off to him, but I got the sense that he felt it was probably best for all parties. Laios had a rather strong personality--that is a generous way of saying that he could be a jerk. Frankly, I found him mean and disgusting. Turns out he was a pervert. He had a taste for young men, but it wasn't a healthy one. Maybe it was because he was unwilling to fully admit his predilections, but mainly I think the problem was that he was just rotten. From the little fragments of information I could get, he was into torturing and using people. A sicko. Despite my unfortunate pairing with Laios, I was quietly eager to fill the role of queen. Too bad I was not very good at it. I should have been assuming more authority in the running of the palace household, but several things were thwarting that. One, I was very young and had no experience in asserting myself yet. Two, Laios's mother was a real witch. She treated me like a child and put me down in front of other people. As Laios and I failed to reproduce, her dislike for me became more overt. Lastly, since I really disliked Laios, I wished to avoid his company. A larger role in the palace would have made me more accessible to Laios, and I did not want that. I became quite good at being scarce. I did not want to shirk my duty (and I also really wanted to be queen…just not Laios's), so I learned to wield influence from behind the scenes. This was not an effective way to run things, but I got better at it through time.

I tried to avoid Laios as much as possible, but I was not entirely successful. On one hand, I was happy when I did not become pregnant with him. He disgusted me and I did not view him as 'a good set of genes'. But I really wanted a family-- I wanted to be a matriarch. Two years into the marriage, Laios's mother made him go to the Oracle at Delphi to find out why we could produce no children, after having nagged him endlessly about our empty nursery. She was unaware of my secret revenge against her…avoiding relations with Laios. Ha! I knew that she really wanted grandchildren, but I also suspected that she would try to assume control over them and turn them as mean and wicked as she was. She was a plotter. I did not want to give her that control. When the Oracle said that a child by Laios and me would be ill-fated [hey, let's all come to a consensus on the wording of the prophesy: 1) "the child will kill father/marry mother", 2) the unclear warning "don't have a child and if so, expose it" that Lillian brought up, 3) some other wording.], I breathed a little easier because I thought Laios would desist in trying to have sex with me. This worked, except that he became even meaner towards me. One night after a large and raucous party with associates of his that I despised, Laios was drunk out of his gourd…stumbling, falling, slurring. I was awakened an hour or two before sunrise with his smelly, disgusting body on top of me. He said he wanted sex, and when I resisted, he slugged me hard across the face, nearly choked me to death and proceeded to rape me. I vowed vengeance on that horrible man that night.

Of course, it was the whim of the gods that I should become pregnant from that encounter! Part of me was excited because I really wanted a child. But, I was also quite anxious about how Laios would handle the situation, given the prophesy. I decided to become even more scarce within the palace. I started hanging out more with my brother Creon. He understood my situation (he thought Laios was a prick, too), and he was a source of much comfort. Since he was often in the palace, he knew the ins & outs of what was happening there and he was able to give me things to do outside of Laios' proximity. After a while I became more confident about the impending child. I began to feel that its birth might give me more sway with Laios' mother. I didn't worry so much about her meddling in my parenting…I guess I began to feel that I would be a good mother and that I could handle the old witch. Laios had taken to avoiding me, and so I figured he would avoid the child once it was born, too. I could begin to control my own destiny! Finally, my adult life was beginning!

When the child was born, I was ecstatic. Here was this wonderful, beautiful, mysterious little ball of life that was completely dependent on me. It was dreamy. Thoughts about the prophesy had almost completely vanished from my mind. I was happy because Laios had not come to see the child. His mother did, briefly, and left without comment. But my world came to an end 3 days later. Laios strode into the room and told me that the baby would have to die. When I refused, he said that I had a choice. He, at that very moment, had guards poised outside the residences and rooms of my parents and my brother, ready to kill them at his word if I did not agree to give up the child. I felt I had no choice. I knew that if I refused, not only would he kill my family, and probably me, Laios would ultimately probably kill the baby, too. At first I assumed that he would slay the infant right then and there, but I misjudged the depths of his cowardice and weak nature. He didn't want to do the deed himself and demanded that I do it. I told him that it would be physically impossible for me to bring harm to my child, and so he suggested putting the child out to die in the wilderness. He called in the palace shepherd and then jerked the baby out of the cradle. He took a knife from my breakfast tray, and I ran and tried to take the baby from him. He backhanded me, and while I lay dazed, I heard the infant scream and wail. I don't know how many minutes I lay there in a stupor, but when I came to, the herdsman was standing over me trying to rouse me. Laios was gone. The baby was still crying, so Laios had not killed it. When I crawled over to it, I could see that he had slashed the little boy's Achilles tendons and lashed his feet tightly together with the curtain tie-backs. I told the herdsman the child should be taken immediately to the mountains and exposed. I could not even stand to hold the miserable child one last time--my heart would have broken.

My world seemed to come to an end. Not only did I feel the gut-wrenching loss of my child, but I was also overcome with recriminations. Why had I not challenged Laios' decision? Would he really have killed my entire family? Maybe he would have been too chicken. Why didn't I just take the baby and flee? Was it because I didn't want to leave the palace and the rich and influential life it afforded me? Was I too afraid to be a mother on my own, without the status of being a queen? Maybe I could have even killed Laios myself? That would probably have resulted in my own death, but at least the child might have survived. Why hadn't I tried to think of some plan to outsmart the ugly thug and keep the child alive? I had just fallen to pieces and had failed to save my child. I was worthless. I should have done everything in my power to save it, or else died trying. Yes, I knew about the prophesy, but, but…still, to have killed my own child! To kill his father, well that is alright. But to marry his mother? What does that mean? How can that happen? Why should I kill my own flesh and blood on the basis of something that I don't even understand?! [See the denial, the almost deliberate blindness, even at this point, that Jocasta can achieve to avoid coming to grips with something that stands in the way of something else that she really wants.]

The following years were a blur. I don't really remember much of what happened, what I did, or how the time passed. I recall spending a lot of time sitting and staring. At least Laios did not bother me much. Maybe he was afraid of producing another child because he hardly ever sought me out. When he did, I let him do whatever he wanted. He was still a mean pervert, but maybe I felt I deserved whatever punishments he served up. Thankfully, he felt free to seek out concubines and young men to satisfy his appetites. The only things I can remember doing involved helping the status of my brother grow within the palace. Not that he really needed my help--he was a smart, resourceful and just man, and quite capable of seeing to his own career. But my skills in learning to work the palace from behind the scenes came in handy at times. Creon was my only confidante, the only person who understood me and tried to help me. Our parents passed away during this time. My dear brother kept me sane (or sane enough) and comforted me in my many depressions. Largely I felt like I was an insect (in more ways than one!). I was drawn into a cocoon, awaiting some time to break out and spread my wings as a metamorphosed creature. If that chance never came, then I would just wither and die on the branch, …and that would be fitting, too.

One day, a monstrous calamity befell Thebes. The Sphinx landed at the city gates and began terrorizing everyone. The king, at the time, was away, and the city looked to my brother to guide them. I was troubled by the events, but in some strange way, I felt that the rest of the city was only just now feeling the depths of despair that I had been feeling for years. So, I did not have as much sympathy for the citizens, our dear Children of Thebes, as I should have. I recall fantasizing that Laios would return from his journey, and come unaware upon the Sphinx at the entrance to the city. I envisioned that frightful monster snatching up Laios' ugly form and devouring him in big gulps, tearing his body into pieces. In that way, the Sphinx actually became beautiful to me. For a week, the She Monster held Thebes in her grip. Many poor citizens, a dozen of our administrators and several of our intellectuals were gobbled up by the hideous monster. People were starting to panic. Since I was Queen, it was thought that I should be able to do something about this all. I hate to admit it, but I was useless, still wallowing in my years-long daze. I just stared at people when they came to seek my help. Creon was like a rock in all this-- I do remember being proud of this. When the king did not return, even though envoys were sent seeking him in all known corners, Creon issued a proclamation that whomsoever could solve the Sphinx's insidious riddle would gain the kingship and marriage to me.

There were scattered reports all during that eventful week that the king had been killed. None of these reports could be verified, however. It was this that commanded my thoughts, not the scourge upon the city. I can remember being slightly happy during that time…for the first time in years! The very notion that I could be free from that rogue gave me wings, just like the Sphinx's. I would stand on the parapet, at a safe but titillating distance, and just watch the curious monster roaring, and preening and flexing her awful wings. As I stared at her for hours on end, I somehow knew that she spelled doom for me, but I was seduced. She was terrifying but beautiful and I couldn't help looking at her. Since her arrival coincided with the first rumors of Laios' death, I associated her with that. I came to regard her as my savior somehow--she would deliver me from my current fate, even if that future she promised were calamity. Perhaps she would remove me from this purgatory that I had been living in these many years. I became transfixed by the notion of giving myself up to her.

Stay tuned for the next episode when…


A little over a week after the Sphinx arrived, I was on the city wall, as usual, staring at her mesmerized. Suddenly she turned directly towards me, and something told me that this was my time. Without really thinking, I stood up and walked towards her. I would finally meet my doom. As I drew to within 10 feet of her, I could no longer look into her fearsome eyes and I knelt down to sacrifice myself to her. The blow never came, and finally I looked up and saw that the Sphinx's attention had turned. She leapt down to the ground to bar entrance to a lone stranger coming along the road. In some sense I was mad at the man for delaying my demise. But since I am inherently weak of will, I was also grateful to him, because, really, I was afraid to die. The man strode directly up to the Sphinx--he must have been very brave. Then the terrible riddler posed her deadly question to the man. He considered for a while, and the Sphinx sat down with an air of bemused patience. I could not hear his answer from my position atop the wall, but after the man spoke, the Sphinx gave a piercing, angry scream. She jumped to the highest parapet and then threw her body down to the pavement 40 feet below. She disappeared in a blinding flash, leaving behind a wretched stink of burned flesh. Townspeople stood and gawked in amazement. I looked, for the first time, at the man who seemed to have saved us from the horrible creature. He was tall, young, and handsome. He carried himself with a regal bearing, even though he traveled alone and his attire indicated that he had been on the road for some time. He seemed lame from the journey. Finally he gazed up at me on the wall, and when I looked into his eyes I had the feeling that I already knew him. I suddenly realized that I had been prepared to die, but this man had saved me. Still in shock, I followed the throngs escorting the man to the palace. Creon met us at the door, and we gave the stranger a hospitable welcome. Oedipus was his name, and while he refreshed himself with lavations, food, and wine, he recounted his ordeal with the Sphinx to Creon. We were effusive in our thanks, which he accepted graciously. All the while, he showed himself to be an intelligent, polite, sincere, and honorable man. I would be dishonest not to report that I felt an immediate attraction to him, and I believe he felt the same for me. There was some bond between us that I'm sure I cannot explain. He had not heard of the prize of crown and queen. When Creon told him, Oedipus could not fully suppress a boyish surprise and excitement, which charmed me.

I felt like the interminable dark of my life was giving way to dawn. Here was a man destined to be my husband, my King, who was kind and knowledgeable. He seemed to see me for me, and not as some trivial chattel. He was a man I respected and liked. I could not believe my good fortune and had to work hard to dispel the notion that I did not deserve it. I still feared that Laios would return and break this happy dream. Two days later, the messenger arrived, bruised and in bad condition. Soterios, I believe his name was, and he brought news that made me feel lighter than air, however. He had been traveling with the King when they were bested in a fight with a ruffian on the road. All in the party were killed save the messenger, and he nearly so. Finally the last impediment to my happiness was gone! The messenger was in quite an addled state. He asked to be allowed to return to his original vocation, herdsman, and serve out his remaining years in the quiet of the furthest reaches of the kingdom. I suppose that upon seeing that the realm already had a new king, the messenger was afraid of being co-opted into more duty in the royal entourage. Given his harrowing ordeal, I could see how he would view it as treacherous job!

The following 12 years were the happiest I could imagine. After we were wed in a beautiful springtime ceremony, Oedipus and I began our love affair, which has not waned through the years, only grown deeper and more mature. I had never experience romantic love before, and boy was it great! Oedipus was the perfect lover. The children started coming within the first year. Initially I had worries, but I only had to remind myself that I was no longer in a cruel and loveless marriage. My babies were safe. Laios seemed to love them almost as much as I did. He was largely occupied by running the realm, and he left me to run the household as I saw fit. Motherhood really suited me and absorbed my full attentions. Oedipus and I seemed to be of a single mind, although I confess that we may have only assumed that to be so. We rarely talked of significant things, so we may not have known each other as well as we could have. Oedipus seemed to know that I did not wish to revisit my painful past. I sensed the same from him. He was friends with Creon, and I am sure that my brother fully told him the tragic story of my younger days.

So, that is the long story of how all this came to be. As for me, I am happy to have the new life I am enjoying. Although at times I realize that Thebes has trials and tribulations, I am happily ensconced in the palace, tending to my family and the running of the place. I have been through enough unhappiness, and I leave those types of troubles for other competent people to deal with. My primary duty is to my husband and family.

To describe myself, I guess I'd have to say I consider myself to be still attractive, even after all these years. Bearing 4 children has not broken my body. In fact, it really seems to have blossomed with motherhood. I am feeling confident and in control. I have taken to wearing red, as I feel it suits me now (not to mention that it goes with my hair now that I have started covering the silver with henna!). I like this new fabric that traders bring to Thebes, and I have my undergarments made out of this so-called 'silk'. It makes me feel elegant! I rise with the sun and enjoy breakfast on the balcony with the children. I drink water and nibble fruit while they eat heartily. Oedipus does not like to deal with the squabbling kids first thing in the day, but it is just right for me. I sleep soundly in the afternoon siesta, so that I am ready for a long evening of sumptuous dinner (with wine), schmoozing with dignitaries or playing with Oedipus. I putter in the herb gardens on fair days and shop in the plaza. My favorite food is fish, the richer the better, and oysters are a special treat. I am not one for sweets, although the children always clamor for them. I do not like stories or plays about the Ancients or the Gods. They are always so full of tragedy, vengeance, and human failings. I would much rather hear poetry about the sound of the waves on the shore, the first flutterings of nubile heartstrings, or the glint of sunshine on a sleek horse's shoulders. I do not much listen to music, or else I am very picky about what types. If it is airy and light, I like it fine, or else if it is powerful and compelling so that you feel you have to dance. If it tends towards the melancholy, I do not care for it. Several times I have visited the seashore, and I love to stand on the tall cliffs, staring out to sea. I spread my arms wide and let the strong sea breeze whip over me. I am windblown and disheveled afterwards, but it makes me feel alive. I stand close to the edge, where most people would recoil from the dizzying height. But I like it--it gives me a thrill. In a way it sort of reminds me that once I had chosen to end my life. I have that option again, standing on that precipitous cliff, but I choose not to. I am happy. I'm Queen of the World!


Notes on Tartuffe- Saw the play today. Very entertaining. Really enjoyed it. Most of the characters did a really good job of being-off-the-wall farcical: Jenny (Dorine), Scott Jackson (Tartuffe), Joe Harris (Damis), Andrew (Orgon), and Craig (Valere). The others impressed me less. Tartuffe was perfectly yucky at times--very effective, just makes you squirm. Loved Craig's entrances. Jenny was wonderful--she just really carried that character with aplomb. Andrew was fabulous, although he did a couple of things I didn't like. The extended scream was too much. He seemed like a bit too strong of a character to be so easily fooled. Is it possible for him to show more flaws, so that his foolishness follows more convincingly? I'm not sure about these quibbles of mine, though. Orgon is a difficult character, no doubt. Joe did a pretty good drunk and certainly executed the falls and physical moves excellently. When doing the drunken stupor, I kept wishing he'd mix up his hand gestures and way of speaking just a little. Elmire the stepmom (Christie Burgess) was a little weak. She got better when her part got more demanding, though. She just needs to ditch the "model smile" that is plastered on her face most of the time that she is not actually speaking. Cleante (JK) was good. He said many of his lines as though just reciting them at times. As written, Cleante's lines are unfortunate (too long and wearisome, which I'm sure makes it difficult to get though them), but they could have been delivered with more interest. Officer's=sort of lackluster, I'm afraid. The Mother/Grandmother: give me a break! That was bad (said her lines as if she were reciting them, she was not 'in her character', she was like a pupil in a grade school play). Oh well.


Did Clytemnestra's monolog in class today. I don't think I did it as well as I did for the Oedipus audition. There, I concentrated more on the aspect that Clytemnestra is very much controlling and manipulating her feelings, emotions, and actions. She has _made_ herself 'love' Agamemnon, just as she is, now, making herself calm down and not tear Agam. to pieces. What was supposed to be her regaining control may have been the thing that Patrick felt was just repetitive hand motions. I had divided the stage into R/L and apportioned good/bad things, people, places, in a consistent way in my plan, but this didn't come across in the monolog, according to the class and Anatoly. I don't know yet what I would do to make it work.

Other monologs:

June's-- [Nuts] I like that she is not completely crazy. It is a question that is never definitively answered, and in the process of examining what the character does (and whether she is crazy or not), you come to really feel for her. Need to make better use of space: horiz & vert. Joe liked that she used only her hands (and that this completely drew attention to her face). I'd like to see something done with her whole body, though…just as an experiment. Then we could see whether it detracts or adds.

Joel's-- [6 Degrees of Separation] Need more pre-acting. His hair, and his endless tucking of it behind his ears, is distracting. I think it is an indication that he is looking down must of the time, too. I want to see a bigger range of body movements, emotions…well, just about everything. For instance, when he is describing his whirlwind evening, he could be excited, marveling, swishing around as if he were dancing, gesticulating amazement. Then he can get a bigger transition when he turns regretful, or weirded-out. If he has an open body form for the first part, then he could draw in his arms and gets more protective, as he speaks of feeling violated, and of disappointing people or being a failure. Anatoly says his addresses could be very different, with different ways of speaking. Hmm, sounds like a good idea. He addresses god, himself, some confidante, Elizabeth, his father. That unleashes a world of opportunities!


Anatoly was having a tirade today about U.S. acting, the rotten core of Hollywood and everyone in it, and the "junk-food" type of consumption that Americans (and alas, the world) have for trite characters and acting. Plus, the elevated (shall we say god-like) status of actors and our eager acceptance of them, along with our consumption of a whole bunch of other trashy stuff, like horrible music, needless consumer goods, and oh, I forget all what got swept into this. It isn't like I disagree. I just don't know how to answer him. I don't know why we seem to have such screwed up priorities. In fact, I remain baffled by a lot of American culture and trends. I believe in living simply, with a few quality, meaningful things rather than many, shoddy, trivial things. It is friends, family, taking care of the world, and finding a purpose in life that are the important things. I appreciate talented actors, and patently dislike the ‘Tom Cruises’ of the industry. (Does the word industry, in and of itself here, give a clue to some of the answers I don't have??) I adore beautiful music…and I can appreciate that tastes vary. I wish that we played music for ourselves, our families and our neighbors more often. I think that humans are healthiest when they live closer to the land, and I'll never move beyond my own agrarian roots. Most witnesses will immediately assess that I don't make a point of dressing fashionably, unless you name it something like Neo-Utilitarian Aging Geek. So, am I just not seeing the ways in which I myself fall into the ruts of junk consumerism? That is what I think is at the root of all these problems Anatoly was decrying. It is economic. When the underlying system is benefited by people wanting more and more, then where is the end? Our nation's economy is dependent on unending growth. A major problem is that there are limitations to this. We only have so much arable land, petroleum reserves, inhabitable space, supportable population numbers, etc. The same types of behaviors are seen by people in countries with other economies, so that makes me wonder, is it a problem specifically attributable to an economic system? Is it something intrinsic to human nature? I don't know yet.

====> Anatoly wants me to list examples of actors that are not horrible monsters. Be thinking. There have to be a few.

How about these, for a start:

Susan Sarandon

Robert Redford

Emma Thompson

Jodie Foster

Kevin Spacey

Alan Rickman

Julliete Binoche

Tom Hanks

Dustan Hoffman

Mary Tyler Moore

Liam Neeson

Billy Crystal

Judi Dench

Julie Andrews, for gosh sakes! 

Last night's rehearsal/cold reading made something very apparent to me. There is going to have to be some familiarity and intimacy between Jocasta and Oedipus…which isn't there yet (at least on my part). I foresaw this when I thought about auditioning for the part, and decided that, with a wide range of choices for Oedipus, it would be easy for me to achieve that. The unfortunate thing is that I don't have that kind of chemistry with Levi. By all accounts, there should be no problem: he is a decent person, attractive, fairly intelligent, and earnest. There is just no explaining chemistry. Well, okay, I’m not being honest with myself. I think I know, and it comes down to personality and personal choices and assessment of another's work, etc. It just so happens that Levi and I don't match well in those regards. Oh well. BUT, this isn't going to stop me, and I am going to get past this, even if it takes some uncomfortable work. We have to be as if we have been married for years and produced 4 kids together! When I think about the kind of familiarity and ease that David and I have together, I see that Levi and I have a long way to go. And it is my problem, not his. It comes down to the problem that, frankly, I am reluctant to touch Levi. The cold reading made progress on this score. It was suggested that we hold hands while reading the lines. That broke the ice a bit, and let us feel more free to experiment on touching each other. But I know that I personally am still quite ill at ease and awkward. If Anatoly doesn't demand that we break the ice a little more, then I am going to push that. Poor Levi. I've still got this big impediment standing in the way of me working on what I should be in each scene, and I have to get rid of it. I can't be thinking "Go ahead, By, pat his shoulder, you can do it!" I need to be thinking what Jocasta is thinking.


Worked on Jocasta’s character development (above)

I’ve also been thinking about my non-functional April MacGregor ["Love is a Time of Day"] monolog in light of some things we’ve heard in class about biomechanics. I think that the box I’ve been thinking within has been much too small. I should experiment MUCH more widely. Push physical things to the absurd. Or think about an animal that embodies the character and experiment with that. As example…Anatoly talked about a bird: what distinguishes a bird?.. flight. And what physically about a bird allows it to fly? Think about conformation, musculature, center of balance, muscle movements, etc. What could I adopt for April MacGregor along these lines? Think about this.

This ties in interestingly with something I saw in a movie the other night. I watched “Dr Strangelove, or How I stopped…etc”. We went through all the bonus features on the DVD, which were just as interesting (if not more so!) that the movie. There were many great observations I got from this film, but the relevant one here concerned George C. Scott. He was picked for the role by Kubrick (a genius!, by the way), but Kubrik had to manipulate him carefully to get the desired performance out of him. Scott was accustomed to doing more serious roles, but Kubrik wanted more crazy comedy. He would get Scott to do three takes: one would be how Scott wanted to do it, another would be pushing some particular element, and for the third Kubrik would push Scott to be way ‘over the top.’ Scott resisted this vehemently, considering it to be terrible over-acting. Nine times out of ten, it was the ‘over the top’ footage that made it into the movie! I can picture certain parts of the movie where this was probably the case (when the president asks the general whether the pilot of the one rogue plane can make it to the target under radar, and Scott imitates an airplane zooming in, for example). This says something very strong to me about the process for successful comedy. I was fascinated by Peter Sellers process for this film. I’ve always admired him, but this movie (and added info afterwards) sent my esteem to new levels. What a comic genius.

What is heartening for me is that what I’ve always done in the past, when goofing around and ‘doing characters’ around home and friends and stuff, might be the same kind of thing that Sellers does. When I think about it, what I have always done when creating these fanciful characters to play around with (and irritate family and friends with) seems to be some kind of mixture of method acting and biomechanics. This was all before I even considered getting into acting, and so it was blissfully untied to any academic or theoretical treatment of process. But it is interesting to go back and examine now. First thing I would do is to imagine that I was that “character” (some sort of instant creation of a person on the spot...maybe 2 or 3 W’s), and I would start in with a voice, a body language/form/posture. I would think consciously about what that character would say in the given situation I was playing, but the physical stuff would almost come unconsciously. However, I can see now that the physical aspects would soon come to drive the character, sometimes strongly. Taking the comic physical antics to higher levels would push more facets of the character, like blowing up an inflatable pool-toy, that begins to take a more recognizable 3-D shape once you start putting air into it. Very interesting.


Still working on Jocasta’s development (above). This is fun. Hope I’m not being too long-winded. But there are several things that I have to have an emotional basis for:

1) How was she really ready for Oedipus’ arrival? She seemed to have accepted him readily and without question. What emotional state prompted her to do that?

2) How did she feel about being queen?

3) How did she feel about having children, and specifically how she felt about her first child versus her later 4 kids with Oedipus?

4) How is she able to be in a position (emotionally) to commit suicide?

5) How does she feel about Oedipus? What is her love for him like?

I think that after I finish this ‘story’ tonight (above), I will have covered all these things.


Molly’s monolog in class today-- it was pretty good. It had a sort of unsatisfying step-change in her demeanor…from dead-pan ‘honey I can’t cry’ straight into hopeless grief and crying. This may have been because she found the monolog to be emotionally difficult to control. I would have tried to make more of a smooth transition.


First rehearsal with Anatoly last night. Wow, that always throws me for a loop. Whatever notions I come to the rehearsal with go out the window in the first few minutes! My main concern from last night is that Anatoly wants me to go ‘dead’ very early on, and not come back. That leaves a hell of a lot of text left to go where what I’m saying doesn’t really jive with being emotionally dead and ‘at the end of the road’. I don’t have a clue yet how I would do that. I’ll have to go back and pour over the text with this in mind. Also, with this “premature death” my emotional trajectory is a lot less interesting. I thought it would be an interesting flight of awareness, denial, fleeting hope, sinking despair. But this route Anatoly is suggesting has me take a sudden and spectacular splat and then flat-lining it thereafter. I’ll have to think about that.

It hadn’t occurred to me before last night’s rehearsal, the notion of me aging suddenly when Oedipus tells his roadtrip fight story. I don’t think I like the mask idea, but the aging notion is intriguing. Think about the body form of youth versus age. Some paintings by Gustav Klimt come to mind, because he is one of the few artists that I’ve seen who accurately depicts age in the human form. I could incorporate facets of these different forms/postures in Jocasta’s bearing.


[ pix ]

Aged: (really all 3 ages, but the form isn’t so easy to see for young woman)

Anatoly talked about having a mask or makeup trick where I go from youngish and attractive to old and death-mask like. Does incorporating something like that completely supplant my ability to create facial expressions post-death? Can this effect be done with facial _expression alone? Maybe only by a very good actor? But could I try?

With regards to the Levi intimacy problem, I’m less worried now. I’ve had that little sticking point on the back burner of my brain for the last week. It is amazing how the mind can change with small but constant suggestion! I’ve been preparing it (my brain) all week for intimacy with Oedipus and it is much more comfortable with the idea now. And last night’s rehearsal was better, too. I didn’t have to look him in the eye for much of the ‘lullaby’ soothing scene, which is a lot easier, but I think I could do it. I guess partly I’m not worried because I see the actor relationship can work much like a real relationship, and so it will get there with time. Early relationship: anxiety, insecurity, lack of physical ease, but sparky, and filled with possibilities. Mid relationship: excitement, romance, very hot, growing experience and familiarity. Late relationship: familiar, comforting, fluid, unstressed, not as ‘hot’ but emanating from a deeper place. It helps, too, getting to know Levi and coming to like him. I had obviously made too hasty an assessment of him. Well, actually the things I didn't like are still there, but I've now had a chance to get to know many more things about him and all the good things outweigh the negatives.


Scenes: How to improve the Chekhov "The Bear" scene.

(Jeez, do I have to do it with Patrick?…he's never around.)

To make it funnier:

-have each of the characters pine after the other one when their backs are turned…drop their proud demeanors and worry over whether the other might be attracted to them

-since this is a 'love story' have Popov and Smirnov be obviously sexually attracted to each other, let that distract them from what they are saying. Then they have to break that distraction in order to get back to quarrelling with each other.

-swing wildly between self-righteous indignation, feigned anger, hurt & pitiful, coy, seductive, etc

-horribly overact the parts where each is describing their toils and troubles (Smirnov: women are awful crocodiles even though he has sacrificed mightily for them. Popov: I gave all for my husband and he treated me like dirt, so I have entombed myself).

-make Patrick the woman and me Smirnov. Give him a very stout figure and big boobs so that he can try to wiggle and posture in a girlish way. Thus, he would not be very girlish or attractive, and I would not be very manly and virile, although I could posture that way.


At rehearsal last night, I sat with Anatoly for a while, talking about Jocasta character stuff. I thought I had done a lot of analysis of her, but Anatoly came with big questions, fundamental ones, that I hadn't even thought of. It's not as if I don't like what I've done so far, it is just that the simplicity and primacy of the unanswered questions floored me. These are the questions I should learn to ask myself! How can I do that? It is almost as if I should take a step back from the perspective I had. Maybe I start creating a character in my mind and I get inside it, but I lose myself in the process. I don't ask the questions that I would normally ask of myself. It is like trying to paint a picture of an animal in a field by zeroing in and carefully rendering the eyes and nose and whiskers without having first sketched in the body form, the setting/background and basic composition of the frame.

Why does Jocasta kill herself instead of just leaving? 
Why has she not killed herself before now? 
Why is no one thinking about the kids? 
When Jocasta knows & Oedipus doesn't, why doesn’t she take the kids and leave? 
Why hasn't Creon tried to tell Jocasta? 
Why didn't I let Oedipus kill me? 
I don't know the answers to these questions! Yet. I don't think I will answer these all in one sitting, but here goes…
She hasn't killed herself before now because she always held out hope that things would get better. After knowing that Oedipus is her son, she knows that things can never get better. She blames herself for everything--she should have either saved the infant Oedipus so that his identity would be known (thus preventing the fulfillment of the oracle) or made sure he was dead. Barring those things, she could at least have talked with Oedipus and discovered who he is before they had kids together. Now she doesn’t trust herself to do anything, not even raise her own kids. Everything associated with her is in ruin (Oedipus is beyond ruin, the children are an abomination, even Laios was killed…she must be bad Juju!). I think she views herself as a pestilence that must be removed. I also think that when one thinks of suicide, the person is probably not thinking so much of consequences…like who will take care of my children. At least, I think this is the case for those who suicide without planning it for long periods of time. There are those folks who, for some reason, fantasize about it far in advance and plan it carefully, and muse over it and many of its ramifications for some time before they do it. But, I'm concerned here with the more impetuous and passionate suicides. There, the pain is so great that you want to die just to stop the pain. You don't think much beyond the immediacy of that. I think that the pain of guilt & remorse and recrimination are so great for Jocasta that she sees herself solely as an anathema that does not deserve to live.

Anatoly suggests that maybe Jocasta's last thoughts, while she is putting the noose over her neck, are "why didn't I die in childbirth?" Also, she realizes that not both of them Oed + Joc) can live… she dies so that he can live.

I'll continue to work on these questions--answer the untreated ones, and maybe re-answer the others as my thoughts incubate.


Patrick's monolog- No transitions or development. He remained sitting the whole time. I had a hard time placing him emotionally. He could have had a lot more introspection. Anatoly says that the 'present' is always between a past and a future and we need to see these. This is probably a crucial thing to keep in mind for any performance.


Egads. I am woefully behind on the Kaplan book. I like it. But I'm only in the initial chapters. With the historical stuff about Stanislavsky, I can absorb it much better than last semester. I have always needed history with context, with real people and stories in it, time, place, mood, etc to be able to remember it. Kaplan puts that in there. Yea, he is verbose and that makes the reading SLOW. But I think I retain more of it.


Images-- Anatoly talked about 'images' in class yesterday. I haven't read the chapter yet, and I don't yet know what he saying about masks. But he said that directors are "image makers". I thought about this today because a song came on the radio for which I realize that I have an absolutely indelible image. I think it is Debussy's piano 'Arabesque' (?). I saw some movie once--can't even remember what it was-- wherein there was live stage show. It was set in the past (I'd guess 30's or 40's), and it was a smoke-filled theatre. To the strains of the Debussy music, there was a woman dancing behind two huge feather 'fans'. They looked like her wings, and indeed, she moved like a bird. I believe that she was naked but she kept herself almost completely covered by these wings even though she was fluttering and sweeping them about. She was completely backlit, from below, and the smoke-filled air made the lights bluish. She did an enchanting dance--so birdlike, sensual but innocent, so graceful, so in-tune with the music, it was mesmerizing. There were wolf whistles and cat calls from the audience, but that somehow didn't penetrate the beauty of the dance and the music. In fact, maybe that was part of the image, that there was such innocent and ethereal beauty in the midst of this (probably) mostly male audience, with their base and shallow take of the woman on stage. I cannot, to this day, hear that music without that image coming mind. It is powerfully etched in my brain. It would be neat to some day create images that are that powerful.

(4/20/05 The fan dancer to Debussy is in the movie "The Right Stuff", and it is

not the Arabesque, it is "Claire de Lune".)


In class today, Anatoly talked about Imagination, and how an artist must develop all three of 1) mind, 2) soul, 3) spirit. Spirit is often the missing component. I should reread my class notes occasionally to remind myself of some things I'd like to keep in mind. Or maybe I'll just transcribe them here to the journal. Note to remember: Keep a child-like imagination of the world--joyful, uninhibited, free to learn, to express, be silly, etc. About the spirit…Anatoly has a notion of the Spirit of the Theatre. Maybe it is brought in with the spirit of the folks who come to audience, I don't know. I don't think I have a notion of this type of spirit. Anatoly says a spirit is vital to a great actor. My own spirit is very far from the theatre…it has developed in a very different place and the theatre is an alien environment to it. I guess I am not very consciously aware of my spirit (relative to the introspection I have given other facets of my life and mind). Anatoly said that some people seem to have a lot of spirit, and some don't. I suspect I may be in that latter camp, although I hate to admit it. Actually, I don't think I lack spirit…I think it is hidden. Squelched. As in introvert, my spirit does not feel very safe in social environments. So, it doesn't come out and cavort around other folks very much. And when it does, it does so haltingly and unsurely.

Think more about spirit. Especially mine. What exactly is it like? How might it be targeted in the direction of the theatre?


Spring 2005 Winter Shorts: A Review

"One Tennis Shoe" by Shel Silverstein. Directed by Tom Creek, starring Brandon Greenstreet as Harvey and Rachel Blackwell as Sylvia.

When I read this play before auditions, I thought it was VERY funny. Now, of course, the second time you hear a joke, it is not so funny. But allowing for that, I don't think this production of the play lived up to my expectations. I'm not sure exactly why, but I have a few suspicions. Mainly, I think it is because Rachel brings so much acid anger to the role. I see the woman as more vulnerable. Rachel is so scathing, so shrill, so caustic, I don't like it. When the character begins to see or admit that she has a problem…and the depth of the problems becomes more apparent, I'd like to feel for her, share in her discomfort. But I'm against Rachel's character at this point, and so the experience seems a more shallow one for me while watching the play. Rachel is shrill all the time--I think she could 'ramp up' more gradually. That would mean she would spend less time in Super Bitch mode, and maybe her character would be more likeable. Her transition to crying was good, though. In rehearsals, I watched all the guys' approaches to the role of Harvey. I liked Brandon's take on it best, so I was glad he got the part. In the actual play, I'd like to see a stronger performance, however. He drops his character occasionally and can't suppress a smile…he slips into Brandon and loses Harvey often. In general, I like his notion of Harvey, but Brandon just doesn't fully deliver it, it seems.

A few odd notions: Eek! When Rachel stands on the edge of the stage (when she goes to the trash can and has her heels off the edge), I'm worrying that she is going to fall off rather than being engrossed in the play. The bowing could use some work…looks like they hadn't practiced it at all. At the end of the play, Rachel seems very distracted, and this comes to a culmination at the curtain call, when she is obviously thinking of getting off stage to prepare for her next play. I think it was a bad idea to have one person in two lead roles in the same night. Spread the wealth.

"Sorry" by Timothy Mason. Directed by Abrah Fawvor, starring Rachel Blackwell as Pat and Joe Alloway as Wayne.

This one delivered a little better, relative to my expectations…acting-wise. (Even though I like the script of Tennis Shoe much better.) It had me sucked into the story more and worried less about the acting. A few comments: Although I think Joe had a strong performance, he slips out of 'Wayne' occasionally, too. And maybe it is only because I know Joe and a few of his personal tendencies and mannerisms that I am able to spot them. If I didn't know Joe, maybe I wouldn't recognize the instances as Joe instead of Wayne. The only one I can remember at this point is a theatrical "Ta Daaa" type of delivery that I've seen him do often. Would a guy, who is so painfully shy that he has to 'peep' a woman instead of approaching her directly, do a dramatic, showy 'ta daa' flair? I don't think so. Joe had a tough job ahead of him for this play. I don't think the character was well-formed by the text. When I read it in advance of rehearsals, this play just didn't speak to me at all. I didn't even want to read for it, but Abrah seemed offended when I was going to leave. For one thing, I couldn't figure out these characters at all. Although I can be particularly dense when it come to script analysis, I don't think it was all me for "Sorry." It is almost as if Joe has to create a 'Wayne' out of his own imagination entirely because he has so little to start with…and in my opinion, what is there is sometimes conflicting.

Relative to her first play of the evening, I liked and disliked different things about Rachel's performance in this one. She showed more levels in this one. On the other hand, I don't know exactly how to describe it, except to say that when she was supposed to be mad, perplexed, and frustrated (near the play's end), she looked like a person 'playing' those things instead of 'being' those things. One thing I distinctly did not like for this play was that Rachel spends a very significant amount of time with her back to us…looking out the window, rummaging through the draws, etc. Again and again. We can't see what she is doing most of the time, so all that time is completely wasted on us…drops us out of the moment and the action. Also, she needs a shirt that covers her midriff--I found her abdomen's repeated appearance very distracting.

"Come and Go Mad" by Frederic Brown (adapted by Carey Seward). Directed by Carey Seward. Craig Brookes (George Vine). Chip Brookes (Candler). Jeff Aldrich (Charlie Doerr), Emily Yates (Clare), JK Bowne (Dr. J. E. Irving), David Fields (The Instrument), and many others.

This play was very compelling. I liked it best of all. It put you in a different place and time convincingly. The numerous scene changes broke the moment too often, but I'm not sure how that could be circumvented. The acting was refreshing. Craig, as Vine or 'Nappy' started off a little weak (transparent, maybe?), but by the second half, he was great. His travel through the Plain of the Mind seemed real to him, and his fall into dementia (or is it really, out of dementia a bit?) was persuasive. The idea of putting "The Instrument" there on stage as a constant narrator was great. It added to the surreality. Like dream, where things make sense when you're in it, but out of the dream, you don't know why you didn't view it as illogical. I think that is a major part of the message of the play, "What is really real? Are you sure?" and the Instrument really added to that. His voice was fabulous--just right for the part. Do I know David Fields? I'd like to see and hear him off stage and see what he is like, see how different he is from "The Instrument". Chip was a convincing Candler. Jeff was a good fit for the Charlie Doerr character…it is just that Jeff is always Jeff, on or off stage, without much change. It doesn't detract from the play, it is just something that I notice, knowing him. [maybe this is a disadvantage to being familiar with all these people…I don't get as objective an experience.] And the diction is continually a problem with Jeff.

Here are a few things I'd change about the play. Cut down on the smoke! It should create a mood rather than create another thing for folks to be distracted by. It made the audience quite uncomfortable. Many folks had their shirts or handkerchiefs over their mouths to try to filter out the excessive smoke. One woman in the first row actually relocated during the play to try to escape it. What else? Oh, yeah, the kiss. Big, deep, open-mouthed? No, that isn't the kind of kiss that should be there. Jangles like a wrong note that lingers in the ear after the music has gone on. Their kiss is so 'modern production', not Film Noire. Some folks kept snickering at the Butoh performers, especially when they began their abrupt, spastic movements. Oh well. So, those folks didn't appreciate it, but I thought it was good nonetheless. Yes, they and their dancing were a little distracting at times, especially at first when you don't know what the hell these folks are, what they're doing, and what they're going to do. But, bottom line, I think it really does add to the play by creating a bizarre and surreal atmosphere. And it gives body and character to the Red and the Black that would otherwise maybe merely seem like wacko ideas near the end of the play. Makes you think a little more, makes you wonder if there isn't something to this notion of the Red and Black.

2/27 More on Jocasta's big questions

Oedipus Scene II-3. Ah, something I can really get a handle on! Anatoly suggested that in the latter part of this scene, Jocasta is making the decision to sacrifice herself. She will kill herself so that Oedipus could possibly live…because the two of them cannot both continue to live. Social morays wouldn't allow it. Somehow we just know this. This decision and objective on her part is something I can really go with. It makes sense to me. Now, I'm also supposed to go nuts in the latter part of this scene. That I can do. I'll need to work on just what kind of crazy I will do. There are so many choices. I'll work on voice and mannerisms. The hard part is going to be to marry these two things, or else move from one to the other smoothly within a short period of time. <--- SPEND SOME TIME WORKING ON THIS.

Interestingly, I had written this idea (that both Jocasta and Oedipus cannot continue to live) in the journal some time ago, but it didn't really hit home, I guess. I suppose this time it really gels. I should spend more time looking at the text relative to these big questions.


The textbook. I'm so far behind, I've skipped several chapters to try to catch up to where Anatoly is. I still like the book, but Kaplan's organization (of material overall, and of discussion of any one topic) is going downhill. Sometimes I think he starts with a point to make, gets lost in a story, analogy or sidelight and never actually makes his point. He mentions, by way of example, a bunch of movies, plays, actors and performances, and this really makes we want to see them, so that I can really understand what he is talking about. I'm intrigued by his descriptions, and I want to see it for myself. I don't know how hard it would be to get clips of various stage performers (of a while ago), but I could definitely try to get those old movies.


Crap. Scene II-3 again, but this time the early part. Last time we did this, I decided to do the "Set your mind at rest" (soothing Oedipus) part the way I had envisioned it, not doing the nursery rhyme baby-talk. Anatoly seemed to like it. In one of his "hold on"'s mid way through, he said, "Good, good. We're almost there." I thought that meant he liked me doing it that way. But we did the scene again the other night, and we were right back to 'lullaby to a 3 year old.' I just don't like it. It doesn't make sense to me. I can see that I should be comforting Oedipus--that is plain. But having Jocasta talk to Oedipus like a 3 year old I think just makes her appear like a nut…a nut with a serious break with reality. I don't think Jocasta is that kind of nut. Sure, she has psychological problems, ones that come to the surface as the shit starts hitting the fan. But she needs to be sane before she can become crazy. I know that rehearsal was frustrating for Anatoly and Levy because I just wasn't doing the sing-song baby-talk. And I feel ashamed, because doing that kind of thing isn't hard, it certainly isn't beyond me. I just had such an aversion to doing it that way, I wasn't applying myself to it. Part of me was simply refusing to do it. Gads. Some of the observations and character ideas that Anatoly comes up with are great, mind-blowing at times. I envy his insight on those lines. But every now and then I just simply disagree. And in this instance, I dread having to do that bit of the scene his way (the baby-talk), because I don't want the audience to assume it is my idea, my contribution. Does this type of thing happen often for actors? I wonder.


Oedipus idea:

In first Jocasta scene "Poor foolish men!" have fear and anxiety in there, not just anger. That will follow more easily on to the "Believe it, Oedipus," which should be more tearful and desperate.

Write down more thoughts on how to make Jocasta more likeable.

Analyze the text according to tasks.


Shoot. Somehow the blocking for my final scene was changed and now that we have taken it through tech weekend, it is cast in stone. I don't think it was modified for a good reason…Levi just did it differently on Thur or Fri and it stuck. My climax moment is now stuck upstage and sideways. "Listen to me, I beg you. Do not do this thing!" This is my climax line. Previously I was nicely downstage and turned to the audience. They would be able to see the distress on my face. I even had a wind-up just before that line. It was great blocking. And now it is gone. Darn it. I should have spoken up and insisted on keeping with the original placements, or at least brought it up during tech weekend. Shoot. Next time…


Awful rehearsal last night. I felt like I was a half step behind and trying to catch up the whole play. I was not _in_ Jocasta when she was going nutso, and it just didn't flow. That is very dissatisfying. I don't know what the problem was, but here are several things. I was pretty flustered before we even started. I got there extra early (half and hour), anticipating that Tara would need to work on my hair and makeup…for which I have had no recommendations yet. For fear of incurring Lorraine's wrath, I didn't dare get into the costume before makeup, thereby risking messing up the dress. So, I just cooled my heels for AN HOUR waiting for help. I don't like relying on someone else for what I need. Finally, at 15 minutes before 'go', Jenny offered to do my makeup (how wonderful she is). She whipped out a spiffy job, I threw on the dress, clumsily got my hair up on my head and raced up to the start. I know, sounds pretty whiney, and I should be able to deal coolly with unfortunate circumstances, but it all made me mad. Then that stupid fucking new crown wouldn't stay on, and I was struggling with it constantly. They gave me a petticoat, too. I hate it. It seems to create several problems: it makes it damn-near impossible to get down that ladder (shoes keep getting caught in it), it pushes the dress upwards and makes the top of the dress continually fall off my shoulders, and it makes all this bulky mess around my waist, whereas the dress had a beautiful smooth line before. When I am on the floor and bawling in Scene II, I have trouble getting up because the petty coat gets caught up in my heels. Do I _have_ to have it??

The singing bit with Antigone has not been going well. Before we go up, I take Jaqueline out the back door and practice singing the song, to warm up the voices and remind her of the song. She has a tendency to blank out and forget it (understandable). She likes to sing high, which is NOT my voice range. I sing an octave lower than she. I don't like to start off, because she has a tendency to try to match my low tone. So, I let her pick her note. When we practice she chooses a really high pitch and I join in easily an octave down. Once she gets on the balcony, she chooses a tone not so high and then I'm singing out of my already-limited range. After a few iterations, my voice is just croaking and it won't come out any more…sounds _terrible_. I need something to help her pick a good, consistent starting note. If there were just a tiny little bell or something to serve as her marker.

Then, my balcony presence during the Teiresias scene seems weird to me. Seems like I'm out there for a very long time, and I don't even know the point of why I'm there. If I knew that, I could work with it. And why do I come out so much earlier than Creon? I don't figure that I should be hearing what is being said, or reacting to it. If I do hear it, then I am being completely duplicitous, deceitful and manipulative when I 'don't know' what is troubling Oedipus once I finally make my real entrance. Talk about Jocasta not being likeable…yuck. I don't want to be that evil and small.

I need to ask Chip again for the sound cue for my entrance on Scene III…he forgot last night. I also need to ask Gerry not to be so far downstage (out of the lighting already) when I 'forget this herdsman'. I need to push him out of the way, and he stands already out of the way before I even get to him. I think he is shrinking out of the lights. Sometimes I'm afraid that if I push him, he will go right off the stage, since he is already so far over. He also does not come forward when I first greet him. I guess it is okay that I am pulling/pushing him the whole way--it could be part of my eagerness to get his message. But, literally, I have to _pull_ him down in front of the alter…it is as if he really doesn't want to go towards the audience.

I need to make sure I sit a step lower than Levi when we start our one-on-one bit. When I am level with him, he falters at the kiss. Tara mentioned last night, after the rehearsal, that Anatoly said the scene was too wholesome. I think she said that he suggested it should contain more of me getting Oedipus's mind off the trouble by seducing him. I can work with that. In fact, I have several ideas, but they require Levi's help, too. It will require slowing down the interaction and leaving time for distracting manipulations on my part. It gives him time to get distracted and start following suit. If he pauses after saying "it is Creon's work", then that gives me a chance to get behind him already. If he delivers the next 2 phrases with pauses in between then I can already be working his shirt off ("His treachery." and "His plotting against me."). We need to really slow down the interchange. After I say 'three highways', Oedipus's interest in this seduction is going to wane, so it needs time to get established before it is quenched. Tara suggested that the gloves could be brought in…Oedipus could start working one of my gloves off. I say, he could get it completely off and do something with my hand or arm. We'll see whether this is Anatoly's direction when we get notes tonight.

I wish the end of the play could be modified. It is very tiresome, all the wailing and whining that Oedipus has to do from Exo-2 onward. The text is very repetitive. I feel it is necessary to show that Oedipus has undergone a huge change of perspective and position, but how much is it all just beating a dead horse? It could be tightened significantly for the better. I feel that the audience will be very weary and tired of it by the time it comes to its pitiful end…and that is what it is. All the drama and momentum of the earlier parts of the play just come to a grinding, agonizing, wading-through-jello crawl. Given that this is the last thing the audience will experience, I think it will affect their overall impression of the whole play.

4/2/05 Day after "Opening Night"

All in all, I think the performance went pretty well. The speed-through beforehand helped, I think. Those are always fun, too. You can ham it up for once (cathartic with such a downer play). Interesting, though, is the contrast between Anatoly's take on why we should speed up (the audience is ready and waiting, give it to them at the pace they are seeking), and David's comment last night that the basic Oedipus story is perfectly understandable, but the speech/text of the script is difficult to follow. He says that he is straining to interpret each line as it comes along. As I know him to be a very intelligent person, I would venture to guess that if he is struggling, other folks are too. Poor guy. I put him through a wearisome Q&A session last night after the play. I've been so eager to impressions and feedback. I had talked 14 friends into coming to last night's performance. Although I didn't get a chance to talk with them much afterwards, I did not get overwhelmingly positive vibes from them. I waved to them as they exited the theatre, and they looked, well frankly, either shell-shocked or unhappy. I talked with David and in response to 'did you like it?', he said, "I liked your performance." When pressed he said, "Well, it isn't as if it is an uplifting play." Now, I realize that the standard for all productions is not to provide happy feel-good pabulum for audiences. But even a disturbing and thought-provoking play should energize rather than subdue, which is the effect I perceived.

Several things came out of my discussion with David. I had asked him what he perceived during parts of the play, especially where I was trying to portray specific things. After a night's sleep, I'm forgetting some of them, especially the successful ones. But some key things he did not see were:

1) My dual mindedness in Act II. I was hoping to show that I put a good face (façade) to Oedipus (and even partly to myself), all the while covering up my distress that I am married to my son. This is important and I need to make it more apparent.

2) Going crazy versus going desperate. My coming un-hinged after Oedipus's monolog appeared to David as being desperate, but I'm shooting more for crazy.

3) Swinging between longing for the comfort of my marriage (as it was before the shit hit the fan) and the repulsion and horror of touching/holding Oedipus (my son).

I'm quite disappointed that these things did not successfully come out. They were major things that I was striving to show. I am a little surprised that they were not perceptible at all, but then again, I have been surprised in these ways before! Before I launch into possible solutions to these deficiencies, let me itemize some potential successes that came out of the discussion before I forget them.

Good things:

David saw at the end that I had given up and had made the decision to kill myself. (Yay! This is a biggie!!) He correctly interpreted my recurring gesture (right hand on my neck) as a sign that I am distressed/wracked/confounded/horrified. The sexed-up scene in the pit was not prurient, but was simply perceived as me trying to distract Oedipus by seducing him. The climax statement (Listen to me, I beg you. Do not do this thing!) was wrenching and pitiful. (Good. That's how I want it.)

(in no particular order)

Problem 1: In Act II, my take on the psychology is that Jocasta knows that Oedipus is her son, but for several reasons, is willing to try to live with the situation and seeks to keep Oedipus's identity unknown. [I will not repeat the reasons, here, why she is willing to live with this.] I want the audience to know that she knows (and is not just fooling herself entirely). Here is how I had hoped to reveal that: She is not perverse and the idea of being intimate with her son is repellent to her. This distress should be apparent to the audience (if not to Oedipus). Jocasta's vexation in this regard is shown by: disappearance of the wooden smile, replaced by a pained _expression, when Oedipus hugs her; speaking resolutely about serious things in the midst of Oedipus's joy (over the death of his father); overly dismissive treatment of ideas of 'sleeping with your mother', forced laugh, for instance; quick trips into the troubled demeanor. Are these things all too subtle? I spend most of my time upstage (in fact, I feel rather relegated to that lowly position, and wish that I were spending much more time downstage). Perhaps these things are all too slight to be seen from that distance…that, or perhaps more likely, I am just not putting them out there strongly enough. Solutions: I've been trying to get Levi to do this one obvious thing. When I come to him and say, "had I not told you so", I want him to try to plant a celebratory mouth kiss on me, and let me deflect it so that it lands obviously on my cheek. That, I believe, would be an instant signal to the audience that Jocasta is not comfortable with the intimacy (whereas she was all for it before!) and thus SHE KNOWS and is working façade. Although I have asked Levi several times, and he has agreed, he does not do it. I'll ask him again. Secondly, my pained expressions with Oedipus's touch should be much more obvious…and should perhaps somehow involve my whole body, in case my facial expressions are not visible from afar. When Oedipus is continuing to caress and hug me while I'm on the altar, I think my return of his affections is too complete. I should find a way to have it be a strain to return his affections. Avoiding his gaze? More pained expressions? I was putting in some more motherly gestures (like cradling his head and holding him to my breast) but I think those things are too easily confused with romantic gestures. Be more obvious!

Problem 2: Coming unglued. I think that I rush this sequence and simply get frantic rather than getting contortedly overwrought. Anatoly's suggestion of laughing at inappropriate times has been given short shrift. I should make clearer distinctions between the aguish and the crazy laughter. Hand gestures should be more neurotic. I have been searching for a left hand gesture that says 'crazy', and I haven't come up with something yet. This all has to happen at the same time as…

Problem 3: being torn between wanting Oedipus back as my husband and being repelled at the notion of being with my son. I would expect that, for Jocasta, there would also be in that mix, fear of what was going to happen to her, to Oedipus, her family, desperate mental searching for what to do next, how to keep the train wreck from happening. Is all of this possible? Maybe I'm not good enough yet to put all this in there.

Upon reflection, I note that there are two other weak areas of my performance (in my opinion) that I'd like to work on, both in Act II. I am not making good use of the whole bit where I say "the king is not himself...my advice goes for nothing." I could probably use this time to convey my conflicted state--I just haven't figured out how yet. I don't really know why I am saying these things, and this is bad. The second part that I don't think I use properly is the bit after Polybus has been pronounced dead (Oh riddlers of god's will, where are you now. This was the man whom Oedipus…it was another fate by which he died). I don't really understand these lines either, and I don't know why I am saying them. Time prevents me from working on these now. Later.


Ooo, it really burns. The shame.

"News Miner" theatre review came out for the week. The great news is that the Oedipus show got a really good review. The bad news is that the only major criticism was lobbed at me…in fact, I got totally panned. [Okay, to be correct, the reviewer didn't like the costumes, either.] "Disappointing, however, was By Valentine as Oedipus' mother and wife, Jocasta. While she and Ben-Israel had a wonderfully bizarre chemistry between them, she often was lacking in energy and direction. Her motivations and feelings were not properly telegraphed to the audience, leaving her character contrived." Whew. Trying to move past the hot-faced embarrassment, what do I do with this? Lacking in energy and direction--well, direction would suggest that I need to look at the text from the standpoint of tasks. Energy--it is hard to think about energy right now, when I am feeling pretty defeatist. [Okay, I'll admit that I wonder whether I'm cut out for this. Am I wrong to assume that I have any promise as an actor? This was a pretty damning assessment of my efforts. Logically, I know that I should give it time and more effort and if the negative reviews just keep pouring in, then I can reconsider. But it is hard not to wonder right now.] Motivations and feeling not properly telegraphed to the audience, contrived. Crikey, I don't think I know what to do with this either.

I've got to go to work right now. Maybe some ideas will gel today. Jeez, I need some advice, too.


Honing tonight's performance: this is what I will try to do…

Work on "crazy"

Make the transition to weeping/tearing of hair slower…this horrible thing has to sink in, and it will mean less time spent in the throws of absolute despair. Start with disbelief, then go towards Oedipus and take a good hard look at him, and let it sink in and back away in horror. Then be sick and horrified. Then start to become unhinged. Start with the spasmodic actions before going into the pit. When emerging from the pit, be fully crazy, with spasmodic motions in full force. "What do you hope from him when he comes?" "What was it I said of such importance?" <-- Be formulating a plan when I say this.

For 'crazy', there are several things to jump back and forth between: inappropriate laughing reassurance of Oedipus, which can dissolve into grimly determined resolve.

"What do you hope from him when he comes?" this should be said as if I am desperate but unable to see what good this does us.

"What was it I said of such importance?" start out desperate, but then as if the idea could provide a crafty plan. As Oedipus gives details, mull this plan over, vacillating between crazy and 'oh it will work!'

[breakdown of crazy scene]

[ pix ] You may be sure that he said that there were several.

And can he take back that story now?

He can not.

The whole city heard it as plainly as I.

But suppose he alters some detail of it.

He cannot ever show that Laios' death fulfilled the oracle:

for Apollo said//  my child was doomed to kill him; 

and my child--Poor baby!--

it was my child that died first. 
No. From now on, where oracles are concerned,

I would not waste a second thought on any.

I will send for him.

I would not wish to cross you in anything,

and surely not this.

Let us go in.

Grimly determined assertion, fists clenched, inclined forward. Almost spitting words. Catch yourself acting too grim and off-handedly back away from both Oed and from grimness with this.

Laughing casually, but it comes across as wacko. Re-approach Oedipus.

BIG swing to shaky paranoid here, fully change voice.

Back to determined again here. Go to Oedipus and allow him to hold me. Take pleasure in his hug, then realize again who he is.

Laughing during "my child", cracked laughter., as if trying to convince yourself.

On 'my child', look at Oedipus' hand and have revulsion again at what you've done. Break with reality, then look into past, "Poor Baby". Laughing again maniacally again for last line. Get some comfort from Oedipus again.

Revulsion again at who we are, then try to gather wits and continue with plan to cover his identity. Sneer laughingly at 'oracles'.

Comforted when Oedipus says that I might be right, then fall again when he says he will get the shepherd. Painfully say I will send for him. Slip into façade demeanor, try to smile to show I'm not up to anything. Get some comfort from his hug, then revulsion, and then feel compelled to break away and go in.

More details: Show that I am operating (outwardly) on the assumption that Oedipus is not my son & that the shepherd's story will not ruin everything. But I really don't believe it. This is just a tactic that I think will work to save Oed's life.

"Our King is not himself. His noble soul is overwrought with fantasies of dread."

Laughing (crazy) dismissal of 'fantasies.' Search for the word.

"Else he would consider the new prophesies in light of the old."

Slip into paranoia, hand on neck, desperate voice raising.

He will listen to any voice that speaks disaster, and my advice goes for nothing."

Laugh dismissively about 'disaster'. Demeanor falls when my advice goes for nothing.

Kade suggests that I make my allegiances more clear--be on Oedipus's side.

I'm not so sure about this. Certainly I could be more focused on trying to help Oedipus. And another thing I should definitely work on: Be More Regal! Places where I could do that: when Choragos takes me aside and I ask him what happened, when I visit the alters of the Gods.


Here is what I wrote to Kade on Saturday after he had given me some advice on Thursday:

Thanks for the quote. And double thanks for your time the other day. I really appreciated the advice you gave me. That morning I needed something concrete to work on so that I could quit being 'lost'. I actually think this is all going to turn out for the better in the end. I don't think I would have worked as much on improving Jocasta without that stupid review. It is embarrassing, yes (to say the least), to have that awful review out there in print. But my attitude as of showtime yesterday was that I can't get any _more_ embarrassed, I don't have much to lose, so I'm just going to throw myself out there on stage every night and give it all I've got. Perhaps my Jocasta suffered from lack of that in the first place! I had spent Friday morning working on some potential improvements (instead of going to work) and so I had some fixed goals for the performance. The biggest hurdle, though, was actually simply going out there onto the stage at all. I felt like I had to walk through this big heavy curtain of shame to put myself in front of an audience again. I decided the best way to go was to _blast_ through it with a whole bunch of momentum. It seems a bit like skiing down a hill. If you lean uphill tentatively, it is a lot harder, it doesn't work well, and falling is very likely. But if you lean downhill, slightly ahead of your momentum, it is scary at first, but it _works_.

Two more shows. I feel pretty good about Friday night's show, I implemented some changes that I think worked. I got some constructive advice from some friends who watched the show, and I'm looking forward to 2 more opportunities to make Jocasta better.

Oh, by the way, I paid more attention to the text and the lighting cues this time. Remember I said that the stage right balcony light goes out partway through the Teiresias scene? It happened last night around Scene I, line 118, when JK says "I will never tell you what I know. Now it is my misery; then it would be yours." I don't know if you'd want to make changes at this point, but there it is, just in case.


Okay, so today's show wasn't the strongest one to go out on…but those last Sunday matinees never are, are they? Most of the cast (not including me) stayed up till 5:00am so it is no wonder that they didn't hit their full amplitudes. I didn't either, but I don't have a good excuse, though, except that doing the play at a very different time of day seems to make a big difference.

All in all, I am pleased with how things have turned out. I wish that News Miner review were not out there in print, but frankly if I had been burned by it, I wouldn't have worked so much harder on Jocasta. Wish I had something to put in a portfolio, however.


“The Bear” Dramatic Analysis

What is comical about the scene/characters?

These are people who are not self-aware, or are at least trying really hard to fool themselves. This leads to a personal strain that causes them a lot of angst. They get mad at themselves in the process. They fight as much with themselves as with each other. They do things despite themselves.


Who-30-yr old woman, raised in an upper-middle class family (if such a thing existed in Russia in that era). White. Really normal and conventional.

What- Widow. She was relieved when her husband died. He was boring…and a lout. He didn’t like that she grew to take the upper hand in the household matters, in the finances, and in the bedroom. So, he spent more of his time away from home. After he died, with noone to rule over, she was lonely and bored. She micro-manages all the staff to within an inch of their lives. She is actually not bad at running the estate--not by virtue of her inspiration, but merely her attention. Plus, she is a shrewd haggler with various business types. She is not stupid, just emotionally immature. She does not have any close female friends. She was an only child, raised to believe that she was better than her neighbors and cohorts, so she never learned to form friendships very well. She has three women friends that she joins for tea and conversation occasionally, the talk is mostly constrained to prattle about the arts, books they have read, gossip about people in the town. Popova does not let on that she devours cheesy romance novels by the score. While she acts as if she is somewhat “above” these women, she actually feels inferior to them because she is a misfit socially. She carefully and surreptitiously watches their actions/interactions, their mannerisms, opinions, styles, etc. She knows that she is not very feminine and she looks to these other women to learn how to be that way. To make up for the lack of femininity in herself, she fills her house with trite little feminine things. She over-does it with the rose water…she has bowls of it sitting out all the time and anoints herself with in abundance. She dresses in black, but always has a little spray of fresh flowers either on her or near her. She has a proud bearing, even to the point of looking a little stupid.

When- late 1880's(?)

Where- Russia


Scene Analysis/breakdown (exposition/climax/resolution)

[work more on this later]


Anatoly asks that I do an acting review for Oedipus, concentrating on Levi. Here are some thoughts I can pull together into a review, but I really need to see a tape of the show to do a proper review. I'm just not out there on stage much, so I miss most of the play. I can hear Levi, but that is not enough for a proper review. Here are some unorganized, collected thoughts.

In Prologue 2- I'd like to see Levi ramp up to his highest state (of yelling, agitation). He seems to do a step-change, instead of a trajectory. And similar, in Scene 1, I'd like to see a change in his voice during his yelling tirade. Some modulation, punctuation, _expression would be helpful. // I have been told by numerous people that they cannot hear Oedipus in the last 10 minutes of the play. // Levi is regal in his bearing. // Levi's interactions with Teiresias are good: he shows marked disdain and a good range of emotions. // Levi makes changes and improvements to his performance both before and after the show opens-- he obviously keeps analyzing. Example: after Jocasta breaks up the Creon/Oedipus fight the second time, in later shows Levi kept his anger at Creon and was obviously still spoiling for a fight. This made my anxiety and desperate need to calm him make much more sense, and it really helped me push that more because it came more naturally. // I would like to see more of a trajectory in the Exodus. Levi pretty much stays the same throughout. I think it makes the ending draggy. It is not clear to me that any particular transformation in the right one, but there just needs to be one. As an example, he could start out as any or all of [wailing, lamenting, crying, extremely pained, high energy, wild from the terror of what he has seen and done, maybe even angry] and show a progression that leads him to any or all of [resolved to his fate, tired, calmer, more at ease with his new condition, realizing that he is better off wretched and physically blinded than blind to who/what he is and has done]. // I want to see a change in Levi's body that reflects the change in Oedipus's heart/mind. He does not have to rely solely on voice. // Levi does not act blinded in the Exodus. // Pleading quickly (as in desperately) to Creon in lines 385 to 395 might spiff up the ending a bit. // Levi is great to work with (despite our initial frustrating lecture sessions!). He is open, sharing of his thoughts, he will try things, he makes changes, he will discuss problems and help work to solve them. He is a nice person, and that always helps. He has a really great attitude, both in the actual work of rehearsal and in his approach to performances. His enthusiasm rubs off on others. // He learned his lines early, despite the preponderance of them!


I can't stand it.

If there were some way I could be ANYONE else right now, I would do it. As it stands, it feels as if I have to crawl outside my own skin, because I can't stand being me right now. I watched the Oedipus videotape. Or to be accurate, I watched half of it. I could only stand that much. I couldn't watch any more of it. To think that I was actually proud of those performances makes me cringe. I feel as embarrassed right now as I did when that stupid review came out. You know what? I actually agree with the fucking review. I suck. There is absolutely nothing compelling about my Jocasta. I can't even stand to watch it. I knew that I was a novice and held no illusions that I was some hot shit actor. But I had no idea how badly I was deluding myself. The contrast between the abilities of Levi, Matt, and Chip and my own is so glaringly apparent to me it almost audibly buzzes in my head. My performance would appear bad even on a really bad soap opera. Where to begin? It is so bad, I'm not even sure how to make it better. Aside from expected problems like using the same hand/arm gestures all the time, there are things like…

Why am I all hunched-back all the time? Why are my facial expressions not actually expressions of some emotion, but just some hideous panoply of inscrutable contortions? I have no stage presence. My voice is extremely weak and ridiculously high. It looks like I'm thinking about acting out things, rather than actually acting or feeling. Well, crap. What the hell good are all the cockamamie stories, made-up history and psychological analysis for Jocasta, if you can't bring it to the stage at all? Just more cheesy fiction…embarrassingly cheesy? (Did I really post that crap on 3sis for everyone to see? Horrors.) All that stuff that I envisioned for Jocasta pre-show I didn't see AT ALL in the performance. Jocasta goes crazy? No, she just went weird. I didn’t see crazy. Hell, I can't even pet Levi convincingly. I thought at least that would look alright, especially after I actually successfully molded my mind into thinking that touching Levi was a good thing. Levi did it…he made it look real.

If I didn't know what I had been trying to do onstage, I wouldn't have a clue in watching my performance. I'd be sitting wondering, "what the heck is going on for this character?" What is it!! What is the secret to showing these things on stage? Is the problem, one of the problems, that I just don't let myself go somehow? Too reserved or afraid to "feel" out there on stage in front of everyone?

And I'm ugly, as well. Nasty low eyebrows covered with ridiculous makeup. Crude square face. Hulking way of walking and moving. Short. Old.

How am I going to be able to sleep tonight (when I need sleep so desperately after 2 weeks of slim nights)? I don't even want to go back to the theatre department and face everyone again. I'm too ashamed. It was hard, but I did it, after the review came out. That was someone else's opinion in that review. Now I know, I myself. I saw some theatre folks tonight when we went to see "Frankie and Johnny". When I talk with them, I'm only half in the conservation, while I'm wondering what they think of me…just how bad is their opinion of my acting? Perhaps folks are just waiting for me to tire of this little 'acting' foray and go away. But, I can't quit now. I've quit too many things in my life. Quitting defined me in the first two-thirds of my existence, and I just couldn't live with myself if I go back to that. I can accept failure after much persistence and toil. That is okay. Not easy, but okay, I suppose. But to continue to do something miserably and to keep trying to do it, nonetheless, is just wretched. It makes me writhe in pain.

How could Anatoly have cast me in that part? When I don't belong. How can I have been allowed to go out and embarrass myself like that and drag down the work of the other actors?


Letter to Anatoly, and his reply:


I viewed the videotape of "Oedipus Rex" this weekend. I'm appalled. What I saw was that my performance stood out so glaringly inferior to Levi, Matt, and Chip's that it was ridiculous.

To be more accurate, I should say that I watched half of the show, and I'm not sure I can bring myself yet to view the other half. I know that folks are usually squeamish about seeing themselves on tape, but this goes beyond that silliness. How could I have not known that I was that bad? How could I think that I was doing an OK job and still bring so disgustingly little to the performance? I had no delusions that I was some seasoned or gifted actor. But what I saw…or more, what I _didn't_ see was shocking.

I have no stage presence whatsoever. My voice is weak, shrill, and barely audible. My bearing and posture are curiously inhibited. The emotions that I had thought I was portraying are not visible at all. My facial expressions…they don't seem to actually be those, but instead are just some hideous panoply of inscrutable contortions that are uncomfortable to watch and even bizarrely comical at times (if I had my sense of humor right now, which I don't). On the whole, it simply looks like I'm thinking about acting out things, rather than actually acting or feeling. What happened to all the "Method" I thought I had done? What the hell good are all the cockamamie stories, made-up history and psychological analysis for Jocasta, if I can't bring it to the stage at all? Just more cheesy fiction…embarrassingly cheesy crap that I now regret posting to 3sis for everyone to see? All that stuff that I envisioned for Jocasta, pre-show, I didn't see AT ALL in the performance. Did Jocasta go crazy when she discovered that Oedipus is her son? No, she just went weird. I didn’t see crazy. Hell, I can't even pet Levi convincingly. I thought at least that would look alright, especially after I actually successfully molded my mind into thinking that touching Levi was a good thing. Levi did it…he made it look real.

If I didn't know what I had been trying to do onstage, I certainly wouldn't have a clue in watching my performance. I'd be sitting wondering, "what the heck is going on for this character?" How could the gap between what I thought I was accomplishing and what I actually put out there be so huge? I knew from the start, well, even before the start, that this part would be a stretch for me. I would like to be able to say that I expanded to fill a significant portion of it, but after viewing the tape, I'm afraid I cannot say that. How can I have been allowed to go out and embarrass myself like that and drag down the work of the other actors and of the show itself? Why didn't someone find a way to tell me?

I can't quit acting. I've spent too much of my life quitting or never even beginning for fear of not succeeding. But I have to say that the shock of seeing my abysmal performance has rocked me back on my heels. I'm missing something fundamental, or maybe many things. I may be able to get my head around lots of things in class or on my own, but I can see now that I do not yet have the ability to bring them to the stage. How can I get that?




I cannot write much right now, but there are many things you didn't notice on this tape.

Just one point -- the end of your message. The courage to do what you afraid to do. Frankly, I am tired (and anybody can see it) of the carelessness of the young actors I deal with. You say "bad"? Many of them simply care not -- lack of imagination, ignorance? Less and less I have any respect for "talant" -- and I casted those, who do have the insecurity (who are serious about themselves). I knew that you are hard on yourself and for you Oedipus is a personal act of facing yourself (that is artistic existence). You think for a second, if Levi would have the courage to go the process, if he is not 20, but 40? I don't know.

What you see on the tape is a woman, who suppressed herself for a long time (very much like Jocasta, in my view) and struggles for liberation...

Sure, you want to "make it right" and "think it through" instead of letting yourself go, but this is probably what you are doing throughout your entire life (keeping yourself under control) -- in class, I talk about acting as very "personal" (confession and revelation) -- and this what you see on the tape, comparing with what you have in your heart.

And how do you plan to get there? You wrote a letter Stanislavsky wrote to himself when he discovered how bad his acting was (the Method is a result of this discovery). "Self-critical" is to help yourself, not to put yourself down (learn to be a friend to yourself). "Bad"? How would you know it without the tape and the show? What you are writing about is not your acting only. Thank you for not faking it.



Anatoly asks an interesting question today…one that I have asked of myself and never bothered to answer before. What made me want to go into acting. He said, “What was wrong or missing in your life?” It is an interesting way to ask it. I don’t know if I have any answers yet, but here are some thoughts. I have always enjoyed portraying other characters. I found occasion to do it throughout my everyday life. I enjoy creating colorful characters and interesting situations for them to ‘be in’. Can I become, at least in part, another person, to the extent that it takes over my mind, mood, mannerisms and way of being? That is what I always thought the challenge would be. There has never been a good outlet for those desires, as some folks who have to spend time with me find me either strange or tiresome when I let these characters out to play. I guess I always thought that acting would let me explore characters and work on them to my hearts content. I never figured that it would be easy, but I did think that it would be different. I did not foresee what an internal psychological and emotional struggle and exploration acting would be.

So, that might go partway to answering ‘why’ although not completely. I’ll have to keep thinking about this. But the other question is ‘why now?’ It is probably for the same reason that I took up the cello at age 40, too. I’m tired of being full of ideas and never acting on them. I had career aspirations that didn’t pan out, and I haven’t found a substitute yet. I’ve spent many years satisfying the quantitative and logico-deductive needs that I have, through science and engineering. I try to fulfill my agrarian tendencies with the garden and landscaping (and woodworking). But I’ve always had the need to CREATE things. And that facet has been neglected through the first half of my life. The painting got me started on that score, and I wish I had time to continue that more as I try these other things. I’ll get back to it someday. I have a lot of paintings backlogged in my head that I’d like to get out one day. The music is a new thing for me, and although I will continue it joyfully, it doesn’t command my whole attention and demand that I do it 10 hours a day. The acting does, however. Although I do not exactly know what it is that I am creating, it seems to fulfill that creational desire.


I'm not being entirely honest. There is another reason I want to go into acting. I've known it in my head but have been too dishonest to admit it. All my life I have felt compelled to show off when I'm around other people. I try to make them laugh or otherwise amuse them. I'm not comfortable around people, and this is my way of being accepted, I guess. It is my mask. I'm not at ease unless I am by myself or with my closest family. I'm not even at ease around my stepdaughter, unfortunately, and I keep up the façade. But the mask has always been very effective. I can enthrall people with my antics. If I'm good at something and I enjoy it, I want to pursue it. Is this a legitimate reason to want to go into acting? Probably not. But it is there nonetheless.

Related to that, interestingly, there is something I've been thinking about over the last day or so (ever since I got my rude shock)…

I had written in my first attempt to come to grips with how crappy my Jocasta was: "What is the secret to showing these things on stage? Is the problem, one of the problems, that I just don't let myself go somehow? Too reserved or afraid to "feel" out there on stage in front of everyone?" And Anatoly seemed to have a similar take on things: "What you see on the tape is a woman, who suppressed herself for a long time (very much like Jocasta, in my view) and struggles for liberation," he wrote. "Sure, you want to 'make it right' and 'think it through' instead of letting yourself go, but this is probably what you are doing throughout your entire life (keeping yourself under control."

I think this is going to be key, fundamental and monumental to the mystery I am trying to solve right now--how to actually bring the Method to the stage. I have to learn to let go.

I think of how my facial expressions in Oedipus are not at all how I thought they would look. There are two things that I can think of now that might be causing the disconnect. One is related to this lack of letting go. I can _think_ that I am portraying a facial _expression that is relevant to a particular emotion, but that is not the same thing as actually _having_ the emotion. I can see now that I have not done the important step of "the Method", which is actually pulling up and engaging those thoughts, feelings, emotions, and helpful images. I can theorize about things a la "The Method" and pre-plan out the whazoo, but if I can't let myself go enough to actually 'feel' them on stage, then that process cannot work. For me, thinking is easy and feeling is hard. At least, feeling in front of others. (I can feel very deeply and poignantly by myself.) That will be a big challenge to me. Another thing is probably less important, but also addressable. I have been paying close attention to the way my facial expressions feel, especially when I talk with David (when I am presumably more free and easy) and when I am in other social settings. My face gets very very tight when I am in the company of others. It gets stuck that way, and after a while I notice a pain in my face muscles from holding my face tightly in some configuration. That would tend to hinder a freely moving and changing and responding face for someone trying to act. The more nervous I am, the more gripped my face is. I think I am one to show my emotions clearly on my face. While that might seem to be a good thing at first glance, the predominant emotion while I'm on stage is probably nervousness. So all others expressions, if they were going to come out, would have to make it through that iron grip of anxiety.

Interesting sidenote: I've created a monster. I spent all that time telling myself that "it is a good thing to touch Levi" and it helped me get over my initial aversion and feel more comfortable treating him like a husband. And it totally worked, too. It became quite comfortable for me. The funny thing? Now that the show is over, I've been having withdrawals. I guess I came to really like it, and now I miss it--the small bits of physical intimacy. If I were unattached and free, I'd probably find myself seeking more to satisfy those appetites. Wow, what a distance to travel, eh? I just find that interesting. But, that is probably just a large dollop of human nature, too. We are probably quite prone to form attachments, both physical and emotional, simply from spending time with others.

Actually my involvement with the theater group has been a great breath of fresh wind in my life. My major social interactions are at work, since I spend so much time there and have so little time for friends outside of work. It isn't as if I work with terrible people, actually they are great. And one of them is my best friend whom I love and value dearly. But there is something different about being with the drama folks. I don't know what it is yet. Here are some possibilities-- They are different personality types from the folks I work with. They are very young, and it causes a major contortion in me to try to fit in (which I pathetically strain to do oftentimes). I feel like I'm a wretched high schooler again, trying desperately to be liked and accepted. But I digress. Perhaps there is something about the process of trying to do the acting that demands that you open yourself up…so this means that this group is very different and/or it means that I am being different. Or both. I spend so much time with a façade and this theatre involvement is slowly and sometimes painfully but cathartically peeling away the masks. I think that I have only just begun to think about removing any masks, but any progress in that direction probably feels very monumentally different. Maybe it is just that I am exercising and examining such different things now (psychology, self, humanity, etc, instead of data, physics, math) that my brain is experiencing a revival, a renaissance.


I was thinking of a possible thing that could be helpful to me developing my ability to feel and to become more familiar with the way I came across. I should take little projects: monologs, characters, mini-scenes, etc. Work on them in whatever way seems more appropriate (method, biomechanics, whatever), and then practice doing them in front of a video camera. First off, that would get me used to watching myself on film and I could hopefully adopt a more constructive attitude about viewing myself. But then I could make changes and try things again, and really hone my actions, figure out what things look like. And it would be a more friendly atmosphere for experimenting with actually _feeling_, rather than doing it on stage just yet. I think that in some of my earlier monolog work, I got close to actually feeling. I think I should concentrate on pushing it with further work like this.


Just read an interesting play--"Les Liaisons Dangereuses". I really enjoyed the first half, with its wickedly delicious characters and sharp dialogue. I was thinking, "shoot, wish Theatre UAF hadn't already done this play so that there was a chance I could be a part of a production of it." I think this piece would be very difficult to act on a big stage, to do it justice. Not impossible--just requiring advanced skill. There is such detail in the countenances (a sly smiling façade with concern or jealously coming though, for instance) that would need to be shown. It's strange, the second half of the play left me a little disappointed. Well, maybe not disappointed, but affected. I may have merely been tired when I finished reading it, and therefore not as resilient to handling the tragedy of the characters, for it is tragic. I guess I had in my mind that it was a comedy, and then when it turned the corner into emotional calamity I was a little ambushed. [I've never been particularly savvy when reading literature…I have frequently missed fundamental things.] But I do think that there is little foreshadowing of the end mood/mode. Great characters, though.

à There is a monologue in the play: Madame la Marquise de Merteuil talks of being a woman and dealing with men and life and love. I haven't seen it in monolog lists or books. Wonder why. I'll have to try to work on it and see how suitable it is. It will likely have to be whittled a bit.

After she has demonstrated particular skill at manipulating several people in a nefarious scheme and has exhibited very broad-mindedness about her own sexuality/gender roles, the Vicomte asks…

Valmont: I often wonder how you managed to invent yourself.

Merteuil: I had no choice, did I, I'm a woman. Women are obliged to be far more skillful than men, because whoever wastes time cultivating inessential skills? You think you put as much ingenuity into winning us as we put into losing: well, it's debatable, I suppose, but from then on, you hold every ace in the pack. You can ruin us whenever the fancy takes you: all we can achieve by denouncing you is to enhance your prestige. We can't even get rid of you when we want to: we're compelled to unstitch, painstakingly, what you would just cut through. We either have to devise some way of making you want to leave us, so you'll feel too guilty to harm us; or find a reliable means of blackmail: otherwise you can destroy our reputation and our life with a few well-chosen words. So of course I had to invent: not only myself, but ways of escape no one else has ever thought of, not even I, because I had to be fast enough on my feet to know how to improvise. And I've succeeded, because I always knew I was born to dominate you sex and avenge my own.

Valmont: Yes, but what I asked you was how.

Merteuil: When I came out into society, I'd already realized that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do as I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and pay attention: not to what people told me, which was naturally of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to smile pleasantly while, under the table, I stuck a fork into the back of my hand. I became not merely impenetrable, but a virtuoso of deceit. Needless to say, at that stage nobody told me anything: and it wasn't pleasure I was after, it was knowledge. But when, in the interests of furthering that knowledge, I told my confessor I'd done 'everything', his reaction was so appalled, I began to get a sense of how extreme pleasure might be. No sooner had I made this discovery than my mother announced my marriage: so I was able to contain my curiosity and arrived in Monsieur de Merteuil's arms a virgin. All in all, Merteuil gave me little cause for complaint: and the minute I began to find him something of a nuisance, he very tactfully died. I used my year of mourning to complete my studies: I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear; philosophers to find out what to think; and novelists to see what I could get away with. And finally I was well placed to perfect my techniques.

Valmont:: Describe them.

Merteuil: Only flirt with those you intend to refuse: then you acquire a reputation for invincibility, whilst slipping safely away with the lover of your choice. A poor choice is less dangerous than an obvious choice. Never write letters. Get them to write letters. Always be sure they think they're the only one. Win or die. When I want a man, I have him; when he wants to tell, he finds he can't. That's the whole story.



No matter what, always have a monolog. I had asked Shannon Luster whether they'd be wanting to see monologs for the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre cold readings/auditions. He said no, just cold readings. I had read the play, studied it a bit, but I did not bother to hone a monolog. Showed up, met Graham Watts, and one of the first things he asked me was whether I had a monolog. I was really stunned and didn't feel confident to be able to dredge up a monolog that I had last done months ago. Jeez. Stupid. At least I had a resume.

Always have a monolog. In fact, just have one all the time! I still need a good comic one.

5/3/05 Famous for 15 Play Festival Review

"Thin Air"

Unfortunately, I never got to hear or see this one. It seemed that Maya kept it carefully guarded until performance night. Since "All Dressed" was up 2nd, we were always waiting backstage and couldn't hear Maya (except for a few words). I asked David about the play. He said it wasn't clear to him whether she was thinking out loud to herself or addressing the audience. He said it made him think about the high wire act, what it is like to do it, the fact that it is their tool for making a living but at the same time, the thing that can kill them.

"All Dressed in White"

My least favorite play, unfortunately. It doesn't really say anything. The characters are ill-formed…or simply not given time to be formed. Six characters in 15 minutes is too much. A bride in a tizzy about her wedding is not that interesting a subject. A self-centered girl learning that she can't always have things her way is not a compelling (or even believable) story-line for an adult play told in the way this one is.

The good thing is that I asked Rachel and Audrey if I could make the Grandmother a zany character, and they were totally amenable. They let me have free rein. The rehearsals for this show were very frustrating. Folks did not show up on time, so typically we would simply waste the first 30-40 minutes of any rehearsal. We even had some times when folks did not show at all (with no advance notice). We merely read through the script for many of the first rehearsals, instead of getting on our feet. How many times do we need read-throughs? Not four times, most likely. Yacking instead of setting to work was a frequent pitfall.

"The Psychic Act"

I only saw the last couple of minutes of this one. It seemed amusing.

"Inner Beauty"

This play was interesting and entertaining. Jason and Ben gave good performances, too. It's funny that the basic idea of the play is a trite one, gender-bending surprise. I'm wondering what gave the play so much impact? It told a good story. The characters are solid and interesting (largely). Plus, I think that the dialog trips along so smoothly and naturally. [I think this is especially ironic because I don't think I've gotten JK to exchange more than 5 words with me the whole time I've been doing things with Theatre UAF.] And there was some genuinely funny stuff in there. The pace was great.

"Nothing Anymore"

A downer play that not everybody liked, but I did. Real people, facing real issues in a largely realistic fashion. It shows some insight by Audrey, who is pretty young, I think, for such perspectives. I would make changes. I would not have Joe toss his ring at the end (I don't think he would be so flip if he had just ended his marriage). I don't find Joe's emotional switches during the argument scene to be believable. I would have more of Gerry's character.


This play is candy. Now, I like candy and eat it a lot, but I also don't pretend that it is real food. It has some solidly funny lines in it. But, the play doesn't really have any effect on me other than entertainment. The guy character, Ted--I just can't quite make him out. I don't know if it was the writing or the acting. Shawna is 2-D. Ha, ha we get it, she's a stoner. Is that all? The scene with the agents was well-done and was what made the play. But I don't really get the point of it all, though. I don't know if it was written that way or directed that way, but the abrupt corner at the end (turning from zany slapstick to tragedy) was jarringly incongruous. If you're going to have that, I think there should be some indication that it's coming.

"Naughty Boy"

Lots of folks liked this one, but it was not my first or second favorite. Certainly it had its merits. And I appreciate that it had a fresh aspect to it. Maybe I'm being too harsh. It was good. Maybe when something is pretty good, you start wishing that it were even better. The description that Carey gave during the auditions/cold readings did not come out in the play as I saw it. She had a lot of thought behind the dominatrix character, but frankly I did not see it in the performance. I don't think it was just the acting. I think that I kept waiting to get to know the two characters as the play went on, but not much ever came. The dialog revealed views on society, politics, life, etc, but not the characters themselves. I had trouble figuring out Craig's character--was I supposed to take him seriously or not?


Just got a call from Shannon Luster, congratulating me. He says Graham Watts enjoyed my audition and wanted me to take part in the main stage production. I think he says that to everyone he calls! Shannon mentioned no specific role. That means, most likely, that I'll be Assistant Basket Carrier or maybe Second Row, Third from the Left Jubilant Wedding Reveler. That's cool. I wouldn't expect anything different at this point (especially if I didn't have a monologue!). I just want to see what FST is like, work my way into a new group. It will be good.


I was thinking over that audition for FST with Graham Watts. I think I may have missed the ball even more than I though (besides not having a monolog!). He asked me to read a bit of "Much Ado", a part where Beatrice has just 'overheard' that Benedict loves her. I did it once, and afterwards Graham said that I should try it again. He said that this is a very happy moment for Beatrice and that she is overjoyed by the news. Before the cold readings, I had in my mind some W's for Beatrice and some of them mean that Beatrice would have a very measured response to things. She is very much a control freak (but in a mature and calm way). I thought that she wouldn't get all rambunctious or lose herself. But, you know, that probably wasn't what Graham was after. He probably wasn't at all interested in any character analysis…he probably just wanted to see some range, some _expression, and maybe some ability to take direction. I should have pushed the happiness in a major way, just to demonstrate the ability to do so (believably, hopefully). Oops, blew that one.

[Note 5/10-5/13/05 Interview Candidates for the UAF Performance Faculty position are here]!

5/10/05 Thoughts on Jenni Lou :

I guess the most telling thing I can say is that I’m excited and I wish she could start tomorrow. Now, that is not a guarantee that she could successfully deliver on all the things she talked about and would like to bring to Theatre UAF. She is a current performer (actor) and would wish to remain one while serving as a faculty member. She does standup comedy. She has taught in a variety of circumstances, and talked about a lot of things she thinks students should be exposed to during their education: voice, movement, acting for film, acting for commercials (which she says is different), how to find employment, writing for speech/comedy, even ‘hair for theatre’. She talked a lot about voice and movement, and the incredible boost that specific training in those areas can give you. She says most folks think of diction or dialects when you say 'voice' but that it is so much more than that. I don’t have a clue what she was referring to, but now I WANNA KNOW!! She also mentioned that there are lots of jobs in “voice over” work. Now, this is something I’d really like to know about. <--- Start finding out about this.

She even mentioned that she has taught little workshops in things like how to pick up a local phone book and find an acting job in your area. What a nice, concrete, useful skill. We talked about how the local commercials suck. Her take on it was that it is potentially within our power to change them...raise the bar on local productions. Currently it doesn't seem as if those gigs pay in this town--folks in the room said that the companies usually offer food or coupons or maybe just $100/shoot. But who knows, maybe if the standards rise significantly, then they might become paying parts.

She is obviously a very energetic and creative individual. She went out on a limb to come up with something novel for her 15-minute presentation--her song/parody about supplying your weight on a resume. Maybe that wasn’t wise, but I can appreciate it. She drowned herself out on the piano, so I couldn’t hear her lyrics. That is too bad.

5/11/05 Thoughts on Carrie

Not as warm and fuzzy as Oaks, but another very competent candidate in my view. It is easy to start comparing and contrasting to the first candidate, rather than assessing her independently. I liked the way she dealt with the monolog coaching. Very efficient and hard-hitting. She got some better results immediately from the two people (Carey and Andrew). How would she be for comic monologs…I don't know? The voice lesson--I have to recognize that I'm an impatient sort. I want answers and I want them now. I feel like my voice is something that really needs work. So, I have to admit that I wanted more information directly about 'voice' from the voice lesson. The breathing is an important and perhaps fundamental part of voice, I know. Maybe I'm just looking for answers that are too quick and convenient.

Comparing Oaks and Baker, I'd say that they have some differing strengths. Oaks is very affable, very approachable, VERY energetic and excited, and seems to really want to be in Alaska. Baker is more of a closed, cool person, but I bet she can be very focused and expeditious in teaching or coaching. Both of them have obviously taken a look at what Theatre UAF currently offers and what it lacks. They both had great ideas about what else should be taught here. Baker geared the Master Class to what she saw as a deficiency, and I think that was smart.

So far, I'd be happy with either of them.

5/13/05 thoughts on Devora

Well, she is a mixed bag. Here are the good points: she is a working actor and knows the ropes. She is very observant during her teaching and can quickly target things that need improvement (in a monolog, say, or in a Meisner exercise). She helped Carey take her monolog a big distance. Here are some bad points: gosh, she's irritating. It is odd that someone keenly observant of others is so un-self-aware of knowing that she is being inappropriate. How soon would we tire of the unnecessary posturing and conceit? [Not that a huge dose of good self esteem is a bad thing in an actor or a role model, but in her case it doesn't seem to be true self confidence.] Would she settle down and do a good job of imparting her knowledge or would she just drive us crazy? Although I'm okay with them, a shy and not-yet-confident beginning student might be very turned off by her occasional cutting comments. {but I suppose, perhaps that would be a lesson in thicker skin?} She is a kook…with her maniacal aversion to fluorescent lights and other personality quirks. I didn't like how she handled her "15 minute" monolog opportunity (would we all get 1 hour to do our audition at a given call?). I can understand wanting to turn something into a teaching moment, but dang it, just do the monolog like a professional and explain succinctly later why it isn't how a student should approach the customary audition. Jeezus. I wasn't at all compelled by her Titania, but her immigrant bit was good.

If I had to do an instantaneous choice, I'd rank them as Baker #1, and Oaks and Millman tied for 2nd. Baker was clearly professional and knowledgeable, was a reasonable person to deal with and had an OK rapport with students. Oaks and Millman have differing strengths. Oaks has a great rapport and tons of energy, ideas and enthusiasm. Millman has a more expedient teaching style and, I think, more professional acting experience.

Given what we need at Theatre UAF, I'm putting a lot of stock in the candidate's ability to teach us performance/acting, and therefore I weight heavily the women's work with students on their monologs. It is a little uneven that Oaks did not work in that capacity, so it is a little hard to compare her fairly. She came up with a lesson plan beforehand (came prepared with materials, too)…and perhaps she wasn't told of the importance of working with students on monologs. It was Millman's good work on the monologs that keeps her in the running for me, because otherwise I'd like her out of my life. I'll accept an annoying person if she gives me the knowledge and skills that I need/want.

There is another factor that I feel should not be forgotten in any hiring situation at UAF: retention. Oaks seems to have an advantage there. She knows Alaska, knows what she is getting into, and might be the most likely of the 3 to stay. I know, really, this is an impossible thing to judge, but I think it is important to consider the matter. Do Baker and Millman really know what they are getting into? Baker says she and her husband want to live in Alaska…no actually, she said 'a rural place'. Well, interior Alaska is more than just rural; it has further complications. I'm not convinced that Millman has actually considered the ramifications of living in Fairbanks. Maybe those issues are truly immaterial to her, with the opportunity to teach totally outweighing those 'trivialities', but I doubt it. Hard to say.

* see other journals in BioMethod (acting I) and Acting III

google.com/group/acting2 -- new forum Oedipus UAF