June 30, 2010

What friends are for (aka Dear God HELP ME!!!)

I was in Union Square today, and I actually walked into the movie theatre to pay money to see . . .

Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Yes, the one with Edward Cullen the Sparkly Vampire. Yes, the one with Bella the Emo. Yes, the one where Jacob the Washboard Werewolf will eventually (in Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) fall in love with a baby.

If you are any kind of friend of mine, you care about me even a little bit - I am clearly insane and need serious help. I must not be allowed to enter a cineplex unsupervised. Please, please, please don't let me pay money to see this movie. You have my permission to use bribes ("I'll get you one of those huge subway posters of the White Queen if you see The Last Airbender instead!"), deception (You can even go, "Hey, let's watch it together!" then get 2 tickets for something else), threats (such as, "If you take that card out to get a ticket to that shit, I'm revoking your womanist card!"), and physical restraint. But whatever you do - DO NOT ALLOW ME TO PAY TO SEE THIS MOVIE.




The Prof schools us on theatre degrees

Scott at Theatre Ideas is taking us to class again - this time on how not to waste your money or your time when choosing an undergraduate theatre program.

Lots of good stuff there from an insider perspective. Check it out.

June 27, 2010

Gay marriage and intersectionality

An intriguing Q&A that shows problems that gay marriage won't necessarily solve.

Now let me get this out of the way before someone brings it up: I do not oppose gay marriage. I am, however, reluctant to assume that gay marriage would mean greater equality for all. I think that, in the US, people like to assume that marriage is about love. But when it boils down to it, marriage is really about money, property, and inheritance in the eyes of the state. I'm not knocking this. It is what it is. But there's a reason why marriage is called an institution. Traditionally, in the US, that institution has been just as sexist, racist, classist, homophobic, and transphobic as the rest of society.

Then again, I can be pretty cynical about these things.

June 24, 2010

Guilty pleasure film: Willow

Willow is one of my favorite fantasy movies to this day.

Say what you want about the plot or the special effects, I've always loved the shit out of this movie.

Once again, like The Golden Child, there are intriguing things about this movie that I didn't notice as a kid but that, as an adult, strike me as pretty progressive.

Let's start with the title character.

Willow is the first and only movie I can think of where a Small person has a leading role as the hero.

Let that sink in for a minute.

In just about every Western film, particularly American films, Small people are presented as set pieces (hello, munchkins and Ewoks!) and symbols of the grotesque (hello, every film featuring sideshow freaks!), but never the heroic protagonist. They're rarely characters, let alone the star.

Not only that, but his size is presented as a relative trait. To "regular" humans (called Daikini's by the Nelwyns, who are Willow's people), Willow is tiny, a "peck"*. To brownies, he's a giant. In an intriguing sort of way, Willow shatters the idea of what normal is with regards to size by presenting a world where Nelwyns and fairies and shit are walking (flying?) around.

("Peck" is the only invented slur that carries the same punch as some of the real-world slurs I've come across.)

But it's not just size that sets Willow apart. In terms of gender and heroism, Willow is one of the only male heroes (aside from Jen in The Dark Crystal) who tends to eschew violence as a way to solve problems. No, he doesn't talk to his enemies and help them get in touch with their feelings. He outsmarts them. His greatest successes in the film have more to do with wits, cunning, and agriculture than they do with being stronger or faster or more powerful than his adversaries*. Willow is a trickster hero - a rare treat in a fantasy film. Willow Ufgood brings to mind figures like Brer Rabbit and Eshu, and the film is, I believe the better for it.

Now, I know that the temptation is to say that if they made Willow a woman, the movie would've been a lot more progressive. (Which is interesting, since Willow can also be a girl's name, and that other Willow does magic too. Coincidence?).

I'm going to buck that trend and say that it's actually more interesting for Willow to be a man. As a character, Willow is incredibly nurturing, not violent (except at great need), and is devoted to his family and community. Without necessarily being aware of it, Willow presents a model of masculinity that does not require domination over others (particularly women) to define itself. Willow still gets to be a protector and provider, and he doesn't need to buy into any bullshit Real Men Don't Change Diapers machismo to do it. He still slays the evil dragon (more about her in a bit), but he never set out to do so. He achieves Man Stuff like honor and glory, but he was not motivated by it. Willow's devotion to Elora Danon is an outgrowth of his compassion. He and his family were ready to raise this big-assed giant fucking baby as their own. And the only reason why he consents to take the baby from the village is because keeping her would mean that giant rat-dogs with rabies would come and tear everyone limb from limb.

The next great thing about Willow? Bavmorda.

Hollywood has always had an issue with women in authority.

However, that does not mean I can't admire the sheer awesomeness of Queen Bavmorda's special brand of evil. She remains, to this day, one of my favorite villains. Why?

Let's start with her goals. Bavmorda is trying to kill a baby and destroy her soul. Even Palpatine never did anything that fucking evil. Bavmorda is so evil that the one henchman who would have a moral qualm about killing babies is like, qualm-less. He'd be like, "Isn't killing a baby a little . . . nevermind." Bavmorda is so evil that - you know how the villain sometimes has to make a statement to their minions about how evil they are, or make a threat, or even give a look - Bavmorda doesn't have to bother with that bullshit. She's so evil that the thought of betrayal doesn't even cross their minds, which is why Sorsha's turnabout was such a shock.

Bavmorda's Evil Quotient is firmly established here. But it doesn't stop there.

Many villains fall into the trap of toying with their enemies instead of just destroying them. Apparently, Bavmorda used her arcane powers to peek into the future and watch Die Hard. And after hearing some prophecy about a baby who's going to lead to her downfall, she is not fucking around. She doesn't even wait until the babies are born. She rounds up pregnant women, throws them in a dungeon, gives them no prenatal care (just to make the odds of survival even slimmer), and has people waiting on that baby as soon as she pops out. No bath, no smack on the ass, nothing. Just: baby comes out; bad guy catches baby; kill baby and destroy her soul. You really gotta hand it to Bavmorda. It's a rare treat to witness that kind of brutal efficiency in cinematic evil these days.

But that's not why I love the fuck out of this sublime specimen of villainy. What really sealed the deal?

"You're not warriors. You're pigs!

As far as one-liners by badass women in movies goes, this is right up there with, "Get away from her, you bitch!"

There's all sorts of cool shit to love about this fucking movie. And you can probably find it on sale for like, seven bucks.

June 17, 2010

Turning 25 . . . again! Happy birthday to me!

I don't know why, but I generally get more excited about birthdays than Christmas, weddings, and anniversaries. Maybe it's the cake. Maybe it's the celebration of a life. Who knows? But to me birthdays were always more sacred than holidays.

So I'm splurging $15 on Italian for lunch, and I'm going to see The Little One Friday (since James Comtois is twisting my arm).

As far as what I want, I think I made that pretty clear. Failing a huge pile of cash, a magical pony and a Pam would be nice.

June 16, 2010

crossroads, making progress, and thoughts on fundraising

So, Crossroads Theatre Project is gaining momentum thanks to some very generous supporters (from the blogosphere and LiveJournal). In a little less than 10 days, people have contributed over $300 in support.

This looks like a little bit, but if you extrapolate over a few weeks, that's a hell of a lot for a no-name play by a no-name playwright. There's still a long way to go, but if things keep going at this rate, we'll meet the financial goals for a full production of Tulpa, or Anne&Me within 10 weeks.

And the benefits of that are very tangible for our would-be audience. In a nutshell, more shows at reasonable prices*.

(*I define reasonable as what I'd pay to go see a movie - ticket, popcorn, and soda. I got the ticket part down. It's the popcorn and soda I need to work on.)

June 13, 2010

Thank you theatrosphere!

Special props to Guy, James Comtois (whose play, "The Little One" is my birthday gift to myself) and Gus Schulenburg (who still needs to be thwacked in the nuts). To support Crossroads Theatre Project, click on the logo below:

Donate now!

For everyone else reading along who may have forgotten or just wants me to shut up about it, every little bit helps. Even if it's just $10. That's like, 2 drinks at a NYC nightclub. C'mon - am I worth 2 beers? Think of it as a virtual date*. Such as:

  • $10: Couple of drinks
  • $25: See a show together
  • $50: Nice dinner
  • $100: Dinner and a movie with popcorn and shit
  • $250: Weekend getaway
 *What's cool about a virtual date is that it's not a date-date, so if you already have a significant other, it's not cheating. Not exactly. Well, you're cheating with your mind on the internet. But it's not the same thing!

June 12, 2010

Top 10 things that won't get said in "Tulpa, or Anne&Me"

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes (probably even most times), what you don't say is more important than what you do say. In the spirit of remaining silent and being thought a fool instead of opening your mouth and removing all doubt, I present my own personal Top 10 - a list of Things That Won't Get Said in Tulpa, or Anne&Me (so we can have a real conversation already):

10. "Anti-racist"
9. "White privilege"
8. "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"
7. "Part Cherokee"
6. "Colorblind"
5. "I have Black friends"
4. "Reverse racism"
3. "Why are Black people so angry?"
2. "I'm not racist, but . . . "
1. (White Woman's Tears)

Inspiration: Racism Bingo.

Black Girl Ugly: June 10-26

If you're interested in Tulpa, or Anne&Me, you really need to check out Ashley Brockington's Black Girl Ugly (and buy the t-shirt!).

June 10, 2010

In which officious staged reading memo is officious

Tulpa, or Anne&Me is a full-length, quasi-autobiographical full-length play that confronts the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality through pop culture, womanism, and Tibetan mysticism.

If Anne Hathaway crawls out of your TV, what would you do? What would you talk about? What fears, hopes, desires, and resentments would emerge? How would you reach across a thorny and painful history to connect with each other as human beings?

Raw, intimate, and unapologetic, Tulpa, or Anne&Me begins the conversation about race that Black women and White women have never been allowed to have. Until now.

WHAT: Staged reading of "Tulpa, or Anne&Me," written by Shawn C. Harris and directed by Keri Seymour.
WHEN: Wednesday, June 23 at 8pm.
WHERE: WOW Cafe Theatre. 59-61 E. 4th Street, 4th floor.
HOW MUCH: Free! Although a $5 donation would be highly appreciated. Refreshments available for purchase.
HOW LONG: about 2 hours. There will be a brief intermission, but this is not Lord of the Rings or Angels in America.

June 6, 2010

Save the date! June 23 staged reading of Tulpa, or Anne&Me

Venue TBA. If we get some support, we could rent out a place for a few hours (4 tops) for a staged reading that weekend too.

BTW, since getting fiscal sponsorship with Fractured Atlas, you can help out by donating online now. Check it out!

Donate now!

Go me.

June 3, 2010

Fiscal sponsorship is a go!

You can now donate online!

Donate now!

36 hours, 36 lessons

This is gonna be pretty disjointed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. Putting together an improv staged reading in 36 hours is doable, but at least shoot for 48.
  2. Concessions are a great idea. Even if you're doing a free show, at least have bottled water available.
  3. People really appreciate having cold water available to them in a hot space in the summer.
  4. Even improvs need rehearsals.
  5. When writing the script, it's easy to forget that the stage is empty except for what you put on it. Remember that while rewriting.
  6. Concessions should be profitable. You don't have to go movie theatre crazy with prices, but you can go higher than the bodega around the corner.
  7. Limit the props you need. Remember - you'll have to haul that shit if you want it in the play.
  8. When choosing concessions, go for cheap and non-perishable. Anything you gotta keep in the fridge is probably not a good idea.
  9. Insect repellent = good investment.
  10. If the schedule says 4:00, you're probably going to start by 4:30.
  11. Plan to go half an hour over time.
  12. Clean up after yourself.
  13. Write the script as though real people with real bodies have to pull it off in a real space.
  14. If non-actors with little rehearsal can make a script work, imagine what actors and rehearsals can do.
  15. Sexuality - even suggested sexuality - is way more intimate on stage than on screen.
  16. Perhaps the kink circus is a bit much.
  17. Actors should have a reason to be on stage. Don't force them to do nothing.
  18. Take a piss before the show starts.
  19. Stage lights are bright. Wear shades. Besides, it makes you look all artistic and hip.
  20. Stage lights are hot. Combine stage lights with summer weather and . . . yeah.
  21. "If you build it they will come."
  22. There is no such thing as an actor-proof script. Thank God.
  23. Make an effort to be inclusive. You never know who could rock the shit out of a role.
  24. Do not put yourself in the performer's and director's seat at the same time. Just. Don't.
  25. Kill your babies. Yes, that line was funny. Yes, that part sounds poignant, but if it doesn't work for the piece it has to die.
  26. Keep several versions of the script on hand. You never know if you said something better in a previous draft.
  27. You don't get what you don't ask for.
  28. Remain open to sudden changes.
  29. Ask questions. Especially stupid questions.
  30. Find the right people, and most of the work is done for you.
  31. If they're not getting paid, thank them.
  32. Everyone likes brownies.
  33. Actors love food. Feed them.
  34. You'll probably do this to yourself again because you love it. So stop complaining.
  35. You will be tired, but it's the good kind of tired.
  36. I'm only putting this here because I said I'd do 36.

Know actors looking for something to do? Read on.

There's already a Craigslist ad for it, but it's good to have it everywhere.

On Saturday, May 29, I had an improv staged reading for Tulpa, or Anne&Me. An improv staged reading I had less than 36 hours to put together. Remember, this is Gus Schulenburg's fault. If you feel you should be fairly compensated, I suggest robbing him at gunpoint.

So, here is the pertinent info (aka, the part that makes me look like a serious theatre professional):

"Tulpa, or Anne&Me" is an experimental, semi-autobiographical full-length play that confronts the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality through pop culture, womanism, and Tibetan mysticism.

When a tulpa in the form of Anne Hathaway crawls out of your television, what do you do? What do you talk about? What hopes, fears, desires, and resentments emerge? How would you change one other?

"Tulpa, or Anne&Me" explores the hidden inner life of a Black woman in order to expose how marginalization traumatizes the human psyche, thus taking the first steps toward healing it.

Actors needed for 4 female roles. Credentials and experience are great. What matters most is being easy to work with and your ability to bring passion, intelligence, sensitivity, and conviction to the role. Available parts:
  • ME: Black woman, mid-20s to early 30s. Plain-looking, reserved, introspective. 
  • ANNE HATHAWAY: Tulpa of the movie star. More than what she seems. 
  • GUARDIAN ANGEL OF BLACKNESS #1: An angel. The protective one. Big, loud, and fierce. 
  • GUARDIAN ANGEL OF BLACKNESS #2: An angel. The nurturing one. Warm, calm, and compassionate - to a point.
Trans women encouraged to audition.

WHAT: First audition for a staged reading of "Tulpa, or Anne&Me" followed by brief interview
WHEN: Saturday, June 5. Audition time slotted for 5PM-9PM. Plan for 15-20 minutes for audition and interview.
WHERE: WOW Cafe Theatre. 59-61 E. 4th St (Manhattan), 4th floor.
HOW: Best way - send me an e-mail. Give some info about yourself and why you're interested (this part is important). Let me know when you're coming and which character you want to audition for (this part also important). Headshot and resume welcome, but not necessary. I can send you character-specific material to look over before you arrive. Second best way - just show up.
PAY: Gratitude.

Know someone who'd be good for this project? Feel free to let me know.