For anyone who still stops in on this blog or is subscribed...bless your hearts! As another Holiday Seasons is upon us, I wanted to let you know that I am starting a new blog and hope you will subscribe. My goal is to post once a week - a news article, a performance review, a travel experience, a political rant, a historical blurb...but rest assured all of it will be from my perspective and I'll try not to bore you! So please follow along...
True Blank Words
Monday, December 31, 2012
With that said, I thought it was important as we say so long to 2012 and ring in the New Year to reflect on the creative success of this past year and say a few words about "letting go."
First off...a list of really great creative accomplishments for 2012:
*The move to LA
*Creating a Cooking Show and having a blast with it
*Finished my new One-Act, THE DAYS AFTER
*Co-starring in the American Premiere of THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G at Casa 0101 Theatre in LA
*Signing with The Bohemia Group
*Having featured roles in an Indie Film (ESAI'S CROSSING) and a pilot (50 STARS)
*Starring as El Gallo in The Gilbert Theatre Production of THE FANTASTICKS
*Being nominated for a Pryer Award for Best Actor in a Musical for THE FANTASTICKS
*Running a Stage Management Intensive and giving a Stage Management Workshop
*Having two of my 10-minute plays chosen for readings and workshop
*Saw some great theatre including PETER AND THE STARCATCHER on Broadway, WAR HORSE and RED at Mark Taper and JITNEY at Pasadena Playhouse
*Great photo shoot with Greg Crowder
*Some great audition opportunities and cast in two shows (ROMEO AN JULIET and JEKYLL AND HYDE) I had to turn down
*Being hired to direct THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT
*Having the PIE Holiday Stories and Carols CD finally launched
*Ending the year with a paid Choir Gig for the Christmas Holiday
Needless to say I am grateful.
But I am also mindful of the serious events that took place that are much larger than myself and have a lasting impact on all of us: the elections, the shootings around the country (especially the one in Connecticut), the Hurricane, the hunger and atrocities that take place every minute around the world, the losses that my family and friends suffered this year, and the idea that the world might come to an end or at least shift. All of these things are part of the experience of life and all of them are examples of why each day is a gift and we must try to live it to the fullest!
I am also struck by the accomplishments of others - whether creative or spiritual, or in the case of my friend Jimmy, riding in AIDS RIDE LA to make life better for those living with HIV/AIDS or my friend Kate organizing an amazing Shakespeare Fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Sandy!
And as I begin to see my 47th year on the horizon as 2013 approaches I am hopeful that the lessons I learned this year will carry forward and propel me to be more present in my daily life...to be more joyful and serene with all that I do and all that I have - because indeed I have so much in my life! I am especially grateful for Shane!
Having goals and dreams is certainly an important component to our lives, but I am also reminded of what my Auntie Carmie used to say to me all the time: "Stop and smell the roses."
The biggest lesson I take with me from this past year is LETTING GO. When I let go of the things I can't control; when I am present and being of service to others and taking care of myself and let go of fear and anxiety and "expectations" I find that my life is much more balanced...and frankly, success (whatever that means) seems to find its way to me in the things that matter most in my life.
So in 2013 I hope that we can all find ourselves stopping and smelling the roses a bit more often, admiring their beauty, letting go and being grateful for all we have right now.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Of course for many, it isn't about the RESULT but the process. For those creating art, the motives are as varied as the paint colors or costumes or lyrics that are used by the artist. But for those who RECEIVE the art...well...it can be transforming. And because art is so subjective, much of it can be transformative to one and bland to another. And that is what makes it so miraculous. But there are times, and I hope not as rare as they sometimes seem to me, when art is so powerful that a majority of those experiencing it are all in the same place together.
And so it was with the performance I just saw of WAR HORSE at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
From the first moments of the piece with no dialogue; no spoken word; the visual imagery and the subtle musical tones lifted me to a place where I began to cry. Certainly some of this comes from the fact that I LOVE the theatre. I was born on a stage (or so it feels) and so each time I am in an audience I am always transported even before the lights dim because I love it so much and my anticipation is always heightened. But sometimes, I am disappointed, or don't "get it" or don't find myself as moved as I would like to be. But with WAR HORSE, all the elements of good theatre were present: great acting, beautiful concept and movement with these amazing puppets, wonderful effects of sound and music and of course a wonderful story. But what makes the piece GREAT for me is the fact that the piece is more than those elements. It is a history lesson and so therefore it is educational. It is a moving love story and therefore it is emotional and universal. It is transformative because it makes those of us watching it think about a variety of things in our lives - family, competition, war, loss, love, hope, camaraderie...the list goes on and on with this piece.
Two of the most poignant moments in the play for me took place on or near the "battlefield." The one is when a Corporal becomes enraged at another officer who is clearly trying to abandon the war and protect two horses in the process. The Corporal says something like..."Why do you care more about these beasts...these animals...than you do some of your comrades dying in the field?" The blunt irony was not wasted on me in the moment and I actually verbalized a quiet "huh" in the theatre. I wanted to yell out "YOU are the beast! YOU are the animal! If you are speaking of "humanity" in some grand form then these horses are MUCH more human than you are!" And the second moment was when a German soldier and an Irish soldier were both sent by their opposing camps to untangle a horse in barbed wire. Neither could understand the other and yet when their goal was a common one, their differences vanished and only the common cause seemed to matter.
I could go on and on but I will simply leave you with how I began this piece...art can do so much. And at its best, it can do A LOT!
A special mention to the entire cast...their work in this piece is a true definition of ensemble. Would that we all worked together so well in all of our endeavors.
I fly the flag of art in all its forms...long may she wave!
Monday, June 4, 2012
But I must say that since I have come to have representation and primarily only do audition "appointments" it is rare when the feedback isn't good and I can honestly say that probably 70 to 80% of the time I get a callback and my booking ratio is MUCH higher as well. Why? Because if they are giving me an appointment, they already believe that I am the right type and have the talent (or at least experience) to do the project.
HOWEVER...there are rare occasions now where I go in for an appointment and from the moment I walk in the room, they look at me like I have three heads. It is in those moments, that I breath, do my best work and walk away without giving it a second thought.
Just the other day I had such an experience. I heard the two gentlemen who preceded me, and in all honesty (and i hardly EVER think this at auditions) I thought they were HORRIBLE! Just terrible actors who where shouting lines they did not understand and it was classical text (not Shakespeare but still had a rhyme and cadence) and they just didn't have a clue. This seemed to be confirmed when the casting director came to me with "pre-audition notes" and I was careful to listen and prepare to give him what he asked for.
As he brought me into the room however, it was clear that the producer and director were already disappointed in my look and stature. Then, the casting director looked at me and said. "Oh! I thought your last name was Rivera." "Nope," I said, "it's Riviere!".
I then proceeded to give what I thought was a kick-ass audition. Projecting appropriately as he had asked...making bold and strong choices as if this man knew what he wanted and could have it as he was a king. I used a slight middle-eastern accent as they had said they were looking for middle-eastern for the role (altho clearly they were looking for Hispanics for the role). And finally, I felt my use of the text was really good.
When I finished the director looked at me in disgust and just said, "Thanks for coming in." And the producer looked even more disgusted. The casting director was a bit more pleasant and thanked me for coming in but it was clear they did not want me from the moment I entered the room. More ironic to me was that both gentleman that preceded me were asked to do the piece AGAIN with adjustments and they were no better, if anything in my opinion, they were worse! But because their "type" was closer to what they were looking for, they were willing to give bad acting a closer look over better acting but the wrong type.
And so...it proves so well what I used to tell my students at TISCH, New York University:
"You can only do the best that you can do in that moment in those given circumstances and then LET IT GO! Sometimes they won't like you because of your stature, or your coloring, or your ethnicity. Sometimes you will remind them of an ex lover who they despise and that will be your downfall. Sometimes they will love you but it is already cast 10 times over."
And sometimes, for whatever reasons, they will just look at you like you have three heads and just not get you.
So I left the room thinking, you folks are clueless and if you aren't interested in me, that is your issue - I did the job I wanted to do and I left it all in the room. That is all we can do as artists - the work we want to do and leave it in the room. It's all subjective so some will love it, some will hate it and some will just find it mediocre. We must continue to do it anyway because those who love us, will find us and make it all worth the journey. All worth the "nos" and "nexts"!
I am ready for the next adventure! Because sometimes they just don't like you, but sometimes, they DO like you, they REALLY like you!
Sunday, May 13, 2012
So today, on this special day when we pay tribute to Mom's...I send so much love and gratitude to my late Mom, Genevieve Riviere Monacelli and my late Aunt, Carmella Monacelli. Great ladies who I miss every day.
Here is a poem from my book FLOWERS IN AUTUMN for all the Mom's and adopted Mom's and Second Mom's out there!
Somewhere in the backyard are my mother's favorite flower - lily of the valley. The fragrant bells have bloomed by May, a time for mothers.
The Peonies have yet to bloom. I planted them because my father had one near the shed at the cottage on the lake.
There are two types of lilac trees. I like the one because it is so different, and the other one because it is what I expect.
Rose bushes line the wall, their variety of color remind me of an Easter Basket, or a box of crayons, or a rainbow that reflects a kind of forgiveness.
And there are many other flowers: the hyacinths, the tulips, the crocus, and a bleeding heart, and there are always daffodils - yellow daffodils that I picked a million miles from here, a million years ago.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
|Production Photo from THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G|
Photo by Ed Krieger
As a young performer, I was trained in the old-school style of musical theatre...louder, faster, funnier. My job was to FIND my show by opening night and then repeat that show every night...hit my marks, re-create what I had prepared myself to do. I was very literal with that technique for a long time. It wouldn't be a surprise if someone gave me a wrong cue line and I just said what I was supposed to say, even if it didn't make sense. After all, I was doing my job, saying MY line, the playwright or book writer's line, in the place I was supposed to say it as I had said it many times before.
Two years after I graduated college I was invited back as a guest artist to revive a role I had created as a senior in a very difficult and wonderful historical play about the life of Saint Vincent de Paul. In a particular scene I was supposed to break down into tears talking about Thaddeus Lee, Vincent's and The Congregation of the Mission's first martyr. When I was a senior in college, I often had to fake it. I tried emotional recall but it didn't always work for me. And besides, there were so many lines that I was always thinking about what came next half the time and so quite often, during the original run, I would fake it.
However, when I came back to the text two years later, it became quite apparent that if I just LISTENED to the monologue before mine that all the emotion I needed was RIGHT THERE. I just had to LISTEN. I just had to let go of what had already happened in the play and what was to come and trust that all of my preparation was enough. Now... much of this wisdom was arrived upon with my director Tim Ward and the actress who played the queen, the gorgeous and talented Erika Insana. They were instrumental in my beginning to become aware of the art of listening. Not just to my cue line or the line before it, but to the life and world of the play.
As I got older, I didn't always heed that wisdom...I would often find myself in my old habits of "repeat that performance if you can!"
Thankfully, in recent years, having worked with some amazing folks who have studied the techniques of our more modern age, I now make it a part of my craft to LISTEN. I do my work to be prepared but each show is it's own. I do NOT take liberties with blocking or with words, and those actors who do are disrespecting all those who work with them - directors, writers and mostly fellow actors. Those egos should stick to one-man-shows!
But I do listen and I do stay in the moment that I am in. Each night may find different inflections or a different cadence or emphasis. My physical life, within the set blocking may be different. And if other actors have found new things or if they make a mistake and say something different, I try to pick up the ball (as it were) and not be so rigid or stuck with what it was supposed to be but live in what "it is!"
I am grateful for my current play, The American Premiere of THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G as it gives me a chance to listen, to be in the moment, to create a living piece of art that WILL BE different each night but at it's root, holds the truth and vision of the playwright, the director and the cast who helped to create the work.
Theatre is a special art form because the nature of it, is, to be live. Therefore it is living. And in life nothing stays the same...and in life, when we listen, we tend to learn and grow. I have certainly learned a great deal about my craft doing this show. And I expect to learn more before the the run is finished!
Monday, April 16, 2012
I am about to open an American Premiere of a play with 31 actors - THE IMAGINARY LIFE OF THE STREET SWEEPER AUGUST G. While it can be argued that a play with 4 actors is much easier to stage, when it's that time in the rehearsal process for tech, it really doesn't matter what the size of the cast or the style of the show...tech, is tech, is tech! It is stopping and starting and going back and waiting and waiting and waiting and skipping and being lost and forgetting your lines and getting frustrated and giddy and exhausted. But it is a necessary beast of the craft as the components of sound and light and final stage elements can be the difference between a good show and a great show. I am certainly proud of the work I am doing in this play and honored to be working with so many dedicated and talented artists. I look forward to our dress rehearsals and the run. Tech was tedious and difficult and pretty much the same as the 100s of other techs I have done. Tech will always be tech and it will always mark the 11th hour.
SO... curtain up, light the lights! Break-a-leg!
Monday, April 9, 2012
It's been a couple weeks since my last entry as I have been busy with the new blog for the cooking show and rehearsals for the American Premiere of August G. It's funny how I never get used to the roller-coaster and yet I have chosen a career which guarantees me a "ride" whether I want it or not! Today marked a new one for me...an audition on Easter...well sort of! I received a call from one of the biggest casting offices in NYC last week requesting that I work on material they were sending me, put it on tape (since I am in LA) and have it uploaded on a private link to YouTube by Monday morning...which is NOW!
I was in rehearsal all day Saturday and knew my only chance to record the material would be Easter Sunday. I am blessed that my partner is such a supportive and giving man that he was willing to take 6 hours out of our Easter to make this happen. At least we got in a beautiful afternoon walk (and some fresh picked grapefruit from one of our neighbors) and I did make us a scrumptious lamb dinner. But truth be told, I couldn't have done it without him. We face a lot of technical challenges with lighting and sound and so it took us longer than it might have with better equipment and a better space but I am proud of the result and grateful for the opportunity to be seen for such a major project.
Can't say what it is for as I don't want to jinx it, but fingers and toes crossed!
Wishing you all light and love, joy and gratitude! And away we go!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
In glancing over the titles of all my past entries in this blog, this is only the third time I have asked a question in the title. That surprises me because I am someone who is CONSTANTLY asking questions - of myself, of a situation, of others (especially teachers, directors, colleagues). I am always asking questions because I am always seeking answers!
For the past week I have been faced with that ugly monster of fear and doubt. Wondering if the move to LA was the right one? Wondering if the projects I have chosen are the "best" for my career and for me as a person? Wondering if the "honeymoon" is over?
I realize that we all have hills and valleys and as I have mentioned in previous posts I am trying to live in gratitude. But sometimes that is more difficult than I would like it to be. And rainy days like today "always get me down."
But for this moment, as the rain pours outside, I will focus on all I have: an amazing loving partner, a wonderful little apartment, a great part in an American Premiere of a play, my cooking show, my health, and of course, my supportive friends and family! Not bad is it? I guess making a list of what we HAVE is a great way to keep perspective.
As for where I go from here? I have no idea...onward and upward!