Monday, September 30, 2013

RENT at The Project

I've seen RENT many many times... And it really never gets old.

When I was first introduced to the play over a year ago, I thought--"Why would I care about a show about a bunch of people who don't want to pay rent? I pay my rent, thankyouverymuch." And although, I tend to empathize more with Benny (I dig that ambitious capitalist!) than I do with Roger or Mimi, I really am touched by the show.

I like Angel. And after Frank Castro's performance, I like Gordon a lot. Everyone else is pretty flawed. And Collins--I like him too.

But really, everyone else is just kind of... human... And that's all right. I can dig humanity.

Saturday night, I got to see Utah Rep's  RENT at The Project with my dad and my little sister Bethany.

We sat in the middle. My dad had never seen the show live. I'm sure the movie is swell, but honestly--RENT live is in a world of it's own. It's... live!! It's a rock show! It's this fantastic opera!

I watched tears roll down my dad's face. I watched my sister watch the empowered and struggling characters rage against the machine with their dancing and their beautiful voices.

I loved the grit of the production. I loved the performances.

I did not love how the choreography distracted from the words during certain moments. I say this with all the love in my heart for William Cooper Howell--but it's difficult to self edit--and as the director/choreographer--there were a few moments I would have edited.

The repeated question: Will I lose my dignity? Will some care? Will I wake tomorrow, from this nightmare?--

These words need to stand alone. I've seen the show. I know what the words are--but I was distracted by the dancing and it was difficult to let the words land on my heart the way they have in the past.  It was just too much playing on my senses.

This happened a couple other times too. My dad and sister--RENT virgins--weren't the least bit bothered by the distractions. But, I found that the choice to over-choreograph detracted from both the singing and the dancing in a few of those moments. Some moments just need to land. It seemed to stem from a lack of faith in the words and in the power of those words.

That being said--I was pleased with Mr. Howell's new approaches to different scenes. Staging and choreography should highlight and underline the text--not fight with it. And there were beautiful moments where his direction complimented and enhanced the story.

One more frustration--the choruses build to this fantastic and satisfying climax... but at that moment, the mics would all be cut so that soloists would blend with the unmiced chorus and the volume from voices would fall to about 30% and the band would continue at full volume. It was not good. I would invite the powers that be to give the technicians a couple of rehearsals to work out how to solve these problems. God bless technical directors and tech rehearsals.

My dad fell in love. My sister was so happy. We gabbed about our favorite moments at the Village Inn over crepes afterwards. It was such a beautiful production to share with my family.

Today I am grateful for the inspiration of RENT to live each day with creativity and love. I am grateful for my dad and my little sister. I am grateful for devoted artists who bring so much to their craft.

The band was incredible. The actors--every one of them--were fantastic. Each of them reveled in their freedom both as characters and as actors. I was so impressed by the range of choices they each made.

At first, I was annoyed by Connor Norton's Mimi. To be specific, I was annoyed by her hair. I couldn't see her face! I was annoyed by the fact that the candle was never actually lit. (There was a bit of inconsistency with the world of the play concerning props.) But then she came out and did this fantastic dance to "Out Tonight!" Her voice! Her dancing! Her body! I loved it. She was this perfect vulnerable powder keg. Explosive woman. She embodied the reasons every woman should love being a woman.

Austin Archer's Mark was ticking. He was this mass of energy floating every where, but without focus. It was the perfect choice for the character. His eye travels from moment to moment, capturing the feelings of everyone else--but Mr. Archer deftly chose specific moments to let us see his own pathos. I especially loved when Frank Castro's Gordon and Mark found solace with one another in the face of death.  That picture let us see Mark grounded in his own struggles.

Aleksndr Arteaga's Tom Collins was grounded. I love his youth and his vulnerability. I love his unabashed idealism. And Derek Gregerson's Angel was delightful. He was a postcard for joi de vivre!

Karli Rose Lowry's Maureen was firey and rapturous. I was inspired. I cried with laughter. And she has a lovely bottom.  Nneka Barcelona's Joanne went to toe to toe with Maureen. I loved their "Take Me or Leave Me". She walked this great line between power and vulnerability.

I find myself saying that a lot here. Power and vulnerability. That really seemed to be the theme of the whole show.

Trent English's Roger Davis was spot on.

Marc Nielson in his ensemble solo--one of the Christmas ditties--made me cry. Good grief! That man is incredibly talented.

Get your tickets at They close this weekend. It's worth it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Beautiful Crucible

 The Harris Fine Arts Center

 The selfie, taken by my super tall little brother

Yesterday, I returned to my alma mater, BYU, to take my little brother Nick out for Thai food and to catch up with him on his adventures as he starts his senior year.

I spent 4 years at the Harris Fine Arts Center studying acting, and now he works there on Saturdays.

As I drove through the campus to pick him up, I felt lifted up by the attention to order and beauty. My time at BYU was difficult to say the least. Anytime you commit yourself to a task like college--you dive into a crucible. Each class, relationship, and experience is designed to mold you into a deserving graduate.

BYU is a crucible--but it's a beautiful one. I looked at the mountains that I had spent so many afternoons hiking through, the paths I had walked, and the buildings where I had studied-- and I thought of how that environment shaped my mind and soul.

Today, I am grateful for the chance to visit with Nick. I am grateful for the crucibles that have shaped me. I am grateful for Utah in September! (It's gorgeous!!) And last but not least, I am grateful for Thai food. Oh panang curry... I will love you always.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Happy Birthday American Shakespeare Center!

Words are hard this morning.

Today is the American Shakespeare Center's 25th Birthday!

I'm trying to find the words to express my fondness for this company and my time spent working on the Blackfriars stage.

I met amazing people. I heard beautiful stories told in clever and creative ways. I learned core theatrical values. I studied under respected teachers and actors who taught through example.

And I took a lot of pretty pictures. So, I'm gonna stop using words and just pull up some old photos of my time in Staunton, VA.  Many of these are headshots I took of friends and fellow actors.

I may go a bit overboard here.

 Ralph Cohen zipping off to meet someone!
 More Hamlet!
 And this time, it's... Hamlet!
 A smiling Tiffany Stern.
 Scholars gathered for the Blackfriars Conference

 Anna Christiansen and Sarah Budge ready to take notes at the conference.
 Amazing scholars talking to each other.

 Mary Baldwin College campus

 Jan Knightley

 Ben Curns

 Caroline Gaddy

 Chelsea Phillips
 Anna Christiansen
 Caroline Gaddy, again...
 Rick Blunt
 Noah McBrayer
 Baby Katie
 Corey Vincent Holmes

 Greg again
 Heidi Grumelot

 Jan Knightley, being particularly British

 Joyce Peifer Forbes

Katherine Mayberry

 Laura Flanagan

 Sybille Bruun

 Tracy Hostmyer

 Chelsie Collier

 Jay Knowlton

 Mary Coy

 Jesse Manson

 Angela Boyle

 Jeremy Fiebig

 Francis Boyle

 Sarah Enloe and handsome husband...
Patrick Bentley

                                     Bob Taylor                                                Susan Heyward
 Lauren Shell

Well this is just a mess. In my efforts to find photos from my days in Staunton, I've found too many beautiful photos. Good grief. 

Well, since I've already started, here's one more. 

Jim Byrnes and Megan McDonough