The sporadic ramblings of Emily C. A. Snyder - devoted to God, theatre, writing, and much randominity.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Artistic Director and Co-Founder of TURN TO FLESH PRODUCTIONS. | Author of "Nachtstürm Castle," "Niamh and the Hermit." | Playwright: "Cupid and Psyche," "Math for Actors." | Classical director and educator.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

In lieu of the past several weeks

one will be subjected to the SpeedJournal, a la Randominity.

  • Oliver Twist CD on, music by Rachel Portman. Thus far, up to Ms. Portman's usual standard, although not as daring as Chocolat (but then, as a period piece, it doesn't need to be). Alas, I missed the film in the theatres - in part because when given an option, I felt that it probably would be just as seeable on the small screen for less money, whereas Serenity was most likely best on the big screen - however I bought the CD sight (sound?) unseen (ear has not seen, eye has not heard!) which is, I suppose, the mark of a good composer. Now, granted, a Rachel Portman CD is going to always sound like a Rachel Portman CD - whereas John Williams, for all everyone poo-poos him, doesn't always sound like John WIlliams (see his retro-chromatic-jazz-isms with Spielberg, such as on Catch Me If You Can) - but it's comforting to know that Rachel Portman will sound more or less like herself. Its as though each album is simply the next movement in the overarching symphony of her musial career. So, yay for Rachel Portman. (And wonderings about her short-lived musical - now on tour? - Little Women. Although I love Portman's music, I can't quite think of it with lyrics....)

  • This past two weeks or so, I have converted to Burgar King mainly for their Angus Burger with mushrooms. "A shortcut!" "A shortcut to what?" "Mushrooms!" Which in no way explains why I tried the triple Whopper today except that I must be getting adventurous in my quarter age.

  • Much to my surprise, my piano playing and sight reading are improving. Proof that practice actually makes a difference. Proof, too, that although I advocate practice it took me two years to figure that one out for myself. Proof, finally, that I didn't do my own piano teachers service whilst I was under their tutelage. Mea culpe. Ah, the things one learns when on the other end of the proverbial chalkboard!

  • Rain rain, go away.... Fortunately, the condition of the roads is still good, but a week or more worth of rain a very angry Emily makes. And one can't kick rain. Stupid rain.

  • Came home yesterday with a prodigious headache, compliments of stress, lack of sleep, lack of caffine, lack of sleep, nearly 72 hours spent almost exclusively at school, resulting in lack of sleep, compounded by lack of sleep. Hence, upon returning home, and without passing go to collect 200 mg of advil or tylenol, I went to sleep; woke to watch Alias and have dinner (rice and curry are my friends), and then to sleep. Woke around 3 a.m. and went to sleep. Repeat at 7 a.m. and again at 9 a.m. Woke for real about 10 a.m. feeling enormously better. And now am sipping caffine a la my poison of choice. Moral, ladies and gentlemen? It's play season and sleep is a rare and precious commodity.

  • In the "I trust I make myself obscure" category: had a rather...interesting...anxiety dream last night. Now, nothing unusual about the dream itself per se - or rather, what anxiety was in the limelight - but unusual in the subplot, into which I will not greatly delve. However, the mainplot (or the subplot, depending on how much of a romantic you are), revolved around the increasing anxiety over finding another play for the spring show. Cue segue.

  • The Saga of the Spring Show (Note: The following has been edited to fit a public blog. Any repetitions from previous blogs are the result of the author not bothering to sift though her previous articles. Deal.) Last year, towards the last few weeks of rehearsals for KOF, I was so fed up with the divadom happening in the cast, that I decided that our winter show would be Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest. But, as time passed after KOF, I realized that I just didn't have the heart to make cuts in the drama department and that since I had more than eleven actors, I wouldn't do Ernest after all.

    So, the search for a winter play began. I was trying to find something with the following criteria:

    1) About twenty speaking roles
    2) Morally sound
    3) Two hours or less
    4) Low to non-existant royalties

    I found ziltch. All the good plays were twelve or so actors with no real room to expand (e.g., Moliere, Wilde, etc.). Or, if it had a ton of actors, it would play about three hours long (e.g., Wilder, Auntie Mame). If it was bad, it was bad and I coudn't bring myself to do it (e.g., half of the Baker's plays). Or, it fit all the criteria, but just wasn't "right" for the school (e.g., Murder in the Cathedral).

    So I brought up the question to my actors, and tentatively mentioned that we could do Nutcracker - hoping, however, that they wouldn't choose that one, because it would mean I'd have to write it because we are not a ballet school and more, the only version I found of it written out was definitely for elementary or middle schools. Of course, that's what was chosen - and it's good and it all turned out well and everything's settling down and gearing up for it - and I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic play (Dec. 9 & 10 at Marlborough Middle School theatre! Come and see it!).

    Which meant, I thought, that we were all set for this year: Nutcracker and an edited down version of Hamlet. But what I didn't foresee was that there would be contention over Hamlet. (I still don't know why - I mean, I know my kids can do it, we're an acting intensive school, not musical-"acting" but real delve-into-it acting. Why not give them the chance at the greatest play ever written in the English language? I just don't get it. But then.... *sigh*) So, to appease TPTB (as they say in the Angelverse), I've been searching for another play. Criteria slightly different and something like this:

    1) Please, God, not a musical - for the following reasons:

    ...a) While we have the female voices in spades, we don't have the male voices.

    ......i) But My Fair Lady only needs one good male voice (Freddy - noooo! Spare us from the Freds!)! Yeah, but it only has one worthwhile female lead. No go.

    ......ii) But Annie only needs one good male voice (Rooster) and it's FULL of girls! Yeah, but the Arts Alliance is doing it this summer. It wouldn't be couth. (Esp. since they've been good enough to lend us body microphones this past year!)

    ......iii) But The Sound of Music only needs one good male voice (the boyfriend of Leisl whose name escapes me now - wanna bet it's Fritz or something?)! Yeeeeeeeah...if I had to do a musical, this is the only one I can think of that might fit our criteria (albeit the stage version isn't half as good as the film, which is in itself an issue). But then we run into the reasons Why We Should Not Do A Musical At All:

    ...b) The cost - everyone forgets to factor in the cost of the orchestra. It's an expense that a play simply doesn't come with. More, royalties for musicals, particularly good ones, tend to be steeper than royalties for good plays (let alone mediocre or classic ones!).

    ...c) The time - to put on a musical (or to put one on WELL), we need a good solid three months. And that's with three hour rehearsals, minimum. (There's been a rehearsal time issue that we're dealing with now.) Because people need to learn their lines, learn their blocking, learn their characters AND learn the music and learn the dancing AND act through it all. AND we have to rehearse the orchestra and then rehearse the orchestra with the cast and.... It can be done more efficiently the more people take charge - if there's separate music, stage and dance heads - but at HCH there's only me. If we hired separate directors, the cost would be treble what it costs now. (Plus the musicians, plus all the OTHER adds up.) And it takes more time for HCH anyway, because we're simply not a musical theatre school. That's not our strength - nor, and I stress this, need it be. *sigh* Anywho.... So, rehearsal time is a factor.

    ...d) The length of the show. Everyone was upset because KOF ran two and a half hours which, when added up with the obligatory ten-fifteen minute hold due to audienc who refuses to believe that curtain up at 7:00 means curtain up at 7:00 and persists in their belief that that or later is the arrival time, as well as the verity that there's No Such Beast as a Fifteen Minute Intermission (what with bathroom lines and little Bobby who MUST have his cookie!), any given musical (with a literal handful of exceptions) will run all-told three hours. For some reason, this was An Issue for the audience at HCH who is, apparently, not used to musical-length shows. If we do another musical, i.e., The Sound of Music, it's going to be the same deal.

    ...e) More specifically to HCH, as an acting school, we've become an ensemble school. Our actors are happiest when we're doing a play which lends itself more to ensemble work rather than a musical which breeds divas - either among the three worthwhile roles or among the denizens of the much-lamented chorus. NO DIVAS!!! Shall I repeat it? I WILL HAVE NO DIVAS!!! *huff huff huff*

    2) Soooo...what play is there out there that fits our new criteria?

    ...a) The play must be two hours long or shorter.

    ...b) I've been told that TPTB want a modern play (aka, I believe, a play set post 1914, not one merely written post 1914. Although perhaps the desire is for both).

    ...c) Written by a known author. (Amen to that fair prayer say I!) And preferably, I'm guessing, a known play by said known author.

    ...d) That is funny. (I'm going on gut instinct here. I think part of the objection to Hamlet is the thought that it's a tragedy and we don't want a tragedy. But it IS awfully funny, and the last act is all about grace. Anywho....)

    ...e) And can encompass twenty or so actors, has good roles for women, can be feasibly rehearsed in a mere two and a half months with significant interruptions, and is morally sound (my criteria).

    3) Unfortunately, while I've been beating my brains out reading plays again, like I did already last spring/summer (one of my frustrations: I've done this! I've not not done this! Gah!), I'm coming up against, surprise surprise, the same difficulties I did last time. Only now my criteria are even more restricting. Regardless, I've looked at the following plays:

    ...a) Aunt Mame had potential, because it has a HUGE cast, but upon rewatching it and then reading the racier script, it doesn't fit the morally sound aspect. Not to mention that although the female parts are great, the male parts are blaugh. And the set *shudder* how in the world could I manage that set? And it's looooong.

    ...b) Our Town has a HUGE cast, is morally sound...and is three acts long. I've been in it. A three hour play? Uuuuuuuuuugh. The set would be no problem (what set?), but, frankly, it's kinda boring. It's still an option, but...meh.

    ...c) Do a series of one acts or chamber theatre pieces, a la How to See a Bad Play - except that it'd take writingish on my part and as an experimental piece, I don't know how it would go down. It would also isolate the actors into Just Their Piece rather than ensemble bonding. Again, it's an option but perhaps a little advant garde - and how in the world would one advertise it?

    ...d) I've also looked at Wilde's other plays, but although I love, for example, Ideal Husband it isn't as funny as I recall. I thought about Moliere's The Hypochondriac after all - but it ends so weird, I don't know if it'd work. Peter Pan is an option, but it isn't half as good as the book and again only has one worthwhile female role that's of any length. I'm wondering if it isn't worth it to just take a short story - Alice in Wonderland, etc. - and chamber theatre the heck out of it - with narrator and all - but that would mean writing again and I'm trying not to write. I can't really get behind O'Neill, Coward, Brecht, Shaw (Pygmalion is doable but has still, only one worthwhile female role), or *shudder* Miller (Crucible is lots of females, but hardly funny, and FOUR FREAKING ACTS LONG!!!).

    4) Look, I'm trying my hardest not to fight for Hamlet. Trying to give up the - no pun intended - ghost of it, as it were. But...gah. Anywho. Praise God. It'll all work out. Meeting Wed. hopefully. Hopefully more clarity then.

  • Which brings me back to my dream: I was dreaming that I was holding auditions for the Spring play, that was still up in the air. But we were reading from Hamlet (except that it included passages from Romeo and Juliet) when I realized that another teacher had a good singing voice (a la a student suggestion). So I said, "Ah ha! We can do Fiddler on the Roof! And then it turned out that Zero Mostel (sp?) was actually teaching next door at St. Mike's and so I ran over and begged him to play Tevier again, but he grandly said those days were over. Then I woke up and said, "Ah ha! I could do Fiddler!" But then I realised that a) I need more than one good male voice which I don't have b) although I love the play it, too, is three or three and a half hours long c) it's not just a sing-y's very very dancey. Bah.

    So I went back to sleep and we were rehearsing, apparently Hamlet and Juliet and for whatever reason I was Ophelia/Juliet which was weird because I was in the scene and unable to see whether it looked good from the front, much less whether I was any good. However, the way the play was going had an interesting love triangle? Quadrangle? And some good blocking which I still remember. *sigh* But it was odd because of the subplot which, the time being nearly time for me to drag Jules off to Elizabethtown, I will not expand upon.

  • Otherwise, despite some shaking about in the cast due to conflicts, schedules, etc. I think we're going to do well and have a great show. Praise God! And now to see something that I am absolutely not in charge of. How nice.

    Mood: The tip of my nose is freezing. How weird is that?
    Music: Regarde en haute.
    Thought: Still need to write Whedon rebuffs. However, managed to sneak him into one of my religion classes, much to the delight of one of my fellow Firefly-fans.


    Anonymous Julie said...

    the boyfriend of Leisl whose name escapes me now - wanna bet it's Fritz or something

    Ralph, silly, his name is Ralph! As in, what a dog that guy turns out to be! ;)

    BTW, let's figure out when to see Elizabethtown again.

    7:35 PM  
    Anonymous Damask Rose said...

    No wonder you've had no time for blogging!

    Anyway, you have now inspired me to read - no, study - Hamlet for the first time. King Lear, has always been my favourite.

    Thanks for your always interesting company on the web!

    7:54 AM  
    Blogger Emily C. A. Snyder said...

    LOL - thanks. :)

    I must admit that I really need someone to explain for me the beauty of Lear - I've yet to see a live performance that I'm sure could make a devotee of me (as seeing Sam West's Richard II did) but I'm looking forward to Joseph Pearce's biography of Shakespeare that apparently pays great attention to Lear.

    At the risk of being a lemming, Hamlet has always held a fascination for me just because I've heard so many interpretations, seen so many interpretations, and then read the silly thing several times - and each time new questions arise, new thoughts, new understandings. I'm sure there is no "definitive" Shakespeare, as there is no "definitive" version of any play - how can there be in a live medium? - but still there's such a richness in the text that I'd really love to get my mitts on it again!

    Jules - Ralph? Really? Paugh. I don't suppose we can pronounce it a la Fiennes?

    1:46 PM  
    Anonymous Damask Rose said...

    Dear Emily,

    I wish I could say something intelligent to you about King Lear, but I fear that is quite beyond me! I studied it at school aged 17/18, and of all the plays of Shakespeare that we read, it has stuck with me through my life. Events in my own life and in other people's often remind me of King Lear, and at different times, I have been struck by some insight, that OH, this is what Shakespeare was getting at! I was fascinated at the way his life disentegrated so completely - now I see it as a sort of "dark night of the soul".

    Anyway, I'm not much of an intellectual, so can't really discuss these things with you on your level, more I learn from you. But certainly, I think it is a great play.

    7:18 AM  
    Anonymous The Southern Thang said...

    Nothing drew Lear in for me quite as well as Akira Kurasawa's interpretation via "Ran." Might be worth a view if you haven't tried it yet.

    On another note entirely, I offer all my best wishes for the upcoming season and hope it doesn't involve to much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.


    4:38 PM  

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