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Saturday, December 26, 2009


I love quotes. My facebook page is littered with them. It doesn't matter whether it's funny or serious, silly or profound--if a quote appeals to me, you can bet I'm going to share it somewhere. I especially like it when I find a quote that I can relate to or agree with.
One of the gifts I recieved yesterday was a daily planner (something which I've been needing...heh, did I ever mention I stink at orginization?) from my amazing, wonderful aunt. The planner itself is cool enough, but it also includes gorgeous illustrations of whimsical fairies...and quotes. My aunt also gave me a quote box to hang on my wall. It features a quote from Roald Dahl, and it reads, "Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in the magic will never find it!"
Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Dahl. No surprise that such a well-worded revalation came from the man who introduced us to the Big Friendly Giant and led us through Willy Wonka's marvelous Chocolate Factory. The above quote inspired me so much that I decided to share some of my favorite quotes with you--both from my new daily planner, and from other sources. I hope you find some of them as inspiring as I do.
This one is usually attributed to Voltaire, but in fact it was a quote about him, summing up his view of the world, rather than by him. You may have heard it before: "I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Then there's the ever-wonderful Mark Twain. He's remembered as a beloved humorist and author, but one need look no further than his masterpiece, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," to see that he could also be very profound. One of my favorite quotes of his shows that he was an excellent judge of character: "“A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation."
Here's one that applies more to the creative side of things, and thus fits perfectly on this blog: "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."--Thoreau. I've talked before about how artists must adopt a unique view of the world, and it seems Thoreau agrees. For instance, how can you possibly create a believable, well-motivated villian for your novel when you yourself haven't encountered a few real-life imps and demons?
From my new daily planner comes a quote from St. Frances De Sales. It is a tender affirmation for those of us who have had our kindness mistaken for weakness: "Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength."
And lastly for today is a quote which applies to all of us--and everything we've ever created, nurutred, or cared for: "The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
Thank you, Nelson Henderson. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

...and also the busiest, which is why this blog has been neglected for a month.
In the past four (or is it five? Hmm...can't recall.) weeks, a ton of stuff has been going on with me. Creative stuff? But of course. Time-consuming stuff? You bet.
Here's a few of the many things which have kept me on the move and off the computer for the last month:
1) Running lights for Peewinkle's Puppet Studio's Christmas shows. Talk about your adorable holiday activities for preschoolers. I look forward to working this show every year. The puppeteers who perform here are awesome, and the show is so sweet, funny and cute that I never get tired of watching it.
2) Going back to square one on my current attempt at a novel. When I say current, I mean the project that's been hammering around in my head for the last two years. THAT project. *Facepalm* This time, though, I think I've actually made progress. My characters aren't wandering around in a desperate search of a map, a plot and a good stiff drink any more. I've finally figured out where they're going and--with some luck--how they're going to get there. More will come on the blog about that, but for the time being, know that Faery Tail (working title, folks--please excuse) is back on track.
3) Finishing up asst. directing Home For Christmas, Buck Creek Players' Christmas show of the year. This was an amazing experience. The director for this show is one of the nicest, sweetest, most considerate people I've worked with. She gave me a ton of awesome opportunities to try my hand at directing, casting, blocking, you name it. The cast was absolutely incredible--we had a great mixture of veterans of the stage and newcomers, but they were all wonderful to work with across the board. I had a blast--and learned a lot about directing and all that it entails. The show closed last Sunday, and while I was sorry to say good-bye to my Home For Christmas family, I was--and am--looking forward to my next theatre project...which is...
4) MY FIRST EVER SPEAKING ROLE ONSTAGE!!!!!!!! This is by far my most exciting news. I, Ruthie, have at long last gotten a speaking role! The show is "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." It's based on the work of Robert Fulghum, and I've gotta say, it's awesome. It's just the right mixture of profound and silly, heartbreaking and knee-slapping, simple and deep. There's not a scene in this show I don't love. If you haven't heard of Robert Fulghum, take fifteen minutes and google him. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Anywho, I auditioned and was cast in the show three weeks ago. I've attended two rehearsals so far, and the cast and crew are all awesome. I can't wait to get to know them better. We're breaking for Christmas at the moment, but we'll be starting up rehearsals again in January full-force...which means four nights a week. Teh woot! Again, there will be more about this to come. :)
So that's my story, and I'm sticking with it! My current project is pretty much relaxing, rejuvinating, and looking forward to my favorite day of the year...CHRISTMAS! Mwahahaha! The next two weeks are completely school-free and project-free. The only things I've got left to do are wrap a couple of presents and clean my room a bit. Heheh. This week is all about the Christmas countdown, but next week I'm planning on knuckling under and getting some chapters written on my novel. 'Cuz, let's face it...as of January 5th, my creativity is going to be pretty much focused on getting ready for opening night of Kindergarten!
Thanks for the patience with me, guys. This blog'll get a little more consideration now that the holiday rush has slowed a bit. :) Love you all, and more to come!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Christmas Makeover!

Christmas is hands-down my favorite time of the year. The colors, the lights, the decorations, the sense of goodwill, the carols--I love absolutely all of it. I come from a long and proud line of Christmas Elves, and I'm no exception. My family and I decorate our house for Christmas promptly the day after Thanksgiving, and start listening to our vast collection of Christmas music long before that.
It's also my busiest time of year--especially this year! I just recently started rehearsals for a Christmas show I'm asst. directing, which means four or five nights a week of driving a half hour to and from the theater and at least two hours of rehearsal a night. I've also got some paying work coming up: I'll be working at a downtown puppet studio running lights for both of their Christmas shows. Besides all that, I have lots of Christmas presents and writing projects to get done.
As such, I decided to give my blog a Christmas makeover a little early. (What? November can be the Christmas season, too, right?) Since I usually only get on this blog once a week or so, I figure it evens out. ;-) I also have some blog posts coming up on the creativity of the Christmas season, so stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, enjoy the Christmas colors and carols that have been added to the Sky's the Limit universe, and breathe in the scent of peppermint and pine needles! (Or just pretend you can smell peppermint or pine needles.) Better yet, go out there and start getting ready for the best holiday of the year...I know I am!

Friday, October 23, 2009

For Camelot!

I had planned to do a post about writing today, as I haven't written about my author-ish efforts of late, but then I watched Camelot, and decided I needed to write about that.
This isn't the movie version of Camelot; it's an actual stage performance that was videotaped. Richard Harris still plays King Arthur, although he's quite a bit older than he was in the movie, and Meg Bussert plays Guinevere. We've been watching this for school over the last three days (hey, c'mon, it's a LONG SHOW) and just finished it up today.
*Rubs hands together* Now, where do I begin?
First of all, let me say that I'm much more easily touched by watching stage performances than filmed ones. Yes, this stage performance was filmed, but it was still a stage performance. Whatever happened onstage that night, be it the perfect run or the show where everything fell apart, that was what was going on that tape. And what happened onstage was something magical.
As an actor, I think that one of the most important skills you can develop is having what I call a "range of emotions." This basically means versatility; the really astounding actors can go from heartbroken to outraged to lovestruck to ecstatic and everything in between, they can do it in a brief span of time, and--here's the clincher--they can do it believably. There are very good actors who don't have this quality; they're the ones who get typecast, or stick with the character bits where they can showcase their talents. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But if you want to talk about having a range of emotions, let's talk Richard Harris for a minute. Oh, my word.
King Arthur is such a legendary figure to begin with that tackling this role must be a challenge. Throughout the show Camelot, Arthur is everything; from an empty-headed schoolboy to a fearful husband fleeing from his bride, from a young king bursting with ambition to a weary, desolate king who has lost everything important to him. And everything in between.
Richard Harris pulled this off STUNNINGLY. Everything he did was textbook perfect. In the first act when he meets Guinevere for the first time, he was spry, energetic, and absolutely charming. In the second act after he argues with Guinevere over Lancelot he is nostalgic and tender. But the section that really blew me away was act thrree, when Arthur realizes that Guinevere and Lancelot are in love, his illigetimate son is plotting to take the throne, and his beloved round table is breaking up.
Take the scene when Guinevere is going to be burned at the stake for treason. Richard Harris walked onstage--no, really, he didn't say a word. He just WALKED OUT ONSTAGE--and you instantly knew everything he was thinking. His step was both despereate and exhausted, both tortured and uncertain. He turned to face the audience, and your heart broke. He didn't even have to speak!
And then there's the scene right towards the end, when Guinevere and Lancelot come to him just before the battle, begging to be taken back to Camelot and punished rather than face the coming war. Richard's face was soaked with tears by the end of that scene. Soaked.
...and I thought that I was hot stuff when I cried a little onstage for the first time last year during acting camp. Sigh.
His performance alone is enough reason to watch this rendition of Camelot, but it gets better. Although I do believe that he is far and away the best actor in the cast, his fellow cast-mates do measure up. Guinevere is very good, and although Vanessa Redgrave's performance in the movie might have been more fleshed out, Meg Bussert can SING! Woohoo! Richard Muenz as Lancelot is smouldering and passionate and a joy to watch; and Richard Backus is a positively eerie Mordred. (Hmmm...lotsa Richards in this show. Heh.) And don't even get me started on Barrie Ingham's King Pellinore--the second he walked onstage in act one with that dog, I was rolling on the floor with laughter. The sets and costumes are exquisite, too; I could wax eloquent on both, but fear that I've expounded the virtues of this performance long enough.
The bottom line is this: if you haven't seen either version of Camelot, see at least one of them (and I HIGHLY reccomend this version.) If you've already seen the movie version, see the stage version, too. It's SO worth it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Everybody's Got the Right

I've already mentioned that I'm a Sondheim fanatic. Last week I bought a soundtrack to one of his shows, Assassins. Take a look at the first verse of one of the songs:

"Everybody's got the right to be happy,
Don't be mad, life's not as bad as it seems,
If you keep your goal in sight, you can climb to any height,
Everybody's got the right to their dreams."

At first glance, this seems to be a lovely, inspiring, uplifting song, right? Okay, now that I've got you lulled into a false sense of security, take a look at the second verse.

"Everybody's got the right to be different.
If you wanna be different.
Even though at times they go to extremes.
Anybody can prevail, everybody's free to fail,
No one can be put in jail for their dreams."

Suddenly, something seems a little more sinister, doesn't it?
In truth, this is the finale of a show which is extremely creepy and sad, but also terribly thought-provoking. As the name of the show might suggest, Assassins is about all the people who have attempted to assassinate a president throughout history. From the successes (Booth, Oswald, etc.) to the failures ("Squeaky" Fromme, Zangara, etc.) they're all here.
...typical musical fare, right? Heh.
But anyway, the thing that I find so cool about this show is the way it looks at these historical misfits. The show definitely doesn't cast the assassins in a good light, but it doesn't make them out to be the villians, exactly, either. What it does is examine their motivations--and it highlights something in particular. Each one of these people feels cheated out of something they thought they were promised. The American ideals made them a vow, and for whatever reason, they feel that vow has been broken. So they set out to right the wrongs and settle the score.
Just look at those lyrics again. The words are ones we've heard every day since we first sat down in American history class--as Americans, we're promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But the way that the assassins have distorted the Amercian dream is positively eerie.
I talked before about how being an artist means that you look at the world a little differently. Assassins is a perfect example of this--try stepping back from something as world-shaking as Lincoln's assassination, and looking at it from the sidelines. Imagine forgetting about the immorality of the act for a minute and instead saying, "Why did Booth do that?" And if you can imagine that, try going one step further and saying, "How can I put this into lyrics and music without making light of it?" Sondheim accomplishes all of this beautifully, and when the song "The Ballad of Booth" comes on, you *almost* feel sorry for Booth--ensconsed in a barn, in pain, manically believing that history will vindicate him, before shooting himself dead rather than giving himself up to the authorities.
And then there's the song "Something Just Broke." This is the only song that doesn't directly involve any of the assassins--actually, it wasn't even in the original production. It was added for the London production, and was included in the 2004 Broadway revival. In this song, several citizens recount where they were and what they were up to when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I get tears in my eyes when I hear these lyrics:

"Something just left a little mark.
Something just went a little dark.
Something just went.
And I wondered--
I was scared--
What would follow...
Something to be mended.
Made me wonder who we are...
Something we'll have to weather--
It was seeing all those torches...
Bringing us all together--
He was me...
He was us...
--If only for a moment...
I'll remember it forever...
Nothing has really ended."

Goosebump-inducing stuff. Even though I wasn't alive when it happened, Sondheim's words and heart-aching musical themes make me feel the fear, the sorrow, the absolute uncertainty of what might come next.
If you ask me, this song is a great memorial for J.F.K.
If this show is ever in your neighborhood, go see it. It's worth it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

And now, a musical interlude

Recent visitors to my blog may have noticed some jaunty little tunes emanating from the bottom of the page. I realized I hadn't really given an introduction to my newly-added musical background, so I thought this would be an excellent time for a music-related post.
Music has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom is a rabid music lover, and one of my earliest memories is of her singing me to sleep at night. My grandparents (my mom's side) are also crazy about music. Every year since I was four, they've taken me to a local ragtime festival, and I've grown up tapping my foot to such classics as the Maple Leaf Rag and the Easy Winners. My dad's side of the family was never quite as into music, but even so, my dad enjoys a good toe-tapper as much as any of us.
Although we may not be aware of it, music is an integral part of almost everything we do. When we see a movie, there is often an underscore that we don't even notice, highlighting the most dramatic scenes of the film. When we walk into a store, an appropriate radio station or soundtrack greets us and invites us to browse the aisles as long as we please. There is music for all types and tastes: cheery, sad, fast, slow, danceable, breathtaking, etc.
Music infiltrates my life in many other ways as well. I am a hobbyist cello player, and I especially enjoy puzzling out tunes from movies and favorite artists on my instrument. When I write, I often put on a selection of Chinese instrumental music, as it helps me concentrate while also giving me energy. As far as the theatre is concerned, musicals are one of my favorite kinds of shows. From the current Broadway hits (Wicked and Legally Blonde, to name a few) to some golden oldies (Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun) to some obscure ones that nobody else has probably even heard off (Zanna, Don't, anyone?) my playlists are choc full of showtunes.
And speaking of playlists, this would be a perfect time to bring up yet another way that I express my creativity.
I am the proud owner of an iphone, so I can and do carry my tunes with me wherever I go. Scroll through my song list and you'll be greeted my an insane amount of variety. I'm not the type that listens to just one or two genres. If you put my ipod on shuffle, you may be catapulted from pop to 60's music to showtunes to movie soundtracks to Chinese instrumental to children's music to country pop to Christmas tunes and everything in between.
What's the story with all the variety? Well, the trick is, I keep an open mind. There was a time when I would have turned up my nose at the idea of country pop. My mom has always said she isn't a fan of country, so even though I'd never really tried the genre, I stuck with her opinion. Then I started listening to Shania Twain, thinking she fit more into the "pop" category. Then, once I found the wonderful world of Pandora, I created a station for Shania and started listening to such artists as Rascall Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and Jo Dee Messina. And I discovered something--I actually liked it!
So now I'm careful not to wrinkle my nose at something before I give it a shot. Right now in school (have I mentioned that I'm homeschooled? Hmm--material for a later blog post, I think. :P) we're doing a unit on music appreciation. We're working on the baroque period at the moment (one of my mom's favorites.) Again, I've never been much of a classical music type, but now that I'm listening with open ears, I'm finding some songs I really enjoy. Maybe some Bach will find its way into my ipod one of these days.
But the point of all this is, my music is me. Every song that I make room for on my ipod is important to me. Whether it's a tune from a silly Disney movie from ages ago, a Christmas carol in the middle of July, a Hilary Duff song with lyrics that speak to me, or dance song that's just darn fun to listen to, every song on my ipod will tell you something about me. And if you look at the list as a whole, you'll definitely get a good sense of my personality.
So that playlist you're hearing on this blog, that's a tiny piece of my master playlist. Maybe I'll post a few of my favorite artists and albums sometime--the songs that are playing are some of them. Each one will tell you something abuot me. "Breathe" is my favorite song by one of my all-time favorite artists, Michelle Branch. "Celestial Soda Pop" is the song that goes with a number at a puppet studio I work for. (More about that in the next post.) "Positivity" sums up my view of the world. "Candle on the Water" is from one of my favorite Disney movies ever, Pete's Dragon.
And...in its own way, isn't creating a personal playlist which catalogues, through notes and lyrics, all the things that are important to you...isn't that creative?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Building Bridges

Today my little brother Ben (he's four years younger than me) interrupted me while I was reading a book on Yiddish theatre. He told me he'd just finished reading a short story which had creeped him out and confused him, and he wanted me to read it and tell him what I thought it was about. When I asked him how long it was, he informed me that it was only about five pages.
Five pages? I thought. Not very long. But I gave the story the benefit of the doubt--my thus-far only published story is only four pages, so there you go. Agreeably, I picked up the anthology, flipped to the page he indicated, and started in.
About fifteen minutes later, I closed the book and turned to Ben, who was giving me an expectant look. "I have to tell you, kid...I have no idea what it's about, either."
We spent the next half hour trying desperately to put some meaning to the mystery story. We both agreed that there SEEMED to be some profound message SOMEWHERE in the five-page puzzler, but neither of us could put our finger on it. Ben was more outraged than I was; he's an avid reader, and it bothered him, I think, that this simple story had thwarted his inquiries. I was somewhat amused by the whole thing; I wondered what the author might say in explanation of himself, if questioned about the story.
Now, I never want to condemn another artists' work. As I've said before, I think art is anything that comes from man's creative labor. That said, the story both puzzled and intrigued me. The ending of the piece was extremely ambigous--there was no resolution, as far as I could tell. It just sort of...stopped. It almost felt to me as if the author forgot to write an ending. I know this isn't the case, but it still bothered me that there was absolutely no finish.
But above all, what bothered me most was that I had to work to understand the story. I still don't understand it. I believe that in the storytelling arts (such as theater and writing, which are of course my focuses) the audience shouldn't have to work too hard to understand the message.
Take Shakespeare, for example. Although I'm sure Billy Shakes didn't realize that his work would be nigh-incomprehensible for the masses hundreds of years later--or even that it would still be around--the fact remains that Shakespeare is tricky stuff for a lot of us. I've read several of his plays and taken classes to understand them, and I still have trouble sometimes. But the thing is, Shakespeare isn't meant to be read--at least, his plays aren't. They're meant to be performed.
When I saw Much Ado About Nothing in August (yes, I'm FINALLY getting around to talking about that, lol) I'd never read the play. I had a basic idea of the plot, but I didn't know much. My brother knew even less. Yet we both agreed by the end of the show that we understood most of what had happened.
Why? The acting. Perhaps we couldn't translate every single word that came out of the actor's mouth, but we instantly understood the intent behind it. If an actor states blandly, "Friendship is constant in all other things, save in the office and affairs of love: Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues; Let every eye negotiate for itself, and trust no agent," we are, perhaps, confused. But if this same actor laments this while clutching his chest, we understand instantly,
a-ha, he's been betrayed! In other words, we as an audience don't have to struggle to keep up with the story.
In the story that I read today, however, I was left staring at the last sentence, wondering, did I miss something? Did a page get ripped out of this book? What's the meaning here? What did the author want to tell me when he wrote this? I still have no idea what the answers to these questions are. My brother read the story twice and he has no idea what the answers are. Again, I'm not saying the story was bad, or that it was badly written. But I was dissatisfied after reading it, and dissapointed. I wished that I had been able to grasp what the author wanted me to know.
When we create, we build a bridge to invite other people into our world. We say, "Look--this is the way I see things. Would you like to look through my eyes at my universe?" We must remember that the bridge will always seem safe to those of us who built it, and the path to our world will always seem easy to understand for those of us who constantly traverse it. It's all to easy to get caught up in our own creativity and forget the outside world. If you create art only for yourself, there is nothing wrong with this--it gives you an outlet, and a good one at that. But if you create with the intention of sharing your creations with outside viewers, it's always good to leave a few signposts along the way to the bridge.
We wouldn't want our audience to lose their way. ;-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finishing the hat

Stephen Sondheim is one of my favorite composer/lyricists in the world of musical theatre. I find his shows to be thought-provoking, powerful, romantic, and funny all rolled into one. You never know exactly what you'll come across in a Sondheim show; from a murderous barber to a mixed-up fairy tale, it's always an adventure.
One of his shows, Sunday in the Park with George, details the life of artist George Seurat. Throughout the first act, you're able to watch him working on his famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. But you also see him seeking--and ultimately losing--the heart of his young mistress, Dot. It is clear to the audience that Dot wants to love George, but is unable to because he is always so distant, so involved in his art. George explains this from his own perspective in a moving number, Finishing the Hat.
George is busily working on his painting, trying to create a picture, trying to paint a hat. He knows that Dot is going to leave him, and in a way, he is unhappy...but he can't experience the situation fully. As he begins to describe, he can never see the world the way other people do, because he's always "looking through a window" to see how the world looks. Here's the last few lines of the song:

"And when the woman that you wanted goes,
You can say to yourself, "Well, I give what I give."
But the women who won't wait for you knows
That, however you live,
There's a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat...
Starting on a hat..
Finishing a hat...
Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat."

I think most artists will agree that art changes your view of everything. George, perhaps, is an extreme case--but isn't it true that inspiration can spring from life's worst tragedies?
Here's an example. Last summer, I had a huge falling out with my best friend, and it was pretty much decided that we should cut off our friendship. It was not a friendly break-up, and besides the natural sadness at losing a friend, I was shaken up confidence-wise. I wondered if I could have done something different, if I had really been a good friend up until that point, etc...even though my family and other friends continued to assure me that it had NOT been my fault, it still took me awhile to get my confidence back.
But throughout this whole experience, there was a part of me standing back, watching the drama play out, saying, "Wow. This is SO weird. I've got to make sure to remember this for a character someday."
...which is quite bizarre, if you think about it. In the middle of this big emotional upheaval, I was considering my art. I was flipping through character motivations, wondering what play I could perform where I could use this emotion--or, alternatively, what story I could craft around the situation.
As artists, we've taken on a unique challenge. Our art requires inspiration; inspiration comes from real life. Although not all art is tragic (I would argue that most isn't), it is true that most art needs conflict. And conflict isn't usually something as simple as needing to mow the lawn. In writing, conflict is the meat of the story that keeps the readers on the edges of their seats, hoping against hope that the characters will make it through okay. In theatre, it's what keeps the actors from shuffling around the stage unmotivated, complaining halfheartedly that their cat meows too loudly. In the storytelling arts, conflict is the reason the art exists. Without it, stories would be boring.
So, as artists, we almost have to take a step back from our own troubles and ask, "How can I use this?" Not all stories arise from real-life situations, but the emotions you use to create your art must be real to you. If you can't relate to the character(s) you're creating, there's no way the intended audience will be able to.
And think about this: no one else has experienced a situation the way you have. Sure, my break-up with my friend was painful, but it was mine--I am the only one who will ever go through that particular situation in that particular way. So, as an author and actor, I am the only one who can give that particular emotion to my art. I'm not saying I'm the only person in the world who's broken up with a friend, but I am the only one who's broken up with that particular friend, in that particular way, at that particular time. So...shouldn't I use that particular emotion to make something truly unique?

"Studying the hat,
Entering the world of the hat,
Reaching through the world of the hat
Like a window,
Back to this one from that."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Theatre endeavors

As promised, here is a brief (but enthusiastic!) report on my dealings in theatre of late.
Just recently I was contacted by one of my friends at Buck Creek Players, who was wondering if I'd like to run sound for their upcoming show, Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage. I've run sound at Buck Creek once before, for their production of Mark Twain Tonight. I'm not sure what my rehearsal schedule is going to be for this--I'm supposed to be meeting the director tomorrow evening, and I assume I'll get a better idea of what's going on then.
Then, starting October, I'll be assistant directing Home For Christmas, also at Buck Creek Players. The lady who's directing is a good theatre friend of mine; she produced the first show I was ever in, was in Mark Twain Tonight, and got me set up with my first assistant director gig (which was last spring.) She's really talented and super nice, so I'm looking forward to working with her.
I'm also slated to stage manage at Buck Creek next spring, but I'll give you more details about that when it gets closer to time.
Buck Creek Players is one of my home bases for theatre; Indiana Repertory Theatre is another. I just got out of summer acting camp there last July; it's an amazing place, and if you ever get a chance to see one of their shows, I HUGELY recommend them. I have not met someone working at that theatre, be it artistic director to janitor, who hasn't been creative and kind and wonderful to work with. I don't have anything in particular coming up at this theatre, as far as I know (I'm much more likely to take classes there than to be in productions there, lol) but you can be sure that I'll be attending shows. If nothing else, I'll be seeing their annual production of A Christmas Carol, which always features an amazing cast and is fantastic to watch.
I'll do a more expanded feature on each of these shows as they come and go, but for the time being, there's where I am in the acting world. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

...but is it art?

Ever seen this before?

And no, I'm not asking if you've ever seen a urinal at any point in your life. I'm asking if you've ever seen/heard of Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", which was one of his contributions to the Dada movement of art. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, he bought a urinal, turned it the wrong way, signed a fake name on it (R. Mutt) and submitted it to an artist's exhibition, where it was not displayed. As far as he was concerned, it was art.
Or was it?
I suppose the question is...what is art, anyways? Just type in "definition of art" in google and you'll get a multitude of answers. Here's just a few: "the products of human creativity," "the creation of beautiful or significant things," "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."
Come to think of it, what is "beautiful" or "significant" or "appealing"? I mean, personally, I think that the poems I wrote as a seven-year-old are significant. Does that make them art? Isn't significance in the eye of the beholder? Same thing with beautiful and appealing--what one person finds appealing may make another person feel sick to their stomach.
To return to Duchamp, then. Obviously, he found his "Fountain" significant. Whatever the rest of the world thought of his work, Duchamp had something he wanted to say, and he did so. Isn't that admirable, in its own right? Sure, I look at "Fountain" and think, "Hmmmm....that's a bit weird." But Duchamp thought it was beautiful. Isn't that sort of cool?
I like the first definition I found best, actually. I think that art is nothing more or less than "the products of human creativity." Art isn't necessarily something you do for outside approval--art is more often something you do for yourself, in my opinion. Maybe you share your art, but in the end, no one can put paintbrush to canvas or voice to notes quite the same way you do. Whatever the rest of the world thinks, if you let your creativity run rampant and make something special to you, then you've created art--no matter what it is.
...phew! That was quite wordy, wasn't it? My brother and I were debating the meaning of art the other day, and I decided it would make a good blog post. I swear I'll lay off the sermons and write something a little more lighthearted next--perhaps an update on my theatre endevaors. (I've got some great stuff coming up in that department.) :)
See you next time!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The beginnings of a great author?

My family moved to a new house back in April, and we (having been quite busy since then and being a family of packrats) are still unpacking boxes. Today my mom came across a short story that I apparently wrote at the tender age of six. She read it out loud to my dad, brother and myself, and by the end we were all giggling. There was no puncuation, the handwriting is terrible, and the spelling is atrocious. Nevertheless, I found it too amusing not to share with you guys. I'm going to type it up twice--first as it was written, bad grammar and all, then with my interpritation of what my sweet, six-year-old self was trying to get across. :P Enjoy!

Once apon a time a girl got lost she crid then i came who are you im your troubl fader! What she said troubl fader i dotnot undrstand siad the girl a troublfader is someane who makes yor trobls fadaway. i like you but How can you get me home i can how she siad youl see she siad good bie and the girl was home one day poof troublfader siad the girl i came to tell you im going to die as soon as the girl hrd that she crid her hrat out thers nothing i can do she siad the girl dsidid to have a fowerl no one else new wat a troubl fader was but thay all crid and crid and crid AND CRID
the end

MY STORY...the translation
Once upon a time a girl got lost. She cried. Then I came.
"Who are you?"
"I'm your trouble fader!"
"What?" she said.
"Trouble fader!"
"I do not understand," said the girl.
"A trouble fader is someone who makes your troubles fade away."
"I like you, but how can you get me home?"
"I can."
"How?" she said.
"You'll see," she said. "Good bye!" And the girl was home.
One day, POOF!
"Trouble fader!" said the girl.
"I came to tell you I'm going to die."
As soon as the girl heard that, she cried her heart out.
"There's nothing I can do," she said.
The girl decided to have a funeral. No one else knew what a trouble fader was, but they all cried and cried and cried and cried AND CRIED.
The end!

...Right. So, first of all, let me point out that this isn't an indication of some deep psychological torment I went through as a six-year-old. I swear. :P I know I had a huge love for fairies at that age--I wanted to be a fairy child really badly--so I imagine that the mysterious "Trouble Fader" was yet another iteration of my fairy obsession. I also seem to recall that I told a lot of sad stories as a little girl...kind of ironic, considering that I write mostly happy stories now.
Maybe one of these days I should write an updated version of this. You think? :P If I do, I'll be sure to post it on here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Enemies to creativity, part 1

For the creative, there is nothing so important, nor so frustrating, as the need to create. Personally, I don't write just because I want to--although that's certainly a major component--but also because I need to. To avoid writing when an idea for a story struck me would be almost impossible for me.
However, there are times when this urgent need is more of a handicap than a gift. For example, this need exists at all times--even when I don't have the means to act upon it. I still feel creative, even if I have no new ideas for stories at the moment. This is one of the most irritating parts of author-ism for me; there are evenings when I sit at my laptop, stare fixedly at a blank screen for awhile, try to come up with some suitable material to do away with my writer's block, and eventually decide that it's a wash and I might as well play solitaire for the rest of the night. The need to create persists, but it's thwarted by lack of inspiration.
Be that as it may, writer's block--or any other kind of creativity block, for that matter--isn't my subject for the day. My subject for the day concerns another foe to creativity, one which has thwarted me for the last week and a half.
Remember that Shakespeare in the Park event which I attended two weekends ago? (Yes, I still intend to review it--that'll be my next post--suffice it to say, it was brilliant.) Well, my determination to see BOTH performances ended up working against me. This being an outdoor event, the play-goers were exposed to the elements. The first performance was blessed with beautiful weather; the second performance was less lucky. Admittedly, it didn't pour down in buckets, but there was certainly enough rain to make it uncomfortable. By the end of the show, most of us were huddled under rain ponchos and umbrellas, cold and wet.
I suppose I can't blame the rain entirely for my subsequent illness, but I do think that it was partially responsible. I was mildly feverish for three days after that, and I'm still coughing, two weeks later.
My point in all this isn't to whine about how unfair it all is; it is merely to explain why I've been absent since then. I haven't been sick as a dog by any stretch of the imagination, but nevertheless, I've neglected my blog-writing responsibilities since then, and I felt you deserved an explanation.
Anyway. We will return to our regularly-scheduled creativity blogging tomorrow, as promised. Thank you for your patience, and I swear I'll stay on the ball better. :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Social or personal?

Depending on how you pursue it, creativity can be a social or a private experience. It can be an activity you engage in with a huge group of friends, or one which you would only attempt in the privacy of your own home. It all depends on what your interests are, and what your personality is like.
My two biggest passions encompass both ends of the spectrum. Acting for the theater is, obviously, an extremely social activity. Even if you're in a one-man show, you are working closely with the crew and staff of the theater. And one-man shows aren't common--more often you're in a cast with at least a few other actors. Writing, on the other hand, tends to be a very personal engagement. You sit at your computer or notebook and put your thoughts on paper (or word document), usually in solitude.
However, being the social creature that I am, my writing is much less solitary than it could be. When I'm cultivating a new story idea, one of my favorite steps is sharing the idea with my family members and seeing how they respond to it. Sometimes I'll hand out copies of the first chapter of my latest work-in-progress and let my parents and brother "beta test" the story for me. And when I finish a story, I often read it aloud to my little brother, to see for myself which parts make him laugh or catch his interest.
There's other ways to make social a very personal activity like writing--for instance, I know of writing groups or clubs where authors will get together and share their latest masterpieces with each other, looking for feedback and constructive criticism. I knew a writer who wanted everyone who read her novels to fill out long, involved questionnaires about what they thought of them. There's online communities where you can post poetry and stories and get feedback from around the world.
In this last half a year or so, I've had the opportunity to experience social writing in another form. A fellow writer who is a very dear friend of mine and I decided to do a collaboration and write a novel together. It's been an amazing journey--my co-author is much more experienced than me, both in writing and in marketing finished stories, but the method with which she tackles her writing is similar to my own. We work well together.
When we started out, neither of us had any preconceptions about what the story would be about. My co-author proposed that we write a sci-fi novel, and I agreed--I tend towards the fantasy genre, but I'd been wanting to try out sci-fi for awhile anyway. She suggested that we both agree on a setting and a few major plot points, then go off and separately create a few characters. Then, without much set-up, we'd jump right into the writing section.
This is by no means the only way to do a collaboration. I'm sure there are as many methods for working with another author as their are authors. But this method worked for us, as we both tend to focus on our characters when we write (as opposed to focusing on either the plot or the setting) and we wanted our story to be mostly a character study.
We sat down and discussed the basic fabric of the story, and within a few hours we'd come up with our conflict and setting. We decided how many characters were needed, and what kind. Then we disbanded and spent some time working on our separate characters--she created one, and I created two. We exchanged the basic information about our characters (name, job, appearance, etc.)--the kind of stuff the characters would already need to know about each other--and without further ado, began to write.
We took turns writing sections for the story. She would do a few scenes, then email me her piece; I would write a few scenes, and send it back; and so on. Sometimes we would write 20,000 words within a week; sometimes the story would remain untouched for a month. We both wanted to remain unpressured, so we made sure not to rush each other--this was a fun side project, not our jobs, and we both had lots of stuff going on outside the story. We took our time and let the characters develop at their own pace.
The key element I want to stress here is communication. That was what made this work so well, in my opinion. It sounds obvious, but there you go. :P We constantly were sitting down together and having conversations like: Me: "I know we need to have such-and-such happen soon...do you want to write that scene, or should I?" Co-author: "I've got to finish up my scene with so-and-so, then you can write it, if it'll fit into your section." Me: "Sure--I just have to make sure I work in this other such-and-such, so my section might run a little long." And so on. We weren't territorial about our characters--even though I created and oversaw the main parts involving Characters A and B, my co-author wrote them into her scenes frequently, and vice versa. And we were careful to check with each other to make sure we were writing each others' characters the way they wanted.
Anyway, the point is, we're coming up to the final stretch of writing here. The climax has been and gone, and we're working on the big finish now. Once the actual writing is completed, my co-author will edit it thoroughly (she loves editing), we'll make our re-writes, and then beta-test it on our family members and friends. After that, it'll fall to me to do most of the marketing. It's been a ton of fun writing with someone else, and we're planning to do more collaborations in the future.
Oh...and I forgot to mention that my co-author doubles as my mom. :P Hey, my passion for writing had to come from somewhere, right?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spotlight on theater: Much Ado About Nothing

Tomorrow and Saturday evening, I'll be attending a live theater event which, if you're in the area, you won't want to miss out on.
Heartland Actors' Repertory Theatre is returning for their second year at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis in an event called Shakespeare in the Park. This year's production will be William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. There will be two performances at 8:30 on Friday and Saturday evening (July 31st and August 1st.) It's an outdoor event, so bring your trappings for a picnic. The best part is that it's absolutely FREE! No cost for admission--just sit yourself down and enjoy the show.
I attended last year's production of The Merchant of Venice, and I was absolutely astounded. The acting was truly incredible. I was in tears at one point. Despite the fact that I was unfamiliar with the play, I had no trouble following the storyline--the cast expertly interpreted Shakespeare's sometimes-tricky-to-understand language and made it effortless for the audience to do the same.
I'm personally accquainted with several of the cast and crew members in this year's production. I've taken theater classes with the actors playing Margaret, Leonato, Don John, and Claudio, and I've met the director. I can vouch for all of them-- they're talented AND great to work with. Which, as we all know, are both equally important when it comes to theater.
So anyway, if you're in the area and have an evening free, this would be a great way to spend it. Incidentally, here's the page for White River State Park, which also has directions from different sides of town: www.in.gov/whiteriver/
Keep creating!


www.dictionary.com defines “creativity” as such:
“The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.”
I’ve taken classes from an actress who has a unique way of tackling a script. When she’s given her lines, she goes through them one by one and marks every word that interests her, that she’s unfamiliar with, or that seems important. Then she takes the first word she marked and looks it up in four or five dictionaries—starting with a modern dictionary, and working her way back until she’s using an old English dictionary. She methodically finds every possible definition for the word in question, and looks at how each different definition might affect her reading. She does this for every word she’s marked—it’s her way of finding complex, intricate layers in the language of the script.
I can’t claim that I looked up the word “creativity” in five different dictionaries, but I did search around a little bit, and this was by far my favorite definition. There’s a lot going on in just those few little sentences.
“The ability to transcend traditional ideas” is a good beginning. Looking past the “norm” of the world around us isn’t creativity in it of itself, but it’s certainly the first step. Living by the guidelines that society (and tradition) have set up for us can be difficult enough without the added challenge of seeing around those guidelines. I also love the word “transcend.” I mean, come on, that’s just a rockin’ awesome word.
But the second part of that sentence is the meat of this definition: “to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.” This is what creativity is all about—creating a story out of nothing but your own thoughts; weaving an image on a canvas that, before, was nothing but a white blank; strumming a chord on a guitar and choosing words to accompany it. Creating something out of nothing, something that needs to be shared with the world.
And the word “meaningful” jumps out at us, too. Creativity doesn’t have to mean taking on the Big Questions, or the current issue of the moment. Creativity doesn’t have to leave the audience with tears in their eyes, or walking away murmuring, “That was so powerful.” What creativity does have to be is personal. Maybe you’re writing a story about bananas that go to the moon, but if that’s what means something to you, it’s creative. And maybe you do tackle Big Questions, but that’s because they mean something to you. Creativity has to be meaningful—not necessarily to the intended audience (if there is one), but to the creator.
Which brings me to this blog.
I’m a seventeen-year-old who is growing up in the Midwest of America. I’m an aspiring actress/teacher/author who spends a lot of time in community theaters, in my room writing fantasy stories, and making up silly games based on tv shows with my little brother. All three are equally important to me—all three are ways that I am creative. I also spend some time making animated music videos and playing the cello—these are also ways that I express myself.
How are you creative? I can’t begin to imagine. There are a multitude of ways to be creative. Maybe you write music, or dance, or make programs to teach people how to do their job. Maybe you’re creative in ways I’m not even aware exist. However you express yourself, I’d love to hear about it.
So I’m bringing my story to the web. I’m going to express myself in a new way: by writing daily (or as often as I can) updates about what I’m doing to express my imagination. When I audition for a show or get a part in a play, I’ll write about that. When I’m working on a new story or a new music video, I’ll share that with you, too. I might interview people I know who express themselves in unique ways, or review shows, books, songs, etc. that I’ve seen/read/heard. Maybe sometime I’ll write about going vintage clothes shopping with my aunt, because that’s a way that I express myself, too, believe it or not. :P
But the point is, I want this to work both ways. The fun of a blog, I think, is that it’s an open communication. You can read my story, but I can also read yours. Share your blog links here, share your stories, share yourselves. This is all about creativity, and I want to know how other people pursue it.
So to conclude this inaugural post, welcome one and all, and I hope to hear from you soon. :)