Thursday, 28 October 2010

Science is fun

Thank you msnbc for brightening up my evening. I like it when geeks get rude.

The phallic mushroom

 Herpetologist Robert Drewes at the California Academy of Sciences is reportedly thrilled to have a 2-inch-long, penis-shaped mushroom from the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe named in his honor, Phallus drewesii.

"He wasn't offended by it," says Jameson. "I mean, wouldn't it be cool to have a new species named after you?"

Drewes initiated extensive biodiversity studies on Sao Tome and Principe and dedicated more than 30 years of his life to research in Africa. The shroom's discoverers said they named Phallus drewesii after Drewes because of that dedication.

How can you not smile?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Make me dance, I want to surrender

This has been in my head for the past 2 weeks and it only gets better.

I love Stuart's weird little dance.

Very quick one today before i pass out from exhaustion.
We did act 3 today, and it went a lot better than i thought it would. One of the main actors in the act text me about 10 minutes before rehearsal started to tell me that he was ill and wasn't coming, so that cast a bit of a shadow, but luckily my fabulous producer Sarah was there to read in for him.

For the most part everything went well, although slow and stilted, like yesterday. One hindrance was the changing of rooms. Due to room booking difficulties, which i explained yesterday, we have to keep breaking up the rehearsal to move to a different room, and today half an hour was lost because the people who were in one of the rooms before us didn't clear out when they were supposed to. After a stressful 10 hour day on campus I didn't take this particularly well, but i think the cast picked up on my stress and blasted through the act once we got going in a very focused and professional manner.

I'm growing more confident with every rehearsal.

On an unrelated note, my fabulous boots arrived today, and not only are they stunningly beautiful, they are also unbelievably comfortable. I wore them for over 11 hours today, running around like a mad thing from rehearsal to meeting to newspaper office to another rehearsal and they didn't hurt one tiny little bit. Also, they make me 6 foot 1, which can only be a good thing.
I'm never taking them off.

Stand by me

Stand By Me from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Playing For Change
Song Around The World
My mum sent me that today and it made me smile, so i thought I'd share it.
So, week 4 of rehearsals, today we ran through Act 1.
The way that The Crucible is set out, there are no scenes, just acts. This means that breaking down rehearsals is difficult, because a lot of the time there are 10 or more people on stage. As I've said before, directing large groups makes me slightly uneasy, if only because I'm worried that people without a lot to say will get bored and resent the fact that they have to come to a 4 hour rehearsal just to say 5 lines. I don't want people to be bored or resentful, i want people to be engaged and happy.
So today, in Act One, I had 10 people. We started off with me explaining how the play was going to work in the space, and explaining the set and costume concepts I have come up with. We played some warm up games (and i mean that literally, the room was FREEZING! I had them all running around like mad things so that we wouldn't all get frostbite) and then got stuck straight in.
I feel slightly like this rehearsal process is running backwards. We are starting by blocking the scenes in the space, then going back in to develop character and motivation behind the blocking. It's not the way i like to work, but the restrictions on room bookings in the actual performance space means we have to do it this way. After next week we won't be in the space until the week of performance and i want to make sure the staging works in real life the way it does in my head. I felt kind of bad for the actors, being shoved straight in to blocking a scene they had only ever read in read through, and doing it in front of the rest of the cast. I know that i would have felt uncomfortable acting in that situation, and one thing i really try to do as a director is never put my actors in a situation i would not feel comfortable acting myself. But needs must, as they say. All of the actors did extremely well, and didn't seem fazed.

We went through the act slowly, with me moving people about, trying to make the scene look natural and uncluttered, which is tough when there are supposed to be 10 random townspeople in the bedroom of an unconscious 10 year old girl. The acting was rather stilted, and it was slow going, but that is to be expected on a first walk through. After just over 2 hours we finished blocking and took a break for dinner. Coming back after half an hour we ran the act once without interruptions (for the most part) so that i could see how it flowed, and how long it was. Although far from perfect, and running alarmingly long (50 minutes for one act. At this rate the play will be over 4 hours long!), it looks strong enough, and i let the cast go early.

Tomorrow we do Act 3, which is the real bitch. Everyone is on stage for almost the entire thing, and i need to make it look credible, uncluttered and engaging. My leading Lady has bronchitis, so I'm focusing on the acts that she has less to do in, but it's far from ideal. I think I'll get a good night's sleep. I'll need it.

Ooh, in unrelated news, I'm going to a Halloween party as a tattooed lady this weekend, and I've been playing with tattoo designs. This is my favourite Egon Schiele drawing, which i got bored and drew on my arm this morning.
I love it. My friend is tempting me to get it done for real. What do you think?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

This is gratuitous.

This video makes me giggle like an idiot. Seriously, every time Eddie Redmayne or Ben Wishaw come on screen i turn into a gurgling mess.

I think it's best if you ignore the other two, they're just not as good.

Would it be alright with you guys if i married Eddie? I think Lucy Redmayne has a certain ring to it.

And if he says no, then maybe Matthew might say yes?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I don't know what i can save you from

I got dumped this afternoon. Not quite sure how i feel about that.

On a slightly brighter note, my dad is hilarious, and just sent me this as a response to my previous post:

Sorry you had to find out that way...
But yes, according to the Rev Danny, who sees clearly now the rain has gone, both Seana and I are very gay indeed. Compound gay in fact,because even now we sometimes play Bobby Dy, Lou Reed and the Grateful Dead ON THE SAME EVENING.
And, to further blacken our names,we sometimes do so in the company of consensual (evidently equi-gay) friends - many of whom you know and might have liked until the news came out. Damn, you've even stayed with some of them, in their nasty gay houses.
I guess I might have to clear my 'frequently played' playlist before Ivisit any doctrinaire countries, because there's hardly a single straight tune there. Apart from Mozart, who seems to be a hetero little squealer. Keep pure. I think you should stick to brass band music - but check there's only one oboe player.

leave to no faith when faith brings blood

I defy you not to smile while listening to this.


Really good rehearsal today.
After a completely infuriating day (my computer got a virus last night and i spent 3 1/2 hours trying and failing to get it fixed when i should have been working for my seminar tomorrow) I was tired, cranky and ready to be disappointed with my cast. This is the first rehearsal we've had where everyone has turned up and i had a whole rant about dedication to the play and the rehearsal process planned. I did give them a brief telling off, highlighting how great they COULD be if they turned up, on time and prepared to work, to rehearsals, and then we started the read through of the second half.

It was slow going at first because of edits that i had to make after people dropped out last week, but everyone was focused and seemed to get in to it. The second half ran at almost 2 hours, which is worrying me slightly. I'm not sure what the run time of the show is, but i know any audience starts to resent you after three hours. We'll have to see to that.

After we had finished the read through i gave them a break for 15 minutes, then brought everyone back in for a discussion. I like doing this, partly to gauge people's reactions towards the play and their characters, but also as a way of getting them thinking about the larger ideas of the production. We ended up talking for over an hour and a half, discussing each of the characters in turn, their motivations, their relationships and their effect on and within the play. Everyone was very engaged and came up with some very interesting points, some of which had never crossed my mind.

I came away from the rehearsal on a high, extremely satisfied with the comments that had been made, and with the mood of the cast as a whole. If they keep up the level of enthusiasm and insight that they showed today then the play might not be cursed after all!

On a totally unrelated not, I've been making fun of this website on my facebook today because i find it ridiculous.

The list of gay bands basically means that me, my parents, my friends and almost everyone else i know is gay, which i think will come as news to most of us. The logic behind the safe bands is even more questionable (how is Tom Waits considered "gayer" or more subversive than Amanda Palmer in her full Dresden Dolls glory?). While it is fun to mock such obvious bigoted stupidity, and I'm sure that many of the suggestions for bands were sent in by people who find the site as ludicrous as I do, it also terrifies me to think that there are people in the world who cling to such small minded, fearful, hate-mongering ideas and call it religious purity.
With the recent spate of teen suicides related to gay bullying, and the start of the It Gets Better project (which is amazing, check it out, buzzing in my head as i was re-reading the play, these lines of Hale's really stuck out for me, and i thought I'd share them.
"Beware... cleave to no faith when faith brings blood. It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift: no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it."
I may not be a religious person, but i cannot understand how "judge not lest ye be judged" and "love thy neighbour as thyself" could possibly be mutated into something which causes such pain to confused teenagers that they would rather die than live to see how great life might get. It makes no sense to me.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Do you look for a whippin'?

Week two of actual rehearsals. I woke up angry, having received a barrage of text messages from cast members saying they couldn't make the read through today. Mondays and Tuesdays are rehearsal days, and they've all known this for weeks now, so my patience is running thin. I send round a text saying that the read through is cancelled this evening, making clear just how pissed off I am. I then text my Proctor, my Elizabeth and my Mary Warren and ask them if they have the afternoon free, so that we can get the first half of Act Two up and running. They all say yes, so the day isn't a total loss, but it means i have to change my rehearsal plan AGAIN.

I spend the early afternoon planning the rehearsal between Proctor and Elizabeth. Act Two is probably my favourite in the play, if only because it is the one with the least people on stage. So many of the scenes end up with about 15 people standing around, and while that is something of a spectacle it's a bitch to choreograph. I think this will be the last large cast i work with, the whole thing seems more administrative than creative.

Anyway, i plan some silent improvisations and look over the scene, and when we start our rehearsal i explain how the stage will be set up and how the scene will run. Again, I'm slightly nervous with actors i haven't worked with before, and the fact that everything seems to be going wrong with the play has put me on edge, so i don't come off quite the competent professional i would like my cast to see me, but once we start working it all runs pretty smoothly. Both actors are great, very focused, eager and easy to direct, and in two hours we come up with a workable version of the scene. I leave to go edit my page of the newspaper and eat something, and we meet back in two hours for the second half of the rehearsal.

The next part we are rehearsing comes directly after the scene we did earlier, so it's not too hard to get in to, and the actress of Mary knows both of the other actors already, so the room is pretty relaxed, but for some reason the focus has gone. Everyone is hyper and the scene quickly deteriorates into pantomime. While it is amusing, it is also tiring, and after a while i have to call the room to order. I wanted this rehearsal to be like the ones on Thursday and this afternoon, where we could run the scene a couple of different times, exploring different motivations, but the energy of the group means that I'm forced to be less experimental, more prescriptive in order to ensure we stay focused on the task at hand. I'm not sure giving specific direction this early in the process is particularly productive, but we ended up with a satisfying, if not perfect version of the scene. I sent them away telling them to learn their lines so we could come back to it next week and try and do it off book, in order to really focus on performance.

The day, although different from what i had planned, extremely tiring and more than a little frustrating, ended up being productive and relatively satisfying. I'm hoping that by working the scenes with fewer people in them first, when we come to larger cast rehearsals i can show the rest of the cast the level we have already achieved, and that will encourage them to work equally hard. I recognize that I'm avoiding working with the larger groups to a certain extent, and that there is only so long i can keep this up, but for now I think I'm building my confidence with the group, and getting a better relationship with the lead actors, which will hopefully stand me in good stead for when i have to choreograph the larger scenes.

Basically I'm a chicken and I don't like telling groups of 15 people what to do. This is a flaw I have to work on.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Clockwork colour

A little video i made of a creative hair show i did at the beginning of the summer.

Loved that make-up.

But when it goes well...

I'm trying to remember what i told you in my last post. I think i was all stressed out because of people leaving the play, but i had yet to come up with a solution, right? Well i spent all of yesterday in the crepe cafe on campus (yes, my university has a crepe cafe, it's amazing), re-reading the script for the five millionth time and trying to figure out a way to keep all the lines without adding anyone new to the cast, and guess what?


Basically I'm splitting the lines of the characters who dropped out among other similar characters, so Susanna Walcott's lines are now split between Betty and Mercy, Marshall Herrick's lines all go to Cheever, and Judge Hawthorne's lines mostly go to Judge Danforth. The proof will be in the reading of the second half on Monday, but i think it'll work.

Even after that piece of good news, i still woke up this morning feeling behind schedule and worried that week 2 was almost over and we had yet to have a proper rehearsal, so i text my Proctor and my Abigail and asked them if they wanted to do a scene. I booked a last minute rehearsal room for one hour and we set to work. The scene that we were looking at is a very small but very important one, since it's the only time you see Proctor and Abigail alone. Both of the actors had read the scene in their respective auditions, but it was their first time reading it together. I told them to look over the scene again before they came in so that they were familiar with it.

I'm always nervous at the beginning of the rehearsal process, especially when working with people i haven't directed before, and i think the actors could sense that, but once we got going everything went spectacularly well. Both of them had learned their lines (on their first rehearsal! My mind was officially blown!) and were willing to play with the scene. We only had an hour, and were in a weird rehearsal room, so rather than trying to block the scene we just fiddled around with characterization and motivation, and i think we got some really beautiful stuff.

I came away from that one hour feeling like the week had been a positive one, which, all things considered, is rather remarkable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful father, who reads all of my blog posts and who, after reading the previous post and the comment about the boots, sent me a lovely email telling me to keep my chin up, and to buy the boots at his expense. He is a lovely man, and I'm sure my cast will thank him for saving their director from a nervous breakdown.

I love you.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oh dear oh dear

Continuing my documentation of the rehearsal process for the Crucible.

Today we had our first read through, or half of it. We only got to the interval, and it took us two hours. Three people were missing, two of whom play two characters, so i was reading in 5 parts as well as the stage directions (and as any of you who have read anything by Arthur Miller will know, there are a LOT of stage directions.) All of this was manageable enough, but then half way through one of the cast signalled that she wanted to talk to me. We left the rehearsal room while people continued reading, and she told me that she had decided she couldn't commit the time needed to be in the play, and that she was going to leave. We went back into the room, she packed up her stuff and left, all without interrupting the rest of the cast.

About half an hour later we had a break and i explained what had just happened to the rest of the cast. She is the second person to drop out in two days, and i said to the rest of the cast that if any of them were feeling the same it would be better for them to leave now, rather than disrupting the course further along the rehearsal process. Two more actresses left.

I'm beginning to think this play is cursed.

Saying that, the read through went well, the remaining actors are very good, even in the rather dry and normally awkward reading stage. People were performing their lines instead of just reading them, and i think that we can still make a strong play.

The dilemma i now face is whether to cut characters and lines, which i really don't want to do, or to multi-role people, which i think will look ridiculous. I plan on spending most of my day tomorrow in the crepe cafe on campus reading through the script and trying to make sense of this mess.

You know what would make me feel better? Those brown boots. Hint hint...

Veins into bendy straws

I'm completely in awe of this kid.

Ok, so, the experiment.
Basically, I've just cast my version of The Crucible, which is being performed in just over 9 weeks, and i thought I'd try and keep some sort of production diary charting the ups and downs, the stresses and triumphs, of the whole rehearsal process. So here goes.

First off I'll tell you about the audition process. I hate auditions. I cannot wait until I'm a big enough director that i can get a casting agent to do it for me. It is my least favourite part of the whole process. The thought of sitting in a room for 8 hours at a stretch, listening to the same speech over and over again and having to judge people puts me on edge. It's horrible when there are too many people and you have to not cast people who are good, but it's even worse when you don't have enough people audition. This thought keeps me awake at night. The hour before auditions start i can't be spoken to, I'm paralysed with terror in case no-one turns up. Normally my fears are completely unfounded and everything runs smoothly.


Last week was the first round of auditions. The Crucible has a cast of 20. Over the 10 hours of auditions, spread out over 2 days, i had 21 people audition. I wept. There were some great people who auditioned, but not everyone who auditioned was good enough to cast. I re-called all but 2 of the people i saw. Then came the weekend, where i was at the catwalk show and couldn't focus on the play like i really needed to. I had to come up with some sort of solution. In re-reading the play i managed to cut out 3 characters without cutting any of the lines, and i booked some more auditions for Wednesday. I couldn't sleep on Saturday night because i had anxiety dreams about casting. My worst directorial fear was coming true.

On Monday were the recalls, and almost everyone performed very well. Monday evening was the director's meeting, where the directors of all the plays on this term come together and fight over actors. It all went surprisingly well, and i cast 10 out of my 17 roles. This meant that i had to find 7 people in my auditions on Wednesday, which were open to people who missed the auditions last week. Again, i didn't sleep because of anxiety dreams.

Wednesday came, and an hour after auditions opened i had only seen one person. I was on the brink of tears. Then people started showing up. Good people. I managed to cast the remaining roles without recalling, and started feeling slightly more confident. Booked rehearsal rooms and told people to meet this evening at 6 for the first read through.

So we get to today. The scripts which i ordered from amazon don't arrive, so my plans for a read through are scuppered and i have to come up with a rehearsal plan not remotely based on the text. At about 5:15pm, i get a text from an actress saying she can't be in the play. I try and remain calm, text message a girl i really wanted but couldn't place and offered her the role. I only hyperventilated for a minute. I wait in the common room and gradually the cast show up. They all think I'm crazy because I'm checking the time every two seconds and manically counting them to see if everyone is there.

We go into the rehearsal room and i explain that we have no scripts, and that i re-cast someone about half an hour before, and that we won't be doing a read through. Everyone seems understanding, excited and eager. We introduce ourselves and play some drama games. The cast seem to get on well and respond to the exercises, but are slightly unfocused and chatty. I put it down to nerves. Rather than play generic icebreaker games which aren't particularly productive in translation to performance, i chose exercises from physical theatre, getting people thinking about proximity, contact and movement, as well as hopefully breaking down inhibitions. Ideally playing these on their first meeting will mean that when we come to the read through tomorrow the cast will be less nervous in front of each other and really willing to go for it.

All in all I'm pretty happy with how today went, and much more relaxed about the whole process than i was when i woke up this morning. Feeling quietly optimistic.
Bring on the read through.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Silk and leather

This collection took my breath away. Its harshness and sensuality, the mix of textures, the asymmetric cuts, the colour, everything about it is just so damn sexy. Haider Ackerman knows how to make women look hot.

Now i just need to figure out how to translate it into my everyday wardrobe.

You're a slick little girl

So last weekend I did a catwalk show for Vidal Sassoon, and I thought I'd document it for you guys. I only brought my phone, so the photos aren't that high quality, but you get some idea of the process. I got in at 11am on Saturday, left at 11 that night, got back in at 8 on Sunday morning, and the show finished at about 7pm. Here's the weekend in pictures. Play the song while you look.


So there it is. What did you do last weekend? I hope for your sake it involved less painful shoes.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

You're a stone fox

Does anyone else plan their outfits based on literature?
Seriously. Not like dressing up as your favourite book character; when I'm getting dressed i think about passages from books i love, passages which describe the effect of the way someone looks. The one that i can't get out of my head right now might give you an example of what i mean.

Lux Lisbon, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides -
"Trip spent most of his days wandering the halls, hoping for Lux to appear, the most naked person with clothes on he had ever seen. Even in sensible school shoes she shuffled as though barefoot, and the baggy apparel Mrs. Lisbon bought for her only increased her appeal, as though after undressing she had put on whatever was handy. In cordouroys her thighs rubbed together, buzzing, and there was always at least one untidy marvel to unravel him: an untucked shirttail, a sock with a hole, a ripped seam showing underarm hair."

Do you understand? Or am I going slowly insane?

Don't stop dancing or you'll fall off

A couple of film clips today which make me smile.
I was thinking about musicals, and about films which incorporate song or dance sequences but which aren't musicals, and i thought I'd share some of my favourite sequences with you. Enjoy.

This one is so beautiful it hurts. Watch Dans Paris right now, all of you!

This one is slightly less moving, but makes me smile real big.

This isn't strictly a dance sequence, and it won't let me embed the video, but this scene stuck with me. I think it's beautiful.
Another one i definitely wanted to include, but which can't be found on youtube is the scene in the dance club from Away We Go which had me sobbing for about half an hour. Melanie Lynsky broke my heart. Go watch it. Also the bowling alley tap dance from Buffalo 66, which is dreamy.

You've all seen this before, but it makes me happy, so deal with it.

We watched this in my film seminar on musicals yesterday and my lecturer started crying. I love him so much. If any of you haven't seen enchanted yet, you need to. I saw it 3 times at the cinema. Amy Adams is amazing.

Did you notice that Patrick Dempsey is wearing the same outfit as the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and that the dance and the shots echo the dance in the ballroom from that film, which in turn were taken from Sleeping Beauty? Disney is manipulating us with nostalgia, and it's working.

So yeah... more films should have dance sequences.
Can you think of any i missed, or that i should watch? I'm on the hunt.

Who needs a shrink?

When these shoes exist, who needs therapy?
Now I just need to pick a colour, and find some cash. I've had a shitty week, I think I can rationalise this...

Or, if any of you really love me, they're Jeffrey Campbell Lita boots, and I'm a size 9. I think the distressed brown leather, but it's up to you.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Let your hands do the talking.

I'm going a little blog crazy tonight, because I haven't had internet at home for so long and there's so much I want to share with you. I think this is the last for tonight. Enjoy it.

I love their faces, and way that it looks so simple and so complex at the same time, and the fact that the song is a remix of the one sung by Tom and Dickie in The Talented Mr Ripley.
I want to learn to do that.

Action! And Glorious Adventure!

Fan made trailers make me happy, and this one is one of the best i've ever seen.

Oh so stylish.

And while we're on the subject of films, here's a review/article i wrote about "I'm Still Here" which i think you should read.

I’m Still Here, the Joaquin Phoenix “documentary” that has had critics and fans alike guessing for two years came out last week, and like its mysterious star it’s a tough one to figure out.

When Phoenix went on David Letterman two years ago, the entertainment world was shocked. Though the actor had already cultivated an air of unpredictability, shunning the squeaky clean image so many film stars try so desperately to acquire, the sight of him bearded, bespectacled and mumbling was not something the media or the general public were prepared for. Speculation about his mental health abounded, countless parodies were performed, and more than one person wondered aloud if it were not all just a big hoax to raise the star’s media profile. The film world waited to see what Phoenix’s next move would be. And waited. And waited.

The film, directed and primarily shot by Casey Affleck, brother of Ben and brother-in-law to Phoenix, opens with the actor wondering whether the media portrays him as dark and mysterious because he is, or whether he is that way because that is how people expect him to be due to media coverage. An interesting, if not altogether original thought, which raises the question of how much anyone in the public eye can really control how people see them when everything about them is filtered through the distorted lens of celebrity.

The image that the audience get of Phoenix from the film, often drunk or high, fat, hairy and almost unintelligible (subtitles are used throughout the film, despite the fact that everyone is speaking English), is so different from any ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse of celebrity that it is at first funny, but quickly becomes mildly disturbing. Whether you believe the film is real or not (and Affleck finally revealed last week that it was a hoax), you are being allowed to see something very rare, a performance without a shred of vanity. The man simply doesn’t seem to care what people think of him.

When people thought the film was real this was impressive, but now we know it isn’t it becomes something almost revelatory. Try and think, just for a minute, of any other actor who would be willing to put his entire life on hold for two years, ruin his public image, and potentially jeopardize any future offers of work for the sake of a giant prank on the entertainment industry, his fans, and the world at large. Whether you like him or not, whether you see the point of it or not, you must admit, that takes some balls.

The film itself follows Phoenix from just after he finished shooting Two Lovers, through his attempts to set up his hip hop career, climaxing with the now infamous Letterman show. At turns hilarious and poignant; regardless of whether you’re watching him as a character or a man, the journey on screen is raw, disturbing and occasionally absurd. More of a curiosity than a film you’ll want to re-watch again and again, it confronts the viewer and makes them question how much they should trust the images of their favourite stars as shown to them by the entertainment media. In its own unusual and deeply unorthodox way it serves as a reminder that celebrities are people too, and that you shouldn’t judge anyone until you have all the facts, because what you see and what is real may be worlds apart.

Tomorrow I'm starting an experiment up here, so keep checking back. Hopefully it'll be interesting. Also I've had a review of Despicable Me written for about 4 months and it's finally getting published next week so i can post it, and I'm writing a review of Buried as soon as i finish this post, so that will be up shortly.
It's all systems go around here!