Friday, December 26, 2008

Top Videos of 2008

It is the day after Christmas and we are still recovering from the stupor of yesterday’s excitement. Realizing that there are only a handful of days left in the year, I felt the need to seize a few moments to throw another "best of" list up on the ol’ blog.

Today’s feature? The best videos of 2008…

The following videos are those that kept me entertained throughout the year but were not shot by me. There were so many great moments on YouTube that it was impossible to narrow it down to five, so you what have here a Top 10 list. In the case of video series, I will imbed the link to the first of the series. Videos that could not be imbedded are linked in the title.

President-Elect Barack Obama on Election Night
One of the most historical nights in American history and I am happy to say in unfolded in my lifetime. That’s hope, my friend. Hope.

This tribute to one of my favorite shows of 2008 is totally [tos]some. I loved seeing all the familiar faces and incredible support for this inspiring show. And, of course, you have to check out the [title of show] Show, which was instrumental in Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan’s transfer to Broadway.

Legally Brown: The Search for the Next Piragua Guy
The star-studded series Legally Brown: The Search for the Next Piragua Guy from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Co. is so entertaining. I love how Broadway is embracing the YouTube phenomena and the folks at In The Heights do it some serious justice.

Merry Christmas, Nicholas
The heart and soul of In The Heights is that the cast and crew of the show have heart and soul. This video highlights the classiest move on Broadway this year, hands down.

The Battery’s Down
The trials and tribulations of the multi-talented Jake Wilson come to life in The Battery's Down. This theatre-centric online series comes cram-packed with Broadway guest stars and appeals to the drama geek in all of us. A man after my own heart, Wilson directs, writes, choreographs and stars in this online TV series which highlights some of the brightest composers on the horizon. Now if he could just land himself a big fancy Broadway job. But perhaps that will come in Season 2.

Prop 8: The Musical
The highs and extreme lows of the hate-fueled anti-marriage vote in California are given a musical twist by another star-studded cast. The musical theatre lover in me loves shit like this.

Cubby Bernstein
The vigorous 2007-2008 Tony race for Best Musical spawned the video campaign that unveiled Broadway wunderkind Cubby Bernstein. At the heart of the campaign was underdog Xanadu, the charming little musical that took residence at the Helen Hayes for a spell.

Frozen Grand Central
This video of an improv group Improv Everywhere unleashed on Grand Central Station. Simply amazing.

Old Mr. Drew
At Iconis’ Secret Show at the Beechman a couple months back, Joe sang a couple of tunes and several up-and-coming composers bearing his stamp of approval also performed. Molly Hager performed Michael R. Jackson’s “Old Mr. Drew” which just left me speechless. This video is from Michael’s show Dirty Laundry and is just mindblowing.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
What happens when a couple of Hollywood writers on strike are looking to kill some down time? Brilliance, that’s what.

The following videos are the fruits of my budding camera work and editing skills.

OSP Montage Video
In January 2008, the band formerly known as Old Springs Pike booked five shows at Joe’s Pub. I went to two of them and assembled this video from the January 4th footage. Days later, John Gallagher, Jr. and the band parted ways. OSP sans Gallagher is now known as The Spring Standards and Gallagher performs solo. While both musical acts are doing well in their own right and enjoying their own successes, I can’t say this montage doesn’t make me a little nostalgic.

Jason "SweetTooth" Williams et al - The Goodbye Song
I’ve been to several Iconis shows this year, an addiction that began with this song. A couple of my videos feature John Gallagher, Jr. performing the E.T.-inspired closer to Iconis shows. However, it is this simple version performed at The Secret Show that is is my favorite. Right before they performed this song, Joe invited anyone who knew the song to join him onstage. Believe me, I was tempted.

Isabelle’s Voting Results
South Street School had a mock election on the twins’ birthday. Isabelle first explains what she would like for her special birthday meal and then tells me who she voted for in the election.

Peter Pan Video
My summer was spent in Neverland with my family. I assembled this video for the cast and crew. It reminds me of how magical theatre can be sometimes.

The Bar Song
Another Iconis tune. For some reason, this song breaks my heart a little.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 5 Productions of 2008

So I’m sitting here on this cold, snowy December morning thinking about the New York theatre I saw in 2008, attempting to compartmentalize everything into a scant few Top 5 lists. Let me tell you – it has been a challenge. But I think I’ve done it.

So, without further ado…

The following Top 5 list is based on Broadway and Off-Broadway productions I personally saw in 2008. There were, in fact, a lot I did not see: Passing Strange because I was stupid, South Pacific because I had to make choices, Billy Elliot because I’m broke. I suspect this list would have been drastically different had I seen any of those shows.

1. August: Osage County
August: Osage County is widely known as the three-hour play that you want to last another three hours. And it has not earned that reputation without reason. It is a brilliant, character-driven story that propels you through a few tragic yet hysterical days in the Weston household. To put it simply, August: Osage County leaves you beautifully stunned. Tracy Letts’ subsequent Tony and Pulitzer are so well deserved. I saw the production early enough to see the entire original cast, including the author’s father, Dennis Letts, who was in the final days of his battle with lung cancer. To read my complete review, click here.

In September 2007 I slept on the line at the Delacorte to see the concert in Central Park. In August 2008 I did the same thing to see Diane Paulus’ fully realized production as part of The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park series. And in February 2009, I’ll trade in my sleeping bag for a $100 bill and will be able to see it in a big fancy Broadway house. Little will compare to that sultry summer evening in Central Park, seeing this moving and inspired production of Hair under the stars and in this political climate. The memory of rushing to the stage to dance to the final strains of “Let The Sunshine In” with this stellar cast will be forever cherished.

3. [title of show]
[title of show] touched a nerve, tickled my funny bone, made me cry and won my heart in 90 minutes. The “little show that could” chronicles its own move to Broadway in a way that speaks to all creative types battling those dreaded vampires. Rocking hard with only four chairs, Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan proved that a small, original musical has just as much right to the Broadway stage as those big, splashy type musicals. Sadly, [title of show] was one of the many casualties of the bleak 2008-2009 season. Something, however, tells me that we haven’t seen the last of this incredible foursome or their original musical. And I certainly am one [tos]ser eager for their return.

4. In The Heights
In June, being caught up in the delightful frenzy of Ms. Antoinette Perry’s company, a friend and I agreed to get tickets for In The Heights for September just moments before it won the Tony for Best Musical. Of course, I was foolishly thinking I’d have the money to afford a full-price orchestra seat by then. After selling about $150 worth of CDs, I raised the money and despite the looming threat of Hurricane Hanna’s aftermath, I headed to NYC to see In The Heights. And the adventure begins there. I missed my train and arrived in GCT with 10 minutes until curtain. I grabbed a cab and was dropped off in a torrential downpour two blocks away from the Richard Rodgers. As soon as I got out of the cab, I realized that I was missing my wallet along with my train ticket, credit cards, ID and $200 cash (to pay my friend back for the aforementioned unaffordable ticket). I ran through the pouring rain to get to the theatre, picked up my ticket at the box office and rushed down to the 2nd row. Just as soon as I announced, “My wallet is gone!” the house lights dimmed and the show began.

During the whole opening number of In The Heights, my mind was racing with worry. Even still, it didn’t take long for this invigorating and heartfelt production to reel me away from those worries for a couple of hours. In The Heights is an exuberantly performed show that inspires on so many levels. And,
like [title of show], I heart Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of In The Heights, too.

5. Port Authority
One of my personal favorite actors, Tony winner John Gallagher, Jr., made two post-Spring Awakening appearances on the Atlantic Theater Company’s stage in 2008. Most recently he appeared in the much touted Farragut North, which I unfortunately had to miss. Earlier in the year, however, he appeared in Conor McPherson’s beautiful monologue play Port Authority, which I did have the good fortune to see. Alongside the brilliant Jim Norton and the masterful Brian d’Arcy James, Gallagher’s vulnerable and heartbreaking turn as a young Irishman helped to create one of 2008’s most pleasant surprises and a memorable evening of theatre to behold.

[title of show], August: Osage County, Cry-Baby, Equus, Hairspray, In the Heights, Spring Awakening (2x) and Xanadu; Off-Broadway: Damn Yankees, Green Eyes, Queen Esther, Hair, Hamlet, Port Authority, The Black Suits and The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Two Videos You Must See!

OK – November was a busy month. And I lived through it. December is busy, too. A different kind of busy but busy nonetheless. Now I’m just seeing how many times I can used the word busy in one paragraph. Ooops! I did it again!

So basically that is why posts have been sparse. I’ve been busy. But not so much that I am not able to spend a few moments to share two am-AH-zing videos with you. The first is a star-studded musical video,
Proposition 8 – The Musical, in response to the embarrassing and hateful gay marriage vote in California. I now have one more reason to love Allison Janney and dear ol’ Doogie himself, Neil Patrick Harris. Also featured are Jack Black as Jesus Christ and Sarah Chalke, Margaret Cho, Barrett Foa, Nicole Parker, John C. Reilly, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph and Kathy Najimy. It is fucking brilliant!

And a shout-out to the incredibly awesome
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast and crew of In The Heights. The video speaks for itself.

Yes, Nicholas, there is a Santa Claus. And he owns a bodega in Washington Heights.

Click here to read the whole story behind 10-year-old Nicholas Dayton and his YouTube video that earned him the chance to perform the Finale with Lin and the entire cast and crew in between a matinee and evening performance. Nicholas’ performances sort of remind me of that time when, with Fireside Theatre script in hand and my OBC LP spinning on the ol’ Fisher Price, I acted and sang the entire production of Pippin in my bedroom. If only they had computers with cameras then. No wait, perhaps not.

So enjoy those little video treats while work on my Top 5 Lists for 2008, which will include Top 5 Shows, Top 5 Performances, Top 5 Discoveries and Top 5 Videos. I might also ruminate on the Top 5 Posts and/or Keywords from my blog.
But that all depends on how busy I get.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Broken Foot

Despite the fact I had been around the theatre practically since birth, it wasn’t until 1979 that I first acted before an audience that wasn’t assembled in my living room. It was in a children’s play called Once Upon A Clothesline and I portrayed the pivotal role of Dr. Beetle who aids the unfortunate clothespin Pinette, who has fallen from the clothesline.

We rehearsed at the
YMCA in whichever room was available to accommodate our tween-aged thespian troupe. On one particular afternoon we rehearsed in the gym amidst the gymnastics equipment. Like most 10-year-old girls who had been swept up in the whirlwind of Nadia Comaneci’s 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, I took gymnastics. And having taken two years of gymnastics classes at that very same Y, I fancied myself a gymnast. One wintry afternoon, during my offstage time, I found myself wandering over to the balance beam and performing a round-off dismount that ended in a very un-Comanecilike landing.

The next morning my swollen and purple foot prompted a visit to the doctor’s office. Upon further examination, the doctor suspected that the foot might be broken and put my foot in a temporary splint that would stabilize it until we got to the hospital to have it x-rayed. As he was wrapping my foot, I remember crying. Not because my foot hurt, although it did, but because I was going to miss out on my big acting debut.

A broken growth plate, a foot cast and a set of crutches later, the accommodating creative team rallied and I was still able to make my acting debut. In fact, the doctor that made her entrance on crutches was cause for a bit of a chortle. So, despite the drama and the tears, the show still went on and I with it.

Throughout the years, many of my acting experiences have had a “broken foot” that I’ve had to work through alongside the performance: my aunt’s suicide, the death of my grandfather, my sister’s near fatal accident, my father’s cancer diagnosis. In many ways, having a show to focus on has helped me work through those difficult times. It is probably one of the many reasons that I have such a passion for theatre and why I repeatedly refer to it as my one true constant.

Nowadays, after having dallied in many of the theatre’s disciplines – acting, writing, directing, design, stage management, choreography and crew – I find myself opting for directing projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love acting but because I have to be more discretionary with how I select my theatre projects I usually opt for directing projects. In most cases I am more passionate about the shows that I have the opportunity to direct than the ones that I would be interested in auditioning for.

Of course, as fate often dictates, when it rains it pours. 2009 promises to be quite the theatrical year for me. I have received four offers to direct, two of which I have accepted. Furthermore, while official announcements won’t be made until January, there are a few other theatre-related endeavors that I will have a hand in. Naturally, amidst this flurry of theatrical activity, two dream roles that I would give my eye-teeth to audition for have surfaced. Given my love for theatre, all of this opportunity is akin to letting a kid loose in a candy store. And being the realist that I am, I have been waiting for a few months for the other shoe to drop.

And it has.

The shoe first dropped with the reminder that I need to be cognizant of the other responsibilities that I have in my life: my family, my marriage, my job. Regretfully, I never pursued my theatrical ambitions in earnest and, therefore, my love of the stage does not pay the bills. As such, there is no justification for my theatrical adventures outside of the happiness and personal fulfillment it brings me. Given the strain that it puts on the other aspects of my life and recognizing the selfishness of pursuing an unrealized dream is basically a dropping shoe that was both inevitable and justified.

However, unbeknownst to me at the time, that dropping shoe was falling off of a broken foot.

Last week I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. During tech week for Little Women and the week abroad that followed I was feeling a bit under the weather. I knew something was up and scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the Monday following my return from the UK. At the appointment I listed off my symptoms and the nurse asked me if I had history of diabetes in my family. After a couple of quick tests in the office, it was evident that I did, in fact, have diabetes. My doctor sent me to the pharmacy and I was put on insulin straight away. The next day, I went to the endocrinologist who explained to me that I had such high sugar and ketone levels that I narrowly escaped ketoacidosis and hospitalization. Another blood test later, it was revealed that I did indeed have type 1 diabetes and that I would be on insulin injections for the rest of my life.

Now, like any self-respecting theatre aficionado, I have seen
Steel Magnolias and, until now, that play/film had formed the basis for my knowledge of diabetes, specifically type 1 which Julia Roberts’ character Shelby has. When I tell people of my diagnosis, I can see in their faces whether or not they are replaying select scenes Steel Magnolias in their heads. And that’s okay. I have done it countless times, too.

There are times when I’m scared. There are times when I’m pissed off. There are times when I’m sad. There are times when I'm defiant. And those feelings will not go away, much like the disease responsible for generating them. I’m sure these emotions will grow more infrequent as I prepare for a lifetime of “managing” diabetes. It is just a matter of incorporating them, and it, into my now drastically altered life.

It is amazing what a person can learn in two weeks. Naturally, I am reading as much as I can about the disease and am doing my level best to get it under control. My life experiences have provided a pretty solid medical knowledge, so I’m learning the textbook side of things fairly easily and I've become a pro at injecting insulin into my now bruise-covered stomach. But in the past two weeks I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I have a passion for many things: my family, my friends and my art. I’ve also learned how difficult it is to balance so many loves. While it isn't a skill I've yet mastered, it is one I plan to hone. But as
Emerson says, art is a jealous mistress. Believe me, I recognize the priorities I’ve got at the moment but I also know that my mistress will wait only so long before she gets restless.

So here I am, left to steady my course and face the road ahead. Yes, I have a broken foot and, while it may slow me down for a bit, it will not stop me. So, despite the drama and the tears, the show will go on and I will go on with it.

Mark my words.