Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Behind the mask

So I'm rehearsing this new show...

(how's that for an introduction? Hello. Long time, no blog.)

... and it's been, for the most part, fun and challenging. It's based on some Native American folklore and I play both a Bear (dying of radiation poisoning... hey, I said BASED) and a prophetic Loon. Both characters require the wearing of ginormous woven masks, which are beautiful to behold and rather painful to wear. The thing about acting with masks is that you lose what is one of the most powerful acting tools: your face. You have to show what is happening through your body and the position of your (now ginormous) head. Small movements don't read, particularly in relation to your head, so all movements have to become bigger, cleaner, and more precise. You have to remember to keep your mask visible to the audience. Your voice has to portray more emotion and energy, and get past the mask.

Did I mention that the masks are ginormous? And stick out a foot or so past our mouths? And are made of sound absorbing raffia and bark? And we can barely see out of them, and have little idea what exactly is happening around us?
(my areas of vision are out the mouth, and through a band of mesh that runs between the eyes, below the ears. Peripheral vision is non existent)

So we have some challenges.

Oh, and we're performing outside. In Detroit. So we are competing with birds and wind and traffic noises and helicopters and people riding by on the their bikes talking loudly into their blue tooth devices (I assume. Either that or this woman was carrying on a really boring and rational discussion with herself. Loudly.).

I have some experience working with masks, although admittedly not of this size, so I am familiar with the changes that need to be made to accommodate this different style of performance. Simply putting on a mask makes a performance far more presentational. The stuff that works in other shows will. not. work. when you put on a mask. We have a good director and are working with a professor from the University of Michigan who specializes in mask work and comedic movement (it's a comedy. did I mention that? I'm dying of radiation in an updated Native American folktale that is billed as a physical comedy. It's kind of hard to explain).

So, yeah. I'm working on this show. I'm enjoying the challenge and the people I'm working with. We open in 10 days.

We've been doing a lot of our rehearsing inside, but last night did some work outside, which of course brought a lot of the areas where we are weak into strong focus. I found it exhilarating to be outside and add in this extra element of what will be our show conditions, and found myself getting louder, bigger, cleaner, etc. I found that it rose the bar for me, and I worked to meet it. Not perfectly, for sure, but we still have 10 days.

The director seemed to recognize this, too - that I was working to meet those challenges. But it led to this really awkward moment during the notes at the end of the rehearsal. A moment where she quietly pointed out that we all need to be more cohesive and on the same page. She asked how we could achieve that. There was silence. I think everyone was having a bit of a hard time figuring out just what she was asking. I said that we should all have similar energy levels. She nodded. Pause. There was some mention of my Loon, and how "big" she is. Pause. I comment that I make her really huge and over dramatic because I see her as this crazy (loony! get it?) prophetic character. but I could tone it down if need be. The director shakes her head and says, no, the Loon IS the drama queen. Pause. Then she asks the other actors how they might be able to be more cohesive with Loon.

Ah. So basically she is giving me a compliment... saying that I have the right idea with the style and energy. And wanting the other actors to match it. But she wants them to come to that conclusion (it's not like she hasn't been trying to get them to be bigger and cleaner all along).

So I feel good... like I'm doing something right. Yay me! But also a bit guilty. Like I'm being used to point out other people's weaknesses. It's not the first time it's happened to me in a show. It always feels weird. It takes away from the joy of doing something right.

Have you ever felt this way? Proud of what you're doing right, but almost guilty that others aren't getting it the way you are, and badly that you're being used as the example of what to do? The cast is a team, and we all look better when everyone meets the high bar. It's very strange being that bar.

As if being a bear and a loon wasn't strange enough.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The ORIGINAL ending to The Gospel of Mark

I've found it! The UNTIL NOW missing part of the bible that everyone else seems to be following, but I never could figure out why! As you may know, there is scholarly debate over the ending of the gospel of Mark, and most people agree that Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition. But I have found the REAL, ORIGINAL version of these verses (with one additional verse!), and somehow, people of today have apparently been led by the Holy Spirit to follow them even thought they had not read them. These verses also reveal that Facebook has been around for much longer than Mark Zuckerberg. The technology must have been lost around the same time as these verses were (perhaps in the destruction of Jerusalem?) and I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Zuckerberg himself found these verses (heck, he's named after the Apostle Mark himself! It was probably preordained!) and invented Facebook, just so that we can live out our faith as Jesus wanted. That last bit, of course, is just my speculation. Regardless, I am sure that these newly found verses are authentic. Here they are, for your spiritual fulfillment:

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, but this has no significance, and does not indicate that women should be given leadership roles of any form. 10 She went and posted on Facebook that Jesus was alive, and entreated all of her friends to copy and paste. 11 When the disciples read that Jesus was alive and that Mary had seen him, they did not believe it, and decided that men should be forever in charge of women for they clearly could not be trusted. And they did not re-post.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 He told them that it didn't matter if they had to miss worship for things like sleeping in, sports events, or going to a movie. Worship and community were just suggestions, and not all that important, really, to the living out of their faith. In fact, he wasn't sure why he ever bothered to mention them at all.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to re-post Mary's status.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and re-post the gospel to all your friends. 16 Whoever re-posts will be saved, but whoever does not re-post will be condemned."

17 The disciples knew this might be their last chance to ask Jesus questions about his gospel, and so they asked "Lord, you have commanded us to care for the sick. How should we best do this? By working to heal and cure? By delivering meals to those who are ill and their families? By visiting them in their illness, and praying for their health and peace?" 18 Jesus replied "Oh, those things are fine, but really, all you need to do is raise AWARENESS of the illness. Wear pink. Tell the world the color of the bra you are wearing. Pin a red ribbon to your chest. Put an Autism puzzle magnet on the back of your car. Everyone will understand if you don't actually want to be around people who are sick. They can be gross!"

19 The disciples had many more questions: how best to achieve peace and justice; did they really have to love ALL their neighbors; and, most importantly, what was a car and were they, as men, even allowed to wear bras. But lo, at that moment the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God, checking Facebook to make sure that his disciples had accepted his friend requests. 20 Then the disciples hurried to their computers and posted that Jesus was their hero, and anyone who loved God had better copy and paste as their status for at least one hour, lest Jesus know they were ashamed of their faith. 21 After the prescribed hour had passed the disciples posted a link for all their friends to donate to a charity walk they were participating in to raise awareness of their pet illness/social justice issue, then returned to posting snarky status updates about how "some people" behave and cute pictures of kittens, content that they had fulfilled the commandments of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.