13 December 2009

Newsflash:  I'm a bad blogger.

Other than my mom, I'm not entirely sure who ever reads this thing!  Leave some comments, you big bunch of lurkers!


My last post was in August, and many things have happened between that post and this.  (I'm going to mine some of my Facebook notes for this update.)


Friends Like These, a new play by Gregory Crafts had an incredible run at The Sherry.  The play is "about" school violence, but it explores much deeper territory:  Acceptance, personal and otherwise; the need for a haven away from "the real world"; the many complexities of friendship; and finding the strength to stand your ground when confronted by a bully.

Greg's dialogue crackles with life. He has an ear for how people talk, and that makes me giddy. Although the action is focused on a tight microcosm, the impact of the larger high school society are very present. There are times when the cast size seems much larger, thanks in part to prerecorded tracks that never seem pasted-on or artificial. (If you've ever been to a show that utilizes pre-recorded tracks, you'll know what I mean by "pasted on" and "artificial." It's an effect that rarely seems to work, but is quite effective in Craft's play.)

Greg got a "Go" from LA Weekly, which makes me jealous!

Landscaping the Den of Saints, a new one from our associate artistic director Jacob Smith opened in October.  An eccentric rich guy gives a struggling writer an offer he can't refuse, and like all "too good to be true" offers, it quickly turns sour.  The relevance of the production made it almost painful to take in -- I've lived this story, too. Oh, not the exact chain of events. Rather, it is the promise of something wonderful that, in a moment of euphoric abandon, sweeps one away with thoughts of "How am I going to spend all the money?" This mirage of career fulfillment evaporates, and you wonder what you can salvage from the work you did. (Kudos to Smith for salvaging something, BTW.) His characters are real -- often real in their unreality. Hey -- that's Hollywood.

Tales of an Unsettled City: Exodus, Die Grüppe's GBLT: Gays, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, and Holiday Hangover: An Anthology for the Seasonally Affected all enjoy brief and remunerative runs.  These three offerings featured work written by our members.  Oh yeah -- we did another 24-hour play festival in October, The Artist's Nightmare.  We have some incredibly talented people in our company, and our original works are top notch.  I'm not just saying that because I'm one of the writers.  We all strive to do our best, to really bring our best to whatever we do.  It's that commitment to quality that's going to pay off in the long run.

I was nominated for a couple of ADA awards.  That's the "Artistic Director Achievement" awards, awarded by the Valley Theatre League.  Here are all of the Theatre Unleashed nominations:

Pin-Up Girls

Andrew Moore – Tracing Sonny

Friends Like These – The Sherry Theatre

Brian Gaston – Pin-Up Girls

Yelena Babinskaya – Tracing Sonny

Starlet Jacobs – Pin-Up Girls

We didn't win anything this year, but to be nominated was quite a thrill!

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Making theatre is a learning process.  When Holiday Hangover opened, I shared a few things I learned in a note on Facebook.  Here it is:

"Forgive me for the honesty, but we’re all friends here ..." - Sylvia Anderson

Holiday Hangover: An Anthology for the Seasonally Affected has officially opened, and I thought I'd share a few random thoughts:

- Phil Kelly and I are good collaborators. The title of this show is a perfect example of how we work. I'm a nut for titles. The title of a show (book, restaurant, car model, album, etc.) is a "handle." It's the thing an audience member grabs hold of, and should carry the weight of the show (book, restaurant, etc.) In throwing ideas back and forth with Kelly, we decided on one rule: It had to be "Holiday" something, not "Christmas." Although a show about the day (and aftermath) after Christmas, it's not a "Christmas" show. Not really. (One of my favorite parts of the show is a Hanukkah horror story told by Josh Morrision.) I wanted to work in a play on "Seasonal Affective Disorder," the technical term for depression during the winter months. Two email exchanges later, and we had a perfect handle for our show.

- Casting really is 80% of the work. I don't necessarily mean casting certain "types" iin certain roles. I mean casting pros who do the work. It's easier to push and pull an unexpected performance out of someone who is present and willing to play ball.

- There are some people I have worked with enough, I can direct them like I direct my wife. At one point, I gave Lauren the note, "Fred Astaire." I know I did the same sort of thing with Josh Green and Sylvia. Working in a repertory setting with the same actors, I'm beginning to develop a shorthand with them. That's very exciting!

- I will never cast myself in something I'm directing again. It is only a small role in the last vignette, but it keeps me from watching the show from the house. Frustrating!

- Give an actor a chance to surprise you AND make the environment safe enough for them to do so, and they will.

- More and more I learn firsthand that the secret to GREAT, not just good theatre is HONESTY. It's been said by many people, and for the life of me I can't remember where I heard or read this last (Mamet? Tracy Letts? Maybe Lanford Wilson,) but we tell the truth in theatre by telling lies. Regardless of those little lies (I hate to break the news, but Erin Scott and Phillip Kelly are not really Josh Morrison's parents) the ideas they express must come from an unadulterated place. Only then can we connect with the audience, and that live connection is the selling point of live theatre. Because of the lies we do tell in the theatre, it's easy to forget to be honest where it counts.

- I know a thing or two about stage choreography. "Blocking" they call it. I also like the terms "Theatrical Yoga" and "Actor Feng Shui." (Artaud called it "Metaphysics in Action," but people get a bit nervous when I start comparing theatre to religion.) Kelly's been pestering me to do a workshop wherein I lay bare all my directorial secrets. I may just do that -- I'm felling cocky enough about my skills, I could use the humility of having to explain them.

I'm going for a certain relevancy in my theatrical work. Yeah, I'm a populist. I try to create theatre for the audience, not to satisfy some esoteric need. That kind of theatre ("esoteric need") is crazy street preacher theatre; yelling at the air in front of you while the people you should connect with drift past. So hey -- come out and tell me how I'm doing!

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I'll post an update on the other areas of my wild and crazy life later this week.  I'd like to end this blog post about Theatre Unleashed with part of another Facebook note I posted recently:

As the end of the year draws close, we invite you to consider lending financial support to a new theatre company in North Hollywood that is dedicated to producing as much work as humanly possible. When we wrote in our mission statement "... to work together as one, passionately and professionally, in creating truly remarkable theatre," I'm not sure any of us really comprehended what we were committing ourselves to. Yet we have proven that commitment time and again, bringing a staggering array of productions to the public.

Our output belies the financial realities of producing theatre, particularly in a town such as Los Angeles. We are a dues-paying company, and we depend heavily upon our box office returns. It never quite seems like enough to really provide the kind of experiences we strive for. Somehow, against all odds, we manage. Chalk it up to the theatrical ethic of "The Show Must Go On!" and the financial support of our angels, without whom none of this would be possible.

To find out about how you can support Theatre Unleashed, visit our website, or drop me an email (andrew.moore[AT SIGN GOES HERE]theatreunleashed.com).  (That's assuming more than just my Mom and my sisters are reading this.  The support I get from my family has a value that cannot be place in dollar amounts.  The rest of you can pay! ;-)

Happy Holidays!