Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love Letters

My apologies to all for the day late update. But I am happy to report the reading went well.

I actually had quite a bit of fun.

Not that there were no snags. The management of the cafe was not always certain what we were doing, and there had been several crossed wires between the two parties. Some disorganization in regards to ticket purchases and a bit of scrambling to find enough furnishings for us to perform the reading in the space provided all were part of the first half hour we were there.

Yet in the end, we did what I think lends itself perfectly to such a reading...we threw some chairs and a table on the tiny stage, got ourselves a light, and improvised a performance space.

The very simplicity of our surroundings, and the limitations of the venue forced us to work extra hard on projection and expression, which, in the end, the play is about. Simplicity. We performed a one night reading in a crowded cafe in the greatest tradition of the starving artist.

The audience got a little restless when the intermission went long, and we lost a few people, but those that stayed, (31 in all) were very expression in their applause at the end of the show. They also gave us plenty of laughs during the reading, some of which I would not have expected.

And I think we attained the coveted balance for the most part, as I have been discussing in previous entries.

I have had some issues with the script, and the venue was not 100% conducive for what we were trying to do, but it worked. The improvising, the reading, the champagne, the holiday, and the arts centered atmosphere of a coffee house all conspired for an informal evening of highly successful entertainment for myself and my partner, as well as the audience.

We may take the reading to other similar venues. That would be fun, I do believe, if we can find any such places. Good for publicity, and good for when I read it in performance, I came to realize that I had to alter my previous views about the piece to a small a bit more emotion to each letter than I previously had thought was necessary. Other venues may require different amounts of emotion, and I would enjoy learning how the play can work differently in different places.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


This belated entry is written to mention that I met with my scene partner for "Love Letters" the other day. It went well.

As I have been saying, I have not been pouring over this script, in hopes of keeping it more spontaneous. I have been wanting to keep that distance from the material, so it really does feel like I am reading letters. Reading them from some distance in time. That was my initial view of the script.

As I read with her, that idea stayed mostly intact. However, the fine median between being as consumed by the emotion of the moment, and being cold and robotic was harder to strike than I initially thought.

It simply cannot be conversational. Though many I feel would be tempted to make it that way, I think one loses the idea that these are in fact snippets of letters. However, I don't want to be too clinical, which I may have been at times, when I read the letters.

Part of the problem is, I do not want to invoke a child when reading the letters from childhood. That would border on the odd I think. But I also don't want to read them as I would a letter from Voltaire or something like that. Again, that balance is a very fine one, and one that I hope to strike as I perform it tonight.

In one sense, have so little time can be intimidating. But on the other hand, it is providing a certain excitement to the proceedings. This worked in my favor for the last reading I did, and I think it will work in my favor this time. (The champagne being served to the audience probably will not hurt either.)

Either way, I am in fact going over some of the parts again...just to make them a little smoother, without losing the reading letters quality.

There was also talk of my partner and I taking the reading to other venues in the coming weeks. Nothing has been set up yet, but I do enjoy the notion of taking it elsewhere. I always had fun with traveling shows, and while this hardly qualifies as a complex affair, there is still an air of performing by the seat of your pants that would go along with taking this act to other venues.

Plus, it could be good publicity for the theatre.

There you have it. Check back here in less than 24 hours for an overview of how it all went!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Love Letters, Continued

I have finished reading the script. I think it does have it's ups and it's downs. Most of which I cannot really talk about, in fear that someone who plans to see the show will follow a link to this blog, and have the ending ruined for them. I know that that is a silly fear, and one that I will probably have to get over, if I am to keep an honest blog about my acting adventures in the future. But for now, I will try to be as specific as I can.

For starters, though I agree with some of the playwright's notes about how to stage the production, I am always a tad insulted as an actor when playwrights include such notes. You worked hard, got your script published, and now make money every time someone performs it. Your advice, (as in this case) to "trust me, I am the writer", applies in reverse as well. Actors have to be trusted with a work once it is out there. To do what I call "ghost directing" is outside what should be a playwright's sphere. I just find it presumptuous.

As for the script itself, I have a hard time related to some aspects of it. I never had the classical little boy crushes, or the awkward teen realizations of love, as are expressed so often in Hollywood and on stage. While this script, thankfully, moves beyond such things, I personally do not always enjoy such run of the mill love journeys. Perhaps because I did not experience them, or perhaps because of an instinct which tells me that most people, in fact, do not.

This may have presented a greater problem if it were a conventional play. However, as I have mentioned, it is not designed to be memorized. It is a reader's script, and as such, should be approached from the first moment as a reading as opposed to a play. With that in mind, I see several ways it can be presented to an audience.

1) The letters can be read by each actor with all of the expression and realism of a monologue. Almost as though the two are talking directly to each other, sharing their feelings in the same room.

2) The letters can be presented in a manner that is slightly detached. Not devoid of expression, naturally, but expression of a different cadence then when we are speaking. Even the most informal of people tend to be a bit more formal when they write letters. Such has been my experience in the matter. At any rate, I have concluded many times that people just do not write and speak in the same manner. They are two different ways of communicating thoughts and feelings.

I prefer the second approach. That difference I mentioned I feel should be respected. And though I have not yet had a chance to go over things with my scene partner, I am tempted to suggest that the letters be read as though they have been recently rediscovered by someone. Even one's own letters have a certain detachment from us after a time. If my partner and I proceed to read the letters in this fashion, I think the words of the letters become the focus of the piece, as opposed to vocal inflections and facial expressions.

Indeed, I think the very nature of the piece lends itself to this. It is the love letters themselves that are to be felt by the audience...not the characters who wrote them. This being the case, I feel a certain degree of realism should be let the letters speak for themselves. Almost as if the audience were reading them individually, and responding in kind to them.

I emphasize again that this does not mean to suggest that I will not be performing these letters. I shall be, and so shall my partner. But different scripts call for different types of performances. The detached type that I have described above seems best to me.

Before reading it, I had thought that each actor read the OTHER persons letters. As written this would be impossible, but I think would make for a very interesting variation. It may enrage Gurney, who clearly has little trust for the creativity of performers of his works, but I am intrigued by the possibility.

Yet, a week from now is not the place to tempt fate, and lawsuits, with experimentation. We shall be proceeding as written. Though, as I pointed out already, there is leeway even within those boundaries.

I have read it once. If my partner and I get together for a read through, I shall read it one more time then. And that is all I plan to review. Some may wish to pound these letters into their heads, but again, I do not believe the piece lends itself to such conventional preparation.

When I write a letter, I sometimes feel as though I am a different me than I am when I am not writing a letter, or even as soon as I finish it. I can have written something myself, something I have poured a great degree of sincerity into, and when I read it back, feel as though someone else wrote it for me. It is almost as thought I am reading parts of it for the first time. This is often all the more potent the farther I get from having written something. Again that detached nature. If I can capture that when reading the letters in this piece, I think something special could emerge next week. In order to capture it, i think a minimal amount of review is advisable. (Subject of course, to the agreement of my scene partner.)

I have done readings before, but this is certainly something a bit different, both in format and in subject matter. I am curious to see how it unfolds.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Love Letters

The script arrived in the mail yesterday. I shall spend some time today going over it. Not too much, of course. This script, unlike most, is designed specifically for a reading, and not for memorization.

I will probably meet with my scene partner just once, but that is not final yet.

Stay tuned, I will probably share some thoughts on this later today.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Instead of my column on this Sunday, loyal blog readers, I share with you some news.

On Valentines Day, I shall be participating in a one night only reading of Guerney's Love Letters, at Beans in the Belfry, in Brunswick, Maryland.

This script is exactly what it sounds like. A male and a female, friends, exchange letters over the years, each reading them aloud in the reading. Though it was not clear at the time, they both come to realize they were in fact writing love letters to one another.

This is unique in the sense that the playwright encouraged those who put on this reading to rehearse very little, if they rehearse at all. Too much rehearsal of such a script would damage the spontaneity of the piece.

Of course, acting, if nothing else, is the creating the illusion of spontaneity when one is fact very well rehearsed. But for something like this, I can see the argument against it. The actors are depicted reading right from the letters themselves. It has always been my belief that in plays of any kind, anything that is read from a paper should not be totally memorized. It should actually be read. Why memorize something on paper, only to work extra hard on sounding like you are reading it cold. Just read it cold! (My small piece of advise here on a Sunday, for those actors out there who have learned to rely on such from me every Sunday.

I have not yet read all of the script, but expect to do so soon. More on that later.

It is being put on by my old, oft mentioned friends, the Full Circle Theater Company. Go to their website for more details about where to go and how to obtain tickets.

Hope to see some local people there!