Oct 16, 2014

MONOLOGUE JAM gets pimped out

I have decided to pimp out the Monologue Jam. I met with the wonderful K. Holly Nuckels of MINT Presents and we brain-stormed a bunch of games, contests and audience participations that can round out the usual challenge of several improvisers going about short made-up character monologues. We're trying it out November 9. Here's the description...

A handful of improvisers present hilarious and strange 3 minute monologues, on the spot and in character, from a prompt supplied by the audience. But that’s not all! Contests! Games! and Give-aways! The audience becomes part of the action! Bring your own beverage of choice! 

November 9, 2014 at 7 PM, Margo Jones Theatre, 1121 First Avenue, Fair Park, Dllas TX 75210.  Admission $5 at the door.

Oct 8, 2014

I saw Peter Brook's The Valley of Astonishment

Peter Brook's The Valley of Astonishment at Theatre for New Audiences

Ruth treated me to a trip to New York to see Peter Brook’s show The Valley of Astonishment for my birthday. It is the third Brook show I’ve seen and it did not disappoint.

Director Peter Brook is a huge source of inspiration to me as a theatre artist. He turns 90 years old next year. He has a long and varied career in his wake – 70 years - and with his current show The Valley of Astonishment he proves that he hasn’t lost any of the creativity and theatrical inquisitiveness that has so set him apart.

The show is staged, in usual Brook fashion, with pristine beauty; nothing appears on the vast empty platform of the Theatre for New Audience’s three-quarter thrust stage that is not used. There are a few wooden chairs, a rolling table, and a pale stage cloth spread out like a large rectangular rug on the black stage.

The acting, like the visuals, is similarly unforced. This allows the audience’s imagination to run as extreme as the ones that belong to the characters, played by Kathryn Hunter, Marcello Magni, and Jared McNeill. The three actors who portray an assortment of people who have synesthesia and the doctors they consult. They all seem perpetually shuffled between pain and exaltation, terror and wonder, bewilderment and revelation.

The thread of the show follows the excellent Ms. Hunter’s character Samy Costas, a 44 year-old woman of seemingly infinite and exact recall, someone for whom memory is a vivid, three-dimensional vista. After a visit to a pair of neurologists (Magni and McNeill), she becomes a nightclub sensation as a master of mnemonics. Her state of being becomes a spectacle, on a par with the card tricks of a one-handed magician – Marcello Magni, in a delightful audience participation sequence, confounding the senses of the actual audience as he spontaneously amalgamates sleight of hand with laughter.  Samy finds herself suffocating under a barrage of memorized names and numbers she can never erase.

All of the actors' performances are genial, bighearted, and memorable. Hunter, in particular, is thrilling as Samy, bravely charting her journey from a woman content with her place in the world to one who is completely lost once she confronts the amazing powers of her own mind.

Not to be overlooked are the two excellent musicians, Raphael Chambouvet and Toshi Tsuchitori.  The sounds swing from solemn to frantic, mysterious to jazzy. The chief function and glory of the music is how integral it is in underscoring the show's quiet astonishment at the miracles of the human brain.

What's refreshing about The Valley of Astonishment is how Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne, the theater-makers responsible for the script, never bog down the text in overly-detailed facts and psychobabble; instead they present their research through relatable human stories. They engross us in the human predicament of Samy, whose mnemomic power is both glorious blessing and traumatizing curse.

The thing I walk away with, as someone who studies and follows Brook’s work, is the profound mindfulness of the piece. It is so vividly presented, yet so simple. There is very little glitziness. With the exception of one sequence where a fluid wash of changing colored lighting (designed by Philippe Vialatte) covers the stage while Mr. McNeill’s painter works, all the while, listening to jazz we get no easy externalization of the internal world of the brain.

It is in essence, a very mature work. It is clean, calm and graceful. Brook is not trying to show off (not his thing). Nothing flashy. Only thoughtful. He is not trying to do anything except explore, on stage, the wonder of the human brain. With his simple aesthetic, he has trimmed away the excess.

The only real problem comes from just how simple the presentation is. It may come off too simple for the unenlightened. The argument may arise, similar to those people who look at Picasso works and think they too could “do that,” that if this wasn’t a piece done by the great Peter Brook it would just be some minimal amateurish work.  It doesn’t make a loud statement in a grand theatrical way that this is a production done by a master. It whispers and is confident with itself. The work is very entertaining and clear, especially considering it involves something as complex and mysterious as the workings of the human mind, but more than that it is distilled and essential. It is simple in the way a Zen ritual is simple. It is simple because of the mastery involved.

These Peter Brook shows are kind of like little pilgrimages for me.

Ruth and I getting ready to watch the show

While in NYC I hooked up with friends for drink and talk:
Here is Will Harper, Dominic D'Andrea and Kim Adams outside the Meatball Shop at 3:30 am.

Sep 20, 2014

Applying with Dribble Funk

I am applying to a comedy festival with my solo improv format Dribble Funk. This will be the first time I have purposely aimed to perform DF at a big festival, especially outside the DFW area. I have performed it outside of Dallas a few times (like in Hong Kong and in Austin), but, honestly, I don't perfom it very often. It scares me every time I do it. Sometimes I kick-ass and sometimes it is just lame. As I develop it, it has a certain two steps forward one step back thing about it.

I am at my best in the Dribble Funk when I combine solid characters with a tidy plot that gradually becomes clear. Also, I'm learning that velocity is important. If I can spin it out at the same speed I'm thinking it up, then it makes magic happen. This is way more difficult than it sounds.

I may not get in the festival, but applying has made me consider Dribble Funk lately. I had to post a link to a video performance and realized I didn't have any Dribble Funks on YouTube, so I threw one up. It is one I am pretty proud of. I call it the "Ryan's School Report or Flying Fox Set."


WARNING: Strong language! NSFW!

Sep 16, 2014

The Holding Fix performance video

I wrote in an earlier post how I directed a group of student actors in a short student-written play at the beginning of the summer. It was for an event called PUP Fest, produced by Junior Players and Kitchen Dog Theater. They just sent me a link to the video of the show. For one week of two hour rehearsals, I was very pleased with how the young actors performed. They have their scripts in hand because technically it is billed as a staged reading.

Here's the video...

The Holding Fix from Devon Miller on Vimeo.

Sep 9, 2014

Originality Over Perfection

"The Collective works, ultimately, towards perfection. My idea of an Individual working in the Theatre is different. The goal is not perfection. The Individual Theatre-maker (such as a solo performer) is working ultimately for the most personal outcome. Originality trumps perfection."

~ "Originality Over Perfection." Brad McEntire

I make a substantial realization over on my Tumblr about the goals associated with the kind of theatre I persue. See it... HERE

Aug 28, 2014

The first Audacity Solo Salon

Van Quattro reading his work STANDING EIGHT COUNT
A lot of my theatre activities over the last several years nave narrowed on an interest in solo performance. I started a solo performance blog that touches on, admittedly, only a fraction of the solo performance happening around the nation. I developed and performed three distinct original solo pieces, including CHOP, which is probably the piece I am most proud of and which has proven most artistically fulfilling to date in my creative process. Last May I produced the first ever Dallas Solo Fest, a Fringe-like theatre festival bringing together local as well as national solo acts in a celebration of one-person shows.

Now I am extending this interest, and the ethos of the DSF, into a quarterly event, a sort of solo performance open mic/workshop series I am calling the Audacity Solo Salon.

The aim of the Audacity Solo Salon is to support and nurture both established and emerging solo performers in the north Texas area. It is also a way to extend the mission of the annual Dallas Solo Fest beyond just the festival itself. 
This will be a way for solo artists to rehearse, experiment and develop their work in front of supportive audiences. The Audacity Solo Salon it will serve as a collaborative gathering place so solo artists and their audiences can meet and inspire each other and help cultivate a growing community of solo performance in DFW.

This first Salon was on August 25, 2014 and featured local
DFW solo performers Van Quattro, Steven Young and Beth Bontley. It seemed to go pretty well, with about a dozen audience members. The solo artists all semmed to come away with some good feedback, too. 

Culture journalist Danielle Georgiou did a nice write-up on the Salon in the Dallas Observer... HERE. And you can see pics from the evening... HERE. And a bit of info... HERE and HERE, as well.

I'm aiming to do the next one on December 8, 2014.