In For a Penny: Up ‘n At ‘Em!

Charles Lewis III, jumping back into the game.

“Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years”
– LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”

As I write this, I’m a few hours removed from finally seeing Into the Woods. For personal reasons I didn’t take part in Theater Pub’s month-long series dedicated to the stage show, but I went in to the film expecting the worst (given the terrible fucking advertising) and wound up being somewhat pleasantly surprised. It’s not perfect by any means, but this isn’t a review so I won’t dissect it piece-by-piece. It just struck me on my way home that this was one of the first three films I’ve seen in 2015 (after the great-but-flawed Birdman and the campy thriller The Boy Next Door) and two of those films have direct links to theatre. The first stage production I’ve seen has been our Satyr Night Fever, I’ve attended my first Saturday Write Fever in almost a year, I spent the last two weekends doing box office for one theatre company, will spend the next month doing it for another company, and I have my first stage audition of the year happening two weeks. And I’ve put some Olympians gears into motion.

After feeling like a hamster running in place with nothing to do, it’s clear that my personal theatre year has begun.

It’s a bit exciting, thankfully not terrifying. Exhausting, but not terrifying. In the few short weeks of our new year, I’ve been on my feet much more than I’d expected to be. I’ve been constantly running from one place to another with a bag that’s twice as heavy when carrying the laptop I use to write the words you see before you. I’ve been trying to have dinner with two of my best theatre friends for the past two weeks, but sickness and scheduling conflicts have put it off. All this running around and lack of exercise has screwed up my circadian rhythm and made me more of nightowl than usual (which is often never). Plus I have yet to be paid for a commercial I shot weeks ago. Thankfully I don’t have any health concerns; I’m just pissed off that I’m not getting my usual eight hours sleep and waking up at 6am under my own power.

But I've adjusted well enough.

But I’ve adjusted well enough.

But then who would I be to complain? That commercial I shot was just the first of two well-paying jobs I’ve done recently, including one of my first voiceovers (for which I was paid – very well at that). I’ve run into friends I haven’t seen in forever, I’ve written things that confuse even me (because I don’t know where they come from in my subconscious), and I’ve seen considerable improvements in my personal life in regards to employment and dating. Plus I have keys to a theatre. Just this past Monday, I was speaking to one of our new co-ADs about the power trip that comes with having keys. Needless to say an evil supervillain laugh is a requirement. “I have access to the cupboard with the extra toilet paper – mua-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!”

I guess the point I’m trying to make with this is that after trying my best to take full advantage of the “downtime and balance” that was our theme for January, it was a bit jarring to have to hit the ground running. But I’m keeping it all in perspective, so as not to bitch when people out there have real problems. Hell, people close to me have real problems and responsibilities and my biggest concerns in the immediate future are choosing an audition song and deciding which Super Bowl party I’m gonna go to. I’m trying knock out a few quick bios for theatre websites and actually mulling over directing offers. I just wish I weren’t awake at 2am right now with a pounding migraine, sore feet, and a few weeks’ worth of aching muscles.

But make no mistake, I’m excited about what the new year holds and I’m glad that it’s finally underway. It’s the fire in my belly that I needed and I hope for good things in the year to come. If the films and shows I’ve seen so far are indication of what lies ahead, then I’ve got a lot of entertaining productions in my future.

But seriously, go see The Boy Next Door. It’s fucking hilarious and there’s gorgeous nudity of both genders.

The Five: Sorry, No Late Seating

Anthony R. Miller checks in to complain about something no one can seem to agree on, including him.

I have a lot of jobs, one of them happens to be House Managing. If there is one thing everyone who House Manages, produces, or works box office has to deal with it is late seating. This awkward flashlight shuffle, otherwise known as the art of getting people into the show, after it has started, is one of the hardest parts of the job. For shows that have a “no late seating” policy, that means turning those people away. They ARE late after all. But is that at all a good idea? Should live theatre always do late seating? When I think about it, it becomes a little argument in my head; I kind of see it both ways – or maybe 5:

Everything starts late

Movies start late, concerts start late, if you want people to show up to your party at ten, you say it starts at nine. Sporting events almost always start on time (especially televised ones). But even then, if you’re late, you get to go to your seat eventually. When I ran poetry events at bars, it was just known you would start ten minutes late. Theatre is unique in that there is not a universally accepted buffer.

But, Theatre is different

Not every theater has the ability to sneak people in; sometimes they have to walk right on stage to get to seats, and can’t possibly go their assigned places without walking on people. Perhaps there are no empty seats because of walk-ups and ushers, or the play is really quiet and anything would be a huge disruption. Tiptoes can feel like an elephant stampede at the wrong emotional plateau. There is just no simple way to late seat people without being disruptive to SOMEBODY. So surely there has to be some instances when late seating is a no-go.

Don’t we want people to see theatre?

I hate not being able to late seat people, even if their excuse sucks. I want them to see the play. How does turning people away make someone want to see more theatre? Not everyone who is late simply lacks urgency. Shit, in fact, does happen. Some people get stuck in parking Narnia, stuck on public transportation, stuck in traffic, stuck in the bathroom line, box office, or stuck on the phone with a needy aunt. But no matter the situation, they are here to see this show; don’t we want to accommodate that if only to encourage them to come back? Isn’t a first time theater goer more likely to be late? When I work a show that is very popular, there are a lot more late people. Folks that don’t see much, don’t think showing up 5 minutes before curtain is a big deal. So if these part-time or first time theatre goers are turned away for being 20 min late, even though it’s ridiculous they’re so late, do we really accomplish anything by not seating them?

Oh for God’s sake, just show up on time.

Starting the show on time is like a game for me. Anything past 8:03 feels like a failure. I like making stage managers happy; they are notoriously hard to please; besides patrons have thanked me for starting the show on time. There’s a principal to it, starting when you say you’re going to start shows professionalism. If people know you’re going to start late, they just show up later right? WHY CAN’T EVERYONE SHOW UP 30 MINUTES EARLY? I’ve been yelled at by patrons who were fifteen minutes late, when they found out they wouldn’t get their actual seats, (Which to be fair were expensive.) go to the bathroom, and get a drink before I sat them. Sometimes people show up at 7:30 thinking the show was at 8, except it was at 7, their ticket said so. And I always try to seat them, but sometimes I can’t for whatever reason. It’s just not always possible. Did you know there are union rules for starting within a certain amount of time? There are. Oftentimes tickets are released if not claimed by show time. And dangit, when you start late, you end late. This can be a big problem when your show is 3 hours long!

The Happy Medium

Obviously, I’m being a bit contradictory here. As I said before, I see it both ways. If you start on time you need to accept some people don’t expect you to, and even though they’re the late ones, not accommodating them doesn’t help anyone. No one walks away feeling good. It’s about being welcoming; there aren’t a lot of things you get turned away for being late to. At the same time, theatre is different, there is no pause button. It’s a live real time experience. But then again, it comes back to that word: Welcoming. People who know to get there early and how long it takes to get to your seat, see theatre on a regular basis. The people who don’t are either A) Just late for everything and can’t help it, or B) Not a regular theatre goer, you know, the kind of patron we are all after: new ones. It cannot be argued that a casual theatre goer who shows up late and still gets in is more likely to go again, because he had a good experience getting a finger wag and a lobby seat. Of course it’s not that easy, theatre producers might have to take logistics into account as often as their artist’s and designer’s visions. You have to make sure there are easily accessible seats available, there has to be a time during the performance that it’s not a huge disturbance, and maybe when you’re considering layout, you use back entry ways for, you know, entering, and not loading giant scenic elements in the first 10 minutes of an act. We should consider these things, right? Or am I just allowing one more standard to crumble, am I contributing to the downfall of society, or am I just trying to be nice? I’m so confused. Now please turn off your cell phones, and enjoy the show. Anthony out!

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer, Director and a bunch of other things. Keep up with his projects at awesometheatre.org

Theater Around The Bay: Talk Is Sheep

Charles Lewis III brings us a special report on the rebirth of Theater Pub’s performance branch.

Welcome back, old friend.

Welcome back, old friend.

Right now I have three distinct memories stuck in my head.

The first takes place a few years ago when I found myself crashing on the sofa of Clint Winder (tech guru for PianoFight) and his roommate, Rob Ready (the artistic director). It had been a wild night of inebriated debauchery in which I probably did one or two things I’d probably regret if I could remember them. Needless to say, I was grateful to Clint for taking mercy on me and letting me sleep it off at he and Rob’s Chinatown bachelor pad. When I woke up the next morning – throat scratchy from weed and head throbbing from drink – I’ll never forget the first thing my eyes focused on was the blueprint on the wall. For quite some time, the PianoFighters had been talking about having their own piece of real estate. Not just being renters like every other non-profit indie theatre company in the Bay Area; no, they this was going to be a full-blown theatre owned and operated by PianoFight. It would have, as was described to me, “an upstairs, a downstairs, a full bar, a cabaret space, and different stages going all at once”.

Of course there were quite a few naysayers. Several theatre people (who shall remain nameless) laughed at the idea that “the Delta House of Bay Area theatre” could pull their shit together long enough to even get this ridiculous idea off the ground, let alone actually succeed. They thought PF’s plans were just a bunch of talk and waiting patiently for them to fail spectacularly. Me? I couldn’t predict the future of the space one way or another. I just know that the blueprint and the idea behind it were a pleasant sight to see first thing on a Sunday morning. That, and I really needed a Tylenol.

The second memory is walking down Market St. over the past decade. Even as a born-native San Franciscan, I’d never been in Hollywood Billiards. I had nothing against it, I just never found my way inside. I usually met friends at bars of their choice and our pub crawls never went down Market. Maybe it was my lack of any tangible connection to the place that kept me from lamenting its passing. I mean, its front doors had been replaced with a cool psychedelic mural that, to me, actually improved the walk down Market. The changes in my city irk me more than most, but still… those eyes, man. Those eyes were where it was at.

The third memory takes place several times in 2014. I’m at a bar with other theatre folk, in a kitchen with other theatre folk, or at a backyard party with other theatre folk. We’re all drinking, as we are wont to do, and throwing out ideas for theatre ideas we each think would be pretty cool. A full-length adaptation here, a night of hilarious shorts there, the occasional suggestion for a one-(wo)man show – the usual stuff. None of us are as dismissive as we usually are, no matter how ridiculous the ideas. All we need is a place to put it on and some folks willing to sacrifice their dignity to make it happen. It’s only a matter of time before someone grips their drink tightly in one hand, yells “Fuck!” whilst swinging their other hand, and laments “This would be a perfect show for Theater Pub!”, at which point we all mourn the fact that at the time that name only applied to the very website you’re now reading.

All three of these memories are on my mind as I walk toward the former home of Hollywood Billiards this past December. The psychedelic eyes are long gone, there isn’t a pool table anywhere to be found, and the inside is full of local eateries. When I was in Stuart’s play Pastorella one of my co-stars had told me about the changes, so I began stopping by every now and then. The place is okay, I think. I can’t mentally compare it to what it was before, but I’m more interested in how it will look in the future. As this was December, we were a few weeks removed from both the Thanksgiving announcement that this would be one of Theater Pub’s two new homes, and the original staged reading [/LINK] of our first new show, Satyr Night Fever. I look around and don’t see any place for a stage or a band, but there’s lots of room to maneuver around the way we did in our old space. I have no idea how this is going to work and, now considered an “official” member of Theater Pub, I have the presumptive gall to think “What the hell has Stuart gotten us into?”

There’s been a lot of talk about when (if ever) Theater Pub would come back and what form it would take if it did. That’s the think about talk: there’s rarely any requirement for it to be more than just that. But as I sit in the newly-dubbed The Hall sipping boba tea and munching a fish taco, the idea of a staging a romantic comedy about a lovelorn goat-man and a walking tree spirit doesn’t seem so crazy. I don’t know how it’ll happen, but I’m glad to hear people talking about it.

PianoFight’s new Californicorn that hangs above the new space.

PianoFight’s new Californicorn that hangs above the new space.

Three months earlier I’m at SF SketchFest to see a show featuring PianoFight’s all-female troupe, Chardonnay. It was a really funny show. Afterwards we all head to a nearby bar and I catch up with everyone. Having known most of the members since 2009 at this point, it’s a bit of a trip to see how many of them have… I’m trying to think of a better term than “settled down”. That implies that they’ve somehow lost their edge and become a shadow of their former selves, and that sure as hell ain’t true. One thing I learned from the baudy show put on that night is that no one at the company is ready to give up on the raunchy satire that is their bread ‘n butter. But there’s definitely been changes in the PianoFighters themselves. Quite a few of them have gotten married, nearly all of them have gotten new jobs, and the new space is their base of operations after wandering through different venues. No, “settled down” isn’t the right term. “Grown up” fits better.

By December I’d toured the new space as it was a work in progress. Wires needs to be connected, walls needed painting, and pieces of wood were everywhere. But the Californicorn was up behind the bar. PianoFight’s logo is the California grizzly with added unicorn horns and angel wings. To christen their new place, they commissioned a mosaic of the logo by performer/artist extraordinaire Molly Benson. It’s really purrty. More importantly, it’s representative of how serious the company is to make this place work. They’ve planted their flag and staked their claim in the middle of the Tenderloin. Quite a few theatre people talk about what they’d do if they had their own space, but know they’ll always be at the whim of dickish landlords and a shrinking number of viable spaces. PianoFight decided to stop talking and actually make one of their own. Is it any surprise that we all thought “Wow, that place would make a great home for the new Theater Pub”?

That question was briefly on my mind last Saturday. This was the long-awaited day Satyr Night Fever made its debut at The Hall. It was the first ‘Pub show since December 2013 and the first ever “matinée” show, starting at 2pm. There was brunch, there were laughs, there were a few technical SNAFUs that were easily covered up by ecstatic moaning off-stage. Complete strangers who’d just stopped in for a quick snack wound up staying for mimosas and goat-man love. Familiar faces like such as Claire Rice, Marissa Skudlarek, Matt Gunnison, and Christian Simonsen could be seen all around. Most importantly, San Francisco Theater Pub was back and we were all happy to see it.

Yes, they made a stage.

Yes, they made a stage.

Two days later I was sitting in the new PianoFight space getting a drink from Les, the sweet old guy who served us many a pint in the ‘Pub original heyday. Now here he was, beneath the Californicorn as Tonya Narvaez, one of our new co-artistic directors, gave the crowd the rundown for the evening. The last time I was part of Theater Pub, I directing Eli Diamond to not give any attitude to his ornery old granny. Now I was watching him be hit on then berated by a vivacious tree nymph in a horrible Christmas sweater. By the time Meg Trowbridge, our other new co-AD, gave her closing speech and hit up our audience for money, rest assured that they’d the single best Greek mythology love story that one could ever find in the cabaret space of the theatre building owned by a raunchy San Francisco independent theatre company. They had something to talk about.

It gave us all the feels.

It gave us all the feels.

In case you couldn’t tell yet, lots of talk annoys me after a while. I say that as someone who does a great of talking all the time. That doesn’t change the fact that it annoys me. Maybe it’s the person talking that gets to me, maybe it’s what they’re saying, maybe it’s the time of day when it was said – those things can count for a lot when someone is expecting me to listen to them ramble on and on. Hell, I consider it an act of faith that you haven’t clicked away by this point. The reason I bring this up is because the thing I most remember about Theater Pub is what people said – before the show, after the show, and what was said during the performance. We’d talk dreams and talk shit with equal aplomb. That’s what I missed most about Theater Pub going away, talking with everyone. Talking about Theater Pub was what I most loved and hated about the time when it didn’t have a stage home. Talking about it is what I look forward to most in its new incarnation.

None of us are the same as we were back then. We’ve changed, we’ve grown, we’ve transformed into things that would hardly recognise the people we used to be. There’s no guarantee of where we’ll go from here, but I can’t wait talk about where we are now.

Charles Lewis III will be at the final performance of Satyr Night Fever tonight if you want to talk to him. He’ll understand if you don’t. It’s at 144 Taylor St. in San Francisco. The show starts at 8pm, with a $5.00 suggested donation at the door.

The Real World, Theater Edition: What I Don’t Need Anymore

Barbara Jwanouskos, focusing.

It’s actually really fitting that for the first month of the year we decided to focus on downtime and balance. I’ve felt the need lately in all aspects of my life –professional, personal, and artistic– to really take a solid look at myself and what exactly I want to achieve in these realms, and to make decisions about what I don’t need.

You all know that in my downtime from theater, writing, and work, that I practice kung fu and tai chi. I’ve mentioned before how the lessons learned from the pursuit of that art meld into other areas of my life. Most recently, I took a seminar, in which, I was reminded of how MUCH I truly do carry around! The task was to try to relax as much as possible while retaining the bare minimum of structure. It’s like you’re going on a backpacking trip — you want to pack light.

So, you’re thinking “great, so Barbara is tense, so what? So is everybody and what does this have to do with theater?” Which is probably pretty valid. I guess for me the connection and the a-ha moment in both activities, is that in order to progress further you need to give up something. And again, this might be kind of a duh realization. Still, I think it’s a good reminder and a good self-check to do every so often.

I have a couple writing goals for the year:

-To expand my portfolio by writing new plays. I don’t yet have a goal, but I figured at the very least writing one new full length, one short play, a short film, and revising my play “i stole lance armstrong’s bike” would be a hefty set of goals for the year.

-To get my personal website up and running. This one is so easy that I continuously put it off.

-To write consistently, as in every day. I used to do this more and fell out of practice with it, but to relate back to tai chi again for a moment, the time I started making deep, yet subtle (though absolutely tangible) progress when I made the small goal to practice for at least ten minutes every day and to write afterwards notes on what came up. I have a stretch goal to practice in the morning and evening and each month to increase my practice session by 1 minute.

I’d like to bring in some observations of why these things seem so hard to actually DO (especially consistently). Well, there’s my work schedule, there’s where I live and my commute time, there are the other commitments I have, and then add in the very necessary social outings with friends and family. But there’s also a lot of stuff I could cut out — for instance, really pushing for a fulltime job (I have been already, but I could make some even more pointed decisions to create more time). I could not volunteer myself for as many theater (or other) pursuits.

This one is hard because for me sometimes (especially when your role as writer is to be erm… writing) because I like being involved and socializing. I like helping out. I was talking about this with some of my friends the other night and it’s like, I have this need to only focus on my projects (and of those only the ones I really care about). We were reflecting that everyone else is certainly going to survive without us and no one would probably notice in the first place. Maybe this is sounding too pessimistic, but it really was an affirmation that I believe the work I do has meaning. So why get mixed up in other people’s art children dream projects because you want to “be involved”? I can be involved in a variety of ways. I can make plans to hang out with friends if that’s what I want to do. And I can support organizations, projects, and worthy causes in a variety of ways.

So, to digress for a second, by now maybe you’re like, “Wait, I thought this column was going to shift to interviews…” Well, you know how life goes. As it happened trying to balance all the above stuff and still try to fill my cup before I burned out, I got the timing wrong on my first interview of this year. And so yes, I did decide to write this as an alternative to that. Hopefully it is valuable or possibly interesting to others. But honestly, I don’t care. Not in a “I really don’t care about the content of this blog” way. I do, I absolutely do. I mean “I don’t care what others think about my decision to address this situation in this manner and what I think that they think it may say about me as a person, my abilities as a writer, or my aptitude to be a conscientious theater citizen.”

Phew! I know that’s a mouthful, but this gets to the last thing I’m willing to give up in order to swiftly achieve my goals: thinking. I’m sick of thinking and I’m all about doing. Thinking is great sometimes, but it gets to be natural. I can’t shut it off really. All I do is redirect and intensely focus on what I’m DOING. Maybe I’m over-emphasizing this point, but actually I with I had some companions on this “less thinking, more doing”. I’m so sick of navel-gazing theater to death. Can we just do it? Can we just write plays? Perform in things? Find a makeshift place to put on a play? Even if it’s really slow to get all the pieces in place. Even if it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I wonder if maybe I could do this (and possibly others, though I am certainly not interested in forcing or even working to convince anyone), maybe I could create some great art!

Barbara Jwanouskos is a Bay Area based writer and member of Just Theater’s 2014-15 New Play Lab. Website coming soon…

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Miss Skudlarek’s Downtime Activities

Marissa Skudlarek explores the unglamorous, glamorous life.

I feel like 2015 has gotten off to a quiet start for me, though I’ll take quiet after the crazy roller coaster that was the second half of 2014. I have no theater projects or major deadlines on the horizon for a little while, so this month has been devoted to grounding myself and developing habits that will stand me in good stead for the rest of the year. In keeping with our January blog theme of “downtime and balance,” I thought I’d tell you some of what I’ve been doing this month to take care of myself – and how these things might just prove useful to me as a theater-maker as well.

Using the f.lux app. This app adjusts the color of your computer screen so that it harmonizes with the time of day. During daylight hours, it remains bright white, but in the evening, it gradually gets warmer and dimmer, as though lit by candlelight. Staring at a bright-white computer screen late at night is said to negatively impact sleep quality, and when my screen reaches its dimmest point around 10 PM, it serves as a nice reminder that I really ought to think about going to bed. Since I started using this app, I feel like I’ve had fewer nights where I stayed up too late browsing the Internet.

How this will help my theater-making: Our profession often requires us to be night owls, for the purposes of rehearsals and performances. Economic exigencies require many of us to have day jobs and keep a 9 to 5 schedule. So, on the nights when we don’t have to be up late, doesn’t it make sense to get a good night’s sleep?

Cleaning my room. Okay, my room is still not as clean as I (or my mom) would ultimately like it to be. But I spent several hours cleaning it this weekend and my head feels clearer already. Toward the end of 2014, the external mess in my room and the internal mess in my head reinforced one another, creating a negative feedback loop that sapped my motivation. But now that I’ve cleared away piles of papers and larger patches of my lovely wooden floors are shining in the sun? I’m motivated to keep going.

How this will help my theater-making: As I said, the cleaner my room, the clearer my head. But also: the ability to clean and organize spaces quickly and efficiently is an invaluable skill during load-in and strike.

Watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This is an Australian TV show, recommended to me by several Theater Pub bloggers, about a glamorous, independently wealthy, free-spirited lady detective in 1920s Melbourne. It’s the perfect show to watch with a cup of tea on a cold winter’s night: sumptuous costumes, hot guys, the satisfaction of a smart detective catching the culprit and restoring order to the world. For theater people, I especially recommend Season 1, episode 6, a cheerfully ridiculous piece of fluff involving murders and a ghost backstage at a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore.

How this will help my theater-making: Too often, feminists have to battle against the perception that they are humorless killjoys who take offense at everything. Even if you consider yourself a feminist, doesn’t the phrase “feminist theater” or “feminist television” make you worry that it’ll be an eat-your-vegetables kind of show? That it’ll be high-minded and depressing, rather than fun and escapist? Miss Fisher, though, is definitely feminist and definitely fun. It was created and produced by women, and I think every episode I’ve seen so far passes the Bechdel test. Miss Fisher’s investigations often reveal the injustices of 1920s society, but never in a hit-you-over-the-head way; and she is a splendidly bold and independent heroine. 90% of the reason I watch Miss Fisher is simple enjoyment, but 10% of it is because it makes me think about how entertainment can present a feminist perspective without alienating viewers.

Trying out new hairdos. I’ve made a few changes to my appearance as 2015 starts. I got new glasses, I’m using a darker lipstick, and I’ve become enamored with updos. My hair is a bit above shoulder length, so figuring out attractive ways to wear it up can be challenging. But I’m having fun playing around with different hairstyles after years of just wearing my hair down all the time.

How this will help my theater-making: Rumor has it that I may have to wear a wig in The Desk Set this summer, and if I figure out good techniques for putting my hair up now, it’ll be a great help when I need to stuff my hair under the wig cap. When I was in Into the Woods in college and had to wear a pink wig (photo here), I developed mad skills at doing my hair in two French braids and then pinning them up in back – I’d like to have those skills again!

Furthermore, if cleaning my room corresponds to clearing my head, does pinning my stray strands of hair in a neat chignon correspond to untangling my messy thoughts and gathering them into something tidy and elegant? Maybe. I’m hoping.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Clearly, she has moments of wanting to be a lifestyle guru, but she also hates the phrase “lifestyle guru.” Find her online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Cowan Palace: Reality TV: My Theatrical Fast Food

Ashley hopes you’ll accept this rose.

As I sit down to write this, I continue to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Meaning, I stupidly ate some Sonic on our road trip home from Arizona and my stomach feels like it’s been repeatedly stabbed with a dinglehopper.

But I’ve also been distracting myself with the current Facebook message chat group I have with some of my lady friends entitled “Bachelor Chats”. It’s been our way to organize our next weekly viewing night of our current reality show, share stickers and emoticons, and speculate about the love lives of our mutual friends. Our discussions can be unapologetically gossipy and brutal. It’s awesome.

Now, it’s no surprise that I have a weakness for reality TV. Yeah, I know it’s trashy and it’s not good for me; it’s my Sonic meal when I should be eating a salad (hail kale and all that). But my love for it has only strengthened over the years as I’ve tried to tempt people into watching it with me. And The Bachelor is my favorite.

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What’s not to love about watching thirty beautiful, crazy eyed women fight for a flower given by some studio groomed fella who is either shirtless for almost no reason or in a tux for almost no reason? It’s also the place I learned the phrase “grown sexy” and that’s simply invaluable! Maybe it’s the actress in me who enjoys seeing these gals “audition” and fight rejection. Or maybe it’s the writer in me wishing I could capture some of the overly dramatic dialogue and sloppy displays of gruesome affection. Or maybe it’s the romantic in me that can’t help but root for love, even when it’s manipulated. And sure, I hate myself a little for being cruel and laughing a bit too hard at the montages of people weeping but it’s still pretty delicious. Besides, even if it gives me a stomachache, similar to the one I have now from eating what I’m now calling the devil’s food, I keep coming back for more. I’m a true glutton for punishment, I guess.

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But I’m actually not alone in my reality TV haze. In fact, over in England, reality TV is having a pretty big influence on their theatre scene. It’s believed that because of the reality shows dedicated to casting some of the city’s big productions (which began with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? on BBC1), tickets sales are the highest they’ve been in 25 years. In addition, they’re finding that the musicals used for these reality shows are getting nearly a quarter of their audience from those who watched the reality show and became invested in the production.

I can’t help but wish this trend would gain some popularity in the United States. We had In Search of the Partridge Family, Grease: You’re the One That I Want!, and Legally Blonde: The Search For Elle Woods across various networks but the ratings never seemed to be high enough to warrant another show. Though, Jersey Shore’s Snooki recently announced she’s interested in being on Broadway and I wouldn’t be surprised if MTV turned that into another opportunity to cash in on her unexpected fame. And who am I kidding? I would absolutely watch that train wreck.

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In the meantime though, I take what I can get. Though, I will say, most of my Bachelor watching group consists of ladies I’ve met thanks to theatre world in some capacity. Which totally seems appropriate given the theatrical element to the show. Whether we met thanks to a shared show, working at a theatre camp for wealthy New York City kids, or we share a mom, we’ve got a good group (and a crew of people always open to others joining us). The hardest part of scheduling our viewings though is that most evenings have already been promised to a rehearsal for some exciting new project. Damn you, talented friends!

But considering my current state, these nights have become even more appetizing to my hungry palate. Because for a few hours, I get to surround myself with talented theater makers while I’m not involved in a show or production of my own while ridiculous and brilliantly edited “romantic” scenes light up our space. I get a piece of the community I love while elevating my feet; I catch up the latest local juicy news and laugh in excess; I celebrate being there for the right reasons and to make friends. Plus, there are snacks. There are always so many snacks.

Evenings like this are limited for me. In like eight weeks, “ladies night” will consist of my newborn and me making late night bets over which fame-seeking biotch will get the final rose and inspire hours of further sleep-deprived online reading.

While I desperately miss being involved in a show, I’m grateful for the company and entertainment. Reality TV is no real substitute for theatre just like Sonic isn’t really a smart replacement for a meal and it never will be, but for now, I’m thankful for that handsome farmer dude and the women with questionable jobs and ages for entertaining me greatly in the meantime.

Working Title: You Are Wrong! This is Way Harder…

That’s what she said…just kidding.This week Will Leschber re-poses an old acting discussion: Which is more difficult…

So I’m in the middle of my Arizona Baby Shower (the wife is from Connecticut and I hail from Arizona, so obviously we had to have two parties to celebrate the impending arrival of our little one). The Seahawks have just clinched the NFC West division title and underneath this oversized, wall-mounted television, I’m much more interested in bouncing a conversation off two old friends. The topic of Oscar nominations came up, which then breached into which was a harder acting feat: Portraying a real person or creating an original character? This is something that actors across the stage and screen deal with uniformly.

One fell into the camp stating, creating an entirely new person without reference point to another is much greater acting challenge. The optional choices are vast, the canvas is wide and narrowing down a unique yet compelling performance is formidable! He felt that award season much more regularly congratulates actors who play real life counter parts and this is a shame. (Often those parts entail someone with a disability or a physical ailment or a larger than life historical figure…but as Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder will tell you…

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The other friend vehemently disagreed… there’s a reason people often win an award portraying real life individuals; because playing a real person allows a one to one mirror comparison to occur for an easier evaluation. When they get it wrong, you can see immediately! Not only do they have to recreate this persons voice and movement to a ‘T’, but they also have to create a living breathing person within the mimicry. Much more to master and much more room for error when playing a real person. Hands down this was harder, he argued.

I, being the well balanced Libra that I am, think they are both right and equally wrong. Ultimately I think this discussion is more productive when whittled down to specific performances (say, Eddie Redmayne portraying Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything vs Michael Keaton playing a fictional actor in Birdman) BUT I find the discussion on a broad scale endlessly interesting.

As we embark on award seasons this is a fun thing that is sure to get kicked around… I’m more interested in what you guys think. As long as there are opinions to be had and preferences to play into, this discussion will unfold to no end. SO tell me what you think!