Monday, September 30, 2013

Dazed without Breaking Bad


I loved listening to Anna Gunn talk on an interview about working with Breaking Bad creator/writer Vince Gilligan on a scene in Episode 5. Gilligan directed the final episode himself, which he rarely did due to his need to be in the writer's room.

She described him as very detailed and very specific. He chose and placed each prop himself with extreme care, down to the coffee cup that Skyler would be using, to baby Holly's toys on the floor, how many there were and where they were to be placed. He worked with the costumer and the make up artist to chose colorless tones and a slightly oversized costume for Gunn, and made certain the lighting supported this colorless, washed out look.  Gilligan and the actors spoke in great detail about every beat of the scene, rehearsed it, and when all of these elements were in place, shot it. And of course, the writing is thoughtful, surprising, rich with new discoveries.

No wonder the cast, and the fans, are wandering around looking dazed--we'll all miss this level of attention to detail and all around excellence.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Back on the Horse

Or is it back in the saddle? In any case, 17 years after moving to the Bay Area after years of steady acting work in Portland, Oregon, I got back on the Horse. I did two major roles for Virago Theatre, in George Pfirrmann's new play AROUSAL and Harold Pinter's masterpiece The Lover, both opposite the wonderful John Steen, both well directed by Symmetry Theatre Company's Artistic Director, Chloe Bronzan. Here's me in AROUSAL as Albena. She is a Urkrainian prostitute and illegal alien who'd rather hang herself than continue with her wretched life, until she meets Clifford, a lonely 45 year old man with Asperger's Symdrome who genuinely needs her and convinces her to stay, but not without her giving a warning: "for you, for now."

John Steen as Clifford, Laura Lundy-Paine as Albena, George Pfirrmann's AROUSAL

Here's me as Sarah in The Lover. All photos by Luis A. Solorzano

                     Harold Pinter's "The Lover"

What struck me about acting in these two shows was how frightening it was to first off commit to being in either of them, what with Urkrainian accents in one and several British dialects in the other, challenging character development, a big line load, and a lap dance to learn even though I've never been able to learn even the most basic choreography. But beyond all of these things: Will I stink? Can I remember what I used to do to prepare? 

     John Steen as Clifford, Laura Lundy-Paine as Albena, George Pfirrmann's AROUSAL

A highlight for me (ha ha) was the terrifying design run, in which we run the show in very rough shape, in order to let designers get a solid sense of the blocking, emotional arc of the characters (translated to gel colors, so on). At some point I was so frightened and brain dead on the lines that instead of calling "Line" I proclaimed loudly yet in a strangely childlike tone: "Gary I need help." I meant help pulling myself together, but I didn't have to be carted off:  Gary delivered the line.

Once the run started that terrible fear went away. But I'll never forget it. Next time, I will face it head-on. No more waiting 17 years.