Friday, March 31, 2006

Going Commando

As a follow-up to our story about the video shoot at Casa last week, Rahaleh, Liz, Grady and some other folks possibly, took their shoot to the people. There are advantages to living in a city like DC, when you want to make something political you take a ride downtown. See if you recognize where Liz is.

Hey Scott,
We did the outdoor shoot for Zillah scenes on Wednesday.
Lots of fun and we didn't even come closeto getting arrested.
Here are some stills I took.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rorschach Sweet 16

Play at Home with your Friends.
Click image to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rahaleh Points Us to All Things Nazi

You ever wonder how they did it? How the Nazis turned the otherwise loving people of Germany into a nation hell bent on invasion and genocide. Well Rahaleh directs us to web site at Calvin College, which shows Pre-1933 Nazi Propaganda. Essays by Joseph Goebbels, political cartoons and for all intents and purposes how to guides that were used by the Nazis to achieve their goals.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Post Card Image

Had ourselves a little photo call this weekend. Above you will see the result of a couple of hours of hard work and a lot of scrambling before hand. The beautiful Linday Allen met up with Jenny, Randy and me for a photo shoot at Casa on Saturday to take some rather stunning pictures. Using all of the film noir training I received by watching Double Indemnity last Wednesday, a white sheet, a borrowed camera and an overhead projector, I took some great pictures of Lindsay and her shadow. Costume designer Frank came up with just the right look for Anges and Lindsay did up her hair in a very period style.

Next we took the picture and printed it out and laid it on this carefully constructed 3-D collage of images from the world of the play. Hopefully it shows Agnes in her room with the rest of the world going on around her. At least that is what I meant for it to do.

Friday, March 24, 2006

How Rorschach is Like Dick Cheney

I try not to be topical around here and making things politically heated serves no one but those who think that all theater types are pinkos and liberals. But sometimes an issue comes across my radar which relates directly to the way we function as a company. There is an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, detailing the requirement of our Vice-President when staying at one of the various undisclosed locations. Here's what you need in a room for a Cheney stay:

*Queen or king bed.

*Temperature 68 degrees. All lights turned on.

*TV turned on to Fox News.

*Decaf coffee, brewed prior to arrival.

*Four to six bottles of bottled water. If Lynne Cheney along, two bottles of Calistoga or Perrier.

*Diet Caffeine Free Sprite, four cans.

I have a similar list of demands that are a rider to my contract when working on a Rorschach show and for the first time ever in an attempt at full disclosure I want to share it with all of you.

* A dozen hard boiled eggs. All of which must be dyed to match the set.

* Handful of NoDoz pills. No other sleep suppressant will do.

* A copy of the timeless Western Musical, Paint Your Wagon, starring Clint Eastood and Lee Marvin.

* The Guinness Book of World Records just in case I do something amazing on stage and need to verify if I have in fact broken a record of some sort.

* In true rock star tradition a one pound bag of M&Ms with the letters scratched off.

* Legendary actor David Carradine on speed dial in case I need some quick advice as to how Kwai Chang Caine would do it.

* A holding area for my pet pot bellied pig, Arnold.

* Handy-wipes, at least a gross.

* Final approval of all of the other actors choices in any scene where I am talking. If I am not talking they can do whatever the hell they want.

* Do not expose me to bright light. Do not get me wet. And whatever you do, do not feed me after midnight.

* An hourly update on whether they have found the wallet I lost in 1986 at the Golden Ring Mall in Baltimore while watching a movie with Amy Belschner and Miki Geiger.

* Another dozen hard boiled eggs.

I have yet to receive any of these and I am kind of disappointed. As long as the threat of being replaced by a sock puppet exists I will suck it up, but the minute I win that Oscar all bets are off. Keep that in mind Jenny and Randy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Of Sound Mind

Matt Frederick, how could I not love the man. I was best man at his wedding and there are not too many people I can say that about. I spent the evening with Matt and his lovely wife Jenny last night and we watched American Idol. I know just the demographic Fox is going after with that show, men in their mid-thirties. The thing was that Matt and I both had similar reactions to the performers and we could watch it and not have our heads explode. I feel Matt, like I, is a student of Popular Culture. His knowledge of music is exhaustive and he is one of those people who always seems to be in a good mood even when the world is turning to crap. He has great taste in vintage clothing. In particular he wears brown velvet tuxedoes better than anyone I know. Some nights he uses his musical knowledge and taste to go to that place and do that thing, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

He has designed sound for several Rorschach shows, the last two in succession. Credits include: Ubu Roi, Master and Margarita, The Scarlet Letter, The Beard of Avon, and Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards.

1. Place of birth?

I was born in Washington, DC, in a hospital?

2. First experience in theater?

My first experience as an audience member was seeing The Big Slam at Woolly Mammoth, way back in 1997. My fist job in theatre was The Old Neighborhood at Theatre J, hired by our own Randy Baker.

3. Where you went to school?

I went to High School at Parkdale in Riverdale MD, and before you make any wisecracks about PG county schools, remember this...Sugar Ray Leonard went there! I then received an honorary degree from the University of Life.

4. What do you do?

I'm a Sound Designer

5. What was your first experience with Rorschach?

Almost worked on the Hairy Ape, but a series of panic attacks prevented that, we don't discuss that anymore. The first Rorschach show I saw was Rhinoceros.

6. Company member you would most like to be if you were not yourself?

I would have to say it's a tie between Tracy Olivera and Hugh T. Owen.

7. Some story about working on a Rorschach play that either made you laugh or touched you deeply?

I remember on Master and Margarita having to take apart the mini-disc player and do some delicate surgery to save the disc that was safely trapped inside, this a half hour before the show, that made me both laugh and cry. And when Grady was way up high trying to fix the trap door, was that the same night?

8. Where do you think Rorschach will be in the next ten years?

I'm not sure where we'll be, but I know we'll be totally cool!

9. What is your favorite Rorschach show that you were not in?

A Clearing in the Woods.

10. Scott McCormick harmless adolescent or world conquering super villain?

I would have to lean towards harmless adolescent.

Peeking In

Rahaleh let me come to a rehearsal last night. Originally I was told to stay away because, as has been before mentioned on this site and at several Rorschach auditions, I scare the actors.

Well I can't help it. I was born with this face and this voice. Is it my fault if people are intimidated by good looks and the voice of a man who sounds like what would have happened if Eartha Kitt and Barry White's voice had made sweet love one lonely night and had a love child? Is that my fault America? "Aw baby! Come over here and let me make love to your sweet cat like voice and we will give the world yet another voice of incomparable depth and sexiness."

Any way I made my way into the space to find Rahaleh and the stage manager Viv hard at work arranging rehearsal chairs and tables for the boys and girls. Bright Room is made up of many scenes that show Agnes, the tenant of a very comfortable and inviting apartment in Berlin, and her friends as the forces of history work their will on them during Hitler and Nazis rise to power. The first scene of the play, which they were rehearsing last night was a New Year's Party. As Agnes and her friends welcome 1932, they share drink and ghost stories; this is a moment of happiness before the real world starts to creep into their lives.

Being an actor I don't usually get to sit and watch other people rehearsing a scene. When you are called you are there for a purpose, my purpose last night was simply that of a witness to the process. It's funny the things you don't think about when you are actually a part of the process. This is a process that requires you to say the same lines over and over again, trying to mine the various meanings and sub-text of a scene. Using all of the skills you have accumulated over however many years to give the director what she wants. All of the actors tools: voice, movement and improvisation all in service of not yourself but of a story. Sometimes I think audiences and theater folk lose sight of what it is we are doing up on stage. With theater's of more extravagant means throwing thousands if not millions of dollars at a play its hard to remember that no matter what your budget all you are doing is enacting a tradition as old as speech itself, the sharing of a story.

What really brought that home for me is watching the cast as they acted out Kushner's first scene. This group of artists begins to play a game by telling a story. Agnes starts the tale of a man who is walking late one cold night on the streets. Agnes's friends continue the tale of a man and his war against nature. A story that has begun with a simple premise begins to turn into parable about man and his attempts to find comfort in a world where there are many things, nature among them, that are out to get you.

As the actors read the scene again and again, you could see the wheels whirling and spinning, the first couple of times through as they sorted out what the scene meant. Then Rahaleh would offer some notes and tweaks to what they were doing. Eventually the whirling and spinning died away and all you saw was a group of old friends who were having a party. As I watch I begin to believe that this is a real party and the people at the party would never be this happy again.

I am really looking forward to this show.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Message from the Director

I may not have mentioned this yet but Bright Room while set in 1930s Germany incorporates a character from the 1980s. The character of Zilla, being portrayed by company member Liz Chomko(The Scarlet Letter and Behold!), enters into the world of the play from time to time to make points about not just the Nazis but about conspiracies and political hypocrisy of all kinds. As a way to integrate these two very different worlds Rahaleh Nassri, the director, decided early on that these interruptions would work best on film. Last night they began shooting these scenes which will eventually be integrated into the performance. Rahaleh took some time this morning to talk about how the shoot and how the show in general has been coming together.

WOW. Everyday everyone working on Bright Room amazes and surprises me.
I got off of a five hour flight yesterday afternoon and headed straight to Casa for our first night of shooting the Zillah scenes.

We planned on shooting four of her monologues but figured the first day would be more of a test. Would we have the props we needed? How would the picture turn out with that black wall? Would Liz know her lines? Costumes? Equipment? Staff? We decided to wing it, see what we got out of it and then have better subsequent shoots.

As I was discussing the “typewriter situation” with Hannah and Viv, Becky Trotter (props designer) showed up with the typewriter and a whole lot more. The German Lesson Book. The Bible. There was also the drawing “Bridegroom Called Death” Nathaniel Sinnott (lighting designer) had sketched for the Zillah set. The drawing is a nod to how Kushner got the title of play.

Frank Labovitz (costume designer) dressed Liz in incredibly imaginative designs we all decided belong in collections by Gaultier. But as we started to dress the set he finally said, “this is what I love to do: set dressing.” I said, “okay, run around Casa and find anything appropriate and dress away.” Becky, Frank, Viv, Hannah and I worked on dressing the set while Grady set up his equipment. There was really nothing on the set but an ugly piece of furniture when we started and an hour later when Jenny walked in, she couldn’t believe how good it looked.

We managed to get great takes and interesting shots for three of Zillah’s monologues. Material that we will actually be able to use and (barring any horrible sound problems) won’t have to reshoot. That is so much more than I expected.

Everyone helped in more ways than one. Viv did everything, including give us her blanket. Hannah, our dramaturg, jotted time codes. For one scene Frank even became the boom operator. And Liz did some great work as Zillah. Her final interruption in the play was positively chilling.

And, of course, none of it would have been possible without Grady. I love being able to do this with the Zillah character. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of taking it on if there was no Grady.

Thank you all for a great first shoot.

The first week of this insane project: the play itself, the film, the set (make that two sets) has been incredibly productive. Not just what we see everyday, but all those working behind the scenes. Scott marketing at the Tony Kushner event, among other things. Randy and Jenny constantly working on production details. I can’t believe how much we get done everyday with so little stress and so much enjoyment.

I appreciate all of you more than I can say.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Lives Wrapped Around One Another

It was January 2001 that I did my first show for Rorschach. In that time we as a company have come a long way. Starting as a company of vagabonds in found spaces using our wit and charm to lure audiences down alleys and into abandoned high schools, we have grown up over those years. We have a semi-permanent space and subscribers, but more than simply growing as a company we have grown as individuals and artists. People who I started out with have been playing some of the biggest theaters in town, appearing in films and producing television shows. There have been birthdays and weddings. Why this year alone, there will be four company members walking down the aisle.

We all started out in our 20s and have been inching our way into respectability as more and more of us fall solidly into our 30 somethings.

Randy Baker had a birthday on Saturday night. And it reminded me of all of the other birthdays and special times we have shared as a community and dysfunctional theater family.

- Moon bounce at Grady's thirtieth, when the power would cut out and the moon bounce would collapse on the people inside.

- Jenny and Matt's wedding when I the 55 year old bartender, who kept slipping me free drinks and telling me should owned her own house and then looking daggers at any woman who came up and talked to me.

- Mine and Deb's combined birthday when everyone was told to dress like Scott and Deb. The number of wrap around skirts and Hawaiian shirts was inspiring.

- Tim sitting in his back yard picking and a grinning for his 30th.

Cast parties and opening parties aside, we are all so wrapped up in one another’s triumphs and defeats, sometimes its hard to know where my life starts and someone else’s begins.

Sitting there on Saturday and listening to Grady go off about the Spanish Golden Age of Drama, talking to Liz about working at Studio, and making jokes with MJ and Styles about the personal grooming habits of several DC actors, reminded me how much fun this life can be. Sometimes I think that so many of these parties are viewed as business obligations, but every once in a while I am reminded that they can actually be fun.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Poli-Sci Major Spouts a Little

It is when we do plays like A Bright Room Called Day, that I realize my degree in Political Science is not completely wasted. While it is important to not simply look at Bright Room as some sort of historical document isolated from the world that we live in, it is also necessary as artists and audience to be aware of some of the realities of the state of German Affairs in the 1930s.

It is easy when anyone does a project involving the word Nazi, to simply reduce the ideas of Nazism to the Holocaust and Hitler. It makes people feel safe and cozy to think that those things are in the past. As time moves on and we get further and further from the events of World War II and the horrors inflicted on all the peoples of Europe, it seems many people forget that the Nazis and Hitler didn't just show up one morning and start running Germany. They started as a political party with a message that appealed too many of the German people. Ideas like national pride and fighting the threat from without and within.

Germany was still suffering economic and political instability after their loss of World War I fifteen years before the events of Bright Room. Assassination, revolution and poverty were the order of the day in Germany during the intervening years between the wars. It was threats of this sort of terrorism that led many people to seek an alternative to what was perceived as the Weimar Government's ineffectuality and capitulation to the demands of the victorious European Powers. Imagine inflation during the 1920s that had 10,000,000 marks equaling 1 American Dollar. You would need a wheelbarrow full of marks to buy a loaf of bread. To the left you see children standing next to a stack of nearly worthless mark notes.

And so what happens when you are hungry and you don't know who will be in charge as leaders are killed or deposed? You lash out and things that you thought you would never sacrifice go out the window as you look for a little security in a world where no place seems safe. And if you are a politician with a thirst for power you exploit that fear.

You use the uncertainty to bring people to your cause. And not just the working masses, but intellectuals, war heroes and artists. You use the media and popular culture to carry your message of the threat of foreign governments and internal threats. You use the state's mechanisms to spy on its own citizens and ask neighbors to spy on neighbors. You put your opposition in jail and eventually build up your national defenses to spark a lagging economy.

And this is the world that surrounds the events of A Bright Room Called Day. A story where a group of idealists and artists slowly watch their nation slip under the spell of an Austrian with a penchant for public speaking.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Subscriber #1

I am told that there is something about answering questions that makes people want to join in. I don't think we are quite at the point where all we are going to do is run profiles but someone made a special request. And since she is a woman and we like women better than men here at the Rorschach Blog it was hard for me to say no. I have trouble mostly because I have been having trouble forming the letter n lately with my mouth. Emily Compton was one of the first if not the first to send in her money for her season subscription to Rorschach. She also has either the privilege or curse of knowing Randy Baker for a good long while. Thankfully she has not picked up the bad habit of writing the first chapter of War and Peace when answering these questions.

I know you may not know her, but she is kind of a sweetie and a faithful reader of this blog. And with that loyalty comes benefits. Remember this blog is open to everyone who loves Rorschach, whether you are performer, artist or audience member we want to hear from you. This time it was Emily, next time it could be you. Be sure to follow the Gollum and Adama links. Enjoy!

1. Place of birth?

Nashville, TN. No, really, y'all.

2. First experience in theatre?

In 8th grade we did The Hobbit for school and I was Gollum. My entrance was from a trap door at down center. In the dress rehearsal I flipped up the trap door, and as I was jumping up through the hole, the lid WHAM slammed down on my head. So I tried again and WHAM it slammed down on my head again. I opened the lid again and the teachers shouted "Stop, stop!" so they could fix the trap door. Getting whacked on the head. That's what I love about theatre.

3. Where you went to school?

Randy Baker's alma mater, University of Richmond. My senior year I lived in HOCWA, an on-campus apartment. Randy and his friends named it HOCWA, which meant "House of Crazy Women". We called Randy and his friends The Finks, which meant "Immature while we girls were never immature at all." The Finks lived off-campus at Stonewall Jackson's Ass, at the corner of Monument & Boulevard.

4. What do you do?

I am an Equity Stage Manager. But then I became a lawyer. Here's what I have learned: Actors, with their colleagues, are courteous, punctual, and respectful of each others' work. Attorneys, with their colleagues, are demanding, tardy, and obnoxious to each other. And it's a crazy system we're in, where the most obnoxious attorneys live in the nicest unaffordable apartments, and the most talented dedicated actors and artists feeding their student loan debts bear the burden of telling stories of truth and beauty so the system doesn't drive us crazy.

5. What was your first experience with Rorschach?

Spring 1994, Professor Louis Schwartz's Paradise Lost reading. Randy and I were in Schwartz's Intro to Renaissance Literature survey course, and he invited his students to his house on a Saturday to read Paradise Lost aloud. The 400-year-old text is astonishingly alive... and the moments when Adam and Eve eat the apple after 7 hours of poetry could not possibly be more theatrical. For actual Rorschach stuff, I attended a Hairy Ape read-thru. And I was at the Rhinoceros tech in that sweaty rooftop greenhouse--I did some line-coaching and light-hanging and some real heavy-duty lurking.

6. Company member you would most like to be if you were not yourself?

Jenny. I admire her ability to wrangle Randy. If not Jenny, then, of course, Rahaleh, obviously.

7. Some story about working on a Rorschach play that either made you laugh or touched you deeply?

I think the story of Rorschach's production of J.B. is quite poignant. I was in California at the time. I'm very sorry to have missed J.B., but like most of its audience, my impression is that it was too much theatre hurting too much at exactly the right time. And I can't imagine how Rorschach went on with the show -- it was a brave thing to have done.

8. Where do you think Rorschach will be in the next ten years?

Let me put it this way: If the Cylons attacked, Rorschach would be stowed away on a mining vessel grabbing bits of space debris and fracking making theatre out of it, and Admiral Adama would do that slow-clap thing.

9. What is your favorite Rorschach show that you were not in?

It's a toss-up: Behold! which I liked because the text and characters and staging seem to have developed so organically out of Rorschach's unique situation. But also, Family Stories, wow, I mean, you know, wow.

10. Scott McCormick harmless adolescent or world conquering supervillain?

Super villain. Ask me a hard one.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kushner and Miller

The show I am in for another allied but competing theater company in Northeast is open and therefore I have my evenings back 3 or 4 nights a week. What to do with these free evenings I ask myself? I could spend them deep in thought or hanging around rehearsals for Bright Room (and I will get around to that I promise). I could do what I have done a couple of nights this month, go home and sleep. Sleep is such a sweet thing when you can do it in 10 hour stretches. I could watch TV, interesting fact there are no comedies on CBS except for CSI: Miami on Monday nights (it turns out that I may in fact be the only one who thinks CSI is funny whether in Las Vegas, Miami or New York). Or I can combine two missions into one and get cultured and spread the word about Rorschach, which is what I did on Monday Night.

Monday morning I read a little blurb on Potomac Stages regarding a discussion being held with Tony Kushner that night. He was out promoting the first volume of an anthology of Arthur Miller's plays. Now I am not a rocket scientist, but I did think about becoming a brain surgeon for about a week in 1993, so I knew someone from Rorschach had to be at that event promoting Bright Room. For once I was the person with both the time and inclination. So I made me up a promo flier using a photo of Lindsay Allen from A Clearing in the Woods and made my way over the Avalon Theater on Connecticut Ave., which by good luck was a short bus ride and walk from where I work on Wisconsin.

I left work, dithered at the Borders and then made my way cross town to the theater, arriving my usual two and a half hours early. I wanted to scope the place out, get my ticket, eat some meal and read on a bench in front of the theater. The folks sponsoring the event, Politics and Prose had set up a table out in the lovely night air and I was one of the first people to lay down my $13 for a ticket. And then I worked my charm with the fliers. I spoke to the manager and asked in my sweetest voice, which isn't so much sweet as less bitter, if it would be possible to place the fliers on their table? He thought for a moment and then said sure. McGyver-ing up a little display stand out of some rubber bands and hunks of card board to make sure they wouldn't blow away in the warm breeze, I placed my cargo on the will-call table and made my way to a nearby bench. This was around 6:45 pm with the main event taking place at 8:15.

I watched as people arrived and picked up the fliers, which were good for 2 for 1 tickets for the first week of the run. I had made about 150 of the things and about half of them were gone when I went into the space around 8:00. Success, all I had to do now was go into the theater and enjoy.

Tony Kushner is without a doubt one of my favorite playwrights. Ever since Rorschach did The Illusion and seeing a college production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, I have loved his style, use of language and his ability to call out social injustice. Seeing him live was a personal joy and I will only hit some of the high points of his talk.

He was there to discuss Arthur Miller, a playwright who without is one of America's greatest writers. Even if he had only written Death of a Salesman, he would have earned his place in the firmament of great writers. Kushner had been asked to take on the duties of editing these volumes of Miller's works and recounted the first time he met the man. It was at the 1994 Tony Awards they were both up for Best New Play that year, Kushner for Angels in America: Perestroika and Miller for Broken Glass. 1994 was a great year for plays by the way the other two nominees were The Kentucky Cycle by Robert Schenkkan and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith. Kushener was seated behind Arthur Miller and kept staring at the back of Miller's head and thinking that is where Willy and the Lowmans live. His deep respect for Miller was quite clear as he was recounting this story.

He included Miller in the Big Three of American Drama, O'Neill and Williams making up the balance. He said he would like to expand that to the Big Five and include Albee and Sondheim as well, for what they have done for theater. He also counts Death of a Salesman among the three greatest plays in American Literature, the other two being Long Days Journey Into Night and A Street Car Named Desire. He expressed how as a student he had rejected these playwrights, being in love with writers like Ibsen and Brecht. It wasn't until he grew older that he began to realize the work and it value. He said that even Brecht expressed a grudging respect for Death of a Salesman.

Most of the rest of the evening focused on the work of Miller and the qualities of the work that make Miller a great writer. At one point he mentioned that some people wonder what would have happened if Miller hadn't married Marilyn Monroe. Kushner said that is a stupid question, he said I'm gay and I would have married Marilyn Monroe, who wouldn't. No argument here.

The evening wore down and eventually the middle aged couple and students lined up with their copies of the book for Tony Kushner to sign. I had to wonder if having a copy of Arthur Millers plays signed by Tony Kushner isn't like having a picture of Sean Connery autographed by Roger Moore. I am not comparing the two I was just wondering?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Through a Mirror Dorkly

I know it seemed like these profiles were done now that the big show has started. On the contrary when I get these hot little pieces of brain candy I will send them out to you all as soon as I am able. Here is another country heard from and as always I enjoy every bit of this company member's world view.

If I have a female equivalent in this universe, I don't mean a soul mate or some sort of Platonic deal-y, I mean an equal based on the way she and I both view the world and how it should be interpreted, it would be Yasmin. She and I can be just as obscure as one another, some times we are so obscure we don't even get the joke we are making. She is a great movie companion and she is always a little ray of sun shine on a mostly over cast day, when the temps refuse to budge over 55˚. She has been in God of Vengeance, The Illusion, JB and Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards. The one and only Yasmin Tuazon.

Peer pressure finally pays off. Let that be a lesson to all the youth out there trying to be independent thinkers.

1. Place of birth?

Alexandria, VA. Not the cute part. The condo and strip mall-choked part.
I was born a month prematurely, on mah jongg night. I figure that makes up for all my tardiness through the age of seven.

2. First experience in theater?

Second grade Christmas play: The First Silent Night.

I played Mother Mouse. My five kids were Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier and Funf. Fortunately for the PTA, I stopped at five kids. Nevertheless, I was a single mother who couldn't feed or house those five kids. I think there was a hidden social/moral agenda in there somewhere. We were basically squatters in St. Nicholas' Church, Oberndorf, Germany. We were so hungry that my kids ate the leather bellows of the church organ, rendering it unplayable right before Christmas services. So choirmaster Joseph Mohr wrote a last-minute hymn to accommodate: Stille Nacht, more commonly known to the English-speaking Christmas-celebrating world as Silent Night.

Production note: On the morning of the play, Zwei's real-life mother realized he had no tail. (And we think we know our children.) So Zwei wore a tail made of my socks. It was my first exposure to the potential of sock theater, and I think it stuck with me.

3. Where you went to school?

St. Agnes School
University of Pennsylvania/Kings College London
National Theater Institute

4. What do you do?

Actor, Bikram yoga teacher, writer, reviser, editor, thief, procrastinator, nibbler, dropper, secret agent. This blog will self-destruct in 45 seconds.

5. What was your first experience with Rorschach?

Auditioning for Rhinoceros in the old Woolly space. It was very hot outside. I read with Josh Barrett, and while we were crawling on the floor, transforming into rhinoceri, he accidentally shouldered me in the nose. At least I think it was accidental. Neither of us were cast.

6. Company member you would most like to be if you were not yourself?

Tim Getman. There are so many reasons. Height, for one.

7. Some story about working on a Rorschach play that either made you laugh or touched you deeply?

During The Illusion, Grady brought in a homemade Little Wooden Boy for the set. On closing night, Scotty conducted a backstage Inside the Actors Studio interview of Little Wooden Boy. Both performances were frighteningly accurate and compelling.

8. Where do you think Rorschach will be in the next ten years?

Casa, Denmark, an abandoned brewery, Chicago, under the sink, Asia, appearing in a Spike Jonze video, 10th and Fairmont NW, in line at the grocery store, and running sneak performances of Sock Puppet Lear in the back room of H Street Playhouse when Theater Alliance isn't looking (or maybe they're just looking the other way, wink wink shhh).
Not necessarily in that order.

9. What is your favorite Rorschach show that you were not in?

Master and Margarita, Behold!, Accidental Death of an Anarchist. I enjoy well-choreographed chaos.

10. Scott McCormick harmless adolescent or world conquering super villain?

World conquering super villain, duh.

Table Work Begins

This is a message from Grady Weatherford, giving his impressions of the first day of table work.

So we started table work on Sunday and the discussion was one of the best that I have experienced in this century. For one, the group is full of liberals criticizing themselves. Liberals love to do this, so I was in heaven.

We talked character and read some of the larger group scenes, but one of the main objectives was to get the “this is like right now,” stuff out of the way early. This was, of course, my favorite part of the conversation.

There is one tangent that I would like to discuss, or at least touch, since it will probably come up down the road when someone with a lit/crit degree comes to see the play and then writes about it for a media outlet.

We were talking about Hitler. About whom I have this to say, he was a maniac. A mass murdering lunatic. The actual conversation was about how history has treated Hitler. That he and the Nazi party are a benchmark for evil that no one could possibly match.

What struck me about this conversation was how true it was, and that we had examples of this kind of behavior from the recent past. I take you back to early 2004, was running a contest for the best anti-Bush ad on there website, and 1000’s of people submitted ads. A couple got through in the first round that compared Bush to Hitler, and the GOP when ballistic, culminating in an ad of there own painting many of the Democratic candidates in the same light (particularly a fired up Howard Dean.) The result was both sides stopped references to Hitler.

Now I will quote The Usual Suspects, “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.” That is exactly what happened. If we can not compare anything to what Hitler did, then it’s like he didn’t exist, like he was the “bogyman” or something. It did happen, and we all have to be concerned with that.

Moreover; it’s more than Hitler. Hitler had a party, he came to power legitimately (at first,) and he did not do it alone. He had a machine behind him, a very powerful propaganda machine that preyed on the fears, insecurities, prejudices, and patriotism of the German people. It doesn’t matter which party or ideology that you hold, this kind of politics is wrong – and it works. It is the very essence of treating people like they are stupid, while making them feel superior.

The early fault of the play, the one that I see as a more legitimate criticism, is that it does not expose the same tactics and behavior exhibited by Stalin in the USSR. Totalitarianism is an in justice whether it happens in Germany, Russia, the Middle East, or the United States.

And this was from day two, just imagine what we will come up with as the production builds.

Weatherford, is Rorschach Artistic Partner and one of the cast of A Bright Room Called Day.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Profiles to Discourage the Directory

I know that some of you may have come late to the game with the questions and answers from the various Rorschach family members. So you don't have to go scrounging about, here is a list of the company members and links to their answers. If there is no link they have not supplied answers and should be shamed the next time you see them.

The Blogger

Lindsay Allen
Randy Baker
Michael John Casey
Elizabeth Chomko
Matthew Frederick
Jenny McConnell Frederick
Tim Getman
David Ghatan
Maggie Glauber
Lauren Hyland
Jason Linkins
Scott McCormick
Karl Miller
Rahaleh Nassri
Tracy Lynn Olivera
Hugh T. Owen
Melissa Schwartz
Debra Kim Sivigny
Jason Stiles
Yasmin Tuazon
Grady Weatherford

Another First Read

I look at this picture to your right and I ask myself why pictures of first reads always look the same. Maybe because they are taken at an hour uncomfortable for theater folk (which would be anytime before noon) or maybe its because every first read has the feeling of that first day of school about them. Everyone showing up trying to impress the people they don't know or looking forward to seeing the kids they haven't seen since school let out last June. Well whatever the reason, I have to say that this is a smart a lively bunch of actors at any time of day and the designers and crew are going to rock your socks off, unless you are not wearing socks in which case you will feel a strange tingling along the souls of your feet.

A Bright Room Called Day, to quote our season press release, is "Set in the last days of Germany’s Weimar Republic, Kushner’s first published play follows a group of artists and activists as they watch their country gradually descend into the Third Reich. By turns both magical and rhetorical, Bright Room charts the ascension of the Nazi Party through the seemingly-insulated life in middle-class living rooms. A cast of funny and finely-drawn characters populates Kushner’s Room to illustrate what happens when intelligent people sit by idly during times of crisis. "

Rahaleh Nassri the director an Rorschach Company member started off the day with what I thought was one of the most well thought out and insightful introductions to a rehearsal process that I have ever heard. She started out by saying that this is not a play about Nazis or about Weimar Germany, its not just a parable about today, its about the way the left fails in the face of fascism or the politics of the right. She made the point that as the artists in the play and as artists in real life we are very good at recognizing injustice and pain. The left is very empathetic, yet there comes a moment where all of its good intentions seem to fold in on themselves. Kushner in Bright Room is exploring why his character of Agnes is who she is in the face of the rising of evil and oppression.

I will be continuing to update this blog as often as possible, however since I am not in the cast of the show I will rely on the people who are there every day to give us insight into the process as this remarkable play comes to life.

A little 411 about Tony Kushner he will be speaking tonight at the Avalon Theater on Connecticut Ave, NW, at 8:15. He will be discussing Arthur Miller's early plays. Check out the info on Politics and Prose for details on how to get tickets.

Later today I will be posting a complete listing of all the company members who contributed to our Profiles to Discourage. I have it on good authority that some of the remaining company members may be getting there's done in the very near future but I would not hold my breath.

Friday, March 10, 2006

One More for the Road

As I mentioned before the first reading of A Bright Room Called Day is tomorrow in the way to damn early on a Saturday morning. Rahaleh is the director and these are the fine people who are bringing the show to life:

PRODUCED BY Randy Baker and Jenny McConell Frederick

FEATURING Company Members Lindsay Allen, Elizabeth Chomko and Grady Weatherford, with Katie Atkinson, Matthew Dunphy, Lauren Krizner, Cam Magee, Alexander Strain and Ellen Young

DESIGNED BY Franklin Labovitz (Costumes), Jacob Muehlhausen (Set), Matt Nielson (Sound), Nathaniel John Sebastian Sinnott (Lights), Becky Trotter (Props) and Amy Kleist (Technical Director)

STAGE MANAGED BY Vivian Woodland


You will get to know these people quite well as we approach our opening on April 22nd. But I have one more profile for you and it's a good one. To celebrate the start of Bright Room rehearsals I present, Helen Hayes nominated actress Ms. Lindsay Allen. When I first met Lindsay she was whoring it up in the front lobby of the WJCC. I slapped Jon Cohn and he slapped Lindsay, see this is how the cycle of abuse starts people.

Lindsay has held my hand through some rough times and I know she will thrill you all as she returns to a role in Bright Room that I know she will kick up one side of Casa and down the other. She has had roles in Rhinoceros, God of Vengeance, A Clearing in the Woods and Master and Margarita. She is always fantastic and I must use the word yummy! There I said it.

1. Place of birth?

Belmont, MA, USA

2. First experience in theater?

The Christmas Revels - playing "the itty-bitty baby wrapped in swaddlin' clothin lyin' in a manger" at 6 weeks old. Either that, or I was just being passed around during the "Twelve Days." After that, I don't think that I did another play until we did an original "opera" when I was in second grade. We memorized the lines - sorry, libretto, but then made up the music as we went along. People actually had to sit throuhg it. My character was named "Peonie." Haha! Beaten only by the time I played a Puerto Rican woman from the South Bronx. Lindsay from the block! Excuse me, um, I'm so sorry to bother you, but is that block somewhere in New England?

3. Where you went to school?

Shady Hill School - Cambridge, MA
Milton Academy (Oh! Say it isn't so!) - Milton, MA
New York University - New York, NY
Barnard College - New York, NY
Skidmore College/BADA - London England
Georgetown University - Washington, DC

Various other educational programs - yes there were more.

4. What do you do?

Acting - daily at a law firm near you. I am fairly useless with a drill, a hammer, a needle and thread or cable of any kind, but apparently I am very good at making wealthy people even wealthier. Perhaps I should have tried Enron.

5. What was your first experience with Rorschach?

Oh! C'est un rhinoceros!

6. Company member you would most like to be if you were not yourself?

I'll take no part in such "popularity contests"...

7. Some story about working on a Rorschach play that either made you laugh or touched you deeply?

"Mrs. Boeuf, I think you dropped your hair." Being reprimanded for focus by Scot McKenzie is like being told by Slash that you have a drug problem. Rhinoceros Tech. Fionathon? Shocking Emerie with Showgirls. Wanna read my grad school essay on the opening night of Clearing in the Woods? Psyching Jessi with MJ. The list goes on and on...

8. Where do you think Rorschach will be in the next ten years?

Doing the Tempest over and over again for tourists in the Virgin Islands. Probably in the style of Wayang Kulit.

9. What is your favorite Rorschach show that you were not in?

Beard of Avon

10. Scott McCormick harmless adolecent or world conquering super villain?

Depends on how many waffles or how many beers he's had.

Book End with Cha Cha

I will warn you now. No one took this project to heart like Randy Baker. His answers are exhaustive and I mean that in every sense of the word. He is also the only person to provide a photo which might get me booted off blogger, so be warned there is ass on this page.

Randy Baker has many secrets. Every time I think I have the man figured out a new bit of him pops onto my radar and I scratch my head until it hurts and then move on. His passion for theater and for Rorschach may only have one equal and that is Jenny McConnell Frederick. Between the two of them they drive this company forward and hold the band of us together like a tightly knit poly-blend, which allows plenty of movement and breathes quite well. He has directed Rhinoceros, JB, Behold! and Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards. He wrote the strange and wonderful blending of puppets and 20 something exploration that was After the Flood.

He will soon be marrying Ms. Deb Sivingy and how he got that lucky I will never know. Of course she got lucky too, because he is a man of infinite ideas and boundless enthusiasm.

The one and only Randy Baker!

1. Place of birth?

Mt Alvernia Hospital in Singapore.

2. First experience in theater?

In the first grade I was in a production of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. I was cast in a large speaking role that the teacher/writer created for me... I was like the Pied Piper's buddy or something... but I REALLY wanted to be a rat. The idea of having whiskers and a tale was INTOXICATING. So much to my teacher's chagrin - after creating all that purple prose for me to speak - I became a rat. My mom made the costume. I was brilliant.

3. Where you went to school?

Preschool: Iran. A little town called Ahwaz. There used to be Americans in Iran. We were kindly escorted out of the country in 1978.

Pre-K and Kindergarten: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was the first time a teacher was convinced I should be tested for being a "genius." My mother told the teacher I was faking and could just talk a good game. I was tested. My mom was right.

First Grade: Washington DC. Went to Horace Mann up near American University. Experienced my first trick or treating experience. Learned that being American meant you get lots of candy. LOTS of candy.

Second Grade: Cairo, Egypt. Tried to trick or treat in Egypt. Got a lot of strange looks. I guess they didn't like candy in Egypt. Or Americans. Since shortly after that fated Halloween President Sadat was assassinated for making deals with the Americans and Israelis. I think if I hadn't taken all their candy that history would have been different.

3rd, 4th Grade: Moved to Singapore. Went to a British School for two years. Learned that randy meant something very different to British people.

5th grade-12th grade: Switched over to the Singapore American School. And yes. I knew Michael Fay, the guy who got caned.

College: University of Richmond. Learned that "barbeque" referred to the sandwich AND the substance. When you order "barbeque" it's redundant to say "barbeque sandwich."

4. What do you do?

Director, Writer, producer, House Manager, production manager, Resident Cockroach Killer

5. What was your first experience with Rorschach?

The summer of ‘99 is kind of a blur of alcohol, very little sleep and very big ideas.
We were all working day jobs, freelancing in theater and having a great time staying up late, drinking too much and dreaming big about theatre. I was working as production manager of Theater J, Jenny was waiting tables in Shirlington and working part time at Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

While at Theater J I met and became friends with Jason Gots. He had always wanted to direct Eugene O’Neill's The Hairy Ape. I remember we read through the play in his dimly-lit, barely-furnished apartment in Mt. Pleasant. I remember thinking... this play is un-stageable. It's crazy. It's huge. It is never done and probably for good reason. But Jenny and I had a fair idea of how to put together a show and had more than a few resources between my contacts at Theater J and hers at Woolly... and more important than that - we had a ton of young friends who didn't have a voice: They were building sets rather than designing them, stage managing shows rather than directing them, acting in non-speaking roles rather than in featured roles. And no one was going to give them a break any time soon. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put into motion some of those crazy ideas we had talked about on those late nights and give a voice to a company of artists previously unheard.

So Jenny and I, Jason and our set designer friend Jordana Adelman decided to go for it. Jason and I had a name. POOR TOM PLAYERS. Jenny told us that was not going to be our name and we were like...

JASON: No It's from King Lear!
RANDY: You know when King Lear looks at Edgar and he sees him charading as poor tom and he says "is man nothing more than this..."
JASON: It's wrought with the human condition, the real essence --
JENNY: It's a dumb name.
RANDY: Yeah.
JENNY: So let’s think up something new?
JASON: Cool. Well we'll work on something. Let's all --
JENNY: Um...
RANDY: What?
JENNY: I think we need to think of a name tonight.
JASON: No because I have a --
JORDANA: Hey guys, what's going on?
RANDY: We need to think of a name for our theatre company.
JORDANA: Oy vey.
JENNY: We need to think of one tonight.
RANDY: Yeah but why?
JASON: I have to get to a --
JENNY: Tomorrow's Helen Hayes.
JORDANA: So if we are talking about our new theatre company, we need to have a name.
RANDY: Right.
JASON: Right.
JENNY: So...
JASON: Space Chimp! We should call ourselves Space Chimp theatre!

Somewhere around dawn we came up with Rorschach Theatre.

I remember we only ran The Hairy Ape for three weeks and I remember putting it up almost killed us... Seriously. Literally. Our props designer Samantha Aron tripped over some of the crap that was strewn about during "tech" and cut herself and had to be rushed to the hospital! And then there was the scaffolding/bucket contraption that broke on show number 13, and then there was the night that Andrew Price (playing Yank) hit his pipe against the banister as he was supposed to do and a piece of pipe shot through the audience. And then there was... Anyway. We all lived. That's the point.

Though fraught with danger, the show went on and we were pretty proud of what we had created. It was ours. In a way that no show we had ever done before was.

We finally got the Post to come. I'm not sure how. I think maybe Michael Kyrioglou from Woolly might have put in a call to Bill Triplett. It was a Friday night and we knew the review was going to come out in the next day’s paper. We stayed out all night, drinking at Townhouse Tavern on 17th street... and just as the bar was closing we ran over to the 7-11 to find that the Saturday paper had come out (the romance of this story depends on the idea that the Post online wasn't quite as developed in 1999). The review was a rave in a way that we couldn't believe. The rest of the run (one week) was sold out and we had a strange beast in our hands... a theatre company.

I guess that's kind of more than just one experience. But like I said. It was a blurry summer. And it all seems like one night to me.

6. Company member you would most like to be if you were not yourself?

Melissa Schwartz. Because I secretly wish that I were working in politics. And she's like all CJ Craig and stuff. Okay. I don't really wish I were working in politics. I wish I were working in the white house on West Wing.

7. Some story about working on a Rorschach play that either made you laugh or touched you deeply?

So so many... what to choose? Breaking into the building during Master and Margarita... opening of A Clearing in the Woods with so much going wrong I thought we were going to die... JB opening two days after September 11 and lighting candles on the sidewalk in dirty, abandoned Southwest DC...rehearsing in a loading dock for Rhinoceros...

But you know. It all touches me deeply. The idea that strangers come to see what we put on and that some of them even come back.

The fact that we have been blessed with the opportunity to keep producing theatre is astonishing. With so many obstacles - money, space, finding an audience, doing everything while everyone involved has day jobs - it is amazing to me that we have not only survived but that we are really doing quite well. Doing the plays we want to do and having people come to see them and getting to do it over and over - that is an amazing thing.

8. Where do you think Rorschach will be in the next ten years?

We will be moving into a brand new space of our own. We will have a paid staff. We will have huge, excited audiences. We will have artists who are thrilled to work with us. We will be producing theatre that changes the world.

A guy can dream can't he?

9. What is your favorite Rorschach show that you were not in?

Technically I wasn't in anything... but my favorite show that I didn't direct or write... wow this is hard... i'm so close to all of them - it's like choosing a favorite child! In chronological order... The Hairy Ape, The Illusion, Family Stories and Master and Margarita. is that cheating, choosing four?

10. Scott McCormick harmless adolecent or world conquering super villain?

See "The Kingpin."