Saturday, June 28, 2008

More to come later!!!

Just a really quick post to let you I just had an unforgettable evening last night!!! I am going to spill everything to you really soon. I have pictures! I met celebrities and they were COOL!! I'm still very geeked out about it. Anyhow, more later.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just a little post, for now

I thought I was going to have a chance to do some in-depth post about my Tony awards experience, but I just ran out of time. Charles is dropping me off at the theatre fairly early so I'll try to do something else then. Basically I spent a fair amount of the show either crying or cheering. It's funny, whether the shows were weak or strong, I was just as affected.

I think because I have still never seen a Broadway show on Broadway, it has such a great impact to get a "tasting menu" at the Tonys. I absolutely love, love, love live theatre and it is just such a gift to get to see it, so I don't think I can give a good critical analysis of the show. For me it was the whole experience, from the pageantry of getting really dressed up, to the incredible visual stimuli of seeing the elephants from the "Lion King" process up to the stage, to getting to hear one of my favorite singers (Patti Lupone) sing from one of my favorite musicals (Gypsy), to just being wrung out at the end of the night, and having my ears ring with all of this great music (yes, even South Pacific).

When I spoke with other actors about my experiences, some of them mentioned that this musical or that one was good or bad, and that it wasn't a good year for musicals, etc. To a certain extent I agree -- how many more movies are going to be made into musicals that suck? But I am still in my infatuation stage with musicals, I am easily seduced by the bright lights and the orchestra, and the choreography, and the costumes, and the sets, yes yes I am running on and on, but this is the way I get just so GEEKED OUT about it! Okay, taking a breath...Anyhow, I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone but me, but all I am capable of feeling about any of the shows that I got just a glimpse of is love, pure and simple. Maybe in a few years it will be old hat for us to go, and we can be so bored with it all, but I hope not. I am clinging to my childlike innocence and enthusiasm as long as I can.

So here are just a few more pics that I took with the camera that my husband graciously smuggled in for me and also that I took towards the end of our trip. No, I didn't take pictures during the broadcast or any of the performances because that's just rude and tacky. Also, I had to take a picture of the Weehawken exit, Jackie wouldn't let me leave NYC without doing it.

I'll try to chat with you in just a bit once I get settled at the theater.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Tony Awards YAY!

Okay, I have dropped Charles off at his gig and I am now sitting in the Bread Company being unfaithful -- to my diet that is. I am having a nice cup of hot ginger peach tea and a chocolate chip cookie and OMG is it good!! Anyway, now I have a little time before I go over to Hotch to get ready for HiFi.

(Sorry, I had to go back for seconds. I got more tea, and a Cinnamon Crunch bagel to munch on while I chat with you. Mmmm..)

Our trip to New York actually started after the cast party on Saturday night. We decided it would be better to stay up all night since the flight was at 6:00 a.m. and we would have to be at the airport by 4:30 anyway. The only problem? Neither one of us thought to pack prior to our respective gigs so we rushed home from the cast party just to do laundry so we'd have something to wear on the plane. Since my husband still doesn't understand that each pair of jeans in a dryer multiplies the dry time by like, 5 hours, some of our stuff was a little, erm, damp. But no matter because we were jet setting to NYC! We made it to the airport by 4:30 exactly and were in the terminal by 5:00 a.m. I then walked roughly a mile to the nearest open kiosk serving some kind of food. I was a little too excited to eat, but I knew it was going to be a long day.

We made our connection in Atlanta with no event and touched down in Newark on time. I had meticulously researched how to take the trains into Manhattan, thus saving us $100. But, Charles had other ideas, namely us just standing around looking like poor innocent tourists until one of the shuttle hustlers wrangled us up. Luckily, we were immediately accosted by a very fast-talking gentleman who gave us an incredibly discounted rate and was parked right outside the baggage claim area! He was chock full of information and was familiar with the hotel where we were staying. After a hair-raising ride into the city (which I actually videotaped on our return to the airport), we made it to our hotel, the Iroquois, which I highly recommend. The rooms were beautiful and had the most comfortable beds, and what a lovely bathroom! Anyhow, at this point, Charles got settled in the room and I went to get us some food and also search for some dress shoes for the Tonys (maybe I didn't look that hard when I was in STL, sorry!).

I walked around for about 1.5 hours before I figured out that I could just go to Macy's and get some. However, I forgot that this being New York, Macy's was like 7 floors and just crammed with shoppers. Just when I was about to despair of ever being waited on, a very helpful salesperson found me some lovely pointed toe pumps. Success! I stopped at deli that had a huge buffet to get stuff for Charles as I was just too excited to eat. Both Charles and I spent extra time getting ready and you can see that in our pictures below. Since we were close enough to walk to Radio City, we promenaded down the street in full regalia and people on the street were so complimentary to us! I am telling you we were frigging superstars just walking down the sidewalk. It was just such a big deal for us to even return for a second year to the Tonys, you would think we were nominated. In the pictures below, you will see that we stopped to pose with New York's Finest, and also got to wait in this 2-block long line just to get in the theater!

OK, it's time for me to get ready for tonight's performance. I have more pics and deets to give you on the Tony Awards show when I talk to you later!

Weekend recap, really quick like

I don't have much time because I have to leave for the theater soon. I will try to finish this later on tonight, but for now I wanted to tell you how I felt about our opening weekend performances. I thought we did a great job! The show is really coming together well and I feel certain that it's only going to get better as we continue. Thursday night after the show, the cast went to Joannie's Pizzeria, which was just fantastic. I could only have a little salad and some bread because I was trying to make my goal weight for the week (which I missed by 1 lb). But I have to say the pizza and calzones smelled so good that I was asking cast members to just describe how it felt to eat the food. I know, that's a little odd. It's funny how you don't crave things until you can't have them.

Friday was another good run, in my opinion. Everyone had great timing and energy, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. Afterwards we went to the Cheesecake Factory, where my husband saved me from myself by ordering for me. I did order a slice of plain cheesecake with strawberries to go, though. Again, great times were had by all. We looked liked the world's most diverse extended family as we took over a good portion of the bar area of the restaurant.

Saturday was as consistently good as the other runs. The fun started after the performance when Aaron and Zak hosted a cast party in U City. I think we got a little too loud because the cops showed up and chastised us. All I remember thinking was, "God, did I pay that parking ticket before it turned into a warrant? I'm too fragile for jail!". Anyhow, it was definitely a nice party to me, with my limited social experience :)

It is so great to be a part of a cast that actually wants to hang out when we are not on stage. I thought everyone would go their separate ways and really only see each other on the gig nights. However, I have hung out with many of the cast members outside of performances and that is SO COOL! I like getting to know these people, they are just so interesting. Sometimes I do really feel my age though, especially when it's getting late in the evening and they are still going strong partying. I also went with some of the gang to see a very cool band called Elsinore. Although I only got to catch their last 2 songs, they were a tight, very musical band. I was surprised to hear that they were not signed. I guess it's only a matter of time.

Okay, I have to get my stuff together for the show tonight. I promise to post pictures and play-by-play from Sunday night at the Tony Awards later on. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I have to get this off of my chest....

Sorry I couldn't post an entry sooner, but I have had one heck of a weekend! But, before I can tell you about my fantastic weekend, I have to express how I'm feeling right now.

I am sitting out on my patio, drinking wine (for therapeutical reasons) and snacking on grilled salmon sushi (surprisingly good, I've never had it before). I have spent most of this day in a funk because of comments made by a reviewer regarding my performance this past weekend. Note: I am overly sensitive and vulnerable because this is my first ever musical production and I really, really want it to be great. I'm not going into any further detail -- you have no idea how many times I have hit the backspace button typing this entry! But I have to say that it really messed with me. How can it not? When you put your heart and soul into something and someone comes along and basically says "not good enough", it's hard not to take it personally. Scott was ferocious in reassuring me that it was all good, but I am the kind of person who likes to make sure everyone is happy with the art I am providing.

Charles has told me not to fret over it, and honestly, in order to be a successful actor you have to be able to take the good and the bad, and know that everyone may not necessarily care for what you do. I already feel better just having said how I really feel anyway; by the time we start up the show this week this criticism will just be a tool for improvement. I know in my heart that I am absolutely doing the best that I can and that I will continue to do so, but ego is a funny thing. The hardest thing to learn is when to put it aside so that it won't distract you from what is important: the Truth, as Scott likes to say.

Anyhow, I have so much more to tell you about this past weekend, I'm going to make it a separate post from this whiny one. I want to tell you about what Thursday, Friday and Saturday were like, and I am going to tell you EVERYTHING! Also, I'm going to tell you about Sunday when I went to the freaking TONY AWARDS! Yeah!! Give me just a bit to finish this bottle of wine, and I will be back atcha!

Ciao for now!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I am trying hard not to be nervous, but...

Never have I felt such a mix of dread and excitement as we go into our opening week. We have been working our butts off and I am sure that it is going to show in our performances, but this is truly uncharted territory for me. I am so used to going up on stage and singing with a band, but doing this musical is more like: "Ok, Nikki, get onstage and sing this song with a band, while juggling flaming knives, playing a kazoo, tap dancing, and by the way, sing it backwards". I don't mean this literally, of course, just that it is taking a lot more brainpower and focusing than just selling a song. We have to sell our characters and our stories.

Scott has been constantly talking about searching for the truth in our parts, and I think that we are really trying to find that every night. I'm just afraid of what having other people, strangers, in the midst is going to do to that. We have to be so vulnerable as actors, and we have spent the last three months in a kind of incubator as we have explored what works and what doesn't. Now, we're letting people into this world and I'm really wondering what they will think. I suppose that some will get it, some won't.

I have not gotten to work with "The Artist's Way" as much as I have wanted to in the last few weeks, but it is never far from my mind. One of the first concepts introduced, as I have probably stated here before, is this idea that we have to heal the damage done to our inner artist in order to really access our creative energies. Many times the damage has occurred long ago and we have buried it. It could have been something as simple as a picture that we drew as a very young child, with all of the enthusiasm and wonder in our hearts, that someone called stupid or ugly. It could have been a parent who told us to give up our art because we'd never make any money. Every time that we do something creative is a chance for the inner artist to flourish or wither. I did not realize until now just how much courage and bravery that one has to possess in order to act onstage, and I am both determined and unsure, if that is possible.

Anyway, I will post more after this first performance. I am going to find my "happy place" until show time. Ciao for now.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And so it begins...

My apologies for this long post, but I want to bring you up to date.

Thursday night after rehearsal, Lori (who plays the ex-GF Sarah) invited everyone out to hear this DJ at the Gramophone club. Only a few folks took her up on the offer, so it was just Lori, Lori’s friend from France -- I think his name was Hensley, Mary (who plays ex-GF Charlie), Jeff (who plays Rob) and myself. It was great to hang out with folks from the show because I really don’t have that much of a social life so it’s cool to get out of the house and like, talk to other people. Anyhow, there were actually two DJ’s that do a show together and they were off the chain! I danced for almost 2 straight hours. They played such an eclectic mix of material, it was never boring and I really didn’t want to leave. Plus the place had this very cool vibe, with couches and comfy chairs to just chill out and listen to the music. Also, they had these really neat drink menus that were made from album covers that they had cut in half. Jeff watched the DJ’s as they were spinning, I think he got some insight into his character. I really enjoyed the evening because I got to dance until I couldn’t dance anymore, which is really something that I wanted to do for quite a while. Life is too short not to dance through as much of it as you can. I went home about midnight with my ears full of this great mix of music.

Friday I went to work and cut out early so I could get some rest. I have been having some kind of sore throat/head cold off and on for the past few weeks, I think due to not sleeping as much as I should be. I puttered around the house and ended up staying up till 3 AM reading a new book by one of my favorite authors.

Saturday we had “cue to cue” rehearsal where we basically are there so that the lighting designer can make sure that all the lighting cues are correct and that we stand where we are supposed to when we are supposed to. I had heard that it can take a really long time, it only took a few hours and I got the chance to hang out with Aaron, Zak and Amanda. We were going to meet up at the Renaissance fair in Tower Grove Park but it was over by the time I caught up with them. We ended up at Mekong, a Vietnamese restaurant on Grand. I actually had a very bad first experience with Vietnamese food so I was thinking that this would be a good night to just have soda. But I thought, maybe it won’t be so bad, and know what? It was really good. Then we walked it off a little bit and ended up back at Aaron & Zak’s to watch MST3K shorts until my husband called me to get picked up from the gig. Once again I got to spend some quality time with some cast members, which I really appreciated.

So, today was kinda hellish. I had a very early performance (7 AM) with orchestra for a church anniversary service, and also the 2nd service at 10 AM. My ride showed up just in time for me to get to the 1 PM rehearsal. Right now we are in the middle of our "sitz probe", which is just a fancy word for "running through songs with the band". I had heard that Scott can be a little, um, high-strung when we get close to the first show, and I have to say that he lives up to the hype. We have just started on the 2nd act material and it is about 3:40. I am actually waiting for Scott’s head to explode off his shoulders and I’m sure that what I am seeing is really mild compared to what it will be. I know that we actors cannot take it personally but wow is it hard! I feel like I’m back in high school and the teacher is yelling at me for some minor infraction. I can completely empathize with him being totally stressed out at this point.

We had a little delay getting started as there were some sound issues to work out, but once Steve (our sound man) got it going, it was great! This is the first time that we have played with the full band and they are getting used to us just like we are getting used to them. But I have to say that this show is going to ROCK once we get a little more comfortable. Already today I have seen how having live mics and a live band have transformed the other actors. I knew that this would be the case for me as I am way more comfortable in front of a band with a mic anyway. But Rob (who is playing Ian) and Jeff both got this gleam in their eyes when they stepped onstage. I have a great deal of trepidation going into Hell Week because not only do we have to get used to the band in three days, but also all of our costume changes, remembering choreography, dialogue, any last minute blocking tweaks, and on top of that, have 110% energy at all times. Yikes.

I feel bad for Rob who has had to use the bathroom since before we rehearsed “Crying in the Rain”. He is such a trooper, a real pro. I would have lost it by now (or soiled myself). We have two more songs and then we are done. I intend to find some kind of drink, maybe mildly alcoholic.

(note: I stopped typing here because I had to do the finale with the rest of the cast. The rest of this post is after going out with some of the other cast members after rehearsal.)

I am so stuffed! I am off of my meal plan, big time. I had salmon (OK), but then I had fries (not OK) and now I’m eating a chocolate chip cookie at BreadCo in the Loop (not OK). I really wanted a cigar, but HSB is closed today. Charles is coming to get me soon so I am just really passing time and I just thought about how neat the Loop area really is. Just walking down the street here, there are so many different shops and foods and sounds! Right across the street from BreadCo there is some sort of drumming circle going on. There’s really no place else in town where you would get this kind of vibe. It’s just such a fun place to watch people.

I am concerned that tomorrow is going to be a rough rehearsal, it’s really on my mind. I feel a lot of pressure since we open on Thursday so everything really needs to be in place by then. My main concern is really making the costume changes in a timely fashion and really nailing my lines. I am trying not to paraphrase at all costs, but it is so easy to slip up when thinking of the 900 other things that we have to do. Not that I am bitching (well maybe a little bit, waah waahh..), this is actually a very cool experience. I just don’t want to choke. That would be bad.
My main goal for this show is to not be that actor that Scott talks about to everyone else because she’s just that awful. I don’t think I ever realized why actors are so insecure until now. When you invest so much time into a role and you make it a part of yourself, it is very difficult to expose that part of you to an unfamiliar and possibly very critical audience. Nobody wants to be the one that sucks, it’s just too painful. It’s funny that someone’s opinions about a completely fictitious character could actually damage one’s psyche.

I am really trying to make these characters real, not just some caricature and I am feeling a fair amount of anxiety about how they will be received. It’s hard for me to really differentiate Jackie from Liz because to a certain extent, Jackie is really a construct of Rob’s and not based on a real person but rather created for Rob’s own devices. Is there a possibility that her aggressive words and attitude towards Rob are rooted in Liz’s character? I mean, “Number 5 With a Bullet” occurs after he has been reamed by Liz. As his BFF she is his truth-speaker and definitely has a strong impact on his thought processes. I only have one real scene to define Jackie and today I really tried to experiment with giving her more of an edge. Scott has been asking for us to make our GF’s more psychologically terrifying, so I am ramping up the bully factor. We’ll see how this develops in the next few days.

Since I have really been very verbose in this post (nice alliteration and rhyme, yes?) I probably will be short and sweet for the next few days since Hell Week begins tomorrow. Thanks for reading, though this is probably better for me than it is for you! Buona notte for now.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ready to Settle..

..I am definitely ready to settle into performing these roles. Okay, so we had our second run-through in the performance space. I thought that it went fairly well, I can definitely see things coming together. I am still not fully comfortable with all the things I have to do -- singing, dancing, acting -- simultaneously, but I'm getting there. If I had to rate where I'm at, I'd say about 85%. Jeff and Kimi are really doing a great job with developing Rob and Laura -- they are making them more complex and real each time we run through the show. There were some moments that were just so GOOD that I had to stop and just watch them. Also I have to give it up for Margeau -- she has this restrained dementia to her character that is chilling and funny at the same time. Everyone is working so hard, I think we all want this to go really well.

Plus, I still have to shop for my Jackie and Liz clothing. I went out shopping a few weeks ago and just didn't find things that were screaming "Liz" or "Jackie". Charles has graciously agreed to look for some stuff for me tomorrow. I also need to get some shoes that don't make me sound like a Clydesdale coming to the stage. There are so many little things that go into producing a musical, I just had no idea. It is definitely a lot more to handle than I imagined, but I absolutely love it. I don't know that I will love "Hell Week" (next week) so much, my posts will probably just be monosyllabic grunts or something. I know I have got to find a way to get more rest than I'm getting now.

I promise I will blog more tomorrow, I'm starting to doze between paragraphs. Talk to you tomorrow. Buona notte.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Sunday Evening Post

OK. I have officially done too much today. I feel like my workload is doubled because we are sharing a car, so basically whatever Charles has on his schedule is on my schedule. Check it out:

  • 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Load-in for "A Taste of Clayton". Charles had a band performing so we had to set up the "big" PA, including our monster speakers, regular speakers (for side fills), keyboard, mixer, and of course our 900-ton power amp. I had a great time figuring out how to fit all this in the car since we've never actually tried this before. Then of course there was a considerable amount of time spent trying to get to the performance site since it was in Shaw Park and there were many other vendors who were also trying to do so. Oh yeah, and it was about two thousand degrees Fahrenheit outside, too. I was drenched in sweat inside of half an hour. Also, I had thought I was dressing for church when I left this morning but I ended up hauling equipment through the mud. So much for looking cute.
  • 1:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m Load-in at the Black Box. More manual labor. (Sorry about bumping your keyboard, Scott!) I thought we would be bringing in boxes of stuff. I didn't realize we would be playing with a life-sized Erector set. I have actually never had to put together risers before and it was really kind of neat to see once they were done. We also got to see the flats and the record stacks that will be onstage. They look fantastic, I can't wait to rehearse with the scenery!
  • 2:50 ? Zak, Aaron, Lori and I go to the Loop for lunch. We end up at Blueberry Hill and since I'm going to a nutritionist and have to record every single thing I eat, I choose the dinner salad. The small, incredibly boring, healthy dinner salad. Of course, Lori, Zak and Aaron all share a huge basket of the loveliest looking fries I have ever seen. But I stay strong, dammit.
  • 4:00 ? Vintage Vinyl with Zak et. al. I haven't been here in years! I was really curious to see what everyone else was into because they are all way more hip than me. Zak picks up a bunch of cool-looking flyers for the counter at Championship Vinyl. One thing that I always remembered about Vintage Vinyl is the way the counter was just plastered with posters and stuff, so I think the stuff that Zak got will look very cool.
  • 5:?? HSB Tobacconist. I love cigars and just really had an urge to get a smoke. I wanted a smooth (read wuss) cigar that I could smoke in a short amount of time. The clerk directed me to the "Heaven" cigar, which is a brand of seriously flavored cigars. I thought I chose the Rum flavor, but actually ended up with Chocolate. It wasn't bad at all.
  • 6:?? Back at Shaw Park to catch Charles's last set and get ready to take all the gear down.
  • 7:30 Charles completes the gig to much acclaim, and I dismantle the gear in preparation for load out. Get this -- when I go get the car, we are not allowed back in the park the way we loaded in and we spend many minutes finding an alternate route. Two policemen guide us through the park (on the grass!!!) back to the tent so we can load out.
  • 9:00 Still at the park. One of the vendors has the road blocked so we can't leave. But, the fireworks make it worth the wait. Incredible show, synchronized to music.
  • 10:15 p.m. Depart the park for a visit to some of Charles's family in North County.
  • 12:00 a.m. Depart Charles's family's home
  • 12:30 a.m. Dinner at QuikTrip
  • 1:00 a.m. Load-out at our house. We leave no gear in the car since we were broken into a few months ago and lost everything. We have learned our lesson, but I can't tell you how much it sucks to have to carry this gear any distance at this point.

Definitely, lunch was the high point of my day. I am so glad that I got to hang out with some of the other actors, I was getting tired of not being able to! Anyhow, I'm listening to my husband snore in his easy chair. I'm going to go wake him up so we can go to bed. Buona notte.