Friday, January 20, 2012

A cute video by UniqueNYProductions: Beer Garden Polka! I worked at Saint Michael's Playhouse and again at the Gateway Playhouse with Brian Golub, the second man to appear :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mamet on Actors

     "Acting is not a genteel profession. Actors used to be buried at a crossroads with a stake through the heart. Those people's performances so troubled the onlookers that they feared their ghosts. An awesome compliment.
    "Those players moved the audience not such that they were admitted to a graduate school, or received a complimentary review, but that the audience feared for their soul. Now that seems to me something to aim for."

"It is not childish to live with uncertainty, to devote oneself to a craft rather than a career, to an idea rather than an institution. It's courageous and requires a courage of the order that the institutionally co-opted are ill equipped to perceive."
                                                        --David Mamet, True and False

Monday, January 16, 2012

Union Call

Yesterday, I worked a call at the Flynn theater as an electrics overhire with the local 919, the stagehands' union for the Burlington-Dartmouth area. The National Tour of Mamma Mia! was in town for two performances, and I worked the load-in early in the morning and load-out late last night. It was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed working with the tour people and the locals, despite the frigid temperatures. I also met a lot of students from UVM and Castleton, which was cool. 

The tour arrived with several tractor trailer trucks of equipment and scenery. We unloaded cases of lighting and sound cables, computers and control boards, work boxes, hanging motors with chains, and most memorable, truss towers and full electrics, already hung with white moving lights that blended in with the white truss and blue-and-white drapes, scenery, and floor. Although I didn't get to see the show, it was amazing to see the quick transformation of a blank, black stage into the dreamy world of Mamma Mia. There were probably 30 local IATSE members/overhires there, and at least 20 more people with the tour-- the stage was crawling with people from start to finish! It was a shock at the end of the night when everything was loaded out, how the stage was the same old familiar place. I wish I took some pictures of the process!

I find it pretty funny, but not surprising, that I didn't touch a lighting instrument all day! I worked on unloading and loading the trucks, unfolding and setting up the electrics trusses, filling foggers and moving ladders and coiling massive cables, repacking cases, unplugging and sorting more cables, draining fog machines... all good stuff. I want to go on tour now someday. Big thank-you to Krissy Freeman for recommending me for overhire!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I just got back from a quick visit to NYC to see SLEEP NO MORE, a theatrical experience that I will never forget! I heard about the show from my professor, Cathy Hurst, a year or so ago when she saw it, and haven't stopped wanting to see it since then. An old hotel building in New York was transformed over the course of 4 months into an interactive, garbled version of Macbeth, one in which the viewers roam all 6 floors of the building to see various scenes and follow characters or explore the settings.

I flew into the city on Monday night and had some fun navigating the subways with the help of my friend Krista, a SMC alum who lives in the city and kindly showed me around and let me stay with her. Tuesday was a day of walking around the city and doing a little shopping...I would have, however, done less walking had I known what a night I was in for!

My friend and I entered the McKittrick Hotel for the 7pm entrance time. We checked all bags and coats--definitely the best decision of the day-- and checked in with our previously purchased tickets. We were each given a playing card and told to enjoy our stay at the hotel. From that point on, everyone who spoke to us was a professional actor/dancer. We were guided up dark passageways to a 30's style bar, complete with drinks and smoke and jazz. Having heard about the experience before, we skipped the drinks because when the number on your card is called, you have to chug the drink and leave. In this way most guests are separated from their friends to enter in small groups. It's absolutely, above all, an individual experience: if you go, don't try to hang on to your friends. You'll see them in 3 short hours to compare what you saw!

When my number was called, I went up and was given a mask. All non-performers wear big white masks that cover your face to the chin, which sounds creepy but was actually very beneficial throughout. We were herded into an elevator, told not to talk for the next 3 hours, and slowly ascended. I exited on the 3rd floor and entered into what appeared to be an old house in the 30's, complete with glamorous old furniture, extremely detailed props and dressings-- which we were encouraged to touch and explore-- and actors. After a quick interaction with one actress, I went through one of the zillion doorways and hallways and found myself in a hazy, smoking ruin, with broken bricks underfoot and eerie statues all around. Then I found myself outside of the bedroom, looking in through big glass windows. After finding the door to get in and watch the scene unfolding, I can't re-trace my steps. There was a two-story ballroom that transformed into a forest, a village of shops and servants' homes, a lounge with a piano, one whole level of hospital beds and tubs and laundry rooms, chapels and a graveyard...almost all of which were dimly lit and full of fog.

The experience of the individual in this setting is incredible. You choose where to go, who to follow, and if you're lucky you'll see a lot of scenes, but it's easy to lose yourself in the rooms and examine the details of the whole building. I remember it as a huge maze, and I suspected for a while that the crew members (all around, with black masks) were changing the names of the stairways on me. The sheer amount of staircases was staggering. I remember following an actor down 5 flights of stairs...and winding up at the top of the ballroom, somehow, when I could have sworn it was far above us. I came to recognize some stairs and passages, but it was easy to get turned around, and I visited some places (like the hospital floor) only once and never found them again. I know I missed 3 scenes, but I couldn't find the places again in time. It was a little frustrating, but you will never see anything in one viewing. I did see several scenes over and over again, but they changed sometimes, so it was never not worth it.

Come 10pm and our exit, I was exhausted. I didn't want it to end, but my body was refusing to move anymore. I can't imagine how the actors do the show every day (lucky for them, it's usually double-cast so they don't have to do it twice a day) with those kind of physical requirements: running through hallways, up and down hundreds of stairs, acting, dancing, moving-- and always with a dozen people in masks following, running behind you, standing a foot away watching. I wonder how they changed costumes or cleaned blood off themselves to reset for the beginning of a scene, when scenes were repeated. We met people before going in who had been before, and each time were determined to follow a different actor to see a different aspect of the story. I learned quickly that when the herd of people is on the move, if you're not in the front and moving quickly you'll lose the actor or fall behind. However, you don't always want to follow actors-- often I felt the need to explore the settings or try a different area, or see what was up this flight of stairs, and that is good to pursue as well.

The masks were a good thing, if creepy. I still have mine (the amount I was sweating after all that walking and running and stairs, I don't imagine anyone would want to reuse it!). They marked the spectators from the actors, and while the lines were sometimes blurred there, it made it a little easier for everyone. The masks also were fascinating to watch in themselves. At one point, near the end, I went to the ballroom and a lot of people were sitting to rest for a few minutes, and it was so interesting to see the masks waiting and watching. The juxtaposition in the scenes was fascinating as well-- sometimes the actors could "see" us, and other times they couldn't, but when a character was going crazy or acting a very emotional scene, and all these people are around them in masks, it's an unexplainable, phenomenal illustration of real, unreal, insanity, and consciousness.

All in all...I'd go again in a heartbeat. If you get a chance, check it out! Here is the New York Times Review, which goes into greater detail about the show. There are also a lot of websites and blogs currently looking at interpreting what you see and understanding how all the characters relate and fit into the story.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Spring Semester: Senior Year

In about a week, I'm going to be moving back to Saint Michael's College for the last time as an undergraduate student. Everyone has told me that it will be the best time of my life, and I believe it. I'm looking forward to a variety of things the semester has to offer.

One thing that has always made me think is that college is supposed to be about learning.You learn new things every day, whether it is in class, learning to live with other people, learning your limits when it comes to going out on the weekends, and learning how to survive in the "real" world. Something I learned this past semester was that I have a passion for studying Shakespeare. Because of this, I decided to drop my Spanish class for spring semester and pursue an independent study in Shakespeare. I will keep you posted on how that goes!

My other classes are all on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have a 4-hour senior seminar in theater, which will involve reading and discussing plays and working on our showcase projects. I'm taking costume crafts, at long last, which will be an awesome class. Finally, the icing on the cake is Tolkien and Medievalism, a class where we will read and discuss Tolkien's major works. That class is also a 4-hour whopper. It should be great though!!

Other things coming up this semester include the American College Theater Festival, a week in January where the drama club sends contestants and involved members to Fitchberg, MA, to compete for acting and design awards; to attend workshops; to meet peers and contacts; and to work as stage managers or interns. This year I'm going as a tech intern, which will be fun.

The Drama Club also hosts a trip to NYC to see a show, which I've never participated in but am hoping to this year. We have 2 senior showcases apart from the mainstage this semester, all of which will be great opportunities for actors and technicians to get involved. My own senior showcase is lighting design for the mainstage, a devised piece of theater called APP-etite. It will be a challenge because I don't know the storyline yet! There is no script. I will start attending rehearsals in February and watch the show take shape.

More updates to come, including my job search/applications, shows for 2012, and more! Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Eve Shenanigans

Christmas Eve has always been a special part of the holidays for my family. In recent years, the traditions have included visiting my Grandma for Christmas with her, eating munchies and fondue and everything fried, and watching movies or playing games. With my brothers now married, Christmas Eve is sort of the highlight of my Christmas because all of my siblings, now, spend the day at my parent's house with us.
Having had a few weeks to relax and unwind from the fall semester, I decided to do something special to wrap up the year, which started with me studying abroad in Spain for 4 months. I made paella, a dish my land lady in Spain made for me and her family at Easter from scratch. Paella (pronounced pie-ey-ya) is a Valencian or Eastern Spanish rice dish, a very traditional dish in Spain. The recipe I made for Christmas Eve was a lot of memory from Easter, along with some additions from online sources. My dish was also made entirely from scratch to get as many authentic flavors as possible.

Paella was a slang term for “pan” back in the day; today it exclusively means this dish, and the pan that is specially made for it.

The rice dish probably evolved from Moorish dishes that influenced Spain until the late 15th century. There are 3 types: paella valenciana, seafood paella, and mixed paella. The whole idea of paella is pretty much a mix though, it is rice with certain spices, and whatever meat and vegetables were around throughout the centuries. There are specific ingredients that are more traditional than others today, however.

We had a traditional mixed paella with chorizo (sausage) and chicken and vegetables. The paella valenciana is often made with eels or snails, and the seafood paella (although it encouraged me to expand my horizons while abroad) isn’t something everyone in the family would have enjoyed. There are many types of paella that result in competitions across Spain, including kinds with black rice (colored with squid ink) and many different meats and seafood (rabbit, chicken, sausage, clams, shrimp...)

I made a vegetable stock and infused the rice with white wine, saffron, and a mix of sautéed vegetables called the sofrito. Then I combined the stock, rice mixture, and meat in a big pan until the rice is cooked. I was hoping for a crust of rice at the bottom of the pan when it is done—not burnt, but sort of caramelized—called a socarrat (soh-kah-raht, from the verb socarrar, which means to toast lightly). It is the mark of a well-made paella.

When it is done, paella is traditionally eaten directly from the pan.Since we had to transport it to my Grandma's, we skipped this part. I saw some signs of the socarrat but again, with transferring it to a traveling dish, it was hard to tell. My recipe was as follows: 

Paella with Chicken and Chorizo

1 1/2 large onion- peel + chop finely or grind
1-2 heads garlic- peel + break into cloves
2 stalks celery- chop off leaves and chop finely or grind
2 carrots- scrub and chop finely or grind
1 bay leaf
½ tsp saffron (<1gram)
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (Pimeton)
5 cups water

½ cup dry white wine
½ large onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ tomato, chopped
½ lb cooking chorizo in 1/4” slices (Spanish or Basque chorizo, or Portuguese Linguica sausage)
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup green beans
4 tbsp chopped garlic
6 oz roasted piquillo peppers
2 cups Bomba calasparra rice (or Goya California pearl rice, paella rice, medium grain rice)
4 chicken thighs or breasts
extra virgin olive oil

  1. Fill pot with stock vegetables, paprika. Sweat for 5 min with lid on, then remove lid and add cold water. Simmer for an hour, and then strain the vegetables off.
  2. Chop chicken into small pieces. Salt it and rub with paprika.
  3. On medium/high heat, brown the chicken and chorizo in olive oil in a 13” pan 5-10 min. Remove and set aside
  4. Add onion, bell pepper, chopped garlic, parsley, tomato, and piquillo peppers and cook for 5 min, stirring occasionally. This is the sofrito. The technique is simple: sauté the vegetables over medium heat until they soften and the flavors meld, and the water from the tomato has evaporated. This mixture should be thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon.
  5. Add rice to the sofrito and cook 2-5 min or until golden, stirring. Add wine to the rice and stir until absorbed.
  6. In another pan, sauté the saffron in oil for just a few moments.
  7. Pour the broth from the pot into the paella pan and add saffron, green beans, and peas. Allow it to boil. Simmer on lower heat until the broth is almost all absorbed. During this time, move the pan to get even heat coverage, but don’t stir the rice. The liquid may boil off too quickly to cook the rice (rice will start to float a little when it’s close) so keep extra stock handy just in case. Rice should be done but not mushy- 20 min of cooking. Last 2 min of cooking, cover with foil or place the whole pan in a 400 degree oven to get even heat.
  8. Socarrat is the caramelized crust of rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan. To get some, increase the heat at the end of cooking, paying close attention to the sound of the rice (it crackles) and the smell.
  9. When the liquid is absorbed, the rice is done, the paella needs some time alone to finish cooking and round out its flavors. Cover the pan with a clean towel or foil and let it rest off the heat for five to ten minutes.
  10. Serve directly in the pan it was cooked in.
To reheat: Add water and heat at 350 degrees until warmed through with the water re-absorbed. 

*Some notes: I found that timing was very important, especially when cooking the rice. I added the saffron a little late, so the rice didn't dye evenly. Also, my paella could have used more flavor--  I was light-handed on the spices and on adding the meat. Finding ingredients was hard, especially finding non-long grain rice, saffron, and the chorizo. 
Everyone seemed to enjoy the paella, and the Indian dish my brother made for later in the evening. We introduced my parents to the game Apples to Apples, which was a rousing success, and watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-long Blog. A great Christmas for the Liptaks!

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!