Saturday, April 10, 2010

In the spotlight

Had to stand-in for missing actors during today's rehearsal. I thought I knew the script quite well already but once in the spotlight I realized just how much I'm asking of the kids. Apart from line and stage direction memory, there's also timing and coordination with the other actors on stage. That's a lot of pressure and I can only say that I'm glad I was just a stand-in.

Truly, my time in the spotlight is over and it's the kids' turn now. My job now is to ensure that the lights shining on them are indeed spotlights they can sing and dance in, and not headlights to freeze in front of.

Ended rehearsal once again too late to join my fitness class though I had intended to finally make a start. Darn it! Made up for it with cheesecake from NYDC. :(

Thursday, April 08, 2010

One month to curtain

The days of long nights begins as we're only a month away from curtain. Never felt so underprepared before. Usually by this time, there's at least a sense of what the show is going to sort of look like, but this year all I can see are fragments with edges still needing rounding-off if they're going to fit together.

Not about to panic just yet. Each day, each rehearsal, brings new and interesting developments to our little story. I think we have an awesome narrative, but to pull it off we're going to have to work doubly hard from now. A comedy is that much more demanding to do right.

Mel and I had dinner at Arbite in Gardens after rehearsal. Quite a cool little place with its whitewashed walls randomly studded with colourful Lego bricks. Quite homely, if you're into modern urban-style homeliness. Not too many tables so it's comfortable and not likely to be noisy. The living room area is a nice touch; gives me the feeling that we are welcome to take our time over our meal and not have to hurry off too soon.

The menu looks generally light and healthy. The salad came in a basin, greens fresh and crispy though the vinaigrette dressing was a little sweeter than I expected. The pork stew I ordered came in another basin and a side roll. It was the consistency of a vegetable soup with pork bits -- just what I was looking for. I didn't need to stuff myself. I wanted comfort food and what I got didn't disappoint.

Finished off with the last piece of carrot cake in the display rack. Me and I appreciated the generosity with which the raisins were packed in the cake. Went well with the tea and the shop talk that we had to get through. Yes, it was a business dinner, after all.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Drizzly tempest

Took kids to watch "The Tempest" by The Bridge Project. Mel wanted so badly for the kids to like their first experience watching Shakespeare performed 'live', but was disappointed that this version didn't quite capture their imaginations.

I will say the play had its moments -- lots of them. The comedy was spot-on with timing and characterization, the romance scenes were sweet, the evil plotting scenes were clearly sinister and I enjoyed them all. But the exposition scenes somehow didn't have the same level of energy in them. I know I nodded off from time to time because despite the fact that these scenes are meant to glue all the different elements of this difficult play together, the audience shouldn't be made to feel like they're watching the glue dry.

For me, I saw this production as a collection of brilliant vignettes that were related more or less sequentially, but missing a powerful thread that ties them all together coherently.

But knowing the state I'm in healthwise, I also knew my fatigue would kick in at some point and I was expecting to knock out occasionally. So I wasn't really looking for a coherent story as Mel was.

I was there to steal ideas for tech and staging, and I was not disappointed. It was a large stage divided in half such that upstage was completely flooded with maybe a half-inch of water, downstage was completely dry. Upstage served as the holding area for the actors who were not involved in the scene being played out downstage. They sat on a chair each, immobile, lights down, but because of their proximity to the play area they were ready to go when they were needed.

Downstage, the play area focused on a central circular sand pit. A fantastic device it was for representing the world, an external location, the spirit realm, the concepts of reality and imagination, and an external location observed from an internal location like images in a crystal ball in a fortune-teller's tent. So versatile!

The presence of 'live' music and hand-crafted on-the-spot sound effects reminded me of MU days. The music was haunting and really added to the organic nature of the magic that was supposed to weave through the whole play.

So yes, there were many magical elements that the play offered, lots of promise of thunder and wonder to be wielded by a skilled and powerful wizard inspiring shock and awe in the audience. But what came out in the end was somewhat more understated. The pace and skill perhaps, of a gardener tending the rhododendrons rather than Gandalf in mortal combat against the Balrog. What it could have been.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Doctor's advice

Did you know that MtE has a lift operated car parking system? It was quite a novelty to wait in a designated location while a parking attendant hails an elevator car for you to drive into. He selects a floor with a vacant lot, then up you go to find it. The thrill, of course, in in negotiating M2 into this narrow box. Traversing two speed bumps tells you that's far enough, the door can shut behind you now. M2 is quite a small vehicle and I'm feeling the claustrophobia already. Wonder how the Benzes do it?

I was at MtE for a review of my health condition. Dr TB recommended to wean me off the meds which is a good sign. Even better, he thinks exercise will do me good, so I can put my fitness club membership to use again. I still left with a fistful of pharmaceuticals (an over-the-counter prescription drug and a top-up for my inhaler) and a big hole in my pocket. -- about as big as when I take the pets to the vet anyway. Figure I should be worth as much. Yes, Q-tip?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Not epic

Harryhausen did a fantastic smack-bang job with his stop-motion version of "Clash of the Titans". Today's CGI version was a total washout in comparison to it's classic(al) counterpart. "Clash (2010)" went for a darker, angstier narrative -- which is usually promising -- but for a story of these purported proportions it didn't quite work.

Dark means that the screen literally went dark with lots of shadows and blues, greys and blacks. I don't know if this was the effect of the 3D glasses we were wearing but I'd readily trade in the illusion of depth perception for a richer palatte of colours.

There's little point going all dark and moody if the characters are people no one cares about. It could have been Perseus and the Argonauts, a team effort coordinating different strengths to take down a common foe; but it was more like Perseus and the practically-anonymous bunch of tough-looking guys that died easily. Before we could get to know them and even start to recognize them by face, they've already hit the dirt like just another red-shirted Star Trek security detail.

Problem is, the whole thing is almost entirely from Perseus' teenage 'why-me' whiny perspective. It's a fantasy of laying the smack-down on everyone who's ever pissed you off, at first resisting then finally accepting all the deus ex-machina devices that've been conveniently provided along the way. That's just too easy and does little to develop him as a character much.

This narrative simply went for the central plot and doggedly remained there. No back-stories for the supporting characters, very little build-up to the next epic encounter, the whole mission undertaken with the efficiency of an audit check and about as entertaining. There was very little humour (except a perfunctory dig at the useless robot owl of the original version), and as such very little joy in the telling of this tale. Not fun at all.

When you set out to recreate a movie of this scale, this grandeur, but condense it into a series of tightly cut scenes that keep such sharp focus on the main through-line all the time, I'm sorry but you cannot expect to call it "Clash of the Titans" again and get away with it. That name has already been taken. Instead, try "Mash of the Tightened", that might have worked better.