Saturday, April 05, 2014

Carpe Diem! Actor's Express does 1955.

How many of us fantasize about "simpler times", or long for a chance to live in the (perceived-to-be-kinder) past? For a few decades now, Americans have been told by mental health professionals, pop psychologists like Dr. Phil, and especially by that former queen of TV--Oprah Winfrey-- that we can "re-invent ourselves". That there is much dignity in discovering WHO we can be, by slipping into an as-yet untried persona, by getting "outside[our]comfort zone". But what if we could re-invent ourselves by living in a place where time means another time, where living day-to-day means shedding our former selves, and all the hurt we've accrued as a result of our painful, in-the-moment, living? The premise for escaping to a place where one can re-invent oneself, is at the white-hot center of a remarkable new play, Maple and Vine, currently running at Actor's Express. A young urban couple who are dealing with a recent trauma, make the leap to living in the 1950's--not generic 1950's --but 1955, to be exact. It's 1955, everyday, always. An enterprising group affords them an opportunity where they can be fully present, by living in the past. Playwright Jordan Harrison has fashioned a stylish, stylized 1955, complete with gleaming, grinning, happy-homemakers and their steadfast, blue-collar husbands, coming home to their crab-puff-making ("...I know crab is exotic, but....everything is better with cream cheese...")wives. Director Kate Warner has truly seized the day (and time!) by casting a terrific ensemble that, at a recent Sunday matinee', had us laughing until it hurt. The fun thing about actually living in the past, is that both husband Ryu, (a poignant Michael Sung-Ho) and wife Katha, (an effervescent Kate Donadio) get to create a new history for themselves. It's not all fun-and-games, though, as 1955 reveals itself (how soon we forget!) to be less inclusive-- a place where secrets are held, and there is a code of denial, when secrets aren't secret, any longer. The repression is real, and palpable. Stunning interactions between Ryu, Katha, and Dean, (John Benzinger, with acting chops as a sharp as a fully-loaded .45), Roger/Omar (a tender Jeremy Harrison), Ellen/Jenna (a vulnerable, revelatory Tiffany Morgan) make this a "must-do" theatre event. Special notice must be made of the lighting (Mike Post), sound (Joseph P. Monaghan III--the music is captivating, effectively setting the tone for the play), and scene design (Isabel A. and Moriah Curley-Clay)that literally feels like a window into this 1955-world. Costume designer Sydney Roberts appears to have had great fun with this; the costumes (think early-"Mad Men") will make you want to play dress-up . I plan to see the show again, and think organizing a dress-like-1955-night would be genius.(Hint, hint, marketing department at Actor's Express). Maple and Vine runs for two more weeks at Actor's Express. Box Office: (404)607-7469, or order tickets online, www.actors-express.com. Please note this production contains brief nudity.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Missing Mom....

It's cold and rainy and gray, and it's March and I'm missing our beloved Mom--Demetra. She was here for a few days, just five weeks ago, and before that, she was here for several months, but I miss her. I miss her. Mom is at the home shares with my beautiful, kind, sister and bro-in-law, and I know she prefers being home, in the warmth of south Florida, over the unpredictable weather here in north Georgia, but still, I miss her. I wonder sometimes how I will ever deal with the loss that all of us must face: that of forever losing a parent. I have been shy about even mouthing these words, as it hurts to even imagine such a scenario, yet nearly everyone currently in my life, has lost at least one parent, while my sister and I, are blessed with BOTH of our parents, living, and thriving, despite their harsh, individual, diagnoses...Sis and I are both also blessed with both of our "in-law-parents", too. I have been shy about mouthing these words, because in our American culture, denying death is something we do, every single day. We deny our death, our mortality. We all---perhaps especially me--live as though we have "forever" to accomplish tasks, to meet up with dear friends, to finish writing our play, or finish editing our two books of poems....I try to live by Carpe' Diem--I really do, but the inertia and I suppose--a kind of darkness that has swallowed me up over the past 15 months, has blunted my repeated attempts to feel...indeed, TO BE...productive. I'm hoping Mom will be back up here, before her follow-up in late April, with Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I know this for certain: I felt productive, caring for her. The poetry, was in the doing, in the loving act of cooking for her, assisting her with walking, laughing as we looked over old photographs, crying at the movies ("12 Years A Slave", which we saw shortly after it debuted at a nearby theatre), talking about our old beaus (mine, and hers!). The rain has stopped, but it's still not warm enough here for Mom, yet. I'll light a fire, until she comes back. Peace, kids.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Fulton County Animal Services: We're at it again! This time, we're taking 39 dogs...

Fulton County Animal Services: We're at it again! This time, we're taking 39 dogs...: We're at it again! This time, we're taking 39 dogs and 1 cat to rescue groups in Virginia and New Jersey! MANY volunteers helped u...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Actively Practicing Peace

Practicing gratefulness even when others are rude, show little gratitude, or are just. plain. mean..... Yeah, it's been that kind of (so far) evening..... I think if someone asked me, "What do you want your 'legacy' to be?" I'd answer with the following: "I would want people to remember that I was kind--even when I didn't have to be; that I treated others--humans and non-humans--with respect; that I tried to live in PEACE-- even when others created war around me, even when others wanted to argue over nothing (and seemingly, everything)." I want my legacy to be that I lived a good life--not perfect mind you-- just good. I enjoyed life--I loved, I stood up for what I believed in, I spoke up for those who could not (the downtrodden, what the Bible calls "....the least of these."). Sure, I love writing, and getting published. Discovering what it is I need to say, simply by writing it down. And I adore acting, and getting cast. Finding myself, in the role, especially a role which challenges me to look at the hardest, darkest parts of what it is, to be human...and yet. The most important thing in my life, is to be kind. And one day, to be remembered for that. I hope that speaking up and stating that kindness is important to me, and that I believe I AM kind, does not subtract from this quality. I hope this is not about "ego". How about YOU? What do you want your legacy to be? Peace, kids.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Trying to be grateful, in the midst of (impending) loss.

So here we are, mid-February, and just-past my 7th Wedding Anniversary (Hansoo and I married February 10th, 2007), and, though I have much for which to be very grateful, I am sad. Sad over Mom, who, though she is improving and living well in Florida, is...in Florida. Faraway from me. Her home is there, and she is where she wants to be. My sis, Tina, has now taken on the role of primary Caregiver, the role I took on for so many months, last year. Mom's primary residence has always been there at Tina's, but it still hurts not to have her here, with us. I am immensely grateful for the extreme care I see Tina pour into Mom's life. I think seeing my sister be so kind and gentle with our Mom, makes me feel even closer to her, and like most siblings, Tina and I haven't always been so close. Daddy is much improved (he lives in yet a different part of Florida), and my in-laws are better, with "Appa K" (my father-in-law) addressing his cancer; he now has two kinds: prostate and bladder) health issues, too. So, why the melancholy? I know my loved ones will die, and I cannot fathom being without them. I also have deep concerns about the health of other relatives, and friends. I also am just beginning to realize, how very, very challenging, all of this, is. It is hard to see people you adore, begin to fall into decline. As I posted to a Facebook Wall, earlier today, "The aging and disease has got hold of her/him, and won't let go. There's a human being still in there, who loves us. And we got to love her/him, right back." Here's to Caregivers, everywhere. You are not all alone. There is Peace in the universe, and the way to feel that peace, is to breathe, and remember that this responsibility is only for a short time in your life. You will never, ever, regret "being there" for your parents, your sibling, your spouse, your children, your extended family... Peace, kids.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Actor's Express' "Six Degrees of Separation", Connects with Audience.

What is Identity? How do we forge relationships? With others? With ourselves? These questions are raised, and have devastating consequences, in Actor's Express' production of "Six Degrees of Separation". The play is a rich treatise on human interaction, and the playwright--John Guare--masterfully plays with our expectations of truth, and falsehoods. I've grown accustomed to Actor's Express exceeding my expectations, and this play was no exception--even on a Wednesday "Director's Rough Cut" night! (For the uninitiated, a "Director's Rough Cut" means a final Dress Rehearsal, which (potentially) could mean an unpolished, not-quite-there performance.) The play has been around for a couple of decades now, and could feel "dated" in another theatre company's hands, but Director Freddie Ashley made wise choices, and the play succeeds because of those decisions: it's simultaneously funny and passionate and troubling. Because this play was written before "social media" became a daily part of our collective lexicon, it is tempting to ignore the contemporary implications in the play, but that would be a grave mistake. The play works on a completely new level, as the "manufacture" of identity is displayed again and again, by everyone (similar to our "created identities"--that identity which we choose to display to others-- via Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc...). The characters' desperate search for interaction, for true connection, is both hilarious--and ultimately--heartbreaking. The cast deftly parries with one another, and the metaphor of fencing certainly applies here, as the games played become more dangerous, eventually becoming deadly. Very impressive skills exhibited by all the cast members, but standouts include Jason-Jamal Ligon, who plays Paul, the con-man who cons even himself, even as he becomes the catalyst for others to discover who they are, and James Donadio, who plays Flan. Special appreciation to actor Jordan Harris, who bares much more than his "Hustler" soul, and provides spirited moments onstage, for all. Lighting Design by Joseph P. Monaghan III provides ethereal, seeing-the-world-as-if-through-rose-colored-glasses-ambiance. The interplay between the lighting and artwork which literally "morphs", from Scenic Designer, Shannon Robert, is spectacular. There are some truly explosive moments in this play and this is what theatre is supposed to do: ask questions that are uncomfortable, ones that may hurt us, when we try to answer. Actor's Express manages to provide the kind of theatre that entertains us while doing so. Brilliantly. The play is in Previews tonight and on Friday. It officially opens this Saturday night. Actor's Express Box Office number is: (404)607-SHOW. Peace, kids.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Cold outside, Hot music inside.

Looking forward to "Six Degrees of Separation", at Actor's Express, on their "Rough Cut"/Wednesday night, a kind of pre-Preview night. I'm going to attend with Collin Kelley, and I can't wait. I've seen "Six Degrees" produced by other theatre companies, but I am excited about Actors' Express, because they always. do. theatre. edgier. On Tuesday night, I escaped from the seemingly-constant-replaying-of-worry over Mom, Daddy, and other family members, by flitting off to the coolest Italian place in Alpharetta, "Altobeli's". Tuesday nights feature my fellow-SAG-AFTRA-member, the talented singer, Michael Carlton King. It was a respite from responsibility: a glorious hour or so of 1960's and 1970's hits. Classic standards and R & B, and how lovely to see a few fun folks go out into the below-freezing temperatures, to get to the hot swingin' tunes inside Altobeli's! One cool-couple in attendance: our neighbors, Kathryn and Doug Cueny. Kathryn is probably the kindest soul you could ever meet: she's in our Palisades' Book Club, she's very supportive of the arts (I found out weeks-after-the-fact, that she was the one who arranged for several women from our neighborhood to come see me perform onstage in "The Dixie Swim Club", when Gypsy Theatre Company produced it, in February 2012), she appears to be a very grateful person, too, as she revels in her grandchildren and extended family. When I spoke to hubby Hansoo after returning home, and suggested he have a "respite" too, he responded by saying he wants to come hear MIchael sing, and.....he wants to play golf with him,too. I'm hoping Michael Carlton King will be able to (he's quite the golf enthusiast!), and perhaps Doug will join them. Dear ol' pal, Danny Morrison drove me to Altobeli's, and he enjoyed the banter with Michael Carlton King over various musical artists and songs. Music soothes, and heals. And so does theatre. And poetry. Peace, kids.