Monday, September 30, 2013

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

What?.... Another white leader from American history has been found to be imperfect? How could this be? We were taught to model our society on these great figures such as Andrew Jackson and our Founding Fathers....fighting for freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and so much more. You mean they actually made some horrible mistakes, were flawed, ego driven and at times downright savage?...... Perhaps if we'd all been taught this early on in history classes we may have a better understanding that no person, decision or political position is 100% right or wrong and at the very least usually never easy.

I caught this show in its second to last performance here in Las Vegas....just in time, and so glad I did! Whenever a production or piece of history from the past is "put out there" in a modern and easy to relate to format, it's in my opinion a theatrical and artistic victory! The last production I saw from this director, Troy Heard was a rockin' modern interpretation of Hamlet that achieved the same feat with fiction as BBAJ did with historical fact.

"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is not just about Andrew Jackson, it uses him as a way to examine America and ourselves. We are trying to make theater that doesn't make a judgement for you. We make an argument and  people can make their own choices".....Alex Timbers, Co-Writer, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as told to PBS

I'm Andrew F*#@# Jackson!....Cory Goble....(Photo BBAJ Las Vegas)

The Trail of Tears....(and no I'm not talking about the ones on Taylor Swift's guitar), but the one Andrew Jackson is probably most remembered for, the 90,000 or so Native American Tribal people removed from east of the Mississippi to the American West.  Although the Indians fought back (yes many could read and write and all did not live in teepees but actual houses mixed in with their former European neighbors)...when the state of Georgia sued them for the land, they actually won the ruling when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee Nation....but  Jackson ignored it and in doing so marked his place in history for the better or worse. The Cherokee Nation was ordered off the land...because, "you know it's probably our land anyway", (as cleverly referred to in the production)...

Sometimes I wonder as many have, how different our country and society would be if this had not happened and the Native American culture instead integrated with ours. Building a nation on combined cultures, (you never know it could have worked), instead of what really amounted to ethnic cleansing, not through only death, (although there was plenty of that), but through relocation and the quarantine that still exists today.
Jackson does get credit for founding the Democratic the way, the jack-ass (or donkey), was eventually used as a symbol of the party in a political cartoon for Harper's Weekly. It was and has never been officially adopted as the Democratic party's logo.

Like much of history and the men and women of, it would be hard to fill the seats of a theater for a story like this if it wasn't presented as a dark comedy and/or a musical......much too depressing! For the Las Vegas production it didn't hurt that the cast was talented, edgy, beautiful and a little dark...(but in a sexy way of course)! Loved how Cory as Andrew Jackson kept his microphone in a holster! I think this musical, if it hasn't already could start a post colonial retro fashion trend. The shadow of the Indian at the end didn't bother me either, it doesn't hurt to remind us of these forgotten people and how they became that way..

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is an EMO Rock Musical...(one of my fave styles)...originating in the 1980's and known for its melodic musicianship and confessional lyrics ....which basically means "emotional hard core" with  a punk rock edge!
Las Vegas playbill

Written by and music and lyrics by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, Theatrical Debut 2008, Broadway Debut 2010, VEGAS Debut 2013.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.....Onyx Theatre, Las Vegas, NV

Director, Troy Heard is an associate member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.

April Allain, Elizabeth...Michael Drake, Adams....Brenna Folger, Rachel.....Teresa Fullerton, The Storyteller, Cory Goble, Andrew Jackson, Will Hailey, Lyncoya....Ross Horvitz, Monroe...Garret Harbison, Calhoun, Memory McAllister, Interrogator.....Jon Rahi, Soldier, Brendan Shane, Male Soloist....Jake Taylor, Clay.....Nicole Unger, Female Soloist...Andy Vieluf, Van Buren.

The (Awesome) Band...(Thanks for the surprise at the end Jeremy!)
Sandy Stein, Bass.... Arles Estes, Guitar...... Jeremy Gill, Drums.....Terry Hopler, Keyboards

The Creative Team...(Haven't seen so much action in a small space since I fit 8 drunk friends in a Ford Escort!)
Troy Heard, Director.....Christian Escobar, Choregrapher....Sandy Stein, Music Direction...Kyle Boatwright, Choral Director....Erik Ball, Production Designer....Erik Ball & Kim Rahi, Set Design...Jake Kopenhaver, Lighting Design...Andi Salazar, Stage Manager....Erik Ball & Kim Rahi, Costume Design....Kim Rahi, Scenic Design....Sean Critchfield, General Badassery

Special Thanks
Production Assistance (Because no matter what the show must go on!)
Terrence Williams, Kat Winston, Emily Ball, Feral Tale Theatricals, Jennifer Young, Cockroach Theatre, Faith Lutheran Theatre Company

Indiegogo Donors...(Thank God for theatre patrons!)
Kit Kindred, Jonathan Tuala, Spencer Driscoll, Arles Estes Lee, Chuck and Ami Meyers, Jennifer Haley, Alex and Angela Stopa, Emily Harrison, The Horvitz Family, Betty Smith, Anonymous

(Comments above in italics are mine. AW)


90 Seconds of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson...Broadway 2011...YouTube

Interview with Alex Timbers...PBS

Sources: Wikipedia, BBAJ Las Vegas playbill and PBS.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Emmys Flashback!

With the Prime Time Emmy Awards airing their 65th annual awards show tonight, I checked out their Emmy app and found it lists all the awards winners going back 65 years. The first winner of this award was in 1949 with a show called "The Armchair Detective", 1949.....(isn't that pretty much when television was invented?)
Me and the golden girl behind me!
Trolling through this app was a trip down memory lane. Winners and nominees were shows such as Gunsmoke, Bewitched, Happy Days, Get Smart, Dynasty, Cagney & Lacey, Hill Street Blues, Fame, Cheers, L.A. Law, E.R., West Wing, Friends, Frasier, and Sex and the City. Some of these were before my time but live forever still in reruns.

Even now, with so many different kinds of media available everywhere, the television is still the most popular form of entertainment for many. For example, it's the friend in the middle of the night when you can't sleep. You can watch 6 episodes of Arrested Development on "On Demand" and feel better about your own life, or be transported to a different reality with something fantastical like "True Blood"....can't really do that as well on your laptop or tablet as you can on the big plasma screen.

Back to the Emmy Awards, although I am a member of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences I am not yet a voting member..(maybe by the time I am old enough for my AARP card I will be) takes a lot of television credits to get there.

I even had a chance to "win" an Emmy myself a couple of years ago.....for rehearsal is always the case with me! This was one of those most perfect work days, one of my best. Got to work with many of the talents in the business including Dick Clark, Marie Osmond, Chubby Checker, Susan Lucci, Celine Dion and Wayne Brady. It really ran the gamut. Our group of rehearsal actors even got a choreography bump for collaborating some dance moves for the "American Bandstand Tribute."

My sister Karen Wendt accepting an Emmy for Best Actress...for rehearsal only!

After the taping we headed over to a small pre-show cocktail party...honestly we are rarely invited to these as rehearsal actors, but once in awhile we are included. Then, as luck would have it when I went for a break to the ladies room Karen bumped into my favorite soap actor Joshua Morrow. He was posing for a pic with her and another lady when a too tipsy guest literally fell onto them and spilled his drink all over Karen. A great guy by the name of Todd intervened. He felt bad about this incident and he invited us to the official Emmy after party in Elvis' 10,000 square foot former suite which was upstairs at what used to be called the Las Vegas Hilton, (now the Las Vegas Hotel)...where the awards were being held. For us, it was like Cinderella at the ball. 
Here is a link to the list of all of tonight's nominees!

65th Annual Emmy Awards Nominees

Karen Wendt, Joshua Morrow and unidentified party girl
AW having dinner with Chubby Checker

Here is a link to the list of all of tonight's nominees!

65th Annual Emmy Awards Nominees 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bringing my "A Game"

We all know it's best to bring our "A Game" to any situation, whether it be personal or professional.

Our "A Game" of course means bringing the best of what we've got....attitude, energy, knowledge, appearance, and anything extra!

What I was reminded of today is that as much as bringing our "A Game" helps each of us individually,  it also helps those around us quite a lot.

I had an audition today and I brought my "A Game" as I was reading for one of the leads in an independent film (The Track), and my character is a mother who lost her teenage daughter. Every audition requires preparation, but this is especially not the kind of part to audition for unprepared.

What pleasantly surprised me is the other actress in the scene with me, Ashley, also brought her "A Game." I had never met her, never even rehearsed with her once, but because she was totally prepared we did our audition scene together seamlessly. The director, (Brett Levner) had no corrections. (This can mean one of two things, either she really liked our audition, or we were so hopelessly bad or wrong for the part that it wasn't even worth trying.) Fortunately, I know it was the former because she told us so.

I appreciated the way this audition was set up where actors were able to read with each other and audition together. Many times it is just you with a "reader", someone who is not even necessarily an actor and who doesn't give you much to work with.

So, with the casting team, director, and the actors all bringing their "A Game," it resulted in the best possible outcome for all.  Wish this kind of situation were more common....If something is worth doing isn't it worth bringing your "A Game"?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Expecting the Unexpected

I had an audition the other day for a newscaster role in an upcoming film.  The project is called, The Red Man and is currently in pre-production so minor script and character changes are still being made. 

When I got into the audition room I was asked to read (on the spot) for another character in addition to the one I was given beforehand. In this business I find I always have to keep an open mind and be flexible, (sometimes it's almost unbelievable how much), but it had been awhile since this had happened. 

Ironically though, the unexpected role ended up being an even better audition piece than the other part I already knew about and prepared for, because this character was even more my type!

This audition reminded me that it really is important to be flexible and open minded because it keeps me tuned into what is really going on in any life situation and how to make the best of it by looking at possibility, rather than preset expectations.

"If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, 
for it is not to be reached by search or trail."  
- Heraclitus

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What is your "type?"

What do people think of you when the first meet you, or even just see you. In other words, what first impression do you make?

Experts say it only takes 5 seconds for someone to form an impression of you and vice versa when first meeting. This is true in ones business and social life.

Today I am specifically talking about casting types though....If you want a role you have to audition first but before that you must be selected to audition! You won't even get in the casting room unless you fit the type the production is looking for in a particular part. The good news is that most actors fit many characters and roles within their type.

Image perspective was an exercise today in an acting workshop I participated in for the Nevada Conservatory. I did not know this was going to be the focus, so it was an interesting surprise.

There were about a dozen of us today and each of us had to be on camera for five minutes while the others filled out a 10 question form stating what our type is, according to their view. A dozen actors participated in this focus group.

We were each handed our assessments to read later in private and I am going to read mine from my fellow actors now. I have decided to share on my blog my first reaction of this information.

Some members of the SAG/AFTRA Conservatory & Barbara Grant, President SAG/AFTRA NV.

Good, bad, or indifferent, here it is....

The adjectives that best describe me upon first impression? Here are the top assessments of my type (from my tally of the 12 actors evaluating me on camera).

Honest, Optimistic, Happy, Intelligent, Helpful, Playful, Comedic, Dramatic

Pretty much everyone checked the box that said I can portray Rural or Urban characters.

My socio-economic class type appears to be mostly votes of Middle to Upper Class, with a few of working class and even one of Royalty...(thanks to whoever THAT was)!

The professions I am most likely to play according to this "jury of my peers" is:

News Anchor

I also got a vote or two for mechanic, civil servant, military, prostitute, and even mortician.

Now, this one should be interesting....What is my most perceived age range?

This came up anywhere from 28 to 45 but most votes were for me! Oh, and thanks to the guy who wrote wrote 25 to 35....hmmm...he must have been sitting in the back row. ;)

The last part of the exercise was to show our head shots to the group and get a verbal vote as to whether or not we actually look like our head shots. After all, it's a waste of everyone's time to show up looking a lot different than your photo you submitted for the part. I have to say in this group we all got an "A" in this last one.

This was a fun exercise and one I have done once before years ago, with almost the same results. Guess my type is pretty much my life long type!

An actor having his look "typed"
Since we were in a studio yesterday, (Dream Vision Studios, Las Vegas), a few of us decided to snap a few fun shots. I did not expect to be on camera today but sometimes you have to just go with the flow, perfectly coiffed or not......(in my case, NOT)!

Cindy Burgoyne, Anna Wendt

Special thanks to Kim Renee and Barbara Grant.
Kim Renee is a long time union member and the convention delegate for the NV Local. She has been the Stunt Performer's Representative since 1980, and the Young Performer's Committee Leader since 1985.  Barbara Grant is President of our NV Local, Chair of the Nevada Conservatory and a highly respected member of the NV Entertainment community. Also thank you to the volunteers of the Nevada Conservatory!

Nevada actors and performers, remember in our state you are welcome and encouraged to join and attend the annual series of workshops even if you are not yet union!....These events are a wealth of information and a really great time. Here's how to join....(The next workshop is Sept. 14.)

Nevada Conservatory Workshops website

Dream Vision Studios