Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cet Enfant

We had our grand production of scenes en français, including a monologue from "Cet Enfant" divided into three parts. I had only 12 lines, so I was able to memorize and practice them and get pretty comfortable with it. My co-actresses had very large parts -- pretty daunting -- so they ended up reading their lines, which was fine. It was all a bit weird at first, but eventually I could see it was really cool... each of us took on a different aspect of the character's personality, bringing (potentially) a different slant to the piece.

It's a rather disturbing monologue, a pregnant woman revealing her grand plans for how her child will transform her life. She will suddenly be able to look herself in the mirror, be able to get out of bed every morning, and find purpose and meaning in her life -- as well as a decent job. She gloats over how her success and the happiness of her little family (her and the child, no hint of the father in this) will constitute the ultimate revenge on her mother.

"Elle en crevera, et alors la je serais vraiment heureuse." -- It took me a long time to figure out how to read that line, but I finally nailed it. Not like a cartoonish villain, but luxuriating over the word "heureuse" with genuine pleasure at the prospect of being genuinely happy ... and no awareness of the evil lurking in a happiness so dependent on her mother's devastation and destruction.

We were the 8th scene in the lineup (out of about 20) and so that gave me plenty of time to get nervous before we went on. My arm was shaking during the first part of the monologue, and I made a few mistakes, but I was able to cover for them (the author's elliptical, looping style helped a lot in this regard), and I was in control for my remaining sections.

Surprisingly, someone asked me afterward if I were French! "Bien sûr que non!" I replied, with spirit. But it still felt good. It's amazing what I can do in parrot mode -- I really shone in my Phonetics class last semester -- the trick is learning to think on my feet.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Snowshoe/Ski Weekend

This is my mom's work - she painted over something hideous that previously appeared on the canvas when it came to us:

Fake fire and warm smile:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright:

By the fireside:

First stop on the snowshoe tour: a naturally pointed "stalagmite" icicle:

There's always one in the garden, isn't there:

Hard at work (two screens, no waiting):

The Napper:
The Reader:
Warm heart, idiosyncratic spelling:

Group reading of organic yogurt cartoons:
The title of this book is secret:

Reading about skeletons - a class goes with their teacher to the costume manufacturing plant to demand the missing bones from their Halloween skeleton costumes. En route, they learn a lot about the human skeleton (25% of the body's bones are in the foot!) and encounter some ghosts... or do they?

Chutes and ladders:

Monday, February 07, 2011

Mindfulness/Navigation Fail

Tonight I stepped out of my building and headed west to Train A. I walked briskly, because I was running a little late. I got to the station, walked down the stairs, pulled out my MetroCard, and was about to swipe before I realized that I was in the wrong station. Train A takes me to Destination A; but A was not my intended destination.

I then raced back up the stairs and sprinted further west to Train B for Destination B. At the subway entrance for Train B, it dawned on me that B was not my true destination either. On Mondays, it's Destination C.

So I had to turn around and head east, literally retracing my steps all the way back to Train C -- which could have pretty much bitten me on the ankle when I started the grand journey to Destination C.

A journey that is not usually quite so grand, but a mere 30 minutes door-to-door.

Superbowl Sunday

It was a strange day. After church, I joined some friends down in SoHo at a place called Lure. It was supposed to be Restaurant Week, but I don't think any of us ordered the special price menu.

After that, I went back to the NYPL to take a closer look Three Faiths exhibit and the Scriptorium, which was nice... although I probably should have just gone home and taken a nap to build up strength for the Superbowl party.

In future, I should plan on leaving Superbowl parties immediately after the halftime show - that would have been perfect last night, going home on cloud nine with the Black Eyed Peas fresh in my mind.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Secret

I borrowed a DVD of "The Secret" from the library recently. The "Law of Attraction" is presented as if it were some immutable scientifically verifiable fact instead of a new age-y fad.

Of course, there is a certain way in which it is true: for example, if you are positive and optimistic and focused on what you want to achieve, you are likely to be more open to opportunities and ideas that will get you where you want to go; and you are likely to be more lively and fun and thus attract people to your side. Conversely, if you are negative and shut down, you tend to alienate people and never make the connections that will help open doors etc.

Contrarian that I am, however, I can't help noticing how often people expect and brace themselves for the worst, and are pleasantly surprised. And how others will sail along blissfully happy only to be blindsided by tragedy. I don't know how adherents of "The Secret" deal with these inconvenient phenomena.

In a weird twist, I've been feeling recently as if I've taken a vow of silence. I actually haven't. Just feel like there are lots of things I can't talk about. It's a feeling, rather than objective reality, but mere knowledge doesn't seem to cure the condition.

Friday, February 04, 2011


After the movie, we went for drinks/dessert. The waitress didn't want to take our order in the first place (we weren't in her section) and then was extra-annoyed with us because we didn't order a whole lot. Oh well. Can't please everyone.

We enjoyed the outdoor winter decorations though:

They have the same thing in Herald Square. I love it - it's like falling stars.

So we all took turns posing under the trees:

The Black Pirate (1926)

I went with some friends to see the silent film The Black Pirate with live musical accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra.

What a hoot!

The plot is simple: Douglas Fairbanks, the sole survivor of a pirate raid, undertakes a mysteriously over-complicated scheme for revenge. (He is avenging his father's death, although his father did not in fact die at the pirates' hands; rather he weakened and died after the pair swam off to safety on a nearby island.) Our hero wins over the fickle pirate crowd for the nonce by killing their captain in a duel and then taking a merchant ship single-handedly. Hijinks ensue. There is, naturally, a damsel in distress, who at the end is eventually thrilled and relieved to learn that her rescuer is a Duke.

There is a great sequence at the end where Douglas Fairbanks and a team of good guys deliberately scuttle their boat and swim underwater to take the pirates by surprise and totally unawares. They look like a team of Navy SEALs ... although this was long before the SEALs were a twinkle in any U.S. President's eye. (The Amphibious Scout and Raider School was not established until a good 15 years after the film, and the SEALs as we know them today were formally created in 1962.) It also feels like an early ancestor of the typical James Bond underwater sequence (you know how every James Bond movie features a scuba scene), albeit with the proportions slightly off since they're all good guys.

The on-board fight choreography between the proto-SEALs and the pirates is hilarious - gangs of good guys literally jumping on top of gangs of bad guys.

Of course, throughout the film, there was plenty of over-the-top acting, but also surprisingly good special effects -- although these particular pirates, though brutal, were apparently not prone to blood-letting. All good fun, and great to watch with friends. I might try watching with a modern movie soundtrack playing in the background. Maybe one of the Lord of the Rings movie soundtracks? Or Stealing Beauty, perhaps - that would be truly surreal.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Acting French

I've been taking two French classes this semester, a conversation & grammar class at the Alliance Française (aka FIAF), and an acting & grammar class with a totally fluent but (I believe) non-native speaker.

In the FIAF C&G class, one of my classmates keeps complaining that there is too much grammar and not enough conversation. It's true that in the most recent 90-minute session, we ended up with only 15 minutes for conversation, but I don't really see this as a problem. Our professor is a polyglot from Morocco, and she has memorable ways of explaining why French grammar is the way it is (they tend to be philosophical/cultural explanations). Whether or not her explanations are in any way accurate or historically correct, I find them interesting and helpful. She is funny and clever, and has a very pure and precise accent. So I love the grammar part of the course much more than the conversation part -- in the grammar section, we get to hear the professor speak and explain things in French, which is good for the ears as well as for the acquisition of knowledge. But in the conversation part, I don't necessarily have anything in particular to say on the chosen topics. So instead, I get to hear my classmates struggle to express thoughts in French, on topics which do not fascinate, expressing views with which I do not particularly agree.

By contrast, in the acting class, even though it is billed as an "intermediate" level, the grammar is really very basic. A little too basic for my taste, and it is mostly explained in English. What I love there is the acting/speaking portion of the class. We work from contemporary French plays, so the phrasing and vocabulary are helpful for getting a better sense of the rhythm and fluidity of the language. We can all work on improving our accents, and I feel like I am getting a lot out of the program just from memorizing and practicing my lines. For me, there's also much to be gained in training myself to think and move even a little bit like an actor - I can feel this starting to shape the way I look at interacting with others.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Time Out New York

When I first subscribed to Time Out New York, many moons ago, it seemed very fresh and clever. Not so much now. Both of us have changed, and perhaps we've just grown apart. So why do I have a subscription at this time, you ask?

Well, it still has a pretty comprehensive listing of events throughout the city (even if some of those listings are less useful than they used to be, since the address is not necessarily included with each entry). And I'd say it's less annoying than New York magazine and has better coverage than The New Yorker.

Or at least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.*

* Not to mention the one column that I immediately turn to in each issue, on the off-chance that the columnist will say something particularly thrilling or insightful. What can I say? Hope springs eternal.