When Life Hands You a Pile of Poo…

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There are people in your phone and they have something they’d like to sing to you.

That’s right – all those emojis you use to embellish or simplify your texts are people, too, and now there’s a brand new musical in the works about them. Yes, even the pile of poo.

Thankfully, their songs have music and lyrics by Keith Harrison and a book by Keith and Laura Harrison. (Yes, they’re married. And yes they’re adorable.)

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A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting an event called Musi-CAL. Presented by the Festival of New American Musicals, Musi-CAL is a bimonthly concert series featuring material from new and in-progress musicals written by Southern Californian composers, lyricists, and bookwriters.

The final presentation was Keith and Laura’s show, Emojiland. I can’t even describe the energy that filled the room with each song they presented. Everyone in attendance was blown away by the quality and production-value of their work. It was simply stellar.

I met Keith and Laura separately Continue reading When Life Hands You a Pile of Poo…

Make Art for a Change

Art and activism have a long history together. As art is a representation of the truth of the world around us, it can often force us to see things that we typically choose to ignore.

Sometimes – often times – this type of truth telling can cause trouble for the artist. Especially in countries where freedom of speech is not valued as it is in the west.

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In Iran, a 29-year-old painter named Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12+ years in prison earlier this summer, for depicting members of the Iranian parliament as monkeys and cows. She created the artwork as a response to their vote to restrict contraception and ban certain birth-control methods. Even while in prison – where she suffered abuses and more injustices – she would draw on paper cups until they were no longer given to her. Continue reading Make Art for a Change

How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today

07a7f800-b3b0-0132-457f-0ebc4eccb42fIf you’re shy about taking risks, you can thank evolution.

Humans evolved to be risk-averse. As social creatures, we don’t always feel comfortable standing out from the crowd, and in small populations (as humans typically evolved within) taking a risk could lower your chances of survival.

But as artists and creators – risk is necessary to success.

In teaching actors at USC, I’ve noticed that one of the hardest things to get them to do is to be “outrageous” with their acting choices. To go too far. Even though that’s always the advice acting teachers are giving! “Go too far, and then you can dial it back.”

But people are afraid of doing what they think will be making a fool of themselves. The truth is, however, when you “go too far” you’re actually going exactly as far you need to go. The ideal place to get to is exactly one step outside your comfort zone. That’s where vulnerability shows up, and real moments begin to happen.

But how to get there? Continue reading How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today

Mind-Hacking the Audition Process

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The relationship between actors and the casting process can sometimes be antagonistic, and that’s super unfortunate. If you find yourself ripping your hair off over the audition/casting process, and feeling resentful toward casting directors who “always bring you in, but never cast you,” consider these 3 mind-hacks: Continue reading Mind-Hacking the Audition Process

Gentrification Madlibs

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This Handy Guide to Gentrification written by Buzzfeed contributors Michael Albo and Amanda Duarte is, frankly, too good not to share.

Written in the form of a multiple-choice Madlibs, it tells the story of Wilmington (read: Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Venice, California), which goes from a dangerous den of “spongecake” addicts with cheap housing, to a community of genderqueer youths and pour-over coffee colonic spas, to a neighborhood packed with Wholefoods full of babies where no one can afford their own artisanal hand-milled toilet paper anymore.

Read, enjoy, laugh – but always remember the days when the Cinnamon Toast Festival was just about the cinnamon and the toast, and wasn’t the corporate sellout monstrosity it is now!!

Have You Ever Wondered Why Superheroes Wear Capes?

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The other day a random thought popped into my head: Why do superheroes so often wear capes?? I wondered if there was any literature on the purpose of capes in these superhero myths.

One thread suggested that there was a link from Zorro and/or The Three Musketeers. Those swashbucklers being the original “super heroes” of literature and, given the time periods, natural cape wearers. This then held over to Superman and beyond.

Others discussed the utility purposes of capes such as it’s assistance with aerodynamics, but at least according to one study on the phyiscs of Batman’s Cape (yes…an actual study) that seems incorrect. Other purposes include making it easy to hide or confuse enemies, being a protective shield, and acting as a symbol.

My favorite blog is this one that asks Do Superheroes Really Need Capes? The author basically decides the purpose of a cape is purely for the sake of fashion. It even goes so far as to depict some of our well-known cape-wearers looking rather silly without their capes.

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I was disappointed to find that there was no deeper symbolism to be read into it. Something like “the fluid movement of capes create a sense of the ephemeral, and as such give human shapes an otherworldly form.”

So, I guess without that I’m with Edna from Pixar’s The Incredibles. As she puts it:

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Craft is for the Brits!

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An article in The Atlantic caught my attention the other day with the headline The Decline of the American Actor. Being an American Actor myself, I must do what I can to stay up-to-date about my decline. Wait…come again?

First a quick digest of the article: author Terrance Rafferty makes many assertions that bumble about throughout the piece. The most important, in my opinion, is the comment that (in relation to their more successful British counterparts) American actors have less appreciation for training and technique. Continue reading Craft is for the Brits!

Post-Apocalypse Now

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A cloud of smoke rises following an airstrike by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held area of Douma, northeast of Damascus, on February 5, 2015 (AFP Photo / Abd Doumany)

There’s an ad I often hear on NPR featuring a film critic saying, “I can’t wait for the real post-apocalyptic dystopia to arrive so we can finally stop seeing films about it.”

Every time I hear it I think:hodgins-yes

I so often see synopses for new films or tv shows or plays that take place in this post-apocalyptic landscape, particularly written by younger, (I’m just guessing here, but…) white, male writers.

I totally get the impulse. It’s hugely dramatic after all. What do you do after the worse possible thing has happened? You fight the man and reclaim the day! Does matter how vague, contrived, or illogical the details. Hell yeah! Tune in! Continue reading Post-Apocalypse Now

Oh, The Farmer’s Market and the CSA Can be Friends

(Ten points if you get the reference in the title…)

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My fiancee and I recently bought a house in a new neighborhood. It’s been an exciting transition, but one of the things that we lost was easy access to a weekly farmer’s market.

I used to love going to the market every Sunday morning. It wasn’t a very big market, and so you were able to get to know the vendors and farmers on a personal level. It taught me to plan meals for the week, and buy accordingly. It was an amazing ritual. How could we give that up?? Continue reading Oh, The Farmer’s Market and the CSA Can be Friends

The “Jane Austen Writers Group” Buzzfeed Parody

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This wonderful buzzfeed “What If” created by contributor Shannon Reed is a hilarious read and hits a lot of great points.

The first, and most obvious, is the frequently useless critiques that writer’s groups provide. Between batches of patting one another on the back, there’s a tacet “I’m smarter than you” subtext that pervades their friendly notes.

And then there’s the endless harping on “Why.” Yes – we must understand the motivations of a character. But sometimes the motivations of a character are implicit in the actions themselves. We relate to their actions and thus we understand “why.” We do not need to be told, and not everything needs to be explained away.

But I think I’m most fascinated, on my subsequent reads of this article, at the (perhaps-not-so) subtle sexism. The labeling of “chick lit;” the constant comparisons to “superior” works by men (Chaucer, Shakespeare); the sexualization of Kitty; the criticizing of having too many women in the piece; and the suggestion that the active protagonists should be three men who discuss war, while Mrs. Bennet “lies unconscious in the background, holding a ribbon.”

Well parodied, Ms. Reed.

In more re-affirming news: Check out this article on new plays empowering young, Latina women!