Woof.

One of the most frustrating things about dating your director is that sometimes, “boyfriend” mode is activated before you’re ready to shut-down “director” mode.

Last night I had a TERRIBLE rehearsal. I came SO determined to work and be amazing and awesome, but the combination of worrying about….everything and, I think, TRYING to be awesome devolved into one magical moment where I had the concious thought “I should probably try not sucking right now”. And, as it seemed, the harder I tried, the more it wasn’t working, so the more I felt like a failure, so the harder I tried….

After rehearsal, Jake told me that, at least for him, that was the first time he’d been uncomfortable during 2.3 (the rape–well, pre-rape scene). I had a moment of

This. This is what my face looked like.

So some of the cast went off for drinks at the Blue Cat while Jake met with our kick-ass AD Steph, and when he came home, I essentially apologized to him for the shit job I’d done.

Which, of course, he refused to accept, being the good boyfriend he is, not wanting to me feel bad, but in that moment, I needed my director to say “hey, I acknowledge that you felt bad about your performance, but I trust you to improve from here”.

Since we’re doing email notes (efficient! timely! awesome!) rather than notes sessions after runs (boring! Long! nap time!) I’m waiting to get my notes from last night, so I will be anxious to see what I will get told to work on.

Woof, though. Having a rehearsal that bad is…frustrating. And terrifying.

But if anything, this process is forcing me to let go of things more than I have have needed to before, and I think that’s good for me as an actor.

We’re running the show off-book on Sunday, so I don’t know how emotionally present we are going to be after the 90th time of asking for lines, but I going to sit down before then and do some real work on both this character and on being present in the scene.

 

I have not another tear to shed….

Full disclosure: I’m dwelling. I know I’m dwelling, but I’m the type of person that needs to have something to dwell on during a show, or the overwhelming stage fright I combat will kick in and then, really, you just don’t want to be around me.

And right now, the dwelling flavor of the day is “crying on stage”.

I don’t know what it is. In private, I will cry over the dumbest things. Jake once found me weeping on the floor during an episode of Doctor Who and didn’t blink (ha). But for some reason, I am having absolutely immense difficulty getting tears flowing for this show.

It wouldn’t be a big deal, but let’s take a look at the tape:

This is my first line in the show:

LAVINIA: In peace and honor live Lord Titus long;
            My noble lord and father, live in fame.
            Lo, at this tomb my tributary tears
            I render for my brethren’s obsequies,
            And at thy feet I kneel, with tears of joy
            Shed on the earth for thy return to Rome.
            O, bless me here with thy victorious hand,
            Whose fortunes Rome’s best citizens applaud.

Two mentions of tears right out of the shoot.

But wait, there’s more.

During Act 2 Scene 3, (the “rape” scene), Demetrius says:

 Listen, fair madam: let it be your glory 
To see her tears; but be your heart to them
 As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.

So, textually, there’s tears there.

And then there’s the big one. After I return to Rome with Marcia, she brings me to Titus and he finds out what’s happened. Upon the reveal, Titus says:

Now I behold thy lively body so?
Thou hast no hands, to wipe away thy tears
Nor tongue, to tell me who hath martyred thee.

Over the course of the scene, he tells me that Bassianus is dead and my two brothers have been arrested for it. And Titus says…

Look, Marcia! ah, son Lucius, look on her!
When I did name her brothers, then fresh tears
Stood on her cheeks, as doth the honey-dew
Upon a gather’d lily almost wither’d.

It is just such a frustrating experience to WANT to cry and knowing that textually, it’s such an important part of the story, so important that Shakespeare wrote all of those references into the show, but having this strange mental block about the whole thing is just awful. It’s there, in the text. Lavinia cries– a lot. Last night I spent a great deal of time watching stupid videos on Youtube trying to figure out both what the hell I could do about the situation, which is just pathetic, I think.

At dinner last night, it kind of became a joke as I sat at Village Inn trying to cry at the table, and my friend Andy pointed out that “maybe you shouldn’t worry about using tricks to cry, just focus on the emotion and the tears will come”. That was immensely frustrating– I am so deep into this part I realized that I’ve started dressing like her. I have done mountains and mountains of research and work. I have looked at every single line of text in the show and squeezed every drop of information from it. I know who Lavinia is, I know how I want to play her, every night I live through her pain and sorrow and shame and it’s awful. I leave rehearsal in a foul and terrible mood because I feel it so strongly– and I still can’t cry.

Hell, I’m tearing up right now at the frustration I’m feeling about not being able to cry.

Letting go and not worrying about it has to be the key. There comes a point where the overthinking just makes things worse, but I am so invested in this– I don’t want to suck. I want people to feel what I’m feeling, to experience something visceral and real because of what I’m doing, to be moved and to have an amazing emotional experience– because I think that’s what is so amazing about theatre– you have the opportunity to genuinely affect people and I think Lavinia is such a great vessel for that.

There is a part of me, too, that simply has something to prove. For my entire life, I have wanted to be an actor. I started out interested in musical theatre, but fate and vocal talent conspired to make me less than an ideal candidate for that type of work. Over time, I absoultely fell in love with Shakespeare, and that’s what I would like my focus to be on. However, I know that I am not the world’s greatest actor, and when I decided to be a theatre major, I went into it believing that the experience would be a magical actor’s studio type of thing that forced me to improve lest I be left behind. While I loved my time in school and I did grow both as an artist and an individual, it was noticed early on that I am a good writer, director and designer– and those were areas I was encouraged to explore, and I did very well in them– but even as I was designing costumes or building sets, I wanted to be acting, and that always seemed to be an after-thought to everything else. There was a moment when I was sharing my plans for after college with someone, and when I said that I really wanted to go to grad school for acting, there was a pause and then “You’re such a good writer– have you thought about going to school for that?” . I was devestated. Keep in mind that this was after four and a half years of working towards my major– was this the first time I was going to be told that I wasn’t talented enough to be an actor?

I am full of self-doubt, and I think that’s okay. Any actor who goes into an audition expecting to be cast is probably not someone I’d want to work with, but so much of me wants to succeed in this role, to prove that this is something I CAN do and I CAN be good at it, I think it’s all combining into one giant neuroses-inducing clusterfuck that is impeding my process.

Tonight we’re working on the scene where Lavinia is able to disclose who raped and mutilated her– and I’m making it my personal goal not to worry about whether or not my eyes are tearing up, but focusing on the experience and seeing what happens.

Fucking actors.

I. Hurt. Everywhere.

Rehearsals for Titus Andronicus are going really, really well. I think. It’s hard to tell, honestly. I have been living with this show for nearly a year and a half now, so, as Jake pointed out to me a few days ago “You know, we really haven’t been rehearsing THAT LONG”. It feels like forever, in the best way possible.

Last night we worked out the rape scene, and it was…something. Our absolutely brililant fight master, Denise, was really great and really made sure that everyone understood what was going on and was the most awesome about answering questions and hearing ideas.

It is very interesting being “victimized” by good friends. While in my head, I know that it’s all prentend and at the end of the night I’m going to go have a drink with my “rapists”, there is still something deeply unsettling about being thrown and grabbed and made powerless, especially because there are moments where I really CAN’T fight back, even if I wanted to, and that is such a powerful experience to have happen during this moment of absolute frustration for my character. I’m a strong person– and so much of the fight is being choreographed to make me seem as weak as possible, because having the audience thinking “wow, Lavinia could kick thier asses” isn’t condusive to the scene much, so it’s been awesome having people I can trust being the ones tossing me about.

We also worked “Titus feeding Lavinia” last night, and that was…awful. We’re using oatmeal (because it’s delicious and I don’t understand anyone who say it isn’t), and holy gods did it make a huge mess. I’m a very persnickity eater, and having Aaron physically hold me down and spoon food into my mouth was so humiliating and demoralizing, in a weird way, it was really wonderful to get to experience that, especially because we are using that scene as the basis for how Lavinia survives for so long, and the truth is horrible to witness. Aaron, across the board, has been absolutely incredible to work with. I don’t know many other actors who would think to text me after rehearsal to make sure I was okay, especially, because really, last night I wasn’t.

This show is a weird beast. On one hand, it’s this absolutely fabulous role with all sort of dramatic interest and human emotion, but it’s also so dark and painful and just agonizing– once I’m in a show, I have a hard time separating my character and my personal life, and I think this is a role I need to be able to leave at the door and walk away from, just for the purposes of my own sanity. I’m always a bit shaken up after rehearsal, especially on the “rape scene” nights, because there is just so much to handle, the level of loss and pain and sorrow, but I also don’t want to be the bitchy actress complaining about it the whole time.

We’ve been working blocking for the most part and haven’t really delved too deeply (at least on my stuff) on acting, which I think is okay. It’s much more difficult to act when you’re worried about remembering where to stand, but I think my biggest concern is for the rape scene and the scenes immediately following.

The show is set up terribly– well, at least for poor Titus. My character gets raped, comes back mutilated beyond recognition, is found by her uncle (aunt in our production) and taken to her father. MEANWHILE, while all of this awful stuff is happening to me, Titus witnesses his two sons being accused of murder, his eldest son is banished from Rome and then I show up, so he has to deal with me, and then wait, there’s more! I can’t imagine the acting challenge that Aaron has to deal with.

We’re working that scene on Thursday, so my personal goal is to try and really access the emotion inherent in the scene. We’re re-blocking it (self-admittedly, I have become distracting in my hand-less gorey glory), so more of the focus can be on the action in the scene. However, I begged Jake to keep the part where Titus comes and comforts me– that is such a powerful, special moment. It is not often that anyone treats me like a child, and Aaron, just as a person, is so big and powerful and mighty, but in that moment, he’s so gentle and just so broken at the sight of his daughter, it’s really moving.

I’m also, god damn it, going to fucking cry. I don’t know what it is about crying on stage. I can weep and weep and weep at home on my own, but the minute I step into the space, it’s like my tear ducts shrivel up and die. I’ve been doing some work on how to approach it, and I think, basically, I am just going to sit there until I cry. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I think it’s more mental than physical at this point. I’m an ugly crier, too, so poor, poor Lavinia just won’t have anything going for her.

I am already projecting major post-show depression. This is one character that I care so much and so deeply about, I think it’s going to be really strange walking away from Lavinia and living my normal everyday life (without having to search for horrible, awful things on the internet nightly), but I kind of think it’s cathartic to be able to just hit those absolute low points and be there for awhile, and then shake it off and have friends give you hugs and go for french fries.

Because you can’t eat french fries with bloody stumps.

 

FINE! I liked it. The Human Centipede 2 (A Review)

Last year, (somehow), we decided that it would be an interesting social experiment to watch The Human Centipede after the Super Bowl.

Obviously, we had to watch the second one this year.

I am a person who likes to be prepared before I get metaphorically punched in the face with bad art house torture porn, so I came to the party prepared with the knowledge that the HC2 was not only more violent and even more graphic, it was also basically made as a big “fuck you” to the critics of the first film.

I really enjoy that mentality. “You criticize my film? Here’s the SAME MOVIE BUT 1000 TIMES WORSE.”. I respect that. It’s ballsy, hilarious, and completely explains most of what happens.

So. It was awful to sit through. I actually discovered something about myself– I can’t sit when watching graphic violence. I have to stand. I think it’s something with my fight-or-flight reaction. I’m mentally preparing to get the fuck out of there in case some shit goes down.

We sat through the entire movie (I stood) and when it ended, there was a tangible combination of guilt, disgust and absolute triumph and not having thrown up. I think we all needed a shower as well.

I came home and thought about what I’d just seen (repeatedly, because SOME THINGS YOU CAN’T UNSEE) and I realized– for all of its faults, failings,and OH FUCK moments, on some level, this movie is absolutely genius.

Yes, the plot is ridiculous: Super-Creepy Creepmaster McCreepypants is obsessed with The Human Centipede and decides to try and create the original doctor’s “master plan” of connecting 12 individuals into one ass-to-mouth masterpiece. Spoiler: he does.

The tongue-in-cheek (or is it butt-to-cheek SEE WHAT I DID THERE) plot is so self-referential and masturbatory that I accepted it, without question, because why the hell would anyone NOT become completely obsessed with the Human Centipede and decide to make his own using kitchen tools and a staple gun?

That’s it. That’s the whole plot. There’s not really any sort of b-story where Chandler can’t get to the drycleaners on time and so Joey and Rachel are going to be late to dinner or anything, it’s just….some pasty fat guy doing terrible, terrible things to much more attractive people.

But let’s start there. First off, the movie’s protagonist(?), Martin, is a psychotic, anti-social, maybe retarded, pasty, sweaty, beady-eyed, balding creep-o with weird creepy fingers. Literally everything about him is unsettling and slightly off (including his underwear– BA BOW!), but there is still (and I still haven’t figured out if this is just fucking brilliant acting or me making this movie way deeper than it needs to be), something about his portrayal of the character that makes you feel bad for the guy. He’s cutting apart buttholes and part of you still wants him to succeed because you’re given just enough of his backstory to want to give him a hug (and some serious fucking therapy). And then you start wondering when it was, exactly, that he snapped and start wondering about the guy who works at the gas station across the street.

That’s the brilliance of it. The natural pity we feel gets thrown the fuck back in our face less than 20 seconds into the film,but you spend the entire movie thinking “is he actually going to do it/get away with it/make it out?”

It’s the Hannibal Lector Technique: The less you know, the more you want to understand.

Another particularly brilliant choice was the complete lack of dialog from Martin. Sure, he cries, laughs, screams in frustration, does a couple of awkward dance moves and kills the fuck out of like 15 people, but he NEVER SAYS A GODDAMN WORD. He. Just. Stares.

Creepysauce.

So Martin decides to make a human centipede and does it. That’s basically the rest of the film.

Many critics were aghast at the level of extreme, graphic violence depicted in the film. I’m not going to lie, it is absolutely awful to sit through. Just about every awful thing that you could imagine happens in this film and sometimes twice because FUCK YOU is why.

Jake, who can sit through the most violent of horror films without batting an eye and is directing goddamn Titus Andronicus, nearly puked on the sofa a couple of times, and I spent many moments buried in his sweatshirt so I didn’t have to watch.

I’m not going to turn this into a soapbox debate of what connotates a good or a bad movie, but I will say this.

How many movies have you seen where you watch it, figure out the plot 20 minutes in, wait for the inevitable romantic ending/robot fight ending, shrug, and forget that you saw it three days later? I’ve seen tons of movies with Jake, and we still occasionally have that moment of “Did we see that in the theater? I think we did. I can’t remember”.

I’m not saying that The Human Centipede 2 is going to share a box set with Citizen Cane and Gone With the Wind any time soon, that would be too awesome  to ever actually happen.

What I will argue is that where the Human Centipede 2 comes through is that it drags the audience kicking and screaming in to a realm of absolute, undeniable visceral response.Yes, the movie is disgusting. Yes, it’s spectacularly violent, bloody, rapey and questionable for small children and born-again Christians to watch, but I’ve never sat through a movie that made me actually sweat before.

I am notorious for my “this is just a stupid movie” response. I was forced to watch Passion of the Christ in high school because “to understand the power of Easter, we have to understand what Our Savior truly went through”, and I sat there the entire time going, “Oh, hey, that’s the hot guy from The Count Of Monte Cristo”. It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy a film, and the thought of “there’s obviously a blood pack up his sleeve” occurred to me during this film exactly 0 times.

Yes, there were times when the “LET’S SEE HOW RIDICULOUSLY VIOLENT WE CAN BE BECAUSE FUCK YOU, AUDIENCE” got a little extreme. [Put your own poop joke here], and yes, I am still looking into ways of bleaching my corneas,

But I liked it.
Mom will be so proud.

Now, I will say the ending (which I looked up on Wikipedia afterwards and they said the same thing so I know I’m right), is purposefully ambiguous. There is nothing more infuriating than an ambiguous ending. I won’t spoil it in case any of you sick fucks reading want to see it, but there are two options on how to interpret the ending.

Wait, I’m going to, right now. Here I go.
Don’t read this part if you want to be suprized.
Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
Why are you still reading, I thought you wanted to be suprized.
Fine.

The movie ends with Martin cleaned up in his work uniform and sitting back at his computer, watching the end credits of The Human Centipede. This implies ones of two options: Option A: Since before the whole “make a centipede” goes down, we see him sitting in his work uniform starting the film, it can be interpreted as “He just imagined the whole thing”. Option B: He got away, cleaned himself up and is back to the drawing board on how to make it possible.

I’m going to rant here and say that I fucking HATE “It was all a dream” endings. They are the worst cop-out cheap-o bad-writing stupid endings ever and completely invalidate everything you just say through.

Earlier today, I had the realization that in the end, in this rare case, it doesn’t matter. Why?

If the movie ends with Option A, then holy shit, this guy is seriously, seriously fucked up and he is ON THE STREETS and WANTS TO ATTACH YOUR MOUTH TO A BUTT. Also, I JUST WATCHED THIS WHOLE @%”*($&#%* MOVIE FOR NOTHING AND I WANT TO THROW UP.

If the movie ends with option B, the see above.

Well played, Human Centipede.

Well played.