Wednesday, March 23, 2011
nobody safe here-2

In looking at a lot of old 'Proof Sheets' I have come across some wonderful pictures that I took back when my Three One Act plays, "Nobody Safe Here" were rehearsing and then playing, at Theatre West.....I wrote about one of the plays, "Jen The Hen", (in which dear Betty played me), just recently.....This play was about my mother's death.....It was the third of the three, as presented. The first one act was called "The Dressing Room" and it took place in a theatre Dressing Room as the two occupants are getting ready to do the play......The scene is between two young women who are in a play and share this dressing room. My idea was that we see them looking in the mirror through-out the action of the play---a very interesting and difficult task for the actresses playing these parts....They do their make-up and talk to one another all while looking into a dressing room mirror which, in fact, is not really there.....Charley Berliner, one of the most talented men I know, who is a brilliant Set Designer and Costume Designer---came up with the way to do this 'no mirror "mirror", and put the 'mirror' behind the actresses--it was actually a piece of Mylar that was mounted on a flat....Here below you see Charley and Chris Mandich measuring the area where the Mylar will go........ Charley was so enthusiastic about the plays---that in itself, was very gratifying....And because he was excited his creative juices were really flowing.....Here below, Chris and Charley taking off the outer plastic that was covering the Mylar to protect it, while in transit...... And below....Deirdre Meehan's daughter, Jennifer, helping Charley with the removal of the plastic covering.....You may remember I wrote about Deirdre in the earlier post...and it was great to have her young daughter helping us , too..... You can now see that the Mylar is very much like a real 'mirror'.....It is so very exciting to see your vision come to life as all the elements needed for a play, begin to come together...Theatre is a collaborative effort, and all the different 'artists' contributing to the, hopefully, one vision make the magic happen---in this case, Charley Berliner with his Set Design, assisted by Chris Mandich who 'realized' Charley's vision...... Above, Deirdre, who Directed "The Dressing Room", and is dressed in her costume for "A Play On Words", with Charley B. and Joanne Nail and Julie Rogers, the two young women who played the two actresses in the play.....You can see the lights that usually surround a dressing room mirror, reflected in the plastic that in this picture above, is still covering the Mylar mirror....and here below...Deirdre talking to her two actresses while standing on the set---you can see a few of the lights that surrounded the frame that pretended to be the dressing room mirror.....And then, below....you can see what it all looked like when Joanne and Julie actually played the play with the lights reflected in the Mylar behind them---framing them, really......It couldn't have been more perfect....and remember, we are doing this on a shoestring budget---you never have much money when you do theatre---Especially at a place like Theatre West. Charley received a credit in the program that said, Production Design Concept, Charles Berliner, and deservedly so, because he also solved the problem of going from Play 2, ("A Play On Words") to Play 3, "Jen The Hen", the third piece. "A Play On Words" is a conversation between two young women that could take place anywhere....! Charley came up with the brilliant idea of having the two women in that second play be movers....So, as "A" and "B" had their 'scatological' conversation---a rather daring conversation for that time, they removed the set from Act 1 and set-up all that was needed for Act 3....Betty, who directed "A Play On Words", always said that Charley solved her problem of how to 'stage' that piece and she was forever grateful to him.....It was very complicated because everything had to be done and finished by the end of the 2nd piece, "A Play On Words"....And it was almost like a dance. Both Deirdre and Pamela Dunlap were so good in this piece and so very game, too....I guess we all truly love a challenge, don't we? As you can see in the picture above, the floor had not been painted out yet. That was the very last thing to be done before our previews began.....Part of what made this whole thing such a truly wonderful experience for me was the sense of co-operation that prevailed throughout---and the fun we had while working on these plays...And believe me, we did have lots of fun during the entire process......I will be sharing more about this special time in my life, next time.......


More To Come........




Note: This has been and continues to be a very hard time for me.....So, please forgive me for not being as involved here in the blog world as I used to be. I don't know when this will change. There is much to think about and do as we all get ready for Betty's Memorial Celebration. Thank you for understanding, my dears.......


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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
the verdict

The film, "The Verdict", is a 'must see'. No, it's not a new film, but in truth, it is so beautifully done, it is a timeless piece of work...Except, they don't make films like this anymore.....It is a film that "stands the test of time", in my opinion.....The script, the direction and the actors are all, superlative. This film was up for a number of important Academy Awards, for 1982. Best Picture; Best Director--Sidney Lumet; Best Adapted Screenplay, David Mamet; Best Supporting Actor--James Mason, and....Best Actor---Paul Newman.....and, winning none of the above.......And, for me, I think this was the greatest role of Paul Newman's career. It is such a beautifully layered and nuanced performance. It is about an over-the-hill alcoholic ambulance-chasing lawyer who will do anything to get a case, but who has really lost his 'mojo'.....This film is about redemption and reclaiming one's integrity, against all odds. It is a great story and one that touches on so very many things that are part of our life and times---it is filled with such humanity. Paul Newman brings all of his life experience to this role and an understanding that seems very very personal, to me.Downtrodden and over-the-hill drunk, Frank Galvin, takes on a malpractice case in a half-assed kind of way---ready to settle for a rather paltry amount, just to get it over with and show that he still has 'it', as a lawyer, and some would say, taking the easy way---case closed....But something changes his mind. Somewhere along the way, during all the negotiations, something happens to Galvin and he decides to fight the case even though almost no one thinks he can win it. It is not a new story, in a way....little guy takes on the big bad Big Guys, but.....it is the greatness of all the wonderful actors in this film and the really superlative script and the outstanding direction that puts this film way above almost any other that I can think of in this genre.James Mason is perfect, as always, as the High Powered lawyer from the High Powered Law Firm, representing the Doctors and the Hospital and the Church who runs the Hospital. Jack Warden, a wonderful and truly underrated actor, is Galvin's law partner in this case---Warden never seems like he is 'acting', which is true for all the actors in this terrific film---he just "is"......The beautiful Charlotte Rampling, plays the woman that Galvin falls in love with--and it is such a refreshing pleasure to see an actress actually look her age, having done nothing to hide those facts----she is lovely in this film......And there are so many other really spectacular actors in this picture....Every part, down to the smallest role, is played by truly consummate performers; Milo O'Shea, as the Judge; Edward Binns, Julie Bavasso, Roxanne Hart, James Handy, Wesley Addy and Joe Seneca to name just a handful.......
All these choices were made by the great Sidney Lumet, directing another gem of a film...(The list of his films is astounding---"Dog Day Afternoon", "Network", "12 Angry Men", "Prince Of The City", "Murder On The Orient Express" just to name a few....). Then there is David Mamet's perfect script--lest we forget, it starts with 'the words', and what great words they are.....This is such a satisfying film in every way....And most importantly, at the center of this film, is the brilliant performance of Paul Newman. His finely etched portrait of 'Frank Galvin' is what carries this film over the goal line, so to speak!
I first saw Paul Newman on Broadway in the 1950's in William Inge's play "Picnic"....such a lovely young actor---and such a beautiful man, too...And then starring in the the Original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams great play, "Sweet Bird Of Youth" with the amazing Geraldine Page, which they then transferred to the screen with both Newman and Page repeating their original roles, once again.....Paul Newman has made an abundance of really wonderful films during his long career---"The Hustler", "Cool Hand Luke", "Somebody Up There Likes Me", "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid", "The Sting"...and later..."Nobody's Fool".....But something about this role---this broken alcoholic man who has stopped caring about everything, who seemingly suddenly finds his passion for the law, once again---his caring for humanity, really---this is a deeply deeply touching performance....A case of the right material in the hands of the right director at the perfect time in the leading actors life! And there you have, "The Verdict".If you have never seen it...Do rent it! And if you have seen it, well....watch it again---I just did, for the...what....10th time? It's a real lesson in what makes a very special and incredibly memorable film. And the joy of seeing a stunning and unforgettable performance by one of the 'greats' of our profession; a man who was always been so much more than just a pretty face. I could watch this picture right now and relish every minute of it all over again....! And, by the way, one of the last books that dear Betty read in this past 6 months was the most recent biography of Paul Newman, and she loved it!






More To Come........





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Tuesday, March 08, 2011
more memories......

In 1981, on Friday, February 13th my three-one-act plays, "Nobody Safe Here", opened at Theatre West. It was the second time in my Theatrical life that I experienced this incredible creative experience--a true collaboration....Above, 'Jen The Hen', the third of the three-one-acts, in which Betty played me in the present. This was a play about my mother's death and the profundity of this experience seen through the eyes of 'Naomi' at the time of my mothers death in April 1966, and in the 'present'---in this case, 1981 (Though it could be whatever year the play is being 'played')....the wonderfully sensitive Betty, who actually knew my mother, played me in 1981...and the incredibly talented Elizabeth Berger, played me at the actual time of my mothers death in 1966....... And the astoundingly talented and dear Annie Guilbert...aka Ann Morgan Guilbert, played 'Jen The Hen', my mother, and Brilliantly, I might add. This was such a personal play---such a heartfelt play, and everyone connected to it---the cast, the director, the set designer, the producer---were so incredibly committed and so on the same page about this deeply felt material---we were all, almost thinking as-one-person. That it all worked and was so very very successful in every way---extended three times---and even actually making money for Theatre West---an unheard of 'happening', was due to the dedicated commitment of everyone--starting with my dear Betty...And this is what made it such a special theatrical experience. See, there's dear Seemah over on the lower far right? Seemah played my late sister Robin, perfectly....And the wonderful Alan Jordon played my brother Gordon to a 'T', and the very very talented Pamela Dunlap, who played my sister Gene, was right on the money....In the background, you can see the huge painting I created for the set, with the complete blessings of our extraordinary Set Designer, Charles Berliner---who also happens to be my dear friend, too....in fact, it was Charley's idea that I paint this painting for the set....... There were three 'playing' areas on the stage.....'Naomi' in the presents home/chair (we actual brought one of my barrel chairs from home, along with a little red triangle pillow that had been in my mother's house)....the Hospital room, and the Visitor's Lounge (which you cannot see in the picture above)---and Charley had this wonderful idea to have a White Curtain as they do in Hospitals, that 'Naomi' in the present, pulled back at the beginning of the play, so as to reveal the playing areas (as in the picture above)....plus we created an area right at the foot of the bed that was the Harkness Pavillion Dining Room. Gene and I had many a meal in that Dining Room, and there was a scene between 'Young Naomi' and Gene that took place in that Dining Room, with 'Naomi' in the present, looking on, as well as the image of 'Jen The Hen' always there in the hospital bed....... It was a complicated play because of the two time periods, but it worked! And that is what mattered.....These three one-act plays seemingly unrelated, really were very much related, in their own way..... The overlapping of 'jobs' made it very exciting, too.....the super bright and extremely talented Deirdre Meehan directed two of the plays and versatile amazing Betty directed the other play, which Deirdre and Pamela Dunlap both 'acted in'. How we ever did all this, I don't know. But we did. Above....Deirdre and Betty upstairs in the Rehearsal Room at Theatre West. Rehearsals, are, for many, the most exciting time of a play---particularly a new play. Both Betty and Deirdre gave me so much support during this process, when many changes took place and lots of re-writing happened---it was nurturing in the most positive way and it brought out the best in me and made the plays that much better, too. "Jen The Hen" was the most difficult because it had had the least amount of work-shoping, so a lot of re-writing happened during this very exciting rehearsal period....... The thing is----Betty set the tone. Because of who she was as a person, she brought out the BEST in everybody. I don't think any of us had ever been better, except when we worked with her at other times. Always, she created an atmosphere where you wanted to do your best because she was doing her best and was always so kind and loving and professional.....I've always said, people who normally didn't like one another or in some cases--couldn't stand each other---worked beautifully together when Betty was involved. Luckily, we didn't have very much of that with "Nobody Safe Here".....but what little we did have was completely dissipated by this magic that Betty always brought with her---this calmness....I don't ever remember seeing Betty nervous or edgy when working in the theatre. Another gift she would give everybody---like I said, she set the tone, and we all were our best selves because of it.That 'magic' was just who she was inside and out.....That ability to see the good in everyone and to give unconditional love---you cannot learn how to be that kind of person---this was innate in Betty's nature. Even when giving criticism in the Wednesday night Musical Comedy Class, which she taught, or in the Monday Night Workshop---whatever she said was always said with kindness and love----a great gift to the person she was trying to help.....

Below....a snapshot taken after the show one night when our mutual friend Lois Land had come down from Northern California just to see the play---Betty without wig....... Behind us, Production Pictures from "Nobody Safe Here" hanging on the Lobby wall at Theatre West.....It was a truly special and memorable time, in every way....A joy to remember......



More To Come........




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