Emily, Brian, and I have been collaborating with Natalie Hegg to compose some pretty lovely original music for Ivanov. Correction: Emily, Brian, and Natalie have been collaborating. I have no musical talents whatsoever, so I get to sit in the room, listen, and ask dumb questions. Not going to lie: I really love these rehearsals. It’s pretty inspiring to watch these musicians work together to develop a unique, beautiful sound for our production.
But if there is one thing I can contribute to the musical side of Ivanov, it is this: a kick-ass playlist.
Back in my college days, one of the things I was very proud of was my ability to make a fairly marvelous mix CD. If there was ever a long car ride, birthday, or special event, I would always seem to put together an ideal bunch of songs to fit the occasion. This special skill led to my habit of compiling a list of songs to fit whatever production I was working on. To this day, it always helps my mind focus on the project if I have that compilation to listen to whenever I sit down with my script.
So here we go: the Ivanov playlist which has been featured non-stop on my iPod for the past month (I’ve also included the specific lyric that sold me on including the song in the mix). I encourage all of you to listen to any of them if and when you’re thinking about Ivanov:
1) “Awake My Soul” by Mumford and Sons
“How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes / I struggle to find any truth in your lies / And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know/ My weakness I feel I must finally show”
2) “Blackbird” by the Beatles
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night / Take these sunken eyes and learn to see / All your life / You were only waiting for this moment to be free”
3) “Falling Awake” by Gary Jules
“One foot in the grave / One foot in the shower / There’s never time to save / You’re paying by the hour...”
4) “My Little Town” by Simon and Garfunkel
“Saving my money / Dreaming of glory / Twitchin’ like a finger on a trigger of a gun...”
5) “World Spins Madly On” by the Weepies
“Woke up / Wished that I was dead / With an aching in my head / Lay motionless in bed...”
6) “Urge for Going” by Joni Mitchell
“And all that stays in dying / All that lives is getting out / See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow / They’ve got the urge for going and they’ve got the wings to go...”
7) “Mona Lisa” by Grant-Lee Phillips
“Ain’t nothing that stays the same / Won’t ask it of you / Just that burgundy smile you wore yesterday / Say you won’t ever lose”
8) “Belong” by Cary Brothers
“There are movies playing in your eyes / You dream of our fortunes / But you’re wrong / I don’t belong to you...”
9) “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons
“So come out of your cave walking on your hands / And see the world hanging upside down / You can understand dependence / When you know the maker’s land”
10) “Changing My Mind” by Bob Schneider (Ivanov’s song)
“And what’s so funny is the birds are singing / The sun is shining and the bells are ringing / And I’m thinking ‘What happened here?’”
11) “Rambling Man” by Laura Marling (Anna’s song)
“It’s funny how the first chords you come to / Are the minor notes that come to serenade you / And it’s hard to accept yourself as someone you don’t desire / As someone you don’t want to be”
12) “Levon” by Elton John (Shabelsky’s song)
“He wants to go to Venus / Leaving Levon far behind / Take a balloon and go sailing / While Levon--Levon slowly dies...”
13) “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” by the Avett Brothers (Lvov’s song)
“There was a dream and one day I could see it / Like a bird in a cage, I broke in and demanded that somebody free it / And there was a kid with a head full of doubt / So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out”
14) “The Wind” by Cat Stevens (Sasha’s song)
“I listen to my words but they fall far below / I let my music take me where my heart wants to go”
15) “Live and Let Die” by Wings
Okay, so this song isn’t exactly appropriate, but imagine this song playing during the final scene. With the opening credits from the James Bond movie projected on the back wall. Worse way to send Ivanov ever (which is why it makes me giggle).
So what do you think? What songs do you associate with Ivanov? Let us know!
Until next week!
Brian, Emily, and I are getting very excited about the HTTC Prelude we’re hosting this coming Sunday, the 26th, from 5:00-7:00PM, so I thought this week’s blog would be the top 10 reasons why I think you all should join us! (And believe me, there are more than 10 reasons...these are just some of the best ones...)
1) Yes, technically, this is a fundraiser. But first and foremost, it’s a party! There’s no admission fee and the primary goal is to reach out to all of you and have fun.
2) The event will take place at Space on White, a beautiful location in Tribeca which is right around corner from Access Theater where Ivanov will be performed
3) There will be free food. I don’t think I need to say anymore.
4) Is it possible to combine all the major Chekhov plays into one cohesive piece? This is your opportunity to find out! A short presentation of The Three Sisters who live in a Cherry Orchard near their friend Vanya: a short play with a brief appearance by a Seagull will feature performances by company members Emily Kitchens, Patricia Lynn, and Brian Keith MacDonald, as well as Reading Salon veterans and Ivanov cast members: Britannie Bond, Timothy J. Cox, Jordan Kaplan, and Kyle Schaefer.
5) You can partake in our raffle for only $2 per ticket. Prizes include a dinner out at Craft restaurant with my family and free tickets to Ivanov, the Goat Prize Basket, Vodka Gummy Bear kits, and more! For the full list of possible prizes, please visit our Prelude page here
6) There will also be Goat Punch. It’s delicious. And chock full of vodka. Just the way Chekhov liked it.
7) The gloriously talented Britannie Bond will be displaying her Ivanov inspired photography show. This lady is going places, believe me. Check out some of her work here
8) Have you ever heard Brian MacDonald play the piano? Because you should. For serious.
9) Again, free food. Free drink. Free fun. (yes, this warrants being mentioned twice)
10) One of our goals at HTTC is to create a community of artists who can break bread and revel in a love for art together. We've already met so many wonderful people, but we'd love to meet even more! So please join us!
Our space is limited so please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org so we have an accurate guest list.
We hope to see you on Sunday!
While we're on food, my mother and some of her friends were involved in a dinner theater in Tennessee, when we lived there. I remember them doing a production of Steel Magnolias. There are certain plays that, like certain foods, are pure comfort. Like my mama's homemade mac-and-cheese, a play like Steel Magnolias just feels good to me.
Jonathon Moscone, California Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director, has mentioned before that he used to think about Shakespeare as akin to eating his vegetables, he mostly digested it because it was good for him.
Then there are some playwrights and plays that we acquire a taste for, after being exposed to them over and over--for me that's O'Neill. I've really started being excited about his crazy, obsessive stage directions! And how he was and is a revolutionary voice in the American Theater.
Our taste-buds change, we refine our palettes, we binge and purge, we fast, etc, etc, etc--I'm sure you get the idea. Theatre is digested. Theatre is nourishing. And sometimes theatre satisfies our stomachs and our tastes and our needs all at once.
Chekhov is a little bit like the best salad I've ever had. I know it's good for me. I know it tastes good. I know that it will sustain me. I feel good when I ingest it. I am interested in each different ingredient, as well as the composition as a whole. It is complex and simple simultaneously. It is impossible to recreate. It is delicate in a way that one rotten or spoiled piece can disrupt the whole. It is careful and thrown together. It is fresh and earthy. It is fun. Sometimes it doesn't make sense. It is something I crave over and over again.
Okay. Now I feel silly and hungry.
Eat, drink and be merry, I guess!
Thanks for reading.
Brian wrote last week about how his first experience with live theatre involved hot dogs, so I thought I would share with you my first stage experience that also involved a delicious food (which makes sense that these defining moments would lead us to start a theatre company that involves food and drink!).
We’ll pause for a moment so I can share this tidbit about me: I love pie. Like seriously, really, truly, madly and deeply love pie. My mother does not particularly care for pie, and never baked any when I was growing up, so pies were a special treat for me. Emily and I actually go on ‘pie dates’ where we go to The Little Pie Company on 43rd Street and indulge in the bliss of homemade mini-pies. My new favorite combo has to be hot cherry pie paired with a cool lemon meringue. I highly recommend it.
Unpause. My first play was in fifth-grade. There were only six of us in drama club. We were going to perform the timeless classic “Binky and the Space Pandas”, but Ryan Walsh, who was cast as Binky, left the show to join some sports team (I think it was hockey...?) So we had to switch to the equally as epic drama: “The Planet of the Perfectly Awful People”. I was cast as the ruler of the said planet Meanus, Queen Groucho. Clearly, I was typecast as she was not a happy person. She didn’t smile ever. She didn’t laugh ever. She was just mean. Anyone who has ever met me can attest that this was a perfect fit.
However, Queen Groucho changed her ways after a young girl named Addie accidentally arrives at Meanus (she was trying to go to Venus and got a little sidetracked). Addie decides to try to help the people of Meanus. She’s able to convince Queen Groucho’s cohorts, Lady Grumble and Sir Groan, that laughter and happiness is really the way to go, but Groucho is a tad harder to convince. So, clearly, the only thing to do is throw a pie in Queen Groucho’s face.
Pause again. This “pie” was not an actual pie, but a pie tin filled with whipped cream that had melted under the stage lights. Yeah.
Unpause. My proud parents recorded the performance and of course got a lovely close-up of the pinnacle moment while I stood centerstage, covered in dripping, slightly soured, melted whipped cream, waiting for the laughter to die away from the audience so I could speak my next line. And what’s amazing about this specific moment, in hindsight, is that this was the moment that I was hooked. Because good God, having to hold for a laugh for at least an entire minute, to stand on a stage basking in the joy of live theatre for that prolonged moment--there’s no topping it. All past dreams of becoming a marine biologist or doctor had vanished. I was done for. There was no turning back. I was destined for the stage. And for pie.
So pie and hot dogs led two of our company members to the arts. How about you? Was it food? Or perhaps more importantly: what kind of pie would you most like thrown in your face onstage? Comment and let us know!
Oh, Addie’s plan worked: Queen Groucho did finally break down and laugh after the pie incident. All is right with the world.
See you next week! Patricia
Hi there! I’m Brian MacDonald, the third member of HTTC you had yet to meet :) I got into acting when I was about ten because I wanted to serve a hotdog. My parents took me to a children’s luncheon theatre, where they served food before the show. I thought serving a hot dog before the show would be the best thing in the world, but as my mom pointed out, I would have to get into the show. After a moment I responded, “I think I could do that!” Thus a career in the customer service industry was born. (To this day I have yet to serve a hot dog, a story for another time)
So that was that. My acting career started with the Peanut Butter Players, and my life’s work began, which until recently, I viewed only as the time I spent involved in the craft of acting. The Peanut Butter Players taught me a lot about acting, especially the value of being a part of a community with which you can grow, succeed, fail, learn, and celebrate. When I look back at my first efforts as an actor, I remember laughter, conversations, jokes, parties, and camaraderie, all before I think about the roles I played or the lines I learned. I could say the same thing about the schools I’ve attended and companies I’ve worked for growing up in Colorado. Without a community, life between shows would have been very hard, and the majority of our lives are lived between shows, after all.
So now I find myself in New York, working as a barista (I’m writing this after getting home from it today), not only having to think about auditions and memorizing lines when I get a project but dealing with rent, feeding my dog, trying to figure out how to make those numbers in my bank account go in a better direction, and just generally keeping my head above water. Sometimes my life’s work feels like it’s actually dedicated to perfecting how to make a heart in a latte (and yes, I can totally do that). Thankfully I have a wonderful family and many friends to share my times with who grab me whenever I start to sink.
It’s easy to say you’re an actor when you have a job, and it’s easy to feel like an actor when you’re in the lights, but perhaps the more defining moments are the times in between. Those are the times that truly define us, and those are the moments when we need a community most of all to share life with. Those are the moments to be filled with good company and good cheer, because it’s what we’ll remember most, and it’s the most important piece of our life’s work.
In our HTTC meetings we’ve discussed our interest in educational outreach, becoming involved with outreach programs that provide food for those in need, we’ve even discussed the possibility of taking a show on tour, and we’re constantly adding names to our email lists. Working to attain goals such as these inspires me, because it demonstrates an interest in not just putting up shows in a black box somewhere, but in trying to create a community, a group of friends with whom life can be shared and memories made.
We’ve already met a lot of new people through events such as the Reading Salon, and I know when I look back I’ll take pride in the shows we produced and the roles we played, but I know the first memories will be the ones in which we played a Shakespeare “bard” game, drank wine while discussing the meaning of a Strindberg play, eating and drinking with new friends, and being a part of something special in a great city. We of course will always work to produce plays and provide acting work, but in the end, I like to think we’re first and foremost providing a community in which we can pursue our life’s work--the work we perform in between gigs. Join us, and bring a friend!
And keep your kids away from hotdogs--they lead to acting.
If you asked me five years ago what are two words I would associate with Anton Chekhov and his plays, the answer would have come to me quite readily: whining and vodka.
Those two words can be a dangerous combination. But that’s all I would initially remember about Chekhov plays: that there was a lot of alcohol being consumed which seemed to lead to a lot of complaining. Then, this would lead me to want give the characters a good smack on the back of the head and shout: “Would you just go to Moscow already?” Oh, and then there is the sound of a string breaking randomly during the second act.
Looking back, this first impulse towards the Russian playwright makes me want to smack my younger self on the back of the head. Because five years later, when I am a little older and possibly a tad wiser, there is no other playwright I would wish to explore for our company’s first production besides Anton Chekhov.
Brian, Emily, and I founded HTTC because we were starving for theatre that could nourish all of the senses. And just like us, Chekhov characters have a deep and glorious hunger for love, freedom, vodka, sex, art, food, seagulls, and life. Somehow, with remarkably and deceptively simple language, every single one of Chekhov’s characters has an epic capacity for needing, wanting, and desiring someone or something. It overwhelms them and consumes all of their thoughts and actions. Irina only talks about Moscow because it’s all she can think about. Moscow never leaves her. How can she not constantly talk about it?
So I understand now. I understand that Chekhov characters aren’t whining. They’re trying. They’re trying so very hard to get what they want. All Chekhov characters are prepared to do anything and everything to accomplish their dreams. So they set out to attain that goal, but there are numerous obstacles popping up in their way. So they try again. And again. And again. And again. The struggle never ceases. And yes, of course, sometimes they get bogged down with their hardships, but they never say ‘enough is enough’ and give up. They must go on. They work. They live.
So now, at this moment, what are the two words I associate with Chekhov? Simple: hunger and heart.
Sounds like a perfect playwright for HTTC to me.
What two words do you associate with Chekhov? Post to us and let us know!
And thanks for reading! See you next week!
Hi, I'm Emily. After an inspiring blog entry from Pattie, I feel like I
want to write about 'why theatre?', as well. So, I invite you to bear with
my stream of consciousness ramblings, and if you can forgive the occassional
pedantry, I'll write a little bit about something that pertains and has been on
'seriously, why a new theatre company?'
I know a lot of people are somewhat disillusioned by, or underwhelmed by, or
even jaded by another. new. theatre company... in New York! New York, as I
am realizing after transplanting myself here from Georgia via Indiana via
California, is a city of quantity. There is just so much of
everything. This is amazing--so many options and diversity and
exploration. And it's also daunting-- so many moments of competitiveness
and feeling overwhelmed and feeling lost. I know when I first stepped off
the plane into this jungle gym of a theatrical community, I was a deer in the
headlights. I am a girl who has been so fortunate in great, significant
acting opportunities, and I was suddenly struggling to find auditions. I
am a girl who can count on one hand (subjectively of course :) ) the number of
people who rival my passion and love and hunger for acting and theatre--the
power and magic and need and belief I have in this art form, in the work that we
do...more to that later...and I was suddenly feeling deep despair, questioning
my entire belief system, as it were... 'am I cut out for this?' I am a
girl who believes in sharing and giving and that everyone in this world 'has a
voice'... and love...and I was suddenly feeling like 'what do I have to share
and give and say...and sadest of all, how do I love?' I was always so
clear on that in the work that I do. But I digress. Simply, I know
I'm not alone in this. And that plenty of other actors and artists feel pushed
by our environment to throw in the towel, to pound the pavement, to get a lucky break, or....to start a theatre company.
I need to back track a little bit. I need to address coming to New York
to do theatre, as I am still wondering and asking and living in the question of
'is this where I want to live and work.' I firmly believe that great
theatre happens everywhere! It is not just New York and Los Angeles where
good acting happens. Arguably, better acting and theatre happens in 'the
regions' (and maybe I have some fundamental hestitations towards using that
term, as to me it suggests New York is the Capital of Theatre and everywhere
else is a region based off of that). In regional theatre maybe there is possibility for more risk and opportunity to leap without a lot of producers and money at stake. Maybe. But somewhere along the line, I need to brush up on my theatre history, people decided to really take New York theatre very seriously. This is where the 'real theatre' happens. We look to New York for guidance and new forms. We bring to New York the theatre from the regions or internationally that will be taken seriously with New York recognition. We move to New York to legitimize our careers. I don't scoff at this. I may have felt resistance before, being a transplant from Georgia via Indiana via California, but as a member of the theatre community at large, I want to embrace this. Embrace or rebel. But right now I think it's incredible that New York City has the power to inspire. How amazing that people from all over the world take this place and its art seriously.
Because ART DOES NEED TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. Theatre does.
Somebody once said to me 'It's called a play...not a serious.' And I
agree--in acting and the work that we do, having a sense of fun and imagination
and play is key: the work is just better that way. And at the
same time, we must give ourselves responsibility and focus and purpose.
It's different with art than other professions: for instance, it feels to
me so hard to ask for money for theatre that I'm working on in grass-roots
efforts on some level because I enjoy and love what I do. How can I ask
for money for something that is so much fun? And it's hard to exist on a
schedule and income that's somewhat consistent, because we are working project
to project. Etc. Etc. And I'm talking about theatre and acting as what I
do: my passion, my work, my craft, and my career. I love and support
and am so excited by community theatre and college and high school and
conservatory theatre because so often these people have full days of work or
school and are so committed still to putting up great theatre on top of all of
that--it's so moving and inspiring to me--it makes me want to do better
work. But I have decided, a long time ago, that this is what I do. I
understand I will always get asked, 'what else do you do for money' until I'm a
famous film actor, but please, anybody who reads this...take me and my peers and colleagues seriously...we have trained to do this...we have the gifts and skills
and tools and talent to do this...we have something to offer you. We have
good theatre to give. This is what we do. That's why we're starting
theatre companies. Also, I have a passion for acting and a need to be
paid to do it, but this effort is not just a stepping stone to showcase
ourselves in order to be put on Broadway--that will happen regardless.
Take us seriously as a new theatre company. There is enough room in the
vastness and quantity of New York for new, passionate, serious theatre
We will grow and fail and learn and succeed. We will put
classic texts forth with our souls and truths and experiences thus far. We
will work hard to establish a supportive, loving, artistic and repsonsible
community in our artists and audiences. We will be concerned with touching
lives and outreach however we can to strive to make the world a better, more
beautiful place. We will aspire to put new, imaginative theatre and works
forth to the New York community in hopes of reaching past New York to inspire
Is it a too lofty* thought to take seriously?
Well, I am a lofty thinker. I am an artist. We are a new theatre
company. We are The Hunger and Thirst Theatre Collective. Thank you so much for reading and supporting us.
* "I don't know why some humans have to be convinced of human
interconnectedness. I don't know why life is cheap to some and precious to
others, but I am willing to strive in an art form that honors human
connection. I am willing to join the struggle to sensitize myself and
others to our mutual challenges. I am willing to struggle with the paper
lives of poets and raise them from pages to stages in an attempt to reveal the
capacity of the human spirit. Some may see these thoughts as
idealistically lofty. Well, we need ideals. And we need them to be
lofty." --Stephen McKinley Henderson
It seems only appropriate to start the company blog with an artistic director spiel about the magic of theatre. Of course, when trying to eloquently express those thoughts, I ended up staring at the computer screen for a long period of time, watching the cursor blink impatiently at me, as a haunting question jostled about my mind:
It’s a fair question. In a world of iPhones, film, TV, YouTube videos, and countless other newfangled forms of entertainment, theatre can be viewed as a fossilized art form. My pay-the-rent job is in Broadway ticket sales and after spending months selling tickets to primarily long-running musicals or anything starring a celebrity, it’s easy to become disillusioned by the future of American theatre.
So why? Why dedicate your life to theatre?
Mercifully, illumination arrived in the best possible way. I was lucky enough to see the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Uncle Vanya. Afterwards, when trying to express my opinions about the production to a friend, I found myself unable to articulate a coherent thought—I could only hold a hand over my heart, touched by the oh-it-hurts-so-good ache that pulsated there. It was kind of ache that could only resonate from actually being in the room, actually having the experiences happen before my eyes, actually hearing the voices echo in my ears, actually feeling more human, connected, and alive than I did two hours previously. Simply put, theatre makes you feel in an absolutely visceral way I have yet to experience with any other art form.
And I’m not the only one. I’m constantly amazed by the feeling of community that can arise among audience members in a theatre. If a stranger sits next to you in a movie theatre, you’re usually annoyed by their proximity. But If no one sits next to you in a theatre, something seems odd. Yes, I agree--the extra space is a nice bonus. But as I stretch out my legs and move my purse to the empty seat, I somehow feel lonely. And that’s because theatre is meant to be shared with everyone around you: whether it be the actors, the woman seventeen rows in front of you, or the constantly squirming man who hogs the armrest sitting right next to you (but if he unwraps a hard candy during a particularly intimate scene, steal that armrest right back from him. And give him a stern poke in the arm for good measure.)
So, why theatre? Two simple words: feeling and sharing. And yes, these may be kindergarden-based ideas, but if these ideas nourish and satiate your soul, then maybe we should incorporate more kindergarden lessons in our life pursuits.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts and theatre with all of you. Thanks for reading!