Thursday, February 17, 2005
Sunny and cold
Ink in My Potting Soil
The cress and all three pots of wildflowers have sprouted – early! I’m so excited. They are adorable, tiny plants. I’m fussing over them and trying to make sure the cats don’t mistake the shoots for a sweet snack.
Arthur Miller died last week, and I still haven’t written about it. His death affects me deeply. His work is one of the reasons I went into the theatre in the first place – he was fascinated by human nature. He was also intelligent and lived his life with integrity – such as not naming names during the McCarthy era.
I was fortunate enough to work with him about a dozen years ago, on a play here in New York. I admired his work and adored him as a person. He had the most vitality, the strongest life force, of anyone I’ve ever met. Because I work in theatre and have worked in film, etc., people always wonder about the celebrities with whom I’ve worked, and ask me, “Who’s the sexiest man you ever met?” For the past dozen years, I’ve answered, “Arthur Miller.” And it’s absolutely true. The personal dynamism and charisma of the man was inescapable when you were in the same room with him. He cared as deeply about the individuals as about “humanity” in general, which is rare. And he had a fantastic sense of humour.
He also encouraged my writing. Even though I was “the wardrobe girl” and didn’t talk about my writing openly at the time, he found out about it (he liked to do a bit of – he called it “research”, I called it “snooping”). I’d gotten away from writing for publication for quite a few years due to various factors, and I was only starting to take myself seriously again and consider actively trying to publish, etc. I’d started writing plays because actresses with whom I worked couldn’t find good monologues for auditions – so I’d write them. I’d written a short story called “Beyond the Light” – an odd, kind of futuristic, metaphysical piece. I had it in my bag at the theatre. I think I’d gone straight to the theatre after working at the library all day or something. I certainly had no intention of letting him know about it. Why Miller was digging through my bag, I don’t even want to know, but he found the unmarked folder and read the story. He encouraged me to publish it – and encouraged me to write full time. It’s taken a long while for me to feel ready to do that, but his word of wisdom, his opinions, and his continued encouragement whenever our paths crossed over the years meant and continue to mean a great deal to me.
“Beyond the Light” was published in a well-regarded literary magazine a few months later. It was the first paid sale of my return to writing.
Last night being Wednesday night, I indulged myself in Lost and The West Wing. Both were excellent. Last night’s episode of Lost was, for me, the first time that the back story flowed seamlessly with the current story. The dynamic between Kate and Sawyer is the strongest in the show, in my opinion, both due to the performances of Evangeline Lily and Josh Holloway, and the fact that their scenes have the best writing.
That points out one of the best part about writing work that actors get to speak and perform – when you have the right actor in the right role, the three dimensional aspect takes the work to a higher level. I don’t know how far ahead the writers work, or how much interaction they have with the actors, although they must see tape of the show. When you start to see the actors bring their dimensions to the role, you can write with that in mind, and that collaboration brings the entire project to the next level.
If they’d only write Jack’s role better, we’d be back on track with the whole piece. The scene with Jack and Sawyer had much more rhythm and interest than the scenes between Jack and Kate do. And there’s an ease between Kate and Sawyer that makes them a more interesting match than Kate and Jack. That needs to be addressed, if the creators want the audience to root for Kate and Jack. Right now, their attraction doesn’t feel natural. There has to be more developed between them so that their pairing makes the most sense in performance rather than just on paper.
I had my scene between Charlie and Sayid and there was a good scene between Sayid and Sawyer. I did Holloway a disservice in the beginning: I was prepared not to respect his work, simply because he worked as a model. Having worked with models, I have an extremely low opinion of most of them. I even briefly dated a male model for about two weeks – he was nice enough in his own narcissistic way, but dumb as a post and I couldn’t stand it. When I run auditions and I see “model” on a resume, that person has to work twice as hard to convince me there’s something more there than surface. Holloway’s won me over. Week after week, he steps up to the plate and makes whatever the creative team throws at him look easy. Good for him! And, my apologies for breaking my own rule and making an assumption. We all know what the first syllable of “assumption” describes – the type of person who makes an assumption!
West Wing was great tonight. I love watching the way the campaigns are coming together. I wasn’t thrilled that the character of Amy was back – I never could stand the character, although I think Mary Louise Parker does a great job in the role. I appreciate that, with Jimmy Smits’s character, they are creating the type of idealistic politician who cares about his constituency that we all wish actually existed. That’s very similar to the reasons why Bartlett was voted into office at the start of the show, and why people respond to him. Bartlett is the type of president that intelligent, humanistic, ethical people want in office.
Jimmy Smits is another actor who makes it all look effortless. He’s a master of detail – the arch of an eyebrow, the way he slides out of his coat or tosses a cup of coffee into a canister. Nothing is wasted. I can’t wait to see more between his character and Alan Alda’s character later in the season.
There’s a pretty short list of people with whom I’m still eager to work and haven’t yet, and he’s high up on that list.
Glam Hearts was read aloud by actual working actors, and then came another cutting, honing, polishing. It reads well and I’m happy with it. I caught some typos I need to fix today, but I think last night’s polish and all the work done on it yesterday have put it where it needs the eye of my editor and my producer. It’s a sweet, gentle, witty piece. I think it will do well aurally, as long as the actors work with pace. If . . .they . . .speak . . .slowly . . .because . . .it’s . .. aural, we’ll be dead in the water. I also have the character plot (what characters are in which scenes, as a spread sheet, for ease in scheduling production – years of production management make it instinctive to include that), the character descriptions, scene list. I was specific about music and sound. So we’re in good shape and I’ll get it to them a few days before deadline.
It’s hard to let go. I love the piece. So now I have to let go in order to get some distance.
Okay, more work on that, and then I have to get back to the serials.
Since the hockey season was cancelled (like that was a surprise), I’m going to do an article for FemmeFan about restructuring professional hockey in North America –MY WAY. First on the agenda – Bettman needs to go. We need to have a hockey commissioner who is a lifelong hockey fanatic, and someone who actually cares about the sport more than about breaking the Players’ Association.
For a free issue of any of the above serials, please click the appropriate link and download.