Monday, October 30, 2017

Ten Questions with...Elizabeth Dimon

What fascinates you most about your character in "The Humans"?

What I find fascinating about Deirdre is her loyalty. She has stuck to the same job for 40 years. She has stuck by her husband despite his infidelity and loss of job. She is fiercely loyal to Momo, her mother in law. She sticks with her daughters despite their lack of respect. She helps her friends and relatives to the point of not taking proper care of her own needs, she is loyal to the church. 

What do you hope the audience will take away from seeing "The Humans"? Give us a specific quote you'd love to overhear as the audience walked out. 

I hope the audience takes away that despite the human condition, we keep going. We don't give in to the fear. We feel it and keep going. We fall and we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. I would like to hear someone say they recognize themselves in our story. That they can relate to it. Because it is indeed a very "human" story.

What is your favorite moment in "The Humans"? Why is it your favorite?

Because of the structure of the play, we as actors have to stay in each moment because each moment leads us to the next and the next. But the most poignant moment for me is near the very end of the play, after Momo's breakdown. And Aimee says to Deirdre, "I'm sorry" and she responds: "I'm sorry you're sick". She feels responsible for Aimee's illness and it's something she can't fix by hard work or will. She feels at fault. It is her most vulnerable self.

What is the most memorable audition experience in your career?

My most memorable audition experience has been the sheer and utter joy of leaving the audition room and being offered the job before I made it to the lobby and that is in contrast with going to a huge group call for "Les Miz" in Miami and after hours being typed out for a role I was totally right for. The highs and the lows.The normal ups and downs of our business. 

Tell us about one of your career favorite onstage moments.

My most memorable onstage moment in my career was when I was doing a play called "The Music Lesson" by Tammy Ryan at Florida Stage. A most beautiful play about Bosnian refugees in Pittsburg. And in one of the final scenes the family is gathered and we watch it snow. It is a very emotional scene and I witnessed a patron, a woman, lean over to her husband, take his hand and share a hanky because he was crying. Theatre did that. It allowed emotion in a 75 year old man to happen in public, a shared experience with others. And I got to witness it. And not for nothing, but I also had to say a prayer for the dead in Hebrew in "The Last Schwartz" and a man in the audience started to pray with me. I lost it.

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party who would you invite?

If I could share a dinner with 3 people who would they be? Well, sharing a meal with friends around my dinner table is one of my greatest joys. The preparation, the dining, the conversation, the shared experience. So I've had many a wonderful dinner. But if I'm playing fantasy dinner, I would choose, John Lithgow, Judy Dench and Lidia Bastianich.  

What would you do if you were not an actor?

If I could do something else other than acting.....and Lord knows, I don't know how to do much else. But I would either teach kindergarten or I would work professionally with hospice.

Do you have a dream role? What is it and why?

My dream role was always Lola in "Come Back Little Sheba". It's the role I saw Shirley Booth play and it's what made me want to be an actor. 

What advice would you give to aspiring actors or theatre makers?

My advice to anyone wanting to become an actor would be: get an education, pursue it if you must, but be prepared to do a
lot of something else to support yourself, go for it, because life will tell you soon enough if it's really for you, don't burn your bridges, be respectful, know whose shoulders you stand on and never ever take yourself too seriously. 

Describe "The Humans" in three words.

Describe "The Humans" in 3 words.........A GRATIFYING CHALLENGE.....both to do and to witness.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Humans: Thanksgiving DO's and DON'T's

It's begun. The Christmas aisle at Target is assembled and I just heard "All I Want for Christmas is You" for the first time on the radio. Sure, it's only mid-October but the dawn of Christmas overload is upon us. Can't I just enjoy Tim Burton films and slutty costumes for two more weeks?! It's that time of year - when people are split into two camps - the Halloween/Hocus Pocus/Witches and Candy Camp and then the Christmas/Home Alone/Jingle Bells and Red Tinsel Crew. But wait, we have a last minute competitor - its the Thankgiving Turkey/Pumpkin/ Offensive Representations of Pilgrims and Natives Clan.

It's almost Thanksgiving! I don't think I've ever heard anyone say Thanksgiving was their favorite holiday. I mean, sure it gets mad points in the food department but you have to see every member of your extended family and they aren't even contractually obligated to give you gifts. So, in the spirit of the season, here are a few suggestions for getting through the unwanted third cousin of holidays with your dignity intact - if not your waist line.

First of all, DO come see The Humans at Gablestage running until Nov 5th. I bet none of your Thanksgiving dinners have been as shocking or as funny as the Blake family Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving DO's and DON'T's

Alex Alvarez (Richard Saad)
and Katie Ellison (SM)

DO have the best chef do the cooking
This should really go without saying. Most people agree the only good thing about Thanksgiving is the food. Literally nothing is worse than rubbery turkey, watery potatoes and moldy pie.

DO be thankful for what you have
Its called Thanks-Giving. Its sort of, like, the whole point. So tell your parents you're grateful for that healthy upbringing, tell      your Grandma you love having her there and tell your little sister how much you enjoy always beating her at Clue.

The set of The Humans
DO make sure your home is ready for guests
Thanksgiving is difficult enough with the proper furniture. So if you just moved in yesterday and everything you own is stuck on a moving truck somewhere in a different borough maybe consider heading to a nice restaurant.

DO celebrate family traditions

Those crazy folks are your crazy folks. So dig in and celebrate what makes your loony family uniquely insane. Whether its going to a soup kitchen to volunteer or smashing a piece of peppermint candy molded into the shape of a pig for good luck.

Robert (ASM)

DO be good neighbors
Today and every day - be good to your neighbors. From putting down rugs for the people below you to toning down the sex noises for the people next door and from not cooking curry at 2am for the folks above you to bringing all of them some of your famous PBChocoNana pie on Thanksgiving...good deeds come back around to you.

DO stock up on air freshener
All that onion powder in the stuffing, all that butter in the potatoes, all that salt in the gravy, the legumes and the carbs...just trust me on      this one.

Diana Garle (Brigid Blake) 

DON'T offend the host
Listen, one person drove over, ate and drank and then drove home. The other person got up at 6am and scrubbed every inch of their house, polished cutlery that hadn't seen the light of day in a year, cooked for ten hours and then tried to look fresh and rested in the last five minutes before your lazy ass arrived. They don't need any of your ungrateful, judge-y bullshit.

DON'T wait too long to have dessert
This is what we are all here for. By the time you have arrived at 3pm, suffered through three hours of small talk before dinner, ate more turkey than you thought possible and watched grandpa undo his belt and zipper...the only thing keeping you from running away screaming is the promise of an immediate serving of pumpkin pie. Don't delay. Idle mouths are the devil's playground - or something like that.

DON'T discuss money or what medicines you're taking or your bowel movements 
Is that just my family?

Alex Alvarez, Michael Gioia (Eric Blake) and Diana Garle

DON'T discuss religion or politics.
Would you rather spend your night fighting or inhaling your weight in cranberry sauce? Thanksgiving is a secular holiday so lay off your kids' church going or not going habits. As for politics, considering today's current political know what, go for it. Its such good theatre.

Happy Thanksgiving! 
And come see me and the rest of the Blake family celebrate their Thanksgiving in The Humans by Stephen Karam at Gablestage. Running until Nov 5th in Coral Gables.
305 445 1119
Joe Adler (Director) 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Inside the Actor's Mind: Aimee Blake's Past Circumstances

The Humans by Stephen Karam is so well written that I found myself, as an actor, having to "DO" less to bring across the character. Every actor has a method of bringing forth the humanity of the character written in the script. I am a very cerebral actor - a dramaturgical actor. I like to do a ton of research in order to understand my character and her circumstances and the world of the play. I read a lot of articles and books and then I start putting together characteristics and circumstances. This method is not helpful to every actor - there is absolutely no 'right' or 'wrong' way to go about the act of acting - its what helps me.

One tool many actors use is the creation of Circumstances. Past circumstances are basically memories and stories you make up for your character based on the clues you receive from the script. I have, in the past, written diaries in the voice of my character. I have figured out family connections and birthdays. Some times it's only useful to know what the character was doing right before the scene begins - in the immediate past. I call those kind of past circumstances 'ramps' since the sense memory of them can help ramp you into the scene.

I want to tell you about one specific set of past circumstances I researched for my character in The Humans. It was a historical event that I personally remember and needed to better understand in order to know who Aimee is. It was sensitive and difficult but necessary to respect the memory of the real event.

One of the past circumstances surrounding the character of Aimee Blake is 9/11. Here are the clues given directly by the script...




That is all I get from the script about Aimee's experience on 9/11 and how it is still effecting her and the whole family - especially her father. From there I have to build backwards to understand the way she is reacting to her world and to her family and to her present circumstances.

I had the great privilege on this contract to be able to go on a research trip. I actually went to NYC and I went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I was able to stand in a window of the North Tower at the Museum. I was able to look up at the Freedom Tower and see how easy it was to see the windows at the top and imagine smoke pouring out and...

...I feel I need to take a pause here. I have incredible respect for the true memories of 9/11. I was very humbled in doing the research on what it was like to be in the Towers. I fear belittling the experience by telling a fictional story in the midst of it. Nothing I can imagine as an actor can come even close to matching the experience of those that were truly there...

My research and my experience in NYC helped me to make many discoveries about Aimee's personality. She doesn't like to be worried about and she doesn't like attention brought to her weaknesses. She prefers not to dwell on what happened because she doesn't think 9/11 happened to her. It happened. She is upset that her father would somehow suggest that 9/11 was in any way about them. "9/11 was not about us!" Aimee kept shouting in my head. It pisses her off that her dad would suggest 9/11 happened for a reason that had to do with their presence.

In writing the story of Aimee's 9/11 experience, I pulled from interviews of people who were there because it was helpful to me to be factual, when possible. I pulled a lot from the book 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. In this instance, I was also able to pull from my own memory of the event. In an effort to not over explain (too late?) I will get to the point of the post. Please be advised that there are some unpleasant images in this story.

Below is Aimee's account of 9/11.

-                On September 11th, 2001, I had a 9am interview with a major law firm in the World Trade Center. I was thrilled! I had just graduated law school and I had my eyes set on the top of the world. I wanted high competition, high stakes and high income. I could not afford a car and intended to take the train from Scranton because I had moved back in with my parents after moving out of my subsidized school housing. My dad decided he wanted to drive in with me instead and we could make a day out of it. From my interview we would go do tourist things around the city. That's what my dad planned anyway. I was too nervous about my interview to think about what would happen afterward. My father was very proud that so soon after graduation I had an interview with such a big firm in NYC. He wanted to share the moment with me. To be proud of my success. My success is a boon to his hard work. He put me through school and I wasn’t wasting his efforts. I was achieving in a big way. So we drove the two hours into the city and chatted about how my girlfriend Carol and I were thinking of moving in together soon and how the other members of my law school class were taking jobs in Philly. I wanted more. I was ambitious to a fault. I dressed in my least comfortable heels and forced myself into a skirt. Carol reminded me over the phone that I would be great and I should bring a change of shoes in my bag.

            Carol had suggested to me that we should actually park in Jersey and take a cab across the bridge and dad surprisingly didn't protest the added cost because he was worried about driving in Manhattan. We parked and took a cab downtown. The cab dropped us off at the trade center and I looked up at the towers. The sky was a clear and bright September blue and the buildings didn't seem real. It looked like an illusion - a piece of art moving through the sky. We walked into the lobby and security called up to the law firm on the 37th floor and someone was sent down for me. I needed to get rid of my dad. It wouldn't look good to be seen as a kid. I told Dad to head up to the observation deck like he planned. The security guy said the observation deck wasn't open yet and to come back in an hour. I started to freak out and told Dad he had to leave so he decided to go get coffee. The security guy said there was a Dunkin Donuts across the street. None of the shops below the building were open yet. I told him if my interview was over by 9:30 – hopefully not cause that would be awfully quick - that I would meet him at the Dunkin Donuts and if it was later than that I would meet him up at the observation deck. Dad lamented that he hadn't got a cell phone yet but I told him it would be fine and please leave. As he walked away a woman arrived to take me upstairs. 

            We got in the fastest elevator I had ever been on. It made my head swim as we shot up 37 floors. I had practiced with Carol. She asked me questions the Partner might ask and I had plenty of things to say but I felt like I was forgetting everything in that elevator. We got out of the elevator at 8:40. I remember looking at my watch because I was worried about being late. The waiting room of this law firm was an interior office. I could only see the bright blue sky through the interior windows that looked into the big offices. I was very nervous and kept fidgeting with my skirt. I hate wearing skirts. The secretary offered me a cold water bottle because I guess I looked nervous and she got up and walked out of the room. A minute or two went by while I tried to be interested in the water color paintings behind the secretary's desk and then I heard a boom that seemed to come from far away. And then I felt the building sway. It felt wrong. I wondered if that was something that happened in the wind occasionally. The secretary came back and looked a little non-plussed and handed me the water. As I took a sip the Partner stepped into the interior office. He looked distracted. I straitened up and looked energetic and confident like I had practiced but he didn't look at me. He went to the secretary and explained in hushed tones which I could still make out. There had been some kind of explosion in the upper floors and the office was evacuating. The secretary, I can't remember her name, asked if it was mandatory. The partner said no one seemed to know how bad it was so they were evacuating the office just in case. He sounded urgent and frightened even. He turned around and walked over to me. I stood up and shook his hand. He apologized and said we would have to schedule my interview for another day. I tried not to seem disappointed and assured him that was fine and I looked forward to it.

           The secretary grabbed her bag and asked me to follow her. We left the office and she turned away from the elevators. I asked her where we were going and she said there was an emergency stairwell down the corridor. I balked. We were going to walk down 37 flights of stairs?? I rummaged in my bag for my more comfortable shoes and realized I had left them in the car. This was going to suck. We entered the stairwell along with a number of other people from the floor. It was already a little crowded but moving down at a steady pace. I asked the secretary what she thought was happening and she said she doubted it was anything too major. I asked her if evacuations were common and she said she had never done one. I asked her how long she had worked in the building and she said six years. That seemed strange. I asked her why the partner seemed so concerned. She took a deep breath. She seemed reluctant to tell me. Then she explained that he had been working in the building for over twenty years and he had been at his desk during the 1993 bombing in the parking garage. The evacuation had been traumatic because the stairwells had been dark and filled with burning tire smoke. I looked down at the stairs below me. There were strips of glow-in-the-dark paint and the air was clear. The lights were on. I remembered images of that 1993 bombing and suddenly I started to worry about dad. I hoped whatever had happened wouldn't bring him into the building looking for me.

          We got about ten floors down and my feet were killing me, my thighs were rubbing together and I swore I would never wear a skirt again. I took a deep breath and I thought I smelled smoke. And something that smelled like fuel. It was now 9am  and there was a bit of a traffic jam on the stairwell with people making their way down. We ended up pretty much at a standstill. There was a chatter on the stairway and it sounded like a low hum. The hum seemed to pick up but then I realized it was a different noise. Another loud explosion seemed to come from somewhere outside. The noise in the stairwell quieted but there was an obvious uptick in urgency. Three floors down and a man came through the exit door into the stairwell a few people behind me. He was crying and he said that there was fire raining down from the upper floors. He didn’t know what was happening. He choked back a sob and then said that along with fiery bits of some kind of debris he had seen a person fall past his window. The person had her eyes open and was clutching at her skirt as she fell to keep it from flying up. My eyes widened. I sniffed the air and I could definitely smell it now. The smoke and fuel scent. Another ten floors down and I heard a marching sound coming up the stairs. The people below me were moving over to one side to allow a group of firefighters past. There were only three of them and they were sweating terribly. They had so much gear on. I was getting restless being in the stairwell. I didn’t know where my dad was and it sounded like something truly horrendous was happening. I was afraid he would do something stupid and get lost in the building trying to find me in the crowd.

          We reached the fifth floor and I reached down to try to adjust my shoes. As I stood back up the secretary behind me pushed me hard over to the side. A man was coming down the stairs with a woman over his shoulder and another man and woman were following. The woman over the man’s shoulder was burned – badly. I could smell her cooked flesh and the two following were covered in blood. The man bringing up the rear was holding his left arm up – it was almost completely severed. The secretary held in a gag and people either instinctively turned away as they passed or, like me, they stared. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the arm hanging by a flap of skin. At that moment, I got very calm. In a crisis I always get calm – from years of being the mediator in my house between my parents and my little sister. I became focused on putting one foot in front of the other and getting back to the lobby and out of the building and across the plaza to that Dunkin Donuts to find dad.

     We exited the stairwell on the second floor of the main lobby. This floor looked down at the main elevator concourse but was actually level with the Plaza outside. The elevator doors looked bent out of shaped and there was a small fire in the farthest elevator. The secretary turned left out of the stairwell and followed the crowd to an escalator. I turned right toward the exit to the Plaza and the Dunkin Donuts. But my way was blocked by a firefighter. He was yelling at the crowd to go down the escalator. I tried to explain that I needed to go the opposite way across the Plaza but he never stopped bellowing to go down the escalator. I looked over his shoulder and saw a glimpse of the Plaza. It was raining fire. It was shocking. The pavement was covered in large pieces of burning debris. The windows of the building were blown out or covered in ash. And on the ground near the door was a…was a…I think it was a woman. I could see her hair was brown and in a ponytail but I couldn’t see where it connected to a face. There was just a flash of red – I turned away and was herded down the escalator. That led through a hotel lobby and down to a lower concourse and that led down a narrow stone stairwell and through an underground mall of some kind and finally back up to street level on the opposite side of the trade center from the Dunkin Donuts. 

I looked up and saw huge holes in the sides of both buildings. Smoke pouring out of the windows. I looked farther up and I could so clearly see people hanging out of the upper floors and waving white t-shirts. I didn’t think you could see the upper windows so clearly. The people looked big in the narrow windows of the building. A commotion was happening as a window was broken out by the people behind it. They seemed to be clambering for the fresh air. A man stumbled or got pushed or something and my vision blanked as he fell through the opening. I watched him plummet for a moment and then tore my eyes away. I started to panic. I was terrified my dad would do something stupid like go in for me. I started to make my way in a very wide square around the buildings. The streets were crowded and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. As I got about halfway there a rumbling sound started. I looked up and caught a glimpse of the steel buckling in the upper floors before the crowd around me started to surge away from the buildings. I ran. I flat out ran. The ash catching up with me in tendrils before I took refuge in an electronics store. I had avoided the worst of it. My clothes were covered in a yellowish film of dust and I could smell it in my nose. My hair was coated but I had kept it out of my eyes and mouth by taking refuge. I decided my best option was to make my way back to the car. But I could barely recognize the streets anymore. 

As I walked, I started praying for the first time in a while. Then I got angry and stopped. I got another six blocks away and I heard another rumble. I turned around and watched the second tower fall. The North Tower. The office I had just been in less than two hours ago. I watched it crumble under its own weight. I turned and walked. I felt like a zombie. I heard someone yelling. My ears felt like they weren’t working. The yelling came into focus. Dad was running up behind me. He was covered in dust except for streaks on his face. He threw his arms around me. I wanted to feel relief and I wanted to feel thankful but I felt scared and numb. We began to walk. He held me tightly. But we didn’t speak. I wanted him to say something – I wasn’t sure what. I wanted him to say anything. We walked and walked. The bridge was crowded with people. It was too quiet. By the time we made it back to the car it was already getting dark. Dad said nothing. He turned the ignition and we drove. The traffic was terrible. Still he said nothing. It was a physical pain to sit in the silence. I felt sick and lost and still he said nothing. I looked down at my feet as we passed under street lights on the highway. Blood was spilling over the edges of the heels. I pulled them off and they took bits of skin with them. My feet looked terrible and the images of the woman burned in the  stairwell, the man with his dangling arm, the pile in the plaza – they flashed in my head and I swallowed the bile in my throat. I squeaked out the word dad. He didn’t answer. He stared ahead to the road. I took his lead and I stopped talking. When we finally arrived home in the middle of the night mom was a mess. Brigid helped me get out of my smoky clothes. She threw them out along with my blood stained heels. I didn’t stop her. She asked me what I had seen and I didn’t tell her. I took dad’s lead and was silent. To this day I have no idea what he saw that day and I haven’t told him what I saw. 

         Over the years I have grown to resent the silence dad has stuck to. And I resent anyone thinking that the day was in anyway about us. We happened to be in New York on a very bad day. We did not suffer. I did not know anyone who died. I told Carol about how I had evacuated but I spared her the more disturbing details.  She was great about not pushing me past my breaking point but letting me process. I tried to appreciate not sweating about the small stuff. Dealing with crisis in a logical way. I have been back to NYC many times since then for work and to see Brigid sometimes. I never went down to the World Trade Center site. That felt too overwhelming and also too selfish. The site isn’t mine – it isn’t a place where something happened to me. At this point, I hardly think about the Freedom Tower when I come into New York. I choose not to think about the Memorial or the Museum. And, frankly, I’m expecting my father to not think about it either. He doesn’t get to talk about it now – after years of silence. 9/11 was not about us. I love him and I am aware of the personality quarks that I inherited from him – I try to open up about the problems in my life without seeming catastrophic about it. 9/11 was a terrible thing that happened but it is not our story. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Guess the Station: The Humans Edition

Let's play a game! Match the actor with their station...

  Answers at the bottom...

See answers below...














Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Meet the Characters: The Blake Family

When I first began the research for The Humans, I came across a number of interviews with the playwright, Stephen Karam. He grew up in rural Pennsylvania in a coal mining town. And he had written a bit of his own experience into all the characters populating the Blake Family Thanksgiving. He seemed to call the play The Humans as a way to suggest that humanity is fragile and flawed and frightening but also sympathetic and striving and scared. In one interview, he said that many audience members, or even ALL audience members, would tell him that he had represented their family. He argued that he could not possibly have represented literally everyone's family. 

I disagree. 

My experience in rehearsing this play is that it represents something for absolutely everyone. I've told my family members the play has trigger warnings - including family members who are a little outside the generation that invented the idea of the trigger warning. I relate so much to so much of this play. I see myself in Brigid's tendency to say things she shouldn't in order to be understood, I see my sister in Aimee's sarcastic humor and illness, I see my grandmothers dementia and my parents tendency to shield us from painful truths. It is a remarkable play and I hope you can come experience it with us. 

In the meantime, let me introduce you to the family.


Deirdre Blake (Elizabeth Dimon)

Deirdre has worked as an office manager for the same company for over 40 years in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She has devoted her life to family and is now caring for her aging mother-in-law. She is a very devout Catholic and has a penchant for communicating with her daughters through chain emails.

"...that's what's special about marriage, Rich, real get two families."


Eric Blake (Michael Gioia)

Eric has worked at the Catholic school where Aimee and Brigid went to school for 28 years - since Aimee entered kindergarten. He worries about his girls safety living in big cities, he worries about his mother's worsening dementia and he worries constantly about money.

" your money now...I thought I'd be settled by my age, you know, but man, it never ends..."


Fiona "Momo" Blake (Carol Caselle)

Momo is in the late stages of dementia. She grew up extremely poor in NYC, the daughter of Irish Catholic immigrants. Her son and his wife have seen to it that her twilight years are comfortable but her condition is very hard on them.

"You can never go back..."


Aimee Blake (Me!)

Aimee is a successful lawyer living in Philadelphia. She is also a lesbian and greatly appreciates her parents acceptance of her lifestyle. She has a lot to lose and has definitely had better years. However, she got out of Scranton and made absolutely sure she never had to depend on anyone else for money.

"I'm thankful for what's right, okay? I love that in times like this I have a home base...a family I can always come home to."


Brigid Blake (Diana Garle)

Brigid is the baby of the family. She lives in NYC and is trying to make a career of music but is mostly struggling. This is her first time hosting a family gathering and, along with having all of her furniture stuck on a moving van in Queens, she can't help but lock horns with the people who love her most.

"...I'm spending most of my nights bartending-you guys don't even know how much student debt I'm stuck with-"


Richard Saad (Alex Alvarez)

Rich is the odd man out at the Blake Family Thanksgiving. He is pursuing a Masters Degree in social work and is very interested in the psychology of dreams - as he constantly demonstrates. He wants to be a good host for his girlfriend Brigid but ends up feeling awkward as the Blake Family tangle around him.

"Last week I dreamed I fell through an ice cream cone made of grass and became a baby."

Directed by Joe Adler
Photos by George Schiavone
Costumes by Ellis Tillman

The Humans runs from October 7th through November 5th at Gablestage in Coral Gables. Call the Box Office at 305 445 1119 or visit for more information and tickets.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

On Topic: Theatre VS Theater

Theatre vs Theater -

Which spelling do you use? Are you going to the theatre or to the theater? Do actors perform in a theater or in a theatre? Some might consider you off your rockre if you spell it –er and others might consider you dumb and dumber if you spell it –re. Well, whether you see a play in a theatre or go to a musical at a theater you are, in fact, --- entirely correct! Grammatically speaking there really isn’t any difference.

                TheatRE is the older spelling of the word with origins in the 14th Century. The theatER spelling has only come into popular use in the last century after appearing in Noah Webster’s first edition of his American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. As you might therefore expect, theater is the preferred American spelling while most of the rest of the English speaking world prefers theatre just as they prefer metre and centre. So, if you are writing to a British person you may want to offer them a theatre ticket or risk being thought of as a quaint dolt and if you’re writing to an American you may instead offer them a theater ticket or risk being thought of as a pretentious snoot.

There is also a common differentiation that Americans make other than our way and their way or old world and new world. TheatER is a space where theatRE takes place. A theater is the building and theatre is the art of drama. Therefore, at Palm Beach Dramaworks they produce ‘Theatre to Think About’ or ‘the pursuit of the art of telling stories in front of an think about.' They do not produce ‘Theater to Think About’ or ‘a building in which actors and directors think about.'

You might also notice that theatre is the more common usage in proper nouns. For example: Maltz Jupiter Theatre, The Wick Theatre, The Crest Theatre, Thinking Cap Theatre, Outre Theatre Company, Stage Door Theatre and Slow Burn Theatre. This is still all fairly colloquial as the dictionary makes no distinction in the meaning or usage of the two spellings.

So, which do you prefer? It’s entirely up to you. Will you be coming to see my next play at the theatre or at the theater? Share your preference in the comments below and I’ll see you at the theater soon to enjoy some excellent theatre.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Rock'N'Roll Jesus with a Cowboy Mouth

The loss of Sam Shepard this weekend has been a terrible blow to American theatre. I could not possibly write him any kind of justice. If you want that you should read Patti Smith's statement in The New Yorker.

That said, I did write my MA Acting thesis (in 2012) on the theme of apocalypticism in Sam Shepard plays so I thought I would share some excerpts of it here with you now. I didn't edit anything although I cut out some of the more academic portions. We did a whole unit on Sam Shepard plays. We had "American night" which I was in charge of. We cooked and ate Thanksgiving dinner, sang the anthem (far too high a key) and said the Pledge of Allegiance (we forgot the word indivisible on accident). And I played Lupe in Action. Others did Cowboy Mouth.


Sam Shepard [1943-] is a prolific American playwright as well as an actor, director and author. His plays and stories are quintessential Western American fare. They tell stories filled with American passion, myth, magic and family. They are set in a contemporary wilderness where men and women struggle to find their way in both their inner and outer landscapes of destruction, chaos and ruined dreams. They exist in a frontier land in which the mythical cowboy hero, that American character and spirit are founded on, has died.
 The modern definition of apocalypse[…] is the end of all things and the destruction of mankind. A much more interesting definition comes from the Greek origin of the word meaning “disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted.” ( Shepard’s play settings are closer to the literal definition of destruction but his meaning and his moral is born of the second definition. In an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, of reality TV and money-obsession there is a veil that needs to be lifted, a truth that needs to be realized. The survivor of the apocalypse must deal with isolation, the meaningless memories of an obsolete way of life, and the struggle to find hope on a path to a bleak future.
Shepard’s plays are very specific to Midwest and Western America. This country is defined by its history as frontier land. If America, especially Western America, is mythically defined by the great frontier then the apocalypse is come because modern America is frontier-less. The only frontier we have left to discover is the inner frontier of our souls. Early settlers destroyed the terrain of frontier America with scorched earth and the obliteration of natural resources. Therefore, you can make the connection that we are destroying our inner frontier just as thoroughly in the modern world. Our inner self is nothing but uber-capitalism, celebrity and scorched earth.
Fear of the end of the world as we know it was very relevant in 1970s America. The Cold War posed the question of, not so much IF nuclear holocaust would happen, but WHEN. School children had as many nuclear drills as fire and tornado drills. For those people, American apocalypse was fear of destruction.  As previously noted, American psychological history is largely defined by the presence of the mythical American hero. In the 1930s, this hero manifested as a cowboy on the American frontier. In the 1940s, this hero manifested as a soldier. In the 1950s, he was a working man providing for his wife and 2.5 kids. In the 1960s, Shepard represents the modern day mythic American hero with rock culture. By the 1970s, through disillusionment, this Mythic American Hero is all but dead. This disillusionment came in the form of the Nixon Administration. The President of the United States and the free world, the figurehead of the collective American spirit, was caught committing a crime. “Not only committing crime, but petty and dishonest thievery and breaking and entering.” The Vietnam War was, for the first time, broadcasting images directly into our living rooms of American soldiers raping, pillaging and murdering for a cause that no one understood or believed in. Finally, the Cold War filled each individual with the dreaful sense that they were living in the End Times. All of this personified 1970s America in Shepard’s eyes and he placed his characters in this void of optimism.
Today, we are still these Americans. His exploration of the bankruptcy of American culture suggests the apocalypse has already happened. We are living it. It is contemporary as opposed to something to be afraid of in the future. This still resonates as we look at America and the world today. The ideals we built our American spirit on such as democracy and our way of governing have been, quite literally, bankrupted. The ideals of a democratic two party system, one that wavers comfortably between capitalism and socialism, are obsolete… American cultural identity is a bankrupt wasteland of rising debt ceilings and partisan political head butting and no unified hero is going to come save us from ourselves.
If Sam Shepard were still writing regularly today, it would be interesting to imagine the landscape he would set us in. It is frightening to think the places and people would be in exactly the same empty hopelessness as they were forty years ago. It is proof enough that in researching his legacy one can find him described as a product of the 50s, a playwright of the 60s, the quintessence of the 70s and the rock star of the 80s. His themes resonate with all modern generations.
Sam Shepard used apocalypticism in his work to represent his audience and to make them recognize themselves. Many of his plays end abruptly and without resolution as if they were the first act waiting for a conclusion. It is, perhaps, his way of saying that every apocalypse is not an ending but a beginning. If we can stop lamenting and looking back then we can be free to open our eyes and our hearts and move forward.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Seven Questions with... Peter Galman

What fascinates you most about your character in 1984?
The power he has over people within his party. He controls their destiny. In playing someone with that kind of power, I've come to understand how compelling it is to stay in that position.

What do you hope the audience will take away from seeing 1984? Give us a specific quote you'd love to overhear as the audience walked out.
We must participate in the political process, never take our liberty for granted. I'd like to hear "1984 has come".

Do you have a favorite moment in 1984? Why is it your favorite?
When I sit in the electric chair.  It's empowering.

Do you have a specific preparation process before a show every night? What is it? 
I just go over the words and find some physicality I can hold onto throughout the show.

Tell us about one of the favorite on-stage memories of your career? 
Always remember the humor, unexpected humor. I had a line as Walt Disney about Mickey Mouse and how Hitler hated Mickey. I found the humor and at the time it was outrageous but it worked beautifully.

What would be your dream Shakespearean female role to play?
Men have killed it with Olivia and the Nurse in R&J. I suppose Rosalind, but I'm past prime for her. Maybe Hermione. 

Any book recommendations?
Yes, the First Folio. Everyone should use it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Meet the Characters: The People of 1984

Winston Smith

Winston is an Outer Party Member who works at The Ministry of Truth (or MiniTru). It's his job to alter historical records to match the philosophy of the party. He is drawn to anything that undermines the power of the party. He is a thought criminal and believes that life would be better if he were not under the omnipotent thumb of Big Brother. 

"It is inevitable that the party will announce that 2 and 2 make five and what is terrifying is that they might be right."


O'Brien is a member of the Inner Party. These men and women are higher than Outer Party members in Ingsoc society. As such, they have certain privileges. They can have household staff and can turn off the ever-present telescreen. O'Brien courts Winston with talk of the Brotherhood and sacrifice. Is he a revolutionary follower of Emmanuel Goldstein or is he a deceitful loyal party member? Winston must find out at his peril.

"Our only true life is in the future. We shall take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. We are the dead."


Julia is an Outer Party Member and a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League. At first, her furtive glances and stringent adherence to the party convince Winston that she is a member of the Thought Police. However, a secretive note she slips him reveals her to be a bold and practiced romantic.

"That's the one thing they can't do. They can make you say anything -- anything -- but they can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you."

Big Brother

Big Brother is the figurehead of Ingsoc. He was the leader of the revolution that brought about the power of the party. His teachings are the absolute law of the land. Adherence to his laws is monitored with constant surveillance and brutal efficiency. Even thinking something in contrary with Big Brother and the party is on offence punishable by death.

"Winston: I am conscious of my own identity...I occupy a particular point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simulataneously. In that sense, does Big Brother exist?
O'Brien: It is of no importance. He exists."

Emmanuel Goldstein

Goldstein was one of the original revolutionaries fighting against Capitalism by Big Brother's side. Now he is the leader of the opposition group known as The Brotherhood. Members of the Brotherhood do whatever they can to undermine the power of the party and liberate the people ensnared in Big Brother's iron grasp.

"Big Brother has force led the Party...toward an extrafalse futureplan. The revolution, our revolution, has been coutergiven."


Parsons is Winston's outgoing, bumbling and high-energy neighbor. He is a loyal Outer Party Member who collects money to send to the troops. He works in a lesser department than Winston at MiniTru but will often come eat lunch with him. He has a wife and two children.

"You know what kind of fellow I was. Not a bad guy, not brainy, of course, but sharp."

Tommy and Katie Parsons

Tommy and Katie are Parsons' two children. They are both members of the Spies. The Spies is a children's organization run by Big Brother that teaches kids to be suspicious of anyone acting strangely and to seek out and turn in traitors and thought criminals. A great day out for this 9 and 7 year old is a trip to see the prisoners hanged in the square. 

"Why can't we go and see the hanging? Want to see the hanging! Want to see the hanging!"


Charrington is a member of the proletariat. These people are the lowest level of society. They are not truly members of Ingsoc and are basically allowed to live life as they choose but in desperate poverty. They will never be a threat to the existence of the party because as long as their basic needs are met they are comfortable and content. Charrington owns a small antique shop that sells odds and ends like journals and snow globes. He ends up renting out a room in which Winston and Julia meet clandestinely. Will Winston's presence ruin Charrington or is there more to him than meets the eye?

"Oh yes, great whole songs [church bells] used to play, would ring out over the whole city...Yes, no bells at all now. Only sirens..."


Syme is a very loyal Outer Party member. She works at MiniTru in the Newspeak department. It is her job to cut the English language down to basics in order to produce a definitive Newspeak Dictionary. She is passionate in her defense of Big Brother's righteousness. Winston believes that despite her loyalty she will one day be arrested by the party for being too intelligent. 

"In the end, we will make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it. People will be perfect when the language is perfect."


Ampleforth is an Outer Party member who works at MiniTru in the poetry department. It is his job to translate Newspeak versions of old poems. He has a good sense of humor but is ultimately scared of Big Brother's wrath. He seems to love the poetry he is tasked with destroying.

"I allowed the word 'God' to remain at the end of a line...Do you realize there are only twelve rhymes for 'rod' in  the entire language? For days I racked my brain. There was no other rhyme!"


Tillotson is an Outer Party member who works with Winston at MiniTru. She is quiet and kind and suffers from a terrible stutter. She tries desperately to be loyal to the party but ends up on the wrong side of Syme's temper. 

"Syme's a b-b-b-bit grumpy this morning."

Urbanite Modern Works Festival