Why actors love him

June 23rd, 2011

Mr. Improbable sent me a link to this June 14 article in the journal Medical Humanities:

Body-conscious Shakespeare: sensory disturbances in troubled characters.

It is widely accepted that Shakespeare was unique in the range of his insights into the human mind, but the way his characters reveal their mental states through bodily sensations has not been systematically explored. The author has searched for these phenomena in the 42 major works of Shakespeare and in 46 genre-matched works by his contemporaries, and in this paper the author focuses on sensory changes other than those involving vision, taste, the heart and the alimentary tract (all considered in other papers). Vertigo is experienced by five distressed Shakespearean characters, all men, but not at all by the other writers’ characters. Breathlessness, probably representing hyperventilation, occurs eleven times in Shakespeare’s works but only twice in the other writers’ works. Fatigue, expressing grief, is articulated by several Shakespearean characters including Hamlet. It features less often in the others’ works. Deafness at a time of high emotion is mentioned by Shakespeare several times but usually by a character ‘turning a deaf ear’, consciously or unconsciously. To the other writers, ears show emotion only by burning or itching. Blunting of touch and pain and their opposites of hypersensitivity to touch and pain are all to be found in Shakespeare’s works when a character is distressed or excited, but not so with his contemporaries’ works. Faint feelings and cold feelings are also more common in the works of Shakespeare. Overall, therefore, Shakespeare was exceptional in his use of sensory disturbances to express emotional upset. This may be a conscious literary device or a sign of exceptional awareness of bodily sensations.

I haven’t read the full article, but the abstract sums it up pretty well. The author, Kenneth W. Heaton, also wrote a piece for the British Medical Journal on “Faints, fits, and fatalities from emotion in Shakespeare’s characters.

This is why actors love Shakespeare. For all the complexity of his language, and for all the infinite interpretations that can be made of his characters, he is not abstract. He is the paragon of animals, the prince of the body. He writes in blood and bone.

Theater ethics

June 17th, 2011

No Twitter feed this week, as I’ve not been in a tweeting state of mind. However, take a look at this wonderful “Code of Ethics for the Theater,” circa 1945 (brought to my attention by Alison Klejna of Central Square Theater). We should all have such a sense of honor and teamwork and dignity in and about our workplaces:

Since I respect the theatre in which I work, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to such work or not.

I shall handle stage properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.

I shall follow rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life (and especially in a business in close contact with the public) when I am in the theatre, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre where I work.

I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.

This list, adjusted for the industry, is also excellent advice for those going into their first jobs. Who wouldn’t want a co-worker who followed the advice above?

The mystery revealed!

May 27th, 2011

So those mysterious pictures I posted last week? Wouldn’t you like to know more? Here’s the scoop:

Ben Evett, the founder of Actors’ Shakespeare Project, is starting a new theatrical venture. It’s called “Blood Rose Rising.” This is an experiment in serialized theater – a theater company in which each new play will be a chapter in an ongoing story.

The story of “Blood Rose Rising” is that of Robert and Olivia, two young Bostonians from Brahmin families. Olivia is an ambitious young attorney who wants to make it to the state senate as an old name representing a fresh start. Her fiance, Robert, is a community-college history professor, a bit of a lost soul who has just inherited the decaying family house from his estranged father. And then there is Rose. Rose is very beautiful. And very tormented. And very dead.

And Robert might just be falling in love with her. What a pity that the lovely ghost only appears when blood is spilled. Somewhat dangerous for one’s fiancee’s political ambitions. And for one’s sanity.

Ben and Steven Barkhimer wrote the scripts, and they are sexy and funny and spooky and very, very Bostonian. (The scripts.) A few weeks ago, we put on not-quite-full-scale workshop productions of the first three episodes, and that’s what these pictures are from. I wore the “Mrs. Danvers” dress from our Midwinter Macabre party, and introduced the show in a persona that Ben described as “Mistress of Dark Ceremonies” and our marketing guru called “the demented Diana Rigg.”

As of now, we are planning to bring this live around February 2012. I’ll keep you informed as things progress. Local folks, if this is anywhere near as good as I think it’s going to be — then it’s going to be really, really good, that’s what.

Bloody good.

Some more workshop shots:

The mystery deepens

May 19th, 2011

… so that’s who the mysterious woman in the mirror is. But why is she there?

And speaking of stories …

May 11th, 2011

I’m going to be leading a talkback for “Table Manners” at Arlington Friends of Drama this Sunday. Share your own dinner-table memories on my other blog, and I’ve still got two tickets to give away to the first person who asks!

Improbable Science shows next week!

April 27th, 2011

As part of the Cambridge Science Festival, Mr. Improbable will be putting on two shows at Central Square Theater next week. Do you like things (and people, and songs) that first make you laugh and then make you think? Then join us! Here’s the deets:

Scientists (and Friends) Sing Improbable Science Songs
Monday night, May 2, 7:30 pm

A benefit for the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Science Theater Project

Some of the world’s great scientists (and some friends from the Boston area’s theater and music communities) perform songs by Tom Lehrer, songs from the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony mini-operas, and other beloved, and hated, purportedly funny songs about science, including: New Math, Pollution; Poisoning Pigeons in the Park; Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Dress; the mini-opera Atom & Eve; The Coffee Diet, and much more!

Performers include:
Frank Wilczek (Nobel physics prize winner) & Teresa Winner Blume (soprano), Deborah Henson-Conant (jazz harpist, Museum of Burnt Food), Debra Wise (Underground Railway Theater), Ben Sears & Brad Conner (cabaret), and many more!

Improbable Research After Dark
Saturday night, May 7, 11 pm (After “Breaking the Code“)

A benefit for the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Science Theater Project and Improbable Research

Dramatic, 2-minute-long readings of Ig Nobel Prize-winning studies and patents, performed by some of the Boston area’s leading scientists, actors, and journalists. These are studies that make people laugh, then think. Studies include: “Effect of Coca-Cola on Sperm Motility”, “Farting as a Defense Against Unspeakable Dread,” “The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow,” “Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Duck,” and many more.

Warning: Do not come to this event if you are easily offended by anything.

TICKETS: $15/$30 online here or call 866-811-4111

Don’t those sound fun? If you wanted to make it a full night of science theater, you could also attend the brilliant, brilliant performance of “Breaking the Code” before the Saturday show. It’s a play about the life of Alan Turing, a British mathematician considered the father of modern computing. Mr. Turing helped break the Nazi’s Enigma code in World War II, only to be hounded to his death by the forces of intolerance at home.

Dressing for the theater

February 15th, 2011

On Sunday Mr. Improbable and I went to see “Ti-Jean and His Brothers” at Central Square Theater. It’s a wonderful show!

And though I was excited to see it, I was even more excited that the sidewalks were clear enough to wear non-weather boots, specifically, this fun pair of cowboy boots I bought on eBay:

This entire outfit–boots, dress, cardigan–came from eBay. I bought the fiber-art necklace on Etsy and the tights are from We Love Colors. The bangles are from World Market.

“Ti-Jean” is set in the Caribbean, and if it hadn’t been for the weather, I’d have tried to wear something more … island-y. I believe in dressing up for the theater: in the performing arts, the audience is part of the experience, and I want to be a good part of yours. At the very least, I do not want to actively detract from the aesthetic experience. This, I think, is basic theater etiquette. Where I like to go a little above and beyond that is in trying to actually dress a bit in the spirit of the play. Not so’s it looks like I wandered out of the greenroom by mistake, but–well, this would have been an outfit I’d more likely wear to “Oklahoma!” or perhaps “Of Mice and Men.” The Russian shawl when seeing Chekhov, red lipstick and slicked-down hair for “Cabaret,” flamboyant colors and “statement jewelry” for “Taming of the Shrew,” and so on.

It’s my thing.

My stage debut

October 21st, 2010

How’s your Halloween weekend shaping up? If you have no plans for next Friday night, come see me in “The Big Broadcast of 1946,” a live radio extravaganza at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square. The show runs October 28-31 (Thursday through Saturday evenings; Sunday matinee) and the Friday, October 29 performance will star your very own Miss Conduct in the illustrious role of “Bar Patron.” (Since the show is set in 1946, I’ll be rocking the Rosie the Riveter look.)

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Except for the two comps I have, which are free! I’m going to give these to the first person who asks. The tickets are good for any performance, though of course I hope you’ll come see mine!. And, on the honor system, if you’ve won tickets before, let someone else have a chance. (If they’re not gone in a day or two I’ll open it up to everyone.)

And if you have no plans on Halloween night itself, come to W00tstock! Mr. Improbable will be an entertainer there, and I’ll be in my flapper gear. We’re not quite sure what W00tstock is, but we’re looking forward to it!

You say goodbye, and I say hello

October 13th, 2010

I’m running a contest on my Miss Conduct blog to win tickets to Central Square Theater’s production of “Moon for the Misbegotten.” What are your best stories of hellos and goodbyes, of meetings and farewells? Tell me!

Advice-a-palooza redux!

June 7th, 2010

Meredith Goldstein of the Globe’s “Love Letters” column and I had such a good time at Central Square Theater’s Ann Landers play “The Lady with All the Answers” last month, and our pre-show discussion went so well, that the theater has invited us back for an encore performance!

We’ll be doing another appearance this Saturday, June 12. The show starts at 8pm and the discussion starts at 7. The theater has a nice snack bar with tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine, so you can grab a beverage and join us for a nice dish about the advice business. How would you answer some of Ann’s classic questions?

I have two tickets to give away, so go the Monday question on my boston.com blog and leave a comment if you want to go — I’ll pick a winner at random* and announce it at 5pm on Tuesday.

*As someone trained in the social sciences, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s random selection.

Fun event next Saturday

May 7th, 2010

Meredith Goldstein, of the popular “Love Letters” blog, and I are doing an event next Saturday at Central Square Theater in conjunction with their production of “The Lady with All the Answers,” a play about Ann Landers.

(Actress Stephanie Clayman, photograph by Elizabeth Stewart/Libberding Photography.)

Meredith and I will be doing a symposium before the play, at 7:00 pm (the play starts at 8:00) and a post-performance reception at Rendezvous restaurant. Join us for a fun evening!

You can buy tickets online. I’ve also got two seats that I’ll be giving away on Monday on my boston.com blog.

I hope to see you there!

… and on the topic of pregnant women

April 9th, 2010

What is with all this Shakespearean nonsense about Macduff not having been “of woman born”? McSweeney’s puts that lie to the test:

MACDUFF: I was extracted surgically, in an operation.

MACBETH: Okay, but thou wast still born, right?

MACDUFF: No. Untimely ripped.

MACBETH: Okay, but after thou wast ripped, thou wast of woman born.

Theater ticket giveaway contest!

March 16th, 2010

I’ve got a fun contest on the boston.com blog to win two tickets to Central Square Theater’s brand-new production of “From Orchids to Octopi,” a play about Charles Darwin, running March 31-May 1. Go enter! I look forward to hearing what your oh-so-evolved brains come up with.

Theater ticket giveaway!

February 11th, 2010

It’s another theater ticket giveaway!

Not Enough Air” at Central Square Theater opens today and runs through March 14. Be the first to comment on this post, and I’ll give you two tickets, along with complimentary parking and drink vouchers. (Previous winners John H. and Elizabeth aren’t eligible; part of the reason I do this is to introduce new people to this wonderful theater.)

I can’t review the play, partly because I am on the board of the theater, but more to the point because I haven’t seen it. However, it sounds absolutely fascinating — a brand-new play about a playwright:

Drawn into the sensational 1920′s murder trial of Ruth Snyder, famed journalist-turned-playwright Sophie Treadwell finds herself compelled to give voice to Ruth’s story through her landmark play, “Machinal.”

And it’s being directed by Melia Bensussen, and that woman can direct the hell out of a play, I tell you what. She did Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s “Taming of the Shrew” this season and “Merchant of Venice” last, both of which were absolutely brilliant. So I think you’d be in for a good time at the theater — I know I can’t wait to see it on Sunday.

Who’s on first?

A handy visual distinction

February 5th, 2010

“The Lion in Winter”:


The terrier in winter: