Moments of escape can be moments of clarity!

"Oh, had I but followed the Arts"-William Shakespeare

Saturday, June 28, 2014

MUSIC IS THE SHORTHAND OF EMOTION

My Reel of the week is 2011's OKA!


Larry (Kris Marshall) is an ethnomusicoloigist, he has a deep love, appreciation and obsession with the music of Central Africa. He has made countless trips to the region to record the sounds of the African Jungle wildlife and the music of the Bayaka Pygmies.
The Bayaka sing & tell stories of a mythical dragon that lives in the Jungle, protecting it from harm.
While listening to a playback of his beloved music, Larry experiences a crippling pain in his ears, which send him to the Doctor. He is diagnosed with Tinnitus, but a blood test reveals that Larry's liver is failing. He is advised to seek treatment and refrain from any future trips abroad. Larry has other ideas and promptly books a trip back to Africa. He is compelled to complete his Library of euphony, by recording the sound of the Mythical Dragon of the Bayaka.
What follows is a funny, loving yet cautionary tale about our connectedness.  Reminding us that what happens far away from us, can still affect us. OKA is also about how Music has the power to bring us together if we allow it to & that the family we choose can turn out to be the family that means the most to us.
OKA is filmed almost entirely in the language of the Bayaka. I never checked to see if sub-titles were available, but I found I didn't need them. The music & themes were Universal. OKA was a delight. If sub-titles are available, try to watch without them. Let the music speak to you. It will. You only have to choose to listen.

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bits & Bobs: The Cast of Maine

I was asked by Kate Kaminski of Bluestocking Film series  to do a follow-up to an interview I did in 1995 for Cast & Crew magazine on Acting opportunities for minorities in Maine.

I have been an actor/singer for over 20 years here in Maine. My first role was Tiny Tim's sister Martha in "A Christmas Carol" when I was 9yrs old. I have been in love with song & stage since then.

The Acting Community in Maine (Actors, Film, Theater & agents) is very tight -knit. Most of the time they go for the tried & true: people they have worked with over & over or their friends. So, basically the people they have in their lives & most know maybe one or two people of color, so they go with what they see before them.  The people that look like them.

I was clued into that very early, when a Theater decided to do "The Wiz". The pivotal roles went to white actors, even the role of Dorothy. I was cast as Glenda, but declined. My reason being the lack of Black actors in any leading roles. My fellow Black actors re-named it "Annie goes to Oz". It hasn't really changed much since then.
I have gone on hundreds of auditions since I started Acting. When I show up to Audition for the Season plays at various Theater's I am consistently given only the sides that specifically call for a Black person, instead of all the roles that call for a woman of my age & type. When I ask for the other sides, I am given them reluctantly & ultimately only offered the  "Black" roles.

When it comes to Film, I am mostly offered roles when the client uses the code words that mean person of color: different, cultural, ethnic. I have had agents that were progressive & put my name in for any role they felt I was qualified for, and I am grateful, because I did get some of those roles. The client just changed their vision, when they saw my audition.

On the practical side, when I do get cast, I ALWAYS come prepared with my own make-up. Usually the make-up artist has two shades of powder & foundation for people of color: very, very dark & very, very light also the make-up contains Titanium Dioxide. Now I will give make-up artists a tip. Titanium Dioxide makes brown skin dull & gray looking. The one & only time I forgot my own make-up & the make-up artist didn't have my shade, she told me that if I didn't want to do the commercial, she could tell the Director to get someone else for the role. Basically telling me it was my fault that she didn't have foundation to match my skin.  We also have the other "problem" with casting people of color: Our Hair. "It doesn't fit the vision"or "It's too wild or" "Can you make it straight". Yes, sometimes a role in a movie or film calls for a different hair style, I'm fine with that, but most of the time hair really shouldn't matter.

If there is an upside, it's that there a fewer People of Color in Maine then, say Los Angeles, so your chances of getting that "Ethnic" role are pretty good. We are here and we are talented, it just take some effort & vision & creativity to find us. As an actor I have four obstacles I have to hurdle to get work here: I am a woman, I am a Black woman, I am over forty & over 120 lbs.

The bottom line is If the Maine Acting Community continues to stick to the tried & true & stay firmly in the box, then things will probably remain the way they are. People of Color can do Shakespeare, we can be in a film about Victorian England, we like Chekhov, Noel Coward & Country music. When you have to cast a couple, they don't have to both be Black or both  white. It's okay to change your "vision", to try the unexpected.

I am fond of Maine & have had many wonderful Acting experiences so I continue to clutch my CV & head off to the  next Audition ever hopeful....

This Funny or Die video reminds me I'm not alone:



 
 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bits & Bobs & Summer Reading!

"A Something in a Summer's Noon-
A depth- an azure- a perfume-
transcending ecstasy" - Emily Dickinson

Summer and reading go so well together, because of the carefree sense of
freedom they both evoke. I have started my Summer reading list in earnest.
These two books kicked off my summer:



WAYFARING STRANGER BY James Lee Burke
 WAYFARING STRANGER, started out as a coming of age story, but it was really about a journey. A boys journey into Adulthoodand all the experiences that shape a life. It began when Weldon Holland had a chance encounter with the notorious outlaws Bonnie & Clyde when he was a teen being raised by his colorful, but distant grandfather and his fragile mother.
Later, World War II became part of Holland's journey, his experiences and the people he met, transformed him and changed his path, twisting and turning it, taking him from Paris to the Oil fields of Texas.
WAYFARING STRANGER is a story steeped in History, but at it's heart it is a story about how deeply love impales the heart, but also how those whose lives lie untouched by love turn that pain outward in the most horrific ways, seeking nothing more than to destroy those who seemingly flaunt their good fortune.
The depth of the characters, the story dripping with atmosphere is pure James Lee Burke, but the story is a complete departure from his other novels. It was unexpected. Every time I thought I had the story figured out and knew where it was going, Burke threw a curve and sent the plotline plummeting in a different direction.
 With WAYFARING STRANGER  James Lee Burke once again writes us a story that epitomizes what is really at the heart of most journeys: hope, triumph over tragedy, love and a sense of belonging.


FIREPOINT by John Smolens Nineteen year old Hannah is a wanderer, she loves to escape to the outskirts of her small town, to stretch her legs, feel the strength of her legs carry her along. One day on one of her explorations , she comes upon a dilapidated house. Curious, she steps inside and into the life of Martin Reed who has bought the house to renovate.
Hannah and Martin begin a tentative friendship which soon blossoms into a romance.
Their bliss is short-lived, because Sean, Hannah's ex-boyfriend has other plans. He begins a campaign of stalking & harassing Martin & Hannah. He is emboldened and fearless in his attacks, because he has the protection of the chief of Police, his father Frank Colby. Sean's attacks become increasingly violent and culminate in a vicious attack on Martin that leaves him gravely injured and with memory loss.
When Martin recovers and starts to regain his memory, Frank Colby convinces his son that Martin should not be given a chance to fully regain his memory.
FIREPOINT was a fast-paced, easy read. So much was packed into such a short story. It was crackling with suspense. A great beach or vacation read.


I'm hoping these books will make it onto your Summer book list. The next book on MY list is John Connolly's THE WOLF IN WINTER:





Also here is some of the music I'm taking on my Summer outings:

Elbow


                            Laura Mvula - Green Garden

Soak in the Summer, it's so short: Read & dance!!!