Posts Tagged ‘acting’

What Have We Done?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016
Geronimo and Wes Studi, actor

Geronimo and Wes Studi, actor

I know this is an old subject. Racism is just one of those issues that just keeps coming up, doesn’t it?

I watched a terrific movie the other night. It’s not a new movie. It’s an old movie on an old subject. A movie made in 1993. A particular subject that goes back to the beginnings of America. No, it’s not about slavery, but it certainly is about the enslavement of man.

Directed by Walter Hill, Story and Screenplay by John Milius and Staring Jason Patric, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall and Matt Damon with a heart wrenching performance by Wes Studi, an American Indian of the Cherokee Nation, this totally compelling film, Geronimo, was both fascinating and broke my heart.

Wes Studi as Geronimo

Wes Studi as Geronimo

I’m a white guy – of English and German descent. Descendent of two warring nations and born into a third – America. For most of my life, I thought of myself and my country as the “good guys.”

I’m no longer so sure of that. (When was the last time you saw a movie and the CIA was the good guys?) And after the other night’s two hours with Wes Studi and his characterization of the great Geronimo, Apache warrior and last free man of his tribe, I find myself pretty disgusted with the whole notion of cowboys and Indians.

My God, how we did them wrong …

Geronimo of the Apache Nation

Geronimo of the Apache Nation

Sad to think that that period of such total confusion was one of the beginnings of America. We conquered the Indian Nations of America, wiped out their homes, imprisoned them, destroyed their culture, and looked down our not-so-holy noses at their religion and their God.

Shame.

We need these kinds of films. They are reminders of the gross mistakes we have made and reminders of the travesties of our actions.

The movie has haunted me for days.

I am deeply sorry.

 

Casting In New York

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Casting-Call-waiting-room

For over thirty years I taught the Auditioning course at The Neighborhood Playhouse School Of The Theater here in NYC. At last count I have sat through over 20,000 auditions during my lifetime in show biz. That’s a lot of awkward moments and a few incredible ones.

Auditioning is an art of its own and very few people ever really get it down. First of all it comes replete with nerves. Normally when an entertainer finishes their moment it is met with applause. That’s the culture. But in an audition, when one is finished, it is only natural to be met with a number of critical eyes and at best, silence.

Even the very talented are very fortunate to be “accepted” one out of ten tries. Failure to get the job is the norm for even the best of talents. It’s a tough world.Casting Call 2

Sitting on the other side of the table, as I have done so for over 40 years, has been exciting, tough, boring, awkward and sometimes even painful, and I could regale you for hours with story after story of fascinating moments of human failure and success.

As much as I’ve done it, it never ceases to stimulate the old juices in me to yet again go down that road. Last week was no exception.

On Thursday I saw over 40 singers audition for 4 roles in Is Anybody Listening – Concert Theater and Webcast at the Sheen Center rehearsal rooms in NYC. This was not an open call where anybody could come in if they were patient enough to wait in line all day, but rather a call through a casting director who scheduled top talent through their New York agents..

Still, each singer had only 5-minutes time allotted them to come in, do their thing and knock us out.

Once again I was amazed at the energy of these special creatures – the Broadway kids, the recording artists, the studio singers, the church singers. They sang their 32 bars of an up tempo tune and (in some cases) another 32 bars of a ballad and we had a few words and then they were gone – back out into the streets, and on with their lives.

We called back the cream of the crop, about 15 of them, the following day and spent about 15 minutes with each working with them and finding out more about their vocal instrument, their acting ability within a song, their true sense of pitch, their innate sense of rhythm, their stage personalities, their charisma, their dedication, their ability to handle the curve ball, their ability to take direction, their vocal range, and probably most important, their ability to focus under fire and their grace at being a joy to work with.

audition-1024x768-300x225A lot to gather in 15 minutes, but hey, I’ve been doing this for 40 years, so repetition teaches one to watch for certain things very carefully in order to make the right judgment in the end.

My overall rule is this: The audition is a microcosm of the entire experience you will have with the talent. So if they’re 10 minutes late to the audition, you’ll end up firing them in rehearsal for being late all the time. If they’re a little bit pitchy in the audition, you’ll end up firing them at some point for singing off key. If they treat the pianist improperly because they’re nervous, they’ll make enemies in the cast. And if their nerves affect them a lot in the audition, then how good will they really be opening night when everything really counts in front of the NY critics?

Another thing I often do during callbacks is to, in some way in the course of the experience, throw them a curve. They say in baseball, “You’ll never make it to the majors if you can’t hit the curve ball.” The same holds true for show biz. Everyone is always trying to be on his or her best behavior in an audition. It’s only natural to want to put your best foot forward. But I want to find out how you’re going to act three weeks into rehearsal when everyone’s struggling to learn the lyrics, remember the choreography, sing the right part and absorb the daily changes constantly thrown at them.

So I throw a few curveballs – just to see how they might handle the unexpected.

In the end, after the last note has been sung and the holding room has cleared, we, the staff, sit around the table, spread their pictures out on the table before us and talk each person down with all our thoughts about how good they were, how graceful they were, and essentially if they were the right type for our show. There’s always someone who just knocks our socks off, but just doesn’t fit the type. These, for me, are the toughest to turn down because, well … I just love talent! When that person can really bring it, I don’t have to even think. The chills that run up and down my spine when they’re singing tell the tale. So after they do so well and prove themselves so solidly, it’s really tough to turn them down just because they might not “look” the part.

On those two days of casting, seeing 60-100 performances, we were very fortunate to have at least 20 chill moments. NYC is always full of exceptional talent. The streets just ooze with it. And I must say that those two days were better than a Broadway show! The talent is just amazing.

Irving_Berlin_Portrait

Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin & Oscar Hammerstein Casting

In the end we hired two. We’re still considering one of the others but waiting to decide based on a whole slew of things.

But the two we hired brought tears to my eyes and hope to my heart. The tears were tears of joy at the talent that poured from them. And I just keep thinking, “Wow! I get to work with them! I get to have them in my show.”

Now if we can just raise the rest of the money …

But that’s another story.

David Bowie And Fame

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Young/REX (100574d) David Bowie DAVID BOWIE AT THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL - 1983

I can’t say that yesterday I was a huge fan of David Bowie’s, but I am now. Why is it that often when someone leaves us, we appreciate them more?

I got an email today, after his passing yesterday, that linked me to Mr. Bowie’s 12 greatest moments on stage. I watched the first one just to pay my respects, but then I was hooked. For the next couple of hours I watched and listened to this great artist spin his magic on stage. I became a huge fan and that will never go away.

david_bowie__not_wearing_a_hat_by_rosiefreakish-d37xomt

David Bowie: an absolutely gorgeous man with true originality and filled with music. A committed actor, a fascinating performer with charisma just pouring through him to his screaming, devoted audience. He had it all.MTE1ODA0OTcxNTYyNTk5OTQ5

I had the thought that if the Martians came to Earth and wanted to experience a couple of interesting Earthlings, I’d first like to introduce them to David and his wife, Iman. What a couple!

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I’ll stick my neck out here and say that David Bowie was probably the Rock n’ Roll wayshower. He paved the way with his androgynous self and was always one of the leaders of style, content and musical groove. A true entertainer. And yes, the epitome of cool.

The song that stopped me in my tracks and required 5 listening/watchings today was his song, Fame. Its totally infectious groove, its ferocious drive and its classic funk put the song in my top 10 Rock n’ Roll songs of all time. In one word, the title word, he miraculously captures a boatload of feelings. It is musical genius at its best. That one word, repeated throughout the song in several different ways captures his disdain of fame, his deep insight into the concept and his star power.

Fame

David Bowie

obit_david_bowie-1

Fame, makes a man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow
Fame
Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane
Fame
Fame, what you like is in the limo
Fame, what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, what you need you have to borrow
Fame
Fame, “Nein! It’s mine!” is just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to, crimedavidbowie-labyrinth-700x465
Fame
Could it be the best, could it be?
Really be, really, babe?
Could it be, my babe, could it, babe?
Really, really?
Is it any wonder I reject you first?
Fame, fame, fame, fame
Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool

Fame
Fame, bully for you, chilly for me
Got to get a rain check on pain
Fame
Fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame, fame,GTY_david_bowie_ziggy_mm_160111_4x3_992
fame

His chant reminds me of my own bout with fame and my own personal insights into the word. You can find this in this week’s Looking Back post on my blog. Here’s a link if you’re interested:

http://sparksfromthefire.org/2009/03/on-fame/

It’s a good story told many times by yours truly over the years.

We lost a great artist yesterday – a truly original man. But, of course his music remains – his videos, his originality, his charm, his amazing talent …

Bowie Lives!

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Update On “Is Anybody Listening?”

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

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The news is all good.

Our RocketHub crowd funding campaign succeeded on several different levels. Though we did not meet goal, we ended up with $15k plus that we did not have before we started. We not only paid the costs of the campaign, but also ended up with a substantial profit to move forward over the next few months.

We also learned many things about our constituency, our tribe. We learned what kinds of people cared about what we were doing and what kinds did not. We learned who our true fans were and we learned who is content to just watch. And we learned about the types of people that we will cater to and those who are simply just not that involved. This was hugely helpful.

Because of what we learned, we shifted the project and pointed it in the directions of interest. I’ve always said, “We serve you. Tell us what you want in the way of inspiration and inspirational music, and we’ll do our best to provide it.”

You spoke; we listened.

In meetings just recently Watchfire Music will now partner with the Sheen Center For Thought and Culture, NYC in producing a wide variety of inspirational music both as live events performed in and webcast from New York City, and also as a series of 20-minute video modules that can be repurposed for a myriad of events ranging from theatrical to corporate and from church to charity productions.

These modules will address a myriad of world problems, inspire in a most entertaining fashion with pertinent songs and arresting visuals, and tune the ear and eye to a better sense of listening to the heartbeat of the world around us.

“Is Anybody Listening?” will focus the imagination and attention of people around the world on the problems that we face and the solutions that are at our fingertips, and is a clarion call to the world to pay attention.

Our focus audience and clients:

Individuals Seeking Inspiration

Corporations

Fund Raising Benefits

Theatrical Presentations

Nonprofit Charitable Organizations

Church Groups

Here are just a few examples of the issues that the modules would address:

Water — Global Water Crisis

Healing Response to World Tragedy

The Intercession of Science and God in the Universe

Corporate Promotions and Public Opinion Issues

Shootings and Gun Control

Spiritual Awareness

Healing Depression

Terrorism

For those of you who donated, we are working now on fulfilling our obligations to you and clarifying your part in this endeavor over the next few weeks. Thank you and welcome to the fold.

We now have well over a hundred dedicated people working on this project. Our goal is to now add some zeros to that 100. We need each of you to reach out to others who share these interests and would like to help.

These monies and these ideas are just a start, but there is a strong professional foundation underlying this project that insures its success. Between the Sheen Center and Watchfire Music and other great professionals that we will attract, this project will move forward and through music will inspire the world to better listening and therefore better action and reaction.

Join us. It’s a most exciting road we travel.

Great News!

Monday, December 14th, 2015

funder_community_4 - 450

Just in. As of last Friday and a two hour creative meeting with the staff of the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, our project has taken a quantum leap forward!

In addition to the webcast, Watchfire Music in conjunction with the Sheen Center would also create a series of 20-minute Music/Video modules that address a myriad of world problems from a library of interchangeable video songs that will provide the content for each 20-minute module.

This all comes under the banner of “Is Anybody Listening?”

The modules would be used to focus the imagination and attention of people around the world on the problems that we face and the solutions that are at our fingertips.

The modules would address a number of issues and can be re-purposed at will to fit the needs of organizations around the world. They would be presented through webcasts and video streaming with live hosting by, but not limited to, the following:

Individuals Seeking Inspiration
Corporations
Fund Raising Benefits
Theatrical Presentations
Nonprofit Charitable Organizations
Church Groups

Here are some of the issues that the modules would address:

Healing Response to World Tragedy
Water — Global Water Crisis
Corporate Promotions and Public Opinion Issues
Corporate Workshops
The Intercession of Science and God in the Universe
Shootings and Gun Control
Non-Denominational Spiritual Seeking
Terrorism
Spiritual Awareness
Healing Depression
Life, Death and Beyond
Armed Conflict and the Nuclear Potential
Celebration
Poverty and Hunger
Epidemic

So even the Theatrical Concert and Webcast, “Is Anybody Listening” can be shaped to fit your organization’s needs in length and content.

Pretty cool, huh?

Your contribution will support all of this. Campaign ends this coming Wednesday, the 16th.

Thanks for listening.

Is Anybody Listening? — A Few Thoughts #7

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

PJL-Header

Dear Friend,

One more.

This show, Is Anybody Listening? is not a new idea.  It has been road tested and developed over 7 years now through both the Watchfire Music Listening Room Concerts in New York City that we produced for 3 years, Julia’s national concert tours for 3 years and recently 3 concerts here at home at the Mondo Arts Center.

I also produced The Jenny Burton Experience concerts that ran every Thursday night for 7 years at one of the top clubs in NYC and won just about every NYC entertainment award possible including Entertainers of the Year. Jenny is a cast member.

We’re good at this.

The show itself is both entertaining and most powerfully inspirational.  You may have seen this before, but it bears repeating.

What’s it all about?

Presented as theatrical concert, “Is Anybody Listening” is a deeply personal search into the concept of Listening – not only listening to music, but also listening to each other, to one’s own heart, to the lessons of one’s own past, and ultimately, listening to God.

Written by composer, Peter Link, it challenges the accelerated pace of our fast moving lives and asks us to slow down and rediscover the lost art of listening.

“It explores this through my own personal insights discovered over a half century of songwriting and 18 of my favorite songs written over a lifetime of composition.” ~Peter Link

With titles like “God Is Your Rock”, “Nothing, Only Love”, “A Walk In The Snow”, “I Think On These Things”, “Let Love Find The Way” and “Watercolor” sung by a cast led by Julia Wade, Jenny Burton and Link, himself, the evening soars musically and inspires us all to think more deeply.

It promises to be an evening both entertaining and evocative, and it comes to you from heart to heart.

It deserves the support of our community.

Here’s the link to our Rockethub crowdfunding page with updates: “Is Anybody Listening?”

Thanks for listening.  Now it’s time to act.

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THANK YOU to those who have already funded our project.
We kept you on this list so that you can follow and/or spread the word.
 

All Will Be Well

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

GivingVoice_500px

Margaret Imrie was the epitome of grace. She’s no longer with us on the planet, yet remains in her music. Her husband was a great friend and supporter of both me and my music back in the days of The Jenny Burton Experience. Together we produced the group and had a blast doing it. Gordon and Margaret (Peggy) lived in a brownstone up on West 74th street and raised 3 totally precocious boys who were all, at one time or another, in my Sunday School class.

I knew about Peggy’s grace as a woman long before I knew of her grace as a vocalist. In fact, her great voice came as a surprise to me years into our relationship because I only knew her as a mother and the breadwinner of the family.

I don’t remember when I first heard her sing – probably at one of the funky musical soirees that the entire Imrie family would put on occasionally with their antique player piano.

But once I heard her sing, I became her champion. She had a nine to five job at the time that was really a morning to midnight job and Gordo was Mr. Mom, so here was a voice that never had a chance to get the exposure that it deserved.

At the time I was the music chair of First Church, Christ Scientist in Manhattan. Since it was located only 3-4 blocks from the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center, the church had a history of most professional and powerhouse classical soloists. One could call it the home of some of the greatest vocalists ever to grace the platforms of that religion.

As music chair I led the selection of these vocalists. Peggy did not have that kind of powerhouse operatic voice. She had great chops, but not the paint-peeling-off-the-ceiling kind of volume that the congregation was used to. But Peggy understood the text and communicated the word of God far beyond the paint peelers. So I pushed for her to be the soloist. Finally, I put in a hidden mic at her soloist position and that took care of all the problems. People would remark, “Well Peggy, how your voice has grown!”

Because of her deep spiritual understanding and ability to communicate, she became an instant favorite in that church and held the position for many years.

She passed tragically, early in life.

Last year I got a call from Gordon announcing that he had over 400 cassette recordings of Peggy’s performances. Now we all know that cassettes were never the best quality of recording. In fact one could call them the low point of fidelity in the past 70 years.

“Couldn’t we somehow make an album with some of these recordings?” Gordon asked.

I answered, “Possible, but not probable … but it might be worth a listen.”

Gordon replied, “Good. Then I’ll send you all the recordings and you can listen and find what you think might work.”

I answered, “No my friend, you will go through them and find the best 30 and then I will pick from them.”

A mammoth job. But Gordo did it. That’s what love can do. Make it all possible.

The rest of the story is the result of additionally my work in restoration and the brilliant mastering work of my dear friend and accomplice, Phil Klum of Philip Klum Mastering, NYC.

This resulted in Peggy’s first CD, Margaret Imrie – Giving Voice, a beautiful CD of church solos.

“All Will Be Well”, the closing song on her album, is one of my favorite hymns of all time. It’s a beautiful ancient Welsh melody that is innately harmonizable. I’m one of those guys in church that loves to sing the harmonies every time we stand up to sing, so I’ve been working on that one now for about 50 years – and the new harmonic ideas keep coming.

Long story short: (or perhaps even longer) I had Phil bring forth Peggy’s voice on the old recording and make it louder than the piano, then orchestrated the stereo mix, and wrote a series of vocal harmonies for Julia that she added to Peggy’s original recording. If Natalie Cole can do it, so can I.

It worked. So the song is now on both albums – Peggy’s and Julia’s.

Peggy lives on and Julia holds her hand.

All Will Be Well
AR HYD Y NOS

Music: Ancient Welsh Melody
Lyrics: Mary Peters

Through the love of God our Saviour
All will be well
Free and changeless is His favor
All must be well
Precious is the Love that healed us
Perfect is the grace that sealed us
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us
All, all is well
Though we pass through tribulation
All will be well
Ours is such a full salvation
All must be well
Happy still, in God confiding
Fruitful, when in Christ abiding
Holy, through the Spirit’s guiding
All, all is well
We expect a bright tomorrow
All will be well
Faith can sing through days of sorrow
All must be well
While His truth we are applying
And upon His love relying
God is every need supplying
All, all is well

 

Nothing’s Impossible

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Julia with Hat retouched 450

“Nothing’s impossible if you believe

Your faith will carry you along

Hold on to ev’rything you know

Oh and don’t let go”

Though I wrote the above lyrics for this duet sung by Julia Wade and Cynthia Clawson, this is pure Julia. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons why I married her. She just won’t let go.

For her, life is just one battle to triumph after another and it’s her faith and her bulldog tenacity that often get her through – and her sweetness. It’s an unusual combination, bulldog tenacity and sweetness – not often found working together in us humans. Perhaps that’s what makes Julia so special – the mix of the two and the drive to never give up and always believe in the possible.

“Love will sweep the shadows out

Light your way, cast off the blind doubt

And you’ll find out …

That nothing’s impossible if you believe”


More pure Julia. Oh, she can sometimes have blind doubt, like anybody else, but when she’s pure Julia, the blindness falls away and she’s about as loving as we humans can get. She radiates love. And I’m a lucky guy to be able to exist in the vicinity of that outpouring. It is often the spiritual food that feeds me and gets me through it all.

Cynthia Clawson

Cynthia Clawson

I’ve not spent much time with Cynthia Clawson. Her husband, Ragan Courtney and I are lifelong buddies, but most of that bonding time was spent together before he met Cynthia and settled down.

Cynthia, Ragan and Family

Cynthia, Ragan and Family

However, one long weekend with the two of them more recently recording this song and shooting some accompanying video was all it took to see that Cynthia ain’t just actin’ a song here, but lives this message every day as well. She also just radiates love.

So this isn’t just a song with some positive words and a catchy melody here. This is the essence of this CD. This IS two wise women who practice what they preach every day, and though in the song they’re talking to one another, they’re really talking to all of us.

Nothing’s impossible. Pretty heady words … Can we really triumph over anything that comes our way? Well, of course, then there’s the big IF. “If you believe …”

 “Believe in what?” you ask. Just believe, is the answer. That’s what faith is all about. Faith is for when you have nothing – no answers, no solutions, no hope, no clarity, no guts, no dreams. So …

Be beyond the sea of doubt

As you live and breathe

Have faith. Just believe. Believe you can do it, have it, make it, find it, own it, create it. Believe in the wondrous world of yourself.

Hold to this each and ev’ry day

Nothing can take this faith away

Ev’rything is possible when you believe

Down in your soul

So celebrate!

“Celebrate when you have nothing?” you ask. Sure. Why not? Have faith, for God’s sake.

Nothing’s impossible!

 

Ragan and Cynthia

Ragan and Cynthia

Nothing’s Impossible

Music and Lyrics by Peter Link

Julia

Once I let good fortune fashion my life

I played the spinning wheel

And sometimes I lost and sometimes I won

As luck would have it

Cynthia

Uh huh …

Life was just feast then famine

Julia

Then I stumbled on the truth

Took the life I had and signed out

Both

I’d find out … that

Julia

Nothing’s impossible if you believe

Cynthia

I know what you mean…

Julia

Your faith will carry you along

Cynthia

All through your life

Both

Hold on to ev’rything you know

Oh and don’t let go

Julia

Nothing’s impossible if you believe

Cynthia

       If you just believe

Julia

Ev’rything is possible for you

Cynthia

       Time after time

Both

Hold to this each and ev’ry day

Nothing can take this faith away

 

Ev’rything is possible when you believe

Down in your soul

Cynthia w/ Julia answering

Hallelu

Hallelu

Hallelu

Hallelu

Hallelu – jah

Hallelu

Both

Hallelujah!

 

Be beyond the sea of doubt

As you live and breathe

Cynthia

Life turns not upon the luck of the draw

That’s what the wise ones say

So follow your heart and bring it to pass

Whatever beckons

Julia

Yeah …

Both

Life works when truth is natural

Cynthia

Love will sweep the shadows out

Light your way, cast off the blind doubt

Both

And you’ll find out …

Cynthia

That nothing’s impossible if you believe

Julia

       Nothing’s impossible

Cynthia

Your faith will carry you along

Julia

       Carry you all through your life

Both

Hold on to all the good you know

Oh and don’t let go

And whatever happens …

Cynthia

Nothing’s impossible if you believe

Julia

       If you just believe

Cynthia

Ev’rything is possible for you

Julia

       Time after time

Both

Hold to this each and ev’ry day

Nothing can take this faith away

 

Ev’rything is possible when you believe

Down in your soul

So celebrate!

Choir & Ladies

Hallelu

Hallelu

Hallelu

Hallelu

Hallelu – jah

Hallelu

Hallelujah!

 

Both

Take a moment

Praise the Lord

Let your spirit soar

Cynthia

Nothing’s impossible

Julia

Ev’rything is possible

Cynthia

Nothing’s impossible

In your life

Julia

Nothing’s impossible

Cynthia

Ev’rything is possible

Julia

Nothing is impossible

It’s the truth

Cynthia

Nothing’s impossible

Julia

Ev’rything is possible

Both

Nothing is impossible

There is not the shadow of a doubt!

Cynthia

Nothing’s impossible

Julia

       Ev’rything’s possible

Cynthia

Nothing is impossible

Julia

It’s true Cynthia

 


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