Friday, May 30, 2014

Staying Smooth with Van Der Hagen

Disclaimer: I was given a product to review. Any and all opinions are my own. 

Have you ever wanted to just ditch the new fangled razors and shaving cream for the retro days of lather and a straight razor? Well Van Der Hagen is here to the rescue with an old school method to get your beard smooth and stylin'.

The best thing about this luxury shaving set..less mess. When I get my usual shaving cream can out there by the time I get it lathered on my face before I can move on I got a mess all over my hands and sink. You just can't ever get the exact amount of shaving cream on your hands that leaves enough on your face. Well with the badger brush and the apothecary mug those days are over. All you do is run the brush under some water and run it over the soap in the mug and then you're good to go. When you have just enough on your face then you rinse off the brush and your hands are still clean and you hang the brush up on the include stand to let it dry. The lack of clean up makes this thing super worth it!
Retro but Effective

It takes a couple of tries to get the lather just right but after you get it down you notice that the lather from the soap goes on nice and smooth. Since you're only using as much lather as you need with out much excess I wouldn't be surprised if it lasted longer than the usual can of shaving cream. The only thing that failed to perform was my own store bought razor that I found had gone dull. I felt very fresh and ready to start the day.

In conclusion this is a shaving set that has made me really want to go out and get a straight razor for a truly retro smooth shave. I know that I'm an old soul but this set will give any lover of the new fangled razors enough pause to try some old school. Stay smooth everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I'm up to now!

So it's been a long and fascinating year so far and the days are ticking ever closer until I hop on the bus to get onto Hollins again. For the third year in a row my play was chosen to be in Lab and every year the Festival line up gets even more interesting. I'm super excited to be with my Theatre family again and continue to do that voodoo that we do so well.

And of course I get to spend six weeks with this girl!
But I have found as I continue my research and tinkering with my keyboard that my style and interests are changing in ways that will make this summer even better! I'm taking a class in Brecht which comes in handy because I've been moving in some very expressionistic directions with my writing. In Theatre for Youth I'll be learning tips on writing children's theater from one of the masters which is great because I've been looking into writing Duets and Forensic monologues for High School groups.

And of Course there is Lab where my play Townies will receive some in depth criticism and critique to help me develop it. This is the third year of lab I've had a play in and with that and No Shame I've learned so much about how I work and think as a Playwright. I believe my plays and process get so much better every year. If Hollins was just wrapped up in Lab and No Shame that would be great but then there is just so much more!!!

I'm always interested in seeing how much my plays and interests have changed over the years and how many of my truest passions are still alive!  I really feel like I have grown every year and by the time I've started thesis I'll be ready to spread my wings and really fly!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just keep Running the Race

Sometimes in the arts it's easy to think that you're competing with everyone else in your field. And whether or not you feel that way you do have to admit that we are all on our respective journeys. So as long as we are all on that road to success in the theatre here are some tips to make your journey smoother. 

Also the Road to Success is much smoother if you drive.

  • Stay in your lane: Ask yourself realistically what your skill level is and where you should be in your craft. A lot of the people that you think ahead of you have probably been in the game longer. So of course they should be going farther than you. 
  • Keep Realistic Goals: Yeah of course it would be cool if you could get on Broadway and get published and then earn a million dollars. But I'm sure you have to do a lot of things before you get to that point. Do some research and see what the majority of people are doing in your field. Then determine what your next step is.
  • Keep a reasonable/Sustainable pace: Of course you could be Playwriting God and submit to twenty theater's a day and write eight hours a day but after a while you're sure to get burnt out. Why not try to research one great place a month. Do your research. 
  • Find a mentor/coach: There is something great about having someone to be accountable with about your art. For me my mentor and partner in crime is my fiance. I know when I come to her she will give it to me straight and tell me what needs to be done. 
  • Stop Competing: In the theatre world this isn't a race to see who becomes the next Shakespeare. Maybe it's not even a competition at all but a fun run. You're hopefully doing this because you love it and want to grow in your craft and meet other people that do what you love. 
A very bright man told me that when you measure your success you need to look at where you want to be, your destination, and then look at what you're doing now. If what you're doing now isn't getting you where you want to go then maybe you should start asking yourself "well what needs to change". Keep looking ahead to your horizon and always be asking yourself "what do I need to be doing next?" You'll be surprised after a while how far you get. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cell Phones and Play Producing

We live in a world today where people live attached to the hip with their cellphones. And as a producer (or a playwright or director acting as a producer) you need to know how to utilize this tool effectively in your production. Cell phone or brick phone it makes no difference there are some certain things you should just know how to do in today's day and age that are going to help you. So here are the tips...

One of these things is a great toy full of hours of fun. The other is a Color Clix sculpture. 

  • Save your cast and crew as contacts immediately. Double check for accuracy. I once had an actress who was in a reading text me with a scheduling conflict and I didn't know that I typed her number in wrong. After being rude to a what I thought was a wrong number I ended up offending the actress and had a lot of explaining to do. Save yourself the hassle and do it right.
  • Take photos and videos like it's your job: Not only is this best way to communicate with design crew sometimes but someone better be posting stuff to your social media. A good web presence means people know you exist.
  • Make a text list for your cast and crew: It's the best way to keep in contact with them when you want to send mass texts to the whole group. This saves you a lot of time.
  • Update social media regularly: Again Facebook and other social media is like free advertising, The more you keep it in people's minds the more it works.
  • Create a Facebook Group for the cast: Unfortunately the analog call board in the greenroom doesn't always work anymore. Nowadays people will go to their Facebook more often than they go to their email or walk into the greenroom. So if you send the email and then update the Facebook group and also happen to have a printout on the bulletin board... well then they have no excuse to not see it. 
  • Try going multimedia with your feedback: On your usual smartphone not only can you write huge blocks of text you can also add audio, video, and pictures. So why not if you feel like you have to rant about something that's not working why not attach an audio file of that rant to the email. That means that the cast and production crew doesn't have to read large blocks of text that get real monotonous. Because you know they only read the first few paragraphs anyway. 
You have this great piece of modern technology in the palm of your hand. Why not make the best use of it? I bet that your cast will love it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tourettes Tuesday: Why I Carry a Cane

I have Tourettes and I carry a cane. I like to tell people that it's not because my legs can't physically work it's just that when my Tourettes is really bad they won't work. Think of it like in congress. I'm trying to move forward and my legs just like to fillibuster and all progress is stopped. And because part of that progress involves me standing upright and not falling over I sometimes need the third leg to keep from letting gravity take it's course.

A lot of it comes from the way that my specific tics affect me. Everyone's tics are like their DNA, there are some common things going on but everyone is different. When my Tourettes gets really bad my legs want to shake rapidly, kick, and twine around each other. All that is perfect when I'm laying down but when I'm up and walking that can spell disaster. And add onto that my abs contracting and relaxing against my will and then the balance goes out the window. After I'd fallen about three or four times I figured it was time to swallow my pride and enlist a little bit of wooden assistance.

My fiance happens to think it makes me look distinguished!

I already had this hand carved cane that I made myself a while before. And after some not so passive encouragement from my girlfriend (she swore to kill me if she saw me walking without it) I just sort of started walking with it everywhere. At first I thought I would get a lot of looks and sneers by people. I'm only 26 and I even thought people would look at my age and think that I was faking. But then I remembered something every person with TS knows: the same protection that the Americans with Disabilities Act gives you so that people can't hassle you because of your tics means that they can't hassle you because you carry a cane.

I've walked into high security buildings and onto busses right past security guards and management and they never said a thing to me because they know they can't. A cane is a medical device in the eyes of the law and that means they can't ask you anything about the nature of your disability or why you carry the cane. And if they take the cane away from you and you fall they know that there could be one heck of a lawsuit. You carry this thing because you need the support because you have a disability. There's no reason why anyone in public should be giving you guff about it.

I've only heard in passing about other people with TS needing to carry canes everyday and only one tale about someone that needed to be in a wheelchair. But alas they are only tales. If there are any people out there that also have to have some kind of cane to support them I'd love to hear your story. Please send me an email!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

6 Mistakes you make as a Beginning Director Prt. 3

#5  Trying to sneak in extra rehearsal

You may think that if your actors just can't seem to hit all of their cues or remember all of their lines then the best fix is to just schedule a surprise rehearsal on Saturday or keep them way after time to run that scene just once more. You may walk around rehearsal and hear people running their lines and you just want to jump in and yell "for the sake of all that's holy project!!!" But you have to remember that your job is to run rehearsal. And outside of all of this rehearsal these people have lives and jobs. Sure you think if your were professional then you could get away with it. But rehearsal means money and salaries so the more you try to shove in the more your start making the theater coffers cry. And if you start to get the reputation of the director that wastes time and money...well this may be your only directing gig.

Quick Fix: Aim for as many hours of rehearsal as there are pages in the script. That includes your tech and dress rehearsals. Don't waste a second of that time. Come into the rehearsal hall with a list of things you want to get accomplished that day and let people know what they are. You get people feeling like a success if they know they've succeeded or exceeded an expectation. Also plan for at least two "holy crap" extra days in advance and let your cast and crew know that they are only in case rehearsal time is lost due to emergency.(weather or actor illness)

In the south this exceeds emergency and goes straight to Apocalypse!
#6 Not having Faith/Gratitude in your cast and crew

These people are giving up their time and sharing their talent with you. A lot of them are doing this for the first time or are just doing it for fun. If they feel like all you want to talk about is about how much they're not hitting the mark or how you think the show is going to stink then why should they give their all? If the first thing you want to do is pull in some of your acting friends as ringers to fix bad acting should they feel like you even respect their effort? If you never tell them thank you for all their effort to make YOU look good are they going to ever want to act for you again?

Quick Fix: Say thank you as many times as you can. Let your actors act without making them feel like they have you hands on their shoulders. They made the commitment to be there you should make the commitment to make sure they're the best they can be.

The measure of a good the professional and the not so professional not by the number of butts they can get in seats but how many people they can get to answer the phone when they're in need of work. To do that you have to leave people wanting to work with you. So get your stuff together before you walk into the hall and trust your people.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tourettes Tuesday: Getting Overloaded

Today we're going to talk about Tourettes Overload, a term I created. Have you ever seen a computer malfunction and you see the screen start to get scrambled. or the TV start to get all pixelated? That's what my fiance says that I look like. I had to ask her because I'm usually too bothered with being overloaded to notice.

The phrase I call being "overloaded" is that when you're TS urges or tics overcome your ability to compensate for them and be normal. It usually comes in my life as a day or so where my tics are so strong that I can't suppress them. This can last as much as a night to a couple days. This most likely happens on days when you've been more stressed than usual or you've had days where you're in public or in front of people and you feel that you have to be "on pointe" all the time. That means that you start suppressing all of your tics and trying to be normal to the point that at the end of the day you could be the equivalent of that little old lady holding up the car with superhuman strength so that it doesn't squash a baby. You end up having two options: hope someone moves the baby (the reason you have to suppress your tics) soon, or let the car (your tics) squash you both.

On off days I like to decompress with  music!

So as someone who has gone through all of this before let me offer you some tips. These are what I do on long days.

  • Express don't suppress: Your tics are actually part of your normal. The less you try to suppress them in public the less likely you'll have them popping up later.
  • Take frequent breaks in a stressful day: When you know you're going to have a day when you're going to have to be "on pointe" for long stretches of time try to take frequent breaks. Even taking a lunch by yourself or getting out of the office for five minutes can help.
  • Pamper Yourself: At the end of the day when you can feel an overload coming get your favorite food and slip into your best jammies. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to decompress before being around people again.
  • Beware of Tic Rage: As you're using super-human strength to keep that car from squashing the baby you might be shouting and yelling at anyone moving too slow to save the baby. But in the real world no one knows (or cares) what you're struggling with if you don't tell them. So if they don't know you're having a bad day they might thing that your rage is aimed at them. Be sure to try to stay calm and let people know you're struggling. Most of the time they'll understand. 
But above all eventually you have to let the tics happen. Do what you got to do but when you feel overloaded stop and let it pass. You'll feel a whole lot better after getting it all off your chest so-to-speak.

Monday, May 5, 2014

And you Thought the Diddley Bow only Plays Blues

So you think that the one string diddley bow is just for kids learning the guitar or for older guys who want to play the old blues standards? Huh? Well I can't blame you. I just got done making a diddley bow for a friend's son who was very enamored with mine and the kind of music I could get out of it. But what if you're a rocker or prefer something more on the side of thrash or death metal? Well let me introduce you to the Djentstick a one string guitar that can shred with the best of them.

This guy claims that he made all of the audio on this clip with just that diddley bow, an EMG-81 pick up, and a Line 6 Pod XT. While I love the natural sound of the instruments and prefer to have as few effects other than a good distortion in my amp you can't fault this guy's results. One thing you'll notice with electric instruments is that it doesn't matter so much what you play it on but what you play it through.

I love the baritone one string sound. 

From what I can see in my research it's got a very low tuning, kind of in the baritone or bass range. And it gets the name Djent (pronounced gent) from the palm muted style of playing in death metal that it comes from. You could easily make this with a 3 foot piece of spare wood and a low guitar string...even a bass string if that suits you. It doesn't seem like it would take it so much to get it wired up and ready to go. I'd love to see more builds of it online. Other than five or six videos on youtube about it this style doesn't seem to have much of a web presence yet. (so get on it).

So don't think that the diddley bow is just for old blues guys. Whatever style you play you can get out there and make one that can play your music. The idea of having only one string is that it takes less time for you to learn how to play and give you more time making great music. So get out there to your workshops and get playing!

See #Maleficent! #Giveaway

Who wants to see Maleficent when it comes out the end of this month? Well to celebrate DragynAlly's birthday by giving you a chance win $45 in fandango gift cards so you can see it! We got together with some of our blogging BFFs to make this happen. Thanks to My Pixie Dust DiaryTaking the Florida PlungeMaple Mouse MamaMagical Mouse SchoolhouseMerlot MommyThis Mama's Life and of course The Dragyn's Lair! You can enter below in the rafflecopter. Wish you the best of luck and don't forget to wish DragynAlly a very happy birthday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 1, 2014

6 Mistakes you make as a Beginning Director Prt. 2

Here's part two of my list of common directing mistakes...

#3 Giving Acting Notes that can't be Obeyed

As an actor I can't believe that I was one of the biggest breakers of this rule when I started directing. Maybe you've given an actor a note about something that isn't going right in their performance. The next time you run that scene they mess up again. And then yet a third time. All you know how to do is roll your eyes and ask your assistant director to write the acting note down yet again.

But wait...before you do look at what's going on in the scene and see why the actor might be getting it wrong again and again. Does it have to do with something outside his control (a set piece isn't being set in enough time for him to make his cue on time) or could it be that you are just (gasp) wrong and their choice in acting is valid?

Quick Fix: Make a hard and firm rule. Don't give the exact same note three times. Either give it in another way or schedule a "bits and pieces" session where you work through all the sticking points in a scene so that one actor doesn't feel like they're being called out all the time. In a session like that you'll find that all the squeaky parts of your scene get fixed better because they're "in the moment" and you can start and stop and rework the action on the stage.

The way you're acting is making the walls too white. Can you say the lines more bluish?

#4 Trying to be a Hero

I know that this is your show and you're probably working in a less than professional setting. I know that you want this show to be the best show that showcases all of your talent. So you may be tempted to open your wallet to pay for the best posters out there and donate all of you or your family's time to make sure  that elaborate set gets done. And when one of your actor's get sick then you just know that you can step into the part and do it better than he ever could.

I know a director that I used to work with who did exactly that. She was not only the director and acting coach but she made the poster and designed most of the costumes. And when a certain set piece wasn't taking the kind of shape that she wanted then she stayed up all night and made her own version of it.

But when you play the hero and try to do everyone else's job do you know what you suck at doing? Youre OWN JOB!!! And if you're not at the helm as a director then all the rest of the outfit is like a horseshoe for want of a nail. If you lose the nail the horse suffers.

Quick Fix: Take a step back and breathe. You have a group of people here who are as devoted to getting your show up and running as you. Accept the show as it is and realize that you're not directing Broadway. What happens in the show happens. Don't hamstring your already hard work by trying to add more to it.

Look out next week for part three