Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey…

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

You Never Can Tell: Kissing


“The lovely flowers embarrass me,
They make me regret I am not a bee –”
Two years ago he kissed me…

Today he sent me a rainbow in the form of roses, a flower that means so much to both of us…


It was a kiss that changed the course of my path, as kisses should… We decided to embark on a future filled with unknowns and struggles, but more importantly brimming with nourishment and support. Since that day we first kissed our love has blossomed and deepened in ways I don’t think either of us could have predicted two years ago. And isn’t that the great thing about taking a chance? You never can tell…

In my current play my character, Gloria, has her first kiss with Valentine. Each night my scene partner, Matthew Baldiga, and I use the language of George Bernard Shaw to fall and fight in love. Throughout the course of the play Gloria struggles with her feelings which are at war with her head. Valentine follows his heart and freely showers her with affection. Who knows what happens to the two after the curtain falls…? I should like to think they live a life of adventure, work and love… However, I am a romantic…

gloria and valentine first kiss

Photo by Kevin Berne

Maybe they were similar to G.B.S. and his wife?

Shaw met his match in Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fierce and strong woman, in 1896 the year our play takes place. Of Charlotte G.B.S. had shared “Instead of going to bed at ten, we go out and stroll about among the trees for a while…” and “Kissing in the evening among the trees was very pleasant…” It was a relationship filled with intellect and strong views, in a time when Women’s rights and political tensions were high. Both were members of Britain’s  Fabian Society (Founded in 1884 to be “at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left.) Beatrice Webb described Charlotte in her journal: “By temperament she is an anarchist – feeling any regulation or rule is intolerable – a tendency which has been exaggerated by her intolerable wealth. She is romantic but thinks herself cynical. She is a socialist and a radical, but not because she understands collectivist standpoint, but because she is by nature a rebel.” Theirs is a complicated and interesting story and I am currently reading more about them in my Shaw biography by Michael Holroyd…

shaw and charlotte

You never can tell with relationships… They are a delicate dance that require stamina, flexibility, understanding and conviction. All I know is that I am grateful for taking the leap and kissing a man who thrilled, and continues to enrich, my heart, mind and soul.

Happy Kiss-A-versary My Love!

kiss to build a dream on

Lyrics from one of my favorite songs about kissing by Louis Armstrong!

KIND OF BLUE: 57 years later & My Jazz SOLmate…

Just this afternoon a Facebook friend posted that the incredible Jazz Album “Kind of Blue,” by Miles Davis had been released on this day, August 17th 1959. This album is a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. I first heard it while in the womb, as my mother tells me. She had a lot of Jazz records (Billie Holiday, Wynton Marsalis, Chuck Mangione, Miles…) and I can remember really far back hearing the sounds of the trumpets, piano, bass… the voices… Jazz is my all time favorite genre. If I was stranded on a deserted beach, this is my album of choice. As I write this post I am tapping the keys to this recording…

kind of blue

Whenever I happen to catch a live Jazz group and there is a trumpet player I request my favorite track, #3: Blue in Green. I know it’s a tough request, and rarely is it possible to capture what Miles had laid down that day back in March of 1959. However,  I do remember a trumpet player in Long Beach who got the closest… Most Jazz groups jump at the chance to play track #1: So What or #2: Freddie Freeloader

I met my Jazz soulmate in the alley behind my downtown Albuquerque apartment back in the early 2000’s. He was a scrappy orange tomcat I rescued after his twin sister had died and animal control was about to take him away. He was a skinny little thing, scared with bright yellow eyes like the sun: I named him SOL. When ever I put on Jazz he would perk up and listen, but it was when I put on Miles Davis that he really dug it. He would meow along to Davis’ trumpet for as long as the song lasted. Coltrane’s sax and Montgomery’s guitar didn’t inspire him as much but sometime Billie’s voice could produce the same effect…

Only 4 short years after we found each other, Sol became extremely ill and I had to make the hard decision to put him to sleep. It was a late night in November, I called my dear friend Malika and asked if she could drive me and my gato to the vet. I was inconsolable, holding him in my arms, in his favorite towel and Malika said a blessing over me and my little family, which included Luna my other gato. (Malika later adopted Luna and they are still living happily together!) She asked if there was any music we should play while driving to the vet and I immediately grabbed my “Kind of Blue” album. We drove to the 24 hour pet hospital and were admitted into a small, dimly lit room. Every one was speaking in hushed voices, calming and reassuring. Sol was in my arms, relaxed as if he knew it was for the best. I held him close, talking to him, singing to him and petting his slender sick body… He slipped away peacefully, my tears wetting his orange fur… As we exited the vet’s office I glanced up at the muted television and low and behold a Miles Davis special was playing… As I watched the thin trumpeter in his iconic pose I knew Sol was telling me he was okay…

For the 50th anniversary of this album, in 2009, NPR released an interview on morning edition: Between Takes: The ‘Kind Of Blue’ Sessions. In this story you can hear Miles Davis talking with the artists to perfect a recording and learn more about the studio session that produced the masterpiece. Turns out Miles like to kiss the musicians on the ear!

The album was recorded in two sessions, the first on March 2 (Tracks 1-3) , 1959 and the second on April 22, 1959 (Tracks 4-5, an alternate track 6 was added later) The quintet included: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and, of course, trumpeter Miles Davis. In Bill Evan’s liner notes, Improvisation in Jazz by Bill Evans he addresses the improvisational element of the recording of this album: “Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.”

This album reminds me of a theatrical performance, the artists combining their individual skills to bring to life a story, a concept a complete work. It’s nothing short of magic…Just last year a 60 minute documentary was released about this album with various musicians talking about the profound impact of this work of art. It’s a great look into that influential time period in Jazz history and all of the elements that brought this record into our world: “Kind of Blue-Miles Davis Documentary”.

While living here in the Bay area I have been listening to KCSM 91.1 on my rental car radio. Jazz soothes and excites my soul, it speaks to something deep inside and continues to score my days as an artist. Just as we memorize lyrics to our favorite songs, quotes from our favorite movies, I have each note of this album memorized. Sometimes I tap out the piano, or scat the horns, or thump out the bass and drum solos. It is a perfect album from beginning to end, taking you through all the different qualities of emotion. During an acting exercise in grad school we were asked to bring in a song that captured our idea of love, mine was “Blue in Green.”

Happy Release day KIND OF BLUE, thank you for being my comfort soul food and a little slice of heaven on earth…



You Never Can Tell: Openings…



Opening Night flowers from my Mom & Dad, a tradition that never fails to surprise me!

On Saturday August 13th, under a half moon, the resident owl hooting backstage, with a full house, we celebrated the Opening Night of George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell on the gorgeous outdoor Cal Shakes stage in Orinda, CA. Just before our first previews we faced a difficult occurrence when a fellow cast member was injured and an understudy had to go on. The phrase “You Never Can Tell,” has definitely become a big part of our vocabulary and now has taken on a whole new meaning for us after an intense and productive tech week and three previews. The actor who was hurt plays 3 different roles in our show and is a crucial element to the story. Our fabulous assistant director, LeeAnn Dowd, filled in for his meticulously specific Act 1 roles and a young local actor, Lucas, took on his difficult language heavy Act 2 role. Lucas went on Wednesday night with book in hand, then Thursday he did an incredible job off book and Friday night our actor returned with a cane, healed and hungry to get back to work. His first audience was our third and when he walked off stage that night he was so wide-eyed with how thrilling and informative it was to share our crazy tilted story with the patrons. We were ecstatic to have him back, and so grateful to LeeAnn and Lucas for their heroics.

Gloria By The Sea

My character “Gloria” looks out to the sea as the cast of You Never Can Tell sings and brings the lights down for intermission. (Photo by Kevin Berne)

The day of opening night began with errands and house cleaning to welcome my love Miles for the weekend, he was on the road from LA and heading straight to the theatre for curtain. We had rehearsal in the afternoon to clean up and tighten a few things, everyone’s spirits were high and filled with anticipation. When I walked into our dressing room flowers had arrived from my parents, sending opening night wishes and love. Just before dinner break our director, the incredible Lisa Peterson, gathered us in a circle on the stage, a ritual we started in the rehearsal room. With a huge smile she filled our hearts with encouraging words and led us in our final cheer: “You Never Can Tell!”

Miles kept me updated on his progress on the road and I showered and finished opening night thank you cards. Finally, it was an hour before curtain and I began the process of styling my hair, applying makeup, getting into my corset and costume, practicing my Ukulele and feeling the butterflies flit and fly around in my belly. Miles arrived at 7:45 and ten minutes later we were called to places. It was a warm clear night, the sun set as the first act flew by and intermission showed up so suddenly! We closed the show to joyous applause and headed to the green room for a toast and photos. Cal Shakes hosted an after party where Miles and I chatted with friends old and new. We ended the night with a wonderfully crafted Manhattan and Old Fashioned at Prizefighter in Emeryville.

Since Miles and I met, two years ago in the Bay Area, he has made every opening night of my performances (From Dallas to Los Angeles to Cincinnati back to LA and now in the Bay!)  Having him by my side increases my gratitude for being on this journey. While I was in Tech for the opening of this show, Miles opened a thrilling production he had been rehearsing for several weeks. Director Robert Allan Ackerman and playwright Dotson Rader have been on their own journey with a play about Tennessee Williams titled God Looked Away starring Al Pacino and Judith Light ! After a few readings Miles joined the creative team to play opposite Pacino as “Baby,” Tennessee’s lover of 14 years. The project opened a fully staged workshop production for invited audiences in a West Hollywood theatre and my love Miles shined like the star that he is! Sadly I wasn’t able to attend, since I was in tech, but I swear I could feel the positive vibrations that his performance had on that town all the way up here in the Bay. Recently an article by Michael Fairman was posted online and beautifully captured the past few weeks in Miles’ career which has been blossoming and growing as I always knew it would. So even though it has been hard being away from one another, we are hard at work, and when he arrived for my opening night weekend we celebrated both of our accomplishments!

God Looked Away Cast photo

The Cast and Crew of God Looked Away at Macha Theatre in West Hollywood.        Seated from left to right: Robert Allan Ackerman, Al Pachino and Dotson Rader, behind them: Judith Light and Miles to the right!

Sunday after opening we had our first matinee, the play takes on a little different tone in the full natural light against the golden hills, there are no blackouts and you can see the entire house of audience members. It was a strong show with a sense of calm, Miles was in the audience again and I could see his perfect smile from the stage. When the show was over we had a brief talk back led by Cal Shakes resident dramaturg Philippa Kelly. (Check out her fascinating blog posts about our production HERE.) After sharing a little about each of our characters, our process and the adaptation of Shaw’s classic to California, the final question was from some siblings who had come to the theatre for their very first play and wanted to know more about acting!  We jumped at the chance to encourage them to get involved with Cal Shakes and any other opportunities they could find, eager to recruit more members to our wonderful world of storytelling. We said our goodbyes and well wishes for a happy day off, Miles hugged my cast and crew, now new members of our theatre family and we headed back home to get ready for a romantic and celebratory night out!

One of our favorite places is The Brazen Head in San Francisco, I found this neighborhood gem back in 2012 when working at The Magic theatre and have returned ever since. We got dolled up, crossed the Bay bridge, ready for a big meal in the city and a visit with one of our favorite bartenders: Jimmy. Sitting in the dimly lit corner we shared a glass of champagne and toasted to the moment: being together back in the bay and our theatrical/artistic successes. Our meal was to die for! French onion soup and a burrata caprese salad to start, followed by a filet mignon and shrimp scampi with a bottle of Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon. Jimmy came over and sat with us for a bit after dinner and we talked about the life of an artist, he was a recording musician for many years. We discussed the drive to succeed, the hardships in love and life and he encouraged us to keep going and aiming high. (And he just about died when he found out Miles had been in one of his favorite shows, NCIS: LA, with one of his favorite actresses: Daniela Ruha!) It was a luxurious ending to the weekend and the perfect place to celebrate….

Monday morning we found a new favorite place for brunch in Berkeley: Aunt Mary’s Cafe! We feasted on pancakes, a chorizo scramble, collard greens, cheddar cheese grits and biscuits with sage gravy. We were so excited to eat we didn’t even snap a photo! We ran a few errands, visited a dear mutual friend and their little 6 month old baby girl, and returned back for an early night in since Miles had to get on the road first thing Tuesday morning. As I type this post he is cruising south on I-5 back to LA to make to a general meeting with a casting director, followed by an audition and then dinner with his theatre family from God Looked Away, he is incredible… I am cleaning house, resting and gearing up for the start of another week of shows up in the beautiful Orinda hills, filled with gratitude and awe from this weekend. Curtain is at 7:30 tonight and this Friday I will have a big group of cousins in the audience! The work continues for both of us…

Gloria Vs. Father

“Gloria” and “Mr. Crampton” (Michael Torres) have a little father daughter discussion to try and work things out…! (Photo by Kevin Berne)

It was an ideal opening weekend! Having Miles in town, celebrating with the talented cast and crew at Cal Shakes, hearing Artistic Director Eric Ting remark on our process, meeting all the loved ones and theatre family/friends who came to support, the wonderful meals and now the exciting challenge of a full run ahead. My parents will be coming in a couple of weeks and Miles will return again. ( I can’t wait!!!) Until then, I have my days back, time to get back into the hot yoga studio, update my website, return emails and messages, wash dishes, continue binging Cheers on Netflix, catching classics on TCM and possibly visiting some museums and local attractions… (Bay Area folks any suggestions?)

On with the Shaw Show! I am excited to share our story with more and more audience members in the weeks to come and hope they enjoy our delightfully strange world as much as we do…!

Shaw mirror quote

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