Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This is what I do in my spare mind.

Being at home with the kids all day, I've noticed that I've been spending a lot of time inside my own head. I'm trying my very best to be "present" all the time, but frankly, there's only so much brain power need to play with trains and sand, read countless truck books (with no storyline - throw me a bone here!) or to sweep cereal off the floor AGAIN. So I make up little projects for my brain to think about.

This past week, I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I've been wanting to read this ever since I studied The Haunting of Hill House (one of the best books EVER) in university. When I Googled We Have Always Lived in the Castle so that Mr Earth could order it for me, I noticed that there was an acting edition by Hugh Wheeler available. Of course, this little nugget of info stuck in my head, and when I started reading the book, I couldn't help but try to cast the novel in my head.

I may be an actor, but I think I'm also a frustrated casting agent. Direction is important and all, but if you haven't cast your show well, then you're lost from the beginning. I have huge issues when I go see a movie that was originally a book, and I don't think the casting was appropriate. (Don't get me started on the Twilight movie - were they temporarily blind when they cast Rosalie and Jasper?? Ug.)

Anyways, once I started casting the book in my head, I thought: Wouldn't it be interesting if I tried to cast the book from bloggers, solely based on what I know from their writing, and random pictures of themselves that they may have posted. Here's what I came up with (please keep in mind that when I say you have the ability to portray a character it's a compliment to your intellect and sensitivity - not that I necessarily think you are that person...):

Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood. Merricat is the central character and we see the book through her eyes. She is prone to daydreaming and dark thoughts about people who treat her or her family badly. She uses sympathetic magic and superstition for protection. Despite this, she misses nothing and isn't afraid to speak her mind. She has been described as one of the 100 Best Fiction Characters since 1900.

My natural inclination is to cast Painted Maypole. An accomplished actress who has done numerous and varied roles would be crucial to play the many shades of gray that Merricat displays along with the black and white. However, when I read the book, I immediately thought of Beck's dark, ethereal, good looks and razor sharp wit. I'm afraid I would have to call them both in and see who gives the better reading.

Constance Blackwood. Accused and acquitted of putting arsenic in the sugar bowl and murdering a large portion of her family. Described by Merricat as a fairy princess, "all pink and white and golden". She is a domestic goddess and agoraphobic. Despite all accusations, some people in the town want her to come back into society - presumably because she's so beautiful and charming that it would be a waste for her to hide away. BlogChocolate wins the role.

Uncle Julian. Frail and daft, he was poisoned by the arsenic but somehow survived. He spends all his time trying to remember, and record, the events of that fateful day. This role requires someone with excellent comedic timing. I think I would choose Looky, Daddy! but I am open to suggestions here.

Charles Blackwood. Cousin to the girls, he is after the Blackwood fortune and Constance - probably in that order. Requires someone who can show cynicism and self-importance, and yet still somehow remain likeable and persuasive with regards to Connie. I've chosen Denguy.

Helen Clarke. Seems like kind of a busybody-type but I believe she genuinely believes that what she's doing will help the girls. One of the few people that remains friends with the Blackwoods after the incident. I'm extra careful about casting "smaller characters". I think people tend to not take them as seriously. I think they require stronger actors than the leads, because they have less to work with and yet must be fully-developed people. This role needs an actor with the ability to play someone who is not as smart as she thinks she is. Which means, to me, you need an incredibly clever person. Only really smart people know how to play dumb. Dumb people are just...dumb. I would therefore call in Mad, Kittenpie, HBM and Bea to see which person works best with the cast and gives the best read.

Mrs Wright. Frightened by the Blackwoods, but morbidly curious, she comes to tea with Helen Clarke and wants all the details of that fateful night. I think Katie would make me laugh in this role.

Jonas. In the book, Jonas was Merricat's cat and you get the sense that he is also her "familiar". In the play version, he was revised to be an adopted servant boy, but I would keep this as a person playing a cat - boy or girl (Much like Sarah Jessica Parker played a dog in Sylvia on Broadway). Jonas watches everything and misses nothing. You get the feeling that he understands and has opinions. He follows Merricat everywhere, but is drawn to Charles for a bit. The person playing this cat must have incredible magnetism and the ability to create a rich inner world. You must be able to know what the person is thinking from reading the eyes and the body language. I don't think Jonas needs to be a "he", and Kgirl is the only person with enough audacity to take on such a challenging role.

Do you agree with my casting? Please feel free to argue why you would be right for the suggested - or any other - role. Or, cast yourself in a different book. These kind of things intrigue my small brain.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I kinda wish my last name started with a "J".

At the end of our last book club meeting, it was announced that the next book would be JPod by Douglas Coupland. My heart sunk. There are certain types of books that I just naturally avoid because, however clever they may be, they are just not my cup of tea. I was dreading having to plow through a book that just doesn't interest me.

I am here to tell you I was dead wrong.

(I am also here to tell you that I thought Douglas Coupland wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was also dead wrong about that. That was Douglas Adams, not Douglas Coupland at all. Stoopid.)

(And while we're on the subject of the Hitchhiker's Guide, the movie of that book was possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Gah! I can never get that time back...)

I went into this JPod experience completely fresh. (Obviously, since I thought Coupland was Adams...duh.) I have no idea if JPod is just an updated version of Microserfs, and frankly, I don't care. It was just plain good. No, great. In fact, I haven't has as much fun reading a book in...well, I can't really remember when.

The basic premise is that it's about the lives of six young video game programmers in BC who were all assigned to the same cubicle pod by an HR computer glitch - they all have names starting with the letter "J". Seing as they're all young and basically unnattached, they pretty much spend their lives at (or around) work. Except that they seem to do everything and anything under the sun OTHER than work. They play clever (read: nerdy) pranks on each other. They write descriptions of themselves as if they were going to sell themselves on Ebay. The write a love letter to Ronald McDonald because they figure he's lonely. They shun anyone who brings "The Taint" (McDonald's food) into the office. In otherwords, this is my kind of place to work. How many times have I been at work and wanted to kill someone who brought McDonald's fries back to their cubicle? I get these people. Which must mean that I am a nerd too. (Shock! Horrors!! How can life continue??).

What I found especially intriguing was the premise that many more people than you think are actually undiagnosed, highly-functioning autistics. All the members of JPod are highly technically adept, and yet are presumed to be mildly autistic . And no one is any the wiser. It really made me think. Thinking is good. (Not thinking = Bad.)

It was so refreshingly different, and yet so comfortably familiar, to read a book with topical references. I am so used to reading classical literature, historical romances and modern books from different cultures (my go-to reads) that this was a breath of fresh air. And I didn't even get all the jokes, methinks. There were a lot of math-y, computer-y little digs that I am assuming just went over my head. And yet I never felt like I was missing out.

However much I liked the book, I didn't think it was perfect. I didn't like Coupland inserting himself as a character in the book. I appreciated that he made himself seem like an evil a$$hole, but it still came off as kind of conceited and just a bit...lame. I also didn't like the pages of "spam" all that much. I get the effect Coupland was going for, but it seemed kind of pointless.

Still...I laughed out loud (a rarity for me). I forced Mr Earth to listen to countless little excerpts and (lame attempts) at retelling of sections. He is now required to read the book, because he knows I won't stop talking about it until I do. I wish I had watched the CBC show while it was on TV, because I just went to Amazon to order it, and it costs too much. I'm on a budget, people! Aren't Canadian shows supposed to be cheap??

Do you need more of a reccomendation? Cause I can come to your house and talk about it. Mr Earth would be relieved.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I guess love really is blind.

Mr Earth is always whining and moaning about how I never notice it when he cuts his hair. Blah, blah, blah. The hair goes from short, to short-ER. While I certainly appreciate the transformation from shaggy to dapper, I liken it to Crystal Gayle cursing her beau if he doesn't notice that she gave her hair a quarter-inch trim. (Don't it just make your brown eyes blue??)

Today, I had to visit the dentist. I still go to the same (ridiculously over-priced) dentist that is close to my (former) place of work because I'm too lazy to find someone new. And because Mr Earth works nearby, and I can drop the kids off at the office for some daddy-time, and get my teeth scraped in relative peace.

I hate showing up at Mr Earth's place of business in my regular clothes. Housewife Chic may cut it at the Early Years Centre, but I feel rather out of place in snobby downtown TO. So I dressed up. I wore a belted cashmere sweater and my slimming jeans. I wore my good coat - the one that I used to wear to work (except I don't work anymore and it's too fancy to wear slobbing around so I don't wear it at all coat). I wore earrings while schlepping a grabby toddler. I wore heels. I never wear heels. I blowdried my newly-cut hair. I put on makeup. I even put on lipstick. I never, ever, wear lipstick (evil stuff).

I never saw the inside of Mr Earth's office.

He picked the kids up outside of dentist's office (kind soul that he is), and dropped them off with me as soon as I was finished. I got dressed up for nothing. I certainly didn't get dressed up to see the dentist. He's creepy.

When I complained, he said: "Oh, I didn't notice you got dressed up."


That's it. It's scrunchies and Fat Pants from now on. If love is blind then I, for one, am going to take full advantage.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

The In-Between Kite Running World of Q&A

OK, so I was at a bloggy book-club meeting last week and the book was Vassanji's The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. I was so excited to read it. I took a Canadian literature in university, and loved Vassanji's work (especially No New Land).

I couldn't get through it.

Granted, I was doing a play. I was very tired. My limited subway-related reading time was axed now that I'm a stay-at-home mom. BUT. I did manage to finish other books while doing a show. I gave up napping "while the children are napping" in order to finish some of them. But I didn't.

I almost never give up a book without finishing it. I can count on one hand the number of times I've done this. White's The Once and Future King. (And for the record, I did like it and got within 50 pages of the end and just gave up because it was soooooooooo loooooooooong. I have a short attention span. I felt life was passing me by.) Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Um, boring, much? DON'T TAKE THREE PAGES TO DESCRIBE A SUNSET. You'll lose me. There were a couple other books - probably French ones because I was in immersion classes - but they didn't make enough of an impression to stay in my memory.

My (very intelligent) summation of Vikram Lall? Too many...words. There were so many foreign words used that I spent half my time trying to figure out what they meant instead of enjoying the story. And by the way...what story?? I'm still not sure what the book is about. I'm sure, though, if I could make myself read more then something would happen. Eventually. I don't like reading books where it takes FOREVER to get the plot going. Oliver Twist was like that. The movie-musical starts on page 495. I know. I read the whole damn thing, cover to cover for english class.

Anyways, a good friend and I were talking about the book at the meeting, and how it made us feel stupid to read it. We then went on to compare it to The Kite Runner, which is equally foreign to a Canadian middle class audience, and yet we both loved it. And felt like we even maybe learnt a thing or two. In fact, I still can't stop thinking about The Kite Runner. It's my top recommendation for anyone looking for a sensational read.

A very smart lady pointed out that Kite Runner was written with movie adaptability in mind, while Vikram Lall was not. And that is why Hosseini's novel is more accessible to general audiences. She got me there. I had no clue about that.

Then I got to thinking. Why on earth would you write a book that is NOT accessible to the general public?? Vassanji was writing a popular fiction novel, not a text book. I can only assume that he wants to reach as wide an audience as possible. I'm not a stupid person. I'm no beginner reader. I like book-candy as much as the next girl, but I'm also a person who reads Tolstoy and Shakespeare FOR FUN. I certainly hope that Vassanji's goal was not to alienate a potential fan of his work by creating a novel that is only for Elite Readers.

Or, have I just turned stupid? Can people get stupider as they age??? Don't answer that. I don't think I want to know.

I also read Q&A by Vikus Swarup, the novel behind Slumdog Millionaire. Pretty much my favourite novel EVER (since Kite Runner). It was such a charming, clever and wonderful book. I loved it so much. I was SO excited to see the movie. I loved the movie too, but it was different from the book. They made the romance so much more central in the movie (of course). But what shocked me the most is that they changed all the questions asked on the game show. Why?? To make them more accessible to a general movie-going public? The questions in the book were fine. There was no need to change them.

Why does everyone in the film industry feel the need to "dumb things down" for the movie-goers, and why do some authors feel the need to "smart things up" to make their books more erudite?? I don't know if I'm coming or going. Stupid or smart.

Again, don't answer that question. I don't think I'd like the outcome.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Proof I was in a show.

"And he's in a band. A rock band?"

"I know that. You were on your own. I really regret that, Katie."

"Catherine, I'm sorry, but I just find this very hard to believe."

"Can you tell me about it? The proof. I'm just curious."

"I would like to see a doctor called Doctor von Heimlich. Please, find one."

The Fantastic Four.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Play: Adjudication and Reviews

Overall, I have been really pleased with the production that I'm currently in. The actors all get along really well, and for the first time (ever, I think), I am 100% confident in everybody's work onstage. For those of you who have done local theatre, I'm sure you've experienced those cringe-worthy moments when you know something is bad, but it is just never going to be fixed and you have to deal with it. I don't have that with this play. Not for one single second. The acting is strong, the set is wonderful, the direction is good. It all works. And I'm pretty harsh when it comes to shows I'm personally involved with, so saying that means alot. This week brought us our reviews and adjudication, and for the first time, I felt a bit deflated.

The problem is that reviews for local theatre aren't, technically, actual reviews. They're more like re-caps. They tell the readers a lot of what the play is about, hoping to lure people to the theatre I guess, but they don't say much about what is actually good or bad about a production. They focus on the positive, which is good, but gives you the feeling that they say nice things about every production. And that, of course, makes their opinion less...valuable? trustworthy? Who knows. And they're not necessarily written by people who know anything about theatre.

For example, our first review stated "The performances from the actors in this movie were raw and honest.", which is very complimentary - if we were in the movie. Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins were certainly good, but we are not them. Was that a typo? Or did she think she was seeing a movie? Or did she just rent the movie and pretend she saw the play??

Our second review was also positive, written by a blogger who usually reviews professional productions, but was somehow convinced to see our play. She definitely liked the show, but made a point of saying how it was unusual for "community" theatre to be so good. Kind of a back-handed compliment, no?

The third review was much better than it's predecessors, but made no mention of ME at all (except for the fact that I was, in fact, in the production), so OF COURSE I am all bitter and don't like it eventhough it was quite positive. Nyah. I'm so mature.

On Sunday, we had our adjudication for the ACT-CO awards. The winners in this festival remount the show in May and compete against other winning productions from different sectors. We were all incredibly nervous. I, for one, haven't done an adjudication since high school, and wasn't particularly keen on it. I'm incredibly proud of this show, and I have no desire for anyone to tell me all the things that are wrong with it.

All in all, it didn't go how I thought it would. The adjudicator seemed to like it, but criticized the pacing in the first act especially. He thought it was too fast and didn't give the actors time to react "in real time". I see his point - we were nervous and perhaps going a bit fast in Act 1 - but the work was all there, and so were the reactions. With a wordy play like this one, the pacing is crucial - go too slowly and it dies right there on the stage. I also thought he would have a more "bird's eye viewpoint" of the production. Talking with him was much like getting director's notes after a rehearsal. Instead of saying "I like how you reacted to that line", I thought it would be more of a "I liked/didn't like how you portrayed that character." Overall, I left the adjudication feeling uneasy, and even unsure if he liked it.

One week left. No matter what happens, I will be very sad when this show is over.

Cross-posted at Playdate

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Blood Brothers

It's funny how when you have your second baby, you think you know everything already. Especially when they're both boys. What could be different, right? And you expect everything to go exactly the way that it went the first time around. And then it doesn't. And you're like - oh yeah! they're different people - and you just don't know what is going to happen.

Is it just me?

Big C was somewhat of an "atypical" baby. We would faithfully read all the milestones in the parenting books and go "Yeah, that's just not happening right now." He got his first teeth at 13 months, and all of a sudden four teeth popped out with no drooling, no pain. Nothing. They just appeared. He didn't walk until he was 16 months. He would stand. He would walk if you held his hand, but that was it. We dropped him off with my parents one afternoon so we could catch a movie, came back, and he was walking. Nay, running. Boom. Just like that. After that, we pretty much disregarded the parenting books as being useless information..

Little G, on the other hand, has been pretty much right on the marker. And this time around, something would happen - like rolling over, or sitting up - and we'd consult the book after the fact only to find he was no "genius", he was just on track with any other baby in the world. In fact, I had noticed that he was particularly adept in the physical realm. Big C will sit and work at drawing for hours, while Little G is more hell-bent on destruction. He figured out how to open a bank of drawers so that they work like steps up to the counter. He, without any example from any of us certainly, will use anything stick-like to whack at any approximation of a ball. You can't turn your back on him or he will most likely be up the stairs or out the door before you can count to ten.

So we were shocked that month after month went by without him even coming close to walking. He actually didn't even crawl. He "boot-scooted" everywhere. I can't tell you how many people have commented on his crawling style. "I've never seen any baby crawl like that. Look at him!" Like he was a freak of nature, or something. I will admit that he kind of looks like some primordial ape when he crawls, but I have absolutely seen other babies do this. It's not new.

Anyways... he's been standing for ages. And then all of a sudden it happened. A side-step. A moment of free-standing. A couple of steps followed by a crash. Now, he's walking a few feet at a time before he hits bottom. Literally. And he's SO excited by it. He's trying so hard to walk all the time. He's getting it. Slowly. Several bloody noses and countless bruises later, he's getting it. The trouble is not walking. The trouble is that he wants to run.

16 months old. Just like his brother. Should I be so sentimental that they share something that is, in the long run, so negligable? I don't care. Today, it warms my heart.