Wednesday, January 7, 2009

s'Newz occasional series mentioning current events which lately held my interest...

I saw Milk the other day, and was duly impressed. It's an engaging telling of a story I thought I knew (but really didn't). The performances were top-notch all the way around. I'm not a regular viewer of talk shows, but I am not surprised that the Big Topic whenever any of the stars is interviewed is the kissing. The Washington Post's Hank Stuever wrote an essay on the subject last week, and made terrific points. There are hardly two actresses in Hollywood these days who have not lip-locked for a film or TV show or photo shoot or whatnot. Nobody blinks. But for an actor, man-on-man kissing is more dangerous than stunt work, and more horrifying than putting a gun to someone's head and pulling the trigger. Go read this article.

Here's a kid who really wants to get to school. A 6-year old missed his bus, so he hopped into his mother's Ford Taurus and drove 10 miles before ramming the vehicle into a tree. He was not injured, but his parents were arrested for felony child endangerment. Seems the father was under a court order NOT to leave his kid alone with his wife (no mention has been made of what necessitated such a court order). The dad left the house anyway, and the mother was asleep when the kid left for school. That's right, this mother allowed her 6 year old child to get ready for school all on his own. It's infuriating that same-sex couples are prevented from adopting children in many states, and yet breeders like this can raise kids. Maybe this poor child wasn't all that anxious to get to school, maybe he just wanted to get away from these losers he was stuck with as parents.

Here's a scary one for stage performers. A German actor was appearing in Schiller's Mary Stuart in Vienna when a prop knife was switched with a brand new, real one, and he slit his own throat on stage. With blood gushing everywhere, the audience went wild with enthusiasm over the spectacular special effects. (The actor survived.)

I'll want to slit my throat, too, if this really happens. Two years ago I shuddered when the announcement was made that Andrew Lloyd Webber was writing a sequel to Phantom of the Opera. At the time, I could not come up with a single successful musical sequel (anybody seen a revival of Bring Back Birdie lately?). Well, this story has reared its frightening head again, as Lloyd Webber has said it will be set in Coney Island, and the production may open simultaneously in New York, London, and Shanghai. The show is called Phantom Love Never Dies, but I have a feeling this one will. The plan to open the show in three cities at once seems a blatant attempt to overcome what will probably be horrible reviews. Get this: they are talking Hugh Jackman for the lead. Really? How are they going to work in a scene in which the aging, deformed Phantom can take off his shirt?

I'll be posting an entry soon regarding all the Broadway shows which are closing this month, but here's one which appears to be still on track for an April opening. Roundabout's cast of Waiting for Godot will be worth the wait. In addition to Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin as those two clowns Vladimir and Estragon, the show will include two of my favorite character actors of all time, John Goodman and David Strathairn. Goodman did yeoman's work all those years on Roseanne, under what were very trying circumstances. He was even able to make her look like she had some acting chops on some occasions. Strathairn has been on my radar since he co-starred with Blair Brown on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, one of TVs first "dramedy" programs. Since then, he's been in just about every movie ever made. This is a terrific ensemble, and the only character yet to be cast is the title role.

Now I know what you're thinking: Godot never shows up, does he?

Well, in that case, Jeremy Piven would be perfect casting. He recently bolted from his limited engagement in Speed the Plow, leaving the producers scrambling to replace him. On doctors' orders, he returned to Los Angeles because he had too much mercury in his system. (Cynically, I wonder if he got a really spectacular film offer that he couldn't refuse).

As for that mercury, playwright David Mamet got in the last word. "I understand that Jeremy has given up show business to begin a new career as a thermometer."

TAG: You're it! ...or not...

I've had more free time than is good for me lately, as I wait for my next adventure to begin, so to while away the hours, I've been doing some scanning.

I've taken pictures throughout my teen and adult life, and am still no good at it. I took a Kodak camera to Europe when I was 17, and took pictures of everything. When I returned to the States and developed the shots, I learned an important lesson. I had taken many pictures of landmarks and scenic wonders, but they were boring as hell, and not nearly as good as a postcard. But if I happened to place one of my friends in front of Versailles, suddenly the picture had life.

From then on, I took pictures of people. I never took a picture of the gorgeous view, unless someone I cared about was standing in front of it.

During my college years, my post-college years, my grad school years, and my post-grad school years, I took thousands of pictures of the people in my life. Everyone around me was so used to my snapping candids that they didn't even remember that I had done so. Of course, one of the joys of taking pictures of your friends comes when you present them with the finished shot as a memento.

That almost never happened. I have over a dozen huge photo albums stuffed with pictures which my friends would love to have, but don't.

Along comes Facebook. With the help of my slow but efficient scanner, I am now able to share all these pictures with the folks for whom they were intended. I've spent the better part of the past week laboriously scanning various pictures onto the computer, and uploading them to FB. I love the fact that one can "tag" the photos with the people who are in them; Facebook then alerts these folks that new photos have been posted, and they can come find the pics.

I don't have any intention of posting ALL my photos, as I'm sure I have close to 10,000. But I'd like to distribute a representative number, and to that end, my Facebook Photo albums include shots of my college chums, as well as the group of actors with whom I did several shows at the Granada Dinner Theatre. I've also started an album of my grad school days, and one which contains more recent shots of one of my favorite theatrical experiences, Shear Madness, an association of which I am extremely proud. I plan to gradually add more shots to these albums.

When I was taking these pictures (some of them 30 years ago and more!), no one could have conceived that we would one day have the technology to display those photos for anyone in the world to view. So I am glad that Facebook allows anyone who has been tagged in a photo to remove that tag of themselves; as an actor, I am keenly aware how difficult it is to control one's image. I don't think anyone should be forced to have their image available for the whole world to see.

But here's the curious part. I currently have a few hundred pictures online at Facebook. One would think that, in that number, quite a few of the ladies might feel a bit self-conscious about their picture being so available, but one would be wrong. I have not had a single female friend signal her objection to a photo of herself; everyone seems to love reviving old memories and sharing a chuckle at their youth.

Out of the dozens of friends who appear in the pictures on my Facebook site, only three have UNtagged photos of themselves. All three are men.