Monday, March 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Events, Part II

ShowBiz Expo East

Exhausted though I was from concentrating on 144 performances by the end of TRU's Saturday auditions, I'd have returned to watch more on Sunday had I not already paid to attend ShowBiz Expo on Sunday.

It had been a few years since I'd taken in the Expo--a trade show held on East and West coasts, featuring all kinds of equipment and services for those working in film and theater.

Now and then I'd gone to a panel at the Expo, but mostly I'd just cruised the exhibits, which are free. In my film school days, I remember being dazzled by major equipment on display, grabbing copies of Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and all manner of other trade publications, and talking with reps of film offices from Montana to Oklahoma to Connecticut.

Last time I showed up at ShowBiz Expo, after not having been in a while, I wasn't willing to wait an hour in the huge, slow line of those who hadn't paid for priority admission.

This year, I decided to spend the $10 required to avoid the line, and also paid for a panel, a directory of attendees, and the after-party.

I was shocked by the difference since my last visit. The exhibition space had shrunk--and where were Hollywood Reporter, Kodak, and DuArt?

There were, however, many, many more vendors of services for actors than I remembered: headshots, workshops, etc. Ironically, I thought, given the opportunity TRU offered that very weekend, actors could pay for individual auditions.

The one panel I had paid to attend didn't match the description of what I had signed up for, and was, in effective, a promotional event for the two panelists' business, which should have been free.

I saw my fill of the exhibits in an hour or so and returned home.

The after-party, from 6:30 to 9:30 in a downtown lounge, had, for my taste, music that was too loud, light that was too low, and way too little food to accompany the open bar.

Luckily, I'd eaten a bit at the TRU auditors' reception, where I'd started the evening, and where, in retrospect, I should have lingered longer.

And I'd known that, arriving at the Expo party at 7:30, I risked missing the food.

"What food?" said a guy who'd been there since the beginning, when I asked how the food had been. "They just brought out a couple of few platters like that one."

"That one" was a plate-sized tray of tiny egg rolls. Maybe 20 minutes later, I encountered another of miniature, highly salted cakes of something meant to be crab.

I spoke with a beginning actress who had auditioned with her sister. "It wasn't what I expected," she said. "There was one guy, who I guess was a producer. My sister and I did our thing, and he didn't say a word." I wondered how much she'd paid for the privilege.

The last person I spoke with at the party--an exhibitor--gave me his opinion of the organizers' attitude: "We need to extract as much money as we can from these folks, and we have one day to do it."

Sounds about right, I thought.

I won't be back.

A Tale of Two Events, Part I

TRU open auditions

Last Saturday, I had my first open audition experience--watching 144 actors present two minutes of either one or two monologues--one of the fringe benefits of TRU membership.

TRU--Theatre Resources Unlimited--is a remarkable organization whose mission is "to promote a spirit of cooperation and support within the general theatre community by providing information and a variety of entertainment-related services and resources that strengthen the capacity of producing organizations, individual producers, self-producing artists and other theater professionals."

Before most of TRU's monthly panels, attendees have a chance to tell the crowd what they're looking for. At a panel earlier this month, I allowed that I was looking for actors for a staged reading in June.

"Are you coming to our auditions?" TRU founder Bob Obst asked me. I said I'd love to, but could only come on Saturday. Bob told me that was fine, which, if I'd read emails about the auditions more carefully, I'd have realized.

TRU's auditions are a two-day event--Saturday for general auditions and Sunday for musicals. They're free for auditors, who typically include at least 40 theater companies, along with agents, casting directors, and TRU members like me who are looking for actors. Actors pay a fee of $45-$60.

We saw actors in groups of roughly 12--6 in the morning and 6 in the afternoon. Aside from the occasional actor who ignored the "time" signal and took significantly more seconds, the day went like clockwork.

We were not only fed, but well fed: bagels and cream cheese, Amy's muffins, juice, coffee, and clementines for breakfast; a choice of 3 kinds of sandwiches, salad, coleslaw, and pasta for lunch.

"This is a great event," I told Bob at lunch. "I hope it's useful," he said.

It was indeed.

TRU membership costs $60 for individuals; $90 for groups.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Miss This Malfi!

It's a rainy Monday afternoon, I just got back from a weekend in Richmond, and there's much else I could/should be doing tonight rather than seeing The Duchess of Malfi for the second time in less than a week.

Actually, it won't be the same Duchess of Malfi as the Red Bull Theater's brilliant and powerful production that's luring me back. It's a one-night-only staged reading of the adaptation by Bertolt Brecht and W.H. Auden that was produced on Broadway in 1946. Those were the days!

According to the Red Bull's announcement of tonight's reading, the Brecht/Auden version "intensifies the original's dark undercurrents."

It's hard to imagine how tonight's Duchess could be darker or more intense than the riveting show I just saw--but I can't wait to find out.

Jacobean drama isn't for the squeamish, and the second act of this one has an exceedingly high body count. But if you can tolerate the gore, this is a rare opportunity to see an extraordinary production of an unforgettable play.

Catch this Duchess of Malfi now, or you might have to wait another 50 years for a New York theater company to take it on.

It's playing at Theater at St. Clement's, 423 W. 46 St., Tuesday-Sunday, through March 28.

Tickets available at 212/352-3101, or

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Renaissance Street Singers

For 37 years, the Renaissance Street Singers, led by their founder, John Hetland, have been entertaining New Yorkers with polphonic sacred music from the 15th and 16th centuries. They perform on Sundays and can often be heard at the Chelsea Market on 9th Avenue and 16th Street.

Today's the second of the two concerts they perform every spring in Hetland's loft; reservations are by invitation and the concert's full, but you can enjoy the music online through a live webcast that can be replayed on demand.

It's available at

where you'll find a performance schedule.

The Streetsingers are open to new members who can "read music, carry a part confidently, blend well (with little or no vibrato)."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

The first Saturday in February, I was having coffee at La Bergamote with my friend Catherine, when two attractive older women sat next to us, one blonde, the other African-American. They dropped a couple of things on the floor, which we picked up, and the four of us chatted a bit. We assumed they were neighborhood regulars.

"No, we just got in from Columbus, Ohio," said the blonde woman, and indicating her friend, "She has a show at the ACE gallery."

As they returned to their conversation, the moment to introduce ourselves passed, but on the way home after grocery shopping, I stopped by the ACE gallery, figuring I might see the artist and her friend there.

Unfortunately my timing was off. It was a little before one and I was alone in the gallery except for staff who were setting up for the opening of a show called 2 Black Women. The artists were Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, whom I'd sat next to at La Bergamote, and Faith Ringgold.

I was already a fan of Ringgold's work and realized I'd seen Robinson's before as well--most recently in Richmond. She makes strong and vivid art in a variety of media--painting, sculpture, fabric--ranging from the whimsical to the wrenching.

Her subjects include themes and stories from Black history, her hometown (Columbus), homages to distinguished African-Americans (Ringgold among them), places she's lived, and portraits of folks she's met in her travels. I was hypnotized by the Bedouin woman from a series she calls People of the Book.

Though I was sorry to miss the opening, there's something to be said for solitude when immersing yourself in an artist's work--and the time I spent alone with Robinson's and Ringgold's has brightened my winter.

I'll go back again before it closes.

2 Black Women runs at the ACE Gallery, 529 W 20, through March 20. On March 6, from noon till two, a documentary about Ringgold, will be shown, introduced by the artist, and followed by a conversation with scholar and author Michele Wallace (Ringgold's daughter) .