Friday, June 22, 2007

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Did you know that that line does not appear anywhere in any of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle? The phrase originated in the 1929 film The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and was spoken by Clive Brook, the actor who played the title role. How the phrase came to be so inextricable linked with the character, I'll never know. I'll have to see the movie.

In the meantime, I will have to keep myself busy learning other Sherlock-related lines, as I have just been cast in City Lit Theatre's The Hound of the Baskervilles. We start rehearsals in a few weeks, and open the end of August. I play Dr. Mortimer, who (judging by the sides I read for the audition) is mostly responsible for the exposition. It's been about twenty years since I read the story, so I don't really know much more at this point. The script is on its way to me as we speak.

I am particularly excited about this project because I get to work with a guy named Don Bender, who will play Sherlock. He's a Chicago actor whom I've only just met at this audition, but whose work I've admired for a couple of years now. I can't wait to see him in action.

In other theater news, I saw a freakin' phenomenal play last night: The spectacularly-titled Mr. Spacky, The Man Who Was Continuously Followed by Wolves. It was written by Emily Schwartz and produced by The Strange Tree Group. Also, Mr. Spacky himself was played by a fellow named Scott Cupper, a fine actor whom I had the pleasure of directing in Rogue 8 Issue #3. Seeing Mr. Spacky was some of the most fun I've had watching theater in years. Sadly, the show closes tomorrow night, and if last night was any indication it will be totally sold out. But keep your eyes and ears open for this company in the future. They do some amazing stuff.

Lastly, a group of us are gathering at a local bar tonight to bid farewell to a couple of friends (or friends who are a couple, however you want to phrase it) who are making the trek out to Los Angeles to seek their fortunes. So long Chris and Jen! You will be missed. We are going to try and carry on the tradition of movie days without you. Although it will be nice to have a place to crash when Mandy and I decide to see LA for ourselves.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Various and Sundry

My good friend Direnerd got to interview Janeane Garafalo earlier this week. You can read the interview here. I like how he got her all riled up real quick and then just let her go. Fun stuff! He also interviewed comedian Patton Oswalt, which is uber-awesome, and he will have that one posted online soon.

[UPDATE: The interview with Patton Oswalt is now online, and can be read right here.]

Tomorrow, June 16th, Mandy and I will attend the wedding of our good friends Jen and Fraser. I for one am very excited for them both, and I am exceeding jealous over their three-week Italian honeymoon. The bastards.

And next weekend Mandy and I will make a trek up to Muskegon for a little family gathering. Ostensibly the occasion is that of my youngest brother's high school graduation (congrats, Tom!), but he actually had his official graduation party last week. Mostly it's just a chance for all of us to be in the same place for a couple of days. It happens very rarely now, with one sister living in Arizona, and another moving to Seattle just days after our little reunion.

There's not too much else going on. I had an audition last night, and I hope to have another coming up shortly. I also might have some new stage combat work coming my way, but I don't want to get too worked up until it's official. Rewrites on my last NaNoWriMo novel are progressing at a snail's pace. I really wish I had a clue what I was doing.

Oh! That reminds me: Next Monday I'll be attending a sci-fi/fantasy writing workshop. That should be interesting. I'm so curious to find out what kinds of people might attend such an event. I hope they're not all just like me.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Night With the Fights

By Mary Shen Barnidge, reprinted from Moulinet: An Action Quarterly, Number Two -- 2007.

Mercury Fur

fight choreography by Chris Walsh

All right, we've got four frightened street waifs -- one of them, a lanky transvestite in high heels and miniskirt -- seeking to free their wounded companion from a sadistic greedhead, armed with an automatic pistol and a meat-hook, while the would-be rescuers' arsenal consists of a butterfly knife and a revolver cached away earlier in the story. The play is a drag-'em-through-the-gutter-and- kick 'em-in-the-teeth British shocker by Philip Ridley, the setting is a condemned apartment strewn with debris, the fight is the climax of the plot, and the audience is seated close enough to the action to smell the sweat. Now, how is fight director Chris Walsh to deliver brutality commensurate with the story, without risk to persons on either side of the fourth wall?

"The script isn't very specific on how the fights play out," recalls Walsh, "The stage directions might say, 'Darren and Lola attack Spinx. Spinx has the upper hand, but slowly they wear him down'. And Greg Beam, the director, also had a few ideas he wanted incorporated into the schematic. When we started, Lola was supposed to end the fight with a set of brass knuckles, but those didn't read well under the lights."

Keeping the rough stuff upstage takes advantage of the text-mandated dim lighting and the low barrier between stage and spectators provided by the set design. Additionally, the arc of the scene, while demanding that actors trade dialogue for long periods between sequences, allows for leisurely phrasing of physical transactions. "It was important to remove the guns from the equation as soon as possible, because there's no reason for these people not to use a loaded firearm," says Walsh, "But even so, I tried to tailor the fight to the actors -- Spinx, for example, would benefit from extreme economy of movement because his physique lends an air of menace that would be diminished if he moved around too much."

The results are a variety of movements incorporating bladework, wrestling and pugilistic hand-to-hand, capped by a coup-de-grace executed with a gas mask -- an unlikely weapon, albeit established earlier as a potential bludgeon -- all so closely integrated with the action and dialogue as to ascertain that our attention is never directed at the craft itself, but instead focused wholly on the social dynamic it reflects.

Friday, June 08, 2007


A pipe broke in the warehouse where I work today. Smelly water and what I think is a genuine turd plopped out onto some of our product. There's a hole right in the pipe, and whenever anyone flushed a toilet somewhere in the building stuff flowed out like a faucet. The pipe is still busted as of this writing, but the Powers That Be have cleverly posted "Out of Order" signs on all of the bathrooms, and we've been promised that help is on the way. There is a hint of a smell, but not so you'd notice if you weren't looking for it.

I ain't cleaning it up, that's for certain.

All this flowing sewage makes me think of Republicans. By now you've probably seen the clip from the recent debate when Rudy Giuliani's mic shorted out while he was answering a question regarding his stance on abortion rights. The moderator commented that lightning caused the short, and the other candidates backed away from Giuliani's podium. The move was, I think, intended to be comical. Giuliani's stance on abortion rights, and a number of other social issues, are more left-leaning than the other Republicans running. The joke appeared to be that God had voiced His displeasure with Rudy's sinful liberal streak. However, I'd bet the farm that most of the men on that stage believe that is exactly what happened. The guys running for the Republican nomination are a bunch of scary-ass, superstitious, freaks.

Did you see the first debate, when no less than three of these nutjobs came right out and said they did not believe in evolution? Didn't these men go to college?

Now, I'm an atheist, and a recent convert to the Harris-Dawkins-Hitchens school of In Your Face atheism. Not that I get many opportunities to get in people's faces about it. Furthermore, I don't really have the educational background to debate the scientific aspects, but here's the thing: I don't need to, because I trust the experts.

Please note that I used the word "trust," as opposed to "faith." The difference is simple -- you have to earn trust. Trust is earned with evidence. These politicians who answer questions about contemporary social issues with Bible verses offer no evidence of trustworthiness, or even the ability to think for themselves.

I might as well listen to the sewage flowing out of a hole in a pipe.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Have Sword, Will Travel

I bought a sword yesterday. I bought it from a friend of mine, who got it as a gift from somebody else. Some might say that makes the sword "used." I like to think it means that the sword has a history.

It's a nice looking sword. It's a rapier with an Italian-style swept hilt and curved quillons, and a heavy Schlager blade. For those of you who are not up on your sword-speak, a swept hilt means that the part of the sword that protects your hand is made up of these pretty, swirling lines of steel, rather than a solid cup or plate. And quillons are the parts that stick out from the sides, just above the grip, that give swords their distinctive cross-shape. The quillons on my rapier are curved in sort of an S-shape, so that the quillon pointed at me curves up and the one pointed away curves down. And a Schlager blade is wide and flat, as opposed to a musketeer or epee blade, which, when you look straight at the point, is shaped like a triangle. The particular blade on my sword is pretty heavy, and I might look into getting a heavier pommel (which is the round part at the bottom of the grip) to balance it better.

The grip on the sword has a black wire-wrap, which looks pretty sweet but means I pretty much always need to wear gloves when I use it (which one should do anyway, right Woolley?).

My one complaint is that somebody went and painted the whole hilt black. I have no problem with the hilt being black, and if it were in fact darkened metal that would be awesome. But this is not the case, as the minute scratches in the paint will attest. I think I am going to make a trip to Home Depot at some point and find out the best way to remove the paint.

Also, I'm going to want to get a dagger to go along with the sword. They don't call it "Rapier-and-Dagger" for nothing.

The next question, of course, is, "What the hell am I going to do with a sword?" Well, quite frankly, not too much just yet. But if the fight choreography gigs keep coming my way then at some point soon it's going to come in handy. In the meantime, the upkeep will serve as a nice relaxing hobby.

And I know at least one or two friends who will be totally jealous. Sweet!