Monthly Archives: June 2009

Sunrise/Sunset at the Rodeo

Despite the peripheral crazies on my job, my immediate co-workers are amazing. Back on one cold December morning, one of them took a picture of the sunrise from our office building rooftop. It was a reminder that we were close to shooting and at the “dawn” of our new project. Seven months later, during an overnight shoot on a warm summer morning, he went up on our rooftop again to take a picture of the sunrise over Brooklyn. He called it our “light at the end of the tunnel.” Another co-worker remarked that for it to truly come full-circle, we should really take a picture of the setting sun, a full daylight cycle, marking the end of a very wild ride.

Sunset over Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn

It’s the little things like this that mean the most. We never let a day go by without laughing so hard we were crying, office QOTD’s are written down so we’ll never forget. These are my war buddies and this is what I love about my job, each show is so unique, the dynamics, the energy, the talents, the highs and the lows. Working on a movie is also called a “rodeo.” And, the name is very apropos. Each movie is like an untamed stallion, you start out with a beast, but by sunset, you can anticipate nearly every buck and kick of your trained equine. You’ve mastered it, and now it’s time to let the horse go out into the world, while you saddle up in time for the next sunrise.

The Measures of Success

I always wanted to be successful in my chosen career. Of course, everyone has those ambitions. No one strives to be mediocre. But success can be a lonely place if you let it all go to your head. Tonight we celebrated our soon-to-be-wrapped movie. At first it was awkward. No one knew if it was ok to let loose, dance, drink, and be merry. Finally, our director threw up her hands and started dancing and never stopped. She danced with everyone, no matter if she knew them or not. Once she started, everyone took it as their cue and FINALLY, FINALLY shed their stoic exteriors, threw back some drinks and hit the dance floor. We all had a ball. The playing field had been leveled. It lead me to thinking, “if only the tone during production could have been like this. If only she had jumped in, arms raised, and started dancing.” We all would have followed, with wild abandon, and gladly joined her in the conga line. Watching her for a moment, I almost had respect for her. I saw the person she could be (and maybe was, at some point in her life).

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As I was leaving, we ended up riding down alone together in the elevator. We had never had a conversation. She started one. I introduced myself. She glanced up at me. “Of course,” she said. “You’re Ashley. I might need you to do some things for me this week.” I watched her, wearing her black-framed glasses, dressed impeccably (of course) in head-to-toe black, her hair still perfectly coiffed, eyes glued to her Blackberry screen. I also saw a very lonely woman. One that can only let go a little bit for one night. One who sees only what others have to offer her. One who will keep making the same movie, over and over again, telling the single story she owns, because it’s the only thing she can do for herself. We exited the elevator. She didn’t say good night. Just stood there, waiting for her car to pick her up. I hailed a cab and headed back downtown, happy I know how to do things for myself, how to wear glasses that aren’t always rose-colored. In that moment I realized I am successful. I know who I am, I see what other people have to offer the world, and I know that sometimes, to get everyone on-board, you just have to throw up your hands and dance.

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A Night of Queens

June 11th brought with it a windfall of invitations to some very New York events. Apparently, it was a night fit for a queen or, more accurately, queens. I had to choose between an event at the NYPL with Queen Noor of Jordan, an evening of theater seeing MARY STUART at the Broadhurst Theater or a gala benefit foramFAR hosted by a different sort of queen, “Lady Bunny.”

Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer

Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer

Despite the unique appeal of each event, I had to choose just one. I went with MARY STUART, because I can’t pass up a good Elizabethan drama. I arrived in Times Square directly from work and was still emailing from my Blackberry. Since I had enough time to spare, I took advantage of the new lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway and finished up the last of my emails sitting on a lawn chair right in the middle of the square.

By the time MARY STUART started, my exhaustion hit and despite the intriguing story line, it was a struggle for me to stay awake at first. But then I hit a point (and a second wind) where I was swept away in the language, the rhythm, lyrical dialogue and powerhouse acting of Janet McTeer (as Mary Stuart) and Harriet Walter (as Queen Elizabeth). They truly deserve the title of theater royalty.

Earlier this theater season I saw another member of theater royalty when actor Frank Langella starred in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Though I am a fan of Langella’s work, SEASONS didn’t stir my emotions the way MARY STUART did. SEASONS gave us a portrait of a complicated and multi-layered man, something we’re used to seeing so much in theater that now it’s a bit old and overplayed. MARY on the other hand, was fluid, intriguing and dynamic. Perhaps this is because we don’t see many women on stage represented as complicated and multi-layered, especially during the time period of MARY.

The big second act rain/rebirth scene left me feeling like I’d witnessed one of those moments in live theater that people talk about for decades; it felt like a privilege. It also perfectly illustrates what I love about live theater: it’s a moment shared intimately by the actors and the audience. It only happens once, and, though it’s played out again and again, night after night, it’s always different. The audience gasps when the mists of rain suddenly come down and I wonder if that same reaction happens nightly. I wonder if rhythms in the character’s big monologues change, if the energy is different, how the theater smells (always a combination of upholstery and women’s perfume), if someone dropped a line, changed the order, missed their mark or is so caught up in the scene, they almost forget to breathe. Such elements can rearrange the molecules of a production leaving a mark like DNA, one that can never be duplicated — it’s there and it’s gone in an instant.

But no matter which night you go and which performance you see, the words are intact, the meaning translated; the audience moved. Just like the moment the rain appears on stage (whether you are surprised or not at its appearance), I gasp when I think of the singularity of what I’ve witnessed and how it can never be completely captured in that way and on that stage again. I suppose that also holds true for any of the other events I could have attended that evening, but MARY STUART captured my spirit. And in witnessing that performance, my very molecules were rearranged.

Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart

Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart